Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Afternoon Zoo

Listening to Dave Thompson on KSTP - just heard him wonder if the Republicans had the "balls" to stand up to the Deomcrats on domestic spending issues.

Wow. Was that the heralding of a new age of edgier, in-your-face Dave Thompson broadcasts? I hope so, as it certainly would spice up Saturday afternoon radio. But "balls" still might be a little too crass to use during this day part. Dave, in the future, let me suggest "stones" "seeds" or "venom sacks".
On Voiding Where Prohibited

Earlier this week Mitch Berg of Shot in the Dark fame saw the King and I. This will come as no surprise to those who know of MB’s passion for lavish Broadway musicals starring bald Siamese potentates.

However, in this case, ‘the King and I’ refers to King Banaian, the proprietor of the leading education-related blog in the state of Minnesota, and I (me, your's truly). The occasion was King’s testimony in front of the House Education Committee (in support of Governor Pawlenty’s initiative to establish social studies standards), and since he had some down time in St. Paul afterwards, the Northern Alliance residents of the Saintly City were happy to have a chance to meet with him at a local establishment.

It was a fine time and both gentlemen proved to be entertaining and provocative conversationalists. I left the 90 minute meeting with even more respect for the amalgamation of intellect brought together under the Northern Alliance banner. I also had the honor of participating in a kind of sartorial devolutionary line up. As we stood up and walked to the exit, I noticed King was wearing a bespoken suit, I was wearing Stillwater casual office slob chic attire, and Mitch was wearing sweat pants. I also noticed that height positively correlated with dressing down. Not sure what that says about Darwin or the ascent of man, but as I walked into the cold January St. Paul night, I had renewed faith for the theory of creationism.

Speaking of nature vs. nurture, during our conversation, King mentioned something about his affection for the city of St. Paul (specifically the neighborhoods around Summit Ave.), as compared to his disaffection for Minneapolis. This validated my opinion as well. But I’m an east metro boy since birth, and a disdain for Minneapolis is inherent to my genetic code. King, on the other hand, is not one of us. He’s from New England. Yet he still formed a disdain for the so-called City of the Lakes, based on pure intellect and logic alone. And he’s a Ph.D. in economics, so he has to be right.

A story out of Minneapolis this week punctuates our shared feeling toward that city. The Elder referenced it yesterday, and here’s the article from the Pioneer Press, entitled: “Minneapolis: End Public Urination, Ads Urge.”

To curb the problem, the DMNA plans to spend $10,000 on a campaign to get bar-goers to use restrooms in the establishments they frequent. So far, they're in the early stages of the campaign and are considering putting the slogan, "Go before you go," on posters and coasters.

Only in Minneapolis. You would never see this in St. Paul. That’s not to say public urination doesn’t happen in St. Paul. It does, as evidenced by the alleys along West 7th before any Wild game. But you would never hear of a quasi-government agency in St. Paul buying ads encouraging “Go Before You Go”. It’s naive, it’s silly, it’s a waste of money, it’s ... Minneapolis.

I suspect the writer of the Pioneer Press article, Gita Sitaramiah, isn’t a St. Paul native either, and may indeed be from Minneapolis. Her prose includes this nugget of moral relativism. It’s a reference to a witness report of some public urination in the warehouse district:

More troubling was that the men peeing around a garbage container were clearly not transients with nowhere to go, but guys with cash in their pockets out for a fun night on the town.

According to Ms. Sitaramiah, the sight of someone releasing their bodily wastes in plain sight is less troubling if they are transients. Interesting choice of words too, “transients”. It’s defined by Merriam Webster as “a person traveling about, usually in search of work”. Not bloody likely. Also the euphorian assumption that “transients” have no choice but to use the public streets as their toilet is characteristically Minneapolitan.

This compassionate tolerance of homeless public urination by some sectors of society reinforces the argument for charging an admission fee to get in to the Winter Carnival Ice Palace. If this thing were in Minneapolis instead, and being administered by Nick Coleman’s and Gita Sitaramiah’s rules, parents all over the metro area would have to be answering the question: “Daddy, why is the ice yellow at the bottom of the Palace?”

Believe it or not, it could be worse. While Minneapolitans seem to feel public urination by the homeless should be tolerated as a part of their rich, bleeding heart’s burden, there are others in this world who whole-heartedly embrace the practice in itself.

Who are these filthy vulgarians you ask? You guessed it, the French! Searching the term “public urination” in the Star Tribune archives (doing blog-related research lowers me to new depths every week), I came across this article from August 2000. It’s a review for a French travel book, including this charming insight into the Gallic soul:

Back in his adopted homeland of Provence, [Peter] Mayle can make even the French fondness for the act of public urination -- le pipi rustique -- seem charming.

Le pipi rustique, you say? Well, at least it sounds sophisticated.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

Minneapolis-St. Paul is a fairly tolerant area, but I have to imagine that I wasn't the only local whose eyebrows were raised tonight when I heard Hugh describing how he had to enlist Generalissimo Duane's aid, "because he has such good hands", to get Hugh's zipper unstuck in the restroom of a McDonald's in Excelsior.
There He Is...

In case you missed my call to the Hugh Hewitt show tonight (and latest failed tryout for a regular position on the program-this time I blew my chance to be the Science Expert after earlier bombing my Sports Commentator and National Security Advisor auditions), it is official, James Lileks has won the competition and is the voters choice for best regular guest on Hugh's show. Congratulations James.

A bevy of wonderful prizes personally picked out by Hugh himself will be delivered to your home in a matter of days. Let's just hope you like the Time-Life music series and lifetime supply of Cheetos as much as Hugh does.
Because Really No One Cares

The Commissar at the Politburo Dikta offers his top ten rules for blogging. Some are spot on, others less so. Our own Saint Paul has covered this terrain quite superbly before, and one of his cardinal rules is also number one on this list:

1. Do not apologize for light blogging. "Hey guys, sorry for the light blogging, but I've gotta turn a few bolts here at the tractor factory, so I won't be blogging much for the next six hours."

Set aside the fact that such warnings are typically followed by a Gatling fury of rapid-fire posts. Comrade, I hate to be the one to tell you ... but we will survive. Really. With support of my family, I think I will be able to get by the next day or two without an update from ""

Courtesy of Joe at the evangelical outpost.
You Don't Have To Stay Home But You Can't Go Here

One benefit of the recent spate of morbidly cold weather here is that
this hasn't been as much of a problem.

(Courtesy of Jonathan at Mangled Cat.)
Like All Good Things, This Too Must Come To An End

It's over. The best regular guest on the Hugh Hewitt radio show has been chosen by your votes. And the winner is.... be announced tonight on Hugh's show. Check your local listings for times and channels.
Parish The Thought

Assuming that Hugh Hewitt has survived his sub-zero naked snowmobile adventure on Lake Minnetonka today, I think I have found a great city for his next stop. The residents of Parish, NY are presently digging out from under 6 feet of snow. Since Hugh seems to have a penchant for finding climatic extremes, I think it would be a perfect fit.
Thrown To The Lions At The Forum

Last night's Patriot Forum, with Hugh Hewitt was well worth the price of admission and the braving of subzero temps. Atomizer joined me and my wife at the event, which was held at the swanky Saint Paul Hotel.

There was a short cocktail hour, followed by dinner, and then the main event; Hugh's speech on the upcoming election. We were able to chat with Hugh before dinner and also had the great pleasure of reacquainting ourselves with the charming and vivacious Tordas, whom we had met last summer on The Patriot Cruise. She's a Norwegian spitfire full of vim and vinegar as well as a fair measure of Atomizer's gin. To regular listeners of Hugh's show she's probably best known for the stern command: "Jay Larson, get to verk!"

In typical Hugh fashion, he asked my wife the same question about Bartolo Colon that so flummoxed me a few months ago on the air. And I have to admit she answered it much better than I was able to. Of course that bar had been set pretty low.

Here's a shot of my wife, Hugh, Tordas, and Atomizer (caught in a rare moment holding a drink). I would have taken more pictures but the lighting in the room wasn't great, and I was more interested in pressing the flesh, then pressing the flash. (Groan)

We were fortunate enough to meet up with John (Hindrocket) and Scott (The Big Trunk) from Power Line fame. And yes Saint Paul, they did make eye contact with us.

Later we ran into DC from Brainstorming , another local blogger who weathered the elements to hear pearls of wisdom from the host with the most. Unfortunately, Ed from Captain's Quarters was not able to make the event. His evening's tale of woe has already been well documented.

But Ed needn't feel too bad. It's not as if he really missed anything. I mean it wasn't as if, just before he began his speech, Hugh graciously invited us and the Powerline crew to stand and be acknowledged by the two hundred or so people on hand with an ovation that Bobby Kennedy would have been proud to receive.

Sorry to twist the knife like that Ed, but it was an unexpected and generous gesture by Hugh, which once again demonstrated his commitment to building people up. Of course he followed this up by declaring open season on me and Atomizer, with his encouraging the crowd to "chase them down and beat them with sticks". Thankfully, the elegant surroundings were completely barren of sticks and the crowd, having just finished dinner, felt no desire to carry out a Fraters hunt at the time.

The speech itself was excellent and quite well received. Hugh's contention is that Republicans have the opportunity to affect a major and lasting political re-alignment (the likes of the 1932 election of FDR) if they are willing to play "big ball", and make the security of the United States the central issue of the campaign. If they play "small ball", Bush may still win, but the opportunity for a seismic shift will be missed.

In fact he's even writing a book on the subject called 'When You Win Big They...Wait. We weren't supposed to blog about that were we? Strike that last remark from your records please.

There was a brief question and answer session at the end of Hugh's speech. I was tempted to turn the tables on the veteran talk radio interrogator, and ask Hugh about his reaction to the discovery of the real reason that Chief Wahoo has that goofy smile on his face, but decided that in the interests of decorum it was probably not the most appropriate venue for that particular query.

Due to the bitterly cold conditions, the Hockey Commissar Hugh action figure was not able to attend the event. But he did enjoy the autographed (yes, that is Hugh's scrawl) t-shirt that we picked up at the affair.

Let's hope that Hugh and Duane manage to survive this afternoon's foolhardy snowmobile escapade on Lake Minnetonka, and are able to broadcast tonight's show from the Xcel Energy Center as planned. If not, at least we had last night. Thanks for the memories.
A Monkey on My Back

Yesterday, for one segment of one post, I decide to turn off the swiveling machine gun of random attacks and present a positive contribution to the debate on race with a limited defense of Al Sharpton - and THAT’S when I get called a racist in the press!?

To be fair, the accusation is only an implication, and the racism is the soft variety of low expectations, and the press in question is our friend Brad Jones at Infinite Monkeys (talk about low expectations). But it stings nevertheless, especially in his use of a quote by the much admired (by me) Thomas Sowell, to slam home his point:

"As a black man, I am offended when white people take the likes of Al Sharpton seriously -- or pretend to."

Out of context, I’m not sure what Sowell is referring to. The key words are “taking seriously” and if by that he means as a candidate for President, then I’d accept his offense, as a black man (him, not me). But is my recognition of the fact that Sharpton may have something to add to the conversation (in the absence of any more legitimate voices) considered as “taking him seriously”? If so, then color me guilty. Because for the Democrats purposes, I think Sharpton does add a needed perspective to their debates. Yes, it’s purely a political consideration on their part, pandering to one of their core constituencies. But until Brad Jones succeeds in getting all politics extracted from political campaigns, I’m not going to sweat the implications.

Would I feel differently if a Sharpton-esque character were being pandered to by the Republican party? Yes, I think I would. The Republicans have higher standards and a stronger commitment to principal. Being the standard-bearer for this party actually means something besides being the lowest common denominator of various special interest groups and societal victim lobbies. The Democrats are dysfunctional in so many other ways, why does the presence of Al Sharpton merit special attention? You could just as easily waste your energy asking why Howard Dean is given time in the debates. If I’m guilty of having low expectations, it's based on party affiliation, not race.

My man Brad (who was able to get through to Lileks last night, and provided his typically entertaining contributions to the show), also mentioned he wasn’t able to find John Derbyshire’s praise of Sharpton as a preacher. A lot of that took place in the Corner, but he also summarized it in this NRO article. I conclude with an excerpt:

..the thing that struck me after listening with attention to an hour of Al Sharpton was what a very good speaker he is. This remains true even if you mentally subtract out the preaching component. As a preacher, he is simply tremendous. Towards the end of that sermon he has got up a real head of steam and he soars off into the sky, chanting and alliterating with a fluency and passion that make the bristles stand up on the back of your neck. He is simply a terrific, terrific preacher. But even when just laying out a case, his oratory has an energy and conviction that is all too rare in our public discourse.
Chucking His Beer Into The Air

Beer spill shorts out Iron Maiden concert
Associated Press

Published January 26, 2004

NEW YORK -- Iron Maiden offered its sympathy to fans whose concert experience was ruined by a beer over the weekend. Iron Maiden manager Ron Smallwood said on the band's Web site ``some idiot'' on the mezzanine of their show in New York ``thought it was a good idea to chuck his beer into the air rather than down his throat.''

The beer landed below on the mixing board. It blew out several channels and kept the band from playing any encores. Smallwood said the band felt ``gutted'' about the incident and he thanked fans for being understanding. He added, ``And to the idiot who caused this, I do hope you learned a lesson.''

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Taken Away From Their Mother After Coming Into This World?

Not to be outdone, frequent contributor Lil' Scotty The Okie says he always thought that The Karate Kid and a certain star of stage and screen always bore a remarkable resemblance to one another.

Seems Like There's A Lot Of Guys Doing That Now

Fraters reader Todd A contributes this little ditty of a SAB:

What Might Have Been

With my man James Lileks substitute hosting for Hugh Hewitt today, I’m prepared to call in and help out, just in case his witty, literate, culture soaked repartee was falling on deaf ears with the existing audience. First segment had no calls at all, so I figured my assistance was necessary. An hour later I’m still getting nothing but busy signals. Although my points about Al Sharpton aren’t really that brilliant (they’re only moderately brilliant), my inability to get through has caused much irritation. I haven’t had this much phone related misery since my unsuccessful attempts back in high school to be the 100th caller at KDWB and get front row Ratt tickets at Met Center.

Redial. bzbzbz Redial. bzbzbz Redial. bzbzbz

I had the idea of live blogging my attempts to get through to the show and then realized I’m at home with a dial up, thus preventing any telephony related multi tasking. So the immediacy of this post (and my goodwill) has been sqandered and with it the possible Instapundit link. Hell, this isn't even good enough for a PunditFilter Link.

Damn you Ed from Chicago! Your Sharpton point is cliched and you sound hate-filled. You’re Brian Lambert’s wet dream of a conservative caller. Worse yet, you’re delaying my departure for the evening.

You see, I have MY OWN radio show to do tonight. I don’t want to go into specifics (my non-compete clause would kick in and once again the Elder would be garnishing my wages for 3 months). Let’s just say in order to hear it, you have to be blind or have REALLY solid connections with the influential visual handicap lobby at the legislature. One more thing, you have to have in interest in dressing well. Yes, that’s right, I do a show about “men’s style” for people who can’t see. Talk about low expectations. I’m thinking about renaming the show “Sighted Eyes for the Blind Guys” but I fear I may be blowing expectations far out of proportion to what these poor bastards deserve on the let down side. They hear that name and they might think I have the ability to describe what “blue” looks like.

Redial. bzbzbz Redial. bzbzbz Redial. bzbzbz

Now Lileks is talking about zinc and sniffing glue with Generlisimo. Don’t they know a member of the Northern Alliance is trying to get through! Clear the decks! Clear the decks!

One more try....

It’s over. I’ve done my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough. I wish you the best James - despite the fact you’re not going to be able to use THIS:

Al Sharpton is a shady character on a lot of accounts and his past history in the political (and judicial) realm is shameful. But .... (see, bloggers always have buts, typical talk radio callers never do; but maybe that’s for the best since there are no second acts in American talk show calls.) But, the issue comes down to the fact that there are no other prominent blacks willing to run for President. And no, Carol Mosely Braun doesn’t count. The black community is a very important constituency for the Democrats, and they rightfully feel some ownership over the nomination process. Sharpton is there to raise questions particular to the black community that Kerry, Dean, et al. won’t or can’t. The Democratic establishment’s acceptance of Sharpton on an equal footing with legitimate candidates is an acknowledgment of this fact. And in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s justified.

If a legitimate black candidate would have run as a Democrat (Jesse Jackson Sr. or Jr., Colin Powell, former Gov. Wilder of Virginia), Sharpton wouldn’t have run. Not because of some altruistic stepping aside gesture, instead because he’d know that the Democratic establishment would then have a preferable black representative (and racial conscience) to focus on.

Final point - Sharpton is a fool in politics, but he’s an excellent preacher (Derbyshire at NRO has written about this). Furthermore, he legitimately cares for the well being of his people. And for that alone, he gets my respect.

And that’s why Al Sharpton is taken seriously. James, I now leave you to George in Phoenix, who’s making the insightful point that Sharpton is stupid and the Democrats take him seriously because they’re stupid too.
Stop The Madness

Okay folks the time for fun and games is over with. Let's all sober up and come to our senses shall we?

The John Eastman ride has been whimsical and refreshing up to this point. Although when you read lines like this from Mark Steyn you really have to wonder if the better man won that contest.

"This election is about the future of the country," he said. Howard Dean and John Kerry and Wes Clark also say it, but Edwards says it better: Dean says it angrily, and Kerry says it groggily, as if he's in danger of falling asleep midway through the sentiment, and Clark says it tetchily, usually in response as to why he's claiming he's always been against the war when in the Times of London last April he gave the full Monica to Bush and Blair for their tremendous military victory.

But the voters wanted Eastman and they got Eastman. Now with over 1000 votes cast, Eastman leads Lileks by two slender tallies for the top spot.

No offense to John Eastman, but when it comes to radio he's no James Lileks. Lileks is hosting Hugh's show tonight. Three hours. Solo. Well, technically he'll have Duane with him but unless he wants to turn the show into 'all NASCAR all the time', he won't go to that shallow well too often. Can you imagine three hours of John Eastman? Neither can I.

As someone who knows a thing or two about what can happen when people don't take their right to vote seriously (see Jesse Ventura, administration of), I'm asking our readers to pause for a moment and carefully consider what they're voting for before they click. Do the right thing. Vote for Lileks.
Pundits Gone Wild

I think we may have identified the next opponent for Al Franken in the new media celebrity boxing tour (seniors division). Joe Boolos emails in with an unsubstantiated account of CNN’s Bob Novak going Cassius Clay on some loudmouthed heckler in New Hampshire. Since Novak (allegedly) has the constitution to attack a man who was bigger than he was (and do it while facing him), and apparently the physical prowess to punch higher than his weight class, I suspect Franken would duck the match anyway.

This new phenomena of members of the media investing their egos, not only in the results of elections, but also in the conduct of them, is odd. How did we get to this place in society? Not sure about that, but I’m reminded of Sonny Corleone’s plea for sanity in the Godfather. After the old man got wacked and brother Michael was proposing a retaliatory killing spree of their own, Sonny exclaimed (with a hint of a laugh in his voice): “You are taking this personally. Tom, this is business and this man is taking this very, very personally."

FYI - I’ve never heard of this referring blog before ( so I can’t vouch for anything you may find there. But the Democratic Underground-level of prose in the comments section does once again validate our decision to not have a comments section. Some people just can't be trusted with a soap box.

I Suppose I'm Not Too Threatening, Presently....

My history of fighting consists of going after one of my fellow Boy Scouts with a tent spike when I was about 13. The little weasel brought a tent spike to a fist fight. I told him to drop it and fight fair. He did. Then I picked it up and said "Who's got the tent spike now, pal?". I think our scoutmaster put an end to it before any blood was shed, but it certainly amused the rest of the guys. See, I prefer to outthink my opponent rather than outfight him and it has carried me this far in life without getting popped in the jaw (trust me, there have been a few close calls) so I must be doing something right.

That being said, I am up to the Elder's challenge. I am prepared to go Al Franken crazy on any hecklers tonight at the Hugh Hewitt Patriot Forum. You have been warned....just wait until I start Nautilus.

Consider It Gotten

In the event that an aging Larouchite infiltrates tonight's Patriot Forum and starts heckling Hugh, Atomizer has promised to lay the smack down, Franken-style, on the elderly offender. No need to worry about your back Hugh.
Bring Warm Dockers

Let's hope that Hugh packed his steamer trunk with lots of woolens.

Yesterday morning it was ten below. At noon it "warmed" to seven below. When I left work at around 6:30pm it was, once again, ten below.

This morning when I left to play hockey at 5:30am it was seventeen below. We're talking raw temps here, not wind chill factor. And while I realize that the idea of getting up early to play hockey at 6:00am when it's bitterly cold might sound crazy to some of you, I must point out that we were playing indoors (we're stupid but not that stupid).

But how do you explain the man I saw out for a jog on my way to the rink? It's 5:30am. Pitch dark. Seven-bleepin'-teen below zero and you decide that it's a nice time for a run? That's not physical fitness, that's freakin' psychosis. Running freaks.
Tell Laura I Love Her

The Twin Cities’ own Newlyweds are at it again. A few days ago I publicized the thinly veiled overtures being sent from Laura Billings to her husband Nick Coleman in the pages of the Pioneer Press. As I mentioned then, it was kind of/sort of romantic, if embarrassingly unprofessional.

I further speculated that perhaps Nick Coleman would respond in kind, from the pages of the Star Tribune. But I didn’t believe such a cynical, hardened by the streets (of Crocus Hill), and just plain old newspaperman as he would do it. But, I was wrong. His most recent partisan political hack attack on Governor Pawlenty is entitled “Forget the Politics, Plow the Snow” (imagine that, a liberal who believes his partisanship is entirely objective in nature). And when he’s not using his talent for understated, factual reporting by describing his morning commute, as ....

“...a nightmarish eternity of slush, dead stops and careening cars.”


...there was nothing natural about the mess that resulted. That kind of hell has to be man-made.

... he’s attempting to kiss up to his wife, Laura Billings. Perhaps he forgot to take the garbage out again or he left his teeth in her favorite coffee cup, but in the middle of his attempts to make us laugh and cry, we get this little melodrama:

Minnesotans don't think about whether they are DFLers or Republicans when they are driving on snow-covered roads. They think about when -- and if -- they'll get to see their families again. If you don't believe me, you should have ridden shotgun with me last Friday while I prayed for survival on a drive from St. Paul to Monticello

In his darkest hour (at least that morning, since his existence appears to be full of dark hours), Nick Coleman was thinking about this family. Which most prominently features his brand new wife I’m sure. And he’s sending that message to her in the plain sight of all the lucky Star Tribune readers. Everyone together now - “awwww.”

He should have stopped right there. The quid pro quo for warm fuzzies has been fulfilled and you’d think we could all go back to our lives of nightmarish commutes to Monticello and weeping over the homeless not being allowed in the Ice Palace. But no, we’re treated to yet another insight into the home life of our favorite co-habitating, co-publishing, belicose Twin Citizens:

A stunned-looking man in the driver's seat was talking on a cell phone, probably telling someone he was lucky to be alive. I felt the same way: If I'd been two minutes earlier, he might have killed me. And if it had come to that, my survivors wouldn't care what party he belonged to. Only what insurance company.

In the event of his untimely demise, he claims all his wife will care about is the money? Now that’s cold. I don’t want to take this amateur psychologist thing too far, but is he revealing that he thinks his wife is a heartless gold digger? Does he think, maybe on a subconscious level, that she only married him for his status as a high-salaried, independently wealthy newspaper columnist?

I’m not sure about that one. But if true, it will be fascinating to see how Laura Billings works in a response to it in a column about how people from the suburbs shouldn’t shop on Grand Avenue. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Wolf Is At Ol' Joe's Door

Watching Joe Lieberman last night try to play up his "three way split for third", otherwise known as fifth place finish, I couldn't help but think of pathetic salesman Gil from The Simpsons.

We all know he's got no chance to close the deal. He knows he has no chance to close the deal. But yet he must go through the motions of the discomforting dance anyway. Say it's time to go Joe.
Don't Look Now But...

Heeeere's...Johnny. John Eastman is surging and is now within a few percentage points of James Lileks in the poll. If this contest has taught us anything it's to never count this mild mannered, cross dressing law professor out.
There Is Something Wrong With That

A certain line from my post on Al Franken, below, has brought out a new legion of heretofore unknown amateur humorists emailing me with punch lines. Instead of trying to pick out just one for recognition, I’ll present a composite joke, incorporating the common, yet still inspired, lunacy of them all:

Saint Paul - your brilliant post about Al Franken was typically, well brilliant. But it seems your prose did fall into redundancy one account:

“No doubt hanging out with Eric Alterman and Garrison Keilor would make Richard Simmons feel like a hard ass.”

According to reports, Richard Simmons pretty much feels like a hard ass no matter who he’s hanging out with. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Yes, our readers have now brought us down to the level of Richard Simmons gay jokes. What are the guys at Powerline going to think of this? I bet they don’t even make eye contact with us at the Hugh Hewitt function tomorrow night.
The Passion Of The Pundit

Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost looks at Salon looking at Hugh Hewitt's review of The Passion of The Christ.
Fighting Al Franken

The news yesterday of Al Franken physically attacking a counter demonstrator at a Howard Dean rally didn’t surprise me. Despite the fact he’s a little runt (or maybe because of this fact), he thinks of himself as a tough guy. That may seem shocking to you, but it's true. And I can see where his social circle might lead him to this conclusion. No doubt hanging out with Eric Alterman and Garrison Keilor would make Richard Simmons feel like a hard ass.

But not only does Franken believe himself to be a tough guy, he’s eager to brag about it. And occasionally he’s willing to prove it - but only with selected, weaker opponents. This, of course, is the clinical definition of a bully.

A few examples of his condition. First the big talk. Below is an excerpt from a PBS interview where he’s characterizing his infamous argument with Bill O’Reilly at some book fair this past summer. I saw the incident, twice on CSPAN, and it was a rout for O’Reilly. Franken was mindlessly blustering and flailing about so much that even co-panelist Molly Ivins had to distance herself from his performance. But then months after the incident, here’s what the little pugilist had to say about it:

And O'Reilly with me was like, it was like he's beating up kids on the playground, on this lawsuit, and then I come over and punch him in the nose and he "runs to the teacher and wants to sue, sue them. Sue them!"

Franken not only lies about the nature and result of his confrontation, he then projects his exact disposition (that is frenzied, whining bluster) onto O’Reilly. It’s like dealing with a 10 year old.

Then there are the highly selective instances where Al has chosen to act out on his ambitions to be a bruiser. A good example is his sneak attack at the Dean rally. The NY Post article initially described it as:

Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.

But later on, Franken himself describes it as:

"I got down low and took his legs out," said Franken afterwards.

And then the Post re-characterizes it as:

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

A bit of an incongruity there, either he bear hugged him or dropped down and took his legs out. But either way, it wasn’t a body slam - and either way it was from behind. So, Franken sneaked up on a guy and hit him with the wrestling equivalent of a sucker punch. Then relied on the crowd and police to break it up before retaliation could occur.

My guess is that Franken also picked out the weakest looking member of the protesting group on which to work out his Napoleonic complex. The reason I say this is because of the most infamous display of Frankensian machismo - his harassment of NRO’s Rich Lowry. If you don’t know the story, Franken was thinking of stunts to include in order to fill up his Lying Liars book. He then apparently saw Rich Lowry on CSPAN saying that Democrats have “feminized” American politics (which is of course true, except for the contributions of Molly Ivins).

So Franken decided to call Lowry and challenge him to a fist fight. I guess Al’s typically shallow point was that anyone who would presume to condemn feminization should also be willing to resort to violence at the slightest provocation. Being a responsible journalist, of course Lowry demurred. But here’s how Franken characterized it:

Sizing Lowry up on TV, he seemed just a tad on the wimpy side, which had only been confirmed by his reaction: terrified. I was just a decent high school wrestler, but I was convinced I could take him down, then basically punch his ears till he called “uncle.”

Even after Franken and Lowry had a rapprochement dinner, he felt the need to assert his dominance as follows:

But I’ll tell you this. I’ve seen Rich Lowry on television plenty of times since then, and I think he’s dropped the whole “Democrats have feminized politics” thing. But, if he hasn’t, I’ll be glad to meet him any time in my parking garage.

The man is ridiculous. But that doesn’t get Lowry off the hook either. He may be appear to be and sound like he is a wimp (as Hugh Hewitt listeners can attest). But the one and only rule of conservative commentary is, when Al Franken challenges you to a fight, you fight Al Franken. Even in a humiliating loss to the guy, you at least get a few licks in and make the bully think twice about challenging you again.

Or challenging anyone else. Because I think Franken will keep up this nonsense until he gets his comeuppance. One of these days he’s going to challenge the wrong person and get his tail kicked. My best guess for the tail kicker in question - this guy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Basic Blogging

Joe Bob Briggs is a newspaper columnist. His occasional contributions to National Review and columns like this one about Libya from UPI show he’s got the right stuff to coherently frame an argument and articulate analysis in an interesting manner. Granted, he’s no George Will or Michael Kinsley. But few are, and he’s got talent far beyond someone like Doug Grow or Nick Coleman.

But at his essence, I think the man is a blogger. Which is probably why he’s been run out of every respectable newsapepr he’s ever worked at. As evidence of his blogging heart, here’s his description of his early work at the now defunct Dallas Times-Herald:

"I was just attacking people at random, because that's what I thought satire was," he said. "You set up a machine gun on a swivel, and you hit this target, and the next target, and the next. And then one of them screams, and that's the way you identify the sacred cow and wipe it out.

"Whoever complained, I just wrote another column about them the next week. The feminists kept coming back for more and more, man. They would protest a column, so in the next column, I would challenge the president of NOW to a nude mud-wrestling match."

So that’s how this all ends - in a nude wrestling match. Is that why Laura Billings keeps ignoring my work?
Separated At Birth?

Man from Massachusetts with jowls large enough to hide a dead fetus, Ted Kennedy and...

woman from South Park with the fetus of a dead twin on her face, Nurse Gollum?

(Thanks to Barbara from Colorado for the tip off)
Speech is Free, Bad Management Ain’t

Researching more into the potential Ruminator Books subsidy by the city of St. Paul has yielded additional insight as to why all the usual anti-business suspects have chosen this private enterprise to rally around. In summary, it comes down to two issues.

First, Ruminator provides something lacking in the marketplace dominated Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc. As best as I can surmise, that thing would be goods that the marketplace has rejected. The books they sell couldn’t be sold elsewhere, so they have to be sold here. (And be purchased by nobody, resulting in their current financial difficulties.) Since weeding out that which nobody wants to buy (in favor of that which people do want to buy) is the reason for the marketplace to exist in the first place, I’m not sure how that represents a flaw in the system. But it’s their logic, not mine, and I’m just trying to understand it.

Second, Ruminator provides a real choice in reading materials. Their inventory is not dictated by the control of corporations that make decisions based on some ideological (or economic) agenda. Instead the Ruminator is the champion of freedom of thought, speech, and expression. I’ll address this claim more directly in a moment.

But first, the press excerpt I think best illustrates the above mindset. It’s from the Madison (WI) Capitol Times (yes, the Ruminator’s problems are a concern in all the progressive communities). This is from last August and they’re quoting the Ruminator’s own Web site. I couldn’t verify these quotations, but I’m sure they’re correct. After all, it was in the newspaper.

... as the company's Web site states in the "about us" section: "We identify with a Midwestern small-scale independence. We like an idea that stands on its own better than one that has been processed to fit a market. We are suspicious of those who would limit curious minds, either in the courts or in the corporate boardrooms."

The Capitol Times then quotes Ruminator’s owner, Dave Unowsky:

"If independents disappear, there's going to be basically three organizations accounting for buying all the books in America," he told me. "Their buyers will make all the decisions about what we read. And they're not interested in bringing new ideas - right or left - to readers. They're stockholder-driven."

According to Onowsky, being stock-holder driven is a bad thing. Which makes his recent scheme for staying afloat all the more curious. As quoted directly from the Ruminator Web site:

Ruminator Books is becoming a community-owned bookstore, and we are now offering shares of common stock for public sale.

To be charitable, maybe Unowsky isn’t a hypocrite. Instead, maybe he’ll sell the stock and stay true to his ideals by telling the stock holders to go to hell if they ever have any suggestions about how to protect their investment. Might I suggest the slogan “Give me your money and shut up!” for the sales campaign?

According to Unowsky’s quotes on the American Booksellers Association (ABA) Web site, this slogan may not be too far from the truth:

”People who are investing in us should realize that bookstores are not enormously profitable. People are not investing in us for a large return -- they believe in what we've done. They believe in what we've done for this community as an independent business. They believe in what we've done to preserve the First Amendment.”

Well Dave, there you go again. After scaring away any economically responsible investors with the truth, you wrap yourself in the flag and the First Amendment. Which brings us to the case of reader Bill Sweetman. After my initial Ruminator post on Saturday, he sent me this note which I think illustrates how far Unowsky’s commitment to free expression goes:

Can I add a personal experience? This happened about 14 years ago. I'm a journalist specializing in aviation and defense, and I'd just published (through local press Motorbooks) a book on the B-2 bomber. It was a controversial issue at the time and this was the only book out on the subject, and since I lived a few blocks from the Hungry Mind I thought I'd see if my local bookstore was interested in a local-author thing of some kind. Unowsky threw me out on my ear. "We don't carry books that glorify military hardware," he said, displaying his amazing ability to divine the contents of a book without reading it.

Now, it's Unowsky's bookstore and he has the right to carry or not carry any book he wants. But it has annoyed me more than somewhat over the years to read Unowsky (with Mary Anne Grossman doing the high-kicks and waving the pompoms) arguing that independent bookstores are necessary because otherwise the chains will be able to control what we read.

And should taxpayers subsidize a bookstore that deliberately limits access to certain points of view?

Furthering Bill’s rhetorical question, should the government be investing in any bookstore $1 million in debt, which the private sources of capital have abandoned based on it’s bleak financial future? If that’s not enough evidence to raise a “hell no” in your throat, I leave you with this Unowsky quote from the ABA Web site, on why the Ruminator is losing money:

”As our business grew, I wasn't able to adapt my 1970s laid back management style to the growing store. As things changed, I wasn't always a tough enough manager."

Honey, where’s my checkbook?

Monday, January 26, 2004

A Governor Gone Mad

Today's letters to the editor section of the Minneapolis StarTribune contains this terrifying tale:

Thanks, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, for the enjoyable ride to work Monday. I couldn't tell the freeway from the side streets because of all the snow on the roads!

Mary C., Eagan

It's true. Governor Pawlenty is so mad with power that he has staged a coup on Mother Nature herself and he now enjoys unfettered dominion over the weather. I saw him myself, I did. He was perched upon the tallest tower of the Winter Carnival Ice Palace with a jewel encrusted wizard cap atop his head. His arms were raised towards the heavens as lightning bolts leapt from his black fingertips. "Snow!" he commanded. "Bring forth towering piles of ice crystals upon the streets of Eagan!"

And oh, how it snowed. Three, maybe four full inches by sunrise. And the residents of Eagan wept, but none so loudly as Mary. Her commute was ruined by the unseasonable January snowfall. She was completely caught by surprise despite the fact that word of the Governor's impending assault upon the contryside had leaked out early Sunday morning. Still, Mary wept.

Be still, my child, for I give to you this link. It is a link that will enlighten you. It is a link that may save your tears. It is a link that will apprise you of the Governor's next nefarious plan to ruin yet another balmy January morning with those cursed flakes of doom. It is your salvation, Mary. Use it wisely, but do...please...use it, or I'm afraid that the Governor, in his unending quest for power, will emerge forever victorious.
Driving License

License plate seen on a white Taurus station wagon during my commute this morning:


True story - I initially read that as "fornicator". Noticing a pretty blonde at the wheel, I, of course, abandonned my route to work, swung in behind her, and and was prepared to follow her to the ends of the Earth. This was a once in a life time opportunity.

About 30 minutes later, as I approached the outskirts of Center City, my head cleared enough to read her plate again, and I realized it was saying "For Nature". Instead of an advertisement for her unquestioning embrace of sexual freedom, she was advertsing her unquestioning embrace of trees. Screeeeeech.

In the short run, bad news for me. But, in the long run maybe the best news possible. Since I do believe that leaves this personalized plate option wide open:


My tabs are up in August. Come Labor Day, in your neighborhood, when you hear the excited shout: "hey, the fornicator's back in town!" feel free to join me in responding "you got that right baby!"
On The Waterfront?

Can a guy sporting Dockers really be considered a 'Wild One'? (click on the link about the snowmobile rally-be sure to read the fine print at the bottom of the page)
And Palaces Made Of Ice Melt In The Earth Eventually

On Sunday the wife and I made a trek down to the Winter Carnival Ice Palace in St. Paul. It was an overcast, windy, and overall chilly day but that didn't stop the multitudes from coming out to see the attraction.

And quite the attraction it turned out to be.

While you don't actually go inside the towers of the Palace themselves (huge insurance issues), you do get to wander around the Palace grounds and check out a number of fascinating displays. Including ice sculptures such as Lady Liberty . You also get a good look at the towers up close and personal.

The Ice Palace is located right across the street from the Xcel Energy Center, where the Minnesota Wild play, and the site of the 2004 NHL All Star Game. You can also see the St. Paul Cathedral, in the not so far distance.

Not surprisingly with all the ice and hockey atmosphere, it would have taken wild horses to keep Hockey Commisar Hugh away. And he did make an appearance. But Ralphie couldn't help but be Ralphie, and in short order his glasses were, once again, broken. But like his larger counterpart (none dare call him 'Mini Me'), he has an indomitable will and broken glasses or no broken glasses, he wanted to be on hand to see the NHL size skating rink.

The perimeter of the Ice Palace is surrounded by a wall of ice which brought to my mind images of Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Of course to the Nick Coleman's of the world, the wall represents nothing less than a cruel divide separating the haves (who can afford the $5 admission price) and the havenots (who obviously should probably be worried about more important things that seeing blocks of ice if they can't scrape $5 together).

To be be perfectly fair, I don't really see the appeal of the Ice Palace to the homeless. There is no booze, no food, and certainly no heating grates with warm air. While there is plenty of space available for discharging your bodily functions, I do believe that there may be structural integrity issues if the Ice Palace were to become an open ground for vagrants in need of a place to relieve themselves. Five dollars seems a very small price to pay.
Game On

Two guests left standing. Five days of grueling voting ahead. May the best man, or the one with the thing for ballroom gowns, win. It is on.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Dennis Anyone?

In anticipation of his return to television, several news outlets have been giving comedian Dennis Miller’s comments increased attention. While reading this AP piece on the man, I was struck by the following statement (which reminded me of something that I read earlier this year on a “deservedly obscure blog”):

"Nine-11 changed me," (Miller) said. "I'm shocked that it didn't change the whole country, frankly."

When he was a SNL regular, I was always under the impression that Miller’s political views resided on the left end of the spectrum. I can’t point to any specific comments of his that led me to this impression. I guess I just always assume that any given television or film personality is a leftie until their words or actions lend credence to the contrary. It appears that I may have been right in this case. It also appears that the events of 9/11 gave Dennis a reason to rethink his positions and, I think it’s safe to say, he is not alone in his transformation.

Reading on, we find that Miller also has a refreshingly candid opinion of his own qualifications as a commentator:

"I don't have credibility, I'm a comedian," he said. "I'm not Ed Murrow up on the roof in a London fog reporting on the blitz."

The man seems to know where he stands and he suffers no delusions about his own importance. I’m betting that we will never have to hear Miller whining about being taken out of context. I’m also betting that he’ll never stoop so low as to suggest that unnatural acts involving the Pope qualify as comedy.

Finally, we get to this gem that brilliantly sums up Miller’s philosophy:

"If two gay guys want to get married, I couldn't care less," he said. "It's their business. If some foreigner wants to blow their wedding up, I want my government to eliminate him."


Dennis Miller’s new CNBC show premieres tomorrow at 8 PM CT. I, for one, will be watching just to see the monkey:

Miller wanted a simian presence, believing a monkey occasionally scampering across the studio floor will keep both guests and viewers on their toes, he said.

Dr. Monkeystein, perhaps?
Do You Believe In Miracles?

Well John Eastman does. He has just knocked off the heavyweight Mark Steyn to advance to the the finals. It was a close race all the way to the finish, with Eastman besting Steyn by a mere 33 votes.

But in order to win the gold he will have to do more than just beat Finland. He will have to take out the formidable James Lileks, who advanced to the finals by virtue of his victory over Tarzana Joe (Joe should get some credit for capturing nearly 40% of the vote against a very popular foe).

Voting opens tomorrow and continues through Friday.
Watching The Watchers

So for whatever damn reason I'm listening to NPR's On The Media. They were discussing Dean Going Nuts and played Lilek's mix.

Only they referred to him as "James Lil-ick".

A simple mistake? Maybe. Or maybe it was done as a diss.

I'm going with the latter.

That's Entertainment (Again)

From the Star Tribune, a profile of new Liberal Radio Network flagship personality Katherine Lanpher:

As anyone knows who has listened to her Minnesota Public Radio show, "Midmorning," for the past 5 1/2 years, her laughs are nothing to be trifled with. There's the deep "HA HA HA" that bubbles up from her belly like lava from a volcano. Her "hee hee hee" comes straight from the throat, tight and tenor. She can cackle, she can guffaw -- she even giggles at times.

As MPR knows, nothing spells ratings magic like volcano blasting guffaws and tight, tenor cackles coming from the host. Especially when she's laughing at her own jokes.

Maybe it's because they don't have to worry about attracting listeners, but the folks at MPR reportedly loved her laugh. This from MPR VP of News Bill Buzenburg's press release on Lanpher's departure:

"She made compelling radio and was a fabulous host. We will miss her laugh, her energy, her hard work, her vast intelligence and her indomitable spirit."

According to reports, Buzenburg also misses his teenage acne, the time he had his wisdom teeth extracted without anesthesia, and that bout of scurvy he suffered while in the Navy.
Polls Close

Since the Steyn-Eastman contest looks like it's going to go down to the wire, we have established a clear cut off time for voting. 8pm CST tonight. That is all.

That's Entertainment?

From today's Boston Globe:

Anti-Flag, whose Death of a Nation tour comes to Avalon tomorrow, has been following a mission of speaking out about politics since Sane formed the band with longtime friend and current drummer Pat Thetic in high school in 1994. Back then, they were riled up about the first Gulf War and found an outlet for their anger with fierce lyrics, furious guitars, and a punishing beat.

Fierce lyrics.

Fierce. Linebackers are fierce. Green Berets are fierce. A woman scorned is fierce. I prefer lyrics to be described in ways that would not fit any of the above like: sharp, witty or incisive. Fierce?

Furious guitars.


The guitars are so pissed off that their teenage angst just spills out into the record. Yeah, I really want to hear what some snotty brat's guitars sound like because they are upset their parents are divorced.

A punishing beat.


"You've been a very bad listener. And now you will be punished. Take this. And this. And one of these."

Fierce, furious and punishing. I'll remind you that the review is saying that these are qualities you will enjoy in this (or any recording).

Well sign me up! Maybe the CD comes with some type of self-flaggelating implement to whip myself or something so I can REALLY enjoy myself.
Report on Traffic Reports

Historians come in many stripes and varieties. Some study Presidents, some study war, some study revisionist, feminist interpretations of the Great Hormel Meatpackers Strike of 1982, and others, they study the history of traffic reports on Twin Cities AM Radio. Guess which ones read Fraters Libertas?

And we’re glad to have them. See below for reader Super Sonic Sean’s unabridged people’s history of commuting reportage in the Twin Cities:

Gridlock of Biblical Proportions” was funny once. Maybe a couple times. And when The Host comes up with certain “words or phrases” that The Traffic Boy must use in his report, it’s a pretty sad shtick. That I know there is a shtick like that reveals that I am not yet a 100% adherent The Patriot in the 5:00 hour. What can I say? The chip implant didn’t work as well as planned. I flip over during commercials because their respective networks don’t break at the same time.

As I read the Star Diaper’s account of The Evil Neighbor dropping the farm report on Thursday (front page news, at that) I thought to myself “now if they would only drop “Traffic On The Eights!” I could be happy. Just how much traffic can one station give? Short of “All Traffic All The Time” they have gotten close with that stupid “Traffic On The Eights!” During Mike Max Sports at 8:38 at night, do we really need “Traffic On The Eights!” And Christ, if you’re going to advertise “Traffic On The Eights!” can’t you at least *have* a traffic report at :08, :18, :28, :38, :48, :58 past the hour?

The Once Mighty am1500 used to have Art Reeder doing traffic, the only man in the air in the Twin Cities during the morning/evening rush. It was a neat thing, instead of some guy telling you what he saw on a screen. After 9/11 and all the flights being grounded, they realized they could save the expense of airplane fuel, and no more Art Reeder. Which was disappointing, I liked hearing the reports, but it just wasn’t necessary. And we’re not getting any new information in the daily reports. Just as we know the Sun will rise in the morning in the East, we know that 394 Inbound will be clogged. More ridicule of John Kerry is better than a drab traffic report. Maybe Joe O’Brien would read FL and get a clue. HA HA HA, I crack myself up.

Personally, I do have alternate routes, and they work. And I don’t tell them to anyone, partially because I really don’t know my route until I’m making it. For me, it’s not so much as going out of my way as it is about continually moving in the direction I need to go. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, Fridays are terrible for me to try to get home (Becker). Much of the world, it seems, needs to go through Rogers to get “North”. Some go from Rogers to Elk River and north from there, others believe in going to Monticello/Becker/St. Cloud to hit the Brainerd Lakes area. Either way, I’m hosed. There’s only so many places to cross the river. So, if I feel I am making progress, I don’t care so much. I enjoy the drive, I enjoy the radio, so it’s not such a bad deal.

Well. Maybe you weren’t trolling for a comment, but you got one anyway. Be glad you didn’t bring up “The Radio Garage Sale.”

“The Radio Garage Sale” is the name of Sean’s doctoral dissertation on the life of John Lundell. Which, according to sources, the University of Chicago Press has just optioned for publication. Expect to see this stocking stuffer gracing your local Barnes and Noble in time for Christmas 2005.
The Real Liberal World

She?s baaa..aack. Laura Billings has returned to her post as one the St. Paul Pioneer Press?s featured columnists.

It seems like only yesterday she was lecturing us from her perch on Grand Avenue about the benefits of living under the Taliban, compared to the horrors inflicted by a US-sponsored liberation. Believe it or not, that was over four long months ago. Back then the world didn?t even know Nick Coleman and Laura Billings were married. That bit of scandalous, incestuous info didn?t slip out until Nick left the Pioneer Press and, I would imagine, left the uncomfortable whispering and askance looks regarding the propriety of their in-house courtship and relationship. He's now making us laugh and cry from the pages of the crosstown rival Star Tribune.

But now Billings is back and as the billboard ads around town tell us, the lady?s cursed with 20/20 Insight. Since there?s no evidence of this ability in her previous portfolio (instead, she specialized in cliched, haughty hindsight), I guess past performance is not an indicator of future results. At least when it comes to advertising slogans.

But one thing we may be able to count on is some insight into the home life of our town?s own Newlyweds (relative to public exposure), Nick and Laura. I think if we pay close enough attention to reading between the lines, we?ll find out what happens when two cohabiting, commingling, bleeding heart, elitist, self-righteous columnists stop being polite and start getting real.

With her first column out of the box, Ms. Coleman-Billings doesn?t disappoint.

Because new parents rarely enter REM. sleep, we are often cautioned against operating machinery heavier than a Diaper Genie, attempting to balance our checkbooks or saying anything to our spouses that can't be taken back.

What's this - trouble in paradise? With that last line, it sounds like she?s trying to mend some fences with her spouse, over perhaps some intemperate words exchanged in the House of Coleman-Billings. If so, I suppose covertly apologizing and working out your marital relations in the pages of a major metropolitan daily newspaper is kind of romantic, if embarassingly unprofessional.

I wonder if Nick will respond in kind from his column. Maybe a line like: ?sometimes the only thing that can dry the tears of a man weeping for the homeless shut out of the Winter Carnival Ice Palace is the knowledge that his wife is sorry for yelling at him for leaving the toilet seat up again.? We?ll be monitoring his column for any coded love notes of this nature.

Also, regarding Billings? reference to ?we new parents.? How old is Nick Coleman, 50-years-old? 60? Its kind of creepy hearing him put in the context of some fresh-faced young father trying to cope with the responsibilities of new adulthood.

The Billings column included one more slice of insight into her home life, this time with a direct reference to her betrothed.

This practically mirrors my own Tuesday last week, in which I rose at 3 a.m. (and 4:40 a.m., and 5:52 a.m.,), made chili, rallied my kids in front of "The Lion King," and delivered my own tough-talking state of the union address (the highlight of which was telling my husband that he didn't need to wait for a permission slip to take out the trash).

Confirmation! Nick Coleman was yelled at by his wife, for being an insensitive slob. And again, it?s all broadcast in the pages of a newspaper with a Sunday circulation of 250,000 readers. The poor SOB - how emasculating for him. No wonder why he?s so antagonistic all the time. And it?s no wonder he seeks out vulnerable populations like the homeless to grandiosely defend. When he takes out the trash for them, I bet they, at least occasionally, show some gratitude.

Saturday, January 24, 2004


When it's ten degrees and you see a dude on a bicycle tooling about you pretty much say to yourself "I wonder how many dee-dubs that poor bastard has".

I Wouldn't Exactly Call It Joy, But Something Much Like It

When I went to the Strib page this morning and read that St. Paul Police had killed a convicted felon who had charged an officer, my first reaction was "YEAH!". Like the Wild! had just scored a goal.

My second reaction was "YEAH!". Like when Matt Johnson drops the mitts to square off with an opponent.

I wouldn't exactly say I felt joy, but I surely was not wringing my hands and asking "Why, why?". I tend to favor the police offing as many criminals as is necessary. No jail costs, no recidivism. If only that worthless bastard Rodriguez would have had the stones to charge a cop a few years back, Dru Sodjin might still be alive.

Shockingly, the Star Tribune accounts have yet to mention race as a factor.

At the northeast Minneapolis apartment building where Rodgers lived, John White described Rodgers as "a thoughtful brother who kept to himself."

I'm sure by tomorrow the "reverends" and the activists and their ilk will have whipped up a frenzy sufficient to warrant coverage in the paper. On those days I tend to throw the thing across the room in fury.

Today I will just enjoy the fact that a good thing happened yesterday in St. Paul.

City Flushes Residents’ Money Down Toilet

Thank God Jay Benenav wasn’t serving on the St. Paul City Council in the 1920s. Otherwise my hard earned money confiscated in taxes would no doubt still be subsidizing “The Buggy Whipinator” somewhere on Grand Avenue.

An exaggeration perhaps. But not too far from the truth given recent developments in St. Paul. A private business gets rejected by the marketplace because the public doesn’t want or doesn’t need what they’re peddling and Benanav’s immediate reaction - give them tax dollars and keep them around as a cultural institution. This is the state of events with the floundering Ruminator Books on Grand, hard by the Macalester campus. It’s in a short term bind because of some specific cash flow issues. As summarized by the Star Tribune:

A disclosure document says that if owner David Unowsky can't raise $500,000 by Jan. 31, the bookstore will be closed and its assets given to its landlord, Macalester College. However, if Unowsky can come up with $300,000, he can extend the deadline 90 days.

Due to shifting consumer preferences, in what they read or how they wish to buy books, long term prospects are even more bleak:

Under siege from major chains and online bookstores, Ruminator is more than $1 million in debt.

Not mentioned in this article, which is happy to present Unowsky as the helpless victim of the marauding chains and Internet retailers, is Unowsky’s disastrous investment in a Ruminator location at the woefully conceived Open Book literary center on Washington Ave.

In short, as a business, the Ruminator is a train wreck. Due to declining sales, bad business decisions, and bad management, the place is hemorrhaging red ink. The owner is suffering the consequences of not meeting consumer demand and the resources utilized for his enterprise will soon be redirected to more productive outlets. That’s how the market works, for the ultimate benefit of the many, right? Right!

But that’s not how the St. Paul City Council works. Instead of letting the choices of consumers channel existing Ruminator resources into more productive outlets, the city of St. Paul is planning on channeling additional resources from productive outlets (you, the taxpayer) into the sucking vortex of investment that is Ruminator.

City Council members on Wednesday, sitting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) are expected to discuss making at least a $50,000 loan to Ruminator .... details apparently are still being worked out, and the HRA could discuss a loan as high as $100,000, Council Member Jay Benanav said.

And it’s not just high risk loans being considered, they’re looking to hand some money over to Unowsky directly:

Benanav and [Councilman Pat] Harris also hope to tap a cultural grant worth at least $50,000 through the city's sales-tax revenue (STAR) program in the coming weeks.

Shameless redistribution of your income (St. Paul residents) to benefit a private business. All because the politicians control vast amounts of resources for discretionary spending and because they favor this particular business and they know they won’t be held accountable in their DFL safe seats. Benanav is so shameless, he’s not even bothering to make an economic argument for the subsidy:

Along with Council Member Pat Harris, who represents the area, Benanav has been drumming up support to save what he calls "a cultural landmark."

A cultural landmark, my ass. (Note - The previous sentence is intended to express my skepticism. It’s not an attempt to get a STAR grant for my rear end. Although, I do believe my keister has the same qualifications for a government handout as Ruminator Books.)

The Ruminator is a private business, not a cultural landmark. But the key fact for Benanav is that it’s also a private business with a history of supporting radical politics, hosting readings by Al Franken and Michael Moore, and attempting to sell (at full price) all the latest revisionist, feminist labor history interpretations of the Great Hormel Meatpackers Strike of 1982. (Are you starting to understand the reason why Ruminator doesn’t make any money?)

I have nothing against the Ruminator. It’s got an admirable record of success, managing to stay in business for 30 years. For most of that time it was called The Hungry Mind. (That name, by the way, Unowsky sold to a dot com back in the boom years, reportedly for six figures. I wonder what happened to that money?)

I’ve personally spent many a Saturday afternoon browsing its politics and economics sections. I’ve even purchased books there - hard cover books (as relayed in this Fraters post from last year). A voluntary exchange of goods for currency, it was a beautiful thing. And if that’s not enough to keep them afloat, then that’s too bad. For them, because I can get those same books on Amazon. And that location on Grand seems to be a great spot for a Chipolte anyway. The burrito carnitas - now that’s a cultural institution we can all get behind.

Friday, January 23, 2004

He's A Poet And He Don't Even Know It

Oh wait. He does know it. Regardless, check out the latest effort (revised version) from Tarzana Joe. The man deserves some votes for this one:

To cull the golden from the dross
Those sons of Fraters Libertas
Put the pundits to the test
And pitted guest against guest

Thus upon their blogging venue
They set up a tasty menu
So the world could make their choices
From this mix of savvy voices

Like a subtle sukiyaki
From Chemerinski to Kondracke
Rosette, White and climbing higher
Campbell, Bainbridge, Barnes and Dreier

And when the votes were finally frozen
Many were clicked but four were chosen
Regard the talkers who survive
From that, what can one derive?

Some will heed the obvious lesson
Others won't
Even bad poets have their fans
Even good politicians...don't.

Now what lessons can be found
In the semi-final round
Pick the greatest from the least man
How do you explain John Eastman?

Seeded 12th but in a bid
To be the second comeback kid
Well, it's good to know your jurisprudence
Better to have obedient students

Lots of them
Pots of them
Incriminating shots of them.

And what of Tarzana Joe
And his Minnesota foe?
Well, I'm tougher, trimmer, leaner
But my clock was never cleaner.

I'm just pleased to be among
This group of guests---of whom I've sung
The finest troop on any station
Built (or builded) in this nation

That's gilt (or gilded) by association.

Come on people. This has gotta be worth at least a few votes.

The Vermonster

This is in no way an attempt to influence the voting. I just happen think that this piece by Mark Steyn is hilarious:

Dean's other big mistake was his media relations. Unlike John McCain, he didn't flatter the press. Indeed, his parting shot in Iowa was to tell them to "get a life". Senator Harkin said Dean could take a few knocks because he's "a fire hydrant". And, like a fire hydrant, he's getting pissed on by every mangy old pooch who passes by. It's not just that Humpty Howard fell off the wall, but that nobody in the media likes him enough to help put him together again.
Teenage Testimonial

Over the last year we've had a lot of fun at the expense of Hugh Hewitt, as well as taking our fair share of friendly slings and arrows from the talk radio host. Despite all the jocular sparring and name calling, we really do have a great deal of admiration and respect for Hugh and what he does.

This past Christmas I gave my eighteen year old nephew a copy of Hugh's book In, But Not Of : A Guide to Christian Ambition. My nephew is a senior in high school and, even though he's not a particularly religious kid, I figured that at least a couple of Hugh's suggestions for living a happy and successful life might connect with him.

I was very pleased to receive a thank you note from him last week which included these comments on the book:

That book was honestly an inspiration for me. It only took about two and a half days to read because I couldn't put it down. I'm forcing my sister to read it as well. I feel as though I have a different perspective on many things now, and I really appreciate it.

Coming from a teenager I'd say that's high praise indeed. This is a crazy thought, but perhaps Hugh might want to collect testimonials on his book such as this and post them on his web site in one place. Nah, too crazy. And it's not as if someone didn't already suggest this oh, about six months ago or anything.

It should be encouraging to Hugh to know that his beliefs and wisdom can play well with the younger demographic groups. Now, if he only would stop playing that tired bumper music on his show he might really have something.
An Upset In The Making?

John Eastman has pulled ahead, and is now in fact enjoying a comfortable lead over the top seeded Mark Steyn. Eastman supporters have been rallying around their man, including a number from Chapstick er... Chapman University where he teaches. One student enthusiastically explained Eastman's electrifying rock star like appeal, by describing him as "the man who brought Marbury v. Madison to life at Chapman". We understand that it was standing room only in the classroom that day.

We also have it good authority that Eastman is a size six.

Meanwhile, Abigail continues her one woman campaign to save Mark Steyn. Will it be enough to push the pithy pundit over the top? Only time and future revelations about John Eastman's passion for women's clothing will tell.
Definition Of The Day

"Culture is roughly anything we do and the monkeys don't."

-Lord Raglan
Cold Reality

Traffic reports on morning radio are pointless. The same major arteries are clogged every morning, the same delays, with slight variations in intensity, are present every single morning.. If your typical commute takes you through one of these hot spots, you don’t have a lot of other options. People often speak of taking “alternate routes” but for the most part, these are myth. When traversing a large section of the metropolitan grid, there’s only one way to go that minimizes distance - and typically these are Interstates or major state highways. Alternate routes take you dozens of miles out of your way. Any time gained due to a lack of congestion is eaten up in increased distance traveled. Therefore, the time every radio station spends yammering on about the clot at the Fish Lake interchange or back ups on Yankee Doodle Road (no matter how creatively articulated) is a waste for everyone. The first morning program that realizes this and kills the concept to free up time for more debate on Howard Dean’s scream or to play another Eagles song will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Although I’ve had some bad commutes in my life (the worst being 6 months of a Minnetonka to Stillwater run), right now it’s a breeze. Saint Paul to Stillwater, which in its entirety is contrary to the surge of the marketplace’s overwhelming preference of where to live vs. where to work. It’s so easy that many observers have spotted me jack knifing with laughter as I approach the entrance ramps on I-94 and mouthing the word “sucker” to the poor slobs heading into town. Perhaps this is why my dismissive attitude toward traffic reports has increased of late.

This attitude now even extends to weather related difficulties. This morning it was snowing at a pretty good clip, with about half an inch down already, another 1 - 3 to come. Beautiful as it was, the laws of physics dictate there would be slippery, unstable conditions for automobile tires. The traffic reports included references to this and the resulting increase in traffic tie ups. Yet I still laughed it off and continued on my merry way as I do every morning - with the hammer down. The nervous Nellies going 45 MPH in the left hand lane were objects of my ridicule. And then my ire in their delaying my arrival at work and the productive adventure in business that awaited. After maneuvering around and blowing by dozens of them with a caustic grin, I began to feel bulletproof and self satisfied at my superior road condition assessment skills and driving execution. Then up ahead of me, at the confluence of two Interstate highways, my attitude was given a stern correction.

There in the left hand lane a Toyota Camry. At a dead stop. Facing the wrong direction.

Good morning Minnesota! After the heart racing, white knuckle gripping lane change out of harm’s way, my first thought was “now that’s something that could really ruin your day.” Realizing I didn’t need a ruined day today, I corrected my driving habits accordingly and joined the cattle train of nervous Nellies in the right hand lane going 40 MPH.

But the thing about driving conditions like this is that even playing by the rules doesn’t necessarily get you home safely. Twice during the rest of my commute, my car did that little lateral shudder, indicating it was considering a fishtailing spasm of chaos. A spasm I’m familiar with. About 10 years ago on Old Hwy 8 in New Brighton, under similar weather conditions, I did a perfect 360 degree spin while going about 40 MPH. It was terrible and amazing and maybe a miracle, since after pushing my heart back down from my throat, I proceeded down the highway without a scratch on me or my vehicle. (Note to the Vatican - if you’re ever considering me for proper sainthood, feel free to use this as one of my confirmed miracles. The other one has to do with getting JB Doubtless a job. See his personal diary for confirmation.)

The moral of the story: slow down. The broader lesson learned: don’t drive anywhere near me when it’s snowing. I’m leaving work today at 5 PM. You’ve all been warned.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

All Hail the King

Noted economics scholar and first rank Northern Alliance blogger King Banaian is in the forefront of providing professional academic support for Governor Pawlenty’s efforts to improve the history and social studies curriculum in Minnesota high schools. Pawlenty’s initiative to establish reasonable academic standards in these fields is an important step in wresting control of the education agenda away from politically correct, revisionist history, diversity first/accomplishment last crowd.

Needless to say, it has drawn fire from the majority of professional academics and their media mouthpieces, for whom these goals are sacrosanct. King and the rest of his colleagues deserve our thanks for having the courage to stand against the education establishment and put their good names and impressive professional credentials behind the Governor’s efforts.

Here’s an excerpt from their letter of support:

In our experience, too many high school graduates lack the basic grasp of human institutions and of the physical world that ought to be presumed for college-level courses. We continually meet students who have no clue when the Renaissance was, or do not know what the word ‘monarchy’ means, or cannot tell, on a map of the world, which country is France and which is China.

I don’t personally know anyone in this age cohort, but this sobering description of their retarded educational development confirms the worst suspicions I get from my observations of them on the streets and in the media. It’s hard to say if this generation can be turned around, but you have to start somewhere. And the common sense advice offered by these academics sounds good to me:

Instead of showing how things are more complicated than is commonly thought, we first have to explain what is commonly thought.

Amen - and keep up the good fight King. After all, it’s for the children.
John Eastman For Male Homecoming Queen?

The punches are not being pulled anymore as evidenced by this e-mail from Richard:

Don't get me wrong, I love Eastman . . . but there is no way he is a better guest than Mark Steyn. You, however, have turned him into a cutesy novelty act by constantly noting his upset victories. People now vote for him in the same way high school students vote for male homecoming queen contestants. The results are flawed and should be thrown out.

The results are certainly not flawed and will not be thrown out. But if you have more dirt on John Eastman as homecoming queen please feel free to drop us an e-mail. I wonder what his dress size is?
Who Didn't Expect This?

One of the Quipable Quad contestants has issued a statement of sorts:

To cull the silver from the dross
Those sons of Fraters Libertas
Put the pundits to the test
And pitted guest against guest

Regard the talkers who survive
From that, what can one derive?
Some will heed the obvious lesson
Others won't

Even bad poets have their fans
Even good politicians...don't

As ever,
Tarzana Joe

Of course in the interests of equal time we will also consider any submittals from misters Steyn, Eastman, and Lileks for publication as well. Please try to keep your fascist, war-blogging, blood-lusting, rhetoric to a minimum James.

In other contest news, Abigail wants to get out the vote for Mark Steyn, and encourages all readers to cast their votes for him. Normally we would not post such blatantly subjective messages, but with a sweet name like Abigail how could we say no?
Start the Revolution Without Him

Mark Giselson has resigned his post at the head of the Twin Cites Babelogue:

Thanks for the ride. This has been a blast and much as I hate to move on, as a part time obsessive-compulsive with manic-depressive traits, I’ve learned to jump off trains before they get all the way up to speed. Babelogue is a going concern and I look forward to watching it grow into a transformative asset for City Pages.

It is with mixed emotions we bid adieu to Mark. Yes, we often found his perspective ridiculous and maddening. And also shockingly irresponsible emanating from such a well respected traditional media source as the City Pages. But we also appreciated his honesty and vulnerability in expressing the thoughts that Leftists throughout Uptown, Dinkytown, and the City Pages reporting staff no doubt share, but are afraid to reveal. Aspirations like this, which no doubt pulse through the heart of every aspiring Brad Zellar, Budd Rugg, and Paul Demko in our fair city.

In my heart, I still believe in revolution. In my heart, I still think I have the 'nads to put my life on the line for a cause. In my gut I think this is the only way we'll ever achieve our goals of economic and social justice. But in my head, I want to win the next election so we don't have to have a revolution.

But I guess even coffee house revolutionaries can only stand the mentorship of Steve Perry for so long. So Mark is gone and we wish him well in his future endeavors. (Except of course if our dear President wins the next election and Giselson starts throwing Molotov cocktails at the Federal building downtown. We explicitly do not wish him well in that case.)

And Then There Were Four

From among the twenty, four shall be chosen. And they have been. The "Quipable Quad" has been selected by your votes. Two of the names are no surprise to anyone who listens regularly to Hugh's show, while the other two have raised a few eyebrows by virtue of their success to this point.

Mark Steyn was heavily favored going into the competition and has proved worthy of the lofty expectations. He dominated his elimination pool to capture the #1 seed, and then rolled over his opponents in each of his head to head matchups, never receiving less than 75% of the vote.

James Lileks was also picked by most to be one of the favorites. Like Steyn, he emerged strongly from his elimination pool and earned the #2 seed. And in Steyn-like fashion he mopped up his two competitors in the one-on-one showdowns without ever being seriously challenged.

Tarzana Joe was the sixth seed overall after the elimination round, and wasn't expected to be much of a factor. He faced a serious challenge in his first contest against David Dreier but used a late surge to veto the Congressman's dreams. Next he had to go toe to toe with the third seeded John McIntyre. It was a slug fest but once again Joe proved his mettle by rallying to edge McIntyre.

The biggest surprise is clearly the twelfth seeded John Eastman. John overcame some significant obstacles to advance. He teaches at an obscure law school that no one's heard of, he belongs to an institute that employs monkeys, and he appears on Hugh's show with a co-guest whose vocal qualities and political viewpoints don't exactly engender positive associations. But despite all that stood in his way, John has battled on Rudy-like to defeat the powerful Frank Gaffney and the politically connected John Campbell to reach the Quipable Quad. Now, I don't use the term hero very often. But John may be the greatest hero in American history. Our hats are off to you sir.

But in this contest, as in life, there is no time to rest on your laurels. And so we kick off the semi-final voting today. It will continue through Sunday, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to make your voice heard. The two winners will meet next week in voting that will begin Monday and run through Friday morning. On Friday the champion will be crowned on Hugh's show.

Time to get down to bidness.

Whatever Will Be, Will Be

Would an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of computers, in an infinite amount of time, figure out how to upgrade their blog to Movable Type?

The answer apparently is yes.

I never realized the full power of the Monkeys until today, when even Google is giving them the nod.

The Year of the Monkey has begun. How it will end is not ours to know.
Bring Warm Clothes

This morning when I left for work it was ten degrees below zero in the Twin Cities with a wind chill factor of thirty below. In Orr, Minnesota it was twenty nine below with a fifty-one below wind chill. I listened to the national ABC news radio broadcast, and FUNNY I didn't hear any mention of the cold weather here.

Which is how it should be. Cold weather is not national news unless it has more than a regional impact. If a cold snap in Florida is going to mean higher prices for orange juice, I want to hear about it. But if someone's pipes freeze in Boston I really don't need to know.

It's winter. It gets cold. Put on a hat and STFU (since WTF has become widely accepted and understood, I figure we should expand the field-if you don't know what STFU means drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you to explain to you).

Cold weather days such as today are, in their unique way, a feast for the senses. At least for some of the senses. Often words such as dreary and dark are associated with winter but during the daylight hours a frigid day is anything but. The sun radiates brilliantly, if not warmly. The colors of the landscape, limited as they might be, are more pronounced and sharper. It's as if God turned up the contrast knob a notch or two.

Sound is amplified and crisper. A jet plane flying high overhead sounds much closer than it appears. It's not necessarily louder, the noise is just more proximate. The snow crunching under your feet is clearly audible. It's almost as if there was small microphones planted throughout the environment that transmit sounds right into your ear.

The one sense that goes lacking is smell (and I suppose along with it taste). The air is so clean, so clear, so sanitized by the cold, that you can't usually pick out any smell at all. Which is, in most cases, a good thing.
The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit (okay, it isn't a suit, it's just a tie and dress pants, and it's not flannel, it's mainly poly-blends)

I take the bus to work. On most days I get out downtown and walk outside to my appointed cube. But, given the recent rash of really freaking cold weather, I have been driven inside to the underground walkways known in these parts as the "subway".

Other than having to dodge slower walkers and trying to stifle my propensity to gawk unprofessionally at the bevy of hot nursing students, the walks are usually without incident.

I usually stroll into work at around 8:15; about five minutes after the bus has dropped me off. Where I come from, that's a pretty normal hour to begin work, but in our office most people (former farmers apparently) start at 7, many as early as 6.

The perception (especially among the non-exempt shift workers) is that I am coming in "late". Now this would not be much of a problem (as I don't deal with those people much) were this early-to-work philosophy not also shared by upper management as well. But it is.

So the other day I was booking through the subway and first saw my boss' boss going for his morning break (it was 8:12). Okay, not that big of a deal. Then I saw his boss, a tall woman, who has stopped to chat with another co-worker. I hoped to breeze by without her seeing me (like I'm doing something wrong!) but she stopped her conversation mid-sentence, looked directly at me and said "Hi JB". Drat.

At this point I had decided to never walk to work in the damn subway again, but the indignities to my career for the day were not over. As I rounded the final corner in a long corridor on the way to my building I see the COO and he clearly made me. He was speaking to someone as they walked, so I figured I'd just give him a howdy and hope my bubbly personality could somehow help to overcome the perception that was forming in his noggin that JB Doubtless was a slothful loser.

So I walk past and I'm looking to make eye contact. I'd already slathered a toothy, obsequious grin on my face. And nothin'. Snubbed. He in fact looked down at this shoes, as if he could not even bare to make eye contact with someone that had the temerity to start work at 8:15.

I really need to start getting up earlier.
Not Once, Not One Time

...have I ever used the word "keister." Darn proud of that.