Friday, April 30, 2004

Pussy Footing When We Should Be Ass Kicking

Mackubin Thomas Owens at NRO, warns of the dangers of not acting decisively in Fallujah:

If the Americans do not handle Fallujah, the impact will extend beyond the Sunni Triangle. It will send a message to the Shia that Sunni intransigence is being rewarded, and will strengthen the position of the troublemaker Moqtada al-Sadr, who may conclude that he and his Mahdi army have nothing to fear from the American "paper tigers."

The war in Iraq is not yet won. It may still be lost, and, indeed, will be if Fallujah is not purged of insurgents. I hope I'm wrong, but this may be the decisive moment in our Iraq enterprise. During the Punic Wars between Carthage and the Roman Republic, Cato the Elder used to end his orations in the Senate with "delenda est Carthago" (Carthage must be destroyed). It may seem hard-hearted, but the same sentiment applies to Fallujah.

How many times must we go down this same road before we learn the lesson that our enemies respect (and fear) our power, not our kindness? Sometimes it's not about winning hearts and minds, but about delivering a firm kick in the nuts.

A Real American Hero

David "Stormy" Strom has many admirable qualities. There are his intellectual accomplishments and academic credentials--including a teaching stint at Paul Wellstone U (aka Carleton College). Of course, there's his fine radio program, which runs from 9 - 11 AM on 1280 AM, The Patriot and functions as the opening act to the Saturday headliner Northern Alliance Radio. Perhaps most impressive has been his influence over public policy in Minnesota over the past few years. Dave and his organization, The Taxpayer's League, have been dogged advocates for the rights of those paying the bills for Minnesota’s deluxe, super sized, anything goes welfare state.

Most prominently, he convinced Governor Pawlenty and more than half of the House Republican Caucus to sign a "No New Taxes" pledge, which no doubt stiffened the spine of the GOP during the recent wailing and gnashing teeth by the Democrats and media to raise taxes in order to resolve last session's budget deficits. Looking back at how painlessly these deficits were overcome through spending cuts alone, it's clear Dave and the Taxpayer's League deserve much of the credit. His influence is best articulated ... by Dave himself:

"There's been a sea change in the way Minnesotans look at government," said David Strom of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, an anti-tax lobby that helped keep the lid on taxes despite unrelenting pressure for more revenue. "People just don't see their own lives, their fate, being tied to the fate of government."

It's true, it's true. But even this accomplishment pales in contrast to another honor he received on Wednesday. Ladies and gentleman, with green eyes of envy, I'm here to announce that David Strom is the 2004 City Pages Villain of the Year. And all for the exact reasons I listed above, although the coffee house radicals at the CP have a slightly different interpretation:

But something happened with the Republican takeover of the 2002 elections--call it hubris if you must--and suddenly Strom was starting culture wars at every turn. First, Strom was boasting that he had managed to get Pawlenty and a number of legislators to sign a "no new taxes" pledge. Then he was calling for the dismantling of any number of the state's social services. More recently, Strom weighed in on the Metro Transit bus strike, saying that buses weren't really needed after all.

I saw Dave on Wednesday at the Michael Medved speech and, needless to say he, and his charming wife, were glowing with pride. Not only is he making sure our state government holds the line on profligate, wasteful spending, he's also making the 40-year-old teenagers at the City Pages squeal in discomfort. Now that's an accomplishment.

So here's to Dave, the Villain of the Year. Long may he shine. Although he should watch his back, as there's a certain other media celebrity that could be gaining on him. A young, upstart broadcaster from 12-3 PM on the Patriot whose responsible for making "urine-caked drunks" the catch phrase for the new millenium. You people want a villain? This guy is a walking culture war.

The Berg Collective?

Before heading off to the salt mine this morning, I checked my e-mail, listened to a local talk radio howler monkey, and dropped by the Strib's web site for a local news update. This produced two ideas for post worthy material. An update from the Spirit of America, and news of a drop in crime during the recent bus strike.

After cobbling them together and throwing them up on Fraters, I began my daily cruise through the Northern Alliance. All was well until I hit Mitch Berg's Shot In The Dark. Among eight subjects that Mitch posted on between 4:30am and 7:30am today (and you thought Lileks was a little manic at times?) were pieces on The Spirit of America and the bus strike/crime link.

Hmmm....I thought, that's an odd coincidence isn't it? I mean what are the odds of Mitch and I covering the exact same topics. And then I started thinking about how much time I've spent with Mr. Berg of late. Trivia last Thursday at Keegan's. The radio show last Saturday. The Patriot Forum on Wednesday night. Three encounters in less than a week.

We were joking around on Wednesday night that Saint Paul might spread some sort of infectious disease among the crowd at the Patriot Forum (especially the way he kept sneezing when he prepared the salad), and we'd have a replay of the Legionnaire's Disease outbreak. Now I'm worried that my recent contact with Mitch may have exposed me to a much more insidious contagion.

The Berg assimilation may have begun. It's more than just the similar thought processes. Today I've had an almost overwhelming urge to bake bread and crank up some Iron City Houserockers. And that painting party is suddenly sounding like a can't miss event. Where will it end?

I must resist this alien influence with all my strength and will. Failing that, I've left instructions with JB Doubtless to ensure that I will not become a Berg drone. If I start talking about my desire to take up the bag pipes, he is to exercise the Chief Bromden pillow option with extreme prejudice.

Resistance is futile.

Spirit of America Update

Jim Hake, leader of Spirit of America, will appear on tomorrow's Northern Alliance Radio Show at 12:45pm to discuss the recent SAG effort to help U.S. Marines equip TV stations in Iraq. Here's an update from Jim on this remarkable effort:

Today we delivered the equipment that will be used to equip Iraqi-owned and operated television stations in Al Anbar province. On Saturday, May 1 the Marines will fly the equipment from March Air Force Base to Iraq.

We try hard to provide rapid response to requests we receive. Here is the timeline of this project:

April 8: SoA receives Marines request for television equipment.

April 14: SoA posts the request on our Web site and begins fundraising.

April 29: SoA delivers $82,687 of TV studio equipment to Camp Pendleton.

April 29: Marines pack donated equipment and prepare for shipment to Iraq.

May 1: Marines fly equipment to Iraq.

This rapid turnaround makes a difference.

We have received $1,532,931 in donations in the last two weeks. Contributions from 7,438 donors have been made to every request and every area of Spirit of America's operations. I can't begin to describe the effects this generosity will have on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan - both in helping the people of those countries and in supporting the hard work of those serving there.

In today's Wall St. Journal, Dan Henninger talks about Spirit of America as well in his column:

The column describing Spirit of America's effort to raise $100,000 for the TV stations appeared in this space 14 days ago. Since then, the following has happened:

Jim Hake, Spirit of America's entrepreneur founder, says they have received $1.52 million. Some 7,000 donations have come from every state, and one from . . . France.

Mr. Hake purchased all the needed equipment and had suppliers ship directly to Camp Pendleton. Federal Express donated domestic shipping costs.

Stanley Hubbard at Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. in Minnesota has offered several hundred thousand dollars in state of the art digital television equipment. That equipment would provide satellite uplink and downlink capability, allowing the Iraqis' TV stations to get program content from elsewhere in the world.

Henniger thinks the reaction to SAG demonstrates the desire of Americans to get more involved in the war effort:

The grand response to the Spirit of America request says to me that the public understands that we are there in Iraq and the job now isn't to debate its value but to get the job done. Most Americans don't want to be one of the partisan bobbleheads on television. They want to be part of a genuine homefront, helping.

Tune in tomorrow to hear more from Jim Hake.

"That Urine Caked Drunk Hoarked My Tuuk!"

A story in today's Star Tribune explains that some crime ebbed during our recent bus strike:

The anecdotal stories that crime was decreasing in downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul and at the Mall of America started soon after the Metro Transit strike began in early March.

Curious about what might be happening, police began discreetly monitoring crime figures and found some intriguing numbers.

* Police calls at the Mall of America, especially on weekends, were down by as much as 21 percent.

* Arrests in downtown Minneapolis had dropped.

* In St. Paul, police calls for so-called 'quality of life' complaints, such as narcotics sales near bus stops, also had fallen.

After the metro area's first transit strike in a decade, the possible relationship between the strike and crime has become a much-debated -- and politically touchy -- issue. Critics complain that the focus unnecessarily paints an unflattering portrait of bus riders.

Painting an unflattering portrait of bus riders? For shame. Who would stoop to such lows?

"I think it's a fair topic," Bob Gibbons, a Metro Transit spokesman, said of the crime comparisons. But he said that 75 percent of transit riders use the bus to simply go to and from work, and another 8 percent use buses to commute to school. "That is the foundation of our service. That's the vast majority of our clientele," he said. "I don't think the statistics [show] that somehow we are the conveyance of choice for the criminally minded."

Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, also said such comparisons are unsettling. "I wouldn't say it's a disservice to draw those connections. [But] there is kind of a sport in picking on the poor and trying to point out their foibles," he said.

Is it foibles or criminal proclivities?

"There was a lot of extreme generosity during the bus strike," he added.

And apparently, a lot less crime.

Leave it to a frothing at the mouth, rabid right wing radical to pour gas on the fire by bringing up those pesky things that cause so much consternation:

But David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said that reviewing crime statistics during the strike is a valid exercise, though he said many people are "very skittish" because "there's race lines, there's class lines involved here." During the strike, Strom became a lightning rod for critics when he said that the region's bus system did little to ease congestion and ferried relatively few passengers.

"If I were a business person, I'd be really concerned about it," Strom said of the potential link between the bus strike and crime. "There's no such thing as bad facts. The facts are important."

The facts are out there. And when it comes to the Twin Cities bus service they're not pretty. Get on to the bus. And hold on to your wallet.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

No Jury Would Convict Him

Last week Chad "the Elder" wrote about the phenomena of media bias fatigue. That is, the tiring of your faithful Fraters Libertas correspondents in identifying and dissecting egregious examples of partisan political hackery coming from certain key voices in the local media. I must admit to being bitten by that bug myself of late. One of the unfortunate victims of my ennui has been the Newspaper Newlyweds. For those unaware, that's the name of the riveting, real life soap opera going on between the lines in the column of the Star Tribune's Nick Coleman and that of his second wife, Laura Billings of the Pioneer Press.

To catch up those who've fallen behind, previous episodes of this series included

Part I - The Real Liberal World

Part II - Tell Laura I Love her

Part III - A Woman Scorned

Part IV - Where Ever He Lays His Jug Is Home

But then it all fell apart. I'm not sure why, but it lost its edge. I become bored with the Battling Bickersons of Grand Avenue and maybe felt no more needed to be said about this marriage made in Knight Ridder heaven. Ultimately, after weeks of exposing them for who they truly are, the outrage over this hide-in-plain-sight unholy alliance had been quieted. I couldn't summon the necessary passion to keep it going and it was put on indefinite hiatus.

But, luckily for us, there is a man whose outrage will not be doused. A man whose need to chronicle the antics of the Newspaper Newlyweds burns white hot to this very day. A man so inspired by this perverse tale, he's been writing further episodes of the Newspaper Newlyweds in his spare time, just for his own amusement. One of which he did send to me about a month ago. Despite it's laugh out loud qualities, pending a thorough vetting by our crack slander avoidance department, it still hasn't seen the publication light of day.

The man of whom I speak is Man from Silver Mountain. He just sent me his latest effort. The truths within demand instant publication and who knows, this may just resurrect the whole series. Afterall, I think this is exactly how AfterMASH got started and look how successful that was.

So sit back and enjoy a very special episode of the Newspaper Newlyweds, entitled "No Jury Would Convict Him."


After a troubling period, the newspaper newlyweds are at it again.  I have spent a lot of time chronicling the ups and downs of Nick and Laura's relationship.  The low point occurred in March when after a turbulent period Laura had to be rushed to the hospital twice (see her articles from March 11 and March 28 detailing these medical emergencies).  Maybe some day the truth will come out about those episodes.  Anyhow, after serious troubles, she is back together with her version of J. Howard Marshall.  How are these limousine liberals celebrating their reunion?  With a spending spree.  From her latest column of April 27, entitled "No such thing as a free gift but a woman can always hope":

My husband and I bought a new car recently, and as we drove off the lot, I started looking through the glove compartment for our free gift.

Does a new luxury auto make our pampered little princess smile?  Apparently not.  Why could she possibly be unhappy?  Answer:

"Because we just spent way more than we had to on this model, and they're supposed to make us feel good about it by giving us a little something for free," I explained.

At this point, I want to reiterate the fact that the big spender just happens to be one of the leading class warriors in the state.  But not being a class warrior myself, I'm not going to tell Nick Coleman or his avaricious wife where they can spend his enormous fortune.  I wonder what model car they bought.  A clue comes from her next complaint, a pout regarding how she wanted to receive the car in the romantic manner of those Lexus commercials, where the car with the huge bow of ribbon on top awaits the unsuspecting spouse.

"It has to be wrapped nicely."

If expensive purchases leave you feeling equally unloved, blame EsteƩ Lauder, the cosmetics queen who passed away last weekend at the age of 97.

Unloved!  A shiny new Lexus and she complains of being unloved.  I'm now beginning to understand what may have precipitated her trips to the hospital.  She goes on to tell of her materialistic, spendthrift ways:

I would not care to estimate the amount of money I have spent at department store cosmetics counters during "special purchase" events over the years simply to secure a goodie bag full of powders and creams I don't actually need. Though I know paying $30 for a moisturizer means there's nothing "free" about my gift, I still leave the cash register with the bloom on my cheeks that comes from feeling not only that I've indulged myself, but that I got a bargain, too.

No wonder Nick despises his fellow rich so much.  If they act like this, I'd despise them too.

While the free gift is now an expected feature of the cosmetics world (and has a puzzling offshoot in the "free steaks with your new windshield" phenomena), it has yet to make its way into the rest of the retail world.

But what a beautiful world it would be if it did.

Imagine if the next time you bought an overpriced bottle of wine, the clerk tossed in a cute little box of crackers and some nice goat cheese. Wouldn't that make you feel good about the French again? And what if that new washing machine came with a wicker gift basket full of fabric softener? Wouldn't that be worth a few extra bucks?

So let's see, a new Lexus, a mountain of expensive cosmetics, a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and a Whirlpool on this spending spree and this spoiled little gold digger still wants more!

Maybe Nick Coleman could get a column out of that.
What Would Osama Do?

If I was an Al Qaeda type I would look upon the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Athens as a prime opportunity. A prime opportunity to strike... London, Berlin, or maybe Paris. Think about it. Much of the world's (and especially much of Europe's) counter terrorism focus will be on Athens in the weeks leading up to to the Olympics, and during the Games. The Greeks have requested NATO assistance in providing security and you can bet that American, British, French, Italian, Spanish, and German (among many others) intelligence and police assets will be deployed to Greece as well.

And the summer season means more travel and more tourists in Europe. Large crowds for the terrorist fish to swim in. While the world's eyes may be on Greece in mid-August, Islamist eyes (and weapons) may be trained elsewhere.

Just In Time For Mother's Day...

Not sure what to get dear ol' mum? How about Myrna Blyth's engrossing Spin Sisters : How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness --- and Liberalism --- to the Women of America. Myrna appeared as guest on the Northern Alliance Radio Network a few weeks to discuss her book, and Kate O'Beirne's review from National Review is now available on-line.

Flowers will wilt and die in a few days, but a good book like this one will live on.
The Greatest Nation On God's Green Earth

And how could it not be when you get to spend the evening listening to Michael Medved's lively discussion of the upcoming election, and meet fellow listeners (and even a few fans of the NARN) of AM-1280 The Patriot?

The statuesque fella in the blue to the left of Michael is none other than Mitch Berg from Shot In The Dark, while I'm holding down Michael's other flank. My wife was in attendance as well, along with Captain Ed and his first mate, and Saint Paul, who miraculously rose from his death bed to attend the evening's festivities. He's actually looking and feeling much better and, once he's been thoroughly deloused, should resume his normal duties here at Fraters Libertas shortly.

Of course a gala affair such as this just wouldn't be the same without an appearance by a surprise guest or two.

L'il Ralphie Hewitt meet Michael Medved. I believe Michael's exact words were, "My God he does look like Hugh!"

Upward and onward.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Drug Companies Are Like, Greedy And Stuff

Our Guv seems to not only have fired up yours truly with his nonsense about the prices that drug companies charge. In this morning's WSJ, Holman Jenkins chimes in with some basic business economics:

...OK, Ted Kennedy probably doesn't understand any of this (or care). His answer for the difference between U.S. and Canadian retail drug prices contains only one syllable: greed. So let's visit the greed argument, since it also possesses the minds of many journalists.

What can it possibly mean to call an industry "greedy"? Drug companies are said to be an unconscionable exception because their profits are comparatively high, 15.4%, when measured as a percentage of sales. But here's a question: Grocery stores have a measly return on sales of 1.4%, and liquor stores an even measlier 1%. So why does anybody invest in these businesses rather than the drug business? Last time we looked, the grocery industry and liquor stores still existed.

Such indictments of the drug industry overlook the fact that profits are a cost -- the cost of a company's capital. Nobody pays back their investors more than they are obligated to. By the same token, if your capital costs are 15.4% of your total costs, profits had better be 15.4% of your revenues or you won't be in business long. Measures of profitability, in short, tell you a lot more about an industry's need for capital than about its "greed."

Kibitzing With The Kultural Krusader

Off to see Michael Medved at tonight's sold out Patriot Forum. More tomorrow, maybe even including a pic or two.
Kiss Of Death For Kerry?

Rick alerts us to news that Al Gore is Giving Over $6 Million to Democrats:

Al Gore, dipping into his 2000 campaign warchest, said Wednesday he will donate more than $6 million to five Democratic Party groups and help presumptive nominee John Kerry fight the "outrageous and misleading" Republican campaign.

The former vice president pledged to donate $4 million to the Democratic National Committee. The party's Senate and House committees would each get $1 million, and the party from Gore's home state of Tennessee would receive $250,000.

The Democratic Party in Florida, site of the divisive 2000 recount, would get $240,000 from a separate Gore campaign account.

"The outcome of this election is extremely important for the future of our country and for all that America stands for," Gore said in a statement first obtained by The Associated Press. "I want to help John Kerry become president and I want to help Democrats retake control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

"John will be a great president for all Americans, and I want to do everything I can to help him fight against the outrageous and misleading campaign being waged by the Bush-Cheney campaign," Gore said.

Yes, Al has the magic touch all right. Everything he touches turns to mold. Remember that guy named Dean?
They Ran it Up The Flagpole...

But nobody saluted. Protests Prompt New Iraqi Flag Color Change:

In the new flag, the parallel blue lines represent the Tigris (search) and Euphrates (search) Rivers — and by extension Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arabs, since the river basin is their heartland. The yellow line represents the Kurds, while the crescent is a symbol of Islam.

Many said the light blue stripes were reminiscent of the light blue bands on the Israeli flag. Hundreds of university students in Mosul (search) demonstrated against that version Wednesday.

The last thing we need in Iraq is more protests, but when I look at the new Iraqi flag I don't blame these malcontents. The new flag is lame. Very lame.

I know the Iraqis wish to get away from the past and hope to make Iraq a more peaceful, stable place, but does it really have to be so wussy? No one is going to look at that sorry excuse for a flag and feel anything but shame. It's a flag for losers.

They waved the old Saddam (search)-era flag — a red, black and green banner emblazoned with the words "God is great" — and said it should not have been changed because it carries the name of God.

Of course the old flag is not an option. Too much baggage attached to it. Although if they wanted to stick "God is great" on the new flag, I wouldn't have a problem with it. I believe that the words were added by Saddam later in his regime when he started playing the Islamic card.

Thankfully, it sounds like all hope is not yet lost:

Council spokesman Hameed al-Kafaei said the flag's colors were not changed, but rather "the copies you saw in newspapers were not accurate."

But Governing Council president Massoud Barzani said the design was temporary.

"This will be Iraq's flag for the coming months until a permanent flag is chosen," he said.

He said of the former flag: "We cannot raise the flag of a party that committed many crimes against Iraqi people."

Let's hope the next version is a bolder, more inspiring design. Something along the lines of say, American Samoa perhaps?

Now THAT'S a flag.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

24 Hour Abortion Party People

I watched the CSPAN coverage of the abortion march on Sunday and I must say the strangest aspect was its festival atmosphere. Hour after hour of people hootin’ and hollerin’ and dancing about as if they were celebrating something good, something to be happy about. Nearly all of them succeeded in avoiding talking about the reason they were there in the first place (the “a” word). Instead, lots of smiles and talk of the universal goods of freedom and choice and womanhood. The movement’s success in its decades long use of Orwellian rhetoric is evident in the fact that many participants, particularly the younger ones, seemed not to understand why they were there in the first place. How else to explain a march in support of artificially terminating pregnancy featuring demonstrations such as these (from Monday’s New York Times):

Juleah Swanson, 21, was one of roughly 80 students who arrived on two buses from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me. Ms. Swanson and several young women from the Bowdoin delegation were carrying a giant uterus made of red clothing and stuffing, bearing the slogan "My Body, My Choice."

Then another NYT article, about the recruitment of third world immigrants into the abortion rights movement:

"Loco! Loco!" Ms. Orellana squealed. Staring back at her was a woman inside a three-foot-long felt and satin vagina. The Bushwick group gathered around and snapped photos. "These people have no shame!" Ms. Orellana said. "But it's O.K.," Ms. Flores replied, almost to herself.

Yes, that’s right senora, no shame there. Though it does seems like an exercise in childish provocation. Now, if those two groups could hook up with another crew toting a 6 foot long plastic cervix, we might have some real education going on here. At least in an anatomical chart sort of way.

Even with its organic gaps, I’m sure Jeanine Garafolo, Hillary Clinton, and Gloria Steinem still got a hearty laugh out of it. That was the spirit of the day. But to someone not caught up in the hysteria of their movement, it’s an incongruity to say the least. We are still talking about abortion here, right? Even for those who willfully seek them out and receive them, I would imagine it’s not a laughing matter. Or even something to be proud of, as evidenced by the lack of any demonstrators holding signs saying “Had an abortion and proud of it”.

Even some of the leading advocates of abortion on demand still hang on the antiquated notion that it’s the least worst option for a woman who doesn’t want to give birth to her baby. This from no less an authority than John Kerry:

”Abortion should be rare, but it should be safe and legal -- and the government should stay out of the bedrooms of America," he said to cheers and applause.

I’m not sure how many abortions are performed in the bedrooms of America, but that’s beside the point (except for Kerry, for whom misdirection on this issue IS the point). According to the great white presidential hope of the abortion movement, the procedure should be rare. Meaning, he doesn’t want it to happen, he finds it to be unfortunate, distasteful, abhorrent , maybe wrong? But transformed through a political/morally relative calculus, its somehow necessary. Even if you agree with him, does that sound like any reason to cheer and applaud? This horrible, destructive procedure is the government mandated right of all women to endure. (Wooo hooo!!!)

Their words were different, but that was the tone of the event. Happy, happy, joy, joy. The other speakers and the crowd, all squealing and going hog wild over the fact a procedure, which because of its destructive nature should be rare, is performed 1.3 million times per year in the US (YR 2000 data). More than 44 million times since 1973.

Yes, we know John Kerry thinks it should be safe and legal. But what are his plans to follow up on his other wish - making it rare? And how does he define rare? A million per year? Half a million? Ten thousand? To me "rare" is even fewer than that. How is he planning on getting us there? And why does he think it should be rare in the first place?

Serious questions, which I encourage our mainstream media outlets to pursue. But I won’t hold my breath since these kinds of questions don’t yield answers conducive to eliciting cheers and obfuscating rhetoric about freedom and choice.

They’re also questions which those in the abortion movement increasingly don’t care about. There was a time when they went through great pains to explain that an abortion had nothing to do with life, instead it was all about extracting inviable tissue masses and inert clumps of cells. But thirty years of government sanction for aborting any child at any time tends to break down moral impediments and help ease the stresses imposed by cognitive dissonance. This new free wheelin’ attitude is best articulated by one of our newest citizens and new recruit for the abortion movement:

"I think abortion is killing a life," said Ms. Flores, who left Ecuador 11 years ago. But, she added, "The person who is pregnant should decide whether to do it or not."

Sure, it’s killing a life, but the government says we have the right to do it. Now do you understand why they were dancing in the streets of Washington DC on Sunday afternoon?

A Big E On My Chest

Last night I attended my senate district's Republican convention as a delegate (elected to that position at the March precinct caucus). I am also a vice chair of my precinct and, as usually happens when I show up for one of these affairs, I discovered that the leader of our senate district had "volunteered" me for other duties as well, in this case serving as Chair of Election Judges (yes, I can pile up meaningless titles too).

In the past I've kept my involvement with Fraters Libertas on the QT when it comes to my political activities. Many of the folks who show up and participate in the sausage making that is local politics aren't quite of the same demographic make up of the typical Fraters reader, and I doubt if most would know what a blog is. So they tend to think of me as a mild mannered, nice, quiet guy willing to help out rather than the Strib bashing, smart mouthed, caustic conservative that I really am.

Until last night at least. Just before the convention got kicked off, I sat next to another man from my precinct and engaged him in the meaningless sort of banter that takes place between two people who know each other, but don't really know each other. I had probably participated in similar banal discourse with this particular gentleman on two or three other occasions in the last two years. That was the extent of our previous relationship.

So it came as quite a surprise when, out of the blue, he asked me if I was a blogger.

Hmmm....I thought to myself, this is suspicious but what the hell, "Yeah, I'm a blogger."

"Hey Peeps!"

I was stunned and a bit ashen faced. Talk about connecting the dots. This guy had heard me on the Northern Alliance Radio Show and recognized my voice and first name (Chad). He linked that to Fraters Libertas, that nutty Elder character that he heard about on Hugh Hewitt's show, and finally to the silly Peeps story spun by Hugh. We're through the looking glass here people.

Thankfully he was a discrete chap and my secret remained safe with him. We proceeded to have a nice (and real) conversation about blogging and local radio. He even remembered the days when Mitch was producing the Don Vogel show. We also talked about Michael Medved's Patriot Forum here in town tomorrow, and the fact that the NARN will be representin' at the event (Can you believe that there's going to let me and Saint Paul tend bar? That's one for you, and one for me, one for you, and...).

From there the convention proceeded along without incident. I spoke with a couple of women who work in Norm Coleman's office and tried to convince them that it would be "good for St. Paul" if Norm appeared on our radio show. Developing. I was also elected as a delegate to the congressional district and state party conventions, where I'll see if I can maintain my front as a soft spoken, normal, face in the crowd. This secret identity stuff can get a little tricky at times.

Anybody see a phone booth around here?
Two Things I Don't Like

Stupid 'What (fill in the blank) Are You?' on line quizzes and Bob Dylan.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Didn't I SAY That

Again, from this morning's WSJ (no, there isn't any dang link, go buy a copy ya cheapskate):

The politicians and lobbyists in the U.S. who have been clamoring for drug-reimportation laws to lower the costs of prescription medicines would do well to look at the devastation price controls have brought to Europe's drug industry. By some estimates, the American market now accounts for 62% of the global profit pool in the pharmaceutical business. As attractive as lower drug prices may seem politically, supporters of reimportation might consider whether they want the U.S. to become France, desperately clinging to the surviving remnants of an industry in decline.

Hey Pawlenty. Big Mouth. Populist. Fighter For The Little Guy. Listen up!
You Loved Liberty

From this morning's WSJ:

A Ranger's Death
April 26, 2004; Page A14

Army Ranger Pat Tillman died Thursday when his patrol was ambushed near the Afghan-Pakistani border. He was 27. Specialist Tillman never talked about it publicly, but all the world knew that he had given up a million-dollar career in the NFL for a chance to serve his country.

Why did he fight? For an answer, we turn to President Reagan's June 6, 1984, speech in front of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Normandy, commemorating the Rangers' charge up Pointe du Hoc. Mr. Reagan's words apply equally to Pat Tillman, and all the other American men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror:

"Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

"The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

"You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty."

Perfect Day

Saturday I was up bright and early for the first session of Saturday morning hockey. Commencing at 8:45am and lasting for an hour and a half, it's an informal pick up skate that starts in late April and lasts until September. I've probably been doing this for ten years now, and its kickoff has become one of the signs that summer will be shortly upon us.

Then I ran a few errands before heading to the sprawling Am-1280 The Patriot studios for this week's Northern Alliance Radio Show. Did I really hear Mitch describe John Kerry as "so bangable" while driving in? Consider the context people. Consider the context.

It was a real pleasure to have a special guest in studio with us in the third hour.

Ralphie where have you been? And what happened to your glasses?

Of course the real guest of honor was Michael J Nelson, who was gracious enough to share the stage with Ralphie.

The hour with Mike was a blast. He's witty, intelligent, friendly, and very down to earth. He's the real deal and a heckuva nice guy. Until it comes to Al Franken that is. Mike joins the illustrious list of men who have announced their willingness, on the NARN airwaves, to throw down with Franken, the left's resident bully. Previously our own JB Doubtless and Vox Day had challenged Franken to go anywhere, anytime.

For more on Mike's appearance you can read Ed's as it happened rundown at Captain's Quarters.

After the show it was Mass followed by a fine meal at Staccato in downtown Minneapolis and a little highbrow culture. The Minnesota Orchestra performing Nielsen's 3rd along with a variety of Sibelius, including Finlandia.

Finally, the day concluded with a viewing of part of Rock Star on VH-1. Rock Star is a dreadful movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston and would be an excellent MST3K candidate if the show were still in existence. Every rock and roll cliche you can imagine is thrown in your face and the heavy metal wigs worn by the band members are the worst cosmetic props I've seen since the ridiculous beards from Gods and Generals. It might not reach the levels of Showgirls or Roadhouse, but it's in the same league.

It turned out to be a perfectly appropriate way to end what was almost a perfect day.
I Have Seen The Future Of Classical Music...

And it is Finland. I gotta give credit where it is due, and yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune (registration required) had a fascinating piece on how music education permeates Finnish society:

Helsinki alone is home to five symphony orchestras. Nationwide, there are 21 more, as well as 12 regional opera companies. At least eight world-class conductors, including the Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Esa-Pekka Salonen, were raised and trained in Finland. More than 30 full-time classical composers live and work there.

How has a nation of 5.2 million people -- a population only slighter greater than the state of Minnesota's -- produced such a surplus of talent?

Outstanding music education is the primary reason. But at its source is a national attitude that music is not dessert, but an essential food group for personal, cultural and civic sustenance, and as deserving of government subsidy as health care and schools. Before the advent of the euro, an image of Jean Sibelius, the country's most famous composer, adorned Finland's currency.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

I Used To Be Disgusted,
And Now I Try To Be Amused

An editorial entitled "Many Women/Marching To Choose, And To Live" in today's Minneapolis Star and Sickle further bolsters our effort to encourage a mass exodus from their rolls of subscribers.

Consider this choice passage:

Choice. Liberty. Privacy. That's what today's March for Women's Lives is actually about. A scornful few may insist it's about abortion, but they're very much mistaken.

That's clever. A pro-abortion march has been foisted upon Washington and our local "newspaper" treats it as a women's empowerment rally. Brilliant! Remove that whole dead fetus thing from the equation and you've got yourself something that the entire world can support. I guess I am just one of those "scornful few" who sees this march for what it is. It's a pro-abortion rally, plain and simple.

Reading on, we find that:

...the current occupant of the White House couldn't be more hostile to the notion of reproductive freedom. He favors virtually every proposal ever offered to make the right to choose meaningless -- and has audaciously snubbed the world's women by breaking a U.S. promise to give the United Nations Population Fund $34 million in international family-planning money. The cut-off has spurred millions of unwanted pregnancies and abortions -- and untold numbers of maternal deaths.

So I'm to believe that President Bush is responsible for "millions of unwanted pregnancies" and "untold" numbers of deaths because he supposedly withheld $34 million dollars from the U.N. I don't remember much from my high school biology class, but I DO remember that lack of funding does not make a baby. I think we should spend our time trying to prevent these "unwanted pregnancies" rather than bickering and arguing about what to do after we've sucked their brains out through their collapsed skulls.

The editorial ends thusly:

The Land of the Free has become a strange sort of place. These days, it seems, women cannot gather to celebrate what they have already won. They must march in hope that the most basic of rights is not stripped away. They must march to remind their own government what the promise of America -- the promise of freedom -- really means.

I'm sorry, but I was under the impression that American women (and men) could gather to celebrate anything that they wanted to. The March For Women's Lives proves that fact. Yesterday, women from all walks of life marched on Washington celebrating their right to kill their children.

Who will march for the dead unborn?

Nearer My God to Thee

Paul Westerberg co-directed his concert documentary "Come Feel Me Tremble" under the pseudonym Otto Zithromax. I knew that last name was some sort of drug, and knowing Westerberg's mental health reputation, I reasonably figured it was a high octane anti-depressant or anti-psychotic of some sort.

So it came as some surprise to me at the doctor's office on Friday when I emerged from the examination with a prescription for a large bottle of Zithromax. A single complaint of high fever, dizziness, and severe sore throat yielding a negative strept test and suddenly I'm a raging, hallucinating lunatic needing to be bombed out of my gourd to prevent me from being a threat to myself and others? Or maybe they were just afraid I was going to write a song like "Hillbilly Junk?"

Turns out, Zithromax is merely an antibiotic. And it's the first line silver bullet intended to break the fiery grasp non-strept something something tonsillitis has on my throat and head and which has put me flat on my back (for all the wrong reasons) for the better part of a week.

Zithromax and intensive bed rest, that's the state of Saint Paul these days. Under normal circumstances that would be paradise. But this week my rebelling useless organs have cost me hugely. A certain highly valued social interaction on Thursday, then on Saturday a chance to met MST3K's Mike Nelson who appeared on this week's Northern Alliance Radio. I did get off a call to the show, but in my fevered, delusional state I fear I came off more as a typical caller to Rabuse on the Right than the smooth, honey dripping radio pro you've come to know and love.

Also this week I missed National Review's Rich Lowry, who was kibitzing with his admirers not four blocks from my house at the Green Mill on Grand Ave. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to be sure. Although not quite as rare as Powerline's Scott Johnson picking up the tab (which allegedly happened there as well).

Not that this week is without personal accomplishments. For example, on Friday I finished reading last week's Sunday New York Times. That's a personal record of only five days to get through it, one unlikely to be broken, at least until I come down with malaria or dengue fever or something. I also finished Mark Steyn's "The Face of the Tiger." It's the column compilation of Mark Steyn for the year post 9/11/01. As I've written previously, it's terrific, provocative stuff. Funny as hell too. One thing I didn't realize until seeing all of his columns together is that Steyn makes a small penis joke or gay joke every time he brings up Osama bin Laden. By themselves, none are all that funny. But as a continuing gag, when you’re just waiting for him to lower the boom in the midst of some straight forward reporting or analysis, it's hilarious. Especially as he continues to escalate the brazenness of his accusations. As an amusing sideshow (to the amusing main event), it's a value added benefit to watch for as you read Steyn's future columns.

I also watched a lot of CSPAN, including a bravura performance by Christopher Hitchens today, in a live debate over the Iraq war with the LA Times' Robert Scheer and some other whiny, sneering liberals (really, is there any other kind?). The crowd was packed with these types too, and after Scheer would finish some laughably crude and cliche-ridden diatribe, the applause would cascade down to the stage. At one point, as Hitchens' patiently waited for it to end, he looked over his glasses and said "you people are awfully easy to please, aren't you?"

The non-Hitchens portions are long and unenlightening, but there are some small fireworks during the question and answer period. These include more Hitchens' attacks on the mewling crowd, including calling them "despicable, gloating fools" in regard to their obvious hopes for US failure in the Iraq rebuilding efforts.

For those interested, at this very hour (8 PM central), CSPAN-2 is replaying the Hitchens-Scheer debate. You'll be able to find the video on the CSPAN Web site as well. I'd recommend checking it out, even for those folks not currently taking Zithromax. Which reminds me, it's time for another dose.
For The Record...

Readers weigh in on whether Kerry's military records are relevant.

Matt thinks not:

Here, here. Well stated, it is practically the only thing me and some of my L friends can agree on, "who cares what happened 35 years ago," it's not like either guy left their sweetheart to suffocate in a submerged car. Really, are any of the swing votes going to come from a guy in the booth thinking, "Well, Bush may have missed some weekends in the Nat Guard; but Kerry may not have gotten good grades on a physical exam?"

Adrianna concurs:

I've noticed through the years that Hugh gets on a tangent and stays put until his vent is used up. Chiding him doesn't work. But, I do agree with you about the WAR RECORD crap. In the words of one of the best anti-liberal songs ever written, "Get Over It" Hell Freezes Over - Eagles.

Personally, I can't stand the Eagles, but the point is well stated.

Gary has a different view on the matter:

I agree largely with your ZZZZZ about Kerry's military record. And I agree that it bears little (but some) relevance to today.But look a little closer, please?

What were the natures of those three wounds leading to the Purple Hearts and thus, his ticket out, after just four months? (Gee, most of us got to stay in RVN 12 months. The three-wound "rule" was well-known to us, and one wound would suffice, of course, if "serious." But who'd ever want to hazard the three-and-out ticket? No one I knew.)

Details on the Purple Hearts, from Kerry's treatment records, we do NOT get from Kerry's campaign, after initial flip-flopping on his answer to Russert about reviewing his military records. Why is that?

Did Kerry know that three wound deal would get him outta there? He had to, as it was part of every in-country briefing that I myself help to conduct, about hometown news releases, along with the medics' spiel about VD, and that obligatory customs and culture lecture from anyone who knew a lick about Vietnam. In-country orientation we call it.

Kerry's first Purple Heart-triggering wound came quickly, and rather fortuitiously as it turned out, within twenty four hours after he steps into the Mekong. Slight, too, sounds like a what, a scratch? But then, I am in a put-down mode right now. No brush with any war is to be slighted.

Please note the fact that, after that first wound, and the subsequent two, he returns to duty each time, without missing a single day. Humm. Guy must lead a charmed life. Diplomatic with fellow officers, too. They apparently love the guy. Why, he even gets appointed to be an admiral's aide in the safety of Boston harbor, plush duty indeed.

So who wrote him up for the Silver Star? Well, it had to be an officer. Who was the only officer among enlisted men on the Navy switf boat? Kerry. Hummm. Verrry interesting. Details, please?

Contrary to misrepresentations in Strib's fawning AP report on 4/22, "Kerry's military record glowing," Kerry was NOT uniformly praised by his crewmen. After all, he put 'em in danger in what might've been court martial-rendering decisions in other circumstances.

(Catch that Strib headline--"glowing." Why, that one could've come directly from Kerry campaign headquarters, or DNC. Did mere ANG fighter jock "W" get this slavish treatment on release of his records? Nah. Double standard time, again, in liberal media. And they wonder why we call 'em biased?)

My own biggest, forever unresolved gripe about Kerry, is his libel and slander of GIs, giving comfort to the enemy, a la Hanoi Jane, and his smearing us to our own families and friends "back home." Kerry and his VAW minions (funded by Jane Fonda, btw) made me and about 2.5 million other GIs who served there into faux "war criminals." All this to what, serve his headline-grabbing initial run for Congress? Tawdry.

Never will forget that slander, nor likely forgive it. Old wound, you might say. I rallied once with Viet vets in front of the Metrodome, before a World Series game with Ted Turner's team (joining a bunch of chanting Indians there, interestingly enough) to protest Hanoi Jane's GI-defaming remarks. All we got was a sort of half-way apology, but that was later taken back. No such apology from Kerry to Tim Russert Sunday, or at any time, for how he helped besmirch the good reputations of his fellow Vietnam vets. Ergo, it's unforgiveable, especially after all these years, and redemption, well, it's still possible, but it must be taken up, and in good faith, something this JFK might not be capable of.

Kerry's association anti-war vet group, his largely unreported attendance at a KC meeting at which the assassination of U.S. Senators is raised as a protest possibility (truly!), frankly sicken me.

So his record does make a difference, notwithsanding your ZZZZZZs, for those who served, and did not throw back our own or anyone else's medals, in sheer contempt for our nation. And we took the brunt of antiwar, anti-GI sentiments upon our returns, like to back to school on the GI Bill forever "branded" as 'Nam vets and "baby killers."

Until Kerry apologizes, I'm inalterably opposed to the slandering, libelous opportunistic creep because, well, character counts. That's just the way it is with me. And it doesn't bother me a bit. Off the soapbox now.

I agree that Kerry's trashing of his fellow vets in 1971 and his refusal to recant those remarks to this day is despicable, and he should be held to account for it. So let's focus on that and let the records brouhaha go. There's more than enough dirt to bury this guy as is. The records are just loose pebbles that aren't worth the time or the effort to scoop up.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Skyrockets Not Yet In Flight

The Elder made a quip a few weeks back about the Starland vocal band's Afternoon Delight and was implying that it sucked. As well, Homer dissed said song a few months ago on the Simpsons.

I have to say that I picked up the Sounds Of the 70's the other day and Afternoon Delight is a great freaking pop song. The harmonies are fantastic--how often do you hear four part girl/guy harmony done to perfection? Abba perhaps, and I love Abba. I challenge anyone to listen to last "Afternoon delight" they sing at the end of the song--an amazingly complex and beautiful melody with distinct harmony--and not tell me it's a gem.

I also think the Sammy Johns song "Chevy Van" is an amazing piece of music. Yeah, I know, it's funny and all with the 70's references, but it tells a concise story of a time and captures the zeitgeist while delivering a hooky chorus. What more do you people want?

I plan to review all of the songs on the compilation in the next few days. Good lord, there are some seriously dreadful pieces in this collection, but also a few lost gems that deserve more recognition.

And I plan on belting out both Chevy Van and Skyrockets tonight at karoake with the Doubtlessette. She has yet to hear me sing, so it should be interesting...
Pat Tillman's America

James e-mails to add a little different perspective on Pat Tillman:

Hearing about the death of Pat Tillman today, at 27 years old, I was struck by the contrast with another "27 year old kid."

John Kerry recently dismissed his post-Vietnam service slander of his countrymen as murderers, rapists, etc, by saying he was just "a 27 year old kid" when he said those malicious things.

Pat Tillman, at 27 years old, sacrificed a professional football career, millions of dollars, a life of luxury, and his life, to defend his country.

A 27 year old kid.

Yes, John Kerry served honorably, but I just couldn't get over the contrast between these 27 year olds. I want to live in Pat Tillman's America. God Bless him.

Friday, April 23, 2004

A Real Gridiron Hero

Ex-NFL player Tillman killed in Afghanistan:

Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers, was killed in action in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.

Rush spoke quite eloquently on this in his first hour today, and I don't really know what I could possibly add. I don't subscribe to the notion that there is always something good to be found in bad news. However, in this case there may be. Tillman died fighting for his country, so his death was obviously not meaningless, but perhaps, because of his status, it can have an even greater impact.

It seems that there is a disconnect in the minds of many Americans when it comes to the war. They might watch the news and hear about battles in Iraq or see that someone from their town was killed in action if they happen to glance at a paper. But, unless they have a family member or close friend serving overseas, their daily lives continue on as normal. The war doesn't seem real to them.

And, other than Jessica Lynch, how many personal stories have we had about the heroic men and women fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? All we hear is that two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast. We might get their names and a quick shot of their faces, but that's it. We don't know who they were before they joined the military. Why they were motivated to serve their country. What they might have done leading up to their deaths.

Of course if you want to dig deep enough you can find this information. You can read the more detailed coverage of the lives of those killed in local newspapers. You can discover the accounts of bravery by the Marines in Fallujah if you scour the internet.

But I don't believe that many Americans are doing that. They either don't have the time or the inclination. However, they will hear Tillman's story. It will be all over the various news outlets. ESPN will be talking about it tonight. You will not be able to avoid this one.

Hopefully, it will cause some of those who have tuned the war out to pause and contemplate the sacrifices that men and women like Pat Tillman are making every day on their behalf. They might even be moved to ask what they could do to ease the burden on those giving up so much to keep them safe and free. And that would be a good thing.

Pat Tillman R.I.P.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Socialator

So our little Activist Governor has "concerns" with Pfizer's drug prices? Would somebody please remind Pawlenty that he is a Republican and not some goofed-out Dem?

I heard on NPR this morning that he is going to attend Pfizer's shareholder's meeting and air his concerns about the cost of its drugs. Naturally, NPR only mentioned that this would be problematic because it could affect the price of their stock, failing to note the true problem with this lame-brained idea: if you try to curtail the prices drug companies charge, there will be less new, life-saving drugs available.

The FDA approved 23 new drugs last year. That's it. How many drugs were attempted, that may have died in clinical trials? Thousands. And the average price for a drug to get developed is $800 million. What that means is the drugs that DO make it to market must be priced high enough to cover the majority of the ones that did not make it.

Yes, drugs are expensive. But it's not because the fat cats at the drug companies are lining their pockets. If you want affective, safe, life-enhancing drugs you have to let the market do its thing.

Pawlenty--knowing that going against the free market is not considered terribly cool amongst Repubs--is attempting a sneaky political move: instead of just trying to enact legislation saying Pfizer can only charge so much for drugs, he is acting like he's a simple shareholder who is going to tell them big businessmen what he thinks of 'em. Of course, being a governor he gets a little more coverage than the average Sally Housegoat that might try this, but...

Pawlenty's main beef seems to be that the United States maintains a (relatively) free market system with regard to drug prices and since other countries don't, the maker of the drugs should change how they do things. Not anyone else. Pfizer charges Americans what it would charge every other person in the world were they not living under socialist governments who protect them from high prices from the big bad drug companies.

The reason Minnesotans can get drugs in Canada cheaper is that the Canadian government subsidizes the cost of the drugs and makes Pfizer charge them less. Pfizer agrees to these anti-free market conditions because it knows that the Americans will cover more than their fair share of the drug's costs since they don't benefit from price controls.

So is this unfair? To Pawlenty it is. But his debate should be either with Pfizer for agreeing to sell drugs to Canadians at below market prices, with the Canadians themselves for being socialist, or with the US for not being socialist. Since the second and third options are ridiculous and he wouldn't get any populist bang for his buck with the first, instead he is telling Pfizer he is "concerned" with their prices.

Well cram it with walnuts governor. We didn't elect no lefty and while we'd all like lower prices on stuff we really need, this ain't the way to do it.

The Whole World Isn't Watching

Sorry Hugh, I ain't buying it:

The Elder is bored by the Purple Heart story. Tsk, tsk. It is not about the Purple Heart, it is about Kerry's wanting the world to play by his rules, the rules of, as Time Magazine called him, "the Swiss-educated son of a foreign service diplomat," of the Yalie gone to war and back again in a few months to denounce as "war criminals" everyone who ever served in Vietnam, of the long-serving pompous blowhard suffering from what James calls "Senatitus," where no one tells you to shut up and sit down because you are scaring the kids and blocking the views. It is about the fellow who wants to rush the U.N. with apologies, who wants to "literally, formally rejoin the community of nations" even as the battle for Fallujah rages. Who wants his incoherence on the economy and Social Security to be overlooked because, after all, he is damn serious about both, and who doesn't want anyone to see his wife's wealth or question the completeness of his lobbyist contacts.

The disclosure battles are over whether Kerry gets to parade in the Emperor's clothes without anyone shouting naked. I hope we don't get bored, because that's what Kerry's team is counting on. It worked on Russert, on whom Kerry's repeated absurdities were largely lost or abandoned. Tim Russert and The Elder --I should have known.

So let me get this straight. Kerry tells Russert that his military records are available. A reporter from the Boston Globe (or Glob) tries to get the records from Kerry headquarters, but is denied. A couple of days later the records are released (granted not all of them yet) and they reveal...

Nothing. Kerry was a well regarded officer who received high marks for his service. Yesterday on Hugh's show, a number of callers desperately attempted to make something out of Kerry's records by trying to read between the lines and find negatives. It was a silly exercise in lame partisan hackery which convinced no one. No one who wasn't already down on Kerry anyway that is.

Read what Phil Carter at Intel Dump has to say on the records of both Kerry and Bush. Now Phil's not a big fan of the President, but I think overall he's pretty fair in his appraisal of both men. And as an ex-serviceman Phil is certainly qualified to judge.

Over thirty years ago John Kerry served in Vietnam and got some medals. George W. Bush served in the Air National Guard and flew jets.

What either has to do with their worthiness to be president today is beyond me. As Mitch Berg has said many times, being a combat hero does not qualify one to be a national leader. And not having served in combat does not disqualify one from being a leader in a time of war either. What matters is not what they did or didn't do in the military thirty years ago. It's what they will or won't do in the next four years.

Yeah, I know. It's not the Purple Hearts, it's the fact that he lied about releasing the records. But Kerry's lied about other things much more substantive than this. And if you want to get excited about someone's reluctance to release records, you might want to put that stone down and consider the glassy nature of the Bush administration's house in regard to that subject. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact I support many of the administration's calls in locking down sensitive information. The last thing I want now is for a wave of "complete openness" spurred on by the media to sweep over the campaign and have both sides required to bare all.

John Kerry's promise to rush to the U.N. after his inauguration, prostrate himself before the world body, and buff Kofi's happy lamp is disgusting and should be talked about today.

His flip flops on Iraq, his lack of understanding of the basics of Social Security reform, his ties to lobbyists, his calls to repeal tax cuts, his vague positions on free trade, his views on whether we're really at war and whether there is a terrorist threat, his ridiculous claims that the environment is getting worse under Bush, are ALL subjects (among others) that should be talked about today.

What shouldn't be talked about is whether getting an "excellent" on a fitness evaluation really means average because of the inflated nature of the grading. Or whether John Kerry flossed and brushed every day on his swift boat.

Because the truth is no one cares. I shouldn't say no one because there's always the hard core political wonks who live and breathe this level of minutia. But I suspect even some of them are getting tired of the military records blahbering. Heck, even the Beltway Boyz, the wonkiest of the wonks, are probably ready to move on.

By no means do I want to give Kerry a free pass. I just want to focus on what really matters. Because wasting our time on frivolous stories like this is the definition of distraction.

Over the years Hugh has tarred my good name many a time calling me a homeless drunk, a figure skater, a dateless loser, a bloated powdered donut, and a Monkees loving geek living in my mom's basement (there's actually a lot more-this is all I can recall at the moment, you know repressed memories and all).

But to compare me with Tim Russert? Ouch. That one stings Mr. Hewitt. And after all I've done for you? Tsk, tsk.

This Saturday AD

Three words to remember in regard to this Saturday's Northern Alliance Radio Show.

Michael J. Nelson

Okay it's actually a name and not words, but that name alone should be enough to get you to tune in. He's a former star of Mystery Science Theater 3000, author, and arch enemy of leaf blowers everywhere. The complete package.

Visit his web site.

Read his books.

Listen to him in the third hour on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

So THIS Is What Ma Did With The Trash

Those who are interested in the greatest band to never come out of Minneapolis should go here now.
Where Dreams Become Reality

David responds with more details on Scott's dream girl:

Scott was on the right path when he guessed at the name "Lola" -- it is actually Rosa. The rest of his description is frighteningly close to reality. She married a pasty-skinned American of German-Scandinavian ancestry, and YES does she love to cook. She fell in love with her husband when she spotted the Antonio Gramsci tattoo on his shoulder (this sounds like it was made up, but I swear to you that it is true) and was thus inspired to have Che drawn on her back. She even managed to steer him (the husband, not Che) from vegetarianism to a diet that included such tasty morsels as squirrels imported from Italy.

Sadly, she no longer works in my building anymore. The last couple of times that I saw her, she had grown rather thin from some Atkins-type diet that a doctor had given her. No more pasta and pizza? That was almost her entire diet. And those carbs managed to accumulate in just the right places, too. She always wore glasses, and once when she took them off I almost started to levitate. Those gorgeous eyes, hiding behind those wire-thin frames for so long!

Tell Scott to move over, I'm taking back my daydream...

Did anyone just hear the sound of a heart breaking? I think it came from Oklahoma.
It's Not As If There's Nothing Else To Talk About

My reaction to the Kerry military records "story"?


Wake me when the next news cycle breaks.

When Did We Stop Beating Nick Coleman?

Apparently giving up the Coleman beat is going to be easier said than done. At least if our readers have any say in the matter (memo to readers: you don't).

Jim says there's no walking away :

It occurs to me that while you can promote the idea that others should let their subscriptions to the Strib lapse, you can't.

I don't want to cause any marital strife or a debilitating medical condition, but one of the reasons for visiting Fraters is to read the Strib rants. Coleman, Grow, the editorial page, they're all grist for a humming mill that makes everyone happy. Once your subscription lapses in N days, it's all over... (sigh).

Of course, there's always City Pages, The Rake, even the (MN) Daily, but, you know, they're far too easy. Nobody's parents, friends, co-workers read those things - unless they're looking for a show to see or perhaps a wonderfully depraved partner of indeterminate sexuality for afternoon fun when one's domestic associate is otherwise occupied.

So. It comes down to you and them. The Elder, as played by Gary Cooper, in the middle of the street, waiting for The Strib Gang, no help from the enfeebled townsfolk wracked by their concerns over the (urine-caked) homeless, the lies of George Bush, the gazillions of unemployed and underemployed, and, let's not forget, The Children.

And you're simply throwing your badge in the dust... that won't do.

And Tom concurs:

I beg you not to stop writing about Nicky Coleman. Reading and laughing out loud at your Coleman rants is one of the few things that keeps me sane during the day. Yes, his incessant, self-righteous, condescending blather over life's downtrodden gets old at times. But you would miss not having such a pathetic person constantly serving as inspiration for your writing material. You should view Coleman the way late-night comedian's like Letterman and Leno viewed Clinton--'yeah, he's an arrogant, smug SOB who thinks he's above the law, but boy does he make it easy on our writers.'

So take some Advil, look forward to Nick's next column, and get your pen ready (or mouse and keyboard in today's society). I am already in eager anticipation over what witty and well-reasoned Coleman Column you will come up with next.......

Knowing that a man's sanity rests in the balance is indeed a heavy burden. Instead of calling it a retirement, let's just call it a break. We're putting the pen down, not hanging it up.

UPDATE: Lest anyone be confused as to my intentions, I am not putting THE pen down. I'm just putting the poison pen that I've been jabbing in Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman's neck down. For the time being.
Spirit of America Soars

Here's an update on the Spirit of America efforts to help the Marines provide an alternative to Al Jazeera in Iraq:

Here are the results. Overwhelming. Incredible. In the last five days we have received $764,408 from 4,088 donors. Most of these funds are earmarked for the request made by the Marines for equipment needed to establish Iraqi-owned television stations in Al Anbar Province Iraq.

Our initial goal for this request was $100,000. The Marines are as stunned as I am. I'll remove the expletives of joyful surprise and forward some of their comments to you next week. They are also developing ideas for the expansion of this initiative. More on that soon.

We are pressing ahead with fundraising. We understand we're at the very beginning of the effort needed to achieve peace and stability in Iraq. The Marines and others serving in Iraq have made clear that all the support we can muster will greatly assist their efforts to win the peace. Rest assured we do not confuse success in donor support with the real results we all seek to achieve. The real work lies ahead. But the funding makes the results possible and we now have a great foundation to build upon.

We are now focused on delivering the basic equipment requested for the first seven stations. Thanks to you we will have everything at Camp Pendleton by next Thursday (April 29). That delivery will make it 21 days from receiving the Marines request to fulfilling it. You can imagine what a response like this means to those on the front lines whose lives are at risk.

That's incredible news. Over $750K in five days? Next stop $1M. You can help make it happen here.

Dave's e-mail in regard to my post on Nick Coleman and the bus strike stirred imaginations (among other things) with his description of a coworker:

This particular colleague of mine is an Italian-born beauty who could certainly give Monica Bellucci a run for her money. Very disturbing, then, to find that she has a tattoo on her lower back.

Scott's in head over heels:

There has always been an undertone of brunette bias from this red-head. I lost total focus from the point of the e-mail after the guy in Pittsburgh describes that bad, bad woman in his office! I'm sure she's stunning. I don't mind me some tattoo (if the truth were known). Small of the back even seems sexier because I've never dated "one of them". I'll bet her name is Lola. Lola loves fat, sarcastic, red-heads with pasty white skin too. Since I'm having this mid-morning dream...

She loves my overbearing Mom and my general lack of social skills. Her hobbies include; listening to Van Halen CDs on my living room floor, telling me how the batting cage machine "is pitching too low and nobody could hit those", and cooking. Man, this woman LOVES to cook! Of course, she loves college football, baseball, and a man that "really knows how to drink beer on the couch".

I love you, Lola. I really do.

Why We Write

After my latest lengthy lambasting of Nick Coleman yesterday, I was left in a bit of a funk. What was the point anyway? How many times have I pounded on this worthless bastard in the last few months (please don't remind me)? How many hours have I spent dissecting his pompous pontificating? As Saint Paul likes to say, that's time we're not getting back.

Shouldn't I be doing something more productive? Something worthwhile? Something that would mark my all too short time here on earth for the good? Is this really all there is?

And then this morning I checked my e-mail. From Tom:

I read poverty pimp Nick Coleman today before I went to work (by myself) in my V-8 SUV. It was not a normal day for this "office job" person, but then it never is when you are responsible for incomes beyond your own. The day begins early and ends when the work is done and not when the whistle blows or the bus is scheduled to come by, but I digress.

Part of the day, okay a very small part of the day, I worry that The Elder has cancelled his subscription to the Stribune (Star & Sickle, Heh) and didn't read poverty pimp Nick Coleman's piece and won't be giving Nick a good, well deserved Fisking. Arriving at my home in suburbia, I check the web...newsites, Drudge, the Lord of the Lazy Link Dump (HH). I check fraters...RELIEF. My man Elder has gotten out the hammer, and is nailing Nick to the post in no uncertain terms.

Poverty pimp Nick Coleman is the most shameless, prejudiced, judgemental person this side of a paper you have to pay for. My first reaction...Hey,'re making 6-figures (by pimping poor people), why don't you come from YOUR hip and BUY these poor folks a paper. You probably get a discount, you work for the paper, #%*#@**it! Second reaction...Yeah, Nick, you're right. We're all just trying get by here in George Bushes' Amerika, but the big cheeses (does anyone really talk this way still?) are just keepin us down. Thank goodness you are here to bear witness to the awfulness of our plight. Third reaction...Is Nick Coleman as prejudiced in other areas as well? Does he think Scottish people are thrifty? Does he think only Jewish people make good lawyers and accountants? That Irish people are drunks and British men are effeminate? His column alleging that our Gopher girls use their superior Northern European genes to be harder working than the other players on teams in the final four like that Eye-talian girl from UConn or those shiftless black girls from Tenn. told me how he thinks about those groups. But, what do I know?

Well, I know this much. I may not boycott the paper for their editorial page silliness, but for damn sure I'm boycotting the bigot named Nick Coleman. It's time for the white liberal to stop getting over with his prejudice. It's the not so soft bigotry of low expectations and a white liberal getting away with making judgements based on looks. He'll pay no penalty and probably win an award (like Kent Brockman) for pimping someone elses pathetic life for a living. You make me sick, Nick.

(sniff) Thanks Tom, you made my day. But wait, there's more. David adds:

We had something of an uproar here in Pittsburgh a few months ago. For several years now, bus fares have gone up and ridership has gone down. You might think that the Port Authority of Allegheny County would have spotted the obvious cause-and-effect relationship between what people have to pay and how many people are actually paying to take the ride (and I mean that both literally and metaphorically). But of course, the municipal and transit authorities are blind to the reality of the situation. Rather than lower fares, the Port Authority began reducing the number of runs per day on nearly every route. Eventually, they began eliminating some routes entirely. (At this point, one might imagine some Colemanesque journalist to hang out at the bus stop until someone who was unaware of the route elimination came along to provide him with a full column's worth of material.)

The last time a public meeting was held for riders to express their concern over the proposed service cuts, a nice big color photo appeared in the paper showing who attended the meeting. It was just what you would expect: people in wheelchairs, "minorities", and the elderly (if you'll pardon the expression). One of my co-workers took a gander at the picture and commented on how terrible it was that these people were going to have "a basic human right" taken away from them -- after all, they need to get to work somehow. I just about tore out my hair when she said that -- what sort of document, I wondered, exists that posits a ride on the bus as a "basic human right"? Is that in the US Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence? Perhaps the Magna Carta? Does it come from the Sermon on the Mount, or go back to the laws of Moses and Hammurabi? I decided not to ask out loud, as it would only make things worse.

My place of employment, you see, is the University of Pittsburgh. Like most universities, it is a repository of unreconstructed Marxists of the sort who hang Soviet flags and pictures of Marx and Lenin. This particular colleague of mine is an Italian-born beauty who could certainly give Monica Bellucci a run for her money. Very disturbing, then, to find that she has a tattoo on her lower back. I'm not too fond of tattoos in general, but hers is worse than most -- it was the face of Che Guevara. Kind of telling when you learn more about a person's worldview from their backside than from their face.

Not that cuts in bus service would be much of a bother for anyone who works at Pitt. For about ten years now, the University has funneled loads of money into the Port Authority so that anyone with a Pitt ID can enjoy unlimited bus rides on any route in the system. Of course I take advantage of this benefit every day that I go to work, and will continue to do so as long as it exists. After all, this is an annual deal and there was talk two years ago that the contract would not be renewed. When that happens, a lot of unhappy people are going to have to buy a bus pass, perhaps for the first time ever. Will that bother me? Of course it will, for a while. Until I can get another job to which I can drive, and that pays more money. Gainful employment is no more a "basic human right" than the means to get to work, regardless of what Marxist academia or elitist journalism might think.

Sorry to go on for so long -- I am a frustrated blogger-wannabe with a full-time day job and four times as many kids as James Lileks -- but I just want to call attention to one line in Nick Coleman's extended whine that puts me in mind of one of your Fraters colleagues:

"The sidewalk in front of the bus shelter was splotched with vomit and sprinkled with cigarette butts."

Based on what I have been reading over the last few months, it sounds like Nick Coleman missed running into Atomizer by just a few hours.

Positive reinforcement of my Coleman bashing and a zing at Atomizer? It really doesn't get any better. Thanks guys. You are the wind beneath my wings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Get On To The Bus, That's Gonna Make You Stop Goin' Rub-a-dub

Yes, the transit strike is finally over here in the Twin Cities and we can all get back to normal. The 1.6% of the population that actually felt any noticeable impact from the bus drivers leaving their posts of duty can that is. The rest of us would likely have not even known that there was a strike were in not for the frantic efforts of the local media to top each other in delivering the schmaltziest, most guilt inducing stories of people coping with the bus strike. We've covered these shameless attempts to tug at our heartstrings previously in great detail, both here and on the Northern Alliance Radio show (where JB's memorial "urine caked drunks" line originated). And with the end of the strike, it seemed natural that we would also see the end of the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the media.

But, we didn't count on the Star Tribune's Nick Coleman. Where all others see a story completely played and milked of juicy material, Nick sees opportunity. Where others see the door closing, Nick jams his foot in and says, "Not so fast". Where others pack up and move on, Nick gets on the bus in a column titled Here's How It Really Was the Day the Buses Rolled:

The No. 69 bus was running for the first time in 47 days, and it was going to be clean and shiny and there would be free newspapers and a party atmosphere all the way from the Sun Ray Transit Center on St. Paul's East Side to downtown.

In your dreams. Here's how it really was, at 8:04 Monday morning on the day the buses returned.

The sidewalk in front of the bus shelter was splotched with vomit and sprinkled with cigarette butts. The creaky bus, driven by Shirley Walker, had 350,000 miles on the odometer. The floor was still strewn with street sand tracked in during a February snowstorm and, behind a seat, above the right rear wheel well, a weird white foam was oozing through a crack.

Welcome aboard reality.

Anyone who has ever ridden a city bus before can attest that vomit, trash, and weird white substances are par for the course. So the question is what did Coleman expect? Apparently the Metro Transit Commission's modest efforts (free newspapers, allowing riders to bring coffee with them) to lure riders back after the strike left Nick with the impression that riding the bus was going to be like Carnival in Rio.

By the way, when Coleman was busy chatting up the bus driver to learn her name and the mileage of the bus, why didn't he ask her if it would have been so hard to take a fargin' broom and sweep out her bus? Or is that not in the new contract?

Maybe there were free papers, free back rubs and hot drinks on other buses. Maybe there were express buses full of well-dressed people on the way to the office, people who left the Lexus in the garage Monday and who were laughing and standing in the aisles singing the "Hey Ya" song and catching up on how one another's portfolios have performed since Metro Transit drivers walked off the job March 4.

Feel the love people. Nothing like a little sneering class envy to bring us all together now is there? Maybe if Nick had decided to leave his beloved urban core and journey out to the far sprawling suburbs of say Wayzata or Chanhassen he would have indeed discovered busloads of well-attired business people heading downtown (and elsewhere). There's a transit station close to my workplace in Eden Prairie with a four level parking garage that's jammed full every day. They don't all own a Lexus, but they do okay. And they ride the bus.

Something that Nick should be happy about. Isn't it good that these suburbanites are partaking of the glories of mass transit? When the strike was going on they had alternatives. And they used them. They don't need the bus, but they choose it as a matter or convenience or economics. If Nick really wants the transit system to survive and thrive (and help the "less fortunate" that he supposedly cares so much about) he needs these kind of people opting in. But that doesn't fit his story template so he chooses to ignore it and focus on the "powerless":

But if you want to know how a metro area with pretensions to greatness could allow its rudimentary transit system to sit idle for six weeks before the big cheeses got interested enough to settle it, take a spin on the 69 bus.

The people on the No. 69 don't have clout or friends in power. They don't have a Lexus in the garage. They have the bus, and they are glad it's back. People like a 46-year-old woman named Soong Sook, who rode from the East Side to a charity store on West Seventh to pick up some clothes for her grandkids.

Who exactly does have clout or friends in power? I don't. I don't have a Lexus in my garage either. Can I be one of Nick's people?

One of the most irritating aspects of the media coverage of the bus strike was the tendency, which Coleman of course follows to a tee, to always blame the strike on the MTC commissioners and the governor, apparently the "big cheeses" here. Never blame the drivers who actually engaged in the strike which left the buses idle.

Three hours on the No. 69 -- from the East Side through downtown, then along West Seventh through the West End on out to Fort Snelling and the Veterans Affairs hospital and back again -- and I saw only one person going to an office job.

He only saw one person going to an "office job"? Was this based on his notion of "well-dressed"? Talk about hypocritical. Liberals like Coleman love to preach that we shouldn't judge based on appearance alone and yet that is exactly what he does here. Unless he actually interviewed everyone on the bus, there's no way he make this claim. And what the hell is an "office job" anyway?

Maybe there are more. Maybe they will come back when the parking deals they made during the strike run out. But many No. 69 regulars don't make parking deals. They just make do:

Only Coleman can turn the act of paying a monthly contract rate or "making parking deals" sound like entering into a real estate development agreement with the Donald. Hey Nick, I made an "electric deal" with X-cel energy this month. Wanna write about it?

Coleman goes on to chronicle the tales of no less than seven people riding the bus that day and why bus service is important to them. I'm not going to make fun of those who have to use public transit (I'll leave that to JB), but Coleman's efforts to elicit pity for them didn't exactly leave me fighting back the tears:

Augustine Cortez, 48, said that he was taking the bag of clothes on his lap to wash them at the coin laundry.

I have just enough Spanish and he just enough English for us to communicate, but Lunes is washday everywhere, I guess.

And the point of that is what exactly? This guy takes the bus to a laundry mat. I bet it happens on buses all over the Twin Cities every day. Is this a revelation to Nick?

• And a woman named Lisa Bailey, who has a learning disability and whose left arm was in a cast. She got on the bus with a bag of plastic juice bottles that she was going to drop off at a recycling center because her apartment building doesn't recycle plastic.

"Where's all the free newspapers at?" she asked as she made her way down the aisle, looking for evidence that a disastrous transit strike was finally over and that she was on board a party bus.

That thing I said about not making fun of people who ride the bus? It's getting really hard to stick to. Must resist...

Wasn't the simple fact that she was RIDING ON A BUS evidence enough that a "disastrous" transit strike was over? Oh wait, she did have a learning disability didn't she? No doubt she was hoping to find a free Star Tribune so she could catch up on all her favorite Metro section columnists.

I told her what I had heard: The free newspapers are supposed to be on the bus next week. But that might be too late.

The party's already over.

Earth to pretentious, out of touch, newspaper guy. Riding the bus was NEVER a party. And it NEVER will be. Understand?

All of these people who were riding the bus yesterday were probably riding the bus forty eight days ago before the strike and they'll likely be riding the bus two months from now. And the bus they ride will be dirty, smell of exhaust fumes, and creak along. So what? That's life Nick. It ain't always pretty but it's life.

Finally someone with an insider view of the Star Tribune e-mails to make an interesting comparison:

Coming back from vacation I find the buses are running but the illuminati here are oddly unhappy.

Settling into my desk and looking out the window at the tracks of the biggest electric train set I've ever seen, once again I feel the big wheels of journalism turning in smooth, silent rotation, utterly without friction because they're completely disengaged from reality.

With that I promise that this will be our last word on the bus strike and hopefully my last word on Nick Coleman for some time. My head just can't take it anymore.
How Do You Say "D'oh!" In Arabic?

Mortar attack kills 22 prisoners in Baghdad jail:

Insurgents fired 12 mortars into Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison Tuesday, killing 22 detainees and injuring 92, U.S. military officials said.

All of those killed or injured in the mortar attack on the U.S.-run prison were security detainees, said Col. Jill Morgenthaler, meaning they were held for suspected involvement in the anti-U.S. insurgency or remnants of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baathist regime.

To Serve and Resent

A local bus driver comes to terms with his new contract. Read on and wonder no longer why Tim Pawlenty and Peter Bell had such a difficult time trying to negotiate with these people:

In any case, Tim Pawlenty, Peter Bell, David Strom, and basically the Republican Party will never be forgiven. And I’m going to have a hard time thinking about Minnesota as a good place to live. Hopefully we can get someone to try and undo Pawlenty’s twof reign of terror, but I doubt that’s possible. After all he completely undid a hundred years of progress in Minnesota in only two years. I don’t even want to think about what he’ll be up to next.

Is there anything more charming than a government employee with an axe to grind? Sure, they have to accept the taxpayers continuing to fund their healthcare at levels far beyond that offered in the private sector, but they don’t have to like it!

Actually, he doesn’t have to accept it. He could quit his job and save all of us forced to pay his salary the ego driven drama and simmering resentment. Because, I have good news for him, this isn’t slavery! He can seek employment elsewhere and fly as high as his people skills and knowledge of history will take him.

If he does choose to stick around, I just hope he doesn’t let his violated sense of entitlement affect his customer service. I think all the poor and needy abandoned by the Amalgamated Transit Union over the past 45 days deserve at least a smile and a harangue free commute. At least for this week.