A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MM: Significant Lack of Madness

This has to be the dullest NCAA Tournament ever. Some of the games have been fantastic, no doubt, but the near total absence of upsets has made the whole thing seem a bit... humdrum. The Final Four are two 1 seeds and two 2 seeds. The final 8 was no better, four #1s, three #2s and a #3. Even the Sweet Sixteen saw only two teams seeded higher than a 5, and no teams seeded higher than 7.

No Cinderella's this year-- Cinderella got shotdown early and often. Lot of pumpkins, no glass slippers.

Which is too bad. Part of the charm and appeal of the Big Dance-- part of the Madness of this two and a half week tourney in March-- is when midnight doesn't strike until the Elite Eight or even the Final Four. I'll watch the Final Four because all three games promise to be good ones, but I don't really care who wins.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Immigration: Food for Thought

I tend to believe that the anti-immigration position that begins with "They're here illegally-- what part of illegal don't you/they get?" and ends with "They're here illegally, no amnesty, send them all home" is deeply in opposition to all America has always stood for. That does not mean that we should ignore the problem, nor that our immigration system does not need a MAJOR overhaul to limit, prevent would be nice but probably impossible, the huge flood of illegal immigration we are currently experiencing. But an important aspect of America's history has been, and always should be, that this is the land of opportunity, the land where you can start over, the land where hard work and dedication will get you ahead.

And I ran across the following quote tonight, and I felt a need to share, because the author phrases it all quite eloquently and concisely:
But the subject of deepest concern to him [Dr. Franz Huebschmann, one of Milwaukee's representatives at the Wisconsin constitutional convention in 1846] was to secure a constitutional provision enfranchising the immigrants without compelling them first to complete the process of naturalization. The argument Heubschmann employed was the social argument. He wanted to do away with distinction of rights between Americans and foreigners, in order thereby to remove barriers to their social cooperation. To this end he also urged provision for adequate public schools. 'Political equality and good schools,' he said, 'will make the people of Wisconsin an enlightened and happy people. They will make them one people.'
Of course, this isn't enough in and of itself-- there is a need for the new immigrants, and particularly their children, to become Americanized. We are, after all, the great melting pot, not the great bunch of little enclaves that don't really agree with or trust anybody else and want to remain separate from the rest. Which is good, since the latter phrase is way too long. So, American society does its best to eliminate ethnic, racial, and gender-based barriers, and the newly arrived immigrants, do their best to adapt to their new home. Thusly:
In fact, unusual success in any field opened wide the door of social opportunity to the family of the successful immigrant. His children would be sure to attend the American high school or college; they could, if they chose to do so, intermarry with American families, and fraternize on equal terms with Americans of the older lineage in church, in lodge, and in the home. Success, in short, wiped out invidous distinctions. It might leave to the foreign-born the full enjoyment of his peculiar racial tradition, its literature and its art. But these would be superadded to his appreciation and enjoyment of things American and his association with persons to whom such things were all in all.
It's an odd thing, but in our efforts to be inclusive and diverse-- to accept and even embrace other cultures-- Americans are losing their own culture. Our melting pot culture, wherein the cultural and ethnic quirks of all of our immigrants gradually seep into American society as part of the whole, rather than as distinct and readily identifiable as other, is being replaced with something that strikes me disturbingly as something along the lines of "separate but equal."

Separate but equal was a grand failure once before. Why should we think it will be anything but a grand failure this go 'round?

Oh, and for the record, both of those quotes are from a fascinating little book about the history of southeastern Wisconsin called _Four Wisconsin Counties: Prairie and Forest_ by Joseph Schafer. Also for the record, that book was published in 1927.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Loony Lefties: Local Edition

So, this past Monday night, 21 "peace" activists vandalized an Army recruiting station on the eastside of Milwaukee. According to the police, the "peace" activists broke windows, threw smoke bombs into the building, and smeared human feces on the property.


Thank goodness the peace activists support the troops-- imagine the damage they would do if they didn't!

Loony Lefties: German Edition

So, an animal rights activists in Germany want a baby polar bear raised by humans killed for it's own good. You've likely heard the story on the wires or online. It's craziness like this that makes animal rights groups a laughing stock and harms the efforts of rational, intelligent folks to advocate for real animal rights.

Bear in mind (Hah!) that the problem isn't that the cub is suffering, but, quite to the contrary, that it is being treated too well. It won't grow up to be a "real bear" according to "animal rights" activists. Pardon my French, but so freakin' what? So, it won't have to survive in -35 degree celsius temperatures. So, it won't have live most of its live alone, ranging through some of the harshest terrain on the planet. So, it won't have to kill all those cute seals that polar bears need to live on. Why is that a problem?

Will the bear feel bad about it all? Will it be pining away in it's safe enclosure wishing it was out hunting like all the real bears do? Will it waste away to nothing because it can't help feeling singled out and exploited by its human masters?

It's a bear. It was going to die if it hadn't been rescued. You can debate the ethics of going out into the wild and capturing animals for zoos-- do humans have the right to take an animal out of its natural environment just to have a showcase for other humans? Personally, I think the benefits are worth the problems incurred, but I can at least understand the thinking of those that say it's wrong. But this bear was born in a zoo and was going to die if nobody helped it. We did not remove it from it's natural habitat, nor did we prevent it from growing up "normal."

On top of all of the idiocy of claiming that letting it die would be better-- more "right"-- than saving it at the cost of its "bearness", add in that the Germans are using the bear to promote efforts to curb global warming. Which, according to animal rights activists, is the single biggest threat to polar bears in the world right now!

To sum up: A cute, fluffy polar bear cub was rescued from certain death at a zoo by some of the staff there. The bear was never going to live a "normal" polar bear life, and now, instead of being dead, it is enjoying a nice life of food, shelter and ample play time. Said bear has also become something of a celebrity, and the zoo is using that celebrity to promote efforts to curb global warming, thus hopefully helping all of the cub's polar bear relatives who may be impacted quite negatively by further global warming.

And animal rights activists think all of that is wrong and we should kill the cub now... for it's own good.

What a world, what a world.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Thank God For the Thin Mints

They salvaged March Madness for me over the weekend. First Marquette lies down and plays dead on Thursday, then the Badgers nearly lose to a 15 seed on Friday before being the highest seeded team to lose thus far. Blech. The Badgers were never the same after losing Brian Butch-- a lot of their offense relied on feeding the ball inside, then having Butch hit the cutting Alando Tucker or passing back out to an open Kam Taylor. Without Butch, they became mostly a jump shooting team, and when their shots stopped falling and the other teams started falling, they were in trouble.

Sigh. It is a shame-- at their peak, back in January and February, the Badgers really were the best team in the country. They were a legitimate Final Four team a month ago. Sadly on Sunday, they were only pretty good, and lost to a UNLV team that is also pretty good, and was making its shots.


TV Recommendation: The Riches

I don't watch a lot of TV, but I have to say that FX is putting on some mighty fine shows these days. Dirt is quite entertaining and it's nice to see Courtney Cox in a show with a little grit to it. Rescue Me, The Shield, Nip/Tuck-- all very fine programs, though I've only caught a show here and there of them.

But this particular recommendation is for FX's newest show, The Riches. This is the episode guide description to the pilot: Wayne Malloy (Eddie Izzard), partriarch to a family of Irish Travellers in rural Louisiana, takes his wife Dahlia (Minnie Driver) and their kids on the running after stealing money from the extended family bank. Seduced by the idea of a bigger life for themselves, and armed with the keys to a deadman's new house in a posh suburban development, they assume the identity of a "normal family"... setting in motion their dream to steal the American Dream.

Personally, I would describe it as the Beverly Hillbillies on steroids. Or perhaps, the Beverly Hillbillies meets The Grifters. There's the fish-out-of-water awkwardness and humor of this family of lower class travellers (gypsies) trying to fit into a rich, suburban world, but instead of the simple naivety of Jed and Granny, you have whip smart scoundrals willing to lie, cheat and steal to get through the day. The entire cast is brilliant, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver creating two of the best characters on TV in a long time, and the writing is razor sharp.

There have only been two episodes so far, but this is a show I will make a point of seeing and look forward to each installment. The only other show that I am that keen on right now is South Park. If you get a chance, check it out.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Trouble for YouTube?

YouTube is wildly popular, and has revolutionized media sharing and how people think about, and access, video. But a goodly number of clips on the website are copyrighted, and like all sharing services that include copyrighted material-- Napster anybody?-- sooner or later they will feel the wrath of those being copyright infringed upon. In Napster's case, it was the record companies and a number of prominent artists. For Youtube, it's Viacom.

Perhaps Viacom's lawsuit is merely a negotiating tactic. But then again, maybe not. Either way, it will be interesting, and very, very precedent setting, to see how this sorts itself out.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Duke crashes and burns in the first round! Woot! Most excellent. They didn't deserve to be a 6 seed, and now they are gone. VCU played with all the confidence down the stretch, while Duke missed free throws and open shots to put the game away. I entered seven brackets altogether, and I picked Duke to LOSE in all seven. SWEET!

I am a happy camper, even though hometown Marquette looked pretty dreadful in losing to Michigan State.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MM: My Picks

Not all of them-- which would be a considerable amount, since I have now filled out and submitted six different brackets. I honestly believe that if you wanted to, and were willing to put in a bit of effort, you could enter 100 different free NCAA tournament pools. But even though each of the six is a tad bit different, each of them has a number of similarities. So, here's a synopsis:

I have Georgetown winning it all twice, and Florida, Ohio State, UCLA and Wisconsin winning it all once (the Wisconsin pick being a total homer selection-- I don't think they have the horses to win it all without Brian Butch). I really like Georgetown, and I think their bracket is comparatively easy-- North Carolina is good, but not a #1, and Washington State is a weak #3. Ohio State I like just because their bracket is even easier, but I think they are too young to win six straight high pressure games against top level competition.

I picked against Duke in every single one of my brackets. They don't deserve to be a 6 seed, and the basketball gods know it-- Duke will lose on something fluky, a bad call, a missed free throw by their best free throw shooter, to a good VCU team.

I think the 12 v. 5 upset special goes down the drain this year. The only 12 that's any good is Old Dominion, so take them if you must pick a 12, but the other three 12s are meat. My final four of choice is Florida, UCLA, Georgetown and Ohio State. My alternate in each bracket is Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas and Louisville.

My upset specials in the first round are: Winthrop over Notre Dame, Gonzaga over Indiana, Albany over Virginia and George Washington over Vanderbilt. I like Winthrop and GW because neither Notre Dame or Vandy plays well away from home. I like the Zags because they play great as the underdog, the Hoosiers also don't play that great away from home, and the game is in Sacremento. And I like Albany because they're pretty good and because Virginia is from the greatly over-hyped ACC. VCU over Duke, too, of course, but I already mentioned that.

Tomorrow will rock. I have Thin Mints and milk for the weekend.

God I love this time of the year.


Monday, March 12, 2007

MM: Worst Brackets Ever

Or at least that I can remember. Truly the selection and seeding was dreadful this year, with the ACC apparently having bought off the selection committe, while the Big East pissed them off something fierce. I know there are always questionable calls, and I know that seeding the tournament is one of the trickiest bits of sports logistics out there, but Arkansas in and Syracuse out? Please. But I get ahead of myself. Let us begin at the top and work our way down.

#1 Seeds: Ohio State, Kansas, Florida and North Carolina.
OSU, UK and UF are no brainers. I don't have a problem with them at all. But North Carolina? North Carolina beat one top 10 team all year, Ohio State with an injured Greg Odom at home, and has three pretty decent road wins: Tennessee, Duke and Boston College. They are the class of the ACC, and deserve a #2 seed, but Georgetown and UCLA are both more deserving.

But North Carolina isn't a horrible #1 seed. I can live with it. BUT, how does the team that leaked into their #1 seed get to play their first and second round games 30 miles away from their campus?!?! Those two games are home games for North Carolina, and that is a HUGE edge. How does that work?

#2 Seeds: Georgetown, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Memphis.
I have no real issues with the #2s. Except that NC should be one of them.

#3 Seeds: Oregon, Washington State, Texas A&M and Pittsburgh
I also have no real issue with these, either.

#4 Seeds: Texas, Virginia, Maryland, and Southern Illinois
Two ACC teams? What do the ACC Athletic Directors have on the selection committee? Maryland has precisely one good road win, at Duke, and they beat North Carolina by 2 at home. They lost to Miami (12-19) in the first round of the ACC tourney. Virginia's resume is equally as bad. They have one good road win, at Maryland, they didn't beat North Carolina, and they ended the year losing to Wake Forest (15-16) and N.C. State (18-15). And these are two of the top 16 teams in the country?

#5 Seeds: Butler, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, USC
These are ok, except that Virginia Tech is a 6 or 7 seed, tops. No way they are one of the 20 best teams in the country. What did the ACC do to get this kind of preferential treatment?

#6 Seeds: Notre Dame, Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville.
ND and Louisville should both be 4 or 5 seeds. Louisville could make a case for being a 3. Vanderbilt is about right. Duke should be about a 10. Seeding them even with Notre Dame and Louisville is an absolute travesty. Ridiculous. Both teams are ranked higher Duke. Both teams went deeper in their conference tourney than Duke did. Duke finished the year losing three straight (so much for recent events counting for more in the selection committee's seedings). Duke has NO good road wins. They were a mediocre 8-8 in the ACC. Louisville does get to play in Lexington for the first two rounds, so perhaps that's why they were seeded 6, but I'm not sure that's a fair trade off. And I know there's no way Duke is a 6.

#7 Seeds: Nevada, Boston College, UNLV, Indiana
More ACC favoritism. BC beat almost nobody this year, and their best road win is a one point victory over Florida State. The other three I'm ok with, though Nevada got a bit screwed. They deserved a 5, or at least a 6.

#8 Seeds: BYU, Kentucky, Arizona, and Marquette
Did the Big East send a bunch of peanut-based candies to the selection committe member with nut allergies? Good lord the selection committee seems to hate the Big East. Marquette finished with wins two wins over Pittsburgh, a win vs. Louisville (at Louisville), and AT Duke. They have a better record, and resume, than at least six teams seeded ahead of them. For this they get an 8 seed, and the opportunity to play North Carolina, IN North Carolina, if they beat Michigan State in the first round. The Warriors... er... Golden Eagles got screwed. Kentucky and Arizona deserved 9s or 10s, but they're Kentucky and Arizona, so they get an extra seed or two.

#9 Seeds: Xavier, Villanova, Purdue, and Michigan State
Purdue is too high, but otherwise I'm ok with these. The Big 10 definitely panders better than the Big East, but they got nothing on the ACC when it comes to selection committee favoritism.

#10 Seeds: Gonzaga, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Creighton
I'm not sure any of these teams should've made the tourney, though the Zags did beat North Carolina and Texas way back at the start of the year, which might be enough. But in light of teams like Drexel and Syracuse getting bumped from the field, how are Georgia Tech and Texas Tech in? Actually, Creighton deserves to be here, maybe even higher.

#11 Seeds: VCU, Winthrop, George Washington, and Stanford
I'm good with all of these, actually. Starting to get into the automatic bid categories now, so there should be less controversy.

#12 Seeds: Illinois, Old Dominion, Arkansas, Long Beach State
Two of the worst selections ever. Neither Illinois or, the weaker division of the SEC. No team with a losing record in conference play should be in the field unless they win their conference tournament. They beat NOBODY this year. Nobody. Worst at-large pick I can remember. Illinois is a little better, but not a lot. They at least went 9-7 in conference. But they also beat absolutely nobody.

#13-#16 Seeds: There guys are all play-ins via conference tourneys. We'll call 'em good.

Left Out Screw Jobs: Syracuse, Drexel, Missouri State and Air Force.
Syracuse beat Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova. They were 10-6 in the Big East, a better record than Villanova, who is in the tournament. Syracuse is far more deserving than either Arkansas or Illinois. Drexel won AT Villanova and AT Syracuse and finished 23-8. Missouri State beat Wisconsin and finished 12-6 in the tough Missouri Valley Conference. Air Force beat Texas Tech, UNLV and Stanford (all in the tourney) but finished weak, losing their last four games. They were still more deserving than Arkansas or Illinois, though. All four of these teams were far more deserving.

For more pithy analysis, go here. Or wait for my next post.

March Madness: The Madness Begins

One of the best times of the year, sportswise, is here. Many of my subsequent posts will now be March Madness (MM) centric. If you have no interest in college basketball (Heretic!), or in filling out brackets for office pools (Heathen!), then you can always go here, and vote for things like duct tape vs. super glue. And feel free to ignore my MM: posts for the next two weeks. 'Cause I love this time of the year. Sweet!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Best Governor Money Can Buy?

Before the '06 election, Wisconsin Govern Jim Doyle's administration was under investigation for possible improprieties relating to a travel agency. Seems Adelman Travel received a large state travel contract very shortly after the company made a generous donation to the Doyle campaign. The governor also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state's Native American tribes both before and after he signed gambling compacts with those tribes amounting to billions of dollars in revenue. And there's a new UWM housing complex going up on the east side of Milwaukee which seems to have been steered, somewhat ham-fistedly, to a contractor that has donated large sums to, you guessed it, Jim Doyle's re-election campaign.

Color me unsurprised then, to discover that another huge donor to the Doyle administration is under investigation for receiving special consideration from state agencies. This time it's Dennis Troha, who owns a trucking company in Kenosha, and who received rather a lot of assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, headed by Frank Busalacchi a longtime Doyle supporter and appointee. Seems the Wisconsin DoT sent a couple of its lawyers to Pennsylvania to help Troha's trucking company on a tax case there. Wonder why they did that?

Oh, and of course, there's this. Seems Troha may also have funneled a bit more money than he was actually legally allowed. Why would he do that? The answer is, as you might have guessed, money. Enough to make the hundreds of thousands he sent Jim Doyle's way look like a pittance.

How many similar situations does there have to be before it becomes a pattern? Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me. Right?

Well, what about the third, fourth, and fifth time?



Well, between Blogger outages and the upcoming presence of the Board of Regents here on campus, I have had virtually no time to even think about blogging, much less actually doing so-- the entire campus has been a flurry of cleaning, prepping and primping for the last week. Which isn't a bad thing-- I think a little extra housekeeping and review every ten years or so is probably all to the good, though it did put everyone on edge.

But today the Regents arrived and what will be, will be. Hopefully it goes well, but my small part in it is over, so I can relax a bit now.

Lucky you! More insightful observations and pithy commentary!


Hey! It's My Third Year!

Just noticed that I passed my second anniversary at the end of last month. Forgot all about it. So, this is the beginning of my third year of posting on this lonely little outpost in the blogosphere. Woot!

Figured it would last a couple of months.

Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Amen... Errr

Andrew Sullivan has been having a variety of interesting posts and takes on religion in general, and religion and politics in particular. This one jumped out at me today, because I think it's an important point, and a reason why fundamentalistic religions, of all stripes, are hard to reconcile with a free, open and democratic society. Because part and parcel of fundamentalist religions is to spread the Word, and to do so vigorously and vociferously. Even aggressively or violently.

And therein lies the problem. I do not have a problem with evangelicalism in general-- if you want to share your believes with others, good for you. But, when it goes beyond sharing-- persuading-- and becomes aggressive and/or violent, it is no longer acceptable.

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