July 27, 2006
|[Posted by ]|
Yesterday, Chicage made the cut and is one of three finalists for the U.S. Olympic Committee's potential bid for the 2016 summer Games. I'm ridiculously excited about this possibility, particularly since if the Olympics did come to Chicago, it's likely that some events would take place in Wisconsin. Just imagine, Olympic mountain biking in Kettle Morraine or rowing on Lake Mendota or (god forbid) soccer in Camp Randall or Lambeau Field.
I also like the idea of Chicago because it would show the rest of the world that there's more to America than the coasts. While officially, as a Wisconsinite, I'm required to hate Chicago and anything else in Illinois, it's really a great place where people from all over the world could feel at home.
I'm already dreaming about what the Opening Ceremony would be like...a giant reproduction of Michael Jordan's shoulders would emerge from the stadium floor. The Olympic Torch would be held up by a replica of the Sears Tower. Mike Ditka would light it. The children of the world would perform the "Super Bowl Shuffle". Dancers would artistically reproduce the mayhem of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It'd be fantastic. Keep your paws crossed!
July 24, 2006
Tour de France--Race Recap
|[Posted by BVBigBro]|
Back in the days before cable TV made it out to the country we had satellite TV. Not those little baby dishes you see today, but the good old 12 foot diameter monsters that could pick up anything, anywhere all the time. Combined with signals that weren’t scrambled, this made for some interesting sports viewing. My favorite memory is of a fight on the undercard of a major boxing match. I don’t remember who the headliners were, but one of the earlier fights featured two over the hill heavyweights who gave it their all.
We picked the fight up in about the fourth round and it was apparent that defense hadn’t been a feature in this fight. Both fighters were bloodied and tired and looked like they could collapse at any time. For several rounds we watched as first one and then the other would beat his opponent to the ropes only to be caught square on the chin by a desperation swing and then the whole process would be reversed. This continued for several rounds until the network decided to end the feed of the undercard matches. We never did find out who won or even who the fighters were. I didn’t care. Those five or so rounds were the best fight I ever saw. I feel the same about this years’ Tour de France. While you all know by now that Floyd Landis won, this Tour had a lot more to offer.
I started out this year hoping Francisco Mancebo would win but predicting Floyd Landis would win. The doping scandal immediately eliminated Mancebo and I was left without anyone to root for. Without anyone to root for, I was able to just enjoy the racing and strategy, which proved to be the best I’ve ever seen. I missed the banned riders not one bit. Viewership may have been down in the US for most of the Tour (I’m guessing it went way up this past weekend), but I think many people are now realizing they missed something special. If you didn’t follow the Tour this year, you did. The tour is a spectacle unlike anything else, and if there’s anything a three week race can do, it’s provide lots of sporting moments you don’t get in a three hour game.
Eventually, I settled on rooting for Floyd Landis, only to have to suffer through his collapse on Stage 16 and then act like a little kid during his resurrection on Stage 17. In the end though, I wound up not caring who actually won the race as the level of competition and sportsmanship was far superior to anything I had previously witnessed in the Tour. I felt like there were three or four riders who won. Landis for his comeback, Pereiro for hanging on against the odds, Sastre for not quitting in the mountains even when his team had other goals, Robbie Hunter for riding the last time trial out of the saddle because his saddle sores were too bad to allow him to sit. While Landis was the best rider and certainly deserved the win, the absence of at least some of the dopers and the absence of the non-stop media hype machine that is Lance Armstrong allowed us to enjoy the rest of the Tour and all the little dramas and little victories that take place during a three week race. Hopefully, this will be a yearly occurrence from now on and not just a one time aberration.
For Landis, this may have been his last race because of an impending hip replacement. Hopefully that will not be the case. Regardless, we can expect another free for all next year perhaps made better by the fact that all the riders witnessed what was possible this year. So to all the riders of the 2006 Tour de France I say thank you for the best sports event of the year. To Floyd Landis I say congratulations on the best sports performance of the year. To all the others I say go back to your corners and come out fighting for 2007.
July 22, 2006
Ron on the Middle East
|[Posted by james]|
|"I was in Congress in the early 1980s when the US Marines were sent in to Lebanon, and I came to the Floor before they went, when they went, and before they were killed, arguing my case against getting involved in that conflict.
Ronald Reagan, when he sent the troops in, said he would never turn tail and run. Then, after the Marines were killed, he had a reassessment of the policy. When he wrote his autobiography a few years later after leaving the Presidency, he wrote this.
Perhaps we didn't appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines' safety that it should have.
It is very easy to criticize the Government of Lebanon for not doing more about Hezbollah. I object to terrorism committed by Hezbollah because I am a strong opponent to all violence on all sides. But I also object to the unreasonable accusations that the Government of Lebanon has not done enough, when we realize that Israel occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years and was not able to neutralize Hezbollah.
Mr. Speaker, There is nothing wrong with considering the fact that we don't have to be involved in every single fight. That was the conclusion that Ronald Reagan came to, and he was not an enemy of Israel. He was a friend of Israel. But he concluded that that is a mess over there. Let me just repeat those words that he used. He said, he came to the conclusion, "The irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there.'' I believe these words are probably more valid now even than when they were written."
Nice words, but I think that Rep. Paul is pulling a bait-and-switch in using Reagan's words. Reagan was speaking about US action in the Middle East, not US resolutions supporting the actions of others in the Middle East. Paul states that he thinks that the Congress has no place making resolutions on this matter in either's favor - perhaps that's right, perhaps it isn't. But in either event, the Reagan quotation has nothing at all to do with making resolutions.
July 21, 2006
Are You Ready For Some Football?
|[Posted by ]|
A friend was at the Green Bay Packers' shareholders meeting earlier this week. As part of the event, he got to wander around Lambeau Field and take pictures. I think this picture speaks for itself and whets my appetite for the upcoming season:
So, any predictions for the Super Bowl and NCAA national champion?
July 20, 2006
Tour de France Update #5
|[Posted by BVBigBro]|
Well, what can you say? Stage 17 will go down as the greatest stage in Tour history. Floyd Landis’ magnificent ride shattered the field and brought him back to the front. Saturday’s time trial will decide the race, but Landis is a big time winner regardless of the outcome. If you didn’t see it, watch it tonight. There can’t possibly be anything better on the tube.
Predictably, all the GC contenders were weakened by 2-1/2 weeks of riding and the last two mountain stages. Carlos Sastre bravely hung on to keep himself in contention, but the others wilted under the heat, the climbs and an attacking Landis, who just wouldn’t quit and couldn’t be cracked. Landis attacked on the first climb and wouldn’t allow himself to be brought back, staying away all day and bringing back memories of the late Marco Pantani. Landis now needs to take 20 seconds from Sastre and 31 seconds from Pereiro in the final TT to win, and with the Tour on the line, he should be able to do it.
Saturday’s time trial will be a nail biter to watch as Landis will start third to last, before Pereiro and Sastre. All the riders will get updates as to the time gaps and will know how hard they need to ride to win, but Landis is the better time trialer, and barring an unforeseen mechanical problem, should take the yellow back for good. With the small time gaps, we may still see some fights for the time bonuses, but I think Phonak will work out deals ensuring that breakaways eat up the extra time.
Tune in Saturday, it will be fireworks all morning.
July 19, 2006
Tour de France Update #4
|[Posted by BVBigBro]|
The Alps are 2/3 over and the race has been turned upside down. Floyd Landis cracked badly today losing over 10 minutes to the stage winner and 8 minutes to the other GC contenders. His chances of winning the Tour are now very slim. It would take a huge effort in the mountains tomorrow and a fantastic time trial, and none of that is likely. The reason for his blow up is still unknown, but in all likelihood he was feeling bad for a while and masking his weakness, thus his conservative Tour strategy. It’s a shame he won’t win, but he put in a good effort, and we still have a lot of racing to watch.
For the remaining contenders, it’s now a battle of recovery. Several people blew up at various points on today’s final climb, and how things go tomorrow will go a long way towards determining a winner. Whoever recovers the fastest will have an advantage.
Oscar Pereiro was the big winner today as he captured the yellow jersey back and a nearly 2 minute lead. He could never have beaten Landis with the final time trial remaining, but with Landis, the best time trialist among the GC contenders, gone he now has a realistic shot at victory. Carlos Sastre is 1:50 back, but is not a great time trailer and will need to take time from Pereiro tomorrow. Evans and Kloden are both good time triallers, and they and their teams will put in a huge effort tomorrow to try and drop Pereiro to set up a showdown for Saturday’s time trial. With everybody now knowing the stakes, tomorrow’s stage promises to be brutal, with all out efforts by everyone as they try to defend their positions or alternately bring people back within range for the final time trial.
Given their strong team, Kloden and company will probably lead the way tomorrow, and I think they will put some time into Pereiro. Evans will probably just follow Kloden and T Mobile and maybe sprint for a time bonus if he’s in contention at the end. Sastre put in a good effort today, but he eventually blew, and I think he may be dropped tomorrow. CSC put a huge effort into winning yesterday’s stage for Schleck, and that effort would have been better used protecting Sastre, but that’s Team Director Bjarne Riis for you, never willing to just concentrate on the overall.
Anyhow, tomorrow will be fun and after the stage we’ll know the stakes for what promises to be a dramatic showdown Saturday.
July 17, 2006
Tour de France Update #3
|[Posted by BVBigBro]|
Two weeks are now gone in the Tour and Floyd Landis is still looking good for a win in the GC. That’s a good thing because with an impending hip replacement surgery this could be his last race. If he can hold on for six more days of racing he will go out on top.
The past week saw the Pyrenees come and go and a pecking order established among the contenders for the GC. On the first mountaintop finish Denis Menchov and Cadel Evans demonstrated that they were the only ones capable of challenging Landis.Levi Leipheimer also regained his form to challenge in the mountains. It’s too late for him now, but you have to respect his effort. After the horrible time trial it would have been easy for him to quit, but instead he has come out swinging and a high placement for him is still possible.
After stage 12 saw Discovery Channel get their stage win, stage 13 saw Landis hand the yellow jersey to Oscar Pereiro after a long breakaway. This move has received a lot of criticism, but I think it was the right move. Pereiro is a good rider, but his high final placements in the past have been due to breakaways like this one. He has never challenged the GC riders straight up. His 1:29 lead is one that Landis is confident he could make up in the final time trial alone. The real result of this move by Landis’ Phonak team is that they were able to do little work on the stage, and no pace setting the following day. Phonak has now made it through 2/3 of the Tour without having to really work hard. They should be well rested to support Landis in the Alps. In addition, Pereiro is more of a threat to places 2-10. He is a good enough rider in the mountains that the other teams will have to mark him to defend their positions.
In addition to his team not having done much work thus far, Floyd Landis himself looks like he has not been tested at all. He was entirely comfortable riding on Menchov’s wheel on stage 11, never having to get out of the saddle and chase. It will take a lot more than that to keep him from the yellow jersey.
For the coming week, the race now enters the Alps for the very difficult stages 15, 16 and 17. If Landis is to be beaten, it has to occur here. After these stages, there are only two flat stages and the final long time trial, and Landis will be favored for the time trial. If Menchov or Evans are to win they must not only pass Landis, but gain enough time to hold him off in that final TT.
In a three week Tour like this alliances normally form where one team will do work for another team in return for a favor later on. There has been talk of alliances being formed between teams to assist Denis Menchov, but I wouldn’t bet on their success. The reality now is that there are more teams that have reasons to assist Landis than Menchov or Evans. With only a few stages left, those teams that have been shut out of the stages will want assurances that Phonak will not chase their breakaways ( Euskaltel comes readily to mind). In addition, there is a battle underway for the polka dot jersey for best climber and the green jersey for the sprinters. Menchov’s teammate, Michael Rassmussen, is one of the favorites for the polka dot. Evans teammate, Robbie McEwen, is the favorite for the green. There are several teams who will want to break up those parties, so don’t be surprised if Phonak finds some unlikely allies in the coming week. Finally, as early as tomorrow other teams will begin to concede the overall and will start riding to defend their own positions, all of which should assist Landis.
What do I see for the coming week? I think Landis is going to cruise to victory.
I don’t think he has yet shown his best form in the mountains. He may allow others to get the stage wins, but I think he will put more time between himself and the other GC contenders in the Alps, and then cap it off with a win in the final time trial. He will want to drop Pereiro before that final time trial, so it may be that we will see one all out effort by Floyd to accomplish that if Pereiro won’t go away on his own. As always, another concern is to avoid any illness or crashes, either of which could put him out in an instant. Finally, don’t count out Levi Leipheimer for the podium. If he maintains his form through the mountains, and finishes with a time trial like he is capable of, he could very well wind up in the top three.
In any event, we have three hard mountain stages in a row that will either cement Floyd Landis as the winner, or provide us with a new champion who got there by virtue of his climbing ability. Either way it should be fun to watch.
A Series of Questions
|[Posted by ]|
The staff at Dummocrats has been busy moving, escaping the heat and just enjoying the summer. But, we still have an eye on the news and, at least for me, I have a few questions for y'all:
1. How hot is hotter than hell? 100? 110? What? And please, no answers in Celcius.
2. Do any women actually like Pink Floyd or do you just say you like Pink Floyd in order to impress men? Be honest.
3. If you love soccer, doesn't that make you anti-American?
4. The new lefty logic is that Israel is bombing Lebanon because the terrorists were embolded because of America's show of weakness in Iraq. Do you agree? If so, please explain.
5. Some countries require women to wear burkas. Schools restrict "controversial " t-shirts. What article of clothing would you ban?
6. You are forced to repeal one Amendment from the Constitution. What would it be?
7. What fictional character would make the best next President?
8. The road trip is a great American summer tradition. What are the prettiest and ugliest states to drive through?
9. Would you be horrified or secretly delighted to have a hurricane named after you?
10. Are you ready for some football?
July 10, 2006
Tour de France Update #2
|[Posted by BVBigBro]|
One week has now gone by in the Tour de France and today’s rest day is a good place to reflect on the first week of the Tour, track the contenders and look at the upcoming week.
The biggest event of the Tour’s first week was the emergence of Robbie McEwen as a sprinter clearly superior to Tom Boonen. There haven’t been any mishaps for Boonen, McEwen has simply been faster. Look for that superiority to continue all the way to Paris and for McEwen to end the Tour in the Green Jersey.
The second biggest occurrence of the first week was the crashes. Crashes took out Alejandro Valverde and Bobby Julich. Never underestimate the importance of being able to keep the bike upright for three weeks in a grand tour. Armstrong managed to avoid crashing all through his reign except for one noted mountain crash in 2004, and that one actually helped him.
Also notable during the first week was team CSC’s attempt to get into every breakaway. With Basso and Julich gone, the strategy of trying to get one man into every breakaway is a bit mystifying. If CSC really wants a stage, get 2 or 3 men in the break and make it work. If they are going for a high placing for Carlos Sastre with their other GC riders out of the race, then it would have been good tactics to let the team rest up for the week and ignore the breakaways. As it was, the team did a fair amount of work and has nothing to show for it.
For the GC contenders other than staying out of trouble the main focus of the first week were the two time trials. These two time trials were chances to gain time and some succeeded while others failed badly. The big disappointment in the long TT was Levi Leipheimer, whose 5 minute loss to Floyd Landis effectively eliminated him as a contender. Leipheimer could still rally in the mountains, but it is much more likely that whatever made him slow in the time trial will make him slow in the mountains.
The other big losers in the TT’s were Iban Mayo and Michael Rasmussen, both of whom are now down more than 5 minutes to Landis. While both men will contend for some mountain stages, their losses in the first TT and their inevitable losses in the final TT means that we will likely see them instead focus on other goals. Rasmussen will probably be going for mountain points and the polka dot jersey for best climber. Mayo will go all out for L’Alpe d’Huez stage while his Euskaltel teammate Haimar Zubeldia looks for a high placement.
The big winner in the long TT was Floyd Landis, who in spite of trouble in both the prologue and the long TT succeeded in putting nearly a minute between himself and most of his rivals for the GC entering the mountains. It is Landis that has emerged from the first week as the favorite for the overall. Several other contenders, however, remain close and in the hunt.
T-Mobile’s Michael Rogers, eight seconds back of Landis, is an underrated climber whose time trialling ability will likely keep him in the top 10 until the end. His teammate Andreas Kloden, who is now free to go for the overall win with Ullrich out, is the closest of the pre-race favorites to Landis and only 50 seconds back. I think Landis will be able to out-climb him in the coming week. The real threats are probably from a group of riders still within 2 minutes of Landis. This group contains Vladamir Karpets, Denis Menchov, Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre. These men are all capable of out-climbing Landis in the right circumstances, and can time trial well enough in the final TT to keep any time they can make up in the mountains. Look for one or more of these men to attack Landis in the mountains and exploit any weaknesses they can find. My picks are for Evans and Moreau to be the ones to challenge. aroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia are both only about 2:30 back of Landis, but Floyd would have to falter badly for them to overtake him and make it hold up to Paris.
As for Discovery Channels riders, Hincapie remains close but should lose ground when the mountains begin. Paolo Savoldelli is also close, but I think Discovery will use him as a support rider for Popovych and give him chance for a breakaway stage win on a stage like the mountainous stage seventeen.
For the coming week, the real mountains begin on Wednesday. This stage will be unlikely to eliminate any of the GC contenders, but could possibly deprive Sergei Gonchar of his yellow jersey once and for all.
If Wednesday’s stage doesn’t do the trick, Thursday’s will. This stage should establish the pecking order for the contenders, and look for Floyd Landis to take control of the race. His excellent time trialing has left him in an enviable position. He can pick and choose when to attack and when to react, or if the stage is raced conservatively he may choose to simply sit on and let others do the work. In addition, his Phonak team has made it through 1/3 of the Tour without doing any work. This should leave them well rested to assist Landis as is needed in these first Pyrenean stages.
So that’s it for now. Floyd Landis is now the favorite, and Thursday’s stage will tell all. If Floyd can deliver the goods on Thursday, he will be very difficult to beat. If, in addition to having out time-trialed the others, he can out-climb the others on Thursday, he may even have time to attend a certain child’s birthday party. [editor’s note: my friends Ted & Wendy are big bikers and race fans. They’ve already taught their almost two-year old son to love the sport. Says Wendy “We know that he loves to look at bikes, but we didn't know how much he was actually following what was going on. However, this weekend I was talking to him about inviting some of his friends over for his birthday party. He asked if Floyd Landis was going to come. Floyd was also on the front cover of this month's issue of Bicycling, which we usually look at with him while he eats breakfast, so he's heard the name several times. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cute. I will go ahead and send Floyd a Bob the Builder invitation and see what happens."]
July 06, 2006
Cyclism with a Side of History
|[Posted by ]|
For those of you who haven't succumbed to Tour fever, now's a great time to give in. Not only are several Americans in contention to take over where Lance Armstrong left off, but today's stage ended in Caen, France. The WWII buffs in the crowd will know that Caen was the major objective of the Allies' Normandy landings. So, watch the stage on OLN tonight and you'll not only see an exciting race, you'll also see the hedgerows and coasts where so many Americans, Brits, Canadians, Poles, French and many others fought for freedom 60+ years ago.
To paraphrase Armstrong, it's not just about the bike!
July 05, 2006
Sifting & Winnowing at the University of Wisconsin
|[Posted by ]|
Years ago, I read a story about a Harvard Law class that elected one of their own for the specific job of reminding the rest of them how awful their three years at Harvard were when the University came calling for donations. I feel like it's time for me to the do the same to the University of Wisconsin. In case you haven't heard, the University, in its infinite wisdom, will be offering a course entitled Introduction to Islam taught by a Kevin Barrett, the founder of something called the Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for 9/11 truth". As you can imagine, Barrett doesn't think we really know the truth about 9/11. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Barrett and his fellow loons are convinced that:
"'The physics of those collapses clearly could not have resulted from plane crashes and jet fuel fires with office materials.'' Barrett says jet fuel does not burn hot enough to melt steel, and says recent tests on melted steel from the building prove his theory that it was wired to collapse, by the Government.
Barrett says the Bush Administration is fooling the American public with the Adolf Hitler 'Big Lie Technique'... ''Tell them a little lie and they'll wonder about it - weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a relatively little lie - and people are getting called on it.'' Barrett says. ''Tell em a big lie like 9/11 and they have a huge resistance to questioning it.''
And so the University of Wisconsin, an institution whose motto states "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found" is allowing this man to teach an intro course to a bunch of 18- and 19-year olds most of whom are taking the class to fulfill their bs "ethnic studies" requirement.
Predictably, the University and its apologists are hiding behind this motto and using it to justify a really, really poor decision. As Ann Althouse put it, "you don't find the truth by "sifting and winnowing" in a pile of obviously worthless ideas. And you don't learn to exercise critical thinking by reading a lot of material that is clearly wrong." She rightly, unlike a bunch of Madison's usual suspects (i.e., the Capital Times), classifies Barrett as the purveyer of "crackpot conspiracy theories". Does the University really want to be in the business of providing a forum for every moonbat and wingnut? Apparently they do, at least if their views veer to the political left.
If the University really thinks that students will learn anything of value from being exposed to crackpot theories, then perhaps they should allow Barrett to be a guest lecturer in an entire class devoted to the topic. I'm sure they could fit him in in between studying Holocaust denial, Bigfoot, Scientology and the secret world rule of the
Stone CuttersFree Masons.
In the meantime, I hereby vow not to give a dime to my alma mater and to urge others to hide their checkbooks too if this class actually takes place. Barrett and his ilk can exercise their free speech rights and I'll exercise mine.
July 03, 2006
Civil Rights Act Turns 42
|[Posted by Laura]|
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act 42 years ago. He said,
One hundred and 88 years ago this week, a small band of valiant men began a struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom —not only for political independence but for personal liberty—not only to eliminate foreign rule but to establish the rule of justice, in the affairs of men. That struggle was a turning point in history.
It's interesting that Johnson should reference the founding fathers in this way, given how bitterly they fought over slavery before signing the Declaration of Independence. They finally chose to focus on gaining freedom from King George, judging that they could not win the war without the southern militias.
Free black soldiers were militia members in the northern states. After the founding fathers failed to agree to a proposal to free the slaves, the British proclaimed that slaves were free and welcome in their Army. Many slaves escaped their bondage and joined them. Slavery was still legal in England, but it was a convenient and cynical way to sap the south of a critical part of its economy, and draw soldiers from the militias to their own side.
That may have been the first time that race was part of a cynical political decision, but it certainly wasn't the last.
Here's how Congress voted:
Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)
It's been pointed out before that a higher percentage of Republicans - the party of Lincoln - voted for the Civil Rights Act, and yet the Democrats claim to be the social justice party. George W. Bush has appointed blacks to much higher positions in his cabinet than Bill Clinton did and his cabinet is more diverse, yet Clinton was referred to as the first black president.
The last 42 years have brought a lot of change. I'll quote a Langston Hughes poem (out of context; he wrote it about his attraction to Communism but the beginning of it is apropos):
I speak in the name of the black millions
Awakening to action.
Let all others keep silent a moment
I have this word to bring,
This thing to say,
This song to sing:
Bitter was the day
When I bowed my back
Beneath the slaver's whip.
That day is past.
Bitter was the day
When I saw my children unschooled,
My young men without a voice in the world,
My women taken as the body-toys
Of a thieving people.
That day is past.
Bitter was the day, I say,
When the lyncher's rope
Hung about my neck,
And the fire scorched my feet,
And the oppressors had no pity,
And only in the sorrow songs
Relief was found.
That day is past.
I know full well now
Only my own hands,
Dark as the earth,
Can make my earth-dark body free.
O thieves, exploiters, killers,
No longer shall you say
With arrogant eyes and scornful lips:
"You are my servant,
I, the free!"
The old racism Hughes suffered from is long past, and while things are far from perfect, it's undeniable that a lot of progress has been made. Today is as good as day as any to note and celebrate that fact.