Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Casting the Second Stone

According to reports, the bus drivers strike continues in the Twin Cities. Not that most of us would know about it based on levels of traffic congestion, individual mobility, or retail economic measures. On all of these accounts, things are running beautifully. Perhaps never better. Plus, the government is saving millions by not having buses on the road. A compelling argument to consider suspending the public busing system permanently. Yes, for those very few unfortunates who do require assistance with transportation (a number far fewer than we realized, before this strike took place), private market solutions should be investigated and implemented. This surely will be less expensive, and at least as efficient, as the status quo. It’s a perfectly rational, logical argument, if I do say so myself.

But never let it be said rationality and logic were the bases for public policy in the Twin Cities (or any major urban area). When it comes to issues of government spending, it’s all about class warfare and perceived grievances, entitlement and emotional manipulation. Which brings us to the passionate arguments of that Crocus Hill rabble rouser himself, homeless person exploiter extraordinaire, Nick Coleman.

Now, you do have to give him some credit for honesty. In today’s Star Tribune, he’s not even bothering to pretend he cares about logical argument or the facts of this particular case. Instead, he sees his role as follows:

I do not know whether the union has the moral high ground, and it doesn't matter. Hashing out a new contract between the union and the Metropolitan Council is not my job. It is the governor's job.

Young, up-and-coming journalists take note. Nothing beats shamelessly embracing laziness as a virtue for absolving yourself from having to form reasonable opinions based in fact and then communicating them effectively to the readers. Because, truth be told, all that thinking and writing is hard work. And when your employer is fine with publishing ridiculous slurs based on flawed premises - why bother with hard work?

Case in point, Coleman’s latest attack on Governor Pawlenty:

This bus strike isn't very Christian.

"Our governor always talks about how everyone's got to 'share the pain," [security guard Bob] Wright said while members of the transit union rallied across from his building, in front of the Hennepin County Government Center. "But it's people without means and people of color who are feeling the pain on this strike.

"What is up with our good conservative Christian friends? Where is their empathy? 'That which you do for the least of these, you do unto me.' Those are the clear words of Christ. So where the hell is the empathy? And where the hell is the governor?"

Good questions Mr. Wright.

I just hope Mr. Wright wasn’t waiting around for any good answers, because as he’s told us, Nick Coleman isn’t in that business. Nope, not his job. But it is interesting to see Coleman so eagerly questioning another man’s religious commitment. Makes me wonder if back in 1990 then Pioneer Press columnist Nick Coleman played any roll in the frothing media lynch mob going after Rudy Boshwitz when he allegedly questioned the Jewishness of secular saint Paul Wellstone during their Senate campaign. Not having the necessary LexisNexis resources (yet) I can’t verify this. But I’d say the odds are at approximately 100% he was at the forefront of said frothing mob.

Getting back to the point of Coleman’s direct charge, that Pawlenty’s stance in the strike is not Christian, let me provide some background information for those not paying attention (like Nick Coleman). The Governor’s position is that health insurance premiums for bus drivers should approximate that experienced in the private sector. The government cannot afford to continue to provide the Cadillac of benefit plans for public employees, without raising taxes on the citizens. (The very citizens who are already paying their own high insurance premiums via their own employers.) Pawlenty is simply choosing not to use the coercive power of the state to redistribute incomes, from the pocketbooks of hard working private sector employees (who have all sorts of health costs on their own), to the pocketbooks of public sector employees (who feel they are entitled to privileged status).

This seems, at the very least, to be a value neutral position, spiritually speaking. Also remember, Pawlenty has nothing to do with the bus system ceasing operation and creating all those ”people without means and people of color who are feeling the pain on this strike.” Those people are feeling the pain only because the drivers abandoned them. They took off and the Governor is unable (legally/politically) to bring in replacement workers who could ease the pain of the unfortunates.

And why did the drivers abandon them in the first place? Because management would not agree to provide increased compensation for their efforts. And if public employee union members don’t get their way, it’s not like they’re just going to quit (like any self respecting private sector employee would have to do). Instead, they’ll shut the entire enterprise down, callously stranding those who do depend on them.

This is the bus drivers' offer to the Governor, condensed to its raw essence: force the taxpayers to fund our healthcare at an extravagant level - or we will screw the poor and handicapped. And then we’ll blame it on you.

Remind me again where that appears in the New Testament.

I Believe The Children Are Our Future

Last Saturday, Saint Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the young proprietors of The Patriot Blog! while we were preparing for our weekly NARN broadcast. Amid the autograph signing (Saint Paul has 8 x 10 glossies with him at all times), answering questions about our exhaustive show prep (cracking open the paper ten minutes before air time), and talking a little Gopher hockey, it became apparent that this fellow and his cohorts are solid standard bearers of the conservative cause among the youth of today. Check out their site for yourself and catch the wave of the future.
At Least We Got Al

Twin Cities listeners can breathe a sigh of relief. A late breaking deal has helped Franken find a slot on WMNN:

The new liberal radio network Air America made a last-minute landing in the Twin Cities Tuesday with the news that WMNN Radio (1330 AM) will carry satirist Al Franken's new show when it makes its national debut today.

The 11th-hour deal will put "The O'Franken Factor" on the air from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., although the rest of Air America's programming will not be carried.

You mean we won't get to hear Chuck D wax philosophically on the legacy of the Founding Fathers?

The arrangement is unusual on several levels. The show wasn't purchased directly by WMNN, but by the Minnesota Production Network (MPN), a corporation formed to provide nonconservative alternatives to talk radio. In the other cities where Air America will launch (Los Angeles, New York City, Portland and Chicago), station time was leased directly by the network to carry all its programming.

MPN had already purchased time on WMNN last year to launch "The High Ground," which will now move to a 2-to-5 p.m. time slot at the station.

"Our long-term goal has always been to have 24 hours of programming," said MPN co-founder Janet Robert. "We wanted a local show, but also other programming that would appeal to Minnesotans. Certainly Al Franken is a natural."

Walter Mondale. Four Super Bowl losses. The sign in the Metrodome that said 'We Like It Here'. The movie Fargo. Jesse Ventura as governor. Walter Mondale (again).

We've put up with a lot of humiliation here in Minnesota over the years, but hearing that Al Franken has a natural appeal to Minnesotans might be the lowest blow of them all.

The good news is that Franken's show, like a painful kidney stone, too shall pass:

His tenure on WMNN won't be long, however. The station was sold earlier this year to Starboard Communications, a national network of Catholic radio stations, which will take over the station in late May or early June.

Bumped from the airwaves by Mother Angelica Live? Couldn't happen to a Minnesota nicer guy.

The Frat Boys Who Haunt Janeane Garofalo's Life

In honor of today's debut of Air America Radio (in all of its many markets ), the liberal answer to the right wing "hate" that fills the airwaves, we present one of the stars of this budding progressive network, Janeane Garofalo, spouting off on a variety of subjects in her own words. A few weeks ago on the Northern Alliance Radio Show, I brought up a few of these pearls, but limited airtime and FCC restrictions prevented me from getting to most of them. Enjoy.

(Sources at the end)

On the media:

The myth perpetuated by the mainstream media was that the country was 100% behind the Bush administration – no matter what. 1

At a time as important as this, they have absolutely rolled over to the conservative hawkish agenda. 4

Unfortunately, a lot of people are under the impression that they’re getting news from FOX. In order to get news, you really have to do a lot of legwork. You have to listen to the radio, go on the Internet, watch PBS, dip into CNN and read a couple of papers. They make you really have to work for it to learn anything about your country. You’ll probably learn the most about your country by watching international news. 1

Unexamined patriotism in the wrong hands is like a loaded gun. It’s incredibly dangerous and a form of narcissism that gets people into trouble. Fox feeds narcissism in a strange way. 5

It degrades culture because then, you’ll see a poll, “Sixty percent of Americans think that George Bush is doing a great job.” Why is that? Because they’re misinformed. It’s not because he’s doing a great job. It’s because they’re getting spin. Most people don’t know what’s going on. They may think he’s doing a good job, and what that means is A.) they’re not paying attention or B.) they only get their news from corporate establishment news sources, which means they have no idea. 5

That’s what his version of what America is – God Bless America only, and let’s assault people who don’t agree. That’s the kind of America that Sean Hannity wants to live in and cultivates on FOX. That is not reflective of mainstream. 1

That brings us to some of the rightwing pundits who dominate the radio, like Mike Savage, or some of the commentators at Fox--the Ann Coulters, what have you. I think what they do is they turn their own personal issues--whether they be racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, or imperialistic--and they wrap them in the flag and hide them behind Jesus. 4

That’s great, and what has also been a really, really wonderful trick also perpetrated by people like Ann coulter, FOX News, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved- they pretend that actors are the evil within our borders; that actors are this subversive, liberal-communist group that are going to somehow brainwash your children. This is a great tactic that they use, because they all, essentially, carry water for the right. They are great at manufacturing straw men, manufacturing the false opposition, because it’s easy to foist that on an unsophisticated population that goes, “Oh yeah, it’s Barbra Streisand, not Enron!” (laughs)

Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter really, really work very hard in that. I call it ‘Operation Dumb-Ass’ (laughs) which is, this huge subterfuge-kind of rightwing movement to distract the population and have them look at Hollywood as if it’s a monolithic problem to their family, when really, what’s bad for families is militarization, globalization, and deficits. All those things are bad for your family. Barbra Streisand is not bad for your family.

Speaking about Laura Ingraham:

She’s one of those girls that finds Joe McCarthy sexually appealing. She’s in that crew, who identifies as a conservative, but is not. What she is, like Hannity and all those people, is cruel and has issues with ‘the other’ in our culture. She doesn’t like people that are not like her. So she hides behind being a conservative, which isn’t really true. She’s just sort of emotionally immature and unable to be tolerant of diversity. That’s the problem with a lot of movement conservatives. They are pretending that it’s political, but it really isn’t. It’s really just an emotional need to keep the playing field tilted. 1

About Dennis Miller:

Instead of taking an anger management course, or instead of working out in therapy your inner demons and your rage issues, it’s really much easier to be an in-your-face prick and pretend you’re being patriotic. And I think that’s worked out really well for Dennis. 1

On history:

Every great reform we have in this country from ending slavery to seatbelts is a liberal reform. 1

On conservatives:

They’re also fine with hiding behind Jesus. They love to hide their cruelty, their homophobia, and their closet racism. They wrap it in the flag and hide it behind Jesus. It’s very convenient and they hope that nobody notices. 1

They are absolutely thrilled that they can take their misguided anger, and their xenophobia, and their aggressiveness, and their belligerence, and hide behind the flag and Jesus, that is fantastic. 3

Like I said, a lot of people who like to wrap themselves in the flag, hide behind Jesus, and be aggressive -- some of those people are not intellectual powerhouses. 3

They’re taking paranoia and distaste- and I’m sure a healthy dose of the self-loathing in there, too, because you really can’t be that cruel on a daily basis and not dislike yourself or be unhappy. They’re taking all these emotional shortcomings, and playing it politics. It’s really effective, because it makes for good TV and it finds its audience in the nation. It’s very easy to build an Archie Bunker nation. It’s not easy to build a Paul Wellstone nation. That’s why FOX’s ratings are high. 1

It’s so easy to be a Bush-Coulter fan. What that means is that you do not have to care about other people. You can be angry all the time so it really, really lets you off the hook. Instead of participating meaningfully in your community, or your own life, for that matter, you can be a dittohead or buy a Bush doll or watch O’Reilly and write hate mail to people. 1

They don’t want diversity, many messages, or many voices. That’s part of the reason some people gravitate towards the right. They like authoritarian systems where the marching orders are given and people follow them lockstep. That’s the reason they sort of go rightward. The reason other people go leftward is because they’re more interested in diversity. There’s much more room for alternative opinions. 1

...the dumb and the mean love patriotism....What you have now is people that are closet racists, misogynists, homophobes and people who love tilted playing field and the politics of exclusion identifying as conservative. 2

Unfortunately though, in this country, as in many countries, there's always going to be groups of individuals who want war anyway. They like to be aggressive. They like to have an us-and-them attitude. They like to be isolationists. They like to be somewhat exclusionary and racist in their thinking anyway. If they have the opportunity to wrap it in a flag, so much the better -- you know what I'm saying? 3

In the ranks of some of these very conservative or right-wing groups, not everybody's a bad person or anti-intellectual -- but what those kind of groups cater toward is people with sociopathic tendencies. There are things that people like Ann Coulter say, and things that people like Rush Limbaugh say, and Mike Savage, that are straight-up sociopathic, straight-up racist, straight-up sexist. And all of this stuff gets wrapped in the flag. 3

It is shocking that some people's lives are enriched by this nonsense--these boycotts and e-mails. They are proving themselves to be fundamentally anti-American and anti-democratic. They are against the First Amendment, so what are they defending? Unless they are trying to build a fascist Administration, unless they are trying to bring the American people to a point that we exist under a totalitarian regime. 4

It’s a psychological need that leads to what you’re talking about, willful ignorance, a placing of one’s head in the sand because you can’t emotionally handle the idea of being so poorly led as a country by a President (President Bush), who is clearly one of the worst presidents historically we’ve ever had. There’s nothing wrong in saying that. 5

Excuse me while I step out for a moment to wrap myself in the flag, hide behind Jesus, and oppress some minorities. At least she's consistent.

On the war in Iraq:

It was an attempt at a corporate takeover. This was about oil. It wasn't about human rights. It's not about human rights. 2

On the Bush Administration:

The Bush administration wants to expand its powers of surveillance over your life, while simultaneously rolling back the Freedom of Information Act. Team Bush is more radically corrupt than Richard Nixon ever tried to be. 2

It is in fact a conspiracy of the 43rd Reich. 2

Despair will not discriminate. Once this shit hits the fan, and as the economy goes further into the toilet and is further degraded, as social programs in this country are slashed and burned to funnel money to the Pentagon, as more people that are mentally ill get thrown off their medication plans, and more children are left behind in the public school education system, who cares? 3

"There's nothing you could point to in the Bush Administration with pride," she says. "Nothing. There is no way any rational, reasonable person can say that the Bush Administration has been good for America." 4

This will potentially be one of the worst chapters in American history that will go on for twenty or thirty years, until democracy, in some fashion, is established. 4

There's been such an assault on democracy here, and the mainstream media is complicit in it. We are living in neo-McCarthy, post-democratic times. Democracy is being criminalized. Democracy is being ignored. 4

If you do your homework and educate yourself about American domestic and foreign policy through the years, you’ll see that President Bush is probably one of the worst in the last two hundred-some-odd years of this country. 5

On Dissent:

So to say that just because your occupation is not within the Beltway you have no First Amendment rights is absurd. 3

And then these same people have a problem with political correctness. They can't stand political correctness, which, in my mind, just means civility, you know. 3

A lot of people were unhappy with the bellicose nationalism, the partisan psuedo-patriotism, and just the general bullying tone that was coming out of FOX News, MSNBC, right-wing radio, and the White House. 1

I'm so public about this because I've been asked to do so and because I painfully felt that the anti-war movement was being ignored. So it was a combination of those two things. If I thought the anti-war movement was getting proper coverage in the mainstream media, I would have said no. You don't need actors to make this a mockery. 4

I never imagined that I would never care about dumb things anymore. I never imagined I'd be a person who could transcend that kind of nonsense. But beyond that, I never imagined I would be penalized for speaking out in favor of social justice. I never thought that anyone who spoke out for peace, and diplomacy, and social justice would be pilloried. 4

On Herself:

I'm frequently depressed, just have a general malaise. And I don't mean a malaise of indifference, I mean a malaise of sadness and fear. I've always been alarmed by some of the things that the mainstream media does and by what the government does, no matter who's in office, but the broken heart is new. 5

Now that should make for some entertaining radio.

What could have brought Janeane to such dire straits? Now I'm not a psychologist, but I gotta think this tale from her past might provide a hint to her current mania:

I'm somebody where if I walked into a bar you wouldn't notice me, but at least a circle of frat guys isn't going to make fun of me like they did in college.

I was huge -- I weighed 160 pounds. Every Friday and Saturday night, I would walk on eggshells back to my dorm, like, "Please don't let there be a group of guys, please, please." Of course they made fun of me. Guys in a group? Come on. The worst.


1. Democratic Underground Forums - My interview with Janeane Garofalo

2. Battle Against Terrorism a Failure, Leads to “Chaos and Blood” --8/21/2003-- Media Research Center

3. Janeane Garofalo, Concerned American Citizen and Patriot - A BuzzFlash Interview

4. Janeane Garofalo Interview | Elizabeth DiNovella | May 2003 Issue

5. PRESS RELEASE: Janeane Garofalo speaks out about FOX NEWS

6. Salon interview Janeane Garofalo

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Running Into A Brick Wall

Last year I picked eleven of the twelve regional NCAA hockey playoff games correctly, and thirteen of fifteen overall including the Frozen Four. This year my prognastications have been a miserable failure. In the twelve regional regional contests I went 7-5, and only correctly picked one of the teams going to the Frozen Four, the Maine Black Bears.

My competition didn't fare much better, but nevertheless, I am forced to concede victory to him. He went 8-4 in the regionals and nailed two of the Frozen Four, Maine and Boston College. Since I had Maine losing in the national semifinals I can't pick up any more wins. The game that made the difference between us was the Michigan-BC contest that went to OT before BC pulled it out 3-2. Had Michigan won, I would have a one game lead, and two teams left. Such is life.

The one factor that I didn't give enough weight to in my soothsaying was goaltending. In a single game elimination tournament, the keeper is the X factor. I knew that Maine had a good un' and that Al Montoya of Michigan was solid between the pipes, which lead me to pick both teams to reach the Frozen Four. However, I overlooked Adam Berkhoel of Denver and Isaac Reichmuth of UMD. When I attended the WCHA Final Five, Reichmuth looked average at best in a 7-4 loss to the Gophers. But on Sunday he was the difference in the Bulldogs 3-1 win. Kellen Briggs did not play poorly for the Gophers, but he didn't make the key saves that Reichmuth did.

Despite the fact that they knocked out my beloved rodents, I'm going to be pulling for UMD to win their first ever national championship at the Frozen Four in Boston in a week and a half. And no sooner do the doors to one competition close, than another opens up. Jonathan at, recently seen snowboarding with John Kerry, wishes to wager on the outcome of the UMD-DU national semifinal. I wasn't aware that there were any real hockey fans out in Colorado other than the bandwagon jumpers who cheer for the Avalanche, but I certainly won't hesitate to take up the challenge.

The prize? Loser buys the winner a copy of Hugh Hewitt's forthcoming, sure to be best selling, fair and balanced book on politics, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat : Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It.

I've already read the manuscript of course. Hugh sent me a copy to proofread and provide feedback. I don't want to break any confidences here, but let's just say that my favorite red pen got quite a workout. Repeat after me Hugh, I before E except after C. So simple and yet apparently so easy to forget.
American Dynasty: A House Of Cards

What's that old saying about a reporter only being as good as his sources? Peter Schweier takes a closer look at NRO at some of the ones used by Kevin Phillips in his bestselling, "expose' of the Bush family, American Dynasty:

Besides The Nation, the only sources he uses to make the case of the Bushes' secret CIA links is the Adamson Report (cited four times), a newsletter produced by one Bruce Adamson, a geologist who runs a crackpot website called Adamson apparently believes that the Bushes are implicated in the assassination of JFK 'and tied directly and indirectly to the Diana accident and the crash of September 11, 2001.'

So they didn't have anything to do with the fake moon landings? Well, that's a relief.
El Diablo!

Parise Leaves Sioux, Signs Deal with New Jersey:

North Dakota's premature elimination from the NCAA tournament is good news, apparently, for the New Jersey Devils' playoff drive. Hobey Baker Award finalist Zach Parise has left school to sign a three-year deal with the Devils, thus foregoing his final two years of college eligibility.

According to North Dakota coach Dean Blais, in a radio interview this morning, Parise signed a three-year deal worth over $4 million.

I think this will be good for the Devils. Don't they have a drug for premature elimination?
We Want To Make Passes...

At that babe in the glasses.

Congratulations to Ashley Banfield, winner of the Fraters 'Who Is Hotter Among the Jeapoardy! Power Player Contestants' poll! Ashley's prize package will include an all expenses paid trip to St. Paul to receive the major award due her. She will ride in luxury on the smooth wheels of Greyhound. No need to worry Ashley. When you go Greyhound you leave the driving to them.

Once she arrives in the Saintly City, Ashley will be put up at the newly opened Saint Paul Arms (formerly known as Saint Paul's apartment). Breakfast will be provided by the White Castle on University Avenue, and lunch and dinners by El Burrito Mercado. Nothing but the best for our guests.

Activities planned for the week for Ashley and her chaperone (Saint Paul) include playing pool at the Groveland Tap, taking in an indy flick at the Grandview, and of course, playing trivia at Keegan's on Thursday night. All that and hour upon hour of watching C-Span on Saint Paul's couch in the lounge at the Arms, will make for a whirlwind adventure that Ashley is likely to not soon forget. (Especially when she discovers that her Greyhound ticket is one-way.)
The Fraters Libertas Welcome Wagon

David drops us an e-mail begging for a Fisking of a certain Star Tribune columnist who he feels has had it coming for a long time (look for it later this week), and thanks us for preparing him for his eventual relocation:

I've been reading Fraters daily for several months now and I especially enjoy the fisking of local columnists, even though I'm from Pittsburgh and I have no clue who most of these people in MN are. For about a dozen years now, I have had an extracurricular interest in Minnesota politics. When Rush Limbaugh's first book came out, I sent a copy to a cousin in St. Paul as a Christmas gift. I should have vetted him before doing that. In the first place, he had never heard of Limbaugh, so his wife had to explain it to him. Once he understood what I had foisted on him, he treated the book like a hunk of rancid gorgonzola. Fortunately he had one conservative friend who could appreciate the gift. Cousin, being a forthright sort of fellow, then phoned me to explain what he had done with the book and why. In making me aware of his political leanings, he identified himself as DFL. His words "Democrat Farmer Labor" were immediately followed by "Communist" in a near-whisper. It took me about three seconds to realize that he was not joking.

The City of Pittsburgh is bankrupt, though it has not quite reached that "last one out turn off the lights" stage of decline. I long ago decided, and have since convinced my wife, that Minnesota is the place to go when and if we ever pack our bags. At least I know what I would be getting myself into -- forewarned really is forearmed.

Come and listen to a story about a man named Dave
Living in Pittsburgh, a city no one could save,
Then one day he was surfin' on the net,
And up popped a blog where the bar was highly set.

Fraters that is, colorful prose, witty wordsmiths.

Well the first thing you know ol Dave's more aware,
Kinfolk said "Dave move away from there"
Said "Upper Midwest is the place you ought to be"
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Minny.

'Sota, that is. Hockey rinks, radio stars.
Mannequin II: Explosive Bugaboo

From this morning's Strib:

For nearly two years, a mannequin, amateurishly dressed to look like a suicide bomber, stood virtually unnoticed in the corner of a Rochester used-car dealer's office.

Suddenly, the mannequin -- displaying a profane message and wearing what has been interpreted as ethnic garb -- figuratively came to life, enraging members of the Islamic community in southeastern Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

To paraphrase Mr. Burns: "Eww, no! The muslims are mad at me! No, not the muslims!"

The mannequin is "clearly offensive and insulting," Rabiah Ahmed, communications coordinator for the Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's leading Islamic civil rights advocacy group, said Monday from Washington.

"These actions do nothing to promote anything positive between cultures and community," said Ahmed, whose group heard complaints from Rochester's Islamic community, which is large enough to have its own mosque in the city of 86,000 people.

Yeah, that's the standard by which ANY AND EVERY SINGLE PRIVATE BEHAVIOR SHOULD BE JUDGED! Let's see, I was going to have a bowl of oatmeal this morning, but I have to ask myself does it do anything to promote anything positive between cultures and community?

(If this were 80 miles north in the Twin Cities, at this point in the article--oh hell what am I talking about no one would have the cahones to put up such a display in such a PC environ.)

But car dealer Steve Lewis, 48, claims that "there's nothing discriminatory" about the bearded mannequin. He said that until this month, there had never been a complaint in the nearly two years the mannequin has worn a neck-covering cloth that extends from the back of a red baseball cap and partially covers the back of a white lab technician's jacket.

A belt made of rope and wire holds three empty toilet-paper rolls, made to look like explosives. The mannequin is holding a gas-tank hose.

Apparently, two sniveling students went in to videotape this outrage (on private property in a LOCKED business where people have to presumbably be buzzed in) and got into it with the Mr. Lewis. The pansies then sent the tapes to their brethren in DC and local media outlets to try to portray the dude as some kind of racistbigothater.

Thankfully, he is sticking to his guns:

"Israel is the only country in the Middle East that stands for democracy, and Israel still gets the short end of the stick," he said. "I'm not about to support a suicide bomber and supporters of terrorism."

He said he considered changing the mannequin before St. Patrick's Day, then changed his mind after the initial meeting with Kailani and his friends.

"If somebody comes in to buy a car, I don't ask what religion they are," Lewis said. "What's the big stink about?"

So this morning, we at Fraters would like to raise a big Bloody Mary to used car dealer Steve Lewis of Rochester, MN for sacking up and not being intimidated by a couple of whiny students and their powerful allies in Washington.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Give Us Wings

Saturday night I attended a benefit dinner at the Landmark Center in St. Paul for the terrific local charity group Give Us Wings. They’re involved in giving aid to a group of villages in Kenya and Uganda. Their goals are highly focused and simple: feeding the hungry, giving medicine to the sick, sending the kids to school. Everything Christians are supposed to be doing (even though GUW has no religious affiliation and I’d describe them as more humanist in nature).

I know and trust their leadership. They have no salaried staff, no overhead, or administrative fees. In fact, all the members themselves incur significant financial tolls every year through their continuous giving. To anyone feeling charitably generous, I endorse Give Us Wings and encourage you to visit their Web site to learn more about them. They may not be changing the world, but they are changing, and saving, the lives of a small group of people in a forgotten little corner of Africa. As an abstract donor looking for a sound charitable investment, that’s all you can really hope for.

And sometimes you get more than you hope for, as I can attest from Saturday night. Call it dumb luck or call it boomeranging good karma, but the fates conspired to seat me at the same table as the key note speaker for the night, KMSP-TV’s anchorperson Robyne Robinson. She’s been a dazzling fixture on the local media scene for over a decade, so most Minnesotans know her as a smart, beautiful, talented broadcaster. Those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her might not know she’s also delightfully charming and entirely devoid of pretense and arrogance. These traits are most unusual for big time media celebrities, as anyone who’s spent time with the hosts of the Northern Alliance Radio Show will tell you. Most amazingly for someone of her stature, Robyne Robinson is FUN to be around, even when she’s hanging with a bunch of relative nobodies (no offense to everyone else at the table, besides Robyne and me).

As an example, before her speech on Saturday, there was some light dinner conversation and I commented that I saw her mention on the news the other night that she scored Prince tickets (for his June series of shows in St. Paul). That lead to a discussion of his music and then supposed “farewell” tours (of which Prince’s current tour is supposed to be, at least for him performing his hits). Then at some point I told a highly relevant story about seeing downward spiraling Night Ranger perform at Mississippi Live in the mid-90’s. This caused Ms. Robinson to close her eyes in a rock and roll squint, bang her head (in pantomime fashion) and belt out a note perfect rendition of the chorus to Sister Christian.

You're motoring
What's your price for flight
In finding Mister Right
You'll be all right tonight

It was an hilarious moment, and something I can’t imagine Don Shelby doing. Or Stuart A. Lindeman (or Russell Shimooka, or whoever is anchoring over at Channel 11 these days).

Not long after, Robyne got up to give her speech- a passionate, inspiring message about hope and responsibility. I can’t do it justice in summary, but in short, her thesis was that due to the American system of governance and economic organization, hope exists in abundance in this country. It’s the most valuable resource we have and the greatest thing we can share with those who have none. She closed with a challenge for the audience to live up to their responsibilities as Americans to give hope to our suffering brothers and sisters in Africa. And I think it worked, since amid the cascade of applause for her, one could clearly hear the sound of check books flipping open all over the room.

It was a great speech and a great evening. I again encourage anyone interested to check out Give Us Wings. And tune in to Channel 9 at 9 PM. Because if you’re not watching Robyne Robinson, you’re just watching the news.
Thank You Pat Schroeder

I was hanging out with the fast-becoming Doubtlessette on Saturday and we were discussing her stint in the Air Force several years ago. Now to a typically wussy, peace-loving, modern man this conversation may not mean much. But to a kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort'-'em-out conservative like myself, it was fascinating and enthralling.

She told me of her duties in the service, what a typical day was like, etc. Then she mentioned she had to qualify with the M-16 every six months.


The idea of an attractive woman, clad in Air Force fatigues, her hair in a pony tail, sporting combat boots, squeezing off rounds from an M-16 literally made my Republican heart skip a beat. I asked if any pictures survived from the era, preferably of her brandishing military weapons in or near battle implements. Sadly, she replied no.

I asked her to describe in as much detail as she could remember all of the parts of the she broke it down to clean it...what it sounded and felt like as she pulled the trigger...what her score on the range was...did she name the weapon?...basically any detail she could think of. And I have to say: a more potent aphrodesiac for a conservative man I know not of.

As we sat on my couch, she then reached over to my coffee table and picked up the latest National Review. "What's this?" she inquired. I told her it was a conservative news magazine and she opened to a story on John Kerry and began reading aloud. And I thought the M16 talk was compelling!

There is something about hearing boring political prattle tumble forth from a pretty mouth instead of the normal cast of Morton Kondrackes and Rich Lowrys that is incredibly satisfying. The words sound fresh, alive, meaningful and not a little sexy. I said I would pay her to record a list of political terms like "Voodoo economics" "Reagan Democrat" "Moral relativism" "Milton Friedman's Free To Choose" and "The defining of deviancy down" for me to listen to in the car but she wasn't having it.

I imagine she thinks I'm quite mad, but tomorrow she's cooking me dinner at her condo. She told me to bring a movie, but I'm bringing the latest George Will column and the 2004 Smith and Wesson catalog as our entertainment instead.
A Nubian Slip?

What would Dr. Freud think about this little lapse by Hugh Hewitt today?

The pathetic attempt to pin blame for this on the president and Condi rise for sins of omission in their first eight months in office is certainly bound for the chutzpah hall of fame.

Condi Rise? Sounds like she might be working in the same industry as Buck Naked.

My Irish Eyes Are Crying

My love for the Emerald Isle took a serious blow yesterday when the Irish government banned smoking in all of the country's 10,000 pubs. The measure targets not only pubs but also includes any place that can be called a workplace with exceptions including prison cells, psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes.

Brilliant. Forbid the general population from enjoying a smoke with their Guinness but allow the incarcerated, the insane and the sick elderly to light up at will.

One supporter of the ban had this to say:

"It will be marvelous to have a night out, then not wake up in the morning with your hair and clothes stinking of smoke," said homemaker Eileen Kennedy, who generally smokes a few cigarettes a week — when she goes out for a drink with her husband.

I have a bit of advice for Eileen. If you don't want your hair and clothes stinking like smoke then don't smoke, you sodding twit! I usually find that the smoker most responsible for making my clothes reek after a night of binge drinking and chain smoking is the one to whom my hangover belongs in the morning. Stop trying to alter the behavior of those around you before you even attempt to modify yours.

And then there's this quote:

"I think, at the end of the day, a person can't argue with the logic of it because we all know cigarettes are bad for us," said cabbie Shay Kearney, a smoker who's thinking of quitting now. "And if it actually encourages people to give up, in the long term, maybe it's a good thing — obviously it's a good thing."

Apparently, Shay believes that he and his fellow countrymen are completely unable to make the decision to quit smoking without the government stepping in to ban it from all public places. Oh he wants to quit, but without the gentle guiding hand of his friendly and caring government he is powerless. Nonsense.

The logical next step to all of this is, of course, making cigarettes illegal altogether, but no government agency seems to be advocating that route either in Ireland or right here in America. If one follows Shay's logic, an outright ban would be a good thing in that it wouldn't just encourage people to quit, it would actually force them to quit. It would also force the government to forgo the revenue they reap from cigarrette taxes, and that simply ain't going to happen.

So, both governments will continue to rail against the unhealthy and undesirable effects of cigarettes while licking their lips at the pile of money they were able to amass by profiting off their sale.

In the meantime, my favorite activity while visiting Ireland (a puff and a pint in a pub) has been prohibited. The question is, can I carry my pint down the street in Dublin? I guess if I can fill that annoying down time necessary to walk from pub to pub by sucking down a pint of Guinness on the street with a heater dangling from my mouth, I can learn to adapt.
Our A.G.'s Daughters Can Beat Up Your A.G's Daughters (updated)

Daughters of Minnesota attorney general arrested in Chicago:

Two daughters of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch assaulted police and broke a squad car window after a struggle at a Chicago dance club early Saturday, Chicago police said.

Elizabeth Bell Hatch, 22, and Anne Hatch, 21, are scheduled to appear May 5 in Cook County Court.

Taylor, the police spokeswoman, said that Elizabeth and Anne were intoxicated and that about 3 a.m., a club guard asked them to leave because "they were causing a disturbance, yelling and screaming" at a male patron. Police arrived shortly after the club called them.

Officers told the women that "they were no longer welcome at the club and needed to leave," Taylor said. The women refused, and a verbal and physical skirmish broke out between them and police, she said. Elizabeth charged an officer, raised her hands and struck him in the face, knocking off his glasses, Taylor said. Anne struggled with another officer and scratched his face, Taylor added.

UPDATE: Complaint filed against Chicago cops in arrest of Hatch's daughters:

The Police Department's Office of Professional Standards is trying to determine if officers used excessive force when they arrested two daughters of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch.

Hatch says his daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, were both injured during an early morning altercation with police outside a Chicago nightclub this weekend. Those injuries included black eyes, cuts and a possible wrist fracture, Hatch said.

The two women were celebrating Anne's 21st birthday at the Crobar nightclub on the city's Near North Side when Elizabeth began arguing a man who allegedly groped her, Hatch said. Nightclub staff then asked the women to leave.

Once the sisters were outside, police told the women to leave the area and the two sisters began fighting with them, police said.

After they were taken into custody, the women allegedly kicked out the rear window of a squad car, police spokeswoman JoAnn Taylor said.

The daughters were released from a police station Saturday afternoon after being charged with misdemeanors including assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and damaging a police car.

Consider the following scenario. JB Doubtless and myself, in the more reckless days of youth, are in a Chicago booze joint imbibing a few cocktails. Late in the evening there is a disagreement between one of us (I'll let you guess who) and another patron. We are asked to leave the premises. Instead we become belligerent and refuse to depart. Eventually we do end up outside, where the local constabulary advises us to call it a night. Again we are uncooperative, even going so far as to take a swing at one of the Windy City's finest.

The question at that point would not be if we would beaten to within inches of our lives, but rather how close we would come to slipping this mortal coil. At a minimum we'd facing the prospect of blood transfusions, full body casts, and weeks of gaining our nutritional sustenance through a straw. And we would have deserved just what we got.

Growing up as a man you learn a few simple lessons of life. If you lip off to guys who are bigger or stronger than you, you will (eventually) get your ass kicked. If you don't listen to bouncers who tell you to leave a bar, you will get your ass kicked. And if you mess with the police, you will most assuredly get your ass kicked.

On occasion these lessons are learned through personal (and painful) experience. More often they are learned when you witness those who violate these rules receiving a dose of brutish justice. Either way, you soon come to understand that actions, like ideas, have consequences.

But I have noticed a growing and disturbing trend of members of the fairer sex not quite grasping this concept. The "empowerment" of women has given many of them the notion that they are, and should be, the equals of men. They can work like men, play sports like men, sleep around like men, swear like men, drink like men, and behave foolishly in public like men. They want to act just like men. But they don't want to accept the consequences of their actions that men have to.

They want all the benefits and fun that behaving like a man can bring, without any of the responsibilities. When the music's playing and everyone is dancing they're all about being viewed and treated as equals. But when the fun stops and it's time to pay the piper, they suddenly retreat to the shelter of woman as helpless victim, deserving of special treatment because of their frailty and vulnerability.

Sorry ladies, but you can't have it both ways. You want to act like a man? Fine. Then you get treated like a man. In all respects. You can talk the talk. But you also have to walk the walk.
Survey Says...

The results are in, and they show that you the people believe that the big money winner on the Power Players series of Jeopardy! will be the smooth talking Ari Fleisher. Here is the breakdown:

Ari Fleisher 32.5%
Keith Olbermann 16.7%
Peggy Noonan 15.1%
Tucker Carlson 8.7%
Tim Russert 7.1%
Maria Bartiromo 5.6%
Bob Woodward 3.2%
Gretchen Carlson 2.4%
Al Franken 2.4%
Kweisi Mfume 1.6%
Anderson Cooper 1.6%
Ashleigh Banfield 1.6%
Christine Todd Whitman 0.8%
Aaron Brown 0.8%
Tavis Smiley 0.0%

Meanwhile, the poll to determine the best looking contestant will continue until the end of the day. Right now Ashley Banfield and Maria Bartiromo are neck and neck (settle down Saint Paul) as they sprint for the finish, with only five votes separating them.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

An Ode To Anything But Joy

Kim Ode writes a column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Variety section. I usually take a pass on reading Ode, since she typically concentrates Erma Bombeckesque family/lifestyle subjects such as whether watching television is good for your kids (surprisingly Kim says no). But for some reason I was drawn to her latest effort that appeared on Wednesday, called We must pay attention -- it's our country and events are important. Hard to argue with that statement.

It's so tempting to stop keeping up with the news. Most of the recent headlines either bring us down or raise our blood pressure. What would be the harm in not paying attention?

Us? Hmmm....Doesn't really seem to describe the way I react when I follow the news.

Not everyone feels this way, of course.

Well, that's good to know.

A certain proportion of the population devours the news with a satisfied righteousness.

Substitute the word conservative for "a certain proportion of the population". Yeah, that's exactly how I feel. Smug, satisfied, righteous, bastard. That's me.

Another group may wonder why I'm so bummed about the stuff on SNL's "Weekend Update".

Because "Weekend Update" hasn't been funny since Norm McDonald?

Still others don't pay attention at all and are OK with that.

Yes, the great ignorant masses. If only they watched CNN or read the Star Tribune.

But some of us read and watch the news with an increasing sense of despair and a growing suspicion that we've been snookered. It would be so easy to turn away, just for a while.

An increasing sense of despair? Despair? Are things really THAT bad?

Paging Dr. History. Report to the offices of the Star Tribune. Kim Ode needs a 200CC injection of perspective. STAT.

Think of the time we could save by ignoring coverage of congressional investigations about Sept. 11, or tell-all books about backstage action, or efforts to amend the Constitution about anything. Think of the projects we could finish if we just said no to following the presidential campaign, or the path of environmental legislation, or the quest for who outed the CIA's Valerie Plame.

Think of the purpose and clarity that you could bring to your writing. Tell-all books about "backstage action"? Efforts to amend the Constitution "about anything"? What the hell is she talking about? The Clarke book or Behind The Scenes of American Idol? Gay marriage or efforts to repeal the 16th Amendment and abolish the income tax?

No longer would the kids' eyes glaze over at the mention of Iraq.

Do you think it's "the mention of Iraq" or the fact that you're about launch into another lengthy diatribe about how evil Bush is for taking us to war that causes your kids to tune out?

Dinner parties wouldn't end up sounding like support groups.

Note to self: Decline any future invitations for dinner parties at the Ode's. The words parties and support groups should never be used in the same sentence.

There'd be a lot less sputtering. There'd be a spring in our step, maybe even a fresh coat of paint in the dining room.

If only Kim could be like the conservatives. Dumb, uninformed, and happy.

More and more, I get the feeling that this administration wishes that we'd do that, that we would just take their word for it and move on, go to Disneyland, or to the casino, or to our couches. It's a tempting suggestion, just for a while. A while is all they may need.

A while is all they may need? For what? To consolidate their stranglehold on our democracy? To crush the last of the brave dissenters? To establish the Ashcroft/Rove/Cheney/Halliburton military theocracy?

We should never stop paying attention, of course. Paying attention is good for the country, good for our conscience.

Sigh. Good for our conscience? This perfectly encapsulates how many on the left view politics. It's not right or wrong or good or bad results. It's all about how it makes you feel.

And, like it or not, we're all in this together.

No, we're quite obviously not.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Papal Pigskin Proclamation

The Pope said today that Sunday should be a day for God and not for secular diversions like sports.

I can't imagine that heeding the Pope's words will have much effect on the Minnesota Vikings. The team rarely bothers to show up for games on Sunday as it is.
Lazy Journalist Tells All

No, the title of this piece doesn’t refer to a tearful confession by a certain MPR education reporter about his work habits. Instead it’s an insider’s reaction to the media coverage of Richard Clarke’s accusations about the Bush Administration and the 9/11 attacks. I don’t know which traditional media outlet Ryan Rhodes writes for, but his excellent post today on his blog (Rambling Rhodes) confirms what many of us have long suspected:

I'm not a grizzled veteran when it comes to journalism. I've basically been in the field now for six years or so, which isn't a whole lot, when you think about it. Regardless, there is one rule I've noticed when it comes to modern day journalists.

We are f*cking LAZY.

This doesn't apply to all journalists, mind you, just the vast majority. There is a miniscule minority of journalists out there who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and do a little background research and put together a tightly knit story, complete with facts and figures and interviews and excerpts from other sources.

But, generally, journalists aren't interested in doing all that work. Journalists invest far more time and ingenuity into discovering ways to avoid hard investigative work than they do actually working. I can speak with a little bit of authority on this, because I've been known to do it from time to time, and I can recognize the familiar handiwork of journalistic reporters taking the easy road. If you know what to look for, it's really quite obvious.

I can’t personally testify to Ryan’s laziness, but I do commend him for his honesty. And if forced to choose, I’d prefer to read an honestly lazy man over a hard working liar any day of the week. For this, Ryan Rhodes, lazy reporter, we salute you.
The Eye of the Beholder

I see Peggy Noonan is currently running in third place in the “Who’s Hotter” poll being conducted on the left hand side of this fine Internet site. All things considered, not a bad showing for her. But she’s not getting my vote.

Let me say at the outset, she has many things going for her. Smart as whip, insightful writer and news analyst, terrific prose stylist, professionally accomplished (including a stint in the White House with the great man himself, Reagan). She’s Irish, with an enchanting 100 proof Irish name. Wonderful voice too. A soft, feminine, beautiful tone to it. Warmth and refinement surrounding every syllable she utters. Her three hour CSPAN interview from 2002 was an aural odyssey of pleasure I’ll not soon forget.

As a package deal, the woman is a thousand points of light. And if I were a 40-year-old features writer for the New Yorker (or the heir to Al Jaffe’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions at Mad Magazine), I’d be proud to have Gawker report the news that she was on my arm as we entered Tavern on the Green on a Saturday night.

But in the cold calculus of the “Who’s Hotter” genre, the package deal is not taken into account. Her looks are the thing, and there we have a bit of an issue. Now, there’s nothing terribly wrong with her face. In fact there’s a lot right about her beautiful, fashionably cut blond hair, her bottomless pale blue eyes which reveal a piercing intellect and just a hint of a tragedy. Her forehead, ears, cheekbones - fine, fine, fine. Draw a horizontal line across her face, centered about mid nose and concentrate on the top half only and she’s a knockout.

It’s the lower half of the picture where the heretofore divine genetic code got a little scrambled. To be specific, it’s her big, flaring nostrils and long, thin lips. Upon intensive study, I believe they can only be described in one way: porcine.

I was going to say “overly porcine”, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no degree of pig-like features that can be considered aesthetically pleasing. It’s either porcine or it’s not. And truth be told, as it must in context of something as important as the Who’s Hotter poll, the lower half of her face kind of/sort of looks porcine. For this reason, my vote has to go to Ashley Banfield. On a superficial level, she is hotter.

As I’ve clearly articulated above, I’m crazy about Peggy Noon. I just hope my critics in the mainstream media and the selective, skim readers out there don’t run wild with the out of context excerpting. Because it would be an injustice to wake up tomorrow and see the scream headline “Saint Paul from Fraters Libertas Calls Peggy Noonan a Pig.” Not true! Not true!
Why You Must Always Read Everything We Post

Because if you don't, you risk missing the context in our latest offerings and end up looking like...well like an ape.

Let The Real Madness Begin

The NCAA hockey tournament is once again upon us. Sixteen teams, four regionals, four coveted places in the Frozen Four in Boston. Last year I went 13-2 in my NCAA tourney picks and chased my competition (Will who?) from town. This year I'm hooking up with a new challenger, Bill Tuomala from Exiled on Blog Street, and the field is so wide open that any team could conceivably take the whole thing. Here we go:

East Regional

#1 Maine vs. #4 Harvard
Maine has a great goaltender. Harvard finished strong. Maine prevails in a tight one 3-1

#2 Ohio State vs. #3 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been up and down all season and lost their WCHA playoff series to Alaska-Anchorage. Ohio State won the CCHA tourney last week. Momentum favor the Buckeyes 3-2

#1 Maine vs. #2 Ohio State
Another very close contest but Maine moves on 2-1

Northeast Regional

#1 Boston College vs. #4 Niagara
BC lost five of it's last six. Niagara has been here before. BC has too much talent to lose 5-2

#2 Michigan vs. #3 New Hampshire
Two teams that were in last year's Frozen Four. I'll take the Wolverines 4-2

#1 BC vs. #2 Michigan
Michigan returns to the Frozen Four for the third straight year with a 3-2 win

Midwest Regional

#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Notre Dame
The Gophers are rolling, but best not look past the Irish who have a number of quality wins this year. Goaltending is probably Minnesota's weak spot, and if Briggs is off his game Notre Dame will win. I think Briggs will be just good enough, with some help from Thomas Vanek, to earn a 5-4 victory

#2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. #3 Michigan State
The Bulldogs are hurting after last week's WCHA Final Five. Junior Lessard will play, but he won't be anywhere near 100%. Still they should have just enough to get past the Spartans 4-3

#1 Minnesota vs. #2 UMD
This game is tough. I'm uneasy about picking the Gophers to beat the Dogs again just over a week after their 7-4 win in the WCHA semis. But when you get to the post season it's all about momentum and who's hot. The Gophers are, the Dogs aren't. Let's say a gut wrenching 6-5 OT thriller for the Maroon and Gold

West Regional

#1 North Dakota vs. #4 Holy Cross
That thing I said about anybody winning the tournament? It should have been anybody BUT Holy Cross. The Sioux will have a little extra fire in their bellies after losing the WCHA Final Five Championship last weekend, and they will cruise past the Cross 6-2

#2 Denver vs. #3 Miami of Ohio
Denver is a tough team to figure. They finished the regular season very strong before being swept by CC in the WCHA playoffs. I'm going with a minor upset here by taking Miami 4-3 in OT

#1 North Dakota vs. #3 Miami
With Denver out of the way, the Sioux should have an easy road to Boston ahead of them. They bounce Miami 7-3

The Frozen Four

Maine vs. Michigan
The Wolverines have been stopped in the semifinals each of the last two years. This time they get it done by beating Maine 3-1

Minnesota vs. North Dakota
While I would love nothing more than seeing a Minnesota three peat, their run ends here. The Gophers beating the talent laden Sioux for a second straight time is just not probable. North Dakota wins 4-3

Championship Game
North Dakota vs. Michigan
The Sioux have too much offense for the Wolverines and will win their eighth national championship by a final score of 5-3.

For those fans in the Twin Cities who are concerned about watching the games on television due to the Victory Sports brouhaha, fear not. The three local cable operators have agreed to accept Victory's offer to get the games for free:

The package includes games involving the Gophers, who will play Notre Dame at 11 a.m. Saturday. Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota's games also will be seen. Comcast will show the available contests on Ch. 13, Time Warner on Ch. 23 and Charter on Ch. 14 in the south and Ch. 65 in the north.

Pull up an easy chair, crack open a beer, sit back and enjoy. It just don't get no better.

The Gets That We Gots

In case you haven't head, this week's Northern Alliance Radio Show promises to be a classic. Guests appearing in the second hour include Kenneth Timmerman, author of The French Betrayal of America, and Thomas Lipscomb, the NY Sun reporter who's been leading the coverage of the Kerry-V.V.A.W. assassination plot story. Rumor has it that Hugh already tried to line these guys up as guests, but when they called in, Generalissimo Duane hung up on them.

Meanwhile, I continue to work on landing my first big time guest for the program. The bass I'm trying to boat is Marty, the manager and Thursday night trivia host at Keegan's Irish Pub. He's a tough nut to crack, but I think my relentless pleading is starting to get to him. If not, there's always that waitress that we tip so well. Riveting radio my friends. Riveting radio.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

One Against Nature

I freakin' hate apes. Always have. Apes, gorillas, orangutans, monkeys, macaques--any type of feral beast that is vaguely human. And I've always resented this bizarre notion that somehow we have something in common with these nasty, feces-flinging abominations.

Personally, I share nothing with them. Some of you may, depending on your voting habits, taste in beer and belief in the vitality of punk music.

A short story to illustrate this point...about ten years ago, myself, St. Paul and his then girlfriend went to the Oklahoma City Zoo to enjoy some animals. St. Paul was deeply into a Scorcese identity crisis and carried an inherited video camera with him at all times. Tired of his directions as to my "motivation" I approached an ape exhibit and proudly declared to the filthy, putrid thing behind the bars "WE ARE NOT RELATED!"

I somehow think he (that is, the beast...St. Paul was concerned we were "losing the light") understood on some basic level.

So I was thrilled to read the following in this morning's WSJ:

Misapprehensions to the contrary, humans did not evolve from chimps. Both species evolved from a common, apelike ancestor (ed note: save for JB Doubtless--he was created by God and sent from Heaven to his mother's womb). Yet since the two lineages diverged some five million years ago, the genetic changes have been few. Chimps are our closest living relative (ed note: not really "our" unless you like the Sex Pistols or something).

There it is. MOST of us (DFL contributors aside) did not evolve from apes. Many did, I understand.

I'm just glad I'm not one of them.
File Under 'Who'd Have Thunk it?'

Michael Medved is OLDER than Richard Clarke?!? According to Medved, he's a spry fifty five, while Clarke is a well worn fifty three.
Getting To Noam

C.W. e-mails to alert us that Noam Chomsky has his own blog (or at least he appears to-it could be a clever CIA/Mossad/Skull and Bones plot to discredit him). I challenge anyone to read the comments that some of his posts have elicited, and honestly say that you can separate the satire from the reality.
Let's Talk About What Really Matters

A couple of readers have suggested that we get to the true heart of the matter when it comes to the Jeopardy! 'Power Players' competition. (Note: if you're having trouble with our poll on who will win the most money, it's a Java issue. It worked fine on my home PC last night, but at work I can't vote unless I use Netscape instead of IE. If you have a big problem with this repeat to yourself- it's just a poll, I should really just relax. ) And what matters is not who will win the most money. It's who is hotter.

And with that we give you a look at the six finalists:

Looking sassy and smart with the spectacles, Ashley Banfield

Former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson

A nod to JB Doubtless with the classy and mature, Peggy Noonan

How about the fixed assets of Maria Bartiromo?

For those who prefer more moderate, natural looks we present, Christine Todd Whitman (giving us her best "Mitch Berg just asked me out?" look)

Last but certainly not least, here's a little something for the ladies (and fans of Deliverance-page down):

CNN's Anderson Cooper

(Thanks to Rick and Sean for the concept)

Be Like Francois?

A piece appeared in last week's Economist on a forthcoming book, which examines the differing attitudes towards the poor between Europe and America. It has spawned discussion among such luminaries of the blogosphere as Kevin Drum , Robert Tagorda , and our favorite wino wine connoisseur, Professor Bainbridge.

The authors of the book, Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference, conclude that politics and race are the explanations for the differences in outlook:

America's political structures differ from Europe's. They are older—not something most people on either side of the Atlantic usually realise—and more governed by conservative forces. Most countries in Europe have undergone turbulent political change in the past century; America has at least the bones of a structure created more than two centuries ago. Europe's upheavals have installed proportional representation in most countries, a structure that has facilitated the growth of socialist and communist parties. “There is a general relationship between the age of institutions and their unfriendliness to the welfare state,” they argue.

The second cause seems to getting most of the focus:

The other half of the explanation lies in America's racial diversity. In spite of 20 years of unprecedented immigration, European countries, particularly smaller ones like Portugal and those of Scandinavia, are still highly racially homogenous. America, by contrast, has great diversity, which is especially wide in some states. In addition, the poor in America are disproportionately non-white. Non-Hispanic whites are 71% of America's population but only 46% of the poor.

Racial diversity in individual states is correlated with the generosity of welfare. For instance, the authors find that in 1990 Aid to Families with Dependent Children ranged from over $800 per family per month in mainly white Alaska to less than $150 in Alabama and Mississippi, where almost one-third of the population is black. Even after adjustment for inter-state differences in average incomes, the correlation with race remained strong. Across countries, too, racial diversity goes with low government spending on poverty relief.

The reason, argue the authors, is that “race matters”, and they marshal statistical evidence, much of it from opinion surveys, to back this up. People are likely to support welfare if they live close to recipients of their own race; but are antipathetic if they live near recipients from another race. The divergent attitudes of Europeans and Americans to the poor are underwritten by the fact that the poor in Europe tend to be ethnically the same as most other folk. In America, their skin is often a different colour.

So our diversity might not be our strength? This is a fascinating theory and one that will surely merit more discussion when the book is published next month. I'm not going to get into the race aspect now, but I found these other statistics showcasing differences between Europe and America most interesting:

NOTHING better encapsulates the different attitudes of America and Europe to the poor than a table towards the end of Alberto Alesina's and Edward Glaeser's remarkable book, due to be published later this month. It compares the prevalence of three beliefs: that the poor are trapped in poverty; that luck determines income; and that the poor are lazy. The first is held by only 29% of Americans but by 60% of citizens of the European Union; the second, by 30% of Americans and 54% of Europeans; and the third, by contrast, by 60% of Americans and 24% of Europeans.

These beliefs are so broadly stated that I would be hesitant to say they apply across the board. But if forced to choose, my message to the Euros would be, "Three strikes and you're out".

It continues:

Americans, by contrast, are much more likely to give money privately. They appear to have given $691 per head in charitable donations in 2000, compared with contributions of $141 in Britain and a mere $57 in Europe as a whole.

That is a huge difference. I'm sure that part of the reason for it would be the decline of organized religion in the lives of many Europeans. There is a well established correlation between those who practice a religion and charitable giving. Of course, secularists can, and often do donate money and time to charities. But on average they don't do it as much as those who are religious.

The other explanation is that Europeans view much of the work typically done by charities as a government function. The onerous tax burden that they have to bear pays for these activities so in their minds they've already "donated" to the cause. Rather than "I gave at the office", it's "I gave in my paycheck".

Instead of individuals evaluating various charities and directing their money where they feel it is most needed and would do the most good, the government confiscates whatever monies it determines it needs from everyone and distributes these funds through a political and bureaucratic process that the average citizen probably neither understands or has influence over.

Again the choice to me seems pretty clear.

The next time you hear the tired plea, usually on such issues as vacation time, public transportation, or health care, "Why can't we be more like Europe?", just remember that the answer is actually quite simple.

We don't want to.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Doing Master's Bidding

Hugh Hewitt was talking about the upcoming JEOPARDY! special 'Power Player' competition on his show today, and asking his guests which contestant they believe will win the most money. Now he has tasked us to run a poll on the subject. His wish is our command. Unless he ever asks us to ride on the back of a snowmobile he's piloting. Or invites us over to listen to his collection of pop music. Or...

If you're curious, Hugh is going with Keith Olbermann. Which pretty much guarantees that Olbermann will be cracking wise, but winning little.
Pitchers And Catchers Report

To Mars? How long will it be before the Weekly World News reports that Steinbrenner has inked a Martian?

(Tipped off by Scott Boone)
Chinese Democracy

Apparently the presidential election results in Taiwan are causing a bit of a controversy. It’s mostly based on the closeness of the outcome. Out of more than 13 million votes cast, the difference was only 30,000 votes. In addition, nearly 340,000 votes were declared invalid by election officials. A recount is being demanded by the losing side, and just today the government agreed to it, in some form.

I normally wouldn’t expect a lot to come from this. Historically speaking (in the US). barring fraud, recounts usually increase the vote margin for the presumptive victor. Reason being, lost, missing and invalidated ballots (as a whole) take on the characteristics of a random sample of the population - thus proving incompetence is evenly distributed across political affiliations. If the recounted ballots are distributed across the entire electoral base, then even a .9% differential in the initial count can result in a couple thousand more vote increase in the margin for the original leader. A fact the Gore-Lieberman (aka Sore-Loserman) campaign was no doubt aware of when they were suing in court to only recount a handful of counties in Florida, counties in which they knew they were the leaders.

I don’t know diddly about Taiwanese electoral procedures. But I’m willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt on the fraud allegations. The country has decades of experience with administering elections. In terms of respect for the rule of law, they’re almost to First World standards. They have a relatively free press and an active, engaged (and now enraged) political opposition, so it shouldn’t be possible to pull off a blatant fraud. Plus, their current leader is a staunch anti-Communist, so deep in your heart, you know he’s right.

However, the issue of the alleged assassination attempt on President Chen a few days before the election does give one pause. No one was seriously injured, despite initial, elective eve reports to the contrary. No suspects have been identified and several incongruities exist in Chen's treatment and in the investigation of the incident. The opposition is crying foul - saying it was all nothing more than a staged sympathy ploy.

Normally, I’d dismiss this accusation as screwball reverse Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorizing (and wonder if Jesse Ventura has started teaching a course on this at Harvard yet). But then I read this historical nugget, about President Chen’s dramatic past. From the NY Times:

...Mr. Chen, running for office in Tainan 18 years ago, appeared at an election-eve rally with an intravenous drip and claiming that he had been poisoned by the Nationalists, then the governing party. He appeared healthy the next day

Interesting. Well, if this whole election thing doesn’t work out for Chen after all, at least he can fall back on a career in professional wrestling promotions.
Liberals Say The Darndest Things

For those of us not paying attention, tyranny has descended upon the United States and the voices of truth are soon to be squelched. Fun, well-grounded City Pages blogger Elaine Cassel updates us on the state of the Union, as she sees it:

So, what I predicted, and worse, is upon us, and I am not hearing much outrage about any of it. A yawn, a “what’s new,” a “does that surprise you, Cassel?” is about all I am getting when I rant and rave. No, it does not surprise me, it terrifies me. Four more years of Bush and I doubt that I will be writing or you will be reading these warnings. We will have been silenced. I wish I were exaggerating, but this past year has taught me that, if anything, my warnings have been too tame.

It’s fun to pretend. Even more fun to imagine you’re an unappreciated voice of insight and truth, at the center of a great drama, in opposition to a diabolical conspiracy. Hell, it sure beats being a blogger for an alternative weekly newspaper.

Oh sure, she may be silenced if Bush is re-elected (we’ll be strictly monitoring her blog on election night, maybe get a countdown clock started). Or she may be silenced if there’s a responsible person in an editorial function at the City Pages who actually reads her work. Given the paper’s typical standards, I think Geo. Bush arriving at her apartment and personally unplugging her PC, taking the mouse out of her grasping fingers, and slapping the cuffs on is a more plausible scenario.

Back to Elaine:

We have seen a despot, and he is occupying the White House. We have seen tyranny, and it is the Bush Administration. And yes, I am certain that, if there has been any doubt heretofore, now I am sure that I can be labeled a “terrorist” for saying it. And you, likely, are a terrorist for reading it.

Sorry about that folks, but you’ve just been snared in a terrorist sting operation. Ever since I signed up at the MN State Fair to be a GOP Team Leader, I’ve felt a personal responsibility to help defend the Homeland. And, well, you got swept up in it. Nothing personal, but please report to the nearest re-education camp immediately. Just follow the sounds of Elaine Cassel’s screaming. Or is it her silence? It’s hard to tell the difference.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

That's Entertainment

There's something compelling about music that suggests something gone awry, whether it's rock, folk, metal or techno, whether what's troubling the artist is conveyed by an ominous growl of a guitar, a disturbing pattern on the bass, a mysterious lyric or a dark, evocative voice. These albums, all of which share a terse, visual quality, have little in common but their ability to haunt.

Their ability to haunt, folks. There it is. Pretty well sums up the post-modern music critic's take on what they value in recordings. Believe it or not, this was not written by the Strib's hipster-in-residence Chris Remenschneider, who has been chronicled here many times for writing similar crap about why music that is cynical, snarling, dark, moody, depressed, angry or hateful is actually what we consumers should be on the lookout for.

No, today's piece is from the WSJ and was penned by Jim Fusilli (Jerry). He goes on to describe the recordings in more detail and why we should run right out and get them:

The new CD by Grant Lee Phillips is a moving serenade in minor keys, a journey through melancholy. It's also the best album yet by Phillips...

A journey through melancholy. A journey through melancholy is not a journey I am interested in making. I mean, I'm spending three hours with Mitch Berg a week the way it is.

Chris Vrenna, programming whiz and former drummer of Nine-Inch Nails, blends organic music with walls of whirling synthesizers and roaring guitars to generate threatening techno-soundscapes...the album stands on its own as a poignant, menacing piece of modern experimentation.

Threatening and menacing? Yes, that does sound entertaining. But if I wanted to enjoy something threatening and menacing, I'd pull the police report from when the Atomizer was banned from
A Great Day (or two) For Hockey

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching two highly entertaining (and one rather humdrum) WCHA Final Five hockey games at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. I love the game of hockey at all levels of play, but there's something about the fans, the bands, and the rivalries that makes college hockey my favorite. Especially at tournament time when fans from various schools (some playing in the tournament, some not) come together to catch the action, converse with others who share their passion, and most of all have a hell of a good time.

On Friday afternoon my wife and I watched the University of North Dakota Sioux knock off the Alaska-Anchorage Sea Wolves, who, up to that point, had been the Cinderella story of the tournament. After the game we hurried out of the arena and made a beeline to a local St. Paul watering hole for some vittles and liquid refreshment. Unfortunately, every such establishment within a ten block radius of the Xcel Energy Center was already packed with thirsty hockey fans. We wandered around downtown St. Paul for what seemed like forty years before coming upon the land of milk and honey; a bar that wasn't standing room only.

Granted it was a dive, smoking appeared to be mandatory, the regulars could have appeared as extras in the movie 'Barfly', and the closest we could come to food was a frozen pizza. But the Summit was flowing freely and we had a premo location at the bar. Life was good. And surprisingly so was the pizza. Either that or we were already half in the bag and so hungry that the cardboard packaging would have tasted like a gourmet feast.

We chatted with a couple of Sioux fans seated next to us. They were quite knowledgeable about hockey with a good sense of humor as well. By the time we finished our pizza and had a last round before the next game, it was only ten minutes to the opening face off and we still had a lengthy walk back to the arena ahead of us. The NoDak boys had wisely called a cab and offered to let us tag along. We gladly took them up on it and soon were motoring our way to the rink. After my wife noted the presence of a butcher knife in the front seat, the cabbie regaled us with his tale of being stabbed eight times while on duty in his second month on the job. He assured us that it would not happen again, hence the knife. And if he did have to defend himself, he wasn't going to be bothered by any unnecessary paperwork or hassles (he had the notion that if you killed someone, whether justified or not you had to pay their burial expenses) either:

"I'm just going to chop 'em up in little pieces and put 'em in my trunk."

Okaaaay then. Oh look there's the arena. My time flies when you're having fun. Well we hate to chat and run but we really do have to be going. Here's your fare. No, no change. You just keep it. Yeah, take care of yourself now. Whew.

Friday night's contest featured the University of Minnesota facing off against their upstate rivals from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. When the Dawgs jumped out to an early 3-1 lead on the Gophers, the UMD fans around us were quite full of themselves and didn't hesitate to let those of us cheering for the Maroon and Gold know it. But when the Danny Irmen show kicked into high gear (two goals-one short handed), and the Gophers rallied to take control en route to a 7-4 victory, the Bulldog faithful became awfully quiet.

If I may be so bold as to offer a little advice to Duluth fans: Win something (in the last fifteen years) that counts and then you can talk. Those four regular season victories over the U of M don't mean nothin' now. It's not a fluke that the Gophers are two time defending national champions. They find a way to win when it matters. Probably more so this year than ever. Your Dogs may well get another shot at the Gophers in the Midwest Regional. If they can get it done then, more power to you. Until then please stifle.

Saturday I was at the Dickensian workhouse known as AM 1280- The Patriot (I must say that their gruel is quite tasty though ) to slog through another long, hard afternoon of radio. Then church. Then back to the Xcel for the championship game between the Gophers and Fightin' Sioux.

Nineteen thousand plus on hand. The atmosphere was electric and the place was a buzzin'. Two teams and schools that live up to the "they don't like each other" billing. Despite the fact that both teams had already secured #1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA tourney and that the outcome wasn't going to impact the seedings, the game still mattered. The WCHA playoff title, pride, and the pain of losing to a bitter rival were all on the line. And the result was a whale of a hockey game.

The Gophers came out of the chutes strong and definitely held the edge in play throughout the first period. But when the buzzer sounded it was not reflected on the scoreboard. Despite a two to one edge in shot for the Gophers, the score was knotted at one with the teams trading power play tallies. Danny Irmen netted the Gopher goal, his third of the weekend after getting ten the entire regular season.

The second period belonged mostly to the Sioux. The Gophers did strike first to take a 2-1 lead, and it looked like they then made it 3-1. But after review, the goal was disallowed which seemed to change the momentum. The Sioux tied the score and were on the power play play when the Gophers Troy Riddle had a short handed breakaway. He tried to fake the Sioux keeper and get him to go down, but ended up not even getting a shot on net. Mere seconds later, just after the power play expired, Zach Parise scored to give North Dakota their first lead of the game. Two turning points in the period. Both went the way of the Sioux.

Between periods I was ranting about the failures of the Gophers big guns to deliver. Through two period the only place on the score sheet where Riddle and Thomas Vanek had appeared was in the penalty column. Riddle had been in the sin bin twice and Vanek once again demonstrated his lack of maturity and control by taking an incredibly stupid penalty, when he high sticked Zach Parise behind the play. He was fortunate to only be sent off for two minutes.

Vanek is the Randy Moss of college hockey. Loads of talent and the ability to make spectacular plays are offset by a lack of effort at times and a penchant for losing his cool. The only thing preventing this kid from being the best player in college hockey is his approach to the game. If you put Jake Fleming's attitude in Thomas Vanek's body you would have a sure fire Hobey Baker winner.

Meanwhile, the pair of Hobey Baker finalists from North Dakota were doing their part. Parise had a goal and two assists through two, while Brandon Bochenski had a tally and a helper. The reason for the North Dakota lead was that their top players were getting it done, while the Gophers were not.

But in hockey, as in life, things can change quickly. Early in the third Vanek picked off a pass, broke in on the Sioux net, and showed ridiculous patience before finally putting the puck behind the goalie. Vintage Vanek. Less than three minutes later the other heretofore quiet Gopher star, Troy Riddle stuffed one past Jake Brandt and suddenly the Gophers were up 4-3.

The Sioux were not so easily finished however, and when Bochenski scored his second goal of the game on a shorthanded breakaway midway through the period, I began readying myself for the rigors of sudden death overtime. It's nerve wracking, heart pounding, agony for the hard core hockey fan. It's the worst of times and the best of times, rolled into one hypertensive, stomach churning bundle of emotion. You love it AND you hate it at the same time, and when you end up on the losing end it's a miserable feeling.

One that I was able to avoid when the heart and soul of the Gophers delivered once again.

Gophers captain Grant Potulny is likely to never play in the NHL. He's not a great skater, his shot is average, and he doesn't have much finesse. But he's the kind of player that every coach would love to have on their team. He's the guy who makes it happen. Somehow, someway, he finds a way to win.

Two years ago he scored the OT game winner against Maine to give the Gophers their first national title in twenty one years. Last year his return from injury was the spark that propelled the Gophers to the second consecutive national championship.

And with less than six minutes remaining on Saturday night, he kept the Gophers post season roll going when he popped up from behind the North Dakota net, and jammed the puck in. Sure, there were some nervous moments down the stretch as the Sioux pressed the attack, pulling their goalie to gain a six on four advantage with over four minutes left, but the Gophers refused to relinquish the lead. When the buzzer sounded they had claimed the WCHA playoff title with a 5-4 win. Another great game in a great weekend of hockey.

If the NCAA regional playoffs and Frozen Four are anywhere near as good as this, it's gonna be a fun coupla of weeks. Let the real March Madness begin.
The Smell Of Victory In Gaza?

John Derbyshire at NRO marvels at Ariel Sharon's restraint:

'The outside world is even more confused than before.'

Well, **I** am not confused. Sharon wanted to say: 'If you organize, plan, inspire, or condone terror attacks against our people, we will find you and kill you.' Seems pretty un-confusing to me. The only thing I don't understand is how, when thousands of terrorist supporters came out on the streets of Gaza next day for the old guy's funeral, Sharon was able to restrain himself from sending in the air force with a few tons of napalm.

Reaping The Whirlwind

Hugh Hewitt has a great analogy on the attempts to lay the blame for not properly dealing with Al-Qaeda (and possibly preventing 9/11) at the feet of the Bush administration:

Clarke et al can scream from now until November that 9/11 was Bush's fault and that he was a superman who could have stopped the war before it began and won the war had he only been given the tools. It is fantasy-land stuff, as though Lord Halifax had criticized Churchill in 1940 for failing to prevent the fall of France. Such a charge would have diminished the Chamberlin ally Halifax, not Churchill, and Clarke's carping only reminds people of one of the many problems Bush inherited in 2001 --a career staff riddled with desk generals and paper shuffling seminar leaders.

Sounds Like A Placeholder To Me

Yesterday local radio station AM 1280 - The Patriot made their long awaited and much promoted "big announcement". In case you missed it:

COMING APRIL 5TH! A new morning show on The Patriot. It's 'Mourning in America' live every morning Mon.-Fri. from 5 AM - 8 AM featuring The Northern Alliance Radio Network. The show will be a fast-paced, eye opening national morning show with news, headline-making guests from the worlds of politics, media, sports and entertainment.

Okay, okay. It's not the NARN filling the slot. It's some guy from D.C. named Bill Bennett. I think he used to host a morning show there called the 'Values Zoo' using the on air moniker 'The Zany Tsar'.

While we're all obviously a little disappointed that we didn't get the nod, Saint Paul for one is ecstatic that, at long last, there will be a talk radio host able to answer the type of burning questions of life that keep him up at night.

Do you hit on a soft-17 if the dealer is showing a six?

Monday, March 22, 2004

Look At Me! I'm Important Too!

Perhaps Richard Clarke wasn't as prescient as he claims. At least that was what Security Focus columnist George Smith suggested just over a year ago:

Years ago, Clarke bet his national security career on the idea that electronic war was going to be real war. He lost, because as al Qaeda and Iraq have shown, real action is still of the blood and guts kind.

In happier times prior to 9/11, Clarke -- as Bill Clinton's counter-terror point man in the National Security Council -- devoted great effort to convincing national movers and shakers that cyberattack was the coming thing. While ostensibly involved in preparations for bioterrorism and trying to sound alarms about Osama bin Laden, Clarke was most often seen in the news predicting ways in which electronic attacks were going to change everything and rewrite the calculus of conflict.

September 11 spoiled the fun, though, and electronic attack was shoved onto the back-burner in favor of special operations men calling in B-52 precision air strikes on Taliban losers. One-hundred fifty-thousand U.S. soldiers on station outside Iraq make it perfectly clear that cyberspace is only a trivial distraction.

It looks to me that Clarke is simply a bitter little man who feels slighted not only by the current administration, which was responsible for his demotion, but also by previous administrations which never seemed to take his arm waving and alarm blowing about cyberterrorism quite as seriously as they tended to look at the more physical forms of terror.

He resents the fact that his predictions were so off the mark as well as the fact that the real face of terrorism made his dire warnings, and himself, seem almost irrelevant. He's now desperately seeking that relevance by trashing the Bush administration and has been greeted with open arms by the media that shamelessly embodies this goal.