Saturday, November 30, 2002

Welcome to the Machine

This morning I was a witness to what I believe to be the nadir of customer service in this country. It was about 10:30 AM, and there I was, minding my own business and preparing myself for the rest of the day (that is, mixing up a pitcher of bull shots to ease me into the noon hour, when the drinking in earnest typically begins). Then the squealing, electronic machine gun blast of my phone ringer goes off, breaking me out of my serene, zen-like trance. Snapping out of it and sprinting across the apartment and into the bedroom, where I keep the phone, I breathlessly answered...and was immediately confronted with a three second pause, followed by an automated voice announcing that something called Conseco Finance had an important message for me about my account. And then I was put on hold.

An odd development here. A company I've never heard of before, and with whom I'm quite sure I've never done any business with, programs a machine to call me, hires Stephen Hawking to do a voice over about some imaginary account, and then, because they're so busy, they put me on hold. The question arises, why bother even placing the call if you're to busy to talk to me in the first place. But I guess that's how things are done at Conseco Finance.

After about a minute of sitting on hold and coming to terms with what modernity hath wrought upon my life, I started to get a little irritated. By the second minute of being on hold I started to become fairly outraged. By minute four, my anger had subsided a little as I realized at least they were giving me some time to compose an effective combination of obscene words I could use on the human representative that would inevitably be thrust on the line (and into the lion's den). By minute five of being on hold, I found myself looking forward to the next interaction as there are very few instances in one's life where you can take time to prepare an articulate savaging of those who would seek to foul your life with their callous indifference and disregard of your time. But alas, I never got the chance. I heard one more recorded exhortation that they "appreciated my patience" and then I was summarily disconnected.

To summarize, I receive an unsolicited call on a Saturday morning (for what I presume was the purpose of marketing), I'm greeted by a misleading, uninformative recorded message, I'm put on hold for five minutes, and then I'm hung up on. Now granted I don't have an MBA from Wharton, but it's hard for me to understand how a company makes a profit by doing this. What exactly is the business model here? And what's phase two of your marketing plan, express, overnight, registered mail delivery of an empty envelope?

For some reason this whole experience, that of an unknown organization going out of their way and using their technology just to stick it to me, feels like the customer service equivalent of a CIA predator drone dropping out of the blue to fire a Hellfire missile at the back of my Land Rover. And like an Al Queda operative, I'm completely defenseless for the next assault. But these terrorist bastards deserve their fate for what they've done. On the other hand, Conseco Finance--what the hell did I ever do to you?!

Making Heroes of the Homeless?

Front page story in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune on the death of a local homeless man. Why was the story on the front page? Beats the hell out of me. After reading the piece I was struck by how unremarkable and uninteresting a life that this fellow had led. And the story clearly pointed out that this man had chosen his lifestyle on the streets so there was not a "this could happen to you or me" angle to it.

But this is not the first time that the paper has eulogizied a homeless man after his death. Last year local columnist Doug Grow wrote a piece on the passing of a guy by the name of Westside which led to this reaction by my brother. What I find disturbing about both of these stories is that the homeless lifestyle that these men chose to embrace is not criticized in any way, to the contrary it's presented as a viable alternative that even can be admired as evidenced by this bit from today's story:

Friends and people who knew him said he lived by his own rules. He was a free spirit.

Yes, you could call him a free spirit. You could also call him a bum. Or a loser. I am not a heartless ogre. Feed the homeless. Give them clothes and shelter. Help them make the most that they can out of their lives. But don't praise them and pretend that there is some hidden dignity in the path that they have chosen. There is none.

Friday, November 29, 2002

A Fine Line Between Clever and Stupid

Quite a day to give thanks for yesterday. Copious amounts of football, ale, wine, scotch, and turkey which began with a hour and forty five minutes of hockey at 6:00am in the morning and was capped off by watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which is easily the best Thanksgiving themed movie ever made.

Saint Paul's post on how he spent his Thanksgiving is best visualized by imagining the closing scene in the movie where Steve Martin finally arrives at his stately home to be welcomed by his adoring children, grateful in-laws, and beautiful, refined wife who is so happy to see him that her tears of joy flow freely. It pretty much captures Saint Paul's life in a nutshell.

Another highlight of the day was hearing my father in-law's theory on the Wellstone plane crash. It's his belief that the DFL brain trust had read the tea leaves and foresaw Wellstone's ultimate defeat at the hands of Norm Coleman in the election. Willing to do anything to retain his Senate seat they contrived an elaborate plan to sabotage his aircraft and use the resulting sympathy from the public to elect a replacement in his place. Their aims were undone of course by the over the top spectacle of the memorial service. This conspiracy theory was presented with my father in-laws tongue rather firmly in cheek but is it really any more fantastic than what we've heard from elements of the Looney Left?

A Funny Kind of Peace

The parent organization hosting the MP materials I referenced below, a group called Circle Vision, also has some pictures from their activities at the appearance by President Bush at the Excel Arena back on November.3. Reviewing the kind of "peace and justice" tactics they apparentely advocate, I think its clear why many swing voters went Republican in the days before the election. Also recall that many Democrat analysts believe that the party has gotten too centrist and too accomodating. I guess this is what they think will be the winning strategy in 2004.

Incident at Orange Julius

The Left wing assault on our senses continues in leafy and formerly livable Mac-Grove. The cars on Grand were leafleted this morning by some group advocating "Buy Nothing" and more broadly, for the "Fall of America." It's some group named "Peace MP" - with MP standing for "Moving Picket. " (A Web address was listed on their leaflet, and the complete text of it is listed here.)

Their plan is to wear t-shirts with radical slogans (like "I'm with Stupid?") and march silently around shopping malls to make a statement about - something. Their over riding philosophy seems to be "Buy Nothing" combined with "No War in Iraq" with a touch of "Free Mumia" and perhaps with an eye on lunch, "Free Large Fries". Their target today was the Mall of America. No media reports yet on the what may have transpired down there.

But I must say, we in this neighborhood need to start drawing the line on this vandalism perpetrated by who I presume to be the pampered and restless children of the bourgeoisie down at Macalester. I mean if they get away with leafleting our vehicles with impunity, you know what's next? That's right, in your face bill posting and radical pamphleteering. And these are the exact reasons I moved out of Uptown. Damn - there goes the neighborhood.

Must Hear Radio

Walter Williams is filling in for Rush today, with a live broadcast. (And it's on right now, locally at AM1500 - until 2:00 PM). If you haven't heard Professor Williams, do yourself a favor and tune in as their's no one who combines economics knowledge, libertarian instincts, and sharp wit like Williams. Added bonus - he's going to have Republican Congressman from Texas Ron Paul on for an interview later today. (Paul was also the Libertarian nominee for President a few elections ago). For an example of the Williams style, check out this proclamation from his home page at George Mason university.

The Descent of Dissent

The Star Tribune reports on the defacing of a Norm Coleman billboard in St. Paul. The surprised reaction of the police and their pronouncement that they're investigating it as a potential hate crime (since Nazi allusions were made and Coleman is Jewish) lead me to believe that they think this incident is a new development. Whoever is in charge of this case obviously hasn't spent too much time around the Mac-Groveland neighborhood or on Ford Parkway, as instances of Left wing graffiti and vandalism has been an increasing phenomenon since well before the election.

The billboards on Grand at Ayd Mill Road have been a popular target. The oil company Conoco frequently advertises there and the most recent vandalism incident was the sloppily painted editorial across the billboard's entire length: "Their oil your war - NO WAR ON IRAQ!" This was up for about a week before it was papered over. What is not so easily remedied are the angry little words scratched into the cement on the bridge on Grand over Ayd Mill - "George Bush Sells Your Kids Drugs." I'm not sure how they're going to fix that - or if anyone is even going to try, since it's been up there for over a month already and no attempts have been made to clean it up. And during the election, Coleman yard signs on Ford Parkway were frequently spattered and defaced with gray paint.

I'd say this was enough evidence to establish a pattern. The new slurs against Coleman on the billboard at I94 and Prior seem to have the same kind tone and editorial style as what I've previously discussed. The use of swastikas and the phrase "Newest member of the SS" has the same kind of juvenile, ignorant, name calling quality to them. Which is why the police should probably forget the "hate crime" angle. As hate crimes are traditionally defined, I presume they're implying that perhaps Nazi sympathizers or white supremacists are responsible for this latest act. But these types of goons don't express their hatred of Jews by associating them with their own iconography and history. If Nazi types were responsible, they'd attack Coleman for being a Jew, not by branding him as one of their own.

My fourth generation policing instincts tell me that the person (or persons) responsible for these acts is male, caucasian, single, college-aged, antisocial, alienated from society, unemployed, easily influenced by others, with a below average level of intelligence. Using proper profiling techniques and with the assistance of the newly enacted Homeland Security provisions, I recommend an immediate quarantine of the dorms at Macalester College and a room to room search and aggressive interrogation of all residents. And even if the police don't find the exact perpetrator of these crimes, I'm sure they will yield enough arrests for possession of controlled substances and violations of the Mann Act to more than justify this intervention.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Pass the Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving. Now back to the unyielding demands of the news cycle.

[You see the commitment we have for you, dear readers, here at Fraters? Other sites are taking the weekend off to spend well earned time with their loved ones and thus abandoning their responsibilities of sorting and filtering the news for your review. Other sites are using up thousands of words and precious minutes of your Internet reading time in waxing philosophic about their many blessings and getting all warm and grateful about their lives. And that's fine, I'm truly glad for them. But we here at Fraters Libertas choose to break away from the warm glow of familial bliss to continue digging up the latest examples of Al Gore's ineptitude and Garrison Keillor's verbal foibles.

Trust me, I could take the easy way out. My lovely wife Suzanne's parents flew in all the way from Marin County to spend the day with us here in St. Paul. Per usual, her two brothers and their families are here too. Throw in my parents and two siblings, uncles, aunts, three sets of cousins, my law partner, my publicist and all their respective kids and nannies. Mix in a house full of neighbors, friends and the Elder (who has agreed to tend bar and clean up after the party) and our little Victorian manse in Crocus Hill is almost at capacity for love and good times. We've finished the meal, I gave my traditional toast/poignant recap of the emotional state of our lives, the applause and hugging have about wrapped up, and now the urbane conversation over cocktails begins (and won't end until the wee small ones tomorrow). And where am I at this moment? Back in my den and back on the blogging beat. But I better get to the point here, as Suzanne has just entered the room, with a freshly poured Bushmills rocks for me, and she's very forcefully implying we need a little "face time" before we have to return to our hosting responsibilities.)

So anyway, did you happen to catch Garrison Keillor on CNN earlier this week? He was on live with Aaron Brown (another Minnesota native) and I haven't seen so many softballs thrown at a celebrity newsmaker since Louie Anderson was spied doing time in the dunk tank at the Washington County Fair back in 1987 (I think, and hope, that was for charity). Here's the relevant exchange regarding Keillor's comments about Norm Coleman and as you read this, think of how the tone is just slightly more cordial and deferential than what someone like Rush Limbaugh faces whenever he shows up on the Today Show or some other such mainstream TV outlet:

BROWN: You want to talk about this political flap you created?

KEILLOR: Well, no, but I certainly can.

BROWN: You wrote -- I would describe it as an angry column about the senator-elect from Minnesota, Norm Coleman. You basically called him a fraud.


BROWN: Called him a fraud.

KEILLOR: A screed. It's very seldom that one gets to write out of pure anger, especially at my age. You feel it so seldom. So when you do, it seems to me you ought to take advantage of it.

BROWN: And you did. You unloaded on the guy.

KEILLOR: I wrote a piece for They asked me to write it. And the amazing thing about it to me is the power of the Internet and all of those people who just lift this piece of passionate writing and they send it off to all of their friends, and they send it off.

We have no idea how far this gets around the country, but this thing was bouncing back to me within days from people I barely know. I really was astonished. We don't have any measurement for that, do we?

BROWN: Do you think -- do you think the column -- the piece was a bit harsh. You talked about his family in the piece. Do you think it was a bit...

KEILLOR: It was an angry diatribe against a very beautifully packaged politician. And one could have written in different ways but I come from St. Paul. We're a small town, we know people. And so that's how I wrote it.

BROWN: Do you think you'll do the radio program forever or do you see a time when you'll step away from it?

KEILLOR: I think I'll do it for another five years. It's a lot of fun. It's a great deal. It's you know, I get to play a cowboy. I get to play a private eye. I get to smoke a cigar on the radio. I don't smoke a cigar.

BROWN: Nice to meet you. Thanks for coming in.

KEILLOR: Good to see you.

BROWN: Please come back.

KEILLOR: Thanks.

BROWN: Garrison Keillor. We'll be right back after a short break.

Make Sure That Hand Is A Fist

From a report on those allegedly behind today's attacks in Kenya:

A group calling itself the Army of Palestine has claimed responsibility for both attacks. In a faxed statement, the previously unheard-of group said it had sent two groups of attackers to Kenya to "make the world hear once again the voice of Palestinian refugees, and to cast light on Zionist terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza."

So the way to cast light on "Zionist terrorism" is to kill innocent people on vacation at a hotel? Yeah, this will garner much sympathy for your cause. What really is pathetic is what George Bush the elder might call the utter chickenshittedness of attacks like this. Blowing up a hotel to kill women and children is hardly a feat to be proud of.

Let's hope the promise made the Israeli Defense Minister is realized. And soon. From the Jerusalem Post Internet Edition:

"Our hand will reach them," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, said of the attackers. "If anyone doubted that the citizens of the state of Israel cannot stand up to the killers of children, this doubt will be removed."

Number 1,018 (With A Self Inflicted Bullet)

Hindrocket at Power Line does some inventive primary source reporting on the composition of the limited audience for the new Al Gore potboiler "Joined at the Heart":

I confess that I have not yet read Al Gore's new book, Joined at the Heart. Of course, I'm not alone. Al and Tipper's study of American family life currently ranks #1,018 on Amazon's bestseller list. And I have to suspect that most of those sales are institutional--gray-haired librarians in birkenstocks ordering copies for high school kids, and so on. It's hard to imagine a lot of actual people buying this book and reading it. Despite the Gores' massive media push and whatever institutional sales they can muster, it is heartwarming to see their book languishing far behind G. Gordon Liddy's When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country, #95, and of course Bob Woodward's Bush at War, #2. It is also fun to read the Amazon reviewers' comments on Joined at the Heart: "Poor Al, another blockbuster fizzled. I hope this guy can find employment somewhere." And: "Absolute nonsense! I tried very hard to finish this book but it was impossible! It would surely be a violation of the Geneva Convention to require anyone to read it." Most revealing, however, is Amazon's listing of other books bought by the people who purchased Gore's latest. This list is interesting because it is computer-generated rather than subjective. The books most commonly purchased by buyers, in addition to Woodward's book about the war, were Paul Begala's It's Still the Economy, Stupid: George W. Bush, the GOP's CEO; The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton, by Joe Klein; Vincent Bugliosi's The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose our President; and Jews for Buchanan: Did You Hear the One About the Theft of the American Presidency?, by John Nichols. In other words, the only people who actually shell out money for Al Gore's book are embittered, hate-filled, over-the-top, partisan Democrats. This doesn't bode well for Gore's effort at reincarnation.

The Final Word on Moore (Amen)

I haven't seen Bowling for Columbine yet, but I will. It endeavors to deal with a topic I find of interest and I recognize the ability of Moore to effectively utilize propaganda to make a point, at least among his core constituency. But I will have to wait until I can be assured of being with an audience not prone to using derisive laughter as social commentary. Yes, you self-anointed cognitive elite of Uptown and Dinkytown, we know you agree with the dubious conclusions and broad, hoary clichés presented in the film, you don't have to repeatedly announce it to me by loudly gurgling your phony laughter in my ears! (Sorry to yell, but my recent experience in viewing The Trials of Henry Kissinger at U Film Society has left my nerves kind of raw on this matter.)

In any regard, I think the sun may have finally set on any pretense of credibility for Moore's tactics and conclusions. The wanna be National Review of the Left, The American Prospect, has a damning review by Garance Franka Rute, called Moore's the Pity. And listen up Michael Moore, when your natural constituency (that is people with names like Garance Franka Rute) turns on you, it's time to consider another career.

While she credits Moore for approaching the topic with an open mind (which is way too charitable for anyone who's ever seen a previous example of Moore's work), her specific criticisms focus on the fact that he misses entirely the dynamics of gun violence in the US:

Moore again and again focuses on America's culture of fear, especially fear of young black men, and then blames American political discourse, big corporations and especially television news for creating a climate in which -- to judge by the people in his movie -- uneducated rednecks arm themselves to the teeth, lock their doors and prepare for an invasion by the black "hordes." And then he leaves it at that.

Though liberals have doubtless cheered this movie in part for focusing on crazy white people with guns instead of the usual stereotypes about violent minorities, there is no way that a movie that so completely elides the devastating impact of gun violence on blacks and cities can arrive at anything like a reasonable portrait of America, let alone a valid conclusion about the causes of gun violence.

There is a point at which an effort not to perpetuate offensive stereotypes turns into an impoverishing erasure of the facts. So here are some facts to chew on, courtesy of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the U.S. Department of Justice: In 2000, 16,586 people in America took their own lives with guns; 10,801 were murdered by others firing them. Despite making up only 12 percent of the population, blacks constituted 53 percent of the gun-murder victims or 5,699 people, in 2000. Young black men ages 14-24 make up only 1 percent of the U.S. population but around 15 percent of the murder victims. Nor are Moore's suburban white gun owners, no matter how ridiculous their fears, the reason that black Americans were six times more likely to be murdered than whites in 1999, and seven times more likely to commit homicides.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The Man Dies But The Logos Live On

Sad news to report that yesterday Ralph Engelstad died after a long battle with cancer. Ralph was philanthropic millionaire who donated large sums of money to his and my alma mater the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota over the years.

He played hockey at UND as a goalie back in the 50's and was probably best known for his donation of funds to build the state of the art hockey arena on campus that bears his name. After construction of the arena had begun the school was considering changing its nickname from Fighting Sioux to something a little more politically correct.

When Ralph heard that the school was close to dropping the Fighting Sioux name he issued an ultimatum, something to the effect that if the name were to be changed he would cease funding the arena and let it rust in the harsh North Dakota elements. Not surprisingly the school relented and UND remained the Fighting Sioux. To ensure that the nickname would endure he had the Fighting Sioux logo embossed just about everywhere it could be including at the end of every row of seats and in the marble floor of the lobby. Ralph Engelstad may be gone but his legacy at UND will live on. And that's a damn good thing. R.I.P. Ralph.

Another Reason For Me To Consider Getting To Work On Time

The Star Tribune reports thousands of $20 and $50 bills, floating about in the car exhaust at I94 and Dale this morning. No this wasn't the latest way for the Saint Paul School Board to distribute their latest massive increase of funding via increased property taxes. (Although given their history academic performance, I can't imagine this method could produce any worse results).

Apparently a bag of money fell off of an armored truck, which was operated by the American Security Corporation. And as an American, I'm ready to enlist in any class action defamation of character law suit any of our ambulance-chasing lawyerly readers might want to gin up. If Voltaire were still around, and scribing an uninspired and dreary editorial column for one of the local dailies, he might write (pending a successful investigation of the national origin of the company's owners and of its corporate charter): "The American Security Corporation is neither American nor Secure nor a Corporation." I hereby grant Joe Soucheray and Doug Grow complete rights to that phrase, without even needing to cite me as a source.

Needless to say, by the time by the time I dragged myself away from the blissful bonds of slumber and onto the highway of broken dreams, there wasn't a red cent of easy money to be found. But I will say in my wake I did leave copious amounts of antifreeze from my coolant reservoir, as I've been having a bit of a leakage issue the past few days. The car's in the shop now. Developing....

The Real World of Unwanted Pregnancy

No need to hook me up to the poly I'll admit that watching MTV's The Real World is one of my guilty pleasures. The best part is not actually watching the show but rather the discussions that I have among my cadre of friends who also tune it in weekly. This season has spawned a controversy as to which of the housemates is the least intelligent. The two finalists are Brynn and Trishelle also known as Trashelle by my friends for her promiscuous behavior.

Until last night's episode the debate had been evenly waged by supporters of both sides and no clear cut winner had emerged. Now I may not be the most objective observer as I'm firmly in the camp that believes that Trishelle should wear the dunce cap but I think the scales have finally tipped and our side is now able to claim victory. Probably only two episodes into the season Trishelle started banging the show's Alpha male Steven
and they have been "hooking up" on a regular basis since then usually after both have consumed thirteen or fourteen cocktails at the nightclub in their hotel. Last night it came out that during this entire time they had not used condoms during their forays nor any other form of birth control. And now Trishelle is late and has to go to see a doctor. Imagine that. Having sex numerous times without using protection and now she might be pregnant. Who could have seen that coming?

The truly stupid thing about it is that way that MTV hypes sex on the show they would have been more than happy to shower these idiots with condoms. In fact there likely are condoms all over the house already through some sponsorship MTV worked out with Trojan. If you open a closet they probably come spilling out all over the floor. Candy dishes are filled with them in assorted colors and styles. When it comes time to clean house they have to pick up all the condoms that fell behind the couch. It takes a conscious effort to live in the house and not think about using condoms.

And that's why I think it's safe to say that Trishelle deserves to wear the crown as the dumbest of the dumb (the dumb being any Real World cast member of any season of the show). It'll be something she can tell her kids about someday (possibly someday soon).

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Freak (or fan) of Nature

This morning in Minnesota it's clear, sunny, and twenty degrees above zero. And I love it. I love this kind of weather. Brisk, sharp, crisp. However you choose to describe it there is something about days like this that makes me feel alive. Maybe it's my roots stemming from here in the sometimes frigid Upper Midwest. When we were kids cold weather never prevented us from outdoor activities be it play or work.

And on the subject of work I believe one of the reasons for the fabled "work ethic" of folks from this area (which by the way is rapidly disappearing based on my retail experiences in the last few years) is that in times gone by hard work was not an option because of the climate. If you didn't get out and chop enough firewood to last the long winter you'd end up frozen stiffer than Al Gore and they wouldn't even be able to bury you till the Spring thaw (usually sometime in June). Sort of a culling of the herd by Ol' Man Winter. Today those of us whose ancestors survived still have a spark of this self preservation instinct remaining and that's what drives us to get up and go to work (or maybe it's the T1 internet connection that allows for much faster surfing).

Another reason for my love of days like this is that if you listen closely you can almost hear the ice thickening. The ice on the local lakes that is. The ice that, if we get a couple of more cold days and no snow, will be ideal for skating. Those of you who have never glided across the clear, smooth ice of a frozen lake with the sun reflecting off it and warming your face have not experienced one of life's simple yet joyous pleasures. Call me a freak but I'm a fan of this weather.

Maybe We Can All Get Along After All

Can you still be friends with someone who listens to Noam Chomsky?

Robert Toth at thinks so and tells us how it can be done. I don't have this problem with too many of my friends (usually I'm the moderating voice of reason believe it or not) but Toth's approach is instructive, especially to those who sometimes forget that there is more to life than politics. However, I can definitely relate to the frustration he sometimes feels when dealing with "rational" people who embrace the views of the hardcore Left:

Sometimes I want to grab people by the collar and start shouting. "You have a degree from a major university. You have a serious, responsible job. You've lived in the world, as an adult, for some time now. Do you really believe that the attorney general is going to round people up and send them to Christian re-education camps? Do you really believe Israeli soldiers are the moral equivalent of suicide bombers? Do you really believe any of this craziness will get solved by sitting across a table from a lunatic dictator and pretending he's not wearing a .45 on his belt?"

Prix Nix Blix Fix

Any chance Variety has a man in Iraq covering the soon to be conducted UN inspections for weapons of mass destruction? If so, upon the Iraqis first obfuscation or quick change scam behind a locked palace compound gate, I humbly submit the above headline, which would look down right stately in 200 point scare type. Unfortunately, with the new J. Lo./F. Murray Abraham vehicle “Maid In Manhattan” due for release December 13, I fear Variety won’t have a reporter to spare and we’ll be left with the New York Times using something like - “Small Sovereign Nation Declares Its Rights for Self Determination Against US Aggression.”

Hicks Nix Sykes Tricks

I suppose the imment loss of one's job shouldn't be funny. But since it's not my job, the laughter comes easy. And it would be hard for anyone who's ever been employed at a call center to not be amused at a report coming from the Pioneer Press: Sykes To Close Minnesota Call Center, Fire More Than 200 Workers. (Note, the headline writer needed 11 words to capture the essence of this mundane little story; who's writing these things, Gore Vidal!?).

It seems that after only 2 years in business, a 432-seat call center in Eveleth MN is shutting down, and according to the article, it's because the workers were unreliable dumbsh*ts.

The Eveleth call center never employed more than 300 workers, and had an annual turnover rate of about 100 percent (emphasis added).

According to a recent state survey of 87 Sykes employees in Eveleth, fewer than 5 percent had a four-year college degree.

By contrast, more than 99 percent of staff at Sykes call centers in Costa Rica, India and the Philippines have completed college, said [CEO and company founder John] Sykes, and 35 to 40 percent have master's degrees.

"They consider a call-center job a career," he said.

You can almost hear Mr. Sykes's disappointment and hurt feelings as he says that. Like he felt he was throwing this great party up in Eveleth and nobody showed up. Well let me tell you something, Mr. Sykes, you weren't throwing a great party. In fact, I suspect your party had all the joy and promise of the 2002 DFL election night gala at the Raddison. Or all the spontaneous revelry and subtle pleasures of the New Year's Eve bash at Hot Shots in Burnsville.

Call center jobs generally suck. Astoundingly suck. Astronomically suck. The kind of suck normally associated with the event horizon around a black hole. The kind of suck usually seen during .... well I'll stop there, before the Fraters site starts to get innundated by people typing "suck" into a seach engine for all the wrong reasons. (Coincidently, most of these people actually work in call centers).

How do I know this? I had the distinct pleasure of wiling away my first post college working years in command of a telephone center in town here, with a company that's now out of business. (No causation has ever been established between these two variables--although their lawyers did repeatedly try).

Most of the jobs at a call center consist of working the phones, either dialing out or accepting incoming calls. At my previous employer we did only the former, and that means cold calling. We did marketing research, which is marginally better than trying to sell something, but the dynamics of each are similar. That is, spending all day (or all night) calling people who don't want to talk to you and don't have any self interest to participate in what your attempting to accomplish. Generally speaking, those few who will participate are desperately lonely, hopelessly deranged, or gloriously drunk. (Given Eveleth's proximty to Canada--I'm surprised they didn't have more success, at least in interviewing their Northern neighbors ).

The vast majority who don't want to cooperate communicate their wishes by tersely spitting "not interested" and hanging up or by shouting obscenities and slamming the phone down. Needless to say, neither reaction is conducive to the creation of high self esteem or satisfaction in one's job. In other words, the essential nature of the job itself has a negative affect on employee morale.

Throw in the need to be articulate and pleasant and professional and quick thinking if you’re to achieve any level of success at all. Plus the unyielding demands to "PRODUCE PRODUCE PRODUCE!" from the overbearing, unsympathetic and wildly unrealistic management, the use of poorly written scripts and surveys, and malfunctioning telecom equipment and computer hardware and what are you left with? An extremely difficult job with no status that provides no personal benefits whatsoever. Oh and did I mention that these jobs are usually hourly (and low) wage based, with no medical benefits?

Management of these companies are left left hiring only those who can't find work anywhere else, those who can compete only on availability and on price. This is why companies like Sykes choose to put their call centers in cities like Eveleth, cities that are presumed to be full of people who don't have any other options. But I guess they were wrong.

I do consider it a sign of the general health of our economy that we don't have those with college degees attempting to fill these positions. People go to college specifically to avoid a lifetime of work spent in spirit killing drudgery that provides no material benefit. And as long as there are college graduates in India and Costa Rica and the Phillippines lining up for this opportunity, Sykes is exactly right when he says:

If you are not a global company today, you are not going to be in business tomorrow."

Monday, November 25, 2002

Whooo Would Want To Spend A Night With The Owls?

After reading a story in Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune on the The Flops, a band composed of former Trip Shakespeare members John Munson (now of Semisonic fame) and Matt Wilson, and seeing that they were playing this Friday at the noted Minneapolis night club First Avenue I was thinking I might be making some plans for the show. But then I noticed that the Owls were opening for them. The friggin' Owls. I saw the Owls last year at a performance by Matt's brother Dan Wilson and was moved to write about the show in a piece called Artists? Hate em' . Here's a quick excerpt on the Owls:

The Owls? What the fug?

They begin playing and the situation goes from bad to intolerable. The group features two guys who exude as much masculinity as eunuchs and two broads who look like music students from Macalestar.

Stage presence? Zero.

My dreaming of John Belushi smashing your guitar to pieces factor? Infinitely high.

In a cute little twist the Owls switch instruments between each song.

See I played the drums on that song now I play the guitar. Aren't we all incredibly talented? No you're all incredibly annoying and none of you is truly proficient at anything.

Egalitarianism aside wouldn't it be better if the one who was the best guitar player would play the guitar, if the best drummer would drum, and if the best singer would sing? Now I'm not against a guy or gal picking up a different instrument from time to time or having someone other than the lead singer doing a song. But when you rotate on each and every song it's pretentious BS. We had to suffer these fools for over thirty minutes.

I still may go see the Flops on Friday. But I will not subject myself to the Owls again. A man can only take so much in one lifetime.

Do You Suppose There's A Connection?

A rather illogical editorial in yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune (regular readers of the paper will not be stunned since logic is not a hallmark of the editorial board) on the future of NATO. The editorial begins by scolding the United States for acting without NATO in Afghanistan:

For Washington, that means taking NATO seriously and working with it -- rather than saddling Silver, assembling a posse of "the willing" and riding off like the Lone Ranger in search of the bad guys. After Sept. 11, the NATO ministers invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty -- which meant they considered the attack on the United States an attack on them. They were signaling very seriously their willingness to fight alongside the United States in the war against terrorism.

The United States effectively said, "We'll call if we need you." It wanted a free hand to prosecute the war as it saw fit, without needing to consult and perhaps compromise with its NATO allies. Various members of NATO have been involved in Afghanistan, but the war has never been an officially NATO action. The Europeans were quite put off at the rebuff, and they grumble a lot at what they see as an American-imposed division of labor: The United States fights, and the Europeans do the "social work" necessary to clean up after the dust settles.

But in the next breadth it goes on to say that the European members of NATO have not spent enough money on defense spending in recent years and so, with the exception of the British and to some extent the French, are not able to provide any meaningful military contribution:

The Europeans have some thinking to do also, beginning with overcoming their aversion to updating and properly funding their military. It's fine that Europeans have a stronger aversion to war than Americans do; they've lived through a great deal more of it. But to be taken seriously at NATO, they need to demonstrate substantial military muscle. Right now, only Britain really can do that. France is beginning to invest more, but Germany's economy is so sick -- and its government so averse to the reforms that would help it improve -- that prospects are poor for a more robust German military any time soon.

I don't think it's beyond the bonds of imagination to make a simple connection here which the paper fails to do. The reason that the U.S. did not involve NATO directly in Afghanistan is that no NATO nation other than Britain has the ability to project force beyond the European theater. NATO's invocation of Article 5 after September 11th was a nice gesture but that's all it really was; a gesture. The last time that the U.S. military acted under the umbrella of NATO was in the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and it wasn't pretty. Bureaucratic haggling over target selection, leaks within the bloated NATO command, and indecisiveness among top NATO commanders caused the bombing campaign against Serbia to be dragged out much longer than necessary.

Why would the U.S. want to saddle itself with burdens like these while gaining no tangible military benefits for operations in Afghanistan? The U.S. did work with the few NATO countries who could help in Afghanistan but since the U.S. was doing most of the heavy lifting it wanted to call the shots and rightfully so. The paper may not like the "we blow stuff up, you clean things up" relationship that exists between the U.S. and most of the NATO countries today but given the realities of the large disparities in military power that exists it is the only one that actually works.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Have You No Sense of Decency Sir?

That's the question that should be asked of University of Minnesota football coach Glen Mason if he accepts a bowl bid following this fraud of a football season that has mercifully ended today with another loss at the hands of Wisconsin. That was Wisconsin's second Big 10 conference win of the entire year by the way. By virtue of the Gopher's overall 7-5 mark they are bowl eligible.

Bowl deserving is an entirely different matter. Before the Big 10 season began they won four games against against teams, with the exception of noted football powerhouse Toldeo, so pathetic that even the Little Sisters of the Poor have too much self respect to schedule games against them. No team is too bad for Mason's thirst for meaningless victories though and playing these patsies prepared the Gophers so well for their Big Ten schedule that they were 3-5, dropping their last four games of the year and only managing to beat Northwestern, Ilinois, and Michigan State all of whom are having terrible years. Yes, it will be with great pride and expectation that Gopher fans can look forward to a trip to Laffeyette, Lousianna or maybe even lovely Detroit (perhaps a bid to the Eight Mile Bowl?) for their well deserved post season reward. Maybe it's time for a big raise for Coach Mason after another stellar year. Ski-u-mah baby.

When Did Michael Kinsley Become Dave Barry?

I mostly know Michael Kinsley as the bemused and incredulous counterweight to Pat Buchanan during the glory days of Cross Fire on CNN. He was articulate and had a good eye for identifying and taking apart logical inconsistencies (fisking before fisking was cool). And I've always considered him the closest the Left can come to the multitude of quality commentators produced by their opponents on the right (George Will, Bill Kristol, Michael Barone, etc.).

But who knew he was funny? His latest column for the Washington Post, “Curse You Robert Caro!”, concerns his experiences as a judge for the 2002 National Book Award for nonfiction. Here’s a sample:

Well, imagine that you are sitting on the floor, surrounded by clouds of despair and mountains of Styrofoam packing popcorn. You tear open the next shipping envelope and out comes "A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola." Once again: No offense intended to the author of what may be a brilliant book. But the title seems designed to repel invaders rather than welcome visitors. If, with superhuman energy, you work up enough curiosity about the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola to at least open the book, the phrase "hundred-year quest" will kill it right off. And if your interest survives that second wave of defense, it will not, in its weakened state, have a chance against "curve of horn" -- a great who-cares phrase made even greater by the modifier "certain," which implies that the differences among curves of horns of animals in Angola that this book is concerned with are not even large or easily noticeable. Expecting us to overcome all these barriers and read the book anyway: That is what's unfair.

Playing by Al’s Rules

With Al Gore’s recent media blitz, it’s clear he’s in the midst of unveiling the latest reinvention of himself. Focusing like a laser beam on winning the hearts and minds of soccer mom’s everywhere, it appears we now have the soft and sensitive Al Gore, who feels compelled to opine about the issues most critical to our country’s future, namely, “love” and “play.” Anyone who caught excerpts of his recent interviews with Katy Couric or David Letterman has gotten a good look at the Al we’re probably stuck with for a while, at least until the poll numbers go south, or until he sees the need to reach out to the Joe Six pack demographic. FYI - that would be me (insert Barney Gumble-like belch here.) (Snooty critics of mine - insert Bryant Gumble-like sniff here).

But until then, prepare yourself for more wisdom such as this, taken from Al Gore’s new book (co-written with his wife) "Joined at the Heart". And when reading this, I dare you to not think of Al’s pedantic, condescending, haughty Southern drawl - because you can’t, it’s impossible.

Chapter 1 - Love

In order for us to feel "okay" here on earth, we have to love and be loved -- just as we have to breathe in and breathe out.

Love is not simply a feeling; it is a powerful elemental force that molds our lives and binds our families from the moment we are born. It is invisible, much like gravity. But just as you know gravity is present when you feel the ground beneath your feet, you feel love's presence when your beloved walks into the room, or when you touch the tiny fingers of your grandchild reaching out for your hand.

Chapter 3 - Play

Just as family is the place where we learn about love, it is also the place where we learn how to play. In the warmth of our families we learn to delight in simple pleasures, to laugh and giggle, to feel joy, to tell jokes, play games, imagine make-believe worlds, and let our spirits dance. Whether it is playing tag until everyone is out of breath, playing a board game or a card game, making funny faces and silly sounds, or climbing a mountain or skydiving together--whatever it is, the shared experience of play strengthens the family bonds.

Ummmm - OK Al, thanks for the tip (!?). I can only imagine the feelings evoked in the likes of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden over the prospect of this guy directing a war on terror against them. Maybe adding some “muscle” relatively speaking, as his running mate in 2004 will help. May I suggest either Fred Rogers or Janet Reno.

As we approach 2004, Gore’s inevitable morphing into his next persona, that of a swaggering, macho war chief, will seem implausible. Will those looking for a strong, militarist leader really forget about the neutering Al has willfully subjected himself to? Perhaps not, but in case he needs a little artificial enhancement, there apparently is a product that might just be the key to getting the hitch back in his giddy-up - Neuticles.

Friday, November 22, 2002

An Infuriatingly Good Read

Last week I finished reading The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, And Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It by John Miller and Michael Stone and highly recommend it for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of the manner in which Al Qaeda operates and doesn't mind the pain that arises from pounding your fists on the table in frustration after learning of the many opportunities that various U.S. intelligence agencies failed to capitalize on that may have been able to prevent the attacks of September 11th. If that isn't enough to get your blood boiling the book's description of the arrogance displayed by Mohammed Atta surely will.

I am not by nature a violent man (although a few players in my hockey league may disagree) but I have no doubt that I would have little difficulty summoning up the rage to bare handedly pummel Atta's face beyond recognition and tear him limb from limb if I were somehow able to meet up with him in an other worldly venue of cosmic justice. I'll just have to be content with the belief that one of nastier demons of hell is getting medieval on his ass at this very moment. And for eternity for that matter.

Other Than Hockey What Are They Good For?

Jonah Goldberg has an amusing piece in the November 25th edition of National Review called 'Bomb Canada' which examines the history of U.S./Canadian relations and figures it's high time to slap Canada around a bit to shake them up much like a big brother might do to a younger brother to toughen him up (a parallel incidentally that I would extend to me and my own brother with me playing the role of the U.S. of course). Unfortunately it is not available on line but here's a quick look at what I found to be the highlights:

Canadians have long talked about how they are a "moral superpower" and a nation of peacekeepers, not warriors. While they were never in fact a moral superpower--when was the last time a dictator said, "We'd better not, the Canadians might admonish us"?

Canadians were at one time a nation of peacekeepers who helped enforce U.N. brokered deals around the world (Suez 1956, Congo 1960, etc.). Today, Canada ranks Number 37 as a peacekeeping nation in terms of committed troops and resources, and it spends less than half the average of the skinflint defense budgets of NATO. Chretien talks about not sending troops to Iraq; in truth, even if Chretien wanted to join the Iraq invasion, Canada's role would be like Jamaica's at the Winter Olympics--a noble and heartwarming gesture, but a gesture nonetheless.


Canada is, quite simply, not a serious country anymore. It has internalized the assumptions of U.N.-ology: not just anti-Americanism but also the belief that Western nations don't need military might. As a consequence, they are simply unarmed. If al-Qaeda launched a September 11-style attack from Canadian soil, we would have only two choices: ask Canada to take charge, or take charge ourselves. The predictable--and necessary--U.S. action would spark outrage. We certainly don't need the burden of turning "the world's longest undefended border" into one of the world's longest defended ones. And that's why a little invasion is precisely what Canada needs. In the past, Canada has responded to real threats with courage and conviction (some say more Canadians went south to enlist for war in Vietnam than Americans went north to dodge it). If the U.S. were to launch a quick raid, blow up some symbolic but unoccupied structure--Toronto's CN Tower, or an empty hockey stadium--Canada would rearm overnight.

My preference would be for blowing up the CN Tower. A hockey stadium actually is useful.

A Conservative Sunrise on the Horizon in the Golden State?

A friend in California sees a brighter future for conservatives in the state where Democrats now reign:

California currently holds the longest uninterrupted run of one party control of both congressional houses as well as the governorship--we'll soon be starting year 5. Also, for the first time ever, all 10 of the statewide offices from US Senate seats to state comptroller are held by Democrats. We are currently in the red $25 billion - 2 years ago they actually lowered the sales tax 1/4% because we had a $10 billion surplus. Gray has called for congress to come back a month early because he has a $5 billion package he wants to pass (think it's a tax cut?). Troubling signs indeed.

I am hopeful that the rest of the country will prosper as I suspect we in California will sink over the next 2 years. But, there is some encouragement in all of this as I've said before. 4 years ago, Davis won his first election by 20%. 2 years ago, Bush lost CA by 11%. And just this month, Simon lost by 5%. Bush currently leads against all phantom opponents out here. If he can make the Dems spend money here by making it close, that will not only be good for him, but really good for us. And if the Bush team can make it clear that our mess is as a result of enacted liberalism, well then I think you'll see something akin to what we saw happen in Texas in the late 80's as they turned conservative.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

I’m not planning on seeing the new Eminem film 8 Mile. Neither the movie’s premise or cast does anything for me. And since I had my sky high hopes dashed on the rocks by Vanilla Ice’s surprisingly wooden performance in Cool As Ice, I’ve abandoned the hopes of finding the next cinematic Elvis from the ranks of skinny, angry, white rappers. (Or chunky, happy, black rappers either for that matter - sorry Sir Mix-a-lot.)

However, Henry Payne reports in National Review Online that the real star of the movie, or at least the primary antagonist, may be the city of Detroit itself, which apparently is presented accurately in all it’s burned out and devastated shame. This white hot spotlight of truth doesn’t reflect well on the city or on the Democratic party, which has had a choke hold on the city’s governance for decades. According to Payne (who also happens to be the editorial cartoonist at The Detroit News):

“The reason hope ends at Central, Telegraph, Eight Mile, and Mack is not because of racism, but government policy. Small entrepreneurs have no confidence that the city will protect their stores. Detroit charges a 1 percent income tax for nonresidents working in Detroit. The city's ill-educated workforce sports a staggering 47-percent illiteracy rate. And a generation of welfare addicts are just now gaining the discipline necessary to keep a job.

The results of these public policies are everywhere. Detroit, Michigan's largest city with 970,000 people, has only one movie theater, the Phoenix on Eight Mile (where a man was shot in the stomach on the film's opening night). It does not contain a single large retail store. Not one. Detroiters must travel to neighboring Dearborn to find a Sears or a Marshall's. Seventy percent of children are born into single-parent households. Kids walking to school along Hamilton Avenue on the city's west side or John R Road on the east side — just to use two of numerous examples — pass rows of abandoned buildings (an estimated 10,700 dot the city), dope addicts and criminals often lurking inside. On the city's main street, Woodward Avenue, teenagers serve Popeye's and McDonald's kid's meals from behind bulletproof glass.

Furthermore, the supporters of the political status quo in Detroit seem to prefer burying their heads, rather than facing the issues directly:

8 Mile's relentless depiction of this apocalyptic landscape has provoked cries from Detroit boosters that the film makes Detroit look like one big ghetto. No Detroit public officials attended the film's premier at The Phoenix — presumably irked by its depiction of the city. The city's Democratic politicians hope that not talking about the city's problems will make them go away.

So 8 Mile is the tale of a young man attempting to overcome the forces of evil in an apocalyptic landscape? Sounds like interesting stuff, but still not enough to get me down to the multiplex - I’ve seen The Road Warrior like ten times already.

A Woman After My Own Heart

Thanks to Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark for catching yesterday's long overdue fisking of Molly Ivins by Rachel Lucas. Molly's crappy columns have ruined many a breakfast for me over the years and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who gets indigestion reading her illogical pap. As an added bonus Rachael uses a Simpson's ref to describe the culinary preferences and military capabilities of the French.

The Blog Conspiracy

Everywhere you look these days you see folks from the blogsphere turning up all over the place in various traditional media outlets especially radio and television shows. Last night I caught the program World at Large with David Gergen on my local PBS station and was pleasantly surprised to see well know blogger Virginia Postrel appearing with author Russell Banks and David Brooks of Weekly Standard fame as well as author of the witty Bobos in Paradise. I believe that Virginia was described as an author and "social critic" which sounds like a nice gig if you can get it. She apparently was the libertarian voice, while Banks mostly towed the liberal line, and Brooks represented the conservative viewpoint (duh). The topic was "Are We One Nation Indivisible?" with a lot of discussion on the "red and blue" political division of America. Virgina more than held her own while I thought Banks added little other than stressing over and over again how "troubled" he was by the resurgance in patriotism in America since 9/11. But the real star of the show in my opinion was Brooks. He's a very bright guy and was able to flow effortlessly from topic to topic in the rather free flowing forum of the show while clearly articulating his positions and providing plenty of information to back his assertions. Sounds like a good candidate for a blog of his own. Because Lord knows we could use more of 'em.

Mission Accomplished

One more, and presumably final, update on the MPR November Membership Drive totals. I sent an email to MPR asking about their fundraising goal and their success in achieving it and I got a cordial response from a guy in their Membership/Listener Services department. According to him their goal was $1.7 million and they did indeed reach it on Friday afternoon (cue the trumpet fanfare).

Regarding the on air hosts' comments that they were "way, way behind," according to my source, the overall goal is broken down into hourly and daily goals and there were indeed points in the drive where they were not on target and way behind. But due to the "phenomenal outpouring of generosity from the listeners" they were able to make it.

Needless to say, the hosts don't typically make the distinction between hourly goals and the total goal in their appeals. In fact, I've never heard an update as to their success relative to achieving their total goal. But, reasonably speaking, the techniques they're utilizing are designed to maximize contributions, no matter what the goal is, and there's nothing inherently unethical about it. Yet it does feel vaguely manipulative. And I wonder how the MPR news reporters would treat a private company engaged in fundraising who were, say, being investigated by Mike Hatch for "not being upfront with their customers" or engaging in "anti-competitive practices." I guess we'll never know.

Ultimately it appears Garrison Keillor's recent politically charged and regrettable comments on Norm Coleman didn't have a deleterious affect on fundraising for his employer. So I think it's reasonable to presume that either the MPR membership agrees with Mr. Keillor or they simply didn't see a link between their financial support of the station and support for Mr. Keillor's rhetoric. Maybe Tom Daschle's recent comments regarding hate speech associated with radio personalities will open their eyes to the truth. I mean after all, Mr. Daschle is probably a regular listener to NPR and although I don't agree with his characterization of Garrison Keillor as a "Rush Limbaugh wanna be" who else could he be referring to when he says:

''What happens when Rush Limbaugh [and his wannabe's?] attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen,'' Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, told reporters yesterday. ''They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting.''

''If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don't know the difference between entertainment and politics, and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going,'' Daschle said.

An ominous sign for Garrison Keillor and his future popularity. It appears that even the leadership of the Left has had enough of his hate speech. For their own good, I think it's time for MPR to start distancing themselves from the stench and mabye cut the cord with the Bard from Lake Woebegone, or their next pledge drive truly might end up falling short.

You've Come a Long Way Baby?

Surfing around the broadcast televison channels last night one was able to watch the Victoria's Secret fashion show, with long legged female models prancing around in their unmentionables, and also catch the final episode of The Bachelor, which began weeks ago with a group of young women vying for the chance to marry a handsome, young, career orientated man.

Personally I enjoy the concept of both shows, obviously for different reasons, but you have to wonder if this is the world that the Gloria Steinem's and Betty Friedan's had in mind when they fought the "feminist revolution" of the Sixties and Seventies. Thank God that their vision of the future has not yet come to pass.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Properly Vetting Your Entertainment Options

When I first heard the news that Pearl Jam had recently released a new album titled Riot Act I actually considered adding it to my music library. Yeah, I somewhat sheepishly have to admit to kinda liking Pearl Jam. Mock me if you will but that's just the way it is. I know that Eddie Vedder is a pompous ass who takes himself way too seriously. Despite his complete lack of appeal the band's music usually works for me although I have to admit to only owning two of their previous albums Ten and VS both early Pearl Jam releases. However, the window of opportunity for my possible purchase of Riot Act closed quickly when I heard that one of the songs on the disc was a satirical attack on President Bush oh so cleverly called...ready for it?


How did Vedder ever come with the idea for that dollar sign instead of a S? I guess that's what being a creative genius is all about. You see Eddie's not just a musician he has something to say too. Although after hearing the lyrics to Bu$hleaguer I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place if Eddie kept his political commentary to himself. I won't bore you with the whole song here (what kind of hack would post song lyrics anyway?) just this one stanza. The rest of it is mostly nonsensical drivel anyway.

A confidence man, but why so beleagued?
He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer
Swinging for the fence, got lucky with his strike
Drilling for fear, makes the job simple
Born on third, thinks he got a triple

Obviously Eddie is trying his best to use baseball metaphors to belittle Bush although all he really achieves is confusing me. Is beleagued to be taken as beleaguered? If so that is a most inaccurate description of GW these days. And if he truly is a "confidence man" why does Eddie ask why he is "beleagued"?

The next line is a fairly straight ahead questioning of Bush's qualifications implying that he is not ready for the big leagues. Not bad Eddie. It actually makes some sense. You get a gold star.

Alas, the momentum doesn't carry through to the next line and I'm again perplexed as to just where Eddie is going. Is "swinging for the fences" a bad thing? And how exactly did Bush "get lucky with his strike"? Perhaps Eddie is making a subtle reference to the Supreme Court ruling that gave Bush the 2000 election which some Democrats have since called a "coup." Somehow I doubt it.

Eddie then plays the oil card in the next line with use of the word "drilling" and I believe he wants us to reflect on Bush's alleged lack of intelligence by characterizing his work as "simple". You gotta give him extra credit for originality right? I mean he's not just pulling out the same old tired cliché's about Bush that we've heard over at over again. Right?

And then we get to the last line of this stanza. Oh Eddie. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. You had to use the "born on third, thinks he got a triple" didn't you? For some reason bitter Dems have fallen in love with this little crack and just won't let it go or stop overusing it. Molly Ivins has probably recited it in thirty eight different columns since 1998. The first time it was mildly amusing. The second time it earned a half hearted smile. The third time it started getting old and now it's gotten bleepin' ridiculous. Have you nothing else? Are you that bereft of material?

So what's my point? That Eddie Vedder's an idiot? Of course he is but you didn't need to read this to know that. I was willing to consider buying a Pearl Jam disc even though I know that Eddie Vedder is a pinko. But when I found out that a song on the disc had a blatantly political message I had to draw the line. The artist is the artist and if you want to stay away from artists with a Leftist political bent you'll be left with slim pickings. R.E.M. is one of my favorite groups but if you put me in a room with Michael Stipe to have a discussion of politics it would be a cage match with only one man emerging alive (and I ain't bragging but I think I can take Stipe). I can accept the artist as having a viewpoint that is the polar opposite of my own. What I can't accept is when the art itself does. I've had an ongoing debate with a friend over the fact that I refuse to watch 'The West Wing' because of it's obviously liberal presentation. It's not Martin Sheen the actor that's the problem. It's the show itself. In fact I wouldn't have any problem at all seeing the next well made, politically neutral, movie starring Martin Sheen. Or Charlie Sheen. Or even Emilio Sheen for that matter. When's 'Men at Work II' coming out?

It Won’t Play in Peoria

Went and saw the movie "Bloody Sunday" at the Lagoon on Tuesday night. It was at the invitation of my dad, which surprised me because he rarely ventures out of Woodbury and into the city any longer. Since he has absolutely no reason to--he's retired and has a beautiful house and all the amenities, comforts, and privacy offered by the modern American suburb, I don't blame him one bit. But, this was a movie concerning Irish history, and that's apparently enough to draw him out. However, I must say, he didn't necessarily see anything to inspire a return trip any time soon.

The previews shown before the feature presentation began with a Spanish language melodrama about a Catholic priest engaged in an illicit affair with a young, female member of his flock. The key scene, which was interspersed with stylistic shots of him shagging her rotten, was in a confessional where he asked her (en Español) "Do you have any sins to confess my child?" And she responded, "I confess...only to LOVE!." Then the schmaltzy romantic music swelled, a lengthy list of international film festival awards received by the movie was listed, and it faded to a prolonged black screen. I guess this was intended to allow the audience to sort through the complexity of emotions that were inevitably inspired by this profound preview. Unfortunately this spell may have been prematurely broken for those sitting near us, as my dad was clearly heard unsuccessfully attempting to stifle a chortle.

The next preview was for a movie also in Spanish and concerned a female bull fighter, who apparently has a dramatic life for some reason or another. The series of smash cuts and non sequiturs left me confused as to the plot line, but I think it has something do with the problems in her personal relationships. Or difficulties in breaking into the matador's union. Or the psychic trauma associated with her fruitless search for a pair of toreador pants that doesn't make her nalga look too big. After a dramatic crescendo of schmaltzy romantic music and a lengthy listing of international film festival awards, the preview mercifully came to and end. No dramatic black screen this time, but more laughter from the old man.

Finally, a preview for the movie Naqoyqatsi which is described on its Web site as "A motion picture experience beyond words, NAQOYQATSI merges the power of image and music to plunge into the heart of the hyper accelerated, globally wired 21st century. Mesmerizing images plucked from everyday reality, then visually altered with state-of-the-art digital techniques." Which sounds all well and fine (if you're suffering from dementia!).

The segments shown in the preview had a distinct resemblance to the bizarre and reverentially ironic films shown at First Avenue before concerts--that is, random scenes from pop culture and classical Russian cinema and WWII footage and 50's high school hygiene films, all done with a score composed of Gregorian chants mixed over the top of a Chemical Brothers track.

As I recall, the specific scenes from this movie were that fat guy catching a cannonball in his midsection and bouncing back into the tarp (which was also once memorialized on the Simpsons), then some A Bomb test footage from Bikini Atoll, then Dwight Clark receiving "the Catch" from Joe Montana, then a Palestinian youth throwing a brick at an Israeli soldier, then some dogs dancing on their hind legs wearing tutus, then Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem, then an American F-16 shooting a missile, then Robert Byrd trying to clear his throat (and getting it entered into the Congressional Record), then...well I forget as this hyper accelerated plunge into everyday life started to mesmerize me and blur my consciousness (other wise known as putting me to sleep).

But upon being awaken by the dramatic music crescendo at the end of the preview (which I think was the closing notes of the song "Officer Krupke" from "West Side Story" played on the sitar) , I had this strange desire to see a Run Westy Run concert. My dad's reaction? He leaned over and said to me in a dry tone, "Somehow I don't think this one is going to make it out to Woodbury. Damn, I may have to miss it."

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The Money Trail of Tears

I have been unable to locate any information regarding MPR's November membership drive and whether or not they reached their fundraising goals. As I reported last week ....(Boy, that sounds official, doesn't it? Next thing you know I'll be throwing it over to the zany weather man with the loud sport coat and bad hairpiece - and that would be you Elder, so get ready). As I reported last week, the MPR hosts were breathlessly repeating they were "way behind" in their efforts and needed a big push in the final days to meet their goals. I guess it's not newsworthy if they succeeded or not, so no one in the media is reporting on it. And since my rather heated and public feud with Cathy Wurzer regarding her overuse of the term "antidisestablishmentarianism," no one over at MPR is returning my calls anymore.

But based on an MPR press release from November 14, it seems either their fundraising goals for this year must be astronomically high or perhaps their desperate, emotional appeals to the listeners are just cynically savvy marketing and manipulation. MPR reports “modestly positive operating results” for the fiscal year ending this past June:

Minnesota Public Radio's Operating Fund grew by a modest $49,000 in fiscal year 2002, thanks to increased support from members and disciplined expense control.

Operating revenue was $41.1 million in FY 2002 (ending June 30) - up 6 percent from FY 2001, according to audited figures.

The number of Minnesota Public Radio members remained relatively constant at 86,000 in FY 2002. However, their contributions - the biggest operating revenue source - grew by 16 percent to $9.8 million.

There has also been some debate on other Web sites regarding the nature and degree of government subsidy for MPR's programming. According to the press release, 10% of their operating revenue comes from "the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other government support", which according to my Texas Instruments TU-35 PLUS (the "PLUS" means it does multiplication as well as addition), this results in a cool 4.11 million bones. Yes, that's a mere tear drop quantity compared to the vast ocean of money the Federal government redistributes to all of its other favored recipients (many of which would be approp'iately driven from the marketplace otherwise). But I'm sure this amount isn’t insignificant to MPR's competitors on the local radio dial, who now are forced to start off every fiscal year $4 million behind in their efforts to create a viable, competitive product and attract listeners.

The Hedonistic Values Crowd?

The good folks over at Power Line first mentioned today's Brian Lambert article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the reaction to Garrison Keillor's bitter attacks on Norm Coleman including not so veiled inferences by Keillor that a little something something was going on with Coleman's marriage. I found this section of Lambert's piece revealing:

It is interesting, though, when you ask news organizations, theoretically, what they would do if they found rumors about a politician's personal life to be true. Some say it would be a story in and of itself and that they would run with it. Others say it would require another set of factors — something that would trigger the so-called "hypocrisy factor," such as pandering to the family values crowd.

Why does the media believe that it is fair play to investigate the personal life of a candidate as long as he's "pandering to the family values crowd," read Republican, but otherwise it is unseemly? Are the Democrats championing themselves as philandering cheaters, in favor of open marriages, and free love? Not that I am aware of. They haul their spouses and kids on stage with them and use the family angle just as much as Republicans--albeit not in relation to the same policies--and so should be held to the same standards of conduct.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Viva Jihad?

One of the litanies of the "see no evil except in the actions of the U.S." Left (the Noam Chomskys, Susan Sontags, Molly Ivins of the world) is that the September 11th hijackers were motivated to commit their horrific attacks by a number of factors either directly or indirectly attributable to U.S. action or inaction. These factors include the widening gap between the wealthy and poor of the world which allegedly creates an environment without hope for citizens of the Third World and breeds despair and desperate fury. Another factor is the support from the U.S. that allows undemocratic, corrupt governments to stay in power in order to advance U.S. interests which creates resentment and hatred towards the U.S. The fact that the U.S. is allied with Israel which occupies territories acquired through war and has displaced much of the native population is also cited as a legitimate reason for against the U.S. And finally the cultural and economic "invasions" by U.S. commercialism of these poor countries has led to a justifiable backlash whose most extreme form we witnessed on 9/11.

According to the radical Left, these are the causes behind 9/11 and similar terrorist actions against the U.S. and, if we want to know why or look for someone to blame, we had better look in the mirror first.

I was mulling this over last week while sitting in a hotel room in Chihuahua, Mexico and scratching my head. If one is to accept that these are the conditions that led to the terror of Al Qaeda and other groups (a big stretch considering that most of the 9/11 hijackers came from backgrounds of privilege not poverty and none were Palestinians, etc.), then why has there not been a Mexican Jihad against the hated Norte Americanos? (referring of course only to the U.S.--Sorry Canada as usual you're quiet irrelevant in this discussion.)

Consider that while Mexico has made great strides in recent years, it remains a pretty damn poor country. Unemployment is high, many people still go hungry or live in the streets but instead of wanting to come to the U.S. to blow up buildings, Mexicans want to come to the U.S. to build them. Or clean them. Or whatever other job they can find. Hmmm...

Although the U.S. probably wasn't too crazy about the oppressive PRI governments that ruled Mexico for most of the last seventy years, it certainly did not push very hard for real reform and, in the '60s and '70s, tended to look the other way when the military cracked down on dissident Leftist groups. During the last decade, Mexico has become a much more democratic country with the end of the long reign of the "elected" PRI governments, although corruption is still rampant, but the U.S. was hardly a major factor in these changes. And yet the Mexican people today are not resentful and bitter towards the U.S. for the all these years of not supporting real democracy in their country. Hmmm...

And if you really want to start talking about occupied territories from the perspective of the radical Left, what is a more striking example than California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, all seized militarily from Mexico by the U.S.? (Technically speaking Texas gained its independence from Mexico by rebellion and then became an independent republic for a brief time before joining the U.S. Just ask any Texan and they'll tell you more than you ever want to know about it.) But, other than some tongue in cheek talk of a "reconquistda" of the area through Mexican immigration, the Mexicans seem to have by and large accepted the fact that this land is gone and it's not coming back to them. Why no intifatah? Hmmm...

Finally no country has probably been so overwhelmed with U.S. commercialism than Mexico. U.S. chain restaurants are everywhere. U.S. movies play in all the theaters. U.S. goods are sold everywhere and anywhere. You can't walk ten feet without seeing a Coke or Pepsi sign. But, instead of being repelled by the stories of Walt Disney as Mohammed Atta was, Mexicans embrace the Disney characters (as well as Looney Tunes for that matter) and, rather than seeking to destroy the symbols of American business, they are far more likely to try to emulate them. Hmmm...

So there I was at a loss for an explanation. Then I thought I'd check on the various religions in Mexico. I was unable to find one conclusive answer, but apparently the Muslim makeup of Mexico is listed as "less than 1 percent" according to one source or "numbers several hundred" according to another. This is out of a population of some 105 million people. But this isn't about religion right? Hmmm...

New Face, Same Old Voices

Apologies to anyone who stumbled across the site today during the design change. Hopefully, the new look retains a decently readable appearance. I expect to hear from anyone who has objections or suggestions. Speak now or forever hold your peace. For some reason the archives are a bit disjointed which is hardly surprising given Blogger's past difficulties in that area. I hope to have them repaired within the next few days. If you really must have that piece that Saint Paul wrote on Buck Humphrey back in August I'm sure he has it securely stored in that Al Goresque "lock box" known as his memory and he'd be happy to rehash it for you verbatim.

Another Shot at the White Kids in the 'Burbs

Over the years one of the favorite targets of writers at the Minneapolis alternative weekly City Pages has been the white middle to upper class suburbanite. These sophisticated city dwelling scribes loathe their ignorant, mall loving, gun toting, SUV driving, Republican voting, cross burning neighbors and never miss an opportunity to mock them be it in an article about smart growth or even a music review on Guns N' Roses:

He was hot. He could howl. And during that four-year-long comet blast, before grunge and alt-rock truly squashed him, Axl provided a universal strip-malled under-the-bridge-kegger soundtrack for suburban kids too timid to appropriate hip hop (or too racist to embrace it). (My pal who sang, "Take me down to the Paradise City/ Where everyone reads Will by G. Gordon Liddy" really nailed a certain segment of GNR's gun-show fan base.)

So if you're a suburban kid and don't like hip hop you're either a racist or a coward? If I didn't know that the progressive City Pages was against discrimination and broad brushed stereotyping I might be a bit offended.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Must See TV

Circle your calendars--on Sunday, December 8, the C-SPAN program Booknotes features an interview with Michelle Malkin regarding her provocative new book "Invasion." I've heard her interviewed a couple of times regarding the book and it appears to be excellent in its scholarship and very timely in identifying the still existing flaws in our country's immigration bureaucracy. But, full disclosure, I haven't read the book--yet. (This is a very subtle hint to those who never know what to buy me for Christmas. But please coordinate your efforts, as I only need one, hard cover, first edition, ideally autographed copy. Preferred inscription - "To Brian, the Fraters Libertas site is a beacon of brilliance and poignant grace in a dark and forbidding world. You prove day after day, conservatism really can have a human face (and an exceedingly handsome one too!). Shine on you crazy diamond! Love and Laughs, Michelle").

Ms. Malkin is the latest in the series of comely conservative female commentators who’ve emerged over the past few years. Besides, Michelle there's Laura Ingraham (heard from 11 PM - 2AM locally on 1280 AM), Ann Coulter (at least when photographed at a flat angle), and the dearly departed Barbara Olson. An excellent idea for the next political talk/argument show would be to pair some of these women up with the Left’s finest female commentators, say Naomi Wolf, Maureen Dowd or, of course, Molly Ivins. (Sorry for that last shock to the system, but their bench just isn't as deep at the Right's--don't blame me). With the one notable exception, that's a Cross Fire I'd like to see (or volunteer to be caught up in).

Funny "Strange" Yes--Funny "Ha Ha" No

Over the past few days, the men of Power Line have been endeavored to understand the alleged humor Garrison Keillor. I've added my first hand observations, which are in their posts for Sunday. So no feelings are hurt, any readers above the age of 75, who still fondly remember the puckish antics of Junior Samples on Hee Haw or the witty rejoinders of Howard Viken and Joyce LaMont during the Golden Age of 'CCO, better skip it.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Against Globalization, But For What?

The Economist exposes the empty arguments of anti-capitalist Naomi Klein in this mocking piece. The last paragraph is classic:

Ms Klein's harshest critics must allow that, for an angry adolescent, she writes rather well. It takes journalistic skill of a high order to write page after page of engaging blather, so totally devoid of substance. What a pity she has turned her talents as a writer to a cause that can only harm the people she claims to care most about. But perhaps it is just a phase.

Desperate, Shameless, and Pathetic

No, this title doesn't presage new online identities for the Fraters Libertas contributers (alhtough these would be remarkably descriptive). No, instead I direct you to the latest attempt of the Left to reconcile their recent electoral defeats--by not reconciling at all. Rather than accepting the judgment of the American people and relinquishing the reigns of power for the next 2 years, they'd prefer to attempt every legal manuever and procedural manipulation possible to hang on.

Specifically, they are targeting the three "moderate" Republican Senators and asking them to break their ties with the Republican party by not voting for Trent Lott as majority leader, and thus retaining de facto control of the Senate for the Democrats. It's particulary interesting to note they refer to Jeffords' party switching of last year as an "act of conscience," yet Norm Coleman is pilloried by those such as Garrison Keillor as a cynical opportunist for doing the same thing.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Paranoia Running Deep

Right after the terrorist attacks in September 2001 most Americans braced themselves (and were told to expect) additional incidents in the US in the coming days and months. Thankfully, with a exceptions (the failed shoe bomber and while tragic, the relatively sporadic and low casualty rate shooting incidents), this did not occur. But I do recall most of us engaged in constructive speculation as to what might be the next target and what were our most vulnerable assets. My thinking was along the same lines as others -- nuclear power plants, commercial shipping ports, and cities containing entrenched sleeper cells.

Per ususal, my subconscious was also working out the problem and I still remember having a dream last Fall about the Space Shuttle being brought down out of the sky by a terrorist missile. It was greatly disturbing (a feeling that endured well into my waking hours the next day), not only in its practical ramifications but also in its symbolism. The space program, the ultimate projection of the American ideals of achievement and discovery and embrace of the future, the culmination of our entire educational system, the end product of the wealth which could only be consistently created through our capitalist-democratic system. And it could all be wrecked by a couple of jackasses in a rented pontoon boat with an Army surplus Stinger missile. A horribly perfect example of asymmetric warfare.

I'm not sure how big a threat this really is and I've mostly rationalized the potential away. Presumably the security measures taken for a NASA mission are extreme. And practically speaking, it seems unlikely that a tactical field weapon would have the ability to bring down a rocket shooting straight up through the sky at escape velocity. But, in the context of the failed governmental protections provided on September 11 and given the psychotic focus and dedication of the adherents to radical Islam, at the very least, such an attempt would have to be included in the realm of possibility.

Which makes three reports coming out today vaguely unsettling. First, this morning we get a warning from the FBI about the potential for "spectacular" Al Queda attacks that meet several criteria, including "high symbolic value" and "maximum psychological trauma" and that the highest priority targets include the aviation sector as well as national landmarks (among others).

Then tonight we get the report that NASA is delaying the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (which was originally to go off this past Monday) until Nov. 22 at the earliest. The causes of the delay are being reported as a mechanical problem with the astronauts' oxygen supply and now an accident that occurred with the robotic arm during repair of the original problem. And now Boeing has announced it also has to delay launching its new Delta IV rocket (due to mechanical difficulties). This launch is rescheduled for November 22 at Cape Canaveral (which is also the site of the Space Shuttle launches).

Obviously, there's no reason to necessarily disbelieve the official reports on these incidents (space missions have a long history of these types of delays and the Delta IV specifically has already experienced numerous delays, stretching back months) and I have no empirical evidence of anything suspicious. All I have are the coincidental timing of these stories and my own haunted dreams. These along with a quarter will buy you a newspaper, unless you live in Minneapolis--where you'll get absolutely nothing for those inputs.

Wining, Dining, and Opining

The prodigal son of the Fraters Libertas site, the Elder's brother, formerly (and heretofore?) known as "the Younger," submits another report as he prowls up and down the East Coast, turning his satirical gaze to whatever he sees fit to sumbit. Hopefully this is a sign that his musings will become a more regular feature here. Given his relatively recent re-appearance (and dependence on us to post for him), I'll resist the temptation to fisk him with extreme prejudice.

Everybody Is Stupid But Me

If you get a chance, check out a writer named Tunku Varadarjan. He's probably on the site or others. Funny, smart writer this guy, in the Lileks vein. He was writing today about how he likes to watch Martha Stewart (a guilty pleasure I enjoy as well) and how he appreciates her subtle style unlike that of the now un-trendy Emeril and then writes:

"She didn't mug adorably for the camera in the manner of a moring-news achorette splattering her way through a cooking segment as if to suggest 'I am such a brilliant career woman that I just can't boil water'."

The Modern Woman (with their weak men shrugging and taking it) has completely devalued the fine arts of cooking and cleaning--arts that contribute materially to our enjoyment of life. To attend a dinner party of someone who has the Martha Skills is a great joy. It's all about details and when those details are taken care of relaxation ensues, which then encourages conversation to flow. Adults of our parents generation understood this, from the hordourves (when is the last time someone offered you one before dinner?) to the perfect cocktail to the perfect music during cocktail hour (it's not U2).

Thursday, November 14, 2002

We Got It All Over Them

First off, apologies to the Elder for scooping him on Berg's hoisting of Keillor. Unfortunately, I just so happen to have my finger on the information and entertainment pulse of the Twin Cities and when I get the straight dope first, I can't restrain myself! However, I will make an exception by not posting the results of the Elder's recent urinalysis until his doctor has a chance to discuss it with him first.

In other news, there's another interesting item from this week's City Pages. Paul Demko reports on his experiences as a poll worker. Although I didn't encounter the same difficulties he did, it all seems plausible. Despite the non-letter-perfect attention to detail experienced at his precinct, and accounting for a reasonable level of human error, any rational observer would have to conclude that the procedures and the counts were valid.

I wouldn't necessarily say the same for what apparently occurred in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Adam Christian relays his experience in the current issue of The American Prospect. From the appallingly inadequate training and low pay for poll workers (and their correspondingly high absentee rate), the lack of a legal requirement for (and a bureaucratic commitment to) an equally partisan composition of judges at each location, to the continued use of punch cards (despite overwhelming evidence of their unreliability), and the lack of separation of judging tasks (thus allowing one person to both register voters and distribute ballots), their system is slack and much more prone to abuse than ours. The machinery of running elections in Minnesota is far from perfect, but I think it may be among the best out there.

You Can't Have One Without the Other?

An interesting piece by Phillip Weiss analyzes the ying and yang relationship of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David and theorizes that each of them on their own without the other will never equal the success they enjoyed together. I don't know if I completely buy the theory but he makes some excellent observations on their differences in style and temperment.

An Above Average Fisking of Keillor

I just want to echo Saint Paul's comments on the Mitch Berg post in which he takes on Garrison Keillor's second post-election piece at and goes to the core of the hypocrisy of Keillor's attacks on Norm Coleman. Butchers him like a pig he does. I thought I was on this one early but that damndable Saint Paul clearly beat me to the punch.

Behind the Music on Garrison Keillor

Mitch Berg fights fire with fire and ably suffocates Garrison Keillor's continuing series of vicious attacks on Norm Coleman (which, might I add, are all indirectly subsidized by you, Mr. and Ms. Tax Payer). See below for his razor sharp and spot on accurate conclusions, but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

So - Keillor, who mercilessly lampooned Republicans who objected to Clinton's philandering, condems Coleman's personal life;

Keillor, whose treatment of other human beings is - words fail me - execrably horrid, wraps the mantel of Wellstone about himself.

Keillor, whose entire public persona is a three-decade-old artifice, condemns Coleman for being a contrivance.

Keillor, whose entire career and fortune was built on public largesse, condems and distrusts the public.

Keillor, whose personal life would seem to have had its wrong turns and whose professional life would make Gordon Gecko blanche, calls down the Scriptures on the head of Norm Coleman.

Here's a verse I like, speaking of Scripture: Psalms 10:2 - The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. In other words - if he doesn't start reeling in the abuse and hubris, Keillor's afterlife is an eternal Lutheran Church basement lutefisk supper.

Currently Residing in the "Where Are They Now?" Bin

I believe the nadir of a a fading pop group's career might just reached be when you're reduced to playing gigs in Chihuahua, Mexico. That is the depths to which former supergroup Air Supply has now plummeted to since they're performing here on Saturday night. On the brighter side they did sell out the first show and have added a second for this weekend. Not only are they 'All Out of Love' they're also apparently all outta pride and self respect as well.

Bust it Down Poin

A troubling piece by William Safire on the attempts by John Poindexter to secure government access to the most personal of private information. I usually think the "Big Brother" fears are overblown but the possibilities for abuse under this planned system seem intolerable.