Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Season's Greetings

The Green Bay Packers are surging in the tradition rich NFC North. With their sixth straight victory yesterday over the St. Louis Rams, they remained bound up with the Vikings atop the division and hold a tie breaker thanks to their victory over the Purple a few weeks ago. All signs point to a climactic show down when the two teams meet again on Christmas Eve at the Metrodome.

Much of the Packers' success last night was due to substitute running back Najeh Davenport. Last night he stepped into the breach created by Ahman Green's injury and produced 178 yards rushing. Young Mr. Davenport seems well on his way to fame and glory.

Which would be a nice change for him, given his recent past of infamy and vainglorious antics. In the interest of knowing our opponents, I'd like to remind Vikings fans exactly who we have to face in a few weeks. This from a July 2002 article in the Miami Herald:

According to the police report, alleged victim Mary McCarthy said she woke up around 6 a.m. on April 1, "to a strange sound, and discovered Mr. Davenport, an individual unknown to her, squatting in her closet defecating into her laundry basket." She called campus security, who tried to stop the defendant and later identified him as Davenport from a University of Miami football yearbook.

Najeh Davenport - a man bringing a whole new meaning to the position of Scat Back.

Despite his being positively identified as the assailant by multiple witnesses, ol' Najeh didn't go gently into that good night. While he did accept a plea bargain on felony and misdemeanor charges, he never officially admitted to his heinous offense. Sports Illustrated reported his comments upon leaving court:

"Where's the evidence? Where's the manure?" Davenport asked outside court. "I know I didn't do it -- I just wanted to get it over with."

An interesting defense. Too bad Davenport didn't have Johnny Cochrane defending him, or he might have beaten the rap, based on the rap: "You must acquit, if you can't find the ....."

I think you know where I'm going with that one, and it's not the high road. The Packers just have that effect on people I guess.

But even with his community service behind him, Najeh isn't clear of complications yet. Seems his victim, Mary McCarthy, has been suffering "severe emotional distress." Just last month she filed a civil suit against Mr. Davenport:

The suit claims Davenport showed conduct "so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and, further, can only be deemed atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."

I think any rational person would agree Davenport's conduct is beyond all bounds of decency, utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Which means, in Wisconsin, he probably fits right in.

But, fellow citizens beware, he's coming to Minnesota on Christmas Eve. To be safe, make sure to lock up your doors early. And your laundry baskets. And keep a watchful eye those stockings hanging by the fire with care. Let this paraphrase excerpt of 'A Night Before Christmas' serve as a worst case scenario warning:

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the laundry basket he rose;

He sprang to his Hummer, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Where's the evidence? Where's the manure? AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!"

Hands Off Leadership

Don't look now, but your Minnesota Golden Gophers, fresh off a weekend spent beating the tar out of Michigan and Michigan State, are the #1 rated team in college hockey according to the latest USCHO.com/CSTV Poll. I'm sure that if the "Minnesota Commissioner of Hockey" had any clue that the college hockey season was even underway (the Gophers are 10-3 overall), that he would try to claim credit for the team's ranking. Shhh...Don't wake him.
Meet the New Trope, Same As the Old Trope

The New Patriots (who write a lot like the Old Socialist Revolutionaries) are regurgitating a report about the US military using Napalm against anti-Coalition forces in the Battle of Fallujah. In the comments, one of them also wearily recycles the old trope:

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Although a presumed trump card for the Left for decades, those boys should be aware that no American military or civilian official ever uttered the words "destroy a village in order to save it" during the Vietnam war - or at any other time. It's a myth, an urban legend, a useful tool for those with goals beyond mere criticism of tactical military decisions.

I suspect that fact won't cloud the New Patriots' false moral clarity though. They'll continue being as self-righteous and cynical as ever over "reports" on the methods in which our military chooses to eliminate those who would be happy to cut their heads off, if given the chance. (And no, I'm not talking about Powerline).

But I do caution the New Patriots to watch their facts closely. The real source on those Napalm reports may be as reliable as whoever started the lie about destroying villages to save them. Though that does create a nice symmetry to their credibility.
Another Reason To Fight 'Em Over There

It's much easier. As Charlemagne explains in the November 27th issue of The Economist:

The demographic picture in particular places is admittedly more dramatic. The Muslim population of France is now nearly 10% of the total. And it is officially projected that the three largest Dutch cities will have 50% non-western populations (most of them Muslim) by 2020. Yet even these figures need not be alarming, if Muslim populations assimilate easily. It is here that traditional liberal attitudes are undergoing a re-think. For Mohammed B, the murderer of Theo Van Gogh, was not a marginalised or oppressed figure. He spoke excellent Dutch and was studying for a diploma. It looks increasingly apparent that--as with the 9/11 hijackers--the problem is not lack of integration or opportunity, but a vicious ideology.

Depending on the numbers of people gripped by this ideology, that conclusion could be re-assuring or worrying. The Dutch secret service reckons there are only about 150 Islamic radicals on the fringes of terrorism in the country. This suggests the problem could ultimately be treated as a law-enforcement issue, as with the Baader-Meinhof gang that terrorised Germany in the 1970s. But Mr Wilders quotes Dutch academics who estimate that around 10-15% of the Dutch population of 1m Muslims sympathise with jihadist ideology. He says that the 150 suspected terrorists should be deported or imprisoned immediately. But he also demands a similar fate for those Dutch citizens who endorse jihadist ideology, whether in print, in a sermon or in an internet chat-room. Mainstream Dutch politicians still recoil from such measures, believing them to be incompatible with traditional freedoms, and likely to radicalise Dutch Muslims further. Launching a war on terrorism is one thing; a civil war on terrorism is altogether more daunting.


The problems that the Netherlands and other countries in Western Europe are having with immigration and assimilation should be an eye opener for the United States. And with Republican control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House, you would think that immigration reform would be a critical issue that the GOP could push ahead with.

But you would be wrong. You see Republicans are told not to talk about immigration. We don't want to offend our Hispanic friends you know. Their votes helped elect President Bush and will be crucial in forging a lasting Republican majority. And we need those immigrants to keep the economy moving (just ask the Wall Street Journal).

If you ever wonder why people are cynical about politics, consider the way that the two major parties gingerly step around issues that many Americans would like to see addressed. Immigration has become the new "third rail" of American politics, but it's not the only one that Democrats and Republicans prefer to avoid:

-Social Security: Bush deserves credit for being willing to at least talk about some form of limited privatization of Social Security as part of his "ownership society" platform. But too many Republicans are afraid to be out front on the need for changes in the system. It will be interesting to see if GW can pull his party along for what promises to be a bumpy ride on this one. As for the Democrats, the only time most of them even mention Social Security is when they're trying to scare old people right before an election. Problem? What problem?

-Medicare: Same ticking demographic time bomb as Social Security, maybe even worse. Other than throwing more money at seniors through the prescription drug entitlement, hardly anyone from either party wants to recognize the fact that Medicare is a train wreck waiting to happen. Means testing anyone? Limiting benefits? Hello? Anyone out there?

-Farm subsidies: For years we've heard that we need to start weaning farmers off their government subsidies. Yet year after year the Congress passes, and the president signs, bloated farm bill after bloated farm bill. Most Republicans like to portray themselves as "free traders" and proponents of economic liberty, yet they don't bat an eye as the continue to fund one of the most egregious examples of governmental interference in free markets. Democrats meanwhile, love to buy votes and as far as they're considered the bigger the farm bill, the better.

-School reform: Some Republicans have attempted to get behind real school reform, but the majority continue to pander to the educational lobby and pump more and more money into the failing educational system. It grates me to hear Republicans (like President Bush) boasting about how much they've increased spending on education. You've got a car whose engine doesn't work, has four flat tires, a dead battery, and you're bragging 'cause you just filled up the gas tank again?!? Guess what? It still ain't goin' anywhere. Again, Democrats love to repay their core constituencies.

So far the GOP has been lucky in that the Democrats are beholden to interest groups on most of these issues and have so far chosen to maintain the status quo on them. But that can't last forever.

The one issue that Republicans are probably the most vulnerable on is immigration. I would guess that if someone were to come up with a sound, comprehensive plan to dramatically curtail illegal immigration, reduce the number of illegal immigrants already in the country, and cut back on legal immigration, it would be supported by over 60% of Americans.

If the Republicans choose to continue to whistle past the graveyard and ignore the growing public call for action on immigration, they will pay a political price. Voters may be cynical, but they're not stupid.

Meanwhile in Germany, politicians are looking at the results of the U.S. election (among others things) and wondering if, as another article from The Economist puts it, "It's values, Dummkopf!":

Politics aside, there may be something deeper at work. Germany has always boasted a peculiar mix of liberal and conservative values. Particularly since unification, it has--by American standards--been quite a secular country, though less so than other west European countries. Only a third of Germans deem it "necessary to believe in God to be moral". Institutions such as family, marriage and the nation resonate less among younger Germans. At the same time, most Germans have looked to government to protect the environment and guarantee a social balance. However, this mix seems to be changing--and becoming more "American". People are less inclined to see government as the solution to most problems, and traditional values and concepts are coming back, says Paul Nolte, the author of an influential book on the "metaphysics" of economic reform.

Germany becoming more "American?" Hmmm...Amazing what the threat of home grown Islamic terrorism, a stagnant economy, and a culture fraying at the seams will do to your attitudes.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Stranger Than Fiction

Hey Hugh, how about this one for your list? You do have to suspend your disbelief, but this fantastic yarn gets better with every reading. I suggest every two years or so.
Girls Were Girls and Men Were Men

Scott from Faribault is feeling nostalgic:

Not only do I miss the NHL, but I miss everything captured in that photo.

The NORTH Stars are now the Dallas Stars.

The Blackhawks stink.

And the Met Center is now an IKEA.

Sigh.


Yep, them were the days. I'm going to make a great curmudgeon someday. I can hardly wait.
All's Fair...

Russ Vaughn, usually known for waxing poetically, is today waxing indignantly about what it really means to support the troops:

But, yes, it is true: I do have an ax to grind, although it would give me greater satisfaction to metaphorically bury it in a few carefully coiffed talking heads. You see, what I'm wholeheartedly for is the troops, and not in the sense that most liberal Americans profess to be, in that they believe they are demonstrating their support of the troops by calling for them to be brought home and removed from harm's way. If that's what you call supporting the troops, then take it from an old trooper who's been there and done that, the troops don't see you as supportive at all. They see you as undermining their mission, which is to go in harm's way, with deliberate intent to prevail by force of arms.

What the troops perceive as support is hearing you cheering not jeering when they are seriously kicking the butts of jihadi terrorists. So, on behalf of the troops you support, it's with you peace-at-any-price liberals and your synergistic media pals that I have an ax to grind.

Anybody Does It Better

Lileks does Hewitt. And he does it better than Hugh does himself (by himself I mean the team of web designers greedily siphoning money from Hugh like Kojo Annan suckling at the teat of the U.N.'s Oil For Food program).

The design proposed by James is appealing. Sleak, stylish, and very readable. My only suggestion would be to reconsider having Hugh's mug in such a prominent position. Is that really the face you want to see when you start your day? We're not exactly talking "Morning Glory" here.
SOA Update: Seven Grand High And Rising

We're now past the $7000 mark and overall the Bloggers Challenge has brought in over $28K for Spirit of America.

The Northern Alliance Team has been augmented with the additions of Around The World In 80 Days and the Nihilist In Golf Pants. You know it must be a worthy cause when even The Nihilist supports it. Make your donation here.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Light Housework

Like The Elder, I feel I must respond to Hugh's implication that we Fraters fellows are less than handy around the house.

I had every intention of putting up my Christmas lights yesterday but, upon reaching the top the ladder, I noticed a few shingles on my roof were damaged. One thing led to another and before long I had re-roofed the entire house complete with cedar shakes and copper gutters.

While I was perched atop my home enjoying the beauty of my handiwork, I noticed that part of the wooden fence that marks the perimeter of my palatial estate looked a bit damaged. I scurried down the ladder and proceeded to dismantle the existing fence and in no time I had constructed a brand new eight foot tall stone wall with two beautiful iron gates and a guard house.

Then, while contemplating what to do with the pile of lumber that had been the old fence, I grabbed a hammer, a box of nails and a hand saw and before nightfall I had constructed a stunning two level addition to my house including two solariums, a bowling alley and a horse barn.

Yes, it was a busy day at Balsawood yesterday. The Christmas lights are still in a tangled mess at the foot of the ladder, however. Perhaps I'll have to hire a hearty Scots-Irish handyman to complete that bear of a chore. It truly is more than a guy like me can handle.
Lit Up

Hugh's right. I did not put up colored Christmas lights on my house yesterday. Because...I had aleady knocked that chore off last Sunday. What I did do yesterday was a little painting. Some caulking. I put new trim on a door. Made a run to Menard's. You know, the kind of things that are just part of a typical day for handy, do it yourselvers like me and Hugh.

Come to think of it, I did string some Christmas lights up yesterday. On our garage (detached). I'm sure a hearty Scots-Irish man like Hugh already has that covered. You do have Christmas lights on your garage, don't you Hugh? Well, don't ya?

UPDATE: Hmmm...Now we've even got colored Christmas lights on our site. I don't see a lot of holiday cheer over at HughHewitt.com. You'd think a real Scots-Irish badass like Hugh could get that taken care.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Red Zone Efficiency

Don't forget to tune in to the Northern Alliance Radio Network tomorrow from noon until 3pm CDT. At 1pm we're going to be joined by Steven Vincent, author of In The Red Zone: A Journey Into The Soul of Iraq.

In The Red Zone is a fascinating look at Iraqi society and ordinary Iraqis. Vincent is a talented writer, who left the hotels of Baghdad behind to try to find out what is really going on in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. He has produced an entertaining and thought provoking read, which I highly recommend.
'Round the Horn

Check out SCSUScholars for updates on the situation in the Ukraine.

And DoctorZin has the latest on developments in Iran at Regime Change Iran.
You Call That A Brawl?

This is a brawl.



Sigh. I miss the NHL.

(Thanks to Robert for the blast from the past.)
SOA Update: The Beat Goes On

The drubbing of Jeff Jarvis and BuzzMachine continues. The Northern Alliance team now has raised over $6000 for the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge. The Challenge will continue until December 15th, so if you have not made a donation yet you still have time.

And you can still join the Northern Alliance team. We proudly welcome Clay Calhoun, Solablogola, The Art of the Blog, Wagonboy, Mangled Cat, and the evangelical outpost aboard.
Because they've done such a great job with everything else...

Let's let the U.N. run the internet (from The Economist-subscription required):

The battle moves to Geneva on November 23rd for the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance. Tensions are inevitable among the 40 recently appointed delegates. Many countries are dissatisfied with the way the internet's technical standards are set, the policy for things such as domain names and valuable internet-protocol numbers (used by computers to connect online).

Today, the system is run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The group was formed in 1998 by America with the help of business and the informal consent of other countries. Governments are represented by an impotent advisory committee.

Many countries complain that even though ICANN is expected to become independent in 2006, it will be placed on a private, industry-led footing rather than under the oversight of governments themselves. The UN group is thus an attempt to ease control of ICANN away from America and place the internet's underlying infrastructure on an intergovernmental basis, much like today's telephone system.

The Candy Man Can

FOXSports.com - NBA - T-Wolves' Olowokandi stun-gunned by police:

Minnesota Timberwolves center Michael Olowokandi was arrested early Thursday after police used a stun gun to subdue him when he refused to leave a club.

Michael Olowokandi was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. Olowokandi, 29, was taken into custody about 3 a.m. after he refused to leave Tiki Bob's, said Indianapolis Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Staletovich.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, both misdemeanors, Staletovich said.


Just what the NBA needed. Another role model.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Closure

After my bad martini experience last Saturday I knew that the best way to overcome it would be to get back on the horse again as soon as possible. And so tonight, at the Cafe Havana in downtown Minneapolis, I did just that. A "Dirty Martini" with Hendrick's Gin to be precise.

Thankfully, it came just as a Martini should. A chilled Martini glass along with the shaker filled with ice, gin, and just a hint of Vermouth. The waiter poured the Martini into the chilled glass in front of me. Beautiful. I do indeed have much to be thankful for.

SOA UPDATE: The Northern Alliance team has now raised close to $5500 for Spirit of America. Thanks to all who have contributed to this great cause.

Have a great Thanksgiving everybody. Time for me honor a long standing tradition and watch the ultimate Thanksgiving movie. Gobble, gobble.
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

Joe Carter has a very intriguing post on Why NPR Beats Talk Radio. He presents six reasons to support his assertion:

1. It's not part of the conservative monoculture

2. There are no callers

3. No commercials

4. No Dittoheads

5. It's not Rush

6. There's no Dr. Laura


He also closes with a plaintive question:

Still, NPR takes ideas, culture, art, and international affairs seriously. Conservative talk radio may touch on the same issues but generally they are either treated defensively ("In our next segment, the NEA's plan to ruin our children...") or as purely political concerns ("Will the genocide in Darfur hurt Kofi Annan..."). Talk radio is merely topical while NPR attempts to be timely.

Mostly when I listen to NPR I wonder why conservatives can't produce something similar. Why can't we have discussions about art for art's sake on the radio? Why can't we have debates about the role of religion without it being subordinated to politics? Why have we ceded all culture to the "liberals?"


Before getting into each of the six reasons that Joe cites to demonstrate NPR's superiority, I'd like to point out some of the difficulties in comparing NPR to commercial talk radio. While they do "compete" in the same medium, commercial talk radio is a business, while NPR is more akin to a government agency. In fact, from my brief experience in commercial talk radio and what I've learned about NPR, I believe that NPR is similar to a university.

While there are administrators who have to worry about fundraising (pledge drives) and attracting students (listeners), the tenured professors (hosts) tend to lead lives of splendid isolation compared to their counterparts in the business world (commercial radio). There definitely are expectations for them, but they don't face nearly the same kind of time, money, and competitive pressures.

Listeners tend to underestimate the amount of time that radio hosts need to put into their shows to deliver quality programs. Most commercial talk radio hosts have a very small, dedicated production staff who work their tails off to come up with the material to do three hours of radio a day (or whatever schedule the particular host has). Often what separates the very good from the good hosts is this production work. I've never been a big of Laura Ingraham herself, but her staff does an incredible job on production and makes the show worth listening to.

Meanwhile, from what I hear, NPR has production resources (and facilities for that matter) that are the envy of commercial radio. If you think that NPR often sounds slicker and better produced, it's because it generally is. Having several production people on hand and state of the air studios will tend do that for you. This is where the money comes in. NPR has the money and spends it like a government agency. No one is "profiting" from NPR, so there really is no reason not to invest in whatever they feel they need.

Which includes salaries. Granted, no one at NPR is going to be hauling down Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken money. But, again from what I understand, six figure salaries are not unusual for the hosts. And the producers, technicians, etc. don't make out too shabby either. While those at the top of the heap in commercial talk radio do quite well, there is a big drop off as you move down the pile. In fact, I understand that there are even some fools out there working for free.

Then there is the timeliness factor. Most commercial talk radio shows are up against the relentless grind of the news cycle and the need to keep on top of it. They usually don't have the luxury of spending a week putting a show together on stories that may be interesting, but not topical. While some of the NPR shows are news cycle driven, most of them are not. They have the time to research topics, script storylines, and hone the production. Most commercial talk radio shows do not.

Why? Because of the competitive pressures of the marketplace. Commercial radio is all about advertisers. And getting advertisers is mostly a factor of your ratings (obviously it's much more complicated that this with targeting specific demographic groups, listener loyalty, and such, but the bottom line is that the more listeners you have, the more you can charge for advertising). Commercial radio needs to deliver results, and usually stations are not prepared to wait very long to see these results.

If commercial radio stations poured the resources, money, and time into a show that NPR typically does, they would be expecting to see a significant return on that investment in a relatively short period of time. NPR has no such expectation. Oh sure, they're not oblivious to their ratings and they wish their programs to be successful. But if the program fails or even falls short of expectations, the consequences aren't the same.

NPR doesn't rely on advertising. Its money mainly comes from grants, corporate sponsorships, individual donations, government funds and selling Prairie Home Companion loofas. None of these streams is tied directly to ratings. As long as the money continues to flow, the ratings of individual shows really don't matter all that much. Commercial talk radio is all about the ratings and it's rare that a station will allow an underperforming show to survive for long.

Finally, to compare NPR to all of commercial talk radio as Joe does is a little deceptive. It allows him to go out and cherry-pick examples of programs that he doesn't like and have them stand in to represent commercial talk radio. I think a better comparison would have been conservative political talk radio with equivalent shows on NPR, but maybe that's for another time.

Let's get to the meat of his argument that NPR is better.

1. It's not part of the conservative monoculture Joe starts off by lumping all conservative talk radio hosts in together as, "middle-aged white male conservative[s] (except for Ingraham, who merely imitates being one)." While I have to give Joe credit for the Ingraham line, this sort of broad brushed depiction of conservative talk radio drives me nuts. Sometimes when people find out that I'm part of a conservative talk radio show they'll say, "Oh, I really don't like those Sean Hannity kind of shows." Know what? Neither do I. I can't stand Hannity's radio show and if anyone ever says that the NARN reminds them of Hannity, I'm liable to hang up my headphones on the spot.

Frankly most of the conservative talk radio hosts aren't all that good. For me, Rush is in a category by himself (more on that later) and then you have the Big Three from Salem: Prager, Medved, and Hewitt. Ingraham and Bennett are a notch below and there isn't a whole lot else out there that I like. O'Reilly and Hannity are vastly overrated bore masters. Savage is entertaining, but his political views are not worthy of serious consideration. On the local scene, I enjoy Bob Davis on KSTP and David Strom and Dwight Rabuse who proceed us on The Patriot, but that's about it.

The truth of the matter is that there is a lot of variety in the world of conservative talk radio. Just look at my Big Three from Salem and their interests outside of politics. Dennis Prager's area of expertise include music, photography, and Judaism. Medved knows history, baseball, and movies. And Hugh...well Hugh knows...he knows a lot about...eh...let's just say that Hugh's a well rounded guy.

Conservative talk radio is not a monoculture. And even if it were, Joe is arguing the position that multiculturalism is in and of itself better, regardless of the merits of the individual. Would you rather listen to three people from a monocultural background who did a great job or three people from a multicultural background who sucked?

2. There are no callers First off, this isn't really true. There are NPR shows with callers. In fact, some of them regularly take phone calls. But, even though it may not be in my self-interest to say this, I have to agree with Joe's contention that:

The opinions expressed by callers are consistently unoriginal and dull. Only on the most rare occasion do the add anything worthwhile to the conversation.

My only caveat would be that some shows, sometimes have decent callers. Medved's callers help make his show, since he typically takes those who disagree with him.

3. No commercials Again, Joe has a point. Commercials are the bane of commercial talk radio. But if you listen to a show enough, you can usually figure out the commercial schedule and plan accordingly. Most of the Salem shows have commercial breaks that you can set your watch to. They start at :07, break at :18, come back at :22, break at :30, come back at :35, break at :40, come back at :45, break at :53, come back at :56 and go until almost the top of the hour. When I listen to these shows, I simply punch up some music during the break, knowing exactly when to come back to not miss any content.

Which seems a small price to pay in comparison to the long blocks of fundraising that you must endure at NPR. Hours, days, sometimes it seems like months of pitiful begging, guilt inducing, and shaming from a place with budget expenditures that rivals those of Third World countries.

4. No Dittoheads I will give this one to Joe. Although he might want to reconsider why:

In all of the years I've listened to NPR, I've never heard anyone praise Terry Gross or Bob Edwards.

5. It's not Rush I concur with Joe that Rush's glory days are behind him. That being said, there still is no match for Rush when he gets on a roll. Unfortunately, those rolls are fewer and farer between these days. And don't even get me started on his callers.

But is not being Rush a good enough reason to listen to NPR? Mike Gallagher isn't Rush either.

6. There's no Dr. Laura This is the sort of cherry-picking that I talked about earlier. I am not a particular fan of Dr. Laura myself and won't make an attempt to defend her show. But again, does she represent all commercial talk radio? Hardly.

If you look at Joe's arguments closer you'll notice a similarity to the Kerry campaign. Lots of negative reasons not to listen to commercial talk radio, very few positive reasons to listen to NPR. I'll give you a much shorter list of why I prefer commercial talk radio to NPR.

1. Commercial talk radio is what it is When you tune in to a commercial talk radio show, you can usually figure out what the host's beliefs and values are in a matter of minutes. You want a liberal slant? Listen to Al Franken. You want soft conservative viewpoint? Tune in to Hugh.

NPR cloaks itself in a veil of objectivity, while typically proceeding in a manner that is anything but objective. I get enough subtle bias, hidden agendas, and template journalism from the mainstream newspapers, networks, and cable news. Radio is a refuge for open and honest disclosure of partisanship. Except for NPR.

2. Commercial talk radio is entertaining Quick, name one NPR show or host that makes you laugh. Please don't tell me that you mentioned Garrison Keillor or I'm going to have to open an above average can of whoop ass on ya. Seriously, is there anything on NPR that truly could be considered entertaining? I once was able to enjoy Prairie Home Companion before Keillor lost his mind a couple of years back and went off on his wacky political bender. What else? Click and Clack?

I'm not talking informative. There are plenty of NPR shows that are highly informative and I listen to some of them. But at some point a good radio show has to be more then informative. It has to entertain. And for the most part, NPR is not anywhere near as entertaining as commercial talk radio.

3. The hosts with the most Tell you what. I'll take Rush, Prager, Medved, and Hewitt. You take any four hosts from NPR. Compare and contrast.

In the comments sections of Joe's post, someone wrote:

I agree with you about the state of radio these days and the superiority of NPR. Mark me down as a conservative fan of Terry Gross and "Fresh Air". I don't think there is a better interviewer in the business and it's because she prepares, i.e., if her guest has written a book, she's read the book.

I read this and my jaw dropped. Terry Gross is the most overrated interviewer on the planet. Yes, more overrated than Larry King. I've listened to Gross more than a few times in the last couple of months and I find her almost unlistenable. If she's talking with an author or a musician, she's tolerable (barely). But if she's interviewing anyone else, she seems lost and out of her league. That includes her interview last week with the guy who voices Sponge Bob. Seriously, she had nothing interesting to ask this guy. My five year old nephew could have come up with more insightful questions. And her inability to follow up when a good line is opened is maddening.

In conclusion, I disagree with Joe's assessment that NPR is superior to commercial talk radio. While I do like some of the shows on NPR, commercial talk radio is more entertaining, has better hosts, and is honest about its biases. And I think I answered his question about why there is no similar conservative alternative. It just would not play in the commercial talk radio market and the only reason that NPR can do it is the way they are funded.

It might be possible (but exceedingly difficult) to establish a separate "conservative NPR." It would be much easier if the current NPR would hire more conservative hosts and air more shows with a conservative perspective. But until they do, I'll stick with the one that brung me.

The Nuts Stop Here

Criticism of Nick Coleman has become a bit of a growth industry of late. Which is great. Many of us veterans in the cause have been suffering from an acute case of Nick Coleman fatigue and have largely abandoned him to his own devices.

It's pointless reading the guy anymore. Three times a week, every week, this wealthy son of privilege writes the same self-righteous, holier-than-thou commentary, trying his hardest to find any angle which he can use to denigrate the average, middle class Twin Citizen. (I know professional journalists have been indoctrinated to the notion that afflicting the "comfortable" is their highest possible calling. But how long can a paper endure featuring as their star columnist a guy dedicated to insulting the majority of its readers? Since they're a virtual monopoly, maybe forever.)

But how many times can we say "he sucks" before the readers naturally rebel with "WE KNOW, what else ya got?" Unfortunately, we aren't a monopoly, so we have to actually care what the readers think.

I also wonder how much Nick Coleman criticism feeds the pathology of the editors at the Star Tribune, leads them to believe he's edgy and controversial and stirs things up, and therefore adds value to their product. It doesn't matter what reaction he gets, as long as he gets a reaction, that proves people are reading him. Throw in all those readers who write in gushing odes to the guy (liberal masochists who love his insults and the thousands in line to profit from Coleman's profligate social spending remedies), and I can see where management at the Star Tribune might think Nick is a hot property. Since they agree with Coleman's political views, all the better. He's granted the position of Columnist-for-Life, drawing a six-figure salary while merrily afflicting this community three times a week, in perpetuity.

In the spirit of the truth setting one free, I have to believe there is a greater good in the blogs voicing their objections to this man. I'm sure we'll all continue to do it to some degree. In the short run, if that means Nick's position is enhanced, so be it.

But, there is another outlet for Nick Coleman criticism that may not have such a positive consequence for his career. Because that outlet has the potential to threaten the monopolistic news cycle of abuse that sustains him. I speak of the Pioneer Press. The St. Paul paper, which hasn't been much of a rival for the Star Tribune. Traditionally, they've been more the junior partner of the liberal establishment press (their record includes being a past employer of Nick Coleman). They've been dominated by the same political perspectives and biases, only with less resources available. As a consequence, they've never been able to make inroads in the Twin Cities in terms of circulation size and ad revenues, and have complacently accepted their subservient role.

Over the past year or so, there have been signs of an ideological change coming. Most prominently, the hiring of Mark Yost on the editorial board and Craig Westover as an editorial contributor. I've been hesitant to declare the Pioneer Press as a legitimate alternative to the Star Tribune. They still have a dominant hard left influence on their editorial board and their news coverage, bolstered by reams of material from the AP and New York Times, is every bit as slanted as the Star Tribune's. But some of their editorials, the work of Westover and usually unattributed work of Yost, have been outstanding. Not just for the "right" political perspective, but also for their quality of prose, intellect, and logic.

A Westover editorial in today's Pioneer Press provides a great example of this. Better yet, it directly refutes a Nick Coleman column. Apparently, newspaper professional courtesy prevents him from naming names, but the references are undeniable. Nick Coleman's column of Nov. 14 started this way:

This is how nuts we have become. In order to teach kids to read, it helps if you have books. But when Zelma Wiley walked into Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul and took over as principal a couple of years ago, there were hardly any books on the shelves of the school's 21 classrooms and not nearly enough books -- or the right mix of reading levels and subject matters -- in the school's library.

Today's Westover column begins this way:

Preparing for a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Sol Stern read about a situation in the St. Paul Public Schools that was described as "nuts."

And Westover proceeds to analyze and refute Coleman's arguements. A mainstream media editorial page doing to Nick Coleman what the blogs have been doing for years. And doing it a little better (there is something to be said for a professional tone).

Read the Nick Coleman column first. Then the Westover column. (Also posted on his blog.) Compare and contrast the use of logic, facts, and evidence, versus racially-charged, naive, emotional blustering and ill-conceived knee-jerk scapegoating. (What was I saying about a professional tone? There goes my chance to be a community columnist.)

Examples, first from Coleman:

How did we get to the point in Minnesota that we have a school in a minority neighborhood of our capital city where there aren't enough books? If you don't find that situation outrageous, you are part of the problem.

When you are trying to teach reading in a climate of spending cutbacks, hostility from political leaders who control the purse strings and public indifference toward the poor, you are between a rock and a hard place.

We know what happened, don't we? The poor are being punished for being poor and the politicians, instead of doing their damnedest to get things solved, are doing their damnedest to pass the buck. Highways are more important than kids.


Now Westover:

"Instead of accountability for the problem being placed where it belongs, on the school administrators," Stern told his audience, "I read that the problem is not enough money - the last refuge of failed policy. I checked. St. Paul educates a student for about $11,000 a year. This situation is not 'nuts' because we're not spending enough on public schools. The situation is 'nuts' because we're not holding the public schools accountable."

To avoid facing the accountability problem, racism, legislative insensitivity and a public refusal to accept that we don't pay enough for the education of our children have all been offered as excuses for government schools. Ignored is the obvious: that here is a St. Paul school spending more than $11,000 per student per year that let a book shortage problem fester for more than two years until it erupted into a crisis. And all the while, the school is spending that $11K per student somewhere. Makes one wonder: What priorities did the school system place above buying books for kids?

I can't imagine that situation," Molly Whinnery, principal of [private, Catholic school] St. Mark's, told me. "We receive $62 per student from the state to purchase non-religious books. And we have a line item in the annual budget for classroom books and a separate account for library books."

St. Mark's spends a little less than $4,200 a year per student


The ability of this column to expose Nick Coleman, not for being a blithering leftist apologist, but for being a lazy researcher and lousy writer, well, it's like a miracle. Bravo Westover and Pioneer Press management for publishing it.

Conservative subscribers to the Star Tribune, I encourage you consider the Pioneer Press as a better option (and if you cancel on them, make sure to tell them why). I also encourage any readers of this Westover piece to send a note to the editors (letters@pioneerpress.com) expressing your feelings about it. They've taken a bold step by publishing it and they need to know it's appreciated.
SOA Update: Resistance Is Futile

Craig Westover, People's Republic of Minnesota, Tom York (yes, that Tom York), and Jo's Attic have all enlisted in the Northern Alliance crusade. (Jo also has a good Thanksgiving post that you all should check out.)

We have now reached the $4K plateau and are within a fedora's toss of Roger L. Simon. Overall, over $20,000 has been raised for SOA through the bloggers challenge. If you haven't thrown a few bucks the SOA's way, you can do so here.

UPDATE: FLATLANDER and Helloooo, Chapter Two join the fun.

Folks, our goal for today is to reach five grand. Think about all the quality writing brought to you by the Northern Alliance (and it's many allies) and do your part to keep that writing coming. The next ten contributors will receive a special, limited edition NARN tote bag. Don't wait. With a sweet logo like this, these babies will become collector's items in no time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

SOA Update: Join Us, and we can destroy the Emperor

Bogus Gold, Our House, and the Alpha Dogs of the Northern Alliance, SPITBULL, have all joined the Northern Alliance Dream Team.

You can sign up here.

You can make a donation here.

We're over the $3000 barrier and closing fast on Roger L. Simon.
Raising The Bar Or Sprawled Under It?

Piggybacking on Saint Paul's immortal closing words in his post on the return of Twins Geek --"Don't suck"-- Bono offers up similar sentiments in Kenneth Tanner's review of U2's new album at National Review Online:

Neil McCormick reports that after working five-day weeks for about a year the band had nearly the same set of songs ready for release last October, but it sensed an "indefinable magic" was missing. U2 spent another year working to find it. Bono told one reporter, "Whether it's Catholic guilt or whatever it is, it's not on to have this life that we've been given --this amazing life-- and be crap."

That's the same drive for perfection that explains Atomizer's rather infrequent posting.
Blogger, Interrupted

John Bonnes, The Twins Geek, runs the finest baseball blog in town. At least he used to. Last year he was snapped up by the Star Tribune, blogging from their sports pages, and I lost track of him. It wasn't a boycott, I assure you. My quarrels with the bias of the Star Tribune never extended to the sports page. In fact, I've never stopped reading any sections of the Star Tribune, via its website. (Although I'll never again support them via a subscription. I know they get the overwhelming majority of their revenues via ad sales and my Web patronage probably still helps them in that regard. But, as of yet, we haven't figured out a way to deny them on that end. Besides this of course.)

But I did stop reading the Twins Geek. Hard to say exactly why. His new interface was clumsy and irritating. The Star Tribune didn't consistently display the link to his site in the same place. And on some level, his content changed. Again, it's hard to say precisely how, but it seemed more tentative, obvious, dare I say, institutionalized. Kind of like a Jim Souhan column. (What a bland disappointment he's turned out to be so far.) These issues conspired to take the Twins Geek from a daily read down to a once a month, maybe.

I'm sure he didn't miss my traffic, or that from the since removed, highly exclusive blogroll link from Fraters Libertas. He was claiming 100,000 hits a month, which doesn't seem like all that much , given his status a subsidiary of the dominant news website in the market. But he seemed happy about it, so it must have been an improvement. And I'm sure he was getting paid something for his efforts, which is an infinite improvement for a guy coming from the teaming ranks of our blog-for-love proletariat.

But it looks like the gravy train is over for the Twins Geek. In his presumptive final post for the Star Tribune, he announces the end of their relationship. It doesn't exactly sound like he received a gold watch. Or even an email:

This experiment ends this week, I think, since our contract was only valid through the end of October.

"I think"? At least former Reader Representative Lou Gelfand got the courtesy of a death blow phone call, and an opportunity to accept a humiliating demotion, before he got bounced (for allegedly age discriminatory reasons - lawsuit pending).

Unfortunately, it sounds like Bonnes's tenure included a rather strained relationship with his new mainstream media colleagues. They wouldn't let him play any of their reindeer games, for the most base and most ancient motivations of all. Greed and pride. And, oh yeah, Powerline:

But the most serious criticism was from journalists who felt that the weblog was an end-around of their union, providing additional sports coverage without paying the dictated wage to a member of the writer's guild. In the bigger picture, a divisive presidential campaign increased tensions, when biased bloggers would take shots at mainstream media coverage. Many journalists ended up reacting to bloggers the way pharisees reacted to self-proclaimed prophets.

A couple of corporate lawyers in their pajamas expose the corruption of CBS News and ruin Dan Rather, and the vindictive Star Tribune reporters and editors take it out on the most vulnerable target available, the ol' Twins Geek. A sad commentary on maturity and professional ethics, to say the least.

There is a silver lining to this dark cloud of deadly sins:

As soon as I can get my act together, I'll be moving the blog back to my old site, which you'll be able to access at TwinsGeek.com. I'd be honored if you'll continue to join me.

And I will. Welcome home TwinsGeek, back to the land of no union coercion, no dictated wages, and no precious political sensibilities dictating how far you can progress. As you may recall, we just have one rule here for success. Don't suck.
SOA Update: The Alliance Can Die But Cannot Yield

Mitch, Captain Ed, and Power Line have joined the fray. Thanks to your generous donations, we've now passed Jeff Jarvis and taken the lead in the team category. But we can't let down now. The competition runs until December 15th and you can bet that Jarvis and his big media buddies (the most interesting theory I've heard is that Dan Rather is going to be joining BuzzMachine) to launch an orchestrated, below-the-belt smear campaign to secure victory. Those people will do anything to win.

We also would like to take a run at the leaders in the individual category as well. Roger L. Simon's Hollywood cabal seems to be running out of steam (too much money spent on Botox apparently) and Charles Johnson from Little Green Footballs has surged to the lead. Rumor has it that he's being backed by Saudi oil money.

Bill Hobbs from HobbsOnline has also joined the Northern Alliance team. Just because you're not officially part of the Northern Alliance doesn't mean that you can't join the SOA team. We encourage other bloggers to climb onto the bandwagon. Yes, even those damn dirty apes.

UPDATE: Mad Anthony has joined the Northern Alliance team and we're up over the two grand mark. LGF continues to lead among individual blogs, but reports indicate that Roger L. Simon is staying close thanks to a large donation from Alec Baldwin.

UPDATE II: In what may prove to be a dagger to the black heart of Jeff Jarvis, Hugh Hewitt has thrown his ample weight behind the Northern Alliace cause. When Ralphie is with you, who can be against you?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Spirit of America Throws Down

And we pick up the challenge:

Leading bloggers are competing to raise funds to benefit the people of Iraq. 100% of all donations go to needs selected by these bloggers. Many of our projects support requests made by Americans serving in Iraq (Marines, Army, SeaBees) for goods that help the Iraqi people. Other projects directly support Iraqis who are on the front lines of building a better future for Iraq.

You can donate to this very worthy cause via the Northern Alliance team here. Give early, give often.

At this point, our main competition in the team category appears to be Jeff Jarvis from BuzzMachine. Donate now and help us introduce the BuzzMachine to the wood chipper in a manner reminiscent of the Coen Brothers.

Read more about the Spirit of America.

UPDATE: Jim Hake from SOA e-mails:

Thanks for joining the Challenge. Your trash talk re: Jarvis and the Buzzmachine team was hilarious. Fargo is one of my all time favorites.

Do you know if all the other Northern Alliance bloggers going to get involved? What a beautiful thing that would/will be!


King is in. The dominoes are starting to fall.

We need to pick up the pace if we're going to catch Jarvis and his big media money. Meanwhile, Roger L. Simon is raking in dough hand over fist from his Hollywood buddies and running away in the individual blog category. Don't let the elites like Jarvis and Simon get all the glory. Make your voice heard by dropping a donation to the Northern Alliance team. We're the voice of the Joe Six Packs and Sally Housecoats here in flyover country. Help take our country back.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Hewitt Tabernacle Choir

Jonathan at Mangled Cat has recently relocated to Utah and is starting a a campaign to bring Hugh Hewitt and his radio show to the Beehive State. Just remember not to let him near a snowmobile. The trees of Colorado have already suffered. Let's not make the same mistake in Utah.
Mailbag

Tim from Colorado disagrees with my views on Target and the Salvation Army:

What is with you this week? First it was the cats and now the Salvation Army?

Is it really that hard to part with your pocket change? That's all they're asking for.

I'm with Hugh on this one. And as a Den Leader, I bypass United Way and give directly to the BSA.

My dad belongs to Optimists International. His Optimist Club volunteered to help the Salvation Army ring bells and collect donations every year, which meant that I was volunteered to help as well. So maybe I have a little more empathy for them. But I also remember the Salvation Army was the first organization to help out at Ground Zero.

Tell you what, the next time I pass a Salvation Army kettle, I'll toss in a little for you too.


I'll give them much more than pocket change if they just approach me in the proper manner.

James from Folsom, CA has my back on the matter:

I thought Hugh was/is a little overwrought on the Target - Salvation Army Kerfuffle as well. Last week, I was walking into the Mall of America via Sears and the second floor walkway and there was the Salvation Army lady at the other end of the walkway ringing her bell. (hmm, that sounds,...).

Have you ever listened to that bell in one of the MOA walkways? You don't know annoying until you've made that long walk. And lord have mercy on the poor Sears employees who work at the register just inside that door. One of them is bound to come out there one day and go all baby seal on her ass.


Rick wishes to share his own United Way story:

I haven't given to the United Way since at least 1988, out of principle. Fortunately, my current employer doesn't use the brownshirted tactics that were exercised at a small privately held company I once worked for. I stopped filling out my United Way card back in 1996 or so, when I realized the purpose of filling out the card was their way of quilting me into donating. Actually, the weird thing was they were more concerned about my filling out that little card than they were my actually giving anything. Once I was actually offered money to sign and turn in a card (I refused). What they spent to achieve 100% participation I don't know, but I would bet if they just gave the money they used on the campaign to charity, everyone would have been ahead.

What really set me against United Way was how some individuals would use the Campaign to ingratiate themselves to management. Guys that wouldn't spit on head if your hair was on fire, were waltzing around in $30 united way shirts, just to the show the boss how committed they were. I wouldn't be surprised that my non-participation had a lot to do with my career stalling there.

Like you, I do my share outside of United Way. By United Way standards, way more than my share.


Finally, Daniel has a minor quibble with my plans for Osama coming back to the US:

How about multiple plastic bags?

Okay with me. As long as his head is in one of them. Intact.
Talkin' Tunes

Terrie has an exhaustive post on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of all time at Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion. She doesn't cover all five hundred tracks, but does tackle quite a few of them. And she includes a list of songs that she would have added to the list.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

You Call That A Martini?

Went out to dinner tonight to celebrate my Ma's birthday. Timber Lodge Steak House. The food was serviceable, the service passable if a bit annoying (she must have just completed her "upsell" training). And the Lodge Lager was a perfectly quaffable brew. But the all important pre-dinner cocktail left much to be desired.

I ordered a Martini. With Bombay Sapphire Gin. My father did the same.

What we got was a mess. First off it arrived in a Old Fashioned glass, not the traditional Martini receptacle. A minor point of irritation perhaps, but presentation is part of the package. An important part.

Then there was the ice. I was never asked if I preferred my Martini neat or on the rocks. In my book, there should not even be a choice. While proper Martinis are chilled, they don't come with ice. Ever.

Tonight, mine came with enough ice to sink a ship. Not the Titanic mind you, but it could have caused the Andrea Doria to ease into the water like an old man into a nice warm bath. The problem with ice of course is that it's not in a stable state at room temperature. It has a tendency to be transformed into water rather rapidly. Which leads to the dreaded D word. Dilution. Not in my Martini damnit.

The came the Vermouth. I prefer a whisper, a subtle hint of Vermouth in my Martini. Tonight, I had James Carville like proportions of Vermouth in my Martini. Loud, obnoxious, and in my face.

Worst Martini ever? Probably not. Worst Martini in many a year? Definitely. Chances that I patronize Timber Lodge again any time soon? Slim to none.
Mr. Yuck, Stand By

Expatriate Minnesotan Chuck (currently residing in Oregon) writes in to say I may have let the Star Tribune off the hook too quickly yesterday, regarding their use of "seize on" to characterize the Bush administration's referencing the UN Oil for Food Scandal to help justify the invasion of Iraq.

Dear Sir,

Regarding the post, 'Yes, They Have No Bias (Today)', the semantics of the Strib article are curious, indeed. The explanation you received provided some clarification and justification for the usage in question. However, the underlying precept that the Oil For Food hubbub was unknown prior to the Iraq invasion in March 2003 is simply false. It was very well documented. Kenneth Pollack, the former CIA cranium wrench and current Brookings fellow lays out the case in great detail in, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (Random House, 2002). Just one example of many, I'm sure.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy you guys! Too bad about the Gophers, Vikings, etc.


I like that "Too bad about the Vikings and Gophers" sign-off from Chuck. It's timeless. At any point in the last 40 years, one Minnesotan could write that to another and it would be entirely appropriate and fully understood.

Regarding Chuck's other assertion, that the Oil for Food Scandal was publicized before the invasion of Iraq, I cannot personally verify it. I didn't read Pollack's book, although it sounds fascinating, and I can find no corroborating excerpts on the Web. Furthermore, in order to comprehensively prove the term "seized on" was biased, one would have to show that the Bush administration was using this justification prior to the invasion. My admittedly cursory Web search provides no evidence of this. And neither does my steel trap-like memory of the administration's rhetoric preceding the war.

Dear readers, it does pain me to defend the Star Tribune in this manner. But in this high stakes game for the hearts and minds of the general public, our standards must be high. Yes, higher than even the Star Tribune. For if I was employed by them, all I would need to do is claim "a guy named Bruce" told me the evidence existed.

By the way, I'm about 58% convinced Nick Coleman made up "a guy named Bruce" in his column yesterday. Coleman provided full names for other unfortunate shoppers he ambushed and badgered at Cub Foods on East Lake St. Why does "a guy named Bruce" merit any less journalistic rigor?

And the scenario was a little too perfect for reality. Nick's belaboring the point that people don't care as much as he does for a murder victim, and then some guy arrogantly pulls up in a truck, parks on the exact spot where the victim laid, and he happened to be listening to a right wing radio blowhard? Please. This kind of miraculous coincidence and broad stereotyping is reserved for only the hoariest of clich├ęd Matlock episodes (the reruns of which are very popular among people in Nick's age cohort).

Speaking of broad stereotyping, Greg (proprietor of What Attitude Problem?) writes in with further skepticism about Nick Coleman and "Bruce":

I don't know, man. I was under the impression that any guy named Bruce was probably gay and therefore couldn't be listening to a rightwing blowhard on the radio. He would have had to have been listening to a leftwing blowhard, and that would have put him smack in the middle of Talk of the Nation with Neal Conan on KNOW 91.1 FM. And frankly, Neal's hardly what anyone would consider a blowhard. I mean, come on, the guy's on NPR. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

I don't know about that either. I am unaware of any statistical correlation between the name "Bruce" and alternative lifestyles. If Greg can run that down for us, it could be the key piece of evidence against Nick Coleman in a Jayson Blair like fraud case. And the basis for a class action defamation lawsuit against Nick Coleman by all city of Minneapolis employees named "Bruce."
Steven Vincent Postponed

Due to a death in the family, Steven Vincent will not be appearing on today's NARN show as promised. He will be on next week to discuss his book In The Red Zone, which details his two trips to Iraq and his views on the Iraqi people, the war, and the future of Iraq.

I finished the book off yesterday and I can't recommend it highly enough. You can order it now from Spence Publishing at a special price.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Off Target

First Arlen Specter, now Target. What will Hugh be wrong about next?

I don't want to come off as having a heart full of unwashed socks, but when I heard that Target banned the clangorous cacophoners of the Salvation Army I was actually pleased. Although they may be doing very good works, I find their presence in front of retial stores annoying and quite unnecessary. If I want to get out and do a little shopping, I don't need somebody banging away on a bell and asking me to unload my loose change in a kettle.

I have nothing against the Salvation Army itself. It's just that for me, charity begins and ends at home. During the course of the year, I make donations to many different charitable organizations. I do not however participate in what is becoming the almost mandatory workplace obligation to support the United Way. I don't believe in the stance that the United Way takes on some issues and I definitely don't believe that it delivers the most bang for my buck. But most of all I resent the creeping corporate intrusiveness into what I consider to be a very personal part of my life. What I elect to give or not give to charity is nobody's business but my own. I know this is not directly connected to the Target controversy, it's just that I prefer to take care of my personal giving on my own terms, in private. Not when I'm at work and not when I'm running errands during the Christmas season. And, after all, isn't that the way it's really supposed to be done?

More on Target from Our House and Plastic Hallway.

Yes, They Have No Bias (Today)

The other day, while reviewing a Star Tribune article about the UN Oil for Food scandal, I came across a paragraph that sent my media bias sensors off. Not content to rage against the machine with a blog post, I wrote that paragraph's author, seeking answers and redress. Here is the unedited exchange, names hidden to protect the innocent:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Mr. REPORTER - regarding your article on Senator Norm Coleman's investigation into the UN Oil for Food program (published on Nov. 16), I took note of this sentence:

"The Bush administration has seized on the reports to underscore its belief that the U.N. sanctions were not an effective constraint on Saddam's long-term military ambitions, thus providing further justification for the U.S. military intervention."

I find the use of the term "seized on" to be curious. The Merriam-Webster definitions of "seize" being:

1) to lay hold of or take possession by force
2) arrest
3) understand
4) to attack or overwhelm physically: afflict

synonyms: take, grasp, clutch, snatch, or grab

With the exception of definition 3 (which makes no sense in context with your sentence), each one of these terms has a negative connotation. This implies that the Bush administration's use of these reports to provide evidence to its claims (of the need to bypass the UN regarding Iraq), is illegitimate or questionable. Or perhaps that their use of this particular justification is a desperate gesture, as a man would seize a life raft if drowning.

The term "seized on" is clearly value-laden. It seems to me a more balanced, and accurate, term to use would have been "referenced" or "cited". What were your thoughts regarding the use of "seized on"? Or did you not give it any thought, and this was the term that naturally sprang from your own opinion of the situation?

Please let me know, thank you.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mr. CURIOUS CITIZEN

Thanks for the note, and your interest. I confess that you gave the phrase a lot more thought than I did.

Looking over your analysis, I would say that the meaning I intended is closest to the first definition you found, i.e., to take possession (forcefully, if not by force). That is, I think it's fair to say that the White House has taken hold of these new reports after the fact, since the allegations about the abuse of the oil-for-food program did not come to light until after the invasion of Iraq. That is not to place a value judgment on what happened. It's merely a fact that these new revelations have been used as further justification for a policy that was in place before they were uncovered. "Seized on..." is a common phrase used to describe a process where new facts are adduced, ex post facto, in support of a previously established argument.

Anyway, that's how I meant it. No negative slant was intended on my part, and I'm sorry if that's the impression you got. Thanks for writing.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I still contend "seized on" is a negatively value laden term, and that "referenced" or "cited" would be an improvement in objectivity. But the reporter presents a reasonable argument for its use. I commend him for taking the time to explain it to me and I withdraw this specific insinuation of bias. He will not receive today's Mr. Yuk salute.

That is reserved for Nick Coleman, who, in the course of exploiting a murder to bolster his self image as the imperious conscience of the Twin Cities, drops this sentence on the masses:

Outside in the parking lot, right over the spot where Tremaine Finley bled, a City of Lakes street truck pulled up, and the driver got out to go into the grocery and buy a snack. That left a guy named Bruce resting in the passenger's seat, listening to a right-wing blowhard on the radio.

Assuming Coleman didn't just make this whole thing up (a big assumption), this encounter must have occurred sometime yesterday. Meaning "that guy named Bruce" couldn't have been listening to the Northern Alliance Radio Network (12 - 3 PM Saturdays. Replay 9 PM - midnight, Sundays). Which is too bad. We'll take all the publicity we can get - even a vague, snide mention in a Nick Coleman column. (Who was he talking about? That frothing maniac Hugh Hewitt and his wild-eyed campaign to help the Salvation Army?)

Regarding NARN, I'm taking tomorrow's show off. But I have it on good authority that the Elder and the rest of the crew will be blowing harder than ever. And maybe, just maybe, the topic of Nick Coleman will be addressed. And if Nick isn't listening, well, we'll always have "a guy named Bruce" in our corner.
Come Children, Don't Be Afraid

Another local blog joins the scene. Get in line for pain releasing refreshments from the The Kool Aid Report.
Captain Ed Soft on Terrorism?

Does Ed really think that the prosecution of the war on terror is best left to the courts?!?

Obviously, I'd prefer to see Osama perp-walked back to the US to stand trial for the cowardly murder of 3,000 American civilians, but that seems to be getting closer.

Perp-walking is for the ODBs and Phyliss Khans of the world. The only way I prefer to see Osama coming back to the US is in a plastic bag.
A Footnote to Her Story

This brave new world of information access via the Internet has evolved to the next level with news of this startling development. Fraters Libertas is to be used as primary source material for academic research.

It's true. A dedicated young scholar named Dean has been sentenced to compose a research paper on alleged writer Carol Bly. She's the local author of such grain worshipping classics as "My Lord Bag of Rice." And, according to reports, in the field of self-help victim identity fantasy therapy prose construction, she's some sort of god.

Bly is also the author of the following bon mot, tossed from her precious, sheltered literary perch, directly in the face of we, the people. It's regarding the bankruptcy and closing of Ruminator Books in St Paul:

If America hadn't gone totally junk culture, totally commercial, bookstores like Ruminator wouldn't have any trouble at all," Bly added. "David [Unowsky] would have done just fine at the tail end of the 19th century. You can't sell Shakespeare to someone who comes in looking for a discount paperback copy of 'Reagan's OK, You're OK.' "

To which I was forced to reply, in defense of my beloved country:

I guess I can understand Carol Bly's hostility to success. Her latest page turner is called "My Lord Bag of Rice". Nice title, sounds like a profile of a cult devoted to worshipping Uncle Ben. Which would be a far more interesting topic than what Ms. Bly actually penned:

eleven exquisitely observed stories about sharp-eyed characters who stand a little apart from their peers, nurturing a hardy sense of self-worth in a mostly mediocre world.

Ugh. I just about lapsed into a coma cutting and pasting that description, I can't imagine the torture of actually trying to read that awful crap. But, believe it or not, Carol Bly is an author whose books the Ruminator carried. Carried them right to its grave. Or did Carol Bly and her kind carry the Ruminator to its grave?


Which brings us back to young scholar Dean. Thanks to his college course curricula, he has to endure the torture of reading Carol Bly books. (Where's that Geneva Convention when you need it?) In his tireless research of her, he did some Googling and there on the top of page 5 for 'Carol Bly' he discovered the above FL analysis. Which turned out to be an oasis of sanity for Dean:

I was looking for information on Carol Bly because I have to do a critical research paper on her. I found your comment on her fun and a tension release.

It is so hard to write a 2,000 plus word essay on things that make my skin crawl. I like what you said that you can't read that crap. I can't either. She is an arrogant, self-centered, holier-than-thou, thumb sucking Liberal.

Her books are so caught up in herself and yet the reviewers think she is so unselfish and a great writer, with such good insight, and on and on. Her focus is on man hating and rescuing women, to me it sounds more and more like she is a lesbian.
(SP note - with those qualifications, to me it sounds like she could be a candidate to be Minneapolis's new fire chief.)

Bly gives lectures on college campuses and speaks her views which have nothing to do with the field of literature. In a draft of my paper, I mentioned Bly has gone into liberal political opinions that I don't agree with. My teacher said that this had no place in my paper because she has a right to her opinion. Well I do to and that is mine! But I know for the grade I have to go with the flow.

I certainly empathize with Dean. I don't know what school he's attending, but the conservative dissidents at the U of MN used to refer to the Political Science department as Political Silence. And the English department was far worse than Poli Sci ever was, in terms of forced group think and political indoctrination.

But Dean's right, for now he should do what he needs to do to pass the class. After college, he can start blogging and begin to experience some real intellectual freedom.

Scholars of America and other seekers of truth, if you'd like to read more about Ruminator Books and Carol Bly's insidious role in its demise, check out this other fine blog post. And please send along any footnote citations my way. I just love to be footnoted.
Cancer Benefit

Flash from Centrisity is promoting a cancer benefit today for a man who really could use some help. Check out the details and, if you can, please make a donation to a very worthy cause.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Don't Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Professor Bainbridge debates the merits of smoking bans in a column at TCS:

The mere existence of an externality does not justify legislation, however. In a free society, with limited government and respect for private property rights, at least two conditions must be satisfied before government intervention is warranted. First, my actions must in fact produce external costs. Second, there must be a market failure -- that is, people must be unable to solve the problem without government help.

Because I've conceded the first prong of the test, the merit of public smoking bans comes down to the question of whether the problem can be solved through private ordering. In other words, if we let the owners of private property decide whether people will be allowed to smoke on their premises, will non-smokers be exposed to unreasonable costs?

An affirmative answer is clearly appropriate in some situations. There are some public places in which non-smokers may find themselves a 'captive audience' -- that is, situations in which the non-smoker cannot avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Government offices that serve the public are a good example. If a non-smoker gets a traffic ticket, he may have no choice but to go down to the courthouse. A smoking ban thus might be reasonable in the court building.

These sorts of situations are quite limited, however. Let's start with the most basic example: my backyard. Should I have the right to smoke a cigar on my back porch, where the only ones who smells it are my dogs? Presumably so, since I'm not imposing on anyone (my dogs seem to like the smell).

If you admit that a ban on smoking in my backyard is not appropriate, let's turn to restaurants. Smoking bans routinely apply to restaurants, but restaurants are clearly places in which private ordering can work and in which government intervention is unnecessary.

None Dare Call It Racism

When we last left cartoonist Pat Oliphant he was slandering the Swiftvets as nothing but drunken redneck wannabes.

Now Peter brings our attention to two cartoons (one by Oliphant) that portray Dr. Condoleezza Rice in a less than flattering, and quite possibly racist manner:

If this cartoon were about a Democrat official it would be viewed as racist, but since it is about a Republican official (C. Rice) it is viewed (by the elite news media) as cute.



Here's another offensive one by Jeff Danziger which depicts Dr. Rice as a barefoot "mammy" . It is reminiscent of the stereotyped mammy in the movie "Gone with the Wind" who remarked "I don't know nothing about babies."



I have a hard imagining that these cartoonists would get away with using the same offensive imagery against a Charlie Rangel or Barack Obama.
What Dreams May Come

20 days ago, while riffling though my wad of cabbage, I came across a dollar bill with one of those "Where's George?" stamps. I've seen these before, but never had the time, inclination, or memory to register it on the Web site before dispatching it back out into the economy. Fortunately, this one caught me at the right time and right place, so register it I did.

Now, joy of joys, 20 days later I have been alerted that my little George has traveled 434 miles away, all the way to Alma, Michigan. According the to the recipient there, it was procured at the BK Lounge in Ithaca, Michigan. Sadly, no information exists on the Internet about that particular establishment, but the city itself sounds sounds fantastic:

The seat of Gratiot County, Ithaca combines a serene, historic downtown business district with a recently developed industrial park on the east side near the U.S.-27 expressway and beautiful Woodland Park on the west.

A serene, historic downtown business district AND a recently developed industrial park by the highway. It sounds like some sort of Norman Rockwell New Urbanist Eden. It gets better:

Ithaca's population abounds in creative energy, as evidenced in the work of a local sculptor displayed on lawns north of town, several very attractive gift and antique shops, a motel owner who sculpts graceful images of sea life, and a native son, Dick Allen, who has served in the Michigan Legislature, chaired the Michigan State Fair, and founded the DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw) Bicycle Tour that precedes each Labor Day weekend.

We'll have to take their word for it that the motel owner's sculptures of sea life are indeed graceful. For they provide no name, and a Google search for graceful motel owners proved to be futile (and rather disturbing). Ah well, maybe someday F2356xxx2D will be exchanged for an elegant porcelain mackerel or something and we'll know for sure. Until then, we can dream.

Dreams - that's the whole point of Where's George. Where will our dreams lead next? Perrinton, Michigan? Mesick, Michigan? Bad Axe, Michigan? We shall see. But wherever George goes, he'll always have a home in my wallet. And he's free to bring any friends named Ben or Ulysses back with him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sitting Stilla In Manila

In a couple of previous posts, I mentioned that my unusual work schedule had left me with scant opportunity to see much of Manila when I was there last week. But on Friday, I was finally able to break away for a brief tour of the city.

We wrapped up our work for the week at around 3am on Friday morning. My return flight to Minneapolis (via Tokyo) didn't depart until Saturday at 8am, so I had a window to do a little site seeing. A co-worker and I arranged a city tour through the hotel. It was scheduled to depart at 1pm and return at 4pm, which fit our schedule nicely.

It turned out to just be the two of us and our guide Jordan (just Jordan not Michael as he reminded us). We pulled out of the hotel in a minivan at just after 1pm and were off to see the city. Which for the most part meant fighting the incredible levels of traffic which choke Manila. For $22 you too can be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic battling buses, the ubiquitous Jeepneys, taxis, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bikes, and just about anything else on wheels that you can imagine.

Previous travel experience in Mexico and China (and riding with the Nihlist In Golf Pants) has taught me that it's best to not look straight ahead when you're a passenger in these situations. You don't really want to know just how close you actually come to being pan caked, sideswiped, and rear ended. To say nothing of your own vehicle hitting pedestrians and bicyclists. Multiple times. Close calls aren't the exception but the rule. It takes a special combination of steady nerves and certainty of purpose for a driver to survive such conditions, and as a passenger all you can do is pray that the person behind the wheel who you're entrusting your life to has it. Thankfully, Jordan had it in spades.

And he was a good guide as well. We spent most of the tour driving (or what passes for driving in Manila) around with Jordan pointing out various landmarks. The legacy of the Marcos's still hangs heavy over the city. Literally heavy. I don't know if Imelda or Ferdinand had a piece of the concrete game in the Philippines (chances are they did since they seemed to have a finger in almost everything), but they definitely had an affinity for cement. Building a theater? Cement. An arts center? Cement. The arena where the "Thriller In Manila" took place? Cement. The Filipino Senate building? Cement, cement, and more cement. Okay they did build a palace of coconuts (the aptly named Coconut Palace), but for the most part the Marcos's construction material of choice was cement.

Which gives parts of the city a drab, depressing Eastern European feel. Huge blocky, concrete buildings which have been stained by the omnipresent pollution and oppressive humidity. They probably never were all that attractive to begin with, now they are eyesores which are a blight on the city. And we're not exactly talking about a city with a lot of bright spots to begin with.

One of the things that struck me as soon as I arrived in Manila was the Christmas fervor that gripes the city. Walking off the plane we were greeted by Christmas lights, decorations, and carols playing over the PA system at the airport. There's something strangely unsettling about hearing the strains of "White Christmas" upon your arrival in such a tropical clime. It just doesn't seem right.

And as we drove around the city, we noticed more and more of the Christmas spirit. Stores along the sides of the road offered hundreds of circular ceramic Christmas decorations that featured an array of colorful lights. A giant Santa loomed over the entrance of an amusement park.

We stopped at a park near the U.S. Embassy which featured a memorial to the National Hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose P. Rizal who was executed by the Spanish in 1896. As we strolled through the park, sweating in the midday sun, eighty-five degree temperature, and high humidity, we were once again treated to the sounds of Christmas carols as "Winter Wonderland" blared from the park's loudspeakers. It was very surreal. The park also featured a bust that I initially took for Joseph Stalin. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be simply another hero of the Philippines.

One of the interesting stops on our short tour was a visit to the Intramuros: the walled city originally constructed by the Spanish in 1571. During the days of Spanish rule there was a large moat around the Intramuros. After Admiral Dewey helped force the Spanish to cry "no mas" in the Spanish-American War, the United States took control of the Philippines and the Intramuros. The Yanks promptly filled in the moat around the walled city, and, in an act that I find quintessentially American, they built a golf course. Where you can still swing the sticks to this day (this is a shot of the tee box on the first hole).

Fort Santiago is located within the Intramuros near the point where the Pasig River enters Manila Bay. The fort was built by the Spanish and served as headquarters at various times for Spanish, American, and Japanese military forces. It was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945, but has been reconstructed (although it is still a work in progress). The place reeks of history (or was that the river?) and as you walk around you can almost visualize the events that took place there. The cell where Dr. Rizal spent his last day on earth has been moved to the fort and a statue and museum dedicated to his life. You can also visit the Wall of Martyrs, in memory of the 600 Filipino guerrillas and civilians whose bodies were found inside the fort after it was liberated in 1945.

The last stop on our three --now turned five-- hour tour was the American military cemetery. It would turn out to be the highlight of the day. The cemetery is an eerily beautiful and sobering place. It's layout is spectacular and the scenery is breathtaking. The lavish landscaping and perfectly manicured grounds give it the appearance of a botanical garden.

We arrived shortly before the cemetery was set to close and so were alone except for a few workers refurbishing the memorial hemicycles. Alone with 17,206 white marble crosses and Stars of David marking the final resting of American servicemen who fell in the Second World War.




There are also 36,285 names inscribed in the walls of the hemicycles, listing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines whose remains have not been identified or were lost or buried at sea.




It was an overwhelming experience to walk among the crosses, stopping to occasionally read the names of the individual servicemen. I was struck by the fact that, in twenty cases, two brothers lay buried side by side. Words cannot do justice to the feelings that such a place evokes, and so I'll leave it to pictures:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

We were at the cemetery on November 12th, and the memorial tower was still decorated with wreaths sent by various countries in honor of Veterans Day. I was grateful that we had been able to visit the cemetery that day, and I could not imagine a more meaningful way to fully appreciate the sacrifices of our nations veterans. The tour of Manila proved more than worth the time and money.