Sunday, February 29, 2004

From The "Clear As Mud" Department

John Kerry:

This president always makes decisions late after things have happened that could have been different had the president made a different decision earlier.
The Most Boring Story Ever Told

Could be the subtitle of POTC.

Not the story itself, of course, just the way Mel Gibson decided to tell it.

Stations Of The Albatross

I just got back from POTC (here to be referred to at Potsy) and all I can say is that's two hours of my life I'll never get back.

Putting aside all the "anti-semitic" horse-hockey for a minute, it's simply a lousy, boring, over-wrought film. I felt absolutely nothing. Nothing. At one point I looked at my watch and an hour had passed with basically nothing happening. Sure, there was plenty of flashbacks and music that tried to bash you over the head with it's Majesty, but after that long I wanted them to get to the crucifyin' already.

At least an hour could have been taken out of the film and nothing would have been lost. But I guess you can't take something away from nothing, which is what the movie is.

And this idea that this is so gory and violent and "pornographic"? It's a lie. It was not even that nasty at all. I never whinced like I did in Saving Private Ryan or looked away for even a minute. I guess I would have had to feel something to make me look away.

Gibson is very into slo-mo. There is a slo-mo about every five minutes as he tries to force the viewer to Get It! I actually felt like I was carrying a cross--Mel Gibson's vision of what happened to Christ--and he was the one flogging me the entire time, laying upon me a crown of thorns, bashing me in the forehead so I Got It. Lay off ya heavy handed wank artist! I get it, okay?

On the positive side, Mary Magdalene had it goin' on. She is portrayed by the stunning Monica Bellucci.


But did she make it worth the pain I had to endure just to get through this thing? Absolutely not.

Summary: awful movie, hot actress.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Computer Blue

The great thing about computers? They make life easier.

I bought an MP3 player a coupla years ago. It only holds thirty to thirty five songs (128mb) but it's small and light and is decent for physical activities and traveling. It interfaces with Real Player through a USB connection and the load time isn't too bad.

But you do tire of the same thirty songs pretty quickly and when the IPods started popping up with multi-gigabytes of storage space, I knew it was only a matter of time before I procured one. The tipping point was reached when my wife took an interest in MP3 players. As often happens in marriage, what once was mine (the MP3 player) became "ours", before finally becoming "hers" for all intents and purposes.

So in order to ensure domestic tranquility we needed to get a new MP3 player. Which, by the immutable laws of marriage will be hers, while I will get back what I originally had. Essentially I had to buy a new MP3 player in order to be able to use the one I bought more than two years ago. (At this point single people are furrowing their brows in confusion, while the married guys are nodding knowingly.)

Last Sunday we bite the bullet and bought a 15gb IPod. The salesman explained that in order to use it with our PC we would need to install a forty dollar Firewire card, which they happened to be stocked out of at the time. A bit of an inconvenience I thought, but a small price to pay for the wonders of the IPod. The next day my wife picked one up during her lunch hour at work.

That evening I cracked open the package, rolled up my sleeves, and got to installin'. After disconnecting the umpteen cords, cables, and wires and pulling the PC tower out into the middle of the room, I looked for the manual to guide my operation. I couldn't find it right away, but did come across the 'Quick Set Up' guide which had some directions on taking the machine apart. So I started taking screws out, prying off panels, and sliding out drives until I reached a point in the instructions with a bold warning:

To Proceed Further You Must Follow The Instructions In The Owners Manual

No problemo. That owner's manual had to be around somewhere. After all I keep EVERYTHING like that. I have owner's manuals for products that I've long ago donated to Goodwill (or given to JB if Goodwill wouldn't take them). I have the owner's manual for my in-line skates. I have the owner's manual for my coffee grinder. I even have the instructions/owner's manual for some wire shelving that I installed over our washer/dryer years ago. I HAD to have my PC owner's manual.

But I didn't. A conclusion I reached after an hour spent fruitlessly scouring and rescouring every possible location. Houston I had a problem. Now usually under such circumstances I would have jumped on the internet and located a suitable substitute. But my internet delivery vehicle was sitting in the middle of the room, stripped of its protective shell, with its innards exposed to the world.

I now faced a choice. Proceed with the installation without guidance, hoping that providence would see me through and I wouldn't cause irreparable damage to my precious PC. Or cease my efforts for the evening and wait until I had more complete information. Discretion being the better part of valor, plus the fact that I was tired as hell led me to choose the latter.

The next day at work I did some research. Some painstakingly, lengthy, and unnecessarily complicated research thanks to the clever folks who designed the HP web site. What I wanted was an online version of my missing owner's manual. What I got was a very user unfriendly series of links and searches that led me through a Byzantine maze of web pages. Finally, after more than an hour of frustrating dead ends and false leads, I managed to gather what I figured was just enough to get by.

Back at the home office that evening I resumed the chore. I discovered that it wasn't just the HP web page designers that were rather oblivious to the needs of their customers. Here's a question to the HP engineers who laid out the mechanical design of my PC: could you make it a little bit frickin' harder to access the PCI slots? The way they were positioned made it almost impossible for anyone with hands larger than Verne Troyer to get at em'. I was kneeling over exposed my PC (now on its side), with the sharp glare of a shop light in my eyes (necessary for the intricate operation), beads of perspiration on my forehead, trying to slip the Firewire card into an available slot in a move which required the manual dexterity of Victor Borge, and swearing like JB Doubtless on his way to Mass.

After many miserable failures I finally managed to jam (yes, jam not slide) the Firewire card home. I secured it in place and put all the pieces of my PC back together. Then I re-plugged in the plethora of connections, pushed the power button, and muttered a few 'Glory Bes' under my breathe as I prayed the patient would spring back to life. Hallelujah! All was as it had once been. Windows recognized the new card and automatically installed the required drivers. Now we were cooking with gas.

By this time my wife was already slumbering and, since it was going to be "her" IPod, I decided to wait another day before setting it up on the PC, so that she could get in on the ground floor and understand how to use it.

With Wednesday night came the prospect of finally wrapping things up and joining the IPod universe. One last task and the Promised Land would be reached. I popped the IPod CD into the PC, fired up the installation program, and made ready for the coming bliss. And then...

An error message flashed on the screen:

IPod is not compatible with this version of Windows. IPod is only compatible with Windows 2000 and XP. (or something to that effect.)


I grabbed the simple yet elegantly designed IPod box, and in small print on the back, read the same disheartening words.

Sumofabeetch. For you see my PC's O/S is Windows ME. I know, I know. ME sucks. It's unstable and prone to crash and lock up. But I'm a rather simple man when it comes to computing matters and was willing to put up with these defects rather than upgrade. I had heard horror stories of O/S upgrades and had no desire to entangle myself in one.

But now it looked like I had no choice if we wanted to have an IPod. And it would be nice to have a better O/S. I quickly resigned myself to that fate and hit Amazon to find out what the damage would be to upgrade to XP. Not bad price wise.

Then I started reading some of the reviews of the XP upgrade. They were pretty evenly split.

Upgrading to XP is fairly easy and it has some nice features. I say do it.


I would rather sacrifice my first born to Satan than upgrade to XP again.

Seems as if they're a little issue with what they call "backward compatibility" when you upgrade to XP. Seems that in order to use a lot of the software you use with ME, you need to update a bunch of drivers. Seems that some of the software you currently use with ME won't work with XP at all, and that you'll "lose" this software if you upgrade.

So this is where I sit. We have an IPod that we can't use. We have an O/S that sucks. But if we upgrade we might not be able to use much of the software we have now. And we're going on vacation next Wednesday and it sure would be nice to have that IPod working for the flight to Miami.

Computers. If they make my life any easier I don't know what I'm going to do.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Putting the Grunt in Disgruntled

St. Paul City Councilman Jay Benanav has been disgruntling the city’s conservatively minded citizens for years. But never like this:

Rachel Goligoski, 39, said she was upset about the prospect of seeing Benanav at a precinct caucus next week when she smashed a picture frame and threw a potted plant at him during a confrontation in his third-floor office.

"I'm not a disgruntled citizen," Goligoski said, discounting a phrase that a city official used Wednesday to describe the incident. "I'm a disgruntled ex-lover."

Ol’ Jay has always been known as a bit of a bleeding heart. Looks like we can now add “heart breaker” to his bio as well.

"He said he wanted us to get married," she said. "He wanted to spend the rest of his life with me."

Broader lesson learned for Benanav, go ahead and raise all the taxes you like. But stay away from raising your constituents expectations.

Sadly, this dust up appears to have resulted in no small degree of violence.

She said she became angry and pushed and kicked Benanav. She said Benanav lunged at her during the confrontation but did not strike her. She said, however, she suffered bruises during a brief scuffle and is considering filing an assault complaint.

Which makes the basis of their relationship all the more curious:

Goligoski said she met Benanav a year ago while organizing an antiwar event.

It seems Rachel “Fists of Fury” Goligoski has been mixing her want for peace with her penchant for violence for years, as a quick Googling of her name shows. She’s a leader of something called Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace (here’s an article with a picture).

But then there’s this Doug Grow column (with more priceless photos) on an anti-war invasion and occupation of Senator Norm Coleman’s office, including this nugget:

When the phone rang, demonstrator Rachel Goligoski answered courteously: "This is Senator Coleman's office. The senator's staff has gone home for the day. His office has been taken over by peace activists."

"I told the man who answered that I was calling from Senator Coleman's office and that it had been taken over by people who want peace," Goligoski said. "He wanted to hang up, but I said, 'Just a minute, some other people want to say something.' I yelled, 'What do we want?' And they [the demonstrators] said, 'Peace!' And I said, 'When do we want it?' 'Now!' "

In the end, the demonstrators had to force the issue, pushing up against St. Paul police who asked them if they wanted to be arrested. Twenty-eight said they did.

She’s also all over this Star Tribune report from a peace rally last March at Macalester college, including this quote:

"I'm really happy," said landscape designer Rachel Goligoski, 38, one of the organizers, as she surveyed the crowd. "But it's hard to feel overjoyed by the huge turnout when our country is committing shock and awe" bombing.

The allegedly happy, peaceful vibe of this march was emphasized by the Star Tribune reporter:

Thousands of protesters, from students to aging baby boomers and retirees, took to the streets of St. Paul on Saturday in a noisy but peaceful antiwar march that extended about a half-mile.

Police Cmdr. Dennis Stensen praised the protesters. "It's a wonderful, orderly group of people," he said.

Still, the day was warm and sunny and there was a festive feel to the march.

Of course, the true spirit of this march for peace was something a little different than advertised, as your faithful correspondents JB Doubtless and Saint Paul documented last March in this very forum.

Here’s more of Ms. Goligoski’s philosophy of peace:

"I am a patriot of the global community. I do not value American lives any more than I value the lives of any human beings from any country on earth."

You got to feel a little sorry for Benanav getting mixed up with this crazy gal. But what choice did he have? Statements like this to him are the equivalent of a Victoria’s Secret catalog to a normal guy.
I Know You're An Emotional Girl

There was an interesting episode of the great new show The Apprentice on last night. In case you don't know the setup, the show revolves around two teams of young go-getters who are assigned projects by Donald Trump. The teams compete with each other and are assigned one of Trump's lieutenants to keep watch over them.

At the end of each episode, the team that wins is given immunity to stay living in the Trump Towers and play the next round. The team that loses must nominate three players to face Trump and his hench-people (one is a gal) in the boardroom for Trump to decide who will be fired.

The person who never gets fired at the end of this ordeal will be given a $250k a year job running one of Trump's concerns.

So anyway, last night the project was selling "Trump Ice," Donald's very own spring water. A woman led the losing team. At one point she completely lost her composure under pressure and starting yelling at her team members in front of their guardian. He was not impressed and told Trump as much.

When it came to the boardroom showdown it was this dame and two dudes who had also not pulled their weight, but had not lost their cool like she had. Tears immediately swelled in her eyes as Trump grilled her to explain why she lost.

Which leads me to my point (My God that was a long way to go for this point): I don't know about your workplace, but in mine the crying of female employees is commonplace. Not a week goes by that I don't see if not outright tears, at least the welling of the salty devils and hurried trips to the bathroom.

What sends these women into torrents of emotion? Whaddya got? They were criticized. They were asked to speak up in front of people they don't know very well. They are frustrated things aren't going perfectly on their projects. They think people are mean to them. You name it, they cry about it.

I've not shed one tear at work for any reason ever. It's about the furthest thing from my mind. I've wanted to throw down a few times and the Lord knows I've done my share of cussin', but crying? I can't even imagine a scenario in which I would cry at work, unless someone were to tell me John Kerry was elected President or something.

At the end of the show, Trump ceremoniously canned the woman. The reason he gave?

She was too emotional.
Free Rudy!

Fraters Libertas, inspiring you to “read more about it.”

An appropriate tag line if Our Reader Tom (ORT) is any indication. ORT writes in to comment on the account of my charitable activities last week (in the piece entitled “What Would Rudy Boschwitz Do?”).

Having just relocated to the Mpls area I didn't know who Rudy Boschwitz was. I Googled his name and found this bio from the self-described nonpartisan organization, Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) ...

"Boschwitz heads a big chain of home-improvement stores. Poorly funded populist Paul Wellstone ousted this ex-U.S. Senator in ’90 and whipped Boschwitz again in ‘96. Voters were underwhelmed by Boschwitz’s record in the Senate, where he opposed minimum wage increases, abortion and tough environmental rules, while championing weaker corporate liability, unfettered global trade and a flat tax. Voters also were repulsed by a ’90 Boschwitz mailer that told Jews that he was “more Jewish” than Wellstone. The letter attacked Wellstone for marrying a Christian and for not raising his kids Jewish."

For all I know it's true although I don't know how one "ousts" an ex-Senator from his Senate seat. I like the idea that they are non-partisan, but from their description of Boschwitz record in the senate, I would like to have them define partisanship.

A good concluding point by ORT. I think their definition might go something like “Partisanship: an accusation to throw at Republicans whenever they don’t succumb to our every demand.”

But I must caution ORT to not believe everything he sees on the Internet. Because that description of Boschwitz is pure partisan bunk. Boschwitz was an honorable, and one could fairly say, moderate Senator. Now he’s reduced to a hatchet job description like that, from a delusional liberal organization claiming no political affiliation. Worse yet, it appears as the second reference on Google. As George Patton (or Daffy Duck) might say- “despicable.”

It’s time to set the record straight. First off, Tom is right. You can’t really oust an ex-US Senator from his Senate seat. Technically, I think that means putting him back in the Senate. But, in 1990 Boschwitz was the sitting Senator, not the ex-Senator.

Secondly, Boschwitz wasn’t “whipped” in 1996. Wellstone only got 50% of the vote then, precisely what he got in 1990. While Boschwitz did decline from 48% of the vote in 1990 to 41% in 1996, this can mostly be attributed to the presence of vanity candidate Dean Barkley of the Independence Party (who got an appalling 7% in 1996). Wellstone never whipped anybody. Throughout his elected tenure, until his death, he remained a divisive, polarizing force, one never supported by more than half of Minnesotans.

Regarding TPJ’s description of Wellstone as a “poorly funded populist”, according to the Almanac of American Politics (2002 edition), here are the 1996 totals for campaign contributions in their Senate race:

Wellstone - $7,459,878
Boschwitz - $4,385,982

Regarding their value laden characterization of Boschwitz’s voting record and Minnesotans reaction to it, simply ridiculous. Raving, malignant rhetoric worthy of a Star Tribune editorial. Not even worth dissecting.

What is worth pointing out is their emphasis of the “Jewish” question in the 1990 campaign. Something voters were “repulsed by” according to TPJ. In truth, this controversy was one of those patented last week of the campaign hit tactics by the Democratic party. And this one the media swallowed and disseminated to an unprecedented degree.

The facts of the case surrounded some letter circulated to selected Jewish citizens saying that Jewish Paul Wellstone wasn’t as observant of his faith as Jewish Rudy Boschwitz. A statement of fact. But for most Minnesotans, this is an issue of absolutely no interest or import. At the most, this was an internecine (score!) debate among a cultural group representing less than 1% of the population. A laughably small issue, not even meriting a paragraph on page 8B of the metro section.

But during the last week of that campaign, all the news broadcasts led with this story. The newspapers printed one breathless, scandal mongering front page article after another. Boschwitz was characterized as evil incarnate for daring to question the religiosity of Wellstone. All the while Wellstone was characterized as this fuzzy little imp of compassion and love (a facade the media keeps up, even to this day). It was this media campaign which changed the minds of enough of those fine folks on the fence, the type who don’t pay attention to or care about substantive issues. And that’s what tipped the scales of that election towards Wellstone (final tally 50% - 48%).

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but it. Sadly, I don’t think Fraters Libertas is going to ascend past TPJ on the Rudy Boschwitz reference list any time soon. After all they’re #2 overall on the man’s name. This means they’re likely to continue spreading their self styled “non partisan” view of things to any and all Rudy Boschwitz seekers for years to come.

That is, unless YOU are wiling to put a stop to it. With Google it’s all about the links. The more sites linking, the higher on the hierarchy you go. Therefore, if you care about the legacy of Rudy Boschwitz, about historical accuracy, or about a woman’s right to choose (to read the truth about Rudy Boschwitz), you need to help us ascend the staircase of Googling preferences. Link to the truth. Link to this post. Link to Fraters Libertas today! Remember, only you can save Rudy Boschwitz’s legacy.

(And don’t underestimate your power to help in this matter. Remember, it was you beautiful people who made us number ONE with a bullet for this.)
In A Kerry Administration Even The Music's Better

From the today's Chris Riemenschneider music column in the Star Tribune:

When organizers with the grassroots, youth-oriented political organization Music For America went looking for a place to put on a concert in the Twin Cities, they found great support at First Avenue. On Saturday, the Minneapolis nightclub will host what could be the biggest show yet in MfA's national campaign, with Dillinger Four headlining.

'We knew this would be something that could resonate with people here,' said First Ave promoter Taya Mueller, who cited MfA's opposition to media consolidation as a popular local cause.

'Even kids who aren't really into politics might go out and vote just because the radio stations in this town suck so bad,' Mueller said.

Not That We're Bitter Or Anything...

Just to clarify matters for those in attendance last night at Keegan's weekly trivia contest:

Operation Enduring Freedom

The military response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States was assigned the name Operation Enduring Freedom, but was previously planned to have been called Operation Infinite Justice (this name is believed to have been changed following concerns that this might offend the Muslim community as Islam teaches that Allah is the only one who can provide Infinite Justice).

Our wounds can be healed quite easily with a little complimentary balm of Guinness.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Technical Difficulties

Fraters Libertas is experiencing a delay in blog post publishing. The creative energies of the staff are currently being directed toward an off-line internecine war regarding the quality of Howard Stern as a broadcaster. As soon as this situatation is resolved, the survivors should resume blogging in short order. Thank you for your continued understanding. We now return you to a bunch of blogs writing about the Presidential election.

(Personal aside - I've always hoped to some day use the term "internecine" in a blog post. And now I have. As soon as I can find a way to work in "Sino-Soviet relations" my editorial dream list will be complete).
The Irony Of The Agony

Straight outta Kansas City, reader B.H. weighs in with a thoughtful e-mail on The Passion. Not a bad effort for a Royal's fan:

The elite media completely miss the irony. The tacit assumption is that the unsophisticated rubes that see The Passion will be inflamed with hatred for the Jews. This assumption proves just how secularist and out-of-touch the elite media is. One only need examine the blogosphere for a few minutes to see that
virtually all anti-Semitism today occurs in one of two contexts: (a) Muslim cultures, and (c) left-wing secularist societies (par example: La France).

Methodists in Peoria aren't burning down synagogues; Muslims and left-wingers in Europe are. So I find it extremely condescending when media elites condemn The Passion on the grounds that it will cause the American masses to incite against Jews. In case the NY Times didn't know already, conservative Christians are probably Israel's biggest supporters in this country, and these same unsophisticated rednecks will flock to The Passion.

The Boston Globe might be surprised to know that as a Catholic in Kansas City, I have never heard a fellow parishioner express dread at the growing neo-Conservative movement in Washington, led in many instances by Jews! My parish priest has never warned of the supposed human rights crisis presented by Ariel Sharon's racist policies such as building a fence to stop psychopaths from murdering bus passengers and pizza parlor patrons. As far as I know, these ideas usually find expression in liberal academia, The Nation, etc.

Here is my bold prediction: in the next month, not one significant anti-Semitic act or writing occurs in the heartland by the target audience of this movie. Will the NY Times make the same prediction about the U.N. or the history departments of the Ivy League?

How Bush Can Make The FMA A Slam Dunk

Play this quote from Rosie O'Donnell with video (you have to have video) in a commercial:

"I would like to tell Laura Bush and her husband I find the proposed amendment very, very, very, very shocking and immoral," O'Donnell said.

Over and over and over again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Defamation Of Character

Thanks to Steve Gigl (last name pronounced "Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoop-boing-goodem-zu-owly-zhiv"), I became aware of an Australian metal band that is trying to cash in on my good name. I was intrigued.

Further exploration led to this song by song review of the band's latest release "The Only Weapon Of Choice":

And The Hunt Starts Again- Just when you think the bounds of metal have been reached a band like ATOMIZER comes along and gives you sincere hope.

Now isn't that sweet. A song about hope. They must be such nice boys.

The Campaign- ...awesome turbo-charged bass lines here intermixed with the otherwise crushing rhythms.

As long as they don't crush my hope, I'll give them a listen.

The War That Never Ended- Here is where I sense the jabbing, stabbing rhythms of the music, it’s meter and it’s brutal nature.

Oh, my. That doesn't sound hopeful at all.

So Terrified, Yet So In Control- ... so premeditated and yet so alive. A moment in this song there is a beeping sound which almost always makes me flash to a hospital room or ambulance as if someone’s heart is about to give up while being hooked to the machine.

All hope may be lost.

When I Die, I Wanna Die Violently - The guitar line is so sarcastic and expressive of lack of remorse or care...This is one of the greatest lures in the ATOMIZER arsenal, for anyone can write lyrics that praise the predator and express loathsome disgust for the meek and mild, but it takes a special something to make lyric content really shine strong. It’s poetic, it’s biting and unique (look at the song titles!) and it’s got a good repetitive flair that allows for the songs to worm their way into your brain, ala pop songs.

And there it goes.

For the poor unlucky bastard who hears a song from these guys and has it worm its way into his brain, I pray (and expect) that you don't have much up there to begin with. It's less painful that way.

For those of you still looking for hope, the release referred to above (officially entitled "The Only Weapon Of Choice: 13 Odes To Power, Decimaton and Conquest") is: to 666 copies. The first 100 will be on grey vinyl, for mail order customers ONLY. And these are almost gone.
Taking A Whack At The Coleman Pinata

(Editors note: when you read the title of the post please pronounce pinata as Peggy Hill would. Thank you.)

I didn't want to. I knew I shouldn't. I told myself I wouldn't. But God help me I'm only human. And Nick Coleman's latest work is just too tempting to pass on.

After receiving an e-mail this morning from T.S. alerting us to Coleman's column, I was more than happy to let Saint Paul have a go at 'er, as is his usual wont. Then I remembered that he gave up Fisking for Lent and realized that I would have to go in myself.

The impetus for Coleman's manufactured outrage was Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to the Twin Cities on Monday. Part of Cheney's itinerary included a stop in St Paul's West Side, a neighborhood with a large Hispanic population.

This is where Coleman really demonstrates his versatility. Had Cheney elected to visit a school in Woodbury (an affluent suburb east of St. Paul), Coleman would have hammered him for being out of touch with minorities and urban dwellers. But since Cheney came to the city and met with minorities, Coleman had to take a different tack, attacking him for not having the RIGHT kind of meeting.

This was a political drive-by, not a community meeting -- a point that caused grumbling on the West Side.

That line is straight from the column. In the print version of the paper the sub headline to Coleman's column read 'Political drive-by visit ignored St. Paul's Hispanic community'.

Nick Coleman has spent enough time in the barrios and inner city 'hoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul to know full well what a drive-by is. Just ask him. So when he uses the term "political drive-by" it conjures up an image of Cheney's limo cruising through the streets of the West Side, with Cheney giving a quick smile and wave before disappearing over the horizon.


Dick Cheney visited a Mexican market on the West Side of St. Paul the other day. This was an honor the West Side put up with, but it didn't win many Hispanic hearts or minds.


The Neighborhood House is right behind El Burrito Mercado, where Cheney stopped to check out the salsa.


So there was much pride at the news that the vice president was coming, and much disappointment when it turned out to be just a photo op and a chance for Cheney to tell a carefully picked audience that the president's tax cuts are good for business.

So let me get this straight. Cheney stopped by a market, tried out some salsa, posed for some pictures, and delivered a speech of some sort to an audience? And THIS is a "political drive-by"?

Apparently it wasn't where Cheney went, it was where he didn't go:

But Cheney ignored the Neighborhood House, maybe because it has a banner hanging on it that includes a word that works on some Republicans like garlic on bats: "Wellstone."

I believe it's like garlic on vampires Nick. But if I can get a smirking sneer out of a bat with garlic it might be worth a try.

Next Nick introduces what has to be one of the best euphemisms for illegal immigrant that I've yet heard:

It's a place where third-generation families recall when their grandparents were punished in school for speaking Spanish and where new Spanish speakers -- many lacking proper paperwork -- work like dogs to make life better for their families.

Lacking proper paperwork. WTF? Makes it sound as if it's just some bureaucratic foul up down at the DMV.

You got a license for that boat?

Yeah, but I'm lacking the proper paperwork.

You a citizen of the United States or do you have a visa?

No, but I'm just lacking the proper paperwork.

The whole issue of illegal immigration is incredibly complicated and nuanced. I'm still not sure where I stand on Bush's plan. Right now I'm reading Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia, which is a devastating and frankly depressing look at Mexican immigration in California over the last thirty years. As Hanson makes very clear, there are no easy answers to the problem. But the last thing we need is people like Coleman, who believe that they "care" more than the rest of us, muddying the waters by using terminology like "lacking proper paperwork".

No matter how you couch the words the facts are simple. There are people who are here who are not citizens. Some of them have come here legally. Some have not. This has nothing to do with their motivation for coming to the US nor with their worth as a human being. It is purely and simply a legal distinction. To try to pretend otherwise does not bring us any closer to a solution.

By the way, my grandfather was punished in school for speaking German. You know what happened to him? He learned English.

Thank God we live in more enlightened times now and immigrants aren't forced to learn the language required for them to get anywhere in our society.
Mass Musings

So I'm sitting in the church today waiting for Ash Wednesday mass to begin. My co-worker next to me suddenly leans over and whispers excitedly "We got the Bishop!". Having fasted most of the day (okay, so I had some oatmeal) I was like "Wha?" and then turned around to see the Bishop of the diocese of Winona gliding down the aisle looking resplendid in his Lenten purple.

I had not seen the Bishop before, nor knew anything about him, but my co-worker warned me "He's pretty hard core".

He began his homily with a flurry of points about what Lent Should Mean. He told people to give up birth control for Lent. To give up watching reality TV (guilty!). He then said that instead of saying the mass he could have been viewing The Passion Of The Christ at that very moment. He went on to strongly urge all Catholics to see the movie and then made a comparison between it and the Stations Of The Cross (he must be reading this blog as I made a similar comparison this past weekend).

He then laid down the Pope's pithy take on the movie: "It is as it was."

The score of the day for me was that I was able to get my ashes from the Bishop, my communion AND one of those cool little special blessings they throw out at the end as the mass is ending. All three from the Big Guy himself! I wasn't terribly crazy about the cross he made on my forehead. I mean even calling it a cross is a stretch, but I'm not complaining.
And The Winner In The "Who Didn't See This One Coming?" Category Is...

Powerline has an update on Jesse Ventura's teaching experience at fair Harvard. I shudder to think what the parents of these kids at Harvard are paying for something that we citizens of Minnesota were able to get for "free".

The Day's A Comin'

Big doings in the next few weeks. Mark your calendars.

We are only ten days away from the debut of the Northern Alliance Radio Show here in Minneapolis-St. Paul on AM-1280 The Patriot. March 6th 12:00pm-3:00pm CST. All your favorite Northern Alliance bloggers (and Atomizer) will be featured at various times on the talk radio program. Tune in, turn on, and call in.

And next Tuesday night both political parties will be holding precinct caucuses here in the North Star State. The Dems will have a chance to vote in the presidential primary, while there are really no serious races at stake on the GOP side. But I would strongly encourage the faithful (or even moderately interested) of both parties to show up and get involved.

The caucuses are an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door and become more active in politics. If you wish to have an influence on you party and its direction show up. If you want to get the chance to attend conventions from the local senate and congressional districts up to and including the state show up. If you want to meet, talk with, and get to know your local representatives and even statewide office holders show up.

There is an old adage that goes something like "90% of politics is showing up". And nowhere is this more true than the caucuses. So what are you waiting for? Just show up.

I'll be helping run a precinct caucus in St. Louis Park (I'll let you guess the party) and if you mention Fraters Libertas I'll let you vote twice. Kidding, only kidding. I'll leave the voting fraud and looking the other way while cute Irish girls stuff the ballot box to my compatriot on the other side of the river.

Don't know where to show up? Check out this handy precinct caucus finder. And then show up.
Early Adopter Tells All

Luke Duke isn’t a great movie reviewer (and if you don’t believe me, just ask him). But if you’d like to know what he thought of the Passion, here’s the link.

For my money, I’ll take informal yet skilled blogging opining over some high-minded snooty New Yorker review any day. And despite his self-deprecation, Luke delivers the goods with observations like this:

For me, the movie wasn't some life changing revelation, but it did help me to understand the humanity and mortality of Jesus Christ. When you hear the stories in Sunday school, you think, "It's Jesus. He can get take a little pain", but when you see what it could have looked like, what kind of pain he was likely put through, it really brings you closer to understanding his sacrifice.

Middle Aged Conservative Guys Gone Wild

Man from Silver Mountain checks in from an unnamed golf resort in the Deep South:

It is true. Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, Alabama. Enjoyed a round of golf today, then the Fat Tuesday parade. The best parade was Sunday, which is called Joe Cain day down here. Joe Cain was the man who restarted the Mardi Gras tradition in the Mobile area after the Civil War. He dressed up like an Indian chief and drove through the town streets flipping obscene gestures to the Union troops occupying the area. Today he is regarded as a hero.

The Mobile Register is everything the Star Tribune is not. They celebrated the Joe Cain parade with a write-up, including awards. The "best throw" went to a guy on a motorcycle who tossed Winston cigarettes to the crowd. It gave a hustle award to two men in their forties who beat two ten year-olds to teddy bears that were thrown from a float for them.

I love the South. Imagine a whole geographic region full of people who make JB Doubtless look open minded.
Not A White Guy From Connecticut...

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune Variety Section features a puff piece on Chris Lyndon, who is temporarily filling the slot on Minnesota Public Radio's 'Midmorning' program, recently vacated by cacklin' Katherine Lanpher, who left MPR for greener pastures (Al Franken's show will not want for fertilizer). After his 'Midmorning' stint, Lyndon and MPR may or may not be considering a future radio program on concerning politics and blogging.

An MPR spokeswoman told the Boston Globe last week that discussions were underway with Lydon for a national show about "blogging" and politics. (Lydon has his own web log.)

"I think that was overstated," said Buzenberg (MPR's senior vice president of news) of the report.

Lydon wasn't so sure. "It's possible," he said. "We're enthusing and enjoying a moment of exploration here. We really haven't planned ahead."

Don't call us Chris. We'll call you.

From the little that I've heard of him on the air, Lydon sounds like a talented, professional broadcaster with a nice set of pipes. Although I do have some issues with the homework he did to better understand his Minnesota audience:

To hook into the Minnesota mindset, Lydon said, "I started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald again. I read Carol Bly and Robert Bly. I read Garrison Keillor. I just tried to think my way into a Minnesota perspective."

A Keilloresque MPR Minnesota perspective of course. Which probably didn't require much thinking on Lydon's part:

Although he celebrates a global perspective and the "hybridization of the species," Lydon also mourns the decline of global discourse in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks "and this so-called war on terror. The prevailing impulse in our lives since 9/11 has been to put everybody at a distance. If you're not a white guy from Connecticut, there's a certain suspicion over your head."

Celebrating the "hybridization of the species" (whatever the hell that means)?

Mourning the decline of "global discourse"?

Questioning the validity of the "so-called war on terror"?

Creating race based paranoid fantasies about the response to 9/11?

Welcome to Minnesota Public Radio Chris. You're going to fit in just fine.
Follow Him. He's The Pied Piper.

Three weeks ago our very own Atomizer expressed his fondness for the Quiznos Sub ads and their singing rats (or spongmonkeys). Now a slew of followers and hangers on are picking up (finally) on this meme, including the Professor of the Vines, Seth Stevenson at Slate, and even Best of the Web.

Atomizer: setting the agenda on fast food advertising.

Remember folks when it comes to coverage of rocking rodents selling sandwiches, you read it here first.
The Hype of the Christ?

The advance word on Mel Gibson’s new movie “The Passion of the Christ” has convinced me it’s worth seeing. An accurate portrayal of history, a spiritually inspiring movie, an artistic masterpiece of technical and acting accomplishment. Each a reason in itself to attend. And if it embodies all three, well this might be the best movie I’ve seen this year (an honor currently held by Errol Morris’s terrific documentary on Robert McNamara “The Fog of War” now showing at the Lagoon).

Here are some of the criticisms leveled at the film so far:

The New Yorker magazine's David Denby said the violence overwhelmed the film. "One of the cruelest movies in the history of cinema," he wrote, calling "Passion" "a sickening death trip."

The New York Daily News called it an anti-Semitic work with violence that was "grotesque, savage and often fetishized" in slow motion.

”We were troubled ... that it portrayed the Jews, the Jewish community, in a manner that we have experienced historically," said Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Abraham Foxman. "Seeing passion plays [dramatizations of Jesus' last days] used to incite not only a passion of love in terms of Christianity, but at the same time, to instill and incite a hatred of the Jews because of deicide."

Then the defense from Mel himself:

Gibson said he wanted "to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds (or none) who have varying familiarity with this story."

I’m sure all of these criticisms and responses are earnestly expressed and there are no subversive marketing ambitions behind them. But that doesn’t mean the comments aren’t serving as an effective marketing campaign. The whole situation reminds me of the marketing strategies used by B-movie producers in the early days of shock/horror cinema. Below is from a Joe Bob Briggs interview about a 1963 movie called “Blood Feast”. It’s not a perfect analogy with Gibson’s movie, but the similarities in media manipulation (and manipulation by the media) are striking:

Lewis and Friedman dragged Blood Feast around the drive-in circuit for years, writing phony letters to editors in the next town on the map, posing as a minister complaining about the film's severity. Protests only sold more tickets. It worked, always, like a charm in Tampa. Things were different in Sarasota.

Friedman couldn't make anyone mad enough there to turn a profit. Then, an idea: He rented a motel room in Sarasota for a local address, then filed an injunction to keep Blood Feast out of "his" town. He got the publicity he wanted, and something he didn't expect.

The judge granted the injunction. Blood Feast could never be shown in Sarasota. Friedman hired an attorney to convince the judge that the plaintiff had seen the movie and had been wrong. This was, indeed, an educational film that should be seen. The injunction was overturned and Blood Feast made another killing.

The Real Deal

Scott Boone, an actual "NASCAR Dad", weighs in on Ellen Goodman's ignorance on the subject.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Forgetting The Dead In Election Pitch

For some reason Ellen Goodman decided to write a column on two subjects that she knows little of. Politics and NASCAR. What spurred her interest in these topics was the President's recent visit to the Daytona 500, and the role that "NASCAR Dads" will play in the coming election.

After starting off with a thoroughly humorless effort (what is it with liberal dames who write and their inability to tickle the funny bone?) to compare Bush's Daytona 500 trip with the aircraft carrier landing, she proves that she's quite clueless about what the label NASCAR Dad means: and large, NASCAR Dad has become a shorthand for socially conservative and economically struggling white men.

Gee, do you think that Ellen's New England bias is coming through a bit here? I am not a Dad and not a NASCAR fan. But I do know that to describe NASCAR Dads as "economically struggling" is grossly ignorant. Have you ever checked out the ticket prices to a NASCAR race or the jackets that these guys wear? While they may been struggling in the style department they ain't hurting in the wallet.

Now I'm not saying that all NASCAR Dads are hauling down the big ching, but most are middle to upper-middle class guys who aren't living paycheck to paycheck.

I don't know much about stock car racing, but every time some politician waves the checkered flag at this man, I want to put on the brakes. I think they're forgetting the dad in the NASCAR Dad.

At this point Goodman has established that she doesn't understand what a NASCAR Dad is or know anything about the sport that gives this group their moniker. So naturally she proceeds to tell us how these guys think:

The NASCAR Dad may like risk-taking as a spectator sport, but these days he's the guy buckling the kids in the child seats. In the same vein, he believes in national defense but doesn't want anybody conning his sons and daughters into combat over missing weapons of mass destruction.

As for the home front? The economy, education, the environment? The administration's policies can be summed up in the revised lyrics: Let's stop thinking about tomorrow. But when you become a dad, the future stretches out farther than the next lap.

The analysts may not think of NASCAR Dads as green, but a well-oiled administration that revoked approval of the Kyoto protocols, made a scam of fuel emission standards and barely uttered a post-9/11 peep about renewable energy is offering the next generation a future as dark as the track. As Dan Becker of the Sierra Club says, the White House environmental policy "begins and ends with `Gentleman, start your engines.'"

Yeah, I can just picture a couple of NASCAR Dads getting together for a barbeque and beers:

"So, how's Gordon gonna do down at Talladega next week?"

"I'm not thinking about that right now. What with greenhouse gases warming the planet, and Bush refusing to sign on to Kyoto, it's all I can do just to keep hope alive."

Again I am not a NASCAR Dad and don't pretend to speak for them, but Ellen c'mon, do you really think that these guys are staying awake at night worrying about global warming? How about fuel emission standards? You may find Dan Becker's line about Bush's environmental policy funny (once again proving your utter lack of a sense of humor) but do you honestly believe that NASCAR Dads are going to listen to the Sierra Club?

I'm not suggesting the D in Daytona stands for Democrat. In 1992, Bill Clinton got booed at a NASCAR event. Southern white males voted for Bush over Gore, 70-20. And John Kerry rides a motorcycle, not a stock car.

But this is not your father's NASCAR Dad. A father's role in the family is changing. He presents a more complicated, protective, and caring image than the Republican pitch of tax cuts and orange alerts.

If this voter is going to swing, it better be to the party that offers his kids more than a trip around and around and around the same old track.

Hmmm...Is it just me or is their almost an implied threat in that last line? " better be.."

But Ellen does make a good point (finally). NASCAR Dads are, like all fathers, protective of their children. For example they would rather not have their sons and daughters immolated by burning jet fuel in their offices. Or have them jump out of skyscrapers rather than be burnt alive. Or be crushed by tons of concrete and steel as they work to rescue others.

NASCAR Dads do care about their children's future. They want that future to be happy, free, prosperous, and safe from events like 9/11. That's why, by and large, they are going to vote for Bush in November. Gentlemen, pull your levers.
My Dream - Broadway Bound (and Gagged)

Last Sunday’s New York Times included a preview, written by Ben Brantley, of the upcoming Broadway season. Below are the highlights. As you’ll see, I think it’s safe to say most of the folks involved in these productions will be voting for John Kerry. It also appears that for NYC, or at least Broadway, the legacy of 9/11 is officially over, if it ever existed at all.

Before the United States invaded Iraq, even before the planes had hit the twin towers, the eerily prescient Tony Kushner ("Angels in America," "Caroline, or Change") had written a play called "Homebody/Kabul" ... it opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 11... in the liberal tradition of E. M. Forster, it continues to probe the West's failure to connect with cultures different from its own.

Note the characterization of the US intervention in and rebuilding of Iraq as an “invasion” while the 9/11 act of 19 Arab Islamo-fascist terrorists blowing up buildings and killing thousands is characterized passively as “when the planes hit the twin towers.” Now THAT’S accommodating a culture different from our own. Regarding Brantley’s assertion that the West has a continuing failure to connect with other cultures, the definitive response is found in the listing of the national origins of those killed on 9/11. Seems to be a bit of an American connection- with every culture different from our own.

Assassins .... a mordant, insightful musical from 1990 about men and women throughout American history whose greatest aspiration was to kill a president. Originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2001 (and postponed for obvious reasons) ... the show offers an alternative vision of American dreamers — or, as one song title puts it, "Another National Anthem" — in this time of furious flag-waving.

Immediately after 9/11 it was thought untoward to present presidential assassins as just an alternative vision of the American dreamer. Now it’s OK. Actually its more than OK, it’s needed “in this time of furious flag waving.” Not sure what that means, but it feels a little like they’re questioning my patriotism. As if there’s something wrong with waving your country's flag (during a time of war). Or is it just the “furious” part they’re concerned about? Perhaps a little limp wristed intermittent flourish would be acceptable?

The filmmaker and dramatist Neil LaBute has never shrunk from poking at the American underbelly .... His latest exploration of red, white and blue amorality is "The Distance From Here," which implicitly compares the life of one suburban family to that of the monkey house in a zoo.

The lives of suburban Americans compared to monkeys in a zoo in an exploration of American amorality. I have just one question for Detroit, Michigan native Neil Labute and supporters of this production. Is it OK for me to question your patriotism?
JB's Social Calendar For August Is Now Full

Again from yesterday's Strib sports section:

There is something called Hockey Gladiators coming up in August at Target Center, for those of you who think hockey has too much shooting and passing in between the fights.

The tournament format apparently calls for 32 thugs to be paired up. Then they skate to center ice and, after a signal, try to pummel each other silly for two minutes in matches to eventually determine the ultimate goon.

Now that is what you call entertainment.
Paging Frank Pastore

From yesterday's Strib sports section:

"He's a big man. He's not going to go out with a body like Ramon Ortiz's and compete. It's more a player who knows his body than imposing a weight on him."

- Angels manager Mike Sciosca on why he's not upset with onion-shaped starter Bartolo Colon's current weight of 260 pounds

I think Bartolo Colon dropping twenty would definitely help the Angels.

That's Entertainment

The Stribs hipster-in-residence Chris Riemenschneider attended rapper Twista's show this weekend. If the Strib is like most papers, they set diversity goals for their writers at the beginning of the year to basically make them attend shows like rapper Twista's, which is about the only way I would get within six miles of a rap show at the Quest.

Thankfully, the Elder has not assigned us any diversity goals for the year.

So how was it, Chris? Well if you ignore the following, it went fine:

- Fans had to wait for two hours OUTSIDE just to get in

- Fans then waited a further THREE hours for the artist to take the stage

- He performed for 45 minutes (which Riemy chalked up as a positive since it was "Twice as long as 50 cent performed")

- Chris was initially turned away at the door for wearing "colors" but changed to a Staind t-shirt from his Jetta and gained re-entry (okay, that one I made up)

Yes, I can see why he gave this performance a semi-positive review. I mean, what's five hours of your life to see 45 minutes of rap bliss, or as we'll see in a minute music that "Sufficed"?

Our open-minded writer ends the piece with the following:

Wearing a backward cap and basketball jersey, the star didn't show a lot of charisma or personality. But the music sufficed. He ended with several songs off his new "Kamikaze" album, including a loose, fun version of the hit "Slow Jamz" and -- even better -- the sleazy romp "Like a 24"

Music that merely sufficed, long, ridiculous waits, a performer that lacked charisma or personality--sounds like most entertainment I've seen in Minneapolis. But at least there was a sleazy romp. I'd hate to attend a "Hip hop" show and not hear a sleazy romp.

Monday, February 23, 2004

To God Be The Glory

The Misericordia Orphanage is located on the outskirts of Chihuahua, not far from the airport. Once you leave the highway you need to carefully navigate your way down a dusty, rock strewn, washed out "road" to reach it. The grounds are surprisingly small, with a series of humble single story buildings clustered around a courtyard with a makeshift basketball court and playground equipment.

One of the buildings houses a modest library and study area with teaching materials. Next to this is a "dormitory". The children are divided up according to age and sex with the young boys, young girls, and older girls in adjoining rooms in this building. The sleeping quarters are reminiscent of military barracks with bunk beds and small lockers with little space between.

What the rooms lack in space, they make up for in color and neatness. We were very impressed with the orderliness and cleanliness that was readily apparent throughout the facility (with the not unexpected exception of the older boys sleeping area). The kids share clothes and the orphanage has its own laundry room, where a few of the older girls are kept busy washing, and then neatly folding and storing the many shirts and pants. There was also a study area for the older girls, which included a few recently donated sewing machines for them to use.

On the other side of the courtyard sits the kitchen. It too is a small structure and the children must eat in shifts. The woman who manages the kitchen runs a very tight ship, and it is tidy and well kept. She is a creative cook and tries to provide as much variety as possible on the menu, within the limits of a diet whose staples are rice and beans. Recently she was fortunate enough to receive a donated microwave which helps speed up some of the food preparation. But much of the work is time consuming. All tortillas for example, are made daily by hand. Some of the older girls also help out in the kitchen, which gives them a sense of responsibility as well as helping them learn to cook.

Beyond the kitchen is the older boys dormitory. They have been segregated from the younger boys because of their propensity to fight. They have been segregated from the older girls because of their propensity to...well, let's just say that the last thing the orphanage needs is another mouth to feed.

At the time of our visit there were eighty five children living at the orphanage. At times they have housed over a hundred. Presently the youngest child is four, the oldest seventeen.

The experience of visiting was both heartening and heart breaking. Heartening because the impact of our efforts was obvious. Heart breaking because the needs of the children remain so great.

While the kids do have a roof over their heads, the facilities are not much more than that. The buildings are obviously not weather proofed, neither to withstand the torrid summer days heat nor the chilly winter nights (temps in Chihuahua often dip below freezing in the winter). The current septic system is overworked and waste seeps out of the ground.

The basic needs, at times, seem overwhelming:

-clean supplies
-quilts/bed spreads
-personal hygiene supplies
-plastic cups/plates

But just as clearly our aid, limited as it was, will make a difference. As I mentioned earlier, we spent the afternoon of Thursday February 12th picking up supplies with a volunteer who works at the orphanage.

We started at the Sam's Club pharmacy where we loaded up on medical supplies. Antibiotics, band-aids, Calamine lotion, decongestants, ear medicine, fungus powder, gauze name it, we bought it. After filling the lengthy list of medical needs we still had funds remaining and elected to use them at Wal-Mart. We picked up trash cans, garbage bags, shampoo, soap, Pine sol, etc. And, because every child deserves to have a little fun in their lives, we scored a couple of soccer and basketballs as well as an inflation pump.

We also decided that our welcome might be a bit warmer if we showed up with items more enticing to kids than a bottle of aspirin, so we grabbed candy, chips, and soda. The volunteer suggested that we might want to pick up dinner for the children. So we arranged to snag some Dominoes pizzas on the way out to the orphanage.

Was it the most practical way to use our funds? Perhaps not. But for these children, every day in their meager lives is a Spartan exercise in forced practicality. We decided that for one day, they would live a little. (If you consider "living" having a piece a pizza, some chips, and a glass of soda.)

Upon our arrival we were greeted by both the staff and the children. The kids helped us unload the supplies and food from the truck, fighting for the chance to carry something, anything inside. In short order they were playing with the various balls that we had brought, and the pizza, chips, candy, and soda were being carefully distributed by the kitchen staff.

The kids were very well behaved and, considering how rare a treat pizza is for them, very patient as they waited for their food. After we toured the facility we hung out with them while they played and/or ate. My Spanish is pretty much limited to "hello, goodbye" and "another beer please", and most of the children did not speak English. Yet we still found ways to communicate, especially after I showed them the wonders of digital photography. Soon they were clamoring for group shots, upon whose completion I would be immediately surrounded by tiny faces checking their look in my camera's tiny display. From there the cry became "Mi solo! Mi solo!", as the kids started vogueing(yes, that is a puppy) in individual poses. A few of the more adventurous ninos even volunteered to use the camera themselves, a notion that, after some initial hesitation, I agreed to. Any of the pictures that include me were taken by one of the kids.

After about an hour and a half, and with darkness approaching it was time to bid our farewell. We had delivered the medical supplies, a little food, a little fun, and perhaps some hope. Most importantly we were able to meet the staff and the children and gain a better understanding of their situation and needs. Which will definitely help us focus our future assistance.

Thanks again to all those who generously donated to help make this effort possible. If you are interested in receiving more information about the Misericordia Orphanage please send me an e-mail at My next trip to Chihuahua is planned for late May and I will try arrange my schedule so that I can visit the orphanage again.

Click here for all the pictures.

(In case you missed it the title of this post comes from this mural at the orphanage.)
What Would Rudy Boschwitz Do?

Last night I was in my kitchen preparing my sumptuous evening repast when a commotion from the back window caught my eye. A closer look revealed elderly neighbors in the alley making doddering laps around their automobile, sprinkling salt in front of all four tires. Further review showed their vehicle's back end planted in a snow bank up to its wheel wells. Immediately it became clear that their attempts to use salt to gain their freedom were fated to be as successful as gaining peace in our time by handing away our strategic advantage in offensive weaponry via a one-sided, non-verifiable treaty with a bunch of lying, cheating communists. (Blogger winces at simile, notes time limitations and extreme difficulty of identifying further applicable salt references, goes boldly forward).

Thanks to the standard five minute wait-for-a-miracle-to-transpire delay on direct action, I was able to finish my beer and then gallantly head on down to help them out. Nice, sweet old people. Both very happy to see me. The old man, a retired doctor no less, even insisted on helping me push, despite his wife's repeated counsel of: "Harold no! You're 82-years-old with a heart condition!"

I hope when I'm 82 years old with a heart condition I'll still have the lucidity and will to ignore my wife's nagging mollycoddling. And Harold, God bless him, would not be dissuaded from the task at hand. He was beside me the whole time with his shoulder to the rear bumper as we moved that stuck Subaru sedan, through sheer brute force alone, right out of that snow bank.

Truth be told, I didn't need Harold's help to do the job. I could have pushed it out on my own. But respecting his needs as man to not be shown as helpless in the eyes of his woman, I didn't call him off. In fact, I even eased back on my efforts, allowing Harold to do most of the heavy lifting himself. Only upon hearing him painfully groan and say "my heart feels like its being pulled through my ribs!" did I resume my pushing in earnest. Call me a great humanitarian if you will, but that's just the kind of guy I am.

So the car was freed, Harold and Prudence beamed, we all shook hands. Then, just as I was turning to leave, still warm from the glow of neighborly goodness, I glanced at their rear bumper. And I was confronted by a little rectangular forrest green tormentor.

A "Wellstone!" bumper sticker. I paused. Furled my brow. And began an internal debate over the merits of marching round to the front of their Subaru and with a shove depositing it back into the snow bank's frigid embrace.

I won't lie to you, the debate was a close one. Believe me, under these circumstances there are some compelling and perfectly logical, moral arguments for stranding two elderly people in the snow on a cold winter's night. But in the end I couldn't do it. I simply wished them a pleasant evening and strolled away.

That, my friends, is the definition of a compassionate conservative.

Epilogue: I don't have a digital camera, so proper photographic documentation of this event is lost to history. And with it I fear my nomination as one of Eleven Who KARE. But, as an aid the more unimaginative among you, Harold and Prudence look something like this.
There You Yo! Again

More from When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan. This excerpt regarding Reagan's daughter Patti Davis.

Noonan interviewed her for the book:

"Remember the book Black Like Me? When I was twelve I would have given my right arm to find that stuff and turn myself and my entire family black. I wanted to show solidarity with people I thought were oppressed and who in fact oppressed, and some still are. But I felt so guilty about being white and priviledged. I felt very guilty about it. I always felt...not deserving. Poor people too--I wanted to be one of them by showing my solidarity.

"I had this fantasy--I remember sitting out there in Arizona at the golf course, at my grandparents', sitting out there in the sun reading Black Like Me. I thought things would have been so much better if I could turn myself black and turn my whole family black."

Controlling the Past

"Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary." - George Orwell, 1984

Speaking of 1984, does anyone remember the Presidential campaign that year? Ronald Reagan in a bit of a route over home boy Walter Mondale? Here’s a visual reminder documenting the extent of the victory. I didn’t think there was a continuing debate about who’s policies the American people gave the mandate to in that election.

Looks like I may be wrong about that. From yesterday’s New York Times, in an article about the personalities of John Kerry vs. John Edwards, this insight into what really happened in 1984:

“A majority of Americans disagreed with Ronald Reagan's policies in 1984, but he won because they liked him personally," said [pollster Frank] Luntz, who has advised Republican candidates.

Somewhere Fritz Mondale is sitting alone, gravely nodding to himself, and saying ‘where’s the beef? Yes, I was the beef. I AM the beef.’

Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Dash Of This And That

Random musings:

* The Fraters Library has been updated thanks to some insights from reader JP. If you have a suggestion for the shelves, drop me an e-mail.

* Tonight the final episode of Sex And The City airs. I've never watched the show and frankly don't give a damn. Much of the media has been babbling about this finale for the last two days, and to me it is yet another sign of how out of touch many elements of the media are with "mainstream America".

First off the show was only on for six years so it is hardly an institution. Secondly it was on HBO so many people never even had a chance to see it. Thirdly the television market is now so segmented with so many niches, that there no longer is such a thing as the program that everyone talks about around the water cooler. The closest that we have these days is probably Friends, but with the decline of network television ratings, even that is only watched by a small percentage of overall viewers. The days of everyone discussing the last episode of M*A*S*H, Cheers, or even Seinfeld are over and they ain't coming back.

Finally consider whether Sex In The City would be getting so much attention if it didn't have a titillating title?

* First in war. First in peace. First in the whiskey glasses of his countryman? Interesting piece on efforts to restore a distillery built by Washington, that was once one of the largest in America. We raise our cups to you tonight George.

* Over the last few months we've run a series of posts with the title 'The Sky Is Falling'. The purpose of these efforts was to expose the doom and gloom mongering in the wake of last year's decision not to raise taxes to solve Minnesota's budget deficit. If you were to believe many in the local media, the state was going to hell in a handbasket because Governor Pawlenty and the House Republicans had the temerity to exercise a little fiscal restraint.

The Strib has been a leader in this area, and today's paper featured yet another editorial bemoaning the greedy, short sighted attitudes of those who oppose raising taxes. After laying out its usual laundry list of depredations that the people of Minnesota have suffered in the last year because the nanny state wasn't there to lend assistance, the Strib editorialistas claim:

These are not Chicken Little predictions.

Chicken Little eh? Isn't the that fellow we usually link with panicky "the sky is falling" hysterics? Hmmm...

* Now we know who's really behind the right wing shock jocks.

* Speaking of Hugh Hewittt, I can't wait to see how he uses this one tomorrow:

True story: While I was covering a Wizard of Oz festival in Grand Rapids, Minn., several years ago, an 80-year-old Munchkin hit on me.

Geez James, why don't you just pour gas all over yourself and hand Hugh a lighter? You're making it way too easy for him.
Methinks He Doth Protest Too Much

The Warrior Monk over at Spitbull has taken me to task over a post of mine regarding gay marriage. Fair enough. My comments were, admittedly, a tad bit underthought and very much a visceral reaction to a news segment I was watching at the time. That sometimes happens when I watch the news while at the computer. Nevertheless, I stand by my statements and will recant nothing.

That being said, a reliable source has informed me that the Monk spent this past weekend with five men at a very gay hotel in Atlanta and had a delightful meal at an equally gay restaurant. Criminal? Hardly. Curious? Quite.

Never go against the family, Fredo.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

There’s A Whole Lotta Consumin’ Goin’ On Out There

People are spending money. I’m not going to bore you with a long list of statistics to back this up, mainly because I don’t have those statistics and I’m too lazy to look them up. All I have is my personal observations on the matter and what I saw tonight puts paid to the myth that we’re living in an economic wasteland.

The lovely Atomizerette and I, along with her parents, took her son out to the behemoth called Mall of America (definite article optional) tonight for his second 14th birthday dinner this week. In my day, we only got one celebratory birthday meal and we ate sand. That’s right...sand. But I digress.

Our arrival at Mall was greeted with the usual parking nightmare. Too many cars driven by too many ignorant people all trying to find a spot three feet from the entrance make the simple exercise of parking one’s car a Dante-like carnival ride through hell. It was a painful experience, but nothing out of the ordinary at Mall.

The original plan for the evening was to strap on the feedbags at the Rainforest Café, a rainforest themed restaurant that features a 5,500 gallon fish tank, waterfalls, a simulated thunderstorm as well as some miscellaneous overpriced food items. We took one look at the immense horde of humans congregated around the front desk (actually, a large purple elephant) and began to have second thoughts. The man atop the elephant told us that our wait would be over 90 minutes. We all said nertz to that and settled on an alternative with only a 30 minute wait.

During this little respite, I had the opportunity to do a little people watching. I saw some little people, yes, but I also saw a lot of big people too. People with bags. Lots and lots of people with lots and lots of bags full of lots and lots of merchandise. The scene in this place was incredible. Here we are not even two months after Christmas on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Mall was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. I’m talking elbow to elbow here folks.

Some would have you believe that we’re not in the middle of an economic recovery. They tell us that even if there is, possibly, just a slight bit of, maybe, a little inkling of, perhaps, a small iota of the tiniest beginning of a minor recovery occurring, that it’s a “jobless” one. They also tell us that the middle class has been left out in the cold.

I don’t know what you people are seeing but today, I saw a lot of those middle class folks out there with their families eating at restaurants and buying merchandise at stores and riding indoor roller coasters and driving their cars and, generally, getting in my way. The bottom line is that they were spending their money; money that they presumably earned at…yeah, you got it, jobs.

There’s a whole lotta consumin’ goin’ on out there, but let that be our little secret. Who knows what would happen if word got out.
Phrase Of The Day

"...please approach the back of the purple elephant."

(The front desk of The Rainforest Cafe at the Mall of America looks like a big, purple elephant. The waitstaff informs awaiting parties that their table is ready by saying "Johnson, safari of five, please approach the back of the purple elephant. Your adventure is about to begin." I'm not joking.)
And You Thought His Editorials Were Asinine

Syl Jones writes occasional editorials for the Star Tribune. Believe it or not, his perspective is left of center. Extreme left of center, which to be fair does make him a moderate by Star Tribune editorial standards. His specialties include racial bomb throwing, such as calling white people “ice people” and comments like this on affirmative action:

Every single African-American who survived the terrorist onslaught perpetrated by the majority of white society deserves compensation for his or her losses, direct and indirect. And I'll make a deal with you: Give me just one-tenth of the hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from us in free labor, confiscated homes and land, in human flesh and blood, and in psychological agony, and I'll gladly donate a large part of my share to your education. Because most of you desperately need it.

He also excels at misidentifying conservative intellectuals with consumer affairs reporters. He once tried to demean Front Page Magazine’s David Horowitz by saying he was also the guy who used to host that “Fight Back!” show - and amazingly the Star Tribune editors didn’t know the difference either and they printed it.

And he has a talent for extreme, irresponsible rhetoric on the topics of the day. Like just this past week in the Strib with this characterization of the Vietnam war ...:

Vietnam was at best a miscalculation, at worst a nefarious lie told by pimps from the military industrial complex who profited from the free flow of blood on both sides of the conflict. And until that entire generation of manipulative old men lays down and dies we, as a nation, will carry the burden of their horrible mistakes like a port wine stain on our foreheads.

Syl’s role in the community is kind of a mystery. He’s not a regular columnist with the Star Tribune. He only gets an editorial out every couple of months or so. Therefore, he must do something else to make a living. And a good living at that, since his editorial biography line lists him as living in tony Minnetonka. That bio line, used in every editorial, is:

Syl Jones, of Minnetonka, is a playwright, journalist and corporate consultant.

Maybe it’s the play writing gig paying those Minnetonka property taxes? Up until now, I always dismissed this part of his resume, since the standards for calling yourself a “writer” in this town consist of taking a course at the Loft, calling yourself a writer to your friends, then not really writing anything - ever. But at least on that last account, Syl doesn’t qualify. Not only has he been writing plays, he’s getting one of them produced.

From the Pioneer Press, a review of a play opening soon at the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis:

Syl Jones' "Sacrament" is staged in a car parked outside the theater, and patrons will throw on football-player foul-weather capes to stand outside and watch.

The Annual Fraters Night at the Theater Committee has been looking for the right event, and I think this could be it. We’ll keep you posted. As a special bonus, we’ll see if Syl will agree to let all white people managing to watch the whole thing (while wearing capes) officially off the hook for that whole reparations thing.
The Billionaire Boys Club

Breaking news from MPR. Trust fund tycoon Sen. Mark Dayton (heir to the Dayton Hudson retailing fortune) has just endorsed the Presidential bid of trust fund tycoon Sen. John Kerry (first mate of the widow to the heir of the Heinz condiment fortune). This move no doubt will move the polling numbers among occupants of mansions all over Kenwood, Crocus Hill, and Summit Avenue.

Except for those mansions owned by wealthy ambulance-chasing lawyers. As quoted below, Dayton believes that people of this lower station in life are beneath consideration for holding office:

Dayton says Kerry's breadth of political experience and expertise on the economy and foreign relations makes him a better candidate Edwards.

"I like John Edwards. I've served with him over the last three years as well, but I don't think that a high priced legal advocate is any substitute for dedicated public service," he said.

Translation - if in your life you have ever had to spend your time actually earning a living, you’ve got no place in government. At least not when a trust fund millionaire dilettante is also in the race.

I also like Dayton’s choice of words for describing Edwards: “a high priced legal advocate”. That’s Dayton saying, 'guys like Kerry and me hire guys like Edwards. So don’t waste your vote on the hired help, when you can get the lord of the manor himself.'
"Where's That Deli?"

The Jewish anti-defamation league is embarassing itself (shocking, yes) with its objections to Mel Gibson's new movie.

"We are not into boycotts, but it's important to sensitize people to the concerns we have," said Joel Levy, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. "The movie is a modern-day passion play, and passion plays historically have been the occasion for lots of anti-Semitic activity."

Thank you for sensitizing us Joel, but I have a question for you. Since "passion plays" have historically been the occasion for anti-semitic activity, what do you think about the Catholic tradition of the stations of the cross? In this ritual, Catholics go from depiction to depiction graphically illustrating the crucifixion of Christ, praying and meditating on what each station means.

It always used to scare me to go through this as a child because you had to look up at this big likeness of Jesus getting the crown of thorns applied, or falling for the first time with the cross or when the Romans callously cast lots for his clothes.

I remember it being a powerful experience and one that gave true insight into what Jesus did for Our Sins.

What I don't remember is driving to St. Louis Park looking for Jewish delis to burn.

The stations of the cross could easily be compared to a passion play. I wonder if Joel thinks it's okay to continue this tradition.
Ay! Chihuahua

The name Chihuahua is derived from the Tarahumara Indian language and means "sandy and dry" (or "place where sacks are made"-I like the former better myself). I can't imagine a more appropriate moniker for the state in northern Mexico, and its capital city which bears the same name. Winters in Minnesota are almost soggy compared with the arid atmosphere in Chihuahua.

The city of close to a million souls is nestled jammed between barren, rocky hills not far from the Sierra Madre mountains. There is very little vegetation in Chihuahua, save for the plants that thrive in the high desert climate, or the irrigated fields outside the city where cattle graze.

And oh how do they graze. Beef or carne is the food of choice in Chihuahua, and it dominates the local restaurant menus. Many, many varieties of top notch steak can be had at reasonable prices (or unreasonable prices-I was dining on the company's dime so I didn't really notice). While this may sound delectable, especially to the Atkins obsessed, eating steak and beef day after day does get quite old. By the end of my eight days spent in Chihuahua, I was craving anything and everything else. Chicken, pork, ostrich, etc. And pasta, especially pasta.

Soccer is THE sport in Chihuahua, although basketball is also popular. As I mentioned earlier, I watched the US and Mexico under-23 national teams vie for a spot in the Athens Olympics in a bar in Chihuahua. The Mexican fans were nervous before the match began, still a bit shell shocked from their 2002 World Cup loss to the American squad. But they need not have feared, for the contest turned out to be quite similar to the 2001 NFC Championship game between the Vikings and Giants. The home team got off to a fast start and never was seriously challenged. And a 4-0 score in soccer is roughly equivalent to a 41-0 drubbing in football.

I was also able to catch some live local soccer action (oxymoron?). Remember what I said about it being dry? Check out the "field" where the match took place. All dirt baby. Makes you think twice before going for that slide tackle. Since hockey is not real big in Chihuahua, the Commissioner naturally gravitated towards the soccer pitch.

The meddling metropolitan planners of the world (Ted Mondale for example), would be aghast at the sprawling nature of the city. As the population has swelled in recent years, it has sprouted offshoots in all directions, particularly to the west, which has become THE place to live, eat, and shop. For some reason the people of Chihuahua cling to the antiquated notion that growth is good.

The ultra cool urban hipsters of the world (anyone who works at the City Pages for example) would be appalled at the presence of American mainstays such as Wendy's, Burger King, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and yes, most egregious of all, Applebee's (which is incredibly popular with the locals). Sadly, the corporate behemoth Starbucks has yet to stomp its boot heeled footprint into the sandy soil of the city, but I confidently expect that it will only be a matter of time before Chihuahuans are enjoying venti double lattes with the rest of us.

The one category of business chains that you won't see in Chihuahua (or anywhere else in Mexico for that matter) is gas stations. The only game in town is PEMEX or Petroleos Mexicanos, the government owned monopoly that controls the country's oil and gas resources.

Mexico is an exporter of oil. It is also a country desperately trying to prime its economy to help alleviate the widespread poverty of its people. So one might assume that the government would seek to keep gas prices low to help ease the burden the consumer, and make businesses more competitive.

Of course, in this case, one would be wrong. A little conversion work with exchange rates and metric measurements shows that the average Jose six pack in Chihuahua lays out around three bucks a gallon to keep his vehicle on the road (that and a lot of duct tape and Bondo). Remind me again why government control of resources is good for the people?

Not that higher gas prices keep folks off the roads (paging the Metropolitan Council). Chihuahuans like to drive and drive like Banshees they do. Traffic is not so much congested and clogged as it is crazy and chaotic. There are traffic laws, but much like the local zoning regulations, their existence does not guarantee their enforcement.

Speed bumps are employed in many places, but all they do is cause drivers to slam on their brakes at the last possible moment as they race from bump to bump, as if they are trying to qualify for time trials and are worried about their split times. Traffic signs and signals do not indicate hard and fast commands that must be obeyed, rather they are viewed as merely suggestions. A red alto sign means stop. Unless you're in a hurry. Or there's no one around. Or maybe you just don't feel like stopping.

Traffic lanes? Mere guidelines for possible avenues to direct your vehicle. If they don't work for you feel free to flow wherever the road takes you.

Turn signals? A nice option if you an afford 'em but don't use 'em too often, else they might wear out. And don't get so hung up on this right signal means that I'm turning right stuff either. Hey isn't it enough that I'm telling you that I'm going to do SOMETHING? You Americans and your need for specifics.

The city is also home to more than its fair share of monuments and statues. Some of them are understandably related to the city's history, while the background and purpose of others is a bit murky (this angel for example). Then there are the three monuments to men some might consider "oppressors" rather than heroes. Henry Ford, Christopher Columbus, and Cortez all get their place in the Chihuahua sun. In the industrial complex, not far from where our plant is located you can even find a larger than life, artistic version of the Man of La Mancha.

I've probably been to Chihuahua nine or ten times over the last six years, and every time I discover something novel and unique about the city. But there's one thing that I've never seen there in all my visits. A Chihuahua dog. Say it ain't so Taco Bell.

Monday: Orphanage visit
The Secret Lives of Timberwolves

From yesterday’s Pioneer Press, a nugget of information on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ oft injured point guard Troy Hudson:

Guard Troy Hudson has authored a rap song about his Timberwolves teammates and coach Flip Saunders that Fox Sports Net will air throughout the rest of the season.

I didn’t know that Troy Hudson had any musical abilities, but I’ll publicly call him the next Flava Flav if he finds a way to maintain a flow while having to bust a rhyme on top of the words “Wally Szczerbiak” and “Ndudi Ebi”.

My curiosity piqued, I Googled Hudson’s rapping aspirations and came up with but single corroborating source. This from the June 11, 2003 edition of the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale student newspaper, the Egyptian:

When he is not on the court working on his game, [Hudson] can be found in the studio in pursuit of his second dream - rap music. Inspired by the late Tupac Shakur, Hudson has his own label, Nuttyboyz Entertainment, and has recorded more than 100 songs in his studio.

Nutty Boys? Is this guy inspired by Tupac Shakur or Jerry Lewis? Despite his low profile in the music biz, T-Hud has already got 100 songs in the can. If nothing else, no one can accuse him of dreaming small dreams. Further evidence:

With much of his time spent on the basketball court, Hudson's debut album has been on the shelf now for more than a year.

Just don't ask him what the title of the album is. "He's changed it about four or five times," [his girlfriend Monique] Moy said. "I don't know what he's going to go with. He went from a single to a triple and now it's a double CD. He's got so much music he can't make up his mind."

Lest you thought Hudson didn’t have any humility, notice he’s agreed to scale back his debut album from a triple down to a double CD. Even so, I must say that’s a lot of music devoted to running the pick and roll play in practice with Fred Hoiberg.

To be fair, it seems Hudson’s perspective reaches beyond the basketball court:

Whatever the title, expect about 25 cuts filled with insight from his life growing up in Carbondale and his time spent in the league, along with raps covering themes ranging from violence to politics to romance.

A hip hop double CD filled with insights about growing up in Carbondale, IL. Suddenly songs about Fred Hoiberg's ability to set a pick don’t seem so bad.