Saturday, September 09, 2006

Clash of the titans

Last weekend saw a meeting of college football's two lowest-ranked teams, with Buffalo prevailing 9-3 in overtime in a brutally ugly slugfest with Temple. This weekend promises a matchup between the two teams at the polls' other extreme: Ohio State and Texas. (I don't think they're necessarily the best squads in the country right now, but they don't give me a vote anyway.) There's also the overshadowed matter of Penn State coach Joe Paterno paying what looks to be his last visit to South Bend, which further adds to the intrigue often missing from early September weekends filled with cakewalks and guarantee games that, as Colorado painfully learned last week, occasionally go horribly wrong.

Back in the Deep South, the biggest unanswered question lingering about this afternoon's Alabama game has nothing to do with whether the Crimson Tide will beat Vanderbilt -- it will -- and everything to do with exactly how many UA students will be in the stadium to see kickoff. After the Hawaii game offered a textbook example of how not to handle stadium admissions, university officials vow that things will run more smoothly this week. We should hear by tonight how those plans worked out.

Treat this as your college football open thread for the day.

G'bye, mate

Almost a week after his untimely death, I still miss Steve Irwin. In part, that's because I couldn't count how many hours I've spent watching The Crocodile Hunter over the years. Irwin's endless curiosity and enthusiasm for his job shined through in every episode, and try as you might, it was impossible not to be entertained by his bold antics and whimsical Australian slang.

But an even more important reason to miss Irwin is that he was more than just a loud guy with a funny accent and a proclivity to seek out dangerous creatures. He was a man who recognized the beauty in animals that most people instinctively find hideous or horrifying and tried his best to spread those sentiments to millions. Moreover, Irwin was a true environmentalist who waged a high-profile fight to support wildlife and habitat preservation even after the cameras stopped rolling. Yes, Irwin made lots of money, but he seemed driven less by dollars than by a resolve to save natural splendor for future generations to enjoy.

Mother Nature lost one of her most effective advocates earlier this week. Godspeed, Steve, and thanks for all the good you did for the animals we otherwise might have ignored.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

TINSTAAFL, anyone?

Gov. Bob Riley touts tax cuts for all Alabamians making under $100,000 a year, and both Riley and Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley also want the state to revert to quadrennial property reappraisals. In addition, both gubernatorial nominees vow to pour a lot more money into education. Riley's plan is to buy now and pay later with a $500 million bond issue. Baxley's plan is... well... um... mentioned in here somewhere, I'm sure.

Other than Baxley's suggestion to apply the state sales tax to Internet sales, neither candidate has dared to utter a favorable word about a tax increase, which would be liberal and therefore inherently bad. Fortunately, though, extra teachers and school construction tend to be free, and if they ever prove not to be, it's best to make future people pay for the services you consume now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Permanent on an interim basis

Yes, Auburn University, it's safe to say that any guy who's been in charge for almost three years isn't an interim president anymore. Again, how can it take so long to form a search committee?

The Democrats strike back

Gov. Bob Riley's campaign launched its ubiquitous "liberal liberal liberal" attack ad against Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley three weeks ago. This week, the Democratic side finally responded with a televised "Ask Bob Riley" campaign designed to draw attention to the governor's ties to money from convicted Republican lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who was Riley's press secretary in the late 1990s. For the record, Riley calls the ad "30 seconds of bald-faced lies."

As attack ads go, this one is pretty well done, though it does suggest incorrectly that Riley has done nothing to try to halt the spread of gambling, which the ad seems to treat as a self-evident evil despite the fact that the most recent Democratic governor ran hard on an education lottery platform.

Bloody bizarre

Just so any stray visitors from the British Isles will know, never in all my years in Alabama have I seen anyone wearing both a cowboy hat and a Hawaiian shirt simultaneously.

Friday, September 01, 2006

There was this guy named Pavlov...

Remember when we wouldn't have felt relief when we saw gas prices approaching $2.50 a gallon?