Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take the Candy and Run

Sometimes, I just long for the Halloweens of my youth.

This isn't to say I haven't thoroughly enjoyed each of the successive five Halloween celebrations since I moved to Madison. I've partied up and down State Street, as far West as Walnut Street and as far East as Butler Street, as far South as Vilas Avenue and as far north as...well, Lake Mendota, I guess.

Yes, we jumped in.

You see, each celebration has been unique in its own way, with wild, scarcely believable, individually unique stories to accompany them. Sure, I will refuse 'til my dying day to call Halloween on State that ridiculous term they coined for it, but I will attend, wear a costume and laugh myself stupid.

But in spite of all the fun there is to be had in this town on the closest Saturday to October 31, I will never accept Madison as the end-all-be-all of Halloween. That honor is reserved for Monroe, my hometown, and the carefree innocence of Halloween when I was young.

And by carefree innocence, I really mean unsupervised, unfettered, unbridled mayhem.

I believe I was 13 or 14 at the time of the tale I will now impart. I was at that stage in every boy's life when he begins to learn who he is as a man, and it was slowly dawning on me that I was somewhere between a hellion and a criminal mastermind.

I wasn't alone. Like every neighborhood in the Smalltown Midwest prior to the invention of the Playstation, ours was inhabited by a roving band of troublemakers. I won't name any names, because like me, a number of them have gone on to lead rather legitimate lives. But I will say, at my age now, I would have been terrified to live in the midst of the subdivision that was our adolescent playground.

Halloween rolled around that year, and half a dozen of us assembled in somebody's garage to lay our evening's plan for battle. We were at that age where, were we to ring a doorbell and exclaim, "Trick or treat," eyebrows would rise. All of us were too young to drive, but too old to play the cute card. Yet not a one of us was willing to let a favorite holiday pass by without "earning" "our share" of free candy from the neighbors.

So we schemed. And after we schemed, we went into the house and got on of the guys' kid brother, "Donny," who was all of 10 years old and dressed up in one of those big, plump pumpkin costumes. We told Mr. and Mrs. Donny we would take him trick-or-treating so they could stay in and sit by the fire, and they thanked us with a plate of brownies.

Then, after promising Donny an equal cut in the action, we waited.

By about eight o'clock, the neighborhood was primed for our scheme. It was dark, the number of legitimate trick-or-treaters was dwindling and neighborhood denizens were beginning to settle into their couches for a couple hours of primetime before bed. We struck out, a half dozen black-clad wraiths and one pumpkin, cute as a button, with a light-up trick-or-treat bag.

The first home must have had no idea what hit them.

"Mrs. Johnson" was a pleasant woman in her early fifties, and a teacher at the high school. I imagine she was just plopping a few marshmallows into her hot cocoa, because it was a chilly night, when the doorbell rang.

"Oh my," she likely called to her husband in the basement. "Must be one last trick-or-treater at the door."

On her way to the front entrance, she grabbed the large bowl of Halloween goodies perched on the bannister, only half depleted after an entire evening's worth of ghouls and goblins. Ours was a fairly middle class neighborhood, and a trick-or-treater could always count on the neighbors to have about ten times more candy on hand than they actually needed. And they always did.

Opening the door, Mrs. Johnson glowed down at the round, rosy-cheeked little pumpkin standing on her doorstep. "Trick or treat?" Donny bellowed, grinning up at her with an innocent 10-year-old's imperfect smile.

"Aren't you just adorable," she cooed automatically. "I'll tell you what. Just because it's getting so late, I'll give you two candy bars."

"Thank you!" Donny blurted, just as we had instructed him.

Mrs. Johnson furrowed her brow and glanced at her watch, then allowed her eyes to dart about the front yard. It was a dark, moonless night, and she could have sworn she had heard snickering in one of the hedges out front.

"It's getting kind of late," she cautioned Donny, eyes still narrowed. "You ought to go straight home."

"Thank you," Donny rapped out again, and turned to leave. With one last glance around the yard, she began to swing the heavy door closed, until she heard Donny cry out.

From the hedges, from the street and from the side of the house, black-clad figures swooped in on the bouncing little pumpkin, surrounding him and knocking him to the ground. His legs kicked impotently in the air from within his costume as the teenage hooligans pried at, then wrested the light-up candy bag from his arms.

Within moments it was over, leaving the 10-year-old laying in Mrs. Johnson's front yard, the faint echo of a sniffle emanating from within the Day-glo pumpkin costume.

"Are you all right," screeched Mrs. Johnson, tearing out across the front yard to Donny's aid. She helped him sit up and saw there were tears running down his face.

"Th-th-they t-t-took my c-c-candy," he stammered between sobs.

"Well, we'll just see about that," she said, leading him back to the front porch and disappearing through the front door. Mrs. Johnson reappeared at once with a plastic shopping bag, into which she unceremoniously dumped the remainder of the candy dish and three unopened bags of individually-wrapped chocolates.

"Now here you go," she said, patting him on the head, "and you walk home quickly and carefully, do you understand?"

"Yes ma'am," Donny said, his tears dried and the grin shining once more. "THANK YOU."

We met the kid halfway down the block, high-fiving him for his performance and dumping the loot into a pillow sack. That pillow sack, which we stashed in a nearby sewer grate, became our base of operations for the next hour and a half, as we terrorized neighbor after neighbor with what would forever after be known as the Pumpkin Con.

We must have run that bit on over a dozen people. By the time we headed home for the night, we had amassed enough loot for each of us to carry home our own full pillow sack, and Donny got a double share.

And it's true what they say: candy won is sweeter than candy earned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Car Did It

Today, gentle reader, I would like to call your attention to a case study in Wisconsin being the weirdest state in the whole of the Union.

Attached to this blog post, you will find the image of a screen capture I took while doing some research on a story today. It is part of the rather lengthy RAP sheet of one Brian J Britz, which you can find using the state of Wisconsin's CCAP. Specifically, this screenshot refers to the Milwaukee County case numbered 2000CV009662, which just so happens to be something of a mystery.

Not only does this file list none of the details regarding the charges or sentences that were brought against Mr. Britz in 2000 (rather, this one specific case in 2000...Mr. Britz was in court multiple times in 2000), but it lists as his co-defendent a 1990 Oldsmobile Regal.

Whatever it was Mr. Britz was charged with, his accomplice was a car.

Now it's not that I don't find Mr. Britz's recent exploits interesting. While the original story (link above) credits him with achieving his 10th DUI, there was some speculation later in the day among various sources that it may have been his 11th, or even his 12th, and even in Wisconsin, most people get it figured out by their 5th or 6th.

But to have committed a crime and been aided or abetted by an automobile...that's something I just don't see in my usual day-to-day diggings. I must admit this story has captured my imagination and rivetted my curiosity, and I am vowing now to find more answers.

Also, there's the matter that Oldsmobile never manufactured the Regal line -- that was a Buick model. A quick run of the VIN on Carfax returns the car as a 1990 Oldsmobile Regency, another unfortunate line from that same time period. It's surprising the car was even still running when 2000 rolled around, but I guess it just adds to the enigma.

Until I can get my open records request into the Milwaukee County DA's office (and wait several months for a reply), however, there's nothing to stop me or anyone else from wildly, irresponsibly speculating what this absurdity of a CCAP case entry might mean. It certainly opens up a number of questions.

First and foremost, did the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office seriously charge an inanimate object with a crime, or is this more like something out of Stephen King, where the car was possessed by some kind of evil spirit and went on a killing rampage?

Was the Regency given a jury trial, or did it take a plea deal? What happened to it after its time in court? Was it locked up in a salvage yard until it paid its debt to society? Is it free now? Was it put to death in the smelting chamber?

I think it's likely from the Regal/Regency discrepency that this case involved some kind of identity fraud on the part of the car, Mr. Britz or both. Perhaps the Regency was an illegal immigrant... rrr, import... and Britz arranged to have it smuggled into the country via Great Lakes container ship, though how he would be clever enough to accomplish that in the midst of racking up ten (or more) DUIs goes beyond my comprehension.

I would certainly be interested in any other theories there might be as to what this is all about, as long as they're not boring and grounded in fact.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JB = pwned

Far be it from me to partake of an internet meme, but... well...

Sometimes I just can't resist.

In case you didn't hear, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi pulled the trigger and removed the judicial bowel obstruction that was J. B. Van Hollen's lawsuit. Read all about it in the Wisco State Journal.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Good Ol' (McCarthy) Days

In our country, there's a war that has been raging for centuries.

The stakes are high, the factions too numerous to count and the skirmishes frequent, but there are no visible casualties -- at least not recently. There likely will never be a final victor, yet the battle rages on to stake a claim on what it means to be "American."

Over the past decade, I've grown used to the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys and the Bill O'Reillys of the world. I have no time personally for these snake oil salesmen of freedom, who pay lip service to the "Ideals Our Country was Founded On" while using their views on what constitutes "American" as a cudgel to bludgeon the opposition into submission. I believe these men and women pose a danger to those very ideals through the damage their single-minded simplicity has done to what passes for a modern discourse in this country, but that damage is not irreparable, and I think their relevence is beginning to fade.

But more dangerous to those ideals than the talking heads are the American leaders who not only stake a claim on what it means to be "American," but seek to persecute those who don't follow in their views. Here in Wisconsin, our collective memory tends to glaze over half a decade's history when Senator Joseph McCarthy is mentioned. Let's face it: his reign of terror is about as much a point of pride as Hitler's rise to power is to Germany.

Well, there must be something in the Great Lakes water supply, because once again a Midwestern member of Congress wants to investigate those who aren't "American" enough for her tastes.

In an interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball, Republican Representative Michele Bachmann told Matthews the media ought to investigate members of Congress and out those with "Anti-American views." She repeatedly conflated being un-American with leftism and liberalism, inferring that Presidential candidate Barack Obama and other leaders in Congress subscribed to those "Anti-American views."

Anti-American? What the hell is that? Do they hate apple pie? Do they watch soccer instead of baseball? Or maybe they're anti-American like those pesky members of the media who eventually started asking questions after the nation went to war in Iraq.

Bachmann's ridiculous assertions -- firstly, that any one person is even qualified to define what it means to be American, and secondly, that holding a certain line of political views can make anyone un-American when the very principles our country was founded on necessitate a broad, free marketplace of diverse ideas -- are unfortunately not as extremist as they ought to be. Indeed, one of the candidates for the second highest office in the country has been parroting the same load of rubbish at rallies around the country.

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who ought never be allowed to run for any office more crucial than dog catcher, told a crowd, "Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists..."

So there you have the first two parts of what it means to be Anti-American. If you look at your country and see anything that's less than perfect, or if you've ever carried on a civilized conversation with someone that could be characterized as a left-wing extremist, you're Anti-American.

Following Palin and Bachmann's logic, the very framers of our constitution were Anti-American, in that they sought "to form a more perfect Union." "More perfect" denotes less than perfect, and no real American would ever go so far as to suggest America comes up anywhere short of infallible. And the framers certainly kept the company of some lefty radicals.

Maybe that explains the disdain Americans like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have had for our constitution in recent years. But by these standards, I'm anti-American as well, and that doesn't sit well with me.

You see, I love my country too much to let cretins like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh steal the notion of "love of country" out from under me. I'd wager they couldn't figure out how to properly fold the American flag between the three of them.

I have a number of ideas I think could help America become a better country. Yes, this means I think it has shortcomings. The beauty of America comes in surmounting those obstacles as we have in the past, with hard work and cooperation. Turning a blind eye to problems by being "wild about America," as Bachmann put it, does nothing to improve our condition.

Sometimes it takes radical thinking to solve problems, and sometimes it doesn't. I keep friends who could constitute radicals on either side of the political spectrum, and I feel I am a stronger American for it. Anyone who would spurn an idea or individual offhand is unfit to lead, and that makes the whole debate about the William Ayerses, the Reverend Wrights, completely irrelevent.

I don't know what constitutes being "American," but I know it requires a good deal more open-mindedness than Michele Bachmann exhibited when she told Chris Matthews, "On college find people who hate America, and unfortunately these people have positions teaching in higher learning, but you'll find them in all walks of life."

The only people who have anything to fear in an open marketplace of ideas are those whose beliefs run skin deep. And nobody who seeks to better our country as they see it is Anti-American.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Depths Update

In reference to my earlier post from today about the sleazy robo-call:

Wisconsin Republican Party Spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told our radio station: "I guess I wouldn't call it an attack. I think that it's a responsibility for John McCain and Govenor Palin as well as the Republican Party to put the questions out there. Let the voters decide. But they can't decide for themselves if they don't have the information, and it is our job to get the information to the voters."

Spoken more like Fox News than a thinking, rational human being. Note the two exclude each other completely.

Next up: Wisconsin Democratic Party Spokesman Alec Loftus, with a slam-dunk rebuttal that will finally get these mouthpieces to shut the hell up: "That's interesting. I don't think we have any comment at this time, but we'll call you if we do."

Loftus, get the hell off your lazy ass and shut these toolbags down. Obama ballsed it out and addressed the issue head-on in his debate last night, so you can too.

This is an opening. Use it.

Uncharted Depths

Republican National Committee?!? I know I don't hold high expectations for you, but WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!? NO. BAD. INAPPROPRIATE. Do I have to rub your nose in this before you'll learn?

This is the latest robo-call going out to Wisconsin residents from the rightie camp. We got a couple of callers who told us about it before one intrepid listener called in with a recording off his answering machine. It first aired on (insert requisite plug) Sly's show on AM 1670 WTDY.

I'm tied up with a busy day at work. Hopefully I'll have time to post on this later. In the meantime, work this around the blogging community so somebody else can make the uproar it deserves.


***4:25 update, also posted above***

Wisconsin Republican Party Spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told our radio station: "I guess I wouldn't call it an attack. I think that it's a responsibility for John McCain and Govenor Palin as well as the Republican Party to put the questions out there. Let the voters decide. But they can't decide for themselves if they don't have the information, and it is our job to get the information to the voters."

Spoken more like Fox News than a thinking, rational human being. Note the two exclude each other completely.

Next up: Wisconsin Democratic Party Spokesman Alec Loftus, with a slam-dunk rebuttal that will finally get these mouthpieces to shut the hell up: "That's interesting. I don't think we have any comment at this time, but we'll call you if we do."

Loftus, get the hell off your lazy ass and shut these toolbags down. Obama ballsed it out and addressed the issue head-on in his debate last night, so you can too.

This is an opening. Use it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Falling Off the Wagon

Well, way to go Wisconsin, I hope you're happy. With the latest Quinnipiac University polls showing Wisconsin going to Barack Obama by a solid 17 point margin, and less than three weeks to go before election day, many of the pundits have officially taken Wisconsin out of the "undecided" category.

For shame. I thought you knew better.

You could have been more racist, like Missourri, West Virginia or North Carolina. You could have been more noncommital, like Ohio, Indiana or Nevada. You even could have been more clueless, like our neighbors in Minnesota, which is only leaning Blue. But no, you had to go and swing 17 points in Barack Obama's favor, slipping from battleground to conquered ground, and now you're just out of luck.

There's an old saying that holds particularly true in Wisco: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Barack Obama knows he's got Wisconsin's dairy in his hip pocket, so now, we get backburnered.

I'm being completely facetious, of course. The fact is I'm actually so excited about the new numbers, I'm actually allowing myself to get a good feeling about November's election. While it is by no means in the bag for Obama (I doubt neither the Democrats' collective abilities to bollox it up, nor the Republicans' willingness to sink to as-of-yet uncharted lows in the final weeks of election season), I took an as of yet unprecedented step in my life this evening.

Following dinner, I cautiously hung a Barack Obama cling on my front window, then allowed myself a moment to bask in... well, the audacity of my hope.

What I find so damn disappointing about Wisconsin's swing to the Obama camp is that it does knock us down a little ways in the order of importance among other contested states. In 2004, Wisconsin went to John Kerry by a mere four-tenths of a percentage point. As a critical state tottering on the precipice of common sense and mass delusion, we were treated to a massive rally that packed West Washington Avenue for blocks, featuring John Kerry himself and 80,000 supporters from all walks of life.

This afternoon, as a critical state that has stepped back from the edge of madness, assessed the drop and built a house in the valley instead, we were treated to a rousing pep talk that packed the capitol steps, featuring... John Kerry... and some college kids...

And I had high hopes, too, for the late October rally I had pictured in my head for this year. I'm sorry, but after the 2004 let-down that followed the single most exciting event of my adult life to date, I was thrilled by the idea of replacing that memory with one of Barack Obama, his preacher's voice booming across city blocks, whipping the crowd into a delirious frenzy and shaking off the icicles of despair that have accumulated these past eight years.

So if you get a phone call from a pollster in the next couple of weeks, you tell them you're undecided. Because Obama's speech at the Kohl Center in February was fantastic -- it's the kind of thing that will keep you talking until the November 4th election. But a Barack Obama speech in the 2008 election home stretch could be something to tell your Grandkids about someday.

We still have a lot of work to do to bring Wisconsin in for Barack Obama -- like Kerry said at his rally today, vote early, and then TALK TO PEOPLE about who they're voting for, or whether they're voting at all -- but we've covered a lot of ground as well. And damnit, we deserve to be in on the celebration in the final days before what will hopefully be a long-sought turning point for our country.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Last Chance to Shine

This entry in my blog details the most aggravating day of the fall, followed by the most extravagant.


First of all, I ought to be shot.

Saturday very well could have been the last beautiful day we'll have in Southern Wisconsin for six months for all I knew, and certainly the most beautiful day we've had in almost a month. Villain that I am, I took a young man in his prime and made him spend the body of it sitting in a closet lined with blankets, with all sound from the outside world drowned out in headphones as he stared at a small screen that showed him snippets of the same video clips over and over and over and over.

Had I been Eric Plantenberg on Saturday, I would have shot me. As it was, I wanted to shoot me anyway for keeping myself inside all day, and I wasn't the one stuck in a closet. But this guy troopered it out, and he deserves mad respect.

Eric's the leading man in The Big Film We've Been Working On, and with a fine cut pieced together, it's my job to fix the dialogue that didn't take the first time around. For that, there's the highly repetitive process known as ADR, which we sort of managed to pull off at my house.

Basically, lacking any budget at all, I took a little utility closet in my one bedroom flat and lined it with blankets to reduce noise bleed and echo. I ran a microphone from the closet into my digital recorder, and a computer monitor in from my laptop. Somehow, I managed to find room in the closet for Eric and a chair, set up some speakers to output from the digital recorder, and we were able to roll tape.

I was really happy with the final product we had. The audio is as clean as if we'd recorded in a full-fledged recording clean, in fact, we'll probably have to muddy it up some so it doesn't stand out from the rest of the audio when we dump it into the mix.

But I must have counted down, "3-2-1," I estimate, somewhere on the order of a thousand times. We bagged 138 lines, at an average of 7-8 takes a line, and it took us a good six or seven hours to finish it. I was happy with how productive we were, but nursing a hangover and sleep deprived as I was, I was mostly just a crotchety bastard by the end of the day.


Contrast Saturday, cooped up inside with a grudge against the world, against Sunday, and it's like I had a bipolar weekend. As a rule, I'm convinced there's something magical about the last day before winter sets in, and I'll usually go out of my way to spend it outdoors if I have a hunch the end is near.

My buddy Kyle and I gassed up the bikes (read: motorcycles) Sunday and headed southwest into Green, Iowa and Lafayette Counties. If you've never been into this part of the state before, know this: there's nothing there, save a few small towns and the rolling hills and valleys of the driftless region, marred only by the snaking ribbon of Highway 151.

View Larger Map

For the sake of scenery, we avoided main roads like 151, choosing instead to improvise a route along the more rural roads. Let's face it: they're more peaceful, they're prettier and they're a lot more fun to ride. Leaning into turns, climbing, banking, falling, weaving, it's probably the closest I can ever get to being a fighter pilot with my political views, my conscience and our nation's political climate.

We chose Darlington because Kyle said he had a friend, Silas, whose family had a farm down there. He said we were invited to drop in, take a look around and maybe grab a bite to eat. I have some rural roots myself, and I never shy away from the chance to get a bit of shit on my boots.

Turns out, the family had a "farm" there, and a gorgeous one at that. Silas's parents are very well-established in the Darlington community. His mother is the Lafayette County District Attorney, and his father is part owner of Lafayette County's Memorial Hospital. While the "farm" did have livestock and crops, this was no plant-the-proceeds operation struggling to get by. It was an estate, a rural paradise, and we were welcomed with open arms and a healthy dollop of small town hospitality.

Silas's mother greeted us in the kitchen, clad in denim bib overalls and a red bandana. As she cooked (we offered to help prepare the meal, but she said everything we could have helped with had already been done), she told us the household had been living off its own produce for the past couple of months. For the basics, they still had to rely on the grocery store in town, but the only thing in the meal we ate that hadn't been raised on their land was the rice and the spices.

The meal itself was divine. Silas fried up a hamsteak the size of a boogey board, then divied it up on a serving plate. Another friend of his, an Indian grad student, whipped up some authentic curry that I could have eaten by the pound had it not been for the polite company. Some rice, fresh greens and home-bottled sparkling water topped off the setting.

As we were carrying plates out to the picnic table, the phone rang. With a glance at the caller ID, Silas's mom shrugged off the phone call. "It's about the campaign," she said nonchalantly, referring to her own bid for re-election as DA. Clearly, this was a family that feels the way I do about the last day before winter sets in.

Silas's Dad, an MD, "came in from the fields" for dinner as well. He had been out working doing some trenching on the land. After dinner, the young twenty-something contingent of our troupe walked the back pasture, looked at the cattle, hiked down along a crick and scoped out a four-ton oak that had blown down in a wind storm and needs to be removed. When I left, I was heartily able to say I was pleased to have made their acquaintance.

The day began with next to no expectations. By the time I put the bike in the shed for the night, I had ridden 150 miles through gorgeous autumn countryside, met some good honest hard-working people and fallen in love, again, with the state I've grown up in.

Now, as winter closes in, I'll find new reasons to despise it, but I'll never really be able to hate living in Wisconsin. I think that's part of the beauty that is life here. The lows are pretty damn miserable, as last winter's record snowfall will exhibit, but they only serve to elevate the already dizzying highs... higher.

I miss summer already.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Band Marches On

In hindsight, I'm glad that I missed Ohio State's visit to Madison on Saturday. All freshman year nostalgia (the day-long party, students storming the field, the spontaneous parade through traffic down University Avenue) aside, we got routed this year. But furthermore, I can die a happy man having never experienced a gameday at Camp Randall without the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.

This issue has been talked all the way up Bascom Hill and down again since the story broke last Friday, and I actually meant to pounce on it a little bit sooner, but this week has been hell at work. And of course, today the word came out that band director Mike Leckrone is lifting the suspension on the marching band, so they'll be able to play at the game on Saturday night.

Not that I fault Leckrone for suspending the band at all. He's been the leader of the UW band since before my parents were in high school, and he built the program from the ground up. Singlehandedly, he turned an unpopular sideshow attraction into "the Hardest Working Band in America," nationally recognized as one of the most elite marching band programs.

So when similar allegations first reared their head in 2006, he treated with them as he saw best, until hearsay among the UW administration, the press and the public created a sensation. Then, in order to keep his job amid threats from then-Chancellor John Wiley, he drew a line in the sand, and when band members crossed that line again this year, he had no choice in the face of that same pressure but to take the action he did.

Was the band out of line? That's a tough call. As a part of the campus media during the first round of allegations in 2006, I took a close look at the subject and talked to a number of people more familiar with it than I. My personal conclusion: the band is wild, wilder than most on a campus where the unofficial motto is "Work hard, party hard." And, seeing as they work harder than most, it's a given they're going to party harder as well.

But my question persisted: was the band out of line? In the course of being the wildest band in America, yes, it seems several of the 300 members, at times, without malice, crossed a line they ought not to have. Among most of the band members, it's likely the discretions went unnoticed. But a few felt alienated by the raucous behavior, as is their right.

However, to infer that the UW band is constantly in a state of uproarious, lewd and inebriated debauchery is an outright fallacy. To suggest suspending the entire band or even dismantling the program ought to be wholly laughable, and it was, for me, until 2006.

For me, the issue isn't the allegations of sexual misconduct (which, if true, shouldn't be happening), nor the highjinks (which shouldn't be such a big damn deal), nor the copious amounts of alcohol consumed (which shouldn't be a source of shame, a but point of pride).

The issue is a glaringly obvious double standard. In the past five years, a UW football player has beat his girlfriend and thrown her down the stairs. Another football player turned a fellow student's face into raw hamburger at what's supposed to be a peaceful annual tradition about beer pong and music. A handful of football players started a brawl in public, punched a cop, then got pepper sprayed and tried to evade the law.

The list goes on, but I'm too proud of my University to enumerate it any further. These are serious crimes that did physical damage to people. They're proven in court, by far more concrete than whispered allegations, and by far more numerous and obvious than the charges levelled against the band, yet no one has even breathed a word about suspending the football team.

And I'm not suggesting the UW football team needs to be dismantled, either. Come game day, I'll be the first one dressed in red and screaming myself hoarse in their support, but I would do the same for the band.

Because as much as the administration, the public and the media seem to want to beat up on the band, they are as much a part of life at the University of Wisconsin as the football team..or any other aspect of campus life.

In fact, I find the band a little more endearing, because they put in physical work that's nearly as grueling as the football team's. Their time-commitment rivals if not exceeds the portion of their lives football players sacrifice. The band certainly outnumbers the football players, and I would say they outshine them hands down in school spirit.

While unlike the football players, members of the band pay their own tuition to attend the University and work their asses off for the betterment of the UW.