Fight, fellows! Fight! Fight! Fight! We’ll win this game!

What a fine and unusual time we Badger fans find ourselves in these days.

I wrote last week that the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament selection committee screwed the Badgers by lining up a potential second-round meeting with the tournament’s overall number one seed, Villanova, which was an obvious attempt to get rid of the Badgers as soon as possible. Instead …

… the Badgers have suddenly, and crazily, become a Final Four favorite after ending Villanova’s chance to repeat as NCAA champions. Wisconsin plays Florida at [UW–] Madison Square Garden in New York today at 9 p.m., with the winner playing seventh-seed South Carolina or third-seed Baylor Sunday for, in the Badgers’ case, their third Final Four trip in four seasons.

Did you ever think you would read a paragraph like this, from the Los Angeles Times?

No team left in the NCAA tournament is as used to being in the Sweet 16 as Wisconsin. The Badgers are in their fourth straight regional semifinal, a feat no other team can claim. They have also reached the round of 16 in six of the last seven years.

SEC Country reports the prediction of ESPN’s Dick Vitale:

The ESPN commentator, who is helping fans make prediction’s using the Allstate Bracket Predictor a predictive tool that analyzes a number of statistics and probability metrics, added that while many were picking the Badgers to advance, he likes Florida to move on the Elite Eight. Vitale did hedge a bit in that the Gators could be in for trouble against a very good Wisconsin front court.

“The thing that scares me with them is that this might be the time they really miss John Egbunu. He was a tough kid and a physical rebounder and gave them unbelievable defense,” Vitale said. “But in this game he could be a major loss because the one problem you deal with against Wisconsin is they get great spacing but their two bigs in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. They cause major problems for Villanova and could do the same for Florida. And that could be the case for Florida.”

Egbunu tore an ACL against Auburn back on Feb. 14 and will not play again this season. The Gators struggled against teams with strong front courts, notably Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Gators seek their first Elite Eight appearance since 2014, when the Gators advanced to the Final Four.

At this point you might see similarities between this team and the 2000 Badgers, which had a most unexpected Final Four trip after knocking off number-one-seed Arizona in the second round. For those who don’t remember, though, that 2000 team was predicted by absolutely, positively no one to get to the Final Four. As stated previously, if the Badgers win tonight and Sunday they would make their third Final Four trip in four seasons, their number eight seed notwithstanding.

The thing that makes one pessimistic is that the Badgers have to play at the top of their game in order to win; they don’t have enough talent to win despite playing poorly in some aspect of the game. (Except, apparently, free throw shooting, given that the Badgers shot worse than Villanova Saturday, but the Wildcats’ missed free throws, particularly the last one, hurt them worse than the Badgers’ misses hurt them.)

So is defense and experience at this level enough?

 

Coming this fall: An all-heart halftime show

Big news from Madison reported by Samara Kalk Derby:

Observant Badgers fans may be wondering why legendary band conductor Mike Leckrone has been missing from the NCAA basketball tournament games.

It’s because the 80-year-old conductor, known for his agility and stamina, recently underwent double-bypass surgery.

According to Jay Rath, marketing manager for UW band concerts, the heart surgery took place Jan. 24, and Leckrone didn’t return to band rehearsals until last week, when he met with the 300-member Varsity Band for two hours before Spring Break.

Leckrone, the marching band’s conductor for 48 years, received permission from his doctor to return that morning. There was loud applause and some tears from the Varsity Band, as the marching band is known during the spring semester.

For weeks, band staff explained only that Leckrone’s absence was due only to a “procedure,” Rath said.

Leckrone said he was anxious to get back. Besides tournaments, the band’s biggest event of the year, the Varsity Band Concerts, are coming up April 20, 21 and 22 at the Kohl Center. About 21,000 people attend the concerts each year, according to UW.

The theme is “Nobody Does It Better,” a song from the 1977 James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” It was chosen before Leckrone went in for surgery.

The theme was meant as a compliment to the band, but lately, band members have suggested that it apply to their leader instead. Others have informally renamed the concert, “This One’s for Mike.”

(Side note: I played “Nobody Does It Better” as part of a James Bond halftime show for Homecoming. That was in 1983. Yes, I am from the first half of Leckrone’s UW career.)

Besides conducting, emceeing and cracking jokes, Leckrone is known for his stunts, like his tradition of flying through the air with wires and doing somersaults above the audience.

The flying has been firmly ruled out now, Rath said, but Leckrone is looking for other activities.

“The honest truth is that I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to be able to do,” he said in a press release. “We’re kind of planning contingencies, with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.”

Leckrone will not travel with the band to Friday night’s tournament game, but he’ll be there next week if the Badgers advance.

 

Cut more

John Stossel:

Even Republicans are unhappy. Big spending “conservative” congressman Hal Rogers calls President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts “draconian, careless and counterproductive.”

But Trump’s cuts are good! Why do politicians always assume that government spending helps people? It always has unintended consequences.

Foreign aid is attached to idealistic notions like ending global poverty and making friends abroad. Politicians also thought that by rewarding countries that behave well, America could steer the whole world toward responsible practices like holding elections and allowing companies (especially U.S. companies) to operate without interference. The young nation of Israel could be propped up with money for its military defense and infrastructure projects.

But today, the U.S. sends money to friends and foes alike, and it’s hard to know what those countries do with it. Israel gets billions of dollars—but we give even more money to Israel’s enemies.

Money we give to impoverished nations seldom reaches the poor people we want to help. The funds routinely go to the kleptocrat governments that made those countries such horrible places to live in the first place. Our gifts prop up authoritarians, making it easier for them to avoid free market reforms.

We’re just as dumb about spending at home.

The Department of Education doesn’t teach any kids. It imposes standards on local schools that make it harder for them to experiment. It hires bureaucrats who do endless studies—instead of letting competition show us what teaching methods get the best results.

The Department of Education also promotes government-subsidized student loans that trick students into thinking that no matter which school they pick, no matter their major, they will graduate with useful, marketable skills. Many go deeply into debt just when they should be getting a start in life.

The Department of Agriculture tips American elections. Presidential candidates promise farm subsidies to try to win the early Iowa primary. Politicians say the subsidies will rescue struggling small farms, but they rarely do. Most of the money goes to big, well-connected agribusiness. They shouldn’t get subsidies any more than other businesses should.

The so-called “war on poverty” has now cost almost $22 trillion, about three times what we’ve spent on all America’s wars. Yet poverty endures, even as markets and technology should have eliminated most of it.

Before the war on poverty began, Americans were steadily lifting themselves out of poverty. The well-intended handouts increased dependence and stopped that natural progress. They perpetuated poverty.

Obviously, some federal programs do help people. When you spend trillions of dollars, some of it will be put to good use.

But that doesn’t mean the Economic Development Administration, “Essential” Air Service, Community Services block grants or even Meals on Wheels deserve a penny more of your taxes.

“There is no magic money tree in Washington,” the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards reminds us. At DownsizingGovernment.org, he lists many more programs that ought to be cut. Even when programs do good things, he says correctly, “It is more efficient for the states to fund their own activities—school and antipoverty programs—because doing so eliminates the expensive federal middleman.”

Having our money back means being able to pay for things we choose as individuals—including helping out the poor more effectively than the government. …

Trump and Paul Ryan do deserve credit for demanding that spending increases be offset with cuts elsewhere. But it’s a tragedy that they didn’t use this moment to try to cut more, and to cut the biggest unsustainable spending: Medicare and Social Security. Not addressing those entitlements today will mean more suffering for the poor and the elderly in the future.

Do the humane thing. Keep hacking away at that budget.

Trump vs. science, or not

Eric Boehm:

Scientists and fans of science are getting all worked up over a proposed 20 percent cut to the budget of the National Institutes of Health. If they’re looking for someone to blame for those cuts, they can start by blaming the National Institutes of Health.

Seriously. From funding experiments that gave cocaine to quails and rats, to studying the sex habits of hamsters and goldfish, there are few parts of the federal government that have made a better case for budget cut than the NIH.

Adrienne LaFrance has a piece at The Atlantic that takes the hysteria over President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal to new heights. The budget, which includes a cut of $6 billion to the NIH, has scientists bracing for “a lost generation in American science,” according to LaFrance, who says scientists told her that the “consequences of such a dramatic reduction in public spending on science and medicine would be deadly.”

One of those scientists, Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells LaFrance that the proposed cuts “would bring American biomedical science to a halt and forever shut out a generation of young scientists.”

Please.

Behind all the hysterics is one simple fact. Even if Trump’s budget cuts are enacted, as proposed, by Congress (which they won’t be), the NIH would be funded at the same level as it was in 2003. That’s less than 15 years ago. It’s hardly a return to the Dark Ages—heck, that’s hardly a return to the pre-iPhone ages—or to the era when smallpox and polio were running rampant. If the generation of young scientists that went to school in the 1990s and early 2000s managed to survive and get funding for research without the NIH at its current levels, then surely the next generation will.

Before going any further, though, an important note on Trump’s budget. It’s terrible. His proposed cuts are not a serious effort at reducing the size of the federal government, but rather a way to pay for a mostly useless wall on the border with Mexico and to feed the Pentagon more money ($52 billion more, to be exact), so the military can flush it down the toilet of endless wars, overpriced weapons systems, and who-knows-what-else because not even government auditors can figure out how the Department of Defense manages to waste so much taxpayer money.

The terrible spending decisions in Trump’s budget, though, do not make his proposed cuts any less legitimate, and few government agencies have made a better, stronger case for having their own budgets reduced.

More than 80 percent of the NIH’s annual budget is used to fund research grants, mostly for universities and post-grad students. While there is plenty of good research funded by the NIH, there’s also no shortage of examples that make you wonder if they’re secretly conducting a study on how many ridiculous, wasteful studies they can fund before Congress or the president cuts their budget.

Perhaps the most infamous example of pure WTF research funded by the NIH is the $175,000 grant given to the University of Kentucky to study how cocaine affects the sex drives of Japanese quail.

“It’s hard to think of a more wasteful use of American taxpayers’ money than to give cocaine to quail and studying their sexual habits,” deadpanned then-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) in highlighting the study in his 2011 report on wasteful government spending.

There are plenty of other head-scratching examples, like the $509,000 grant used to study how meth-heads responded to text messages using “gay lingo.” The NIH spent more than $2.8 million over four years funding a study to determine why “nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese,” and why gay men generally are not. More than $600,000 from the NIH helped finance a study on the sex habits of hamsters, and another $3.6 million from the NIH allowed researchers at Bowdoin College to ponder “what makes goldfish feel sexy?”

My personal favorite is the 2012 NIH-funded study that determined rats on cocaine prefer listening to jazz music instead of classical. Specifically, they like listening to Miles Davis’ classic album “Four” more than Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Don’t worry, the researchers did the same experiment with rats high on methamphetamine, too, and found that they also enjoy Miles Davis. Cool.

Not to be outdone, researchers at the University of Illinois used a $242,600 NIH grant to get honeybees high on cocaine, ultimately discovering that the intoxicated bees are “about twice as likely to dance” and moved 25 percent faster than sober bees.

Other NIH studies simply prove what everyone already knows, like when a $548,000 grant helped demonstrate that adults over age 30 who frequently binge-drink tend to be less mature than their peers. Or when the NIH spent $666,000 on a study that found watching re-runs of old television shows make people happy, because it gives them an “energizing chance to reconnect with pseudo-friends.

Even when they try to clean up their act, the NIH ends up raising questions about how it’s spending taxpayer money. After a government audit found that the NIH had blown $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference (enough to fund five more studies about the drug habits of Japanese quail, can you believe?) in 2010, the agency created new levels of bureaucratic oversight to make sure that didn’t happen again. The problem: Bloomberg reported in 2015 that the additional oversight costs as much as $14.6 million annually, roughly equal to how much the agency spends each year researching Hodgkin’s disease.

The hilarious examples of waste at the NIH are just a drop in the bucket of the federal deficit, of course, but it certainly seems like the agency could do a little trimming without losing any critical medical research.

Even without budget cuts, that research is increasingly being driven by the private sector anyway.

In her piece at The Atlantic, LaFrance points out that the federal government funded 60 percent of research and development in the United States in 1965. By 2006, however, more than 65 percent of R&D funding was coming from private sources, she notes.

This, we’re meant to believe, is a bad thing. A sign that government—that all of us—is not doing its part to finance the scientific discoveries that make the modern world such a wonderful place to live. For shame.

Get rid of the percentages, though, and a different picture emerges. Funding for the NIH has increased by about 3.5 times between 1970 and 2015 (not quite enough to keep pace with inflation, but pretty close). Most of that increase has been in the past two decades. In just five years, from 2000 through 2004, the NIH’s budget grew by a whopping 58 percent, and there was another huge boost in NIH funding during the Obama administration’s stimulus program (lots of shovel-ready jobs in labs, one assumes).

There hasn’t been a reduction in public funding for research and development, but government funding now makes up a smaller portion of the overall pie because privately funded research has grown so quickly that it’s overtaken government as the main patron of science. That’s not a bad thing! Sure, privately funded research is subject to approval from corporate overlords at times—in her piece, LaFrance quotes an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale who proclaims that only “sexy, hot” science will get private funding, instead of the tedious research that leads to most important breakthroughs—but if that means fewer studies on why rats like Miles Davis, I think we’ll survive.

Similarly, I think we’ll be okay if a smaller budget for the NIH means the agency has to prioritize important things like research into deadly diseases ahead of questionably useful studies on the drug habits of Japanese birds, the importance of old television shows, and the sex habits of small mammals.

Presty the DJ for March 23

The number one British single today in 1961:

The number one single today in 1963:

Today in 1973, the Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered John Lennon to leave the U.S. within 60 days.

More than three years later, Lennon won his appeal and stayed in the U.S. the rest of his life.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 23”

Lunch on this

Investors Business Daily:

Let’s start with a basic fact. Contrary to news reports last week, President Trump is not eliminating funding for Meals on Wheels. He’s not even cutting it.

How do we know this? Meals on Wheels says so. A statement issued by Meals on Wheels America on Thursday notes that 35% of the revenues at the 5,000 or so local Meals on Wheels programs come via the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program.

Trump’s budget outline says nothing about this program whatsoever.

What Trump’s budget does propose is cutting is the corruption-prone Community Development Block Grant program, run out of Housing and Urban Development. Some state and local governments use some of that grant money, at their own discretion, to “augment funding for Meals on Wheels,” according to the statement.

Nevertheless, when the New York Times reported on Trump’s budget last Wednesday, they dispensed with such details, and simply said that CDBG “funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.”

This misleading shorthand quickly turned into “Trump wants to kill Meals on Wheels.”

Time magazine, for example, blared that Trump’s budget “would kill a program that feeds 2.4 million senior citizens.” The Hill said it “eliminates funds for Meals on Wheels.” A local Dallas station reported that the program would lose “all of its federal funding.” Others claimed — falsely — that Trump’s budget director said Meals on Wheels wasn’t worth funding because it didn’t get results.

The New York Times itself fanned the flames of its own misleading coverage with follow-up stories about how “GOP, Dem Lawmakers Decry Trump’s Cuts To Meals On Wheels” and how the program “gets results.”

When the actual facts started to emerge over the weekend, the fake story had already taken hold in the popular press and on social media.

So what’s really going on?

As Meals on Wheels America explained, some Community Development Block Grant money does end up going to some of the local Meals on Wheels programs.

But it’s a tiny amount. HUD’s own website shows that just 1% of CDBG grant money goes to the broad category of “senior services.” And 0.17% goes to “food banks.”

We looked at several local Meals on Wheels programs and found that block grant money was often a pittance, and as often as not the programs got no CDBG money.

Last year, for example, the Meals on Wheels program in Rockland County, N.Y., received a total of $25,000 from CDBG — less than 1% of its budget.

Kennewick, Wash., directed $18,500 in grant money to Senior Life Resources’ Meals on Wheels program in 2015, a year in which the charity got $13.3 million in total government grants.

Fairfield, Calif., gave its local Meals on Wheels $10,539 of CDBG money in 2015, after giving it $0 for the previous four years.

Meals on Wheels of Trenton, N.J., asked for $50,000 in community grant money last year, and got nothing. It received no grant money the year before, either.

All of this information was easily available to anyone reporting on this story, or anyone commenting on it, which would have prevented the false claims about the Meals on Wheels program from spreading in the first place. But why bother reporting facts when you can make up a story that will drive Trump’s approval ratings even lower?

Then for dessert, Ben Shapiro:

Last week, we heard wailing and gnashing of teeth on the left thanks to President Trump’s proposed budget slashing funding for the Community Development Block Grant, which costs taxpayers $3 billion per year. That’s because some of the money from the CDBG goes to Meals on Wheels – although the vast majority of the Meals on Wheels budget comes from elsewhere.

The left reacted to the news by calling Americans stingy and nasty. If the government wouldn’t cover the cost for Meals on Wheels, the theory went, then Meals on Wheels would die a horrible death, along with the 2.4 million seniors to which it provided necessary nutrition.

Except that’s not what happened.

According to CNN:

Meals on Wheels received 50 times the typical amount of daily donations on Thursday after the White House proposed cuts to some of the program’s sources of funding, a spokesperson for the group said. Volunteer sign-ups also jumped, increasing by 500%, according to Jenny Bertolette, a spokeswoman for Meals on Wheels America.

Naturally, that hasn’t stopped the folks at Meals on Wheels from calling for more federal funding. They say that volunteers should call up the government and decry the budget cuts. But Americans are more than willing to fill the gap, if government is left out of it.

And this is the major disconnect between right and left: the left believes that every act of kindness is a collective action problem, that vicious individualists will refuse to help their fellow man. The right believes that every government intrusion lessens the freedom for individual agency, including charity. Charitable action and statistics prove that the right is correct on this score: when people assume the government will do something, they stop giving. When they know somebody is in trouble, they’re moved to action.

CNN treats this story as a sort of exercise in shaming the Trump administration. In truth, it should shame the left to recognize that the same Americans they slander as too cold-hearted to help others are more than willing to step up when moral duty calls.

The alt-right is the left’s fault

In the same way that Barack Obama caused Donald Trump’s presidency, Owen Strachan identifies the root cause of the alt-right:

Various journalists have helped form a narrative of sorts about the identity of this shadowy, boisterous alt-right movement. The alt-right is childish and vicious, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing other than the message-board histrionics of aggrieved young men in their parents’ basement.

From what I can see, this narrative does apply to a degree. Where various alt-right voices have articulated ethnocentrism, outright racism, misogyny, decadence, and a kind of juvenile hatred, among other vile stances, we should offer condemnation in no uncertain terms.

I do wonder, however, if the media has missed at least one true thing regarding the “alt-right.” The movement (if we can call it that) may often prove inchoate and even inarticulate, but behind the memes and coded language, there seems to be a massed sentiment. It is this: men feel left behind.

America is divided today on this matter and its import. Many folks, particularly those of a more progressive bent, see men as whining over lost cultural capital. Once, men had it good; now they’re forced to compete in an even playing field, and they’re falling on their faces. Sorry for the stacked deck, guys—how does it feel, losers?

Others see men struggling, observe them falling precipitously behind in earning college degrees and other achievements such as earnings for unmarrieds, watch them leaving their wives and children then violently lashing out, and begin to wonder if men need something besides elaborate gender theory or a dismissive long-form hot-take. Maybe men, particularly young men, need help.

This second group does not wish to cut men a blank check for their ill behavior. Actually, this group—a diverse and motley crew of religious groups, libertarians, and people who care about the future of civilization—wishes to hold men to a high standard. In other words, this is the group that most wants to hold men to account, that most takes their failings seriously. It is the group that dismisses men’s concerns with gentle remonstrance, that accommodates men by dumbing things down for them, that unwittingly ends up doing them terrific harm.
Because it is not friendly to them, many men do not like postmodern society. They have been taught they have no innate call to leadership of home and church, and accordingly have lost the script for their lives. They have been encouraged to step back from being a breadwinner, and do not know what they are supposed to do with their lives.

They have been told that they talk too loudly and spread their legs too wide, and thus do not fit in with a feminized society. They may be the product of a divorced home, and may have grown up without an engaged father, so possess both pent-up rage and a disappearing instinct. They did nothing to choose their biological manliness, but are instructed to attend sensitivity training by virtue of it. They recognize—rightly—that politically correct culture constrains free thought and free speech, and so they opt out from it.

But here is where the common narrative of the alt-right and related groups makes a major mistake. Men are disappearing, but they are not vanishing. They are moving out of the mainstream, and into the shadows.

Many men do not want this. Many men do not want to fall back. Many men want a challenge. They want to work. It is not in their nature to sit back; men on average have 1,000 percent more testosterone than women. Men know they are not superheroes, but they watch superhero movies because they wish in the quietness of their own lives to be a hero to someone, even just one wife and a few children. Men have a “glory hunger” that is unique and in many cases undeniable. For the right cause, men are not only willing to sacrifice, and even die, for the right cause they are glad to die.

But such discussion is not the lingua franca of our day. Young men have these desires coursing through their blood, but very few outlets in normal American life help them to understand such hard-wired drives. Those voices who do offer such a view face tremendous pushback and retributive hostility.

As a result, many younger men today do not know how to voice their instincts. This is at least partly why so many have adopted ironic signifiers for their frustrated ambitions and impolitic views—frogs, memes, and catchwords like “fail.” What young men cannot say in plain speech they say through an ironic graphic.

It is easy, and right, to identify where aspects of the alt-right are plainly misogynistic. But tying an entire people group to its worst excesses allows for the full-scale dismissal of a diverse array of concerns and experiences. This has happened with Donald Trump’s voters, for example; according to many journalists, they’re all either racist or angry about the loss of the halcyon days. The media executes the same lazy move with the angry young men of the alt-right: they’re idiotic little boys. We have nothing to hear from them, nothing to learn, nothing to consider.

This is a foolish instinct. But it is not only that: it is a dangerous one. It leaves you susceptible to groundswells that sweep over a culture seemingly without warning—the Tea Party, Brexit, Trump. Many folks on the progressive side assume that because they have won the college campus and now dominate the urban centers of power that the cultural game is over.

But what looks like a fortress-grade progressive order is really an unstable element, as we have seen several times over. The ideological insurgency will never have Ivy League degrees to award, coveted Beltway bylines to dole out, or global-power conference invites to issue. But the insurgency is finding its audience, and the audience is destabilizing and even remaking the public-square, and all without central coordination or control of leading cultural institutions. …
We can debate the extent to which the perceptions of angry young men are reality. What we cannot debate—if we care about them, that is—is that many men are angry, flailing, and dangerously volatile today.

We will not find an easy solution to this troubled situation. The public square is roiled and shows no signs of calming down soon. True, restoring the family will greatly aid in the nurture and care of young men. Sure, strengthening the economy and putting men to work will help. Yes, tabling the speech codes and thought codes of the secular academy will bring some men back to the table.

But men need a deeper solution than this. They need something more than a message-board movement to join. They need a call to maturity, to repentance, to greatness, to leadership, to courage, to self-sacrifice on behalf of women and children. They need a hero: not a political performance-artist, but a true hero, a savior who, unlike a fallen culture, leaves no repentant man—or woman—behind.

Presty the DJ for March 22

Today in 1956, a car in which Carl Perkins was a passenger on the way to New York for appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows was involved in a crash. Perkins was in a hospital for several months, and his brother, Jay, was killed.

Today in 1971, members of the Allman Brothers Band were arrested on charges of possessing marijuana and heroin.

The number one single today in 1975:

The number one album today in 1975 was Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 22”