Friday, August 31, 2007

E85 comes to the Wausau area

I saw a big sign in front of the BP in Marathon today advertising E85 ethanol. First one I've seen in this area. Went for $2.65 a gallon today, whereas the regular stuff went for $3.07/3.17/3.27/D 3.12.
I know corn-based ethanol isn't the be-all end-all, as production isn't all that efficient, and widespread usage could cause a whole new set of problems with prices and shortages, but hopefully other forms of ethanol will catch on and help us alleviate our dependence on foreign oil.

Personally, I think we should ban tobacco and allow tobacco farmers to replace their crops with industrial hemp, which, incidentally, counts ethanol as one of its myriad uses.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vintage Base Ball alive and well

Ran across a story today about former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, who attained fame with his irreverent tell-all book, "Ball Four," in 1970. Bouton, it seems, has founded the Vintage Base Ball Federation, which held its first World Series in Westfield, Mass.
The VBBF is like a Civil War reenactment for washed-up jocks. The league, real baseball through and through, adheres to the rudimentary rules of the 1880s and immerses visitors like they just stepped out of the Wayback Machine.
Those paying (a thoroughly modern) $10 will pass by Keystone cops walking the beat, through wrought-iron gates, past newsboys hawking the day's paper, and even primly dressed ladies demanding their right to vote.

Games are played during the day - no electricity, of course - and players' equipment is as throwback as it gets. Fielding gloves about the size of an oven mitt. Bats with handles nearly as thick as the barrels. And uniforms with collars.

If you're a baseball fan, you gotta love this. Eat your heart out, Ray Kinsella!

Milwaukee even has a team (though it's in the VBBF's rival league, the Vintage Base Ball Association); the Cream Citys.
The oldest professional base ball team in Milwaukee is the Grays, who played one season (1878) in the National League. After that, Milwaukee began fielding its first incarnations of the Brewers, a one-season wonder in 1884 (Union Association), and another in 1891 (American Association). The Brewers came about again in 1901, before they moved to St. Louis and became the Browns. (They moved again in 1954, becoming the Baltimore Orioles.)

One last historical footnote; one that brings up an interesting point. Moses "Fleetwood" Walker was the first black professional baseball player. He took the field for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884, their only season.
Which brings me to this: As cool as I think these vintage leagues are, I'd be curious to know how they would handle any black players wanting to play with them. With the exception of Walker (and his brother Welday, who joined Fleet on the Blue Stockings), blacks were largely shut out of the game during the era the Vintage leagues represent. And blacks were completely shut out with the dawn of the Negro Leagues in the late 19th century.
It's not unlike women wanting to join men in Civil War reenactments. Women fighting would've been unheard-of at the time, but several have expressed an interest in joining men for these exercises now.
Part of me says authenticity is authenticity and should be left alone. But another part of me thinks we should throw it open to whoever would want to indulge in the experience. Especially blacks and women, who never would've had that opportunity back then. (There IS a Vintage league strictly for women.)

Anyway, in thinking about it, I'd love to see something like this start up for Negro League teams. It seems like a fine way to honor the men who were relegated to those leagues. And the most beautiful part of it would be knowing that the men on the field are there because they chose to be, not because it was the only avenue our society allowed them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wisconsin's firsts are many

The Daily Reporter, a construction trade newspaper, ran a fascinating list of "firsts" associated with Wisconsin.
I hadn't realized that, among other things, Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John, invented Lincoln Logs here. I loved my Lincoln Logs.

Bonds ball and 'potential revenue'

So apparently Matt Murphy, the 21-year-old New Yorker who emerged from the melee with Barry Bonds' record-setting 756th home run ball on Aug. 7, will auction it off.
No surprise, considering he figures to make half a million or so on it.
What surprises me about this - and frankly torques me more than a little bit - is his contention that the IRS had designs on taxing him for the ball's "potential revenue." Basically, the IRS, according to Murphy, claimed it could tax him on the income he COULD GET from selling the ball.
This is outrageous. Thanks to eBay, we ALL have "potential revenue" just cluttering up our houses.
Didn't we fight a revolution in part due to unfair tax practices?

I have the solution for Murphy, though, should he decide to change his mind and keep it. He should tell the IRS, "OK, if you're going to charge me for an imaginary income, I'm going to pay you imaginary taxes. ... 100%, if you'd like."
And I'd go very very public with that, too.

He plans to auction it Aug. 28 to Sept. 15 through Sotheby's Auction House, split the money 51-49 with friend Amir Kamal, and use the money to pay his way to becoming a physical therapist.
After the scramble that netted him the ball in the first place, he may have some customers ... right off the bat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Whites happier than minorities; nice work, liberals

An AP poll released Tuesday has found that white youths, 13-34, are generally happier with their lot in life than are minorities.

Good job, liberalism.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

RIP, Michael Deaver

Michael Deaver died Saturday at the age of 69, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
I don't have any posters of Deaver up in my house or anything, but his work may be one reason why I have a picture of President Reagan hanging proudly on my Dead Legends wall.
You see, Deaver was the first of his kind; he often said, "The only thing I did was light him well."
It was Deaver's job to put Reagan in the best possible setting to help the Great Communicator properly shape and convey his message.
Reagan was the last president to escape the 24-hour news cycle that has reduced modern politics to an endless volley of beautiful hair and "which is worse" soundbytes. There were still only the Big Three networks, CNN hadn't reached any prominence yet, and Al Gore had not yet made the Internet accessible to us commoners. So supplementing Reagan's policies and speeches was that much more important.
It's unfortunate that politics has taken the superficial turn that it has, but Deaver deserves credit for being a visionary in that regard, and helping hone the image of a man beloved by so many.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

McConnell: Why are we obsessed with sex predators?

Was listening to a little bit of Mike McConnell's radio show (listen online at his home station M-F 9-12, Sat 12-3) on WSAU, the local affiliate here that runs his show on Saturdays, and he raised an interesting point.
He asked why we treat sexual predators so much differently from other criminals, meaning that we require them to register and then allow people to track their every move, even online.
McConnell, a thinking man's conservative if ever there was one, went so far as to liken our obsession with sex criminals as a sexual titillation in itself.

I wouldn't go that far. But he has a point; why DO we require sexual predators to affix their names to a registry? Because they're still a danger to re-offend? Then why the hell are they out of prison?
As McConnell pointed out, isn't it just as much within our interest to know if our new neighbor has a history of burglary? Or arson? Or, for that matter, murder?

We require NONE of these felons to register. This leads me to think the law should be more consistent, in that either we recognize sexual registries as unconstitutional double jeopardy, or we require all felons to register.

I've long advocated for open-ended sentencing, where a sex criminal would get not the 10-20 years they usually get now, but rather they'd essentially get life in prison with parole a possibility in 10-20 years. Meaning, if after X amount of time, a panel of psychologists determines the person is a reasonable danger to reoffend, there is no reason to let him out. As our prison system is supposed to be about "rehabilitation," he clearly would not have "learned" anything behind bars.

Finally, I do think the mandates for sexual registration need to be tweaked. I recently learned that a childhood friend of mine is a registered sex offender. Knowing him how I do (or did, anyway), I have a hard time believing he would've "abducted a child not his own" for sexual reasons. In his case, it was more likely an ugly custody battle that took an unfortunate turn. But, sex crimes and mandatory sentencing being what they are, the judge probably had little to no leeway in convicting him of "abducting" the child, which, "zero tolerance" being what IT is, would've necessitated a trip to the registry for him.
It's possible he's really a twisted pervert who wanted to do something unspeakable to that child, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he was actually the "victim" of legal wrangling. Which is unfortunate, in that it cheapens what registries were intended to do.

Having said all of that ... here is Wisconsin's sex offender registry.

Gas today: $2.92/3.02/3.12/D 3.06

Friday, August 17, 2007

Olbermann fumbles again

I could dedicate a whole separate blog to Keith Olbermann's hate-fueled fact-fumbling, but I'll just touch on one here.
He did it again last night on "Countdown." He misrepresented and omitted whatever was necessary to make President Bush look like a bungling murderer.

In a follow-up to the Crandall Canyon mine disaster, where six miners have been trapped since Aug. 6 and three would-be rescuers died this morning (Aug. 17) trying to get to them, Olbermann dedicated several minutes bashing the recess appointment of Richard Stickler to the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, noting that his appointment was opposed by the AFL-CIO, Democrats, and enough Republicans to force Bush to make the end-around. Olbermann pretty much left it at that and went to Arianna Huffington, and the two picked at Bush thereafter.

Mix that with the fact that Stickler was an executive with Murray Energy, which donated $10,000 to Bush-Cheney and happens to own the Crandall Canyon mine, and the whole process sounds fishy enough to make people think, "Bush really F'd up this one."

What Olbermann DIDN'T tell us was that Stickler's agency did its job. The MSHA investigated that very mine July 5. According to

Federal mine inspectors have issued 325 citations against the mine since January 2004, according to CNN.
In 2007, inspectors issued 32 citations against the mine, 14 of them considered significant.An examination by Mineweb of MSHA records shows that MSHA's last regular inspection of Crandall took place on July 5. During that visit, inspectors cited Genwall Resources for violating a rule requiring at least two separate passageways be designated for escape in an emergency, reportedly the third instance in less than two years that the mine has been cited for the same problem.

The Deseret Morning News reported that the mine has been cited 176 times since early 2005. This predated Stickler's appointment by more than a year. And DURING Stickler's tenure - just this year, in fact - the MSHA has issued 33 citations to the mine, including three orders. This mine was clearly a problem for a long time, and Stickler - shady appointment though he may be - was doing his job as the head of the oversight body.

So again I'm forced to defend Bush in the face of overzealous, misguided attacks. My friends on the Left like to call Olbermann the Edward R. Murrow of our time ... when in reality, he's just a former sports hack with a political axe to grind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bubba's wedding

Went to a wedding Sunday I thought would never happen Sunday. Bubba finally decided to settle down. Got himself a nice girl, too.

He was big on this being a "nontraditional" wedding, as neither of them was big on the whole "church" thing. So we held the ceremony in the Shattuck Park pavilion in Neenah. It's a fairly new facility, and as you can see at the link, it's a beautiful setting for some summer nuptials. The festivities were held late in the afternoon, so the worst of the sun had passed. While it was still well into the 80s, the gentle breeze and the boats rocking in their Fox River moorings just yards from us made it all OK.

The ceremony was brief and to the point, and all in front of 40-some people. And all with a heavy emphasis on the post-ceremony dinner. Just the way Bubba wanted it.

That's not a "Bubba likes to eat" joke, either. He's just always been at his most comfortable when a group of friends (or in this case, family) can sit around at length for dinner, drinks and a steady stream of BS'ing.

Best of all, he gave me the opportunity to be his best man, which immediately told me a whole host of other guys must've had plans that weekend.

Actually, it was a pretty special gesture, as Bubba and I have known each other for just over 10 years. He began harrassing me ... ERRR, "making my acquaintance" when he was still advocating for students' rights to sleep late and graduate at UW-Oshkosh while I was the editor of the Advance-Titan.

He's held a long string of positions where his primary responsibility was to oversee the health and well-being of other people, before and since those days in the A-T's basement office in Reeve Union. Big and blustery as he is, few have cared more about their fellow man than Bubba. It was that sense of selflessness and altruism that I tried to convey in my Best Man Speech, and I think I did all right. Made everyone laugh a few times, at Bubba's expense, and had them groaning about what a sweet guy he was when it was all over. Mission accomplished.

So if you have a drink handy while you're reading this, raise your glass, mug or bottle in a toast to Bubba and his new wife.

Bully TR

Apparently I'm not the only one who admires Teddy Roosevelt. The AP has a story on how today's candidates are trying to liken themselves to him, no doubt perverting his legacy all over the political map.

For a long time I've tried to reserve my hero worship for legends who are dead. Why? Because they can't F up their legacy. Take it from a guy who as a child worshiped at the altar of Darryl Strawberry.

Tommy steps aside

And the campaign of Tommy Thompson for president is over. The Journal-Sentinel did a pretty comprehensive job of blogging his post-mortem.
After finishing sixth in the Iowa straw poll on Saturday, he acknowledged that he'd fallen well short of his goal of at least second. This, coupled with his ninth-place finish in fundraising for the last quarter, sounded the death knell.

I say good for him; it's time.

It's not that I don't think he would make a good president. As much as libs and Dems hate him, even they've acknowledged relative success with his BadgerCare, SeniorCare and welfare reform, and a reasonably gay-friendly record as governor and during his time in the legislature.
But even when given opportunities to directly discuss these hot-button issues, he ignored his health initiatives and stumbled all over himself by portraying himself as a discriminatory bigot by saying employers should be allowed to fire employees for being gay.

May his campaign manager, Steve Grubbs, never manage another campaign. Grubbs, who graduated from the University of Iowa in 1994, managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign in the Hawkeye state. He lost that one, too, by 10 percent to Bill Clinton.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Barry Bonds: Home Run King

Like much of the country, I missed the 'Yawn Heard 'round the World' last night, as Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He did it on a 3-2 pitch off the Washington Nationals' Mike Bacsik in the fifth inning. To Bacsik's credit, he gloated afterward about how now he can go around to card-show signings with Al Downing, the hurler who gave up No. 715 to Hank Aaron.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. I thought for a long time I hated Bonds and was saddened that he would get the record. But I think I came to grips with this eventuality after Bud Selig and MLB failed to suspend him at the start of the year. I thought at the time that the federal investigation would give MLB just the excuse it needed to sit him down. Then there was the chatter that he may have purjored himself. Still nothing.

Now, as we wait for Bonds to wind down his career so we can gauge exactly how many Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols need to hit to surpass him, I actually find myself feeling sorry for Bonds.

I never thought I'd say that, much less think it, but what if we're all wrong about Bonds? I know there's a whole book out - Game of Shadows - chronicling his use of game-enhancers, and that he's never tested positive for 'roids (there IS no test for the Human Growth Hormone that has supposedly run him through a second puberty). But how much of this is self-perpetuating? How many reporters has he run off because of reporters who've rubbed him the wrong way over the years? Members of the media pay for the sins of others all the time. Even in my days as a sportswriter, I can't tell you how many phone calls I'd get from people all pissed off at ME because they didn't get their paper.

And maybe Bonds is a jerk. I don't know. I kind of assume that most pro athletes are jagoffs, to varying degrees. Ninety-five percent of them have lived a life of privilege and will retire by their mid-30s with a fair amount of coin in the bank. In 1999, I covered a Giants-Brewers game at County Stadium and stood in the Giants' clubhouse just a few feet from Bonds. I didn't try talking to him because he'd gone 0-for-whatever that day and was a non-factor. Thus, no reason to talk to him. A very professional approach, as too many sportswriters double as part-time jocksniffers, but I did deprive myself of the opportunity to get blown off by one of the all-time greats.

But I think I feel sorry for Bonds not because he's made his bed about being a tool, but because ... what if he DIDN'T actually take enhancers? He'll never be able to prove that negative. Hell, if he hasn't taken 'roids, he MIGHT AS WELL START, and we'll see if he can get to 800 dingers before his head explodes and his feet burst from his spikes like the Incredible Hulk.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweaty Uncle Teddy

Just got back from Ted Nugent's appearance at the Wisconsin Valley Fair, where he held court Thursday, Aug. 2. What a show!
I'm not usually a big classic-rock guy. Haven't been since getting burnt out on it during my college summer jobs spent listening to WAPL in the '90s. (Didn't realize Pink Floyd and The Doors only had three songs.) But this was a little different.
For starters, I wasn't all that familiar with Nugent's stuff; by reputation only, really. I remember a comedy bit about a classical station that changed its format to classic rock but kept its classical DJs. So this British-accented gent back-announced "The Rolling Stones quartet ... with Honky Tonk Women, and befo' that, we had the Ted Nugent orchestra with Wang Dang Sweet Poontang."

But really, Nuge largely kept his politics out of it. Save for a couple of single-digit salutes to Gov. Jim Doyle and Sen. Russ Feingold, of course. But he was just saying what most of us were thinking on some level.

But, from the opening intonations of "Free for All" to the closing coda of his "Fred Bear" encore, Nugent's show was a study in the kind of energy and enthusiasm we all should hope to have at the age of 59. It carried through to his "sacrifice" of the Great White Buffalo via flaming arrow near the end of his set. He offered some tributes to each branch of service, too. And if I had a nickel for every time he invoked the "Spirit of the Wild" in northern Wisconsin ... well, I'd have several nickels.

But I think that's what really got me about 'Nuge,' knowing that he really meant what he was preaching. He wasn't just saying it to get ratings or sell a book. I felt like he really believed the conservative, all-American mantra he's been preaching all these years. After all, he predates Fox News Channel and its conservative pundits by almost 30 years.

At Nugent's show, I felt comfortable, like I was among friends who believed as I did. It felt good to love my country, to wish for victory in Iraq, and to be an American. Live Earth this wasn't.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Twin Cities bridge collapse

At least seven people are dead in a massive bridge collapse on I-35W that spans the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. More are sure to follow, but storms and nightfall were hampering search-and-rescue efforts.

Homeland Security is saying it's not terrorism, a conclusion on which I'm honestly a bit torn. On the one hand, if it were a terrorist strike, it would prove wrong idiots like John Edwards, who thinks the War on Terror exists only on bumper stickers. Maybe he should sign up for the Homeland Security update from CQPolitics, from Congressional Quarterly. On the other, Bush-haters would be quick to blame Bush and use the incident as proof not that there is a war on terror but that "Bush hasn't made us any safer."

Thoughts and prayers with those killed and injured in the bridge collapse.

Gas today: $2.99/$3.09/$3.19/Diesel $3.04