Author: Steve Prestegard

Presty the DJ for June 16

Dueling ex-Beatles today: In 1978, one year after the play “Beatlemania” opened on Broadway, Ringo Starr released his “Bad Boy” album, while Paul McCartney and Wings released “I’ve Had Enough”:

The number six song one year later (with no known connection to Mr. Spock):

Stop! for the number eight single today in 1990 …

… which bears an interesting resemblance to an earlier song:

Put the two together, and you get …

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for June 16”

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Presty the DJ for June 15

Today in 1956, 15-year-old John Lennon met 13-year-old Paul McCartney when Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen, played at a church dinner.

Birthdays today start with David Rose, the composer of a song many high school bands have played (really):

Nigel Pickering, guitarist of Spanky and Our Gang:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for June 15”

When old sports announcers get together

I just finished four weeks of announcing spring sports on the radio, with two games in the WIAA state baseball tournament in Grand Chute.

The word “spring” should be in scare quotes, because in several games the weather was only spring-like because the calendar says it’s spring. Two games featured temperatures in the 40s, spitting rain and high winds. Of course, this being Wisconsin, two days the weather was perfectly fine — partly cloudy and in the 70s.

The state baseball tournament was highlighted, if that’s what you want to call it, by a seven-hour rain delay between games on day two, which forced two Division 2 semifinals to move to first thing Thursday, with one of them being played at Appleton West. That is what can happen when you try to jam six baseball games into one day. You hope for no rain, but this spring that has been a forlorn hope.

I’m glad I got the work in, not merely for financial reasons, but because baseball and softball are two sports in which I have done relatively little work, and therefore probably need to improve the most. I still do not really have a home run call, though those are possibly overrated. (Marty Brennaman is retiring this year after 46 years announcing the Cincinnati Reds, and he’s never had a consistent home run call.) I did get to use a phrase from the late Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell (which may have pleased the stations’ market manager, a Michigan native), when an opposing pitcher struck out looking: “He stood there like a house by the side of the road and watched it go by.”

We got to use the home radio booth at Fox Cities Stadium, though we shared it with another announcer (more about him presently) and TV people from Eau Claire and Rhinelander. The TV kids (they were young enough to be our sons) had to sit through an aspect of the game identified by Bob Costas, that baseball is the best hanging-around sport there is. In the majors and minors, people hang around the batting cages, watch batting practice and shoot the breeze. At state between games, announcers sit in the press box and throw out top-this stories with other announcers and media types.

My contribution, as readers would expect, was what I call The Wauzeka Incident (fellow announcer takes on press box stairs, and everyone loses), which involved someone who was at state, who before Wauzeka failed to follow the teacher admonition to not lean back on your chair, with predictably injurious results, during a game. A discussion about worst weather to announce in included, on my part, announcing a football game on the roof of a press box in 50-mph winds, followed by a baseball game during a tornado warning. (Which was then delayed for two days.)

I also mentioned my one radio soccer experience, which included a not-great performance by myself and the high school goalie/color guy, who doubles as my oldest son. I think we were bailed out by the fact the game went to overtime and penalty kicks. Once again in my case, a not-great announcing job got bailed out by the quality of the game. (Kind of like my first radio volleyball experience.)

The announcer who followed us Thursday got to call a tight state championship game, which included this seventh inning. The previous night, their team’s top pitcher threw a five-inning no-hitter. The next afternoon (with his broadcast running against his need to get home for an important 5 p.m. dinner date), his team’s pitcher ran out of pitches in the seventh inning. (High school pitchers have to stop pitching after 100 pitches, a rule that is supposed to prevent arm injuries, but also leads to unintended consequences.) The team’s third pitcher came on, with the score tied and runners on base, but only threw a few pitches before he grabbed his pitching elbow and had to leave with an injury. So the team’s fourth pitcher came on, in a tied state championship game in the top of the seventh inning. Six runs later, the road team won the title.

The story I can add to my yet-to-be-published unauthorized autobiography includes the first night in a hotel, in which I was awakened at 2:45 a.m. by someone retching somewhere outside our room. That’s 2:45 on an early Wednesday morning. (Presumably outside the hotel too, but I didn’t feel like getting up to check.)

One thing I managed to do was to get my father’s old band, of which you have read here, mentioned on, of all things, a rock radio station’s Facebook page. The morning show asked listeners to give a weird fact about their father in five words. It should have been “Southern Wisconsin’s first rock band’s first piano player,” but editing required “First Wisconsin rock band pianist.” That may have made people wonder who in the world that was. We also discovered, to our chagrin, that the Appleton pizza restaurant we visited last year (with me bringing back a pizza for our family) and wanted to visit this year was closed due to lack of employees.

If you ever wanted to know what sports announcers do between games, you just read what we do between games.

 

Our man Wick

One feature of college basketball team bus rides is their movies.

Most of the movies I’ve seen on their road trips were movies I wouldn’t have chosen to watch (if you’ve seen one of “The Hangover” movies, you’ve seen them all), but most were entertaining enough. The road trip movies also allowed a father of pre-teen children to screen movies the kids might see before they saw them. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was an excellent movie that, I vowed, there was no way the kids would watch.

On one UW–Platteville men’s road trip, I saw the movie “John Wick,” which broke a Hollywood convention identified by film critic Roger Ebert: (Spoiler alert!) The hero’s dog died early in the movie, which propelled the plot. (Possibly ironically I saw the movie the day after our Siamese cat, Mocha, died. It didn’t generate any more emotion than fiction usually does since I usually can tell the difference between real life and fiction — the latter is supposed to make sense.)

John Wick is played by Keanu Reeves in a role that made Reeves an older action star much like Liam Neeson suddenly became an action star through “Taken.”

Sonny Busch explores Wick further:

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is something out of a fairy tale. Literally: He is referred to as “baba yaga” or boogeyman. When his exploits are whispered of, the stories are both ridiculous yet seemingly plausible — killing three men with a pencil in a bar sounds absurd at first, but when you consider the possibilities that a small sharpened implement offers for harm, is it that crazy?

The simplicity of Wick’s story — he seeks vengeance against those who stole his car and killed his dog, which was a gift from his dead wife — combined with his skill with guns and knives (and writing implements) foreground his legend. However, in the background of the “John Wick” films, writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski have crafted a world of mythical references and religious symbolism that suggest Wick harkens to a line of legends and folk heroes. His is the latest face of the monomyth. And the charmingly goofy Keanu Reeves, whose accidental virality on social media has turned him into a different sort of legend, is the perfect actor to portray him.

Much has been made of the world-building in “John Wick” and its sequels. There are the gold coins the assassins trade with each other, which represent not fiscal but social currency, favors made solid. There’s the chain of Continental hotels, on the grounds of which no “business” (i.e., murder) can be conducted, and the High Table, a collection of the heads of the major crime syndicates. Wick’s world has been salted with other symbols, however: older, more primal notions.

His wife was Helen (Bridget Moynahan), whose best-known namesake launched a thousand ships. Note that the concierge of the New York Continental is named Charon (Lance Reddick), who students of mythology will recognize as the ferryman for the River Styx, the guide between the worlds of the living and the damned. The mute murderess in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is Ares (Ruby Rose), the Greek god of war who backed the wrong side in the conflict over Helen. The name of Sofia (Halle Berry), who helps Wick learn the path to the man above the High Table in “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” derives from “wisdom” in ancient Greek.

Similarly, there are echoes of Christian theology throughout Wick’s adventures.

Wick’s initial nemesis, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), posits that the bespoke-suited killer cannot get out of the business because he is the literal manifestation of God’s wrath. “In the end, a lot of us are rewarded for our misdeeds, which is why God took your wife and unleashed you upon me,” Viggo says. “This life follows you. It clings to you, infecting everyone who comes close to you. We are cursed, you and I.” In the second film, one of Wick’s victims cuts her wrists in a bathtub before sliding into the position of Christ on the cross — Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini) dies for Wick’s sins, her murder demanded by a man owed a favor that Wick cannot refuse.

And in “Parabellum,” Wick risks life and limb to obtain a hidden crucifix, a totem he takes back to the Belarusan orphanage that trained him in the deadly arts. He calls it a ticket — like the marker, this ticket can’t be refused — and demands passage to safety. Passage that is granted after the cross is heated over a fire and used to mark his flesh. Passage that eventually results in Wick taking a journey through the desert, past the point of human endurance, past thirst and hunger, to meet with a mysterious force who tempts him.

These mythical allusions and his travel along the hero’s journey are among the reasons Wick resonates as a modern folk hero — but the character’s personification by Keanu Reeves, accidental social media superstar, ensured he would be ensconced in the public consciousness. Reeves has become a modern legend in his own right. He’s a meme several times over: There’s Sad Keanu and its counterpart Happy Keanu; there’s Conspiracy Keanu and Whoa/Woah Keanu. There’s a Twitter account dedicated to Reeves doing things. He’s always happy to take a picture with fans or sign autographs for hapless cinema employees. If you’re unlucky enough to get stuck on a bus trip after your plane makes an emergency landing, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to have Reeves accompany you.

Because free speech always needs defending

Bosch Fawstin:

What kind of world would it be if no one drew Mohammad? A world without Free Speech, like the Islamic world. I never want to live in that world, and drawing Mohammad is how I personally keep that world at bay. Unfortunately, almost no one is drawing Mohammad cartoons today. The horrible fact is that terrorism has worked. The violent response to criticism of Islam and of Mohammad cartoons has made those of us who continue to criticize Islam and draw Mohammad a very small minority, making us easier to pick off by leftists who want to character assassinate us, in order to ban us from mainstream society, and Muslims who want to literally assassinate us. (The word assassin is of Arabic origin).

Whatever reason that those who can draw and who claim to support Free Speech don’t draw Mohammad –and I’ve heard it all, from them claiming that they have no “interest” in doing so, to it’s just not their “thing”- the simple reason is that the murders and death threats have shut them up and shut down their alleged support for freedom. Islam’s got their tongues and their pens, and they’re ashamed to admit it. People ask me why I draw Mohammad, since I get death threats, and the reason I draw Mohammad is because of the death threats. The way I see it, death threats are not a reason to NOT draw Mohammad, but TO draw Mohammad. I never set out to draw Mohammad, and even being raised Muslim, I didn’t know of the Islamic prohibition of drawing him, but when Danish cartoonists were threatened with death over drawing Mohammad, I did what’s natural for someone who loves freedom, especially when it’s threatened, and I began drawing Mohammad, and I haven’t stopped since.

My winning Mohammad cartoon explicitly spells out why I draw Mohammad in the first place, and that’s in defiance of the Islamic prohibition, which leads Muslims to threaten to murder over cartoons. Though Mohammad cartoons are blamed for inciting Islamic violence, in truth, it’s Islamic violence that incites Mohammad cartoons.

Mark Steyn wrote the following about my winning Mohammad cartoon, in his article “Stay Silent And You’ll Be Okay” :

“It’s less about Mohammed than about the prohibition against drawing Mohammed—and the willingness of a small number of Muslims to murder those who do, and a far larger number of Muslims both enthusiastic and quiescent to support those who kill. Mr.Fawstin understands the remorseless logic of one-way multiculturalism—that it leads to the de facto universal acceptance of Islamic law.”

We’ve failed to avenge 9/11, and we’re allowing a very defeatable enemy to remained undefeated, nearly 18 years later, as it continues to mass murder across the world. We’ve failed to defend Free Speech after the Danish Mohammad Cartoons and the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with almost no Western publication publishing the Mohammad cartoons. We all know, but rarely admit, that the vast majority of Western politicians who are charged to protect us can live with the deaths of Westerners at the hands of Muslims, (though they can’t live with criticism of Islam) and that bottomless corruption has spilled over into the West at large, poisoning the majority of us who can now live with the deaths of our fellow Westerners, with very little protest.

We still have freedom of speech, yet far too many of us operate as if it’s long gone. And to those who think that we shouldn’t criticize Islam until government guarantees our safety, as some have told me over the years: Freedom isn’t won and maintained by keeping our mouths shut. That’s how tyranny wins. I have never waited for government protection to speak out against Islam and draw Mohammad, and those who claim to be waiting for this government protection that doesn’t exist, were never going to speak out against Islam or draw Mohammad anyway. It’s their ultimate excuse to remain silent in the face of evil. “But it’s not my duty!”, some cry. It’s about self-respect, it’s about being honest, it’s about not allowing evil to have its way in the world. It’s about exercising your right to speak while you still have it.

We’ve been warned about government censorship, we were worried about the FCC, but in this post-9/11 world, we’re censoring ourselves, and the government wouldn’t have it any other way. We, the people, are doing their dirty work for them, and government bureaucrats are sitting back and laughing their asses off. We’re censoring ourselves daily, from powerful leftist-run social media and tech companies punishing us for challenging their anti-Western, pro-Islam agenda, to leftists across our culture crusading against speech that they hate, which they call “hate speech”, to conservatives placing “respect” for religion above necessary criticism of Islam, to the worst censorship of all, self-censorship. So long as we have Free Speech, we must exercise it, because without it, Freedom is over.

Those who are waiting for the coast to be clear in order to speak the truth about Islam and to draw Mohammad, are parasites who are relying on others to clear the coast.

Truth-tellers don’t wait for guaranteed government protection before speaking the truth- as they’re honest enough to know that there’s no such thing- and they continue telling the truth about Islam and to draw Mohammad, even in the face of threats. Those who say what must be said will hopefully lead to those in power finally doing what must be done.

If we act as if Free Speech is over, it will be.

Transportation taxation without representation

Dan O’Donnell:

In something of a surprise, the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature has rejected Governor Evers’ effort to raise the state’s 32.9 cent per-gallon tax on gasoline in an effort to close a projected $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has long been open to the possibility of raising the gas tax, told a group of conservatives last week that “an increase…to fund Wisconsin’s transportation projects is off the table,” the MacIver News Service reported exclusively.

This about-face has left Evers scrambling, as he believed that his proposed eight cent per gallon hike was a potential opening for negotiation with an eye toward a compromise at four or five cents per gallon.

Not a chance, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelon Friday.  In a news release later that afternoon, Vos agreed that any increase at all would be “tough to get done.”

As well it should be. Raising the gas tax is a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem. So naturally, Illinois is diving in headfirst.

On July 1, Illinois’ gas tax will double from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents. That, combined with the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax, means drivers in Illinois will pay 56 cents in tax on every gallon of gas they purchase—a total of $10.08 every time they fill up an 18-gallon tank.

Assuming that the average driver fills up once a week, he or she will pay $524.16 just in gasoline taxes each year. Illinois’ new tax comprises $177.84 of that; a whopping 34 percent.

Such a dramatic increase in the middle of the summer vacation season will have an immediate impact on driving habits. Generally speaking, when gas prices are higher, people drive less—especially those for whom the added price is a more significant factor.

Gas taxes are among the most regressive in America, as they have a disproportionate impact on those who earn lower incomes (and, not coincidentally, tend to drive older, less fuel-efficient vehicles).  Someone earning $200,000 isn’t likely to notice or care much about having to pay $13.68 more per month in Illinois gas taxes. Someone earning $20,000 certainly will, and they will modify their driving habits accordingly.

An even more significant concern for Illinois—or any state dependent upon a gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure—is the American consumer’s long-term driving habits.Ride-sharing has made private car ownership much less of a necessity in cities like Chicago, while car companies themselves are clearly preparing for a future without gasoline.

By January of 2018, the world’s automotive manufacturers had already spent upwards of $90 billion researching and developing electric vehicles.

“We’re all in,” Ford Motor Company CEO Bill Ford, Jr. told Reuters after spending an estimated $11 billion on electric.

Just two months ago, General Motors—the country’s largest carmaker—announced a $424 million investment in production of a new electric-powered Chevrolet.Earlier in the year, Steve Carlisle, president of GM’s Cadillac brand, said the company was going “all in” on electric vehicles.

“[By the] early to middle part of the next decade, all transportation will be electric,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.“Once you say that’s the way the world is going to be, it comes down to, ‘So how do we get there?’”

Even online retail giant Amazon, which has been at the forefront of global technological trends for more than a decade, is betting big on electric vehicle technology with an estimated $700 million investment in a company that has been developing an all-electric pickup truck and SUV.

Once this technology is widely available and, crucially, affordable—perhaps in as little as five years—gas tax revenues will plummet, leaving states dependent on them scrambling to plug even greater budget deficits than those they face today.

Wisconsin, then, would be (as per usual) wise not to follow Illinois down this road.Governor Evers believes that an initial eight-cent gas tax hike coupled with a yearly increase of another cent to tie the tax more closely to the rate of inflation could bring in several hundred million dollars in revenue per year, but this estimate just isn’t based in reality.

The easiest way to reduce public consumption of a product is to tax it, and the quickest way to convince consumers to make the leap to an electric vehicle is to make the price of keeping their old gas guzzler too great to justify.

If, as the automotive industry predicts, electric vehicles will dominate the roads in just a few short years, increased dependence on a steadily rising gas tax would leave Wisconsin with a new and even more pressing problem: What can it do when the product it has been taxing no longer exists?

Benjamin Yount reports on a worse alternative than raising the gas tax:

Republican lawmakers in Madison are facing more questions from the right over their plan to possibly create a per-mile fee for drivers in the state.

Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin is the latest to voice opposition to a study included in the Republican’s proposed transportation budget that is ostensibly aimed at the feasibility of a mileage fee.

Eric Bott, AFP’s state director in Wisconsin, says the study is really the first step toward a new tax on drivers.

“This so-called ‘study’ approved by [the Joint Finance Committee] would also give the Committee the complete authority to institute a per mileage fee program without any additional oversight from the entirety of the legislature or the executive branch,” Bott wrote in an open letter to lawmakers. “The language does not limit what the fee could be or how much tracking the government can do of your driving.”

Republicans on the state’s budget writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, last week voted to include $2.5 million for a study on a mileage fee.

But the proposal they agreed to goes well beyond just a study.

JFC members gave themselves the power to decide if a per-mile fee is needed, what those fees would cost, and whether those fees need to increase at any time.

JFC members would be the only ones to vote on the fees, the full State Assembly and State Senate would not have to act.

“A mere 16 members of a legislative committee would determine if the government can track your mileage and charge you a yet-to-be-determined fee – an unprecedented authority for a legislative committee,” Bott’s letter said.

In reality, 16 lawmakers wouldn’t need to vote to raise the fees, just a majority of the Joint Finance Committee would have to agree to raise the fees.

“Under the proposal, nine votes is all it would take for government to start tracking how we drive and assessing a massive new tax. That’s not democracy as we know it,” Bott said. “Our system of democracy and our state constitution require politicians to vote on tax increases. This is an attempt to shirk that responsibility.”

There is no guess as to how much a per-mile fee on drivers would cost. Though Republicans are looking to raise nearly $500 million more for roads in the new state budget. Much of that money would come from increases in license plate fees, a new hybrid car fee, and an increase in the cost to transfer a car title.

It’s parts of a nearly $2 billion construction plan to build and fix roads across the state.

“The transportation budget passed by JFC includes other revenue increases, paid for by hardworking Wisconsinites. The increases in title fees and annual registration fees can and should be enough,” Bott wrote in his letter. “We need to focus on sustainable transportation funding, which includes many of the reforms to the Department introduced by your colleagues, not an invasive and costly per mile fee.”

Bottom line, Bott said, is that taxpayers deserve better than a shadowy process that could end up costing them for years and years to come.

“The policy included in the June 6th transportation omnibus motion that gives the Joint Committee on Finance unilateral authority to impose a per mile fee on Wisconsinites is a dangerous precedent to set for our democracy, our privacy and our pocketbooks,” Bott added.

It is a gross violation of our rights to give anyone or any group the ability to unilaterally set taxes without a vote by the Legislature. One has to wonder who in the GOP thinks this is a good idea.

The crazy thing about a mileage tax is that out-of-state drivers wouldn’t pay anything (similar to increasing registration fees), but Wisconsin drivers would be taxed on their travel outside the state. At least the gas tax is paid by out-of-state drivers, although this state’s gas tax is already higher than the natural average. Any tax increase that affects products shipped by truck will become more expensive to ship, which will raise the price of that product. A mileage tax certainly looks like an attempt to get people to travel less, which is a strange attitude for a state in which tourism is one of its top three industries.

Automatic indexing of a tax is similarly taxation without representation. Every tax increase should be voted on by the Legislature. (Actually, I would prefer statewide referenda on tax increases, but that requires a change in the Constitution.)

I remain unconvinced that any tax or fee increase is necessary. Spending prioritization certainly is necessary. The state Department of Transportation has convinced no one except the road-building lobby (i.e. the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association) that it has initiated any kind of spending or other reform to make road projects cost less. Until then, the DOT does not need more money.

 

 

(Company you don’t like)‘s taxes

Tyler Cowen:

The main reason Amazon as a corporate entity does not pay much in taxes is because the company so vigorously reinvests its profit. The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero.

That is, in fact, the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.

Amazon pays plenty in terms of payroll taxes and also state and local taxes. Nor should you forget the taxes paid by Amazon’s employees on their wages. Not only is that direct revenue to various levels of government, but the incidence of those taxes falls somewhat on Amazon, which now must pay higher wages to offset the tax burden faced by their employees.

Not everyone wants to live in NYC or Queens! (Do you agree with Paul Krugman’s charge that the Trump tax cuts are mainly a giveaway to capital? If so, you probably also should believe that the wage taxes paid by Amazon employees fall largely on capital.)

There is no $3 billion that NYC gets to keep if Amazon does not show up. That “money” was a pledged reduction in Amazon’s future tax burden at the state and local level.

When it comes to the discussion surrounding Amazon and taxes, I can only sigh…

As do I, because businesses don’t pay taxes; their customers do as part of the cost of a product or service. Reducing business taxes is the source of considerable campaign spending. So if business taxes were zero, there would be less money donated to candidates. In addition, prices would be lower, or companies would have higher profits, which would be returned to shareholders in higher dividends, reinvested in companies, or sent to workers in higher pay.