Sunday, August 31, 2003

In This Case The Scales of Justice Don't Balance

On Friday noted talk radio host Hugh Hewitt speculated that the Minnesota youth arrested for unleashing a computer worm might, in fact, be one of our fellow Fraters staffers, The Atomizer.

The young man has been identified as eighteen year old Jeffrey Lee Parson who goes six foot four and weighs in at three hundred and twenty bills.

Meanwhile the Atomizer has been on this planet for thirty and six years and checks in at five foot eight and a buck forty.

I think you're barking up the wrong tree here Hugh. Now if you would told me that Saint Paul had a secret identity I might have been able to support you. But The Atomizer's an innocent man. At least this time.

A View from the Top

In the language of Nepali, the word “sagarmatha” means ‘forehead of the sky.’ And no, they’re not referring to Tom Selleck’s head. Although if more Nepalese rode the Magnum ride at Minnesota State Fair, I’m sure that’s exactly the word you’d be hearing.

But since people from Nepal only have the Himalayan mountains as an example of gigantic stony outcroppings, they reserve the term for something else. Today’s picture from NASA shows that perhaps the Nepalese have a point. A panoramic view from atop Mount Everest. Spectacular, awe inspiring, and terrifying, to say the least.

Although no less so than Tom Selleck’s head, as King from SCSU Scholars can personally attest:

I am having nightmares over the size of Selleck's noggin. Seriously guys, it's scaring me. What the hell is it? The Amazing Craniac?

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Get That Man a Silk Suit

Earlier this week President Bush came to St. Paul for a fundraiser, hauling in a local record total of $1.4 million. At the event, the chief organizer (the always gracious former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz) responded as follows (as quoted in the Star Tribune):

"This is a most successful fundraiser," Boschwitz said to loud applause.

The always gracious, if not always graceful, President Bush had this to say:

"Today we are laying the groundwork for what's going to be a great national victory in November 2004," Bush said.

These plainspoken, honest, inspirational words seemed to go over well at the event. The general feeling best summarized by this attendee:

"Nice job -- it was absolutely worth it," said Ted Risdall of North Oaks. "Look at all the Democrats who are running. Not one of them paints a positive future. There's no comparison at all."

Hard to deny that statement (even coming from a guy hailing from tony North Oaks). But it seems all this warmth and positivity lasted only until people reached the exit signs. Where upon everyone was greeted by the sneering and taunting, gloom and doom representatives of the Democratic party, protesting outside. Thankfully, the state GOP chairman was there to articulate the appropriate response:

Ron Eibensteiner, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, walked out a happy man. The crowd had surpassed the 500 that organizers had anticipated. As he was taunted by protesters who were kept across the street on Kellogg Blvd., Eibensteiner leaned over a police barrier at them and yelled, "Get a job!"

I love it. Absolutely beautiful. Of course, now Eibensteiner's getting the predictable abuse from the local columnists, decrying his insensitivity. This also gives the press an opportunity to flex their well used "irony" muscles (and the muscles used to create a self satisfied smile), attempting to contrast this statement with current unemployment statistics, as if this invalidates Eibensteiner's point. In this spirit, the Star Tribune's Kim Ode, attempts a populist critique:

Eibensteiner's crack revealed one more thing than he might have intended. Newspaper reports described the protestors as a mix of people, among them military vets, teenagers and retirees, but also nurses and Teamsters.

And we all know how reliable newspaper reports are. Come to think of it, Kim Ode is supposedly a journalist. How about a little original research here, Kim? Instead of sitting around your office reading the newspaper as the source for your newspaper column, how 'bout you expend a little shoe leather? Get off your arse and do some interviews. (Or as Ron Eibenstenier might say--"do your job!") It shouldn't be that hard, considering this protest occurred all of 10 minutes away by car from the Star Tribune building.

Ode continues:

Maybe Eibensteiner, a venture capitalist, lives in a world where people work from 9 to 5 and doesn't fathom that some people may work nights, or odd shifts, or have jobs that consume their weekends but give them Tuesdays off. Maybe some of them felt deeply enough about the issue to devote their lunch hour to make their views known before going back to their jobs..

"Maybe"? (There's some of that hard-hitting, keen insight again.) Yeah--maybe. Or maybe they were the usual gang of professional protesters, spoiled and impudent college students, lay-abouts, and radicalized public sector employees.

If you're torn between our two maybes (and feeling like a fool), perhaps some photographic evidence can tell a more complete story. Here's a series of pictures from local Lefty agitators Circle Vision. Review these and make up your own mind as to whether my "maybe" or Ode's "maybe" is closer to the truth.

Also note how many of these protesters, amid their rants about intervention in Iraq, capitalism, and John Ashcroft, seem to care anything about the state of the economy. Or how many look like they'll be hustling back to the office after their 'lunch hour' is over. Hint--zero. Unless of course they all work in a head shop. Or maybe a costume shop.

Friday, August 29, 2003

What Ever Happened To Randolph Scott?

He was mowed down by South Dakota Congressman William Janklow. Janklow, the POS, ran a stop sign doing 71 mph and killed Scott, of Hardwick Minnesota.

Oh, what's that you say, it was an accident and it could happen to anyone? Not quite (from this morning's Strib):

But Janklow's impressive political record was sometimes overshadowed by his erratic driving. An unapologetic speeder, Janklow received a dozen speeding tickets in a five-year period in the early 1990s, a time when he held no public office, records show.

This is a deeply arrogant individual, this worthless piece of human debris. This Janklow. He simply decided he didn't have to follow basic traffic rules and that was that. He wanted to speed. So he did.

And now an innocent cyclist is dead long before he should be.


As anyone who has ever operated a cycle knows, it's a short trip from the bike to the pavement and there is often nothing you can do to avoid it. Randolph Scott probably had a similar thought as he was on his way to his maker.

Janklow can rot for all I care.

A Great And Sudden Glory

The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.
--Bernard De Voto

Word has reached us here at Fraters HQ East that one of our own, The Atomizer, has taken to drink and is currently holed up in his West Bloomington home. Distraught at the savaging he suffered with Hugh Hewitt’s Horrific Horse Hockey Heresy, he’s not taking phone calls, responding to emails or answering his door. Knowing him as we do, we’re not really all that concerned, but I thought the following info gleaned from this morning’s Journal might be of interest to him if he decides to turn this bender into a week-long event (as he has been known to do).

Raymond Sokolov (one of the paper’s great snooty food reviewers) decided to review the superpremium gins and vodkas on the market and tell us which were up to his estimable snuff. In the gin category, somewhat surprisingly, the Scottish gin Hendrick’s was judged to be superior over all, despite the fact that it boasts of “a curious but marvelous infusion of cucumber.” (?)

Tanqueray No. Ten, a step up from the standard Tanqueray, was judged to be the smoothest of the gins, something I can personally attest to as I recently polished off a bottle after it spent a scant couple of days in my freezer. A bottle made quite an impression at a recent family reunion as well when I plopped it down next to a bottle of Gordon’s and sniffed “Okay, now who’s ready for a real drink?”

Apparently, Bombay Saffire (the Atomizer’s choice) was tested but did not win, place or even show.

Moving on to the vodkas, again surprisingly (given it is French) Grey Goose was chosen as the best all-around. Sokolov says: “This is smooth and far-removed from the rubbing-alcohol finish of most vodkas.” Olifant, a Dutch vodka, was rated second best and would be a good buy at only 15 bones a liter.

I think that’s why I’ve always been more of a gin guy than a vodka vulture. Gin is so much more adult, so much more masculine than vodka. You don’t often hear of people mixing gin with fruity kids drinks like grape juice, or putting it in fru-fru cocktails so young women can get loaded but not taste the hootch. Vodka screams out to be hidden, it’s taste deluded by as much sugar, corn starch and fruity crap as can be crammed into a glass. Gin just calmly says “Here I am. You think you can handle it?”

To me, this is why the quality of gin is much more paramount than the quality of vodka. If you’re going to just cover up the taste with mixer anyway, why buy the good stuff? I buy good gin because I like very, very dry martinis where the gin is doing all the heavy lifting, not the mix.

Sokolov concurs:
As a rule, the “ordinary” premium brands like Tanqueray were clearly less appealing than their superpremium label mates, but not dramatically better than those in plastic bottles, which suggests that those of us who have habitually spent bottom dollar for white spirits we were going to mix with tonic or orange juice had the right idea.

So there you go Atomizer, a few suggestions if you decide to stay holed up for a while. And it’s probably best just to leave that radio off for a while too.

Are You Sure About That?

From an AP news story on the car bombing that killed 75 at a mosque in Iraq:

Along with last week's deadly bombing at the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, Friday's attack seems certain to undermine stability in Iraq and make it even more difficult for the Americans to maintain security.

Later in the same story we read:

In Sadr City, about 1,000 al-Hakim followers demonstrated in front of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution headquarters. Some sat weeping on the ground; others shouted for revenge.

"We will not forget our Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim!" they chanted. One protester fired a pistol in the air and urged the crowd to search for the Saddam backers and foreign fighters that he claimed were responsible.

Call me crazy but having more Iraqis on our side helping us find those responsible would seem to actually make it EASIER for us to maintain security. Of course I'm not an expert reporter either.

Learning From the Master

Yesterday 5:34pm
I'm at work listening to the Hugh Hewitt show as I'm wont to do after the office empties out a bit. Hugh has thrown out a couple of mentions of our on-going feud trying to spin the story to portray himself as innocent victim rather than the ruthless aggressor that he actually is. He then asks for one of the Fraters yokels to call in and defend our recent actions (taken purely in self defense by the way). I resist the urge to act, thinking that this is not the time nor place for a rebuttal. A coworker walks by my cube and I echo the feelings that Lileks and Brad Jones from The Infinite Monkeys have expressed earlier:

"The man on the radio is talking about me."

"Yeah, sure he is pal."

Hugh gets nasty, suggesting that we are incapable of operating a telephone, that we are all unemployed (75% of us are gainfully employed thank you very much), and that our mother's wouldn't let us come out of the basement and use the phone (none of us live with our parents although I think the Atomizer's mom still makes his lunch everyday). A man can only take so much and I can't standz no more. I reach for the phone.

The Atomizer has called in and is attempting to counter the disinformation campaign that Hugh has undertaken. He hangs in there quite admirably with Hugh and refuses to concede anything. Bravo. Meanwhile I have spoken with the Generalissimo and am on hold awaiting my chance. I work on my talking points and lay out a number of killer arguments that I will drop on Hugh. He won't know what hit him.

Hugh comes back from break and announces that I'm going to be on the air. Duane plays 'Everybody Plays The Fool' as the bumper music. Cute. Hugh introduces me and then immediately throws me a question about the President lowering the pay raise for Federal workers from 2.7% to 2.1% and asks me what my thoughts are on it.

I'm momentarily stunned and thrown completely off balance. This wasn't the way it was supposed to go down. I called in to discuss our intra-alliance squabble not some pay raise for govamint workers. I'm merely a humble blogger not a wonk like Freddy The Beetle Barnes.

But I respond as Hugh knew I would. I try to get make a point before the next question but Hugh cuts me off and continues with a query about General Wesley Clark. He's throwing some major heat and I'm standing in there just trying to foul 'em off to stay alive. I manage to survive the intense questioning and get a chance to throw in a few shots at Hugh before we go to break.

Off the air Generalissimo Duane tells me that I did okay and tries to claim that the bump was just a coincidence. His laughter betrays his guilt.

(Warning: geeky sci fi reference ahead)

Afterward I feel a bit like Luke after his light saber duel with Vader in the Cloud City. Although I might have suffered some damage (say losing an arm) in the battle I refused to join Hugh on the dark side. And I have learned many valuable lessons from my engagement with the wily radio veteran. Assume nothing. Expect the unexpected. Control your emotions. Lessons that I can use the next time I tangle with the Sheriff. And you better believe that there will be a next time.

Blogging Etiquette 101

If you use a post or a link from another blogger always give them proper credit with a link or at the least a mention of their site. Yes, I'm talking to you, Kathyrn Jean Lopez from The Corner on National Review Online.

And no, this is not just a coincidence either. I sent K-Lo an e-mail alerting her to the story before she posted on it. Tsk, tsk.

Here, There, and Everywhere

Fraters readers PB checks in to report that the junk being pushed by the French Connection is already all over the streets of the U.K.

Just recently returned from a trip to England. The fcuk logo is everywhere. It's England's answer to America's Nike swoosh. On a busy street, it's rare to go one whole block without seeing at least one shirt with those 4 letters. French Connection is a ubiquitous store over there, similar to The Gap over here. It makes some sort of sense that a store in England called French Connection would call a certain part of their product line "French Connection UK". Still, every time I see that 4-letter logo, I feel like we are one step closer to somewhere less than where we are now.

Well put PB. I fear that the degradation of our culture's standards shows no signs of abating.

Capitalism Is Bad…M’kay

From today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Mikaela Ziegler, 7, and her 4-year-old sister, Annika, were selling refreshments Wednesday afternoon near the State Fairgrounds when a woman approached them. But she wasn't there to buy.
"She said, 'You can't sell pop unless you have a license,' " Mikaela said.
That's how it came to be that an inspector with St. Paul's Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection shut down Mikaela and Annika's pop stand.

Yes, that’s precisely I want my city officials to be doing. They should spend their time hunting down young entrepreneurs and quashing any notion of capitalism that may be forming in their little developing brains. Teach them at a young age that government bureaucrats will be hounding them every step of their lives making even the simplest of tasks a bloody red tape nightmare. Make sure the kids are aware that ridiculous rules and regulations will be enforced by government automatons who have never even heard the word “discretion”. The sooner these kids are made aware of the way government works, the more prepared they’ll be for such struggles later on in life.

In fact, I don’t think the city of St. Paul went far enough. It appears that there were also glaring violations of the building and zoning codes. The pop stand is clearly a B-2 commercial use, which is not permitted in an R-1 residential area. The stand from which they were operating their little illegal business was built way to close to the public right of way and therefore violated the city’s setback requirements. They completely ignored the sign ordinance, which strictly prohibits Crayola lettering, and I didn’t see a handicap accessible ramp or parking space anywhere near the stand.

It is clear that we should never let little miscreants like this get away with their complete disregard for the law. If they were allowed to continue operating, they may have developed a love for business ownership and gone on to live fruitful lives as profitable (and taxpaying) members of the community. They are better off knowing the truth. I’m sure they'll be able to find government jobs.

A French Connection You Don't Want To Make

It's almost time for the kids to go back to school. Your fifteen-year-old daughter wants some new perfume. She's been a good kid this summer so you figure why not? When your Sunday paper arrives you pick out the Marshall Fields advert to see what they're offering in hip new fragrances.

And what you see is this.

The brand is called French Connection United Kingdom. Get it? Pretty hard to miss the message they're sending. Hits you right over the head doesn't it?

Compared to this the Van Halen album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge now looks like a cleverly sublime example of subtlety.

Say It Ain't So James

Apparently Lileks knows how to play ball and, as I feared, has already been compromised by the dark one:

The time comes when a man has to take a stand, and this battle between fraterslibertas and Hugh Hewitt has forced me off the fence. I think the fraterslibertas lads are in the right, but Hewitt has the juice and can do my career much more good, so I encourage everyone to shun the frats in public and pelt them with expired produce, and perhaps shout GOLDSTEIN! at them in true 1984 hate-rally fashion. Kulaks!

Notice that he does recoginze that our cause is just but chooses to put aside what's right in pursuit of his own commercial self interest. The name Lileks isn't French by any chance is it?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

A New Sheriff in Town?

We've always enjoyed a fairly good relationship with talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. Last winter JB Doubtless and myself met Hugh at the Patriot's Hugh Hewitt on ice affair and even presented him with a Deserve Victory bumper sticker before they were available to the general public. (Sorry they are no longer for sale. Check E-bay under collectables.) Hugh was kind enough to plug our blog after the event and it appeared that a long lasting bond had been formed.

Of course even the best of friends have disagreements from time to time and during the NHL playoffs, we felt it was not appropriate for Hugh, dubbed Hockey Commissioner of Minnesota by Governor Pawlenty, to be cheering for the Ducks. When Hugh would not consider a reasonable proposition to alter his position on the Ducks-Wild playoff series we had no choice but to launch a recall drive to remove Hugh from office. A petition was prepared and hockey fans throughout Minnesota and the rest of country jumped on board to join the effort.

Hugh's response to our grass roots effort was severe and revealed a dark side to his outwardly magnanimous personality. Employing tactics that would have made Dzerzhinsk proud, Hugh sought to crush our burgeoning insurgency with threats and intimidation. Fortunately the Wild were dispatched by the Ducks before matters could really come to a head and a final showdown which could have proved disastrous for both parties was avoided.

Afterwards we managed to mend our fences with Hugh and once again enjoyed a friendly relationship. We even managed to help Hugh get into positions that he otherwise would not be physically capable of.

Just last Sunday three of us gents from Fraters spent a very enjoyable afternoon on the Patriot river cruise. We engaged in some interesting conversations with Hugh and Generalissimo Duane, among many others, and it seemed as if our connection with Mr. Hewitt was stronger than ever.

That's why Hugh's actions on Tuesday were so stunning and unforeseeable. It was Hugh's last day broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair and The Atomizer was on hand to support Hugh and represent for the Fraters Libertas crew. It is important to recall that The Atomizer has only been on board here for about five months. He's still a little wet behind the ears and hasn't had too much experience with the rough and tumble world of blogging yet. He also had not felt the sting of Hugh's lash previously and had no reason to expect anything but a warm welcome from him.

But that wasn't what Hugh had in mind at all. When he saw the somewhat naive, innocent waif in his audience he licked his lips in anticipation. After inviting The Atomizer on the air under the pretext of talking about blogging, he savagely ambushed the poor, unprepared youth, with the help of his hired gun, a cutthroat local shyster who hurled legal invectives at The Atomizer until he was nearly reduced to tears. It was a classic example of attack journalism run amok.

Hugh attempted to justify his barbarous behavior by claiming that his appointment by Governor Pawlenty earlier in the day to the posts of Sheriff of Latin and Master of the High Horse gave him jurisdiction over our activities here at Fraters Libertas. It's quite obvious that this was not a spontaneous event, rather Hugh had been conniving for some time to find an opportunity to launch his bald faced power grab.

Now that Hugh has the reigns of additional control he is already showing signs of the egregious abuses that have marked his previous regimes. From his own web site:

Those who listened to yesterday's interview with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty know that the Governor, who last year named me Commissioner of Hockey in MN, has now bestowed on me the titles and duties of Minnesota Sheriff of Latin and Master of the Horse. The responsibilities of the Sheriff are vast and concern the policing of all Latin usage in the Gopher State, and jurisdiction certainly extends over the website FratersLibertas.

I see no immediate need for changes at FL, but my jurisdiction is now complete, and continued complaints such as those voiced today by Atomizer may require sterner measures.

I shudder to imagine exactly what Hugh has in mind when he says "sterner measures". Apparently the sheriff Hugh aims to imitate is the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham.

Needless to say we are not going to sit back and allow Hugh to run roughshod over our sovereignty and the freedoms that we hold so dear. We understand that the fight will be a long and lonely one. We don't expect much help from our Northern Alliance brethren as this is not their fight. Besides Lileks has already been compromised and has much to fear if he winds up on the wrong side of the wrath of Hugh. He knows where Lileks lives and has likely saturated Jasperwood with listening devices and made imprints of the locks. You were wondering why Hugh was gone so long when he "went to the bathroom" weren't you James?

Yes this is our fight and our fight alone. But we are not afraid and we shall prevail. We appreciate the enormous advantage that Hugh, with his vast resources, enjoys over our group of humble bloggers but we shall not yield to his tyranny. He is Goliath. We are David. He is the British Redcoats. We are the American "yokels". He is the 1980 USSR hockey squad. We are Team USA. Do you believe in miracles?

After an emergency meeting last night of the Fraters general staff a detailed plan for a comprehensive response to Hugh's unprovoked aggression has been established.

Minnesota Theater of Operations:

On the legal front the Atomizer has drafted both his father and brother into service. They are preparing the framework to file counter suits against Hugh in Minnesota, for a variety of grievances which we have suffered, including breach of contract.

On the political front Minnesota State Senator Michele Bachmann is authoring a bill to be submitted at the next legislative session to rescind the honorary titles granted to Hugh by Governor Pawlenty and prohibit Hugh from ever receiving such titles again.

California Theater of Operations:

On the legal front we have enlisted James Phillips, a lawyer in Folsom, California to pursue possible legal actions against Hugh in his state of residence. James informs me that most of the judges he has spoken to would react positively to any attempt to move legally against Hugh and a few have even guaranteed that harsh and punitive penalties will be assessed on him.

In order to get "boots on the ground" we have activated Commander Rick, leader of a sleeper cell of the Fraters Fedayeen. Rick is operating out of an undisclosed, secure location in Southern California and will coordinate operations against Hugh in that area. The mission of the Fraters Fedayeen is to harass Hugh's lines of communication and supply. They will focus on interdicting supplies of material critical to Hugh including Diet Coke, Vitaganza, plain M&Ms, pretzels, and any future shipments of the Time Life Folk Collection music series. Special efforts will be made to deny Hugh the items he needs at the studio to carry out his shows which includes but is not limited to nacho cheese Doritos, crunchy Cheetos, and roll after roll of Sweet Tarts. The Fraters Fedayeen are a rather unsavory bunch and part of their mission is to strike fear into the hearts of their enemy. I would not be surprised if their actions would even cause Hugh's hair to gray prematurely. Wait, it's too late for that isn't it?

But there is still a chance that the outbreak of hostilities can be avoided. While we have carefully crafted our plans for countermeasures against Hugh, none of them have been launched yet. The keys have not been turned. The buttons have not been pushed. We can still come back from the brink.

We are reasonable gentlemen, and while our honor has been offended we still believe that a solution can be found that rectifies the situation. In a spirit of good will and understanding we offer the following settlement terms for Hugh's immediate consideration:

1. First and foremost Hugh must issue a public apology to The Atomizer for his atrocious conduct towards him at the State Fair. It also probably wouldn't hurt if Hugh bought him a Bombay Sapphire and tonic next time he is in town.

2. At any and all future public events that include Hugh in Minnesota, we will be guaranteed an on air appearance.

3. At any and all future public events that include Hugh in Minnesota, we shall be provided transportation to and from said event in a Jaguar.

4. We shall receive a 15% taste from any and all future advertisements on Hugh's show that include the term Northern Alliance.

5. The Time Life Folk Collection currently owned by Hugh shall be destroyed. Witnesses shall be present at the destruction and a documented record (preferably video) of it shall be made available to us. Hugh shall promise never to play bumper music that could be described as "folk" or any music from any Time Life collection in the future. A vigorous inspections program shall be established to insure and verify compliance.

We believe that these terms are fair and equitable. The dogs of war of straining at their leashes but have yet to be released. Let us all hope that Hugh makes a wise decision and we can avoid any further discord between our two parties and resume our previously productive and mutually beneficial relationship.

Northern Alliance Focus on North Korea

Heeding the call of our commissioner (at least for now-more on that later) Hugh Hewitt and joining follow on efforts by Brad Jones from the Infinite Monkeys and the SCSUScholars we would like to call attention to this article by Claudia Rosett that appeared at titled
So, Where Is Mrs. Cho? . Rosett's piece seeks to awaken the world to the tragic plight of North Korean refugees, one of the most under-reported stories in recent memory. Read it and pass it on.

UPDATE: Mitch Berg now has a deeper look into this story up at Shot in the Dark.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Now That's A Sausage Party

Pronto Pup salute at Minnesota State Fair.
T Web We Hardly Knew Ya

This is not good news for Gopher hockey fans:

With the start of hockey practice only five weeks away, the Gophers were blindsided Tuesday by the sudden departure of top goaltender Travis Weber.

Weber, a junior, has withdrawn from school and returned to his hometown of Hibbing for personal reasons. According to a family member, he has no plans to attend school or play anywhere else, and his decision is unrelated to hockey matters.

Last year when Weber and Justin Johnson were splitting time in the nets, with Weber get more starts, I wasn't a huge fan of his and wasn't sure if he had what it took to win the big game. But in the NCAA tournament he proved me wrong (the second consectutive year a Gopher goalie managed to do that):

Last winter, Weber emerged as the Gophers' leading goalie and commanded national attention as the team won its second consecutive NCAA championship. He made the all-NCAA tournament team by stopping 57 of 60 shots in the Gophers' semifinal and title-game victories over Michigan and New Hampshire. His career record is 24-8-7 with a 2.64 goals-against average -- second-best in Gophers history -- and an .896 save percentage.

Now the Gophers will be forced to go with Justin Johnson and freshman Kellen Briggs between the pipes in their bid to three peat as national champions. News of Weber's departure coupled with defenseman Paul Martin's decision to pass on his senior season to sign an NHL deal doesn't seem to bode well for the team's chance. But hey, I've been wrong before.
Victory Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled last night at Keegan's Irish Pub there was only one team standing on top of the trivia heap. And that team was Fraters Libertas or the Xtreme Right Brothers, which was our chosen moniker for the evening. We brushed aside our competition like an attractive woman brushes aside JB's clumsy advances. The defending champions, Team K, were nowhere to be seen and our theory is that they heard the footsteps. After last week's narrow victory they saw the writing on the wall. They read of the rumors of their pending demise and those rumors were not greatly exaggerated. They were the wave (now broken) of the past. We are the wave of the future. Rather than face a humiliating defeat, they buggered off like faint hearted Baathists before the approach of the 82nd Airborne.

Or they might have just been spending the evening at the State Fair.

Either way the fact is that now we are the champions. It might have been a bit over the top last night for Saint Paul to parade around the bar singing the Queen song at the top of his lungs but damnit he earned it and who are you to take it away from him?

Our message to Team K and any others foolhardy enough to challenge our trivia supremacy is simple:

Bring 'em on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Hugh, Atomizer...Let's Go

Earlier this evening, I made my yearly excursion to the Minnesota State Fair. I didn't attend with the other gents last Friday to see James Lileks' national radio debut for the same reason that one member of the President's Cabinet is always absent from the State of the Union Address (Saint Paul took one for the team for the AM 1280-The Patriot boat cruise on Sunday).

My day was planned around one goal. I wanted to score a ride in Hugh Hewitt's Jaguar (graciously provided by Minneapolis Downtown Jaguar), which he promised to us in a promo he did for the local radio station that carries his program. I dragged the lovely Atomizerette and my wonderful parents with me to The Patriot's fairgrounds studio about 20 minutes prior to the show and, seeing Hugh hard at work behind the glass, approached the window with trepidation.

Hugh and I exchanged pleasantries, discussed the absence of my cohorts and then I broached the subject of the Jaguar. He had given the darn thing to Dennis Prager who was in town for a Wednesday live show at the fair. I was crushed, but Hugh did say that if I stuck around for a bit he would put me on the air at the end of the hour to discuss the blog. Having an incredibly large ego (like the rest of the Fraters boys), I decided to park myself in front of the booth and wait for the call from Hugh to come forward. At about 5:50 CDT, that call came and I was guided into the booth to share more pleasantries with Hugh. Or so I thought.

It all began innocently enough. The host and I were chatting during the commercial break while another gentleman, who Hugh introduced to me as his attorney Dwight Rabuse, stood quietly beside me. As we were about to come out of the break, Hugh informed me that Dwight and I would be sharing a microphone. I didn't think too much of it and was, in fact, very thankful that I would not be the only one on the spot since I had never appeared on a nationally syndicated radio program before and was a tad nervous.

The segment began with Hugh introducing his two guests but it degraded rapidly as I was mercilessly badgered by both Hugh and his attorney into ceding all control of the Fraters Libertas website to Mr. Hewitt. It seems that the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, in addition to appointing Hugh as the Commissioner of Hockey this past spring, has recently made him Master of the Horse and Sheriff of Latin. He and his attorney contend that as Sheriff of Latin, he has the legal right to our little blog. He even made a veiled threat on-air to take the very shirt off my back if I, or the other three Fraters, crossed him (considering the shirt that he was wearing, I can see why he would want mine).

What Hugh didn't know is that my father is a retired attorney. He was watching the carnage from just outside of the booth and was taking copious notes. He has since been busy assembling a crack team of attorneys, including my brother and his wife, in an attempt to wrest control of our blog back from the power mad Hugh Hewitt. The wheels are in motion for a mighty battle.

Don't mess with the Atomizers, Hugh. We love litigation. In fact, we eat litigation for breakfast. And don't think I've forgotten about that Jaguar ride.

Skinny Kid or Stick-borne Batter-fried Meal?

Fraters reader PB weighs in with some heavy thoughts on the State Fair:

The total lack of both car racing and country music acts at the Minnesota State Fair (MSF) led to a Minnesota resident (presumably rural) being quoted in the local papers as saying something to the effect that the Minnesota State Fair has now officially abandoned its rural roots and is actually the Minnesota Twin Cities Fair. Of course, the absence of machinery on Machinery Hill has been shouting that message for several years.

Not to imply that rural folks eat healthier than urbanites, but I think the food habits at The MSF may also reflect the change. Each year, when the local media begin mentioning The MSF in mid-July or so, the main topic of discussion is food, especially what food product will be skewered and deep-fried for the first time ever. Not only do they *mention* mass-consumption of deep-fried junk food, they *CELEBRATE* it. There has not been a single newscast or newspaper edition in the last 2 weeks that didn't make a glowing reference to deep-fried fair food. It is apparently the number 1 reason for going to the The MSF.

With that emphasis from promoters, it stands to reason that the customer base would be mostly bottom heavy. In fact, noticeably so. The last few times I have been to the fair it was more and more visibly obvious, to the point that I have now stopped going entirely. As someone with only 30% bodyfat, I was seen as either the weird skinny kid or a possible stick-borne batter-fried meal.

I skipped the fair this year, and probably will do so for some time to come, until the emphasis turns to something other than food.
Open Up Your Mouth And Feed It

Waltzing around the fair this past weekend it was hard not to notice the incredible amount of obesity in our fellow Minnesotans (and that was just at the Fraters booth).

While many are fighting their waist lines, others have embraced the pathology and are attempting to do for obesity what Andrew Sullivan is trying to do for buggery.

I’ll try to stifle my desire to make a joke out of their cause, but it is dangerous to tell people that being fat is some kind of social construct that isn’t inherently unhealthy or life-threatening.

Let’s see what’s out there on this topic...

Here’s a blog dedicated to fighting the perception that fat people are unhealthy. And it proudly tells us that “Big Fat Blog does not promote weight loss”. Okay.

Here’s the NAACP of the fat acceptance movement, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. It’s basically run like any special interest advocacy group: raise money, boycott companies that offend them, raise “awareness”.

“A chicken in every pot, a moutain of stuffing, pounds of mashed potatoes, gallons of gravy, pecan pies the size of truck tires and diet Coke for all” is their motto.

Here’s a list of doctors that are “Fat friendly”. Apparently these docs won’t get after you about your weight and will ignore it as a health issue. One person wrote this description of a doctor’s office in Grand Rapids Michigan:

There are large armless chairs in the waiting room, very large gowns and sturdy, bolted-down exam tables. They have a new electronic scale that weighs to 400lbs, but the nurses generally don't question if you ask not to be weighed.

After witnessing St. Paul’s corn dog consumption on Friday and seeing this picture of myself and the Elder, it may not be long before these sites come in real handy.

Fraters Frolic At Fair

Last Friday I went down to the Minnesota State Fair with a couple of the other Fraters brethren. And yes, I still hate it.

Okay maybe hate is too strong a word. I still have a strong dislike for the event.

Reason #156 to not like the Fair? All the free giveaways (usually crap) at the Fair tend to exacerbate the cheapness that is inherent in Minnesotans. Most Fair goers would run over their own grandmother to get a 2oz free sample of Pace Picante Sauce. Easily the best line in the movie Fargo was when Marge was talking about a restaurant to meet at in Minneapolis and asked, "Is it reasonable?" That's Minnesota.

Of course we were on hand to witness the national radio debut of James Lileks who was filling in for Hugh Hewitt. Helped by the steadying hand of Generalissimo Duane, Lileks was able to pull it off quite successfully. Here's a shot of the dynamic duo in action.

While JB Doubtless was happy to see Lileks he was quite disappointed to discover that his favorite radio personality was not live at the Fair. Oh well. He'll have to live vicariously through his hand fan with her photo.

To get an idea of what the Fair is all about (absent the various odors of course-the scratch and sniff web page is still some years off) we've put together a small collection of some of our favorite sights of the 2003 Minnesota State Fair.

And in case you missed it here's a couple of pics from Sunday's river cruise with Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and Mike Gallagher.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Unbridled Expansion of 'Gaming' at an Indian Casino

Friend of Fraters Gary Larson checks in from the North woods with an editorial in today's Star Tribune on the attempt by Mystic Lake Casino to add poker based card games to their gambling mix:

When local tribes gave up "other types of [Class III] gaming" in the original compact to run exclusively their slots and blackjack, they obviously took a pass on poker-style card games. Now the deal's off?

Yet the same tribes screamed "expansion of gambling" when Canterbury sought slots in '97 (for a Twins stadium) and in '03 (for a racino). Nary a word now about expansion. All's quiet when tribes add poker-style games to their mix.

Read the whole thing to find out what it's like to compete against a monopoly (that pays no taxes) with deep pockets that's not afraid to spend money to influence politics.

Just When You Thought You Knew Someone...

There was a most disturbing post yesterday by the Infinite Monkeys on some of our site graphics:

There's a fair ticket stub lower in the FL left hand column, and for some reason, at the top left, there's a haunting image of Burt Reynolds done in the the style of those religious altar candles in the Mexican food section of the grocery store.

Burt Reynolds? Does that look like Burt bleepin' Reynolds to you?

Followed by this attempt at a correction by another Monkey:

Is that Burt Reynolds? Looks more like Magnum-era Tom Selleck to me. I didn't watch the show, but didn't he tromp around Hawaii wearing a Dodgers cap?

Appalling. Shameful. How you no sense of pop culture history sirs?

Where to begin? (Note: The following was written based solely upon my memories of the show. I did not Google up any Magnum sites until after it was completed.)

Thomas Magnum did not wear a Dodgers cap for Chrissakes. He wore a Tigers cap. He was a huge Tigers fan.

Magnum ended up in Hawaii after serving as a SEAL in Vietnam. It should be noted that Magnum P.I. was one of the first television shows that depicted Vietnam vets as ordinary guys and not psychopaths liable to snap at any moment. Although I do believe that one of Magnum's friends did suffer a bit of post traumatic stress disorder from time to time.

Is any of this ringing a bell?

How about TC and Rick, Magnum's buds from 'Nam? TC was a helicopter pilot and vertically challenged Rick, when not trying to bed hot women, was the owner of the King Kamehameha Club. What about Higgins or Higgy baby as TC liked to call him? His memoirs? His gardening? The toothpick model of the Bridge on the River Kwai? The dogs (Zeus and Apollo)?

Surely you heard about Robin Masters? The guest house? The Ferrari? The .45 magnum? Icepick in the sauna? Surf skiing?

I realize that it might sound a little trite and even silly today but when I was growing up, Magnum PI was the coolest show on the airwaves (pre-Vice of course) and included what was probably one of the greatest endings to a television episode ever. A Soviet Colonel named Ivan who interrogated Magnum, TC, and Rick in Vietnam returns and, in an attempt to kill Magnum, blows up Mac, another friend of Magnum's. At the end of the two part episode, Magnum lures Ivan into a remote location and has him completely defenseless. Ivan makes some remark about having diplomatic immunity and being the good guy that he is you know that Magnum's going to have to let him go. He asks Ivan, "Did you see the sunrise this morning?" Ivan's reply is an affirmative with the additional, "and it was particularly beautiful..." interrupted by a blast from Magnum's gun. End of episode. He shot him down in cold blood. For a thirteen year old boy it just didn't get much better than that.

Proving Once Again That They'll Print A Letter From Almost Any Wacko

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Sunday's letters from readers:

In the aftermath of the attack on the U.N. headquarters in Iraq many want to assign blame to President Bush. A letter writer in today's paper laid it out quite simply. If the United States had not invaded Iraq, the U.N. headquarters would not have been attacked.

While the statement is probably correct, to not expand beyond it is intellectually dishonest. What would have happened if the United States had not invaded Iraq?

* Iraqis would still be being tortured and murdered in prisons.

* Saddam Hussein's son Uday would still be raping and brutalizing women.

* The families of Palestinian suicide bombers would continue to receive payments from Saddam for their ghastly acts of terror .

* Terrorists would continue to find refuge in Iraq and receive material support from the regime.

* Saddam's regime would still be pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The attack on the U.N. headquarters in Iraq was unfortunate. But it was nothing compared to the suffering of the Iraqi people and the potential threats posed by Saddam's regime that would be continuing to this day if the United States had not invaded Iraq. That's the simple truth of the matter. The whole truth.

Chad Doughty, St. Louis Park.

Wait a minute. That was a coherent well presented argument. Now how did that find its way into the Strib?

Fight For Your Wright

Many is the time that I narrowly averted a serious traffic mishap as I craned my neck to get a good view of the Lindholm Service Station when passing through Cloquet, MN. It is the only working gas station in the world designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it is for sale.

If memory serves me, I believe that the building is in serious need of some restoration, which is not uncommon with Wright’s buildings. He had a tendency to eschew practical concerns like making sure the roof didn’t leak and he habitually skimped on such unnecessary items as steel reinforcing in the concrete and structural columns. I would imagine that the Lindholm station is no exception. In fact, on my last trip through Cloquet I recall noticing that the cantilevered canopy is sagging quite noticeably. Considering that, it seems to me that the $725,000 asking price is a tad steep.

That being said, I truly hope that someone does buy the place and renovates it. It would be a shame to lose another piece of architectural history to the wrecking ball. The mere fact that the structure bears his name should be sufficient reason to lobby for its preservation. But, more importantly, the building has the distinction of being the only one of Wright's designs for Broadacre City that was actually built.

So, if there any of you out there have a little extra cash on hand and have always dreamed of owning a gas station near the beautiful Iron Range in northern Minnesota, head up to Cloquet and get busy saving a Wright.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Rolling Down The River

On the AM 1280 The Patriot boat cruise with Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and Mike Gallagher. Here's a shot of downtown Minneapolis:

Hugh with the delightfully feisty Tordas ("Jay Larson get to work!"):

And finally Hugh with the Atomizer, JB Doubtless, and the Elder:

It was a beautiful day for a cruise on the mighty Mississippi and the bar had plenty of Bombay Sapphire on hand. We had a great time conversing with many people including the lovely and engaging MN State Senator Michele Bachmann, Daniel Mathais (running for Congress in the 5th District), the affable Generalissimo Duane, James Lileks and a couple of his chums (I believe it was the Giant Uzbek and the Crazy Finn), and of course the three national radio hosts.

Our only disappointment was that we did not get a ride in a J-goo-R as Hugh had promised in a radio ad. Apparently the Patriot's Jay Larson was unable to come through with the luxury car. Instead Hugh and Duane were chauffeured about town in this slick ride.

But on a happier note (at least for us) Hugh did agree to cut us in for a 10% taste on all future ads where he uses the term Northern Alliance. Let the royalty checks start rolling in.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Could Anyone Really Vote For This Rug For President?

Mike Meyers as Austin Powers trying to look like Paul McCartney circa 1964.

This photo graces the front of a Dennis Kucinich playing card that was being passed out at the State Fair. Was this really the best shot they could come up with?
The Clinton Years for Dummies

The Fall 2002 edition of Public Opinion Quarterly included an article called News Framing and Cueing of Issue Regimes: Explaining Clinton’s Public Approval in Spite of Scandal. It’s a fascinating study which showed through rigorous ideomatic modeling that sustained support among the US public for Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, quote "can be explained as a complex counter-response to the framing of the scandal in terms of the strategic motives of conservatives elites." (See the abstract for more details. Full text article not available without a subscription.)

In laymen’s terms, their primary finding was that because the mainstream news media had a propensity for framing their reporting of the scandal in terms of ‘Republican attacks on the president,’ and the indignant liberal responses to this rather than focusing on the President’s behavior in committing adultery in the White House with a much younger subordinate, then committing a felony by perjuring himself during court proceedings, public support of the president (as measured in public opinion polls) was greatly increased.

Fascinating stuff with far reaching implications for the continuing debate about media bias. I encourage interested parties to dig out the article and read more about it. But perhaps the most useful aspect of this study was unwitting the creation of a Cliff’s Notes version of the Bill Clinton presidency.

First some background. The study’s analysis centered on the coding of news stores about Bill Clinton, appearing in 32 mainstream media sources (ranging from the USA Today, New York Times and the Washington Post to CNN, the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and NPR down to the Billings (MT) Journal and our very own Minneapolis Star Tribune), during the time period of January 1993 to February 1999.

Via the NEXIS electronic database, a random sample of stories was selected. 1,373 of them specifically related to various Clinton sex scandals. (Point of clarification, some of these articles did deal with the same scandals, meaning there weren’t 1,373 separate scandals. At least that we know of.)

From there, each article was coded as being framed as focusing on 1) Clinton’s behavior, 2) focusing on partisan conservative attacks on the President, or 3) focusing on liberal reaction to these so-called conservative attacks.

The coding of stories was accomplished using the computer-aided InfoTrend coding system. The software was programmed to identify paragraphs that contained the word “Clinton” as well as certain keywords, associated with each frame. And here’s where the breakthrough takes place for condensing the complex, exhausting, and often times explicit history of the Bill Clinton presidency.

Of course, all of us who endured through this era know the details cold and have formed immutable opinions on what the truth really is. But future generations will not have this personal memory to draw upon. And it’s likely decades from now our grandchildren will come to us and ask “what was it like when Bill Clinton was president?”

Now instead of blushing and changing the subject to more dignified topics (like the collected film works of Pauly Shore), all you need to do is break out selections from the keyword code book from this research study and you can gracefully move on with your lives:

(Clinton behavior frame) intern, cigar, cover up, Currie, perjury, Vernon Jordan

(conservative attack frame) condemn, denounce, immoral, inappropriate, remove, unfit, conservative activists, House Managers, special prosecutor

(liberal response frame) liberals accuse, unconstitutional, partisan, misuse of power, sanctimonious Republicans, coup d’etat, right wing conspiracy

Friday, August 22, 2003

We Haven't Had That Spirit Here Since 1969

I like the out of doors. Campin’, hikin’, bikin’, blastin’ beasts with large bore weapons--all stuff I enjoy immensely. But it seems every time I go out in the woods I run into some whiny little puke who sounds like Beavis and Butthead’s teacher telling me that I am, in some arcane fashion, abusing Our Mother The Earth.

A while back I was hiking with a couple of friends in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. After trekking up a decent-sized mountain we came to a large, flat, rocky area where several other hikers were hanging out, enjoying the view and having a snack.

I broke out an apple, polished it off and zinged it down the side of the mountain. “Hey!” an unemployed social worker exclaimed. “There are bears down there!” I just kind of laughed it off when another joined in. “We practice leave no trace here!” said another, angry and indignant.

“It was a fuggin’ apple core” I say, starting to get annoyed. They then began berating me for putting them in harm’s way (the bears were going to get them later, they said) and for polluting the pristine environment. After nearly coming to blows, I finally told them that I did not practice “Leave No Trace” and we headed back down the mountain.

I was reminded of this story yesterday when I saw the middle column of yesterday’s Journal. It seems the Boy Scouts are no longer encouraging the scouts to build campfires, citing "Leave No Trace".

In hikes into the Sierra Nevada back country, scouts often are told not to light fires. Doug Aubushon, facilities manager of the camp, helped guide one trip when boys camped in the dark and took apart rings of stones and that had been created for campfires, going so far as to wash the rocks. “I hate campfires anymore,” Mr. Aubushon says.

They washed the rocks.

Never to be outdone, or behind the trend curve, the Federal gubment has gotten into the act:

The US Forest Service two years ago declared campfires off limits in large parts of four California wilderness areas in the Sierra Nevada. Rangers said too many fallen tree limbs were being used as firewood.

FALLEN tree limbs! People weren’t chopping down trees to make fires, they were using the dead stuff. You might think that would be okay.

They said the limbs are needed to help enrich the soil as they decay.

So that is how our boys are learning to be men, being brought up with this nutty environmental nonsense, being scared of everything?

Scoutmaster James Camp, a 42-year-old owner of a construction company says he permits only one fire on every seven-day trip. “You’re looking at a hazard, boys and fire,” he said. “The problem is if any kid gets hurt, the parents could go after the Boy Scouts, and maybe even us adult leaders.”

Now that's leadership.

Watch out you terrorists of the future. We're raising some serious ass-kickin' boys here!

They Say These Jobs Are Going Boys & They Ain't Coming Back

Wake up white collar people! Overseas "outsourcing" is becoming increasingly common:

During the quarter, ADC eliminated 300 additional jobs, dropping its total to 5,800 employees. The company has cut about 17,000 jobs in the past three years. ADC also broadly hinted that it is poised to shed more jobs by transferring work to a subsidiary, ADC India.

A former employee of ADC's finance department said Wednesday the firm is preparing to lay off the 14 remaining members of that department in December and shift those jobs to ADC India, a move that may signal a trend.

Switz said ADC has considered outsourcing to India some of its "back office operations," such as accounting, some information technology functions and other jobs that fall in the category of operating expenses. He said a $45,000 employee in Eden Prairie could be replaced with a counterpart in India who would earn $2,000 to $5,000 a year.

Switz declined to comment on the former employee's allegations that ADC soon will begin outsourcing to its Indian subsidiary its accounts payable, credit collection, cash application (crediting payments to proper customer accounts), fixed asset accounting and travel and entertainment reimbursement operations.

But, Switz said, "It's fair to say that all those categories qualify as back office operations."

Camelot! It's Only A Model

The local saga of the money pit called the Hiawatha light rail line continues:

Everyone knows a new car loses value the minute it's driven off the dealer's lot, but that's nothing compared with what the Metropolitan Council faced.

The council spent $605,737 last year for a model of one of its Hiawatha light-rail cars. Ten months later, it sold it back to the Canadian manufacturer, Bombardier, for $60,000.

"I've heard of depreciation, but this is absurd," Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview, said Thursday. "This is an embarrassment that the Met Council would accept such a ridiculously low offer."

Defending His Life

Last month the United States Secret Service and its agents came under fire from, among others, Michelle Malkin, who referred to them as buffoons for their handling of cartoonist Michael Ramirez. This cartoon by Ramirez was interpreted by the Secret Service as a threat against the President and agents were dispatched to interview Ramirez on the matter.

Common sense would seem to indicate that Ramirez, actually a rather conservative voice in the world of political cartoonists, posed no danger to the President and the Secret Service was wasting precious resources investigating him.

One of my oldest and dearest friends happens to be an agent of the Secret Service and he currently serves on the personal protection detail for President Bush. In the past he has protected Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Dick Cheney, and the Bush girls among many others. Recently he was in Minneapolis for a rare vacation and I had a chance to catch up with him on a variety of subjects including his very interesting job. And although the Secret Service is hardly above criticism I think that the agency, and especially its agents, has recently taken far more abuse than they rightly deserve.

First the Ramirez case. To the average person it appears ridiculous to have SS agents investigating a well-known political cartoonist. But it follows what has been the standard operating procedure for the agency. They make no assumptions and allow no exceptions. The policy on threats against the POTUS is actually quit simple. Take them all seriously and check them all out.

My friend has conducted numerous interviews over the years with people guilty of nothing more than having a few two many beers on a Friday night in a tavern and uttering a drunken threat against the President. Or sending an e-mail to the White House that included threatening language. If they receive a report of a threat they investigate it. Always. It doesn't matter who you are or how well known you are as a local politician in a Western state found out a few years ago.

They take the maxim CYA to the extreme. In the aftermath of an assassination attempt the last thing the Secret Service wants to hear is, "You should have checked this guy out before" or "Why didn't you follow up on the information you received on this guy?". It may seem over the top at times but that's the way they operate.

They also do not make assumptions. They treat everyone as a potential threat. This includes military personnel (the grenade attack in the 101st in Kuwait is a good example of what could happen), police officers, workers from other government agencies, and even their fellow Secret Service agents. We watch each other is the way my friend described it.

Another important thing to remember is that the Secret Service has now been rolled up into that black hole of bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security. My friend charitably describes the DOHS as "a frickin' joke". You don’t even want to know what he thinks about Tom Ridge. In the past the Secret Service reported through the Department of Treasury and was accorded a measure of respect and independence. Now it's merely another cog in the immense DOHS gear. They're very low on the priority list for the DOHS in both budgetary and political matters.

And even worse as far as the agents are concerned is the way they are treated by the very people they may someday give their lives to protect. They have to deal with snotty political staffers more concerned with appearances than security. Again as my friend describes it, Secret Service agents are at the bottom of the totem pole at the White House just below the janitors. Most of the agents who work at the White House are not allowed to park on the White House grounds. Instead they are expected to find a legal parking spot in the vicinity and walk to work. Which is not a pleasant experience when it's a sweltering day in DC and you've got to hoof it for six blocks in a dark suit carrying a duffel bag with all your gear (no lockers for the agents in the White House either). And if they happen to park in the wrong spot the park police will nail them with a parking ticket despite the fact that their vehicles are clearly identified as belonging to a government agent. My friend has piled up over $200 in tickets himself over the last six months in DC and knows of other agents who have more than $1000 in fines. The tickets are an out of pocket expense for the agents who aren't exactly hauling down big money to begin with.

The Secret Service, like any government agency, is far from perfect and obviously improvements can and should be made. But its agents are, for the most part, dedicated, hardworking folks with a thankless job. If they do everything right no one notices. If they make a mistake everyone knows about it. They are under staffed, under funded, and under appreciated. Instead of giving 'em grief, for once let's give 'em a break. They deserve nothing less.

The Atomizer's Mom Has Got It Going On

The Atomizer's mother sent us a note saying that her boy has a tummy ache and won't be reporting to the office today to finish up his latest update on the future status of First Avenue. Speculation now is that it may become the world's largest Bennigan's.

She also sent along this missive, laying down some of the immutable laws of trivia at Keegan's Irish pub (owned and operated by Terry Keegan) for our benefit:

The appellation of the Atomizer Clan has been besmirched in the blogosphere, and as matriarch, I must respond. Not in defense of our good pseudonym, for it needs none, but rather to explain to you some of the finer points of Tuesday Trivia at Keegan’s.

Rule Number One: There Is No Whining in Trivia (TINWIT).

As Terry is wont to repeat, he is the judge of all questions, the arbiter of all disputes, and probably the Lord High Executioner as well. (We have seen him in action in the first two capacities but are reluctant to test him on the third.)

Anyway, when Team K complained that we were cheated out of a run-of-the-board win simply because we neglected to add Jr. to the correct answer of Cal Ripken, Terry unfeelingly responded TINWIT. We are still smarting.

Rule Number Two: As Tuesday Trivia Titan, Terry retains the prerogative to ask the same question more than once and also to change the answer.

To wit: One week the question was “What was the first English settlement in America?” Team K astutely answered Jamestown, but alas the answer was announced as Roanoke. In a subsequent contest, the same question was asked. Being fast learners, Team K answered Roanoke, but the official response that week was Jamestown.

Did we complain? No, because TINWIT.

Rule Number Three: Although there can be only four players on a team, this does not preclude the presence of onlookers, admirers and other gaping groupies (some people just like to observe greatness). So when you see more than the officially allowed number around a table (including the after-quiz visits with the publicans), do not assume malfeasance.

As for our purported generational advantage, with the exception of one week when Grandma Atomizer was visiting, Team K does not play with “various generations,” but rather with exactly two. The grandkids don’t participate because (a) 8 o’clock is their bedtime, (b) they think Guinness is yucky, and (c) they know very little about fey English poetry (although they probably could have fielded the Barbie question – maybe you need a toddler on your team!).

Furthermore, since you are relative newcomers to the games, you may not be aware that Team K usually competes and wins with just three players and sometimes with only two. In these instances we have made the case to the innkeeper that we deserve four free drinks, and maybe two extra for playing with a handicap. But you guessed his answer: TINWIT!

You also may not know that although currently we are on a roll, there have been dry spells (literally) when the mighty Morgans, the sassy Stoltzes, the conquering Curb Feelers and a few other upstarts have emerged victorious. In these instances we have graciously congratulated the winners and asked them humbly, “How the hell did you know that Norman Hartnell designed Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress???”

Perhaps your team would do better at the new Trivia Lite to be inaugurated soon. Team K readily admits that we would do very badly at questions pegged to pop culture of the 80’s and 90’s. That, in fact, was proven the week the Keegans were in Ireland and young Master Marty usurped the role of quizmaster. I think we scored a big 10 that night. But rather than consider it a defeat, we wear the loss as a badge of honor. After all, who can really take pride in knowing the first names of Starsky and Hutch or that Punky Brewster’s mother abandoned her in a supermarket?

Rather than stuffing our heads with such fluff, we were busy during that era with more pressing matters (like changing the diapers or financing the maybe-not-so-comprehensive educations of those who now seem to care about such things).

But if you choose to continue playing with the big kids, we wish you luck in recruiting a savvy senior citizen to help you out. But be careful. Although living longer means one has more time to acquire knowledge, one frequently forgets what happened last week (shall we just say that granny’s attic can get a bit cluttered?). So vet your oldster well and send her forth for battle.

You are worthy competitors and you may gain wisdom with age (however it’s acquired) – but along the way: TINWIT!

Bring on the Starsky and Hutch questions baby.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I Love A Parade

As a well known contrarian, I must take issue with the Elder's post describing his disdain for the Minnesota State Fair.

I love the Fair. I love everything about the Fair. First of all, I love the food. 90% of the food served at the Fair is fried and fried food tastes good. You could stick an old pair of Nike shoes into an Auto Fry machine and it would taste incredible. Who gives a rip if two servings of deep fried cheese curds could make your heart implode. That crap just plain tastes good. If you doubt the value of deep fried goodness, try munching on an unfried wedge of potato. It is crisp but lifeless. Then sample a wedge of that same potato after it has soaked in boiling oil for two minutes. The difference is immeasurable.

Then there are the smells. Ahhh the wonderful smells. If I can smell anything in the latter part of August, I'm incredibly grateful. Usually, those cursed microspores known as pollen have thrown my honker completely out of whack by this time. When I'm not sneezing, I'm wiping my nose and when I'm not wiping my nose, I'm rubbing my eyes. When I'm not rubbing my eyes, I'm drinking...but that's beside the point. The State Fair smells, and I loved college. There's the stench of stale beer, a staple in any college residence. There's the smell of B.O., much like the lingering odor of your roommates who never showered after the morning of freshman orientation. There's the smell of 75 varieties of food, which reminds me of the science experiment that was my refrigerator. Animal manure and dormitory toilet room... enough said. Odors are very evocative and those at the State Fair bring me back to a time when I had no money, yet went out every night. They remind me of the years that I lived in relative squalor, but was happy. I'm reminded of the nights that I played darts and drank beer until 3AM despite the fact that I had a differential equations exam at 8:00 the next morning. Yes, the State Fair smells like hedonism...and hedonism is a good thing.

Finally, there are the people. While the Fair sanctioned freak shows may have vanished, there is certainly no shortage of freaks at the fairgrounds. Grab yourself a brew, park your ass on a bench and watch the freak show that is reality pass in front of you. No matter how bad you feel about yourself, whether you think you're too fat or you think your front teeth are too big or you feel that the zit on your forehead may soon envelop the entirety of your head, you can always spot someone who is worse off than you. This little exercise can be very therapeutic. When you can turn to the friend seated next to you and say "At least I'm not as bad as THAT guy", you've really reached a milestone in the journey of self acceptance.

So, to recap: fried food is good, noxious smells can evoke happiness and freaks make you feel better about yourself. Now, just in case my fondness for the State Fair might damage my uber-curmudgeon status at Fraters World Headquarters, I will offer you this: I hate puppies, babies and world peace. Bah!!!

But you hate people. Yes, but I love gatherings. Isn't it ironic?

Look JB I got nothing against the giant cows. In fact if the State Fair were nothing but giant cows I'd probably be down there every day.
Sparks May Fly

You want alt-country? I got your alt-country right here.
And he'll be at the Fair all next week.

Why We Like It Here

"....and a giant cow just walked by."

Michael Medved reporting from the Fair.

Take that, Elder.

Ga-ack! Rush Limbaugh Is In My Paper! And My Bathing Suit Still Doesn't Fit!

On Sunday the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an editorial by Rush Limbaugh, the significance of which I noted here. Not surprisingly the appearance of Rush's piece drew the ire of some of the tolerant, open minded, and intellectually enlightened lefties in town. Here's my fav from Wednesday's Letters from readers:

I was troubled when I saw that the Star Tribune featured a commentary by Rush Limbaugh, a notorious racist hatemonger whose points of view are more about sharpening the sword of divisiveness than uniting us.

He is nothing but a right-wing demagogue and haranguer of the intolerant and undereducated.

I will not hesitate to discontinue my subscription should more of his work appear in so prominent a position again. It is embarrassing to have such a paper delivered to the door of my otherwise enlightened and tolerant home and community. To have this hideous scourge occupy this prime space in your paper as you did shames us all as Minnesotans.

-Cathy Grisham, Minneapolis.

You know I understand where Cathy is coming from and feel her pain. The idea that you would have to open your Sunday paper and read commentary from someone who represents an extreme viewpoint that you vehemently disagree with is quite disturbing...

Wait a minute. Isn't that exactly what I (and other local conservatives) have been going through with the Strib for about TWENTY FREAKIN' YEARS ?!?!

Gee Cathy I'm so sorry that you seeing an editorial by Rush Limbaugh in the Strib spoiled your perfect little day. Welcome to my world. Or more accurately my nightmare. I've had to put with a continuous barrage of the leftist rantings of Krugman, Dowd, Scheer, and worst of all Molly bleepin' Ivins staring me in the face at the breakfast table day after day, year after year. Publishing one editorial by Rush doesn't even begin to compensate for the suffering that I've endured at the hands of the Strib editorial page.

Don't become too troubled about editorials you don't like Cathy. You'll learn to live with it baby. I have.

"Would You Like That, Punk?"

Since the days of the hanging judge are well behind us my community might just have to settle for a judge who administers a little beeotch slappin' justice:

When a Hennepin County district judge tracked down two teenagers he thought had taken his son's bike, he allegedly told one, "If you ever mess with my family again you will disappear," according to misdemeanor assault charges filed Wednesday against the judge.

The charges also accuse Judge Harvey Ginsberg of hitting the boys and say that he identified himself as a judge to one and threatened to get the boy charged with a felony.

He might even have a bit of Dirty Harry in him:

One teenager told the officer that Ginsberg asked which one of them had stolen the bike and then slapped both of them in the face.

The first boy, who admitted taking the bike and hiding it behind the drugstore as a joke, said he rode away on his bike because he didn't want to get hit.

The judge grabbed the other boy off his bike, threw him onto a wooden bench, held him by the throat and threatened, "If you mess with my family again you will be dead," the complaint said.

That boy was able to free himself and told Ginsberg he was going to call police. Then Ginsberg said: "Go ahead, I'm a judge and I'll have you charged with a felony for temporary theft."

When the boy said the bike wasn't worth a felony, Ginsberg said, "Then I'll have you charged with a gross and you can go to juvy for the night. Would you like that, punk?" the complaint said.

But did he really slap the punks or merely administer a stern "patting"?

The complaint said the judge later admitted lightly patting the boy on the cheek, but denied other physical contact or threatening him or his family.

If this ever goes to trial, which is highly unlikely, I would stand in line to be on the jury.

Bike thieves in St. Louis Park be warned. Judge Harvey Ginsberg is on the case. And he's not afraid to open a can of pat ass either.

I Hate A Parade (and more)

Today the 2003 version of the Minnesota State Fair a.k.a. The Great Minnesota Get Together kicks off. People come from all over the state and even from all over the country to attend the twelve day event and from now until it ends the local media will be saturated with coverage of the State Fair. You won't be able to pick up a newspaper (I just can’t get enough of that Farley), turn on a radio, or watch thirty seconds of the local TV news without hearing about it. Your coworkers will talk endlessly about it, droning on and on about all the food they consumed and wondering when you're going. It will soon be all Fair all the time.

God I hate it. Yes I hate the State Fair. Actually I don't have anything in particular against the State Fair. Generally speaking I hate all fairs. County fairs, state fairs, diversity fairs, job fairs you put the name fair behind something and I hate it. And lest you dismiss me as a cynical post modernist who dislikes fairs because of their middle class bourgeoisie banality let me assure you that I hate the hip Uptown Art Fair just as much. Don't even get me started on my hatred for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. It features the highest density of freaks and geeks imaginable. Why can't we revive the Black Plague and have it sweep through the Renaissance Festival and all those who participate in the nonsense?

In fact I'll expand my spite beyond fairs to include all festivals (which damn near every city and town in Minnesota feels a need to put on), carnivals, circuses, and parades. Why do I despise them all so?

Let's start with the food. Overpriced, fried crap. Every year people who otherwise have decent tastes in food delude themselves into believing that cramming cheese curds, corn dogs, and fried Snickers down your gullet until you're just about ready to hurl (and unfortunately past that point for some) is an enjoyable way to spend a day.

And then there are smells. The wafting aroma of fried crap, cotton candy, rotting garbage, overflowing porta potties, stale beer, and BO fills your nostrils the minute you set foot into one of these events. Throw in the odor of animal manure and the added effects of hot humid weather over two weeks and you've captured the essence of the Minnesota State Fair.

And bring on the crowds. Crowds of sweaty, smelly, pushy, sticky, fleshy, pressing people all trying to get somewhere fast without having any idea where they're going. Parents pushing strollers the size of the Apollo lunar rover oblivious to anyone in their path. Families so grossly overweight that they've got smaller families orbiting around them. Idiots jabbering into their cell phones while trying to walk and chew gum, failing miserably at all three.

In late August when the temps can sometimes linger in the low 90’s with high humidity, the State Fair is about the closest you can come to the squalor of the Third World without leaving Minnesota. It’s like a virtual slums of Calcutta experience.

But what about all the fun you can have at a fair you ask? Fun? The midways consist of lame rides, rigged games, and trashy prizes. The one thing I used to enjoy about the State Fair was the freak shows. The barkers trying to lure you in to see the Lobster Boy or the Snake Lady. Now that was entertainment. But in a pique of political correctness the powers that be banished the freak shows from the Fair some years ago. The one thing I really liked. Gone.

The other thing that I used to enjoy was Machinery Hill. Big honking tractors, enormous combines, and all the latest in farm implements. That too is now a thing of the past.

As much as I hate it I'll probably find myself at the State Fair at some point this year to see some radio personalities (and Dave Thompson) if nothing else. I'll check out the animal barn, "Look at the size of that hog's....", and hit the beer gardens to maintain my sanity.

Oh I'll go to the Fair all right. As a Minnesotan I almost have to. But damnit I won't like it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Or Somewhere Else)

As shown in my earlier post about Pioneer Press writer Gordon Wittenmeyer, he’s not exactly the most insightful observer of the Twins. But at least he does attend the games (I think). Which is not the case with sportswriters out in Sacramento. This from today’s Sacramento Bee (via James Phillips):

An apology to our readers

On Aug. 7, a story on the cover of the Sports section about the Giants game at Pacific Bell Park was filed by a Bee reporter who was not at the game. The reporter watched the game on television at a location away from the stadium. He filed his story without telling editors at The Bee his true location, leaving the impression he covered the game from the ballpark.

In addition, it was discovered later that the story included quotes from other media outlets that were unattributed and old, made to reporters on a previous occasion before the day of the game. The story violated basic journalistic values and ethics as practiced by The Bee.

The reporter involved, Jim Van Vliet, no longer works at the newspaper. The Bee regrets the situation and apologizes to its readers.

Generation Gap Sinks Fraters Trivia Team

The tension at Keegan’s pub before the start of Tuesday night's trivia contest was palpable. You could almost see it hanging in the air like the billowing smoke arising from the table where the Atomizer's family (a.k.a. Team K) was hunkered down. The patriarch of Team K was talking smack as I suppose he was entitled to do with his team on a three week winning streak and all (all three victories coming despite or possibly due to the absence of the Atomizer). You need to walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk and Team K had been walking over all comers of late.

But this time they faced a new challenge. For the first time in Keegan's trivia history three members of the Fraters Libertas staff would be competing on one team. Plus we had my wife on board as well to give us some gender diversity. We were ready to dethrone Team K. Our pencil was sharp. Our minds even sharper.

Alas it was not to be. We finished with a respectable score of 20 out of a possible 25 which placed us in third just out of the money (free drinks). On two of the questions we missed we had the correct answer offered up but unwisely elected to go with another choice. On the other three we didn't have much of a chance.

1. What city and country was Florence Nightingale born in?

2. In the 40's who was the second most recognizable female after Eleanor Roosevelt?

3. What is the name of the controversial Barbie doll with removable tattoos?

Team K meanwhile chalked up 23 correct to once again take the top prize. At least this time there didn't appear to be any collusion between the owner of Keegan's and Team K. They won fair and square. Well as fair and square as possible considering they had six people at their table despite the rules clearly stipulating no more than four per team. But that wasn't really a factor. The better team won last night and they were not shy about letting us know about. Winners talk, losers walk.

In the aftermath of the defeat we discussed the causes of our downfall and what we could do differently next time. We all agreed that one of our weaknesses was that all four members of our team were in close proximity of age. We're all Gen X'ers or members of the Thirteenth Generation as I much prefer to label it, and we lack the generational diversity of Team K. Either that or we all ate too much lead paint as kids.

We also realized that the true strength of the Team K familia lay not in the paters but rather with the maters. We could stand toe to toe against the Atomizer and his pere any day but the mother proved to be the difference maker. As the Atomizer's sister said, "My mom knows all kinds of obscure stuff." Like the name of the Barbie with removable tattoos for instance.

So we're looking to expand our horizons. If you're a woman fifty five to seventy five of sound mind and possessing plenty of useless knowledge who doesn't mind wasting your Tuesday evenings we have a spot for you. Being a mother a plus. A grandmother is even better. Resumes now being accepted.

In case you're curious it's Florence, Italy Betty Crocker and Butterfly Art Barbie.

Strike One

From this past Sunday’s baseball fan Q & A column by Gordon Wittenmeyer (the Pioneer Press’s beat writer for the Twins):

Q: With their recent pitching problems, why have the Twins not looked into bringing up Carlos Pulido from Class AAA Rochester?

A: .... He's not considered a big-league prospect, despite his gaudy numbers at Rochester, and still has trouble getting out left-handed hitters. Pulido, 32, has a slim shot at getting a call-up when rosters expand Sept. 1, but you won't see him before that, and probably not even in September.

Wittenmeyer again, from today’s Twins notes column:

Left-hander Carlos Pulido, 32, who returned to the organization as a minor league free agent after pitching for the Twins in 1994, was promoted from Class AAA Rochester to take Rick Reed's roster spot.

Nice call Gordo. Either Pulido had a Lazarus-like resurrection of his game in the past two days or perhaps Wittenmeyer should actually have a clue as to Twins' management intentions before answering these types of questions. Not too much to ask of the guy who’s assigned to, you know, cover the team. And proving once again, TwinsGeek should be the primary source for all your Twins insight-related needs.

On Pursuing Glory-Update

I feel compelled to inform you all that Team Atomizer trounced all challengers last night at Keegan's Pub trivia, including the team made up of The Elder, Saint Paul and JB Doubtless. The streak of consecutive victories now stands at four weeks.

Despite Saint Paul's protests to the contrary, it was a fair contest. Remember, Saint Paul, there is no whining in trivia.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Low Watts From Hightower

Jim Hightower is currently being emasculated by Michael Medved's Mischevious Malice Maker. He was trying to make the point that there were "several" democratic movements that the US did not support in the Mid East over the years.

MM asked him to name one.

He tip toed through the tulips, not answering the question.

MM asked again.

Again, thinking he was of superior rhetorical ability, he did his best to not directly answer the question at hand.

MM, exhausted, said "I will ask one more time, can you name one democratic movement?"

Hightower, knowing the jig was up, finally pathetically responded "I can't. This is not an area of specialty for me."

Not "an area of specialty". He goes on the radio as a professional political spewer, but one of the most obvious political topics is beyond him? Anyone ever wonder why his radio show never made it?

All's Fair In Love And Eating

Okay, it’s almost time for the Fair.

And no offense to the talk radio hosts who will be in attendance, but we go to the fair for the food by God, the food!

Thankfully, this year, the nice fair folks have catalogued the goodies alphabetically with maps so you can start planning now how to get from the Dogzilla (1/3 pound foot long corn dog) stand to the macaroni and cheese on a stick while hitting as many beer gardens as possible.


Saw Open Range last night. Bottom line: it’s okay.

While being beautifully shot, the pacing of the thing blew. It was like watching fireworks and you are 10 minutes in and they give you three or four big to-dos in a row and you think “Okay, the grand finale” but then it happens again and you think the same thing. Then they launch some lame garbage for another 5 minutes and you wonder what the hell is going on and if there will ever be a grand finale at all.

The acting is good. I’m glad the actors didn’t decide to put on fake southern accents as they often do for Westerns (that has always puzzled me). And Annette Bening looked damn good as the Doc’s sister and Costner’s love interest.

But again, pacing. The movie takes considerable time to build up to the final shoot out and instead of just giving it to us, wrapping up the romance line and ending the thing, it has to be drawn out for 45 minutes. It was almost as if Costner were consciously trying to avoid the cliched ending with this approach--a strange thing to do considering the other clich├ęs that fly fast and furious throughout the entire movie.

One other gripe, the fat clerk from ER a cowboy aint. A Star Trek Fan Club President, yes. A Simpsons web site host, yes. A Risk board game genius, undoubtedly. I just couldn’t buy him as a cowboy.

For a much better review of what could have been a great movie, go here.

We Know He'll Be Fair But What About Balanced?

With the unfortunate passing of his father this week, talk radio host extraordinaire Hugh Hewitt will not be able to make his scheduled appearance this Friday at the Minnesota State Fair . Instead James Lileks, who was slated to appear as a guest with Hugh that day, will take the reigns of the show with the able help of Hugh's producer Duane. It should be a rollicking three hours of radio and it will be fun to hear Lileks unleashed with plenty of air time to fill.

Hugh is supposed to arrive in Minnesota on Saturday to do a special broadcast from the Fair from 12:00pm to 2:00pm on local station AM 1280 - The Patriot. Unless of course Lileks turns in a virtuoso performance on Friday and Hugh becomes known as the Wally Pipp of the broadcasting world.

Since we're on the subject on radio shows and Lileks I thought I would mention an interesting item I caught last Friday while listening to the Ian Punnett show (yes, there was NOTHING else on the radio at the time). Lileks had appeared on Punnett's show a number of times on Friday mornings for a segment on music but then about a month ago the Lileks appearances suddenly ceased without explanation. Then last Friday Punnett finally addressed the matter by explaining that Lileks had become busy and had elected to "take the rest of the summer off" from appearing on his show. Funny but I wasn't aware that writing was such a seasonal occupation. Punnett then went on to guarantee (his exact word) his listeners that Lileks would be back one day soon.

Maybe they can feature the Peaches & Herb classic 'Reunited' on their first show back together:

Reunited and it feels so good
Reunited 'cause we understood
There's one perfect fit
And, sugar, this one is it
We both are so excited 'cause we're reunited, hey, hey