Last week, my colleague Jamie Kuhn and I filmed a humorous “2008 predictions” segment for the Here and Now show on Wisconsin Public Television. Check your local listings, but the show generally airs on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. It’s the big year-end extravaganza, so it’s not to be missed.
As always, I’ll post video when it’s available. We filmed it so long ago, I forgot what I even said.
Madison-area residents may remember our friend and former Channel 27 news anchor Christa Dubill, who recently moved to Kansas City to host the NBC affiliate’s morning show there. She is now setting the Kansas City nerdosphere ablaze with her new blog, which warns of things such as how we’re being ripped off by the scourge of shrinking pizzas. She also appears to have Santa’s back.
I spent a good deal of Christmas watching a fascinating debate on C-Span between Dinesh D’Souza and Christopher Hitchens regarding the existence of God and formal religion. It’s no “Bret Michaels Rock of Love,” but compelling viewing nonetheless.
You can watch it here. It’s an hour and a half, but worth the time.
While it’s true that the Capital Times newspaper has trouble drawing readers, it’s a little surprising that they can’t even get their own editors to read it.Â Here’s an editorial from today’s paper, in its entirety:
Campaign against flawed veto plan
Gov. Jim Doyle says he’ll wait until closer to April to decide how vocal he will be in opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to tinker with the governor’s veto authority.
Doyle should not hesitate.
The amendment, which the Legislature is expected to place on the April 1 ballot, is so deeply flawed that it would have the effect of enshrining in law the worst veto abuses.
In other words, this badly written “fix” is worse than the problem it seeks to address.
This newspaper has for many years advocated making constitutional changes that would limit the veto authority of the governor, so we are at odds with Doyle on this issue.
But all supporters of good government — and the smart balancing of legislative and executive powers — can unite in opposing “cures” that are worse than the diseases they seek to treat.
As you probably know, this constitutional amendment seeks to eliminate the “Frankenstein Veto,” whereby governors can stitch together words from old sentences to create laws never intended by the Legislature.Â In fact, during his campaign for Governor in 2002, Doyle himself supported eliminating this abusive veto.
Yet the Cap Times thinks… and follow me here… that voters should oppose this change because the amendment doesn’t go far enough.Â That’s right – we should keep this ridiculous veto authority alive because it doesn’t completely shut the Governor down from every type of abuse.Â That’s like saying we shouldn’t outlaw assault with knives and guns because people might also be beaten with bats.Â Apparently, we should reject the constitutional amendment because it only gets at 90% of the problem, and allow Doyle to abuse the veto for the next decade while the Legislature tries to pass a more draconian measure.Â (Getting Democrats to agree to the version that passed was a miracle, much less something more restrictive.)
It gets even better.Â According to the Cap Times, Doyle is supposed to campaign against this amendment because… it doesn’t restrict his own authority enough?Â He’s going to say “Gee, I’ve really abused this crappy veto authority, so you should let me keep doing it because this amendment doesn’t keep me from coming up with new ways of screwing taxpayers?”Â Doyle is going to urge people to maintain his crazy veto authority because he might continue to abuse it?Â That’s like an alcoholic arguing he should be allowed to drink all the Wild Turkey he wants because sometime down the road he might be tempted to have a beer.
Â The Cap TimesÂ says that the consitutional amendment is worse than the problem it seeks to fix, yet offer no example as to why that’s the case.Â Apparently, because they say so, it must be the case.Â In fact, this exactly the opposite of the effect the amendment will have, which only serves to confuse both their readers.Â
I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Governor Doyle has recently used the Frankenstein Veto to increase taxes and spending.Â The chances they’d take this nonsensical position if Mark Green were currently Governor:
Zero point zero.
Neil Heinen has his metaphorical undies in a bunch because he believes the Wisconsin Legislature has sat on its hands for the last year. In a tortured attempt to shoehorn this point into a Christmas theme, he says:
These lawmakers saw the upcoming elections under the tree, all wrapped up with a card that said “To Help You Get What You Really Want Next Year — Re-Election.” Inside the box were instructions to avoid enacting a statewide smoking ban, avoid extending health care to all and above all avoid reforming campaigns and elections. So exchanges are in order. Return to sender and the maybe jump right into New Year’s resolutions like “Do what’s best for the citizens of this state, do what we were elected to do, act like public servants, and justify the public’s trust in us.”
Basically, the Legislature has been ineffective because they didn’t enact all the nutty left wing BS he favors.
Perhaps he is unaware that the Senate’s attempt at cramming a $15.2 billion government-run health plan into the budget jammed up the Legislature for months. Thus, the “health care to all” which he so craves actually caused a great deal of the inaction which he criticizes.
Furthermore, Heinen just naturally assumes that all of these initiatives he espouses are just “no-brainers.” Taking away a citizen’s individual freedom to smoke just makes sense, right? Why can’t Wisconsin enact a health plan that will cost low income workers jobs and drive business out of state? Shouldn’t we be in a rush to spend taxpayer money on campaigns and enact laws silencing citizens who want to have a say in the political process? What gives?
Laughably, he blames all this “inaction” on the fact that there’s an election coming up in 2008. (Hope he has this same script ready for 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, etc.) It’s an assertion without any foundation in reality. Are we to believe that Senate Democrats, in inserting their bogus “Healthy Wisconsin” plan into the budget with one day’s notice, weren’t doing so with an eye towards the next election? Are the only ones being political the ones that opposed throwing out the state’s entire health care infrastructure with about 8 hours’ notice?
Furthermore, he thinks the inability of the Legislature to do the work of the “public” is the result of… elections?Â (For astute political observers, “elections” are the process by which “the public” actually gets to tell government what they want.)Â Apparently, the public can’t be trusted to vote for legislators who do the work of the public.Â Ironically, universal health care is only a vibrant issue right now because Democrats think it’s what the public wants – and they plan to exploit that fact in the upcoming elections.Â Without voting (commonly known as “democracy,”) legislators wouldn’t give a damn what “the people” have to say.Â So what’s the alternative to elections?Â Neil Heinen gets to pick our leaders until they agree to double the state’s tax burden? (In the name of “the public,” of course.)
I recognize that spending this much time deconstructing a Neil Heinen editorial is about as constructive as a college student who gets high and pens a 10-page paper on “The Epistemology of Winnie The Pooh.”Â But this is just indicative of the fraud that continues to be local television news. Basically, all you need is a handful of talking points, and your career is set for a decade – it doesn’t really matter if they’re all contradictory.
This week George Will offers the counterpoint to this nonsense, as he lauds the “Do-Nothing Congress.”
Another Christmas come and gone.
My kids are getting to be the age where they’re super-hyped for the big day. My two-year old son is a present opening machine – he attacks giftwrapping with a cold, steely, uncompromising venom that you see normally reserved for mob hitmen. That thin little piece of paper is all that separates him from the possibility of untold joy. If you’ve ever seen cheetahs attack a gazelle on Wild Kingdom, it bears a resemblance to my boy ripping into his pile of gifts. Let’s hope he shows as much enthusiasm for Algebra down the road.
Here’s a video of my son from Christmas Eve – as you can see, he sings, tells jokes, does impressions… in Hollywood, I believe they call that a “triple threat.” I even left out his impression of The Count from Sesame Street. Danny Gans better be watching his back.
Of course, all that Christmas morning means for his dad is that I have to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to document this monument to avarice on videotape. It’s kind of a bummer, really – I’m the one half asleep on the couch, but it’s this illegal immigrant “Santa Claus” that gets all the credit for the gifts. I think parents should unionize to put this “Big Claus” out of business.
As for me, I got what I asked for – Guitar Hero III for the Playstation. When I tried to explain my gift to my mother over the phone, I got silence followed by, “…how old are you, again?”
It is a great game, though – it’s impossible for me to play it without taking “the stance.” It’s the typical rock star pose, with one leg in front of the other, which aids in the convulsing back and forth while making musical magic with your little toy guitar. (This video about says it all.) After playing about 10 songs, it occurred to me that I have these things called “children” that apparently need to be fed and cared for. Somewhere down the road, my daughter’s going to be working the pole at Beansnappers, but I’ll have the high score on Guitar Hero. So the years of neglect will all be worth it.
Despite my enthusiasm for my new video game, this was a really strange Christmas for me. When making out the list of things I really wanted, it occurred to me that anything that I really want can’t be bought. Almost all of it is stuff I have to go out and achieve on my own. Having a happy family, losing weight, making more time to read books, achieving more at work, the Packers in the Super Bowl – if anybody knows where I can write a check to make these things happen, let me know. Otherwise, it might mean that I might actually be growing up.
Back to Guitar Hero.
SIDE NOTE: In November, my friend Stephen Thompson at NPR drove all the way from Washington D.C. to Wisconsin while listening to nothing but Christmas CDs. Here’s his written review. He also appeared on Milwaukee Public Radio’s “Lake Effect” show to discuss the experience. Good stuff.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle praised the creation of a $175 million college fund by donors John and Tashia Morgridge. In his announcement, Doyle said the new fund was “the perfect Christmas present.”
Doyle’s comments can only be taken one way – that he doesn’t want Jews to get an education.
Someone get Annie Laurie Gaylor on the phone! A public official uttered the word “Christmas!”
Between members of the U.S. Supreme Court, there has recently been a spirited debate about the role foreign law should play in instructing our High Court. Justices such as Stephen Breyer argue that foreign law has a place in influencing U.S. decisions, while Antonin Scalia believes that foreign law shouldn’t play a role in how we interpret our laws.
After reading this story, Scalia’s case just got stronger.
Court says baby can’t be named ‘Friday’
ROME (AP) — What’s in a name? If the name is Friday, shame and ridicule, according to Italian judges who forbade a couple from naming their child like the character in “Robinson Crusoe.”
“They thought that it recalled the figure of a savage, thus creating a sense of inferiority and failing to guarantee the boy the necessary decorum,” the couple’s lawyer, Paola Rossi, said Wednesday.Â The couple are considering appealing the decision to Italy’s highest court, she said.
Mara and Roberto Germano, whose son was born on Sept. 3, 2006, had the boy named and baptized Venerdi, Italian for Friday.Â Even though the boy was not born on a Friday – it was Sunday – his parents liked the name, said Rossi.
“They wanted an unusual name, something original, and it did not seem like a shameful name,” Rossi said in a telephone interview. “We think it calls to mind the day of the week rather than the novel’s character.”
Since city hall officials are obliged by law to report odd names, the matter ended up before judges in Genoa, the northern Italian city where the couple live.
Last month, an appeals court stated that Friday falls into the category of the “ridiculous or shameful” names that are barred by law, as it recalled the native servant in Daniel Defoe’s novel.
The judges wrote that naming somebody Friday would bar him from “serene interpersonal relationships” and would turn the boy into the “laughing stock of his group,” according to a report in La Repubblica this week.
AP story from today’s Wisconsin State Journal:
“Taxpayers Fear Legislature Will Do Something this Spring?”
Dear NBC Money,
Well it looks like the writers’ strike is dragging on longer than expected. But the good news is that two of my favorites, Leno and Conan, are crossing the picket lines and coming back to film more shows. Since the late night funnymen won’t have their union joke writers, you could use some scabs. I hereby offer the combined services of the gang here at the Trousers.
When I was six years old, I decided I had two goals in life – to make people laugh with the things I wrote (in crayon) and to do some union-busting. These two goals could be achieved in one fell swoop! But you don’t care about my goals, you care about the bottom line. And God bless ya for that. So in the interest of you eventually paying me to write some ad revenue-generating monologues for you, here are some freebies:
“So it’s the Christmas season – everyone got their shopping done? (Pause for audience response.) I’m buying everyone on my list DVDs of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” you know the film about how the earth is getting too hot. At least I will be as soon as I can find a store that isn’t buried in snow and ice. (Pause for uproarious laughter.)
And speaking of frigid, I see the Hillary Clinton campaign brain trust is crafting a plan to warm up her image of being a cold, calculating, insencere, political schemer. Nothing like a calculating, insencere scheme to prove you aren’t a calculating, insencere political schemer. (Pause for more audience laughter/pants wetting.)”
I could go on, but I’ll need some financial incentive, see? Anyway, dig around in our Trousers and I’m sure you’ll find plenty to make you laugh.
Have your people call my people.
– Dr. S
For some reason, I felt the need to go Christmas shopping on Saturday night. Normally, this would be like saying, “for some reason, I decided to pull the bones out of my legs and run a mile.” But off I went in the snow, and here are a couple observations:
At Barnes and Noble, some 40-year old woman’s cell phone went off, and the ringtone was not only deafening, but it was some ridiculous ghetto booty music. I sat there with my mouth agape while she clawed at her purse as if a kitten was suffocating inside. Finally, she got it turned off. Honest to God – these ridiculous ringtones should come with a warning – “If you add this to your phone, SOMEONE MIGHT CALL YOU IN PUBLIC.” She acted as if it was a total surprise that someone called her. Come to think of it, I am too.
When I got to the register at Barnes and Noble, they hit me up to donate to some charity for homeless kids or something. I knew this was coming, as I had heard the whole script delivered to the previous thirty customers in line. I know the whole purpose of harrassing people to give to this phony charity is to make people think Barnes and Noble cares about kids, but all it does is make the customers feel like total a-holes when they decline. Would you want all your customers walking out looking sullen, with their shoulders slumped?
As I got to the parking lot, I realized that I had no idea where I parked. I walked around for 15 minutes in the cold until I found my car. When I saw it, I realized I got a great spot way in the front, and gave myself a congratulatory fist-pump. Then it occurred to me that the whole purpose of having such a great spot was cancelled out by the 15 minutes I had been walking around.
I walked over to the mall and entered through Boston Store. Near the door, they have “Green Bay Packers – 2007 NFC North Champions” shirts. I wondered who would ever buy one of these shirts before the season is over. Think about it – let’s say the Packers go on to win the Super Bowl. Then you’re stuck with a shirt that celebrates the least of the Pack’s accomplishments. Wouldn’t you look kind of dopey wearing a shirt that said “Packers – 1996 NFC Central Champions?” Wouldn’t people be like, “uhhhh…. didn’t they win the Super Bowl that year?” Think people are going to get “Mitt Romney – 2008 Iowa Caucus Winner” t-shirts printed up?
I also get a kick out of cosmetics counters. All the employees back there are wearing white lab coats – as if they have Bunsen burners and lab rats back there. Like one day we’re going to see a headline that says “University of Wisconsin, Clinique Counter researchers team up on life-saving adult stem cell breakthrough.”
And who are these women who sit there and have cosmetics applied to their face while hundreds of people walk by? Isn’t that kind of a personal thing? Can any man imagine standing there while a Gillette salesman shaved him in public? On second thought – don’t answer that. Same goes for these people who get massages at the mall. How is this possibly relaxing?
Finally, one more Christmas pet peeve of mine – those dopey commercials where some husband buys a Lexus for his wife and has it sitting in the driveway with a big bow on it when she gets home. Has this ever actually happened in the history of humanity?
There is no formula that can calculate the amount of trouble I would be in if I were to buy my wife a Lexus for Christmas. Let’s just say her reaction would be less than ideal, and would likely involve bruising. Of course, nothing says “I love you” than committing your family to five years of crippling debt.
Of course, the most objectionable part of the NBC “Football Night in America” show on Sunday nights is the way they shove Keith Olbermann down our throats. Can you imagine if Fox had Sean Hannity doing highlights?
But the thing that gets on my nerves the most is the segment they give to Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King. Every time he quotes a player, he has to mention that he talked to the player personally. It’s always “I just got off the phone with Brett Favre twenty minutes ago,” or “I was joking around with Peyton Manning after the game,” or whatever. How about you just tell us what he said, instead of trying to show us how important you are because players talk to you personally? He does it every time he opens his mouth. Ack!
With today’s release of the Mitchell report on steroid use in baseball, Brewer fans have to do a little soul searching. Eric Gagne, who the Brewers just signed to a one-year, $10 million contract, is named in the report, allegedly buying human growth hormone in 2004. It appears many Brewer fans are willing to exhibit a little “moral flexibility” with regard to their newest reliever.
At the very least, fans should question the wisdom of spending $10 million on a player whose reputation was forged primarily when he was alleged to have been on steroids. Gagne is a three-time all star who won the National League Cy Young award in 2003, and the Brewers had to know that he had steroids in his past. Even Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein knew when he traded for Gagne last year. In an e-mail to a scout, Epstein said, “I know the Dodgers think he was a steroid guy,” and the scout responded, “Some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue… Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the changeup to play as it once did . . . Personally, durability (or lack of) will follow Gagne . .”
While every Brewer fan wants to see the team succeed, how can they back a cheater? If Gagne was still pitching for the Dodgers, would they be willing to cut him so much slack? Remember all the vitriol aimed at Barry Bonds in Milwaukee for eclipsing Hank Aaron’s home run record? How is Gagne any different?
People who think the whole steroid controversy is overblown say that HGH wasn’t banned by major league rules at the time, so it’s no big deal that players were using them. In fact, it is actually a very big deal.
As pointed out by Mitchell, steroids have been banned by the league since the 1991 collective bargaining agreement. The problem is, the league didn’t begin actually testing for them until 2003. For that, the league and the union are both to blame. Furthermore, there still isn’t a test for HGH, so players could still be using it undetected now. And it has always been a violation of federal law to obtain HGH without a prescription.
To say that the players shouldn’t be punished because the league wasn’t testing for HGH at the time is ridiculous. First of all, they were cheating. Second of all, they were violating federal law. Thirdly, they made a mockery of the record books, which is the one thread that connects generations of baseball fans.
So should Gagne be given amnesty for his steroid use?
Of course not. Just because something isn’t in the baseball rule book (even though obtaining any prescription medication without a prescription was), doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a punishable offense. If a player murdered someone, should it have to be in the league’s rules to suspend them? (I am not equating murder and HGH use, incidentally – although HGH is even worse, in a way, because it affects the integrity of the game).
Additionally, there’s no rule that says Bud Selig can only punish players who violated something specifically proscribed by major league rules. Selig can do whatever he wants, pursuant to the “best interests of baseball” clause in the league rules. Is there really any question that punishing cheaters who have erased the league’s history is in the game’s best interest? Should the fact that Gagne owns a Cy Young award that may have been won by someone else be left to stand?
There are those that will say Gagne’s steroid use took place years ago, so there’s no need to punish him now. Actually, we don’t know that Gagne stopped using steroids years ago, since he was allegedly using a substance for which there is no test. But think about someone who robs a bank – the criminal justice system doesn’t just order the bank robber to repay what he stole and call it all square. There are penalties for bad judgement and bad behavior – both of which Gagne displayed in his apparent receipt of steroids.
I recall being bewildered by San Francisco Giants fans who stood by Barry Bonds just because he was “their guy.” It makes no sense to judge a player’s character by the uniform he happens to wear. It would then be the height of hypocrisy to now cheer for Gagne – a bad guy on a team I love.
Currently, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is running a poll of whether people care if Gagne used steroids, as long as he helps the team. The fact that the poll is running at a dead-even 50% to 50% split is dispiriting. It shows that there are too many people to make moral concessions based on their own rooting interest. And that is a shame.
While there’s no question this report is an attempt by Bud Selig to cover his own tail during the Steroid Era, it doesn’t mean that the players named in the report don’t deserve to be punished.
Some other thoughts:
There’s no question that the names of the players on the list are just the tip of the iceberg. Essentially, it’s a list of players who were dumb enough to buy steroids with a personal check. But criticizing these players only because they have been identified doesn’t make it unfair because some will go unpunished. If they did it, they did it – the fact that some are going to get away with it is completely irrelevant.
If ESPN was do die-hard about getting to the bottom of the steroid story, they could have looked down the desk at Baseball Tonight and asked Fernando Vina. As a commenter on Deadspin.com said, “Fernando Vina does not surprise me. You don’t maintain that perfect a goatee without performance enhancers.”
The only people I marginally feel bad for are the players on the list who essentially were life-long minor league players. The message: these guys sucked so bad, they couldn’t make the majors even by cheating.
The argument that you’ll hear players use that they never tested positive is completely fraudulent. Marion Jones used that argument. She’s headed for prison.
If anyone in the report is wrongfully accused, they can feel free to sue major league baseball. Of course, doing so will open their past up to all kinds of discovery. So don’t expect that to happen any time soon.
I’m also tired of people portraying steroid use as some kind of “victimless” crime. The only difference between steroids and a bank robbery is that players use needles instead of guns to steal statistics they didn’t deserve. In a lot of cases, these players made millions of dollars they shouldn’t have – and it’s not like they’re going to be giving it back after these allegations.
Imagine if your boss found out someone in your office had been stealing money, but didn’t know who it was. Immediately, everyone in your workplace was under a cloud of suspicion. And the boss announces that because of all the money that went missing, nobody would be getting raises next year. Would you think that would be okay? Of course not. But that’s exactly what steroid users have done to baseball – they’ve stolen money they didn’t deserve (money that the fans pay in ticket prices, FYI), and they’ve put everyone under a cloud of suspicion.