Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 Blogs Of Distinction Awards

2004 Blogs Of Distinction Awards

Last year Saint Paul unveiled the inaugural Blogs of Distinction Awards. He explained his rationale for the creation of the BODies thusly:

Why are we presuming to pass judgment on the world of amateur opinion editorializing? Well, why not us? This year, blogging awards have proliferated on the Internet like flashing, pulsating, popping ads on TwinsGeek.

Worse yet, these unregulated arbiters of blogging excellence keep giving top recognition to the likes of that whiny kid from Star Trek and Hugh Hewitt. (No, they're not the same person.) The laughable injustice of these awards has compelled us to act.

In summary, us presenting blogging awards may be a bad idea. But it's a bad idea whose time has come! So, without further ado, here are the official 2003 Blogs of Distinction. To all winners please remember, we kid because we love.

The trend of over hyped blog awards has continued in 2004 with some little known publication called Time even getting into the act. We need the BODies now more than ever.

Unfortunately, putting together the BODies was seriously cutting into Saint Paul's New Year's Eve drinking time. He just can't get into the proper holiday spirit unless he's planted on a bar stool with or three under his belt by noon.

I'd like to say that Saint Paul passed the BODie baton to me, but in reality I've reluctantly picked it up from the ground after he carelessly tossed it aside. I will do my best to keep the franchise alive and kicking for another year.

Dim the house lights please. It's time for the presentations to begin.

The Least Handiest Handyman In the Blogosphere Award

Runner up: Hugh Hewitt whose definition of a do-it-yourself home project is putting up his Christmas lights all be himself. Well, almost by himself. The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt did have to get the ladder out for him again this year.

Winner: James Lileks is a talented scribe with a rapier wit. But when it comes to home improvements around Jasperwood such as putting shelves up in a basement storage space or adding a "lick of paint" to the side of his garage door he wisely seeks professional help.

The Sugar Ray Leonard Award For Repetitive and Meaningless Promises of Retirement

Winner: Coming back to claim a BODie for the second straight year is Rachel Lucas, who has once again returned to blogging, this time with the promise:

...consider yourselves forewarned that I have a lot to bitch about, as it has been building up for some months now, and this blog is not going to be as nice as Piquant Rants. Yeah that's right I said not as nice.

Curse words will be used. Insults tossed forth carelessly. That sort of thing. My former blog got to be markedly unpleasant for me the minute I started worrying what elderly relatives or future in-laws or my more conservative section of readers would think if I said I hope Barbra Streisand suffers from chronic yeast infections.

So screw all that. No more touchy-worry-cringey manners.

Almost makes one pine for the kindler, gentler days of "asshat" doesn't it?

The Award For Most Underappreciated Blog of 2004

Winner: You probably haven't heard of the relatively obscure local blog known as Power Line, but the three law talking guys who write there are doing some pretty good stuff. When are they going to start getting the recognition that they so richly deserve?

The Award For Least Descriptive Blog Title
For the second year in a row, this award is taken home by Blog of the Moderate Left , for even-handed, moderate commentary such as this:

Oh and closed circuit to Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN): You have now lost my vote. Permanently. The DFL could run Josef Stalin against you, and I'd vote for him.

As readers of that blog know, its proprietor considers Josef Stalin to be a fellow moderate.

The World Still Turns Without You Award

Runner Up: Captain Ed who felt that he had to explain why he only had two posts on Christmas Eve. Ummm, Ed? We sort of figured that you were busy with the whole holiday thing.

Winner: Mitch Berg at Shot In The Dark who was compelled to bring in a guest blogger when he was out of town for a few days. God knows life wouldn't be the same without daily updates at SITD.

The Award For Best Satirical Look At A Real Life Married Couple

Honorable Mention: Our own Saint Paul for his controversial and critically acclaimed Newspaper Newlyweds.

Runner Up: The colorful couple at Spitbull, who prove that it's possible to share a bed as well as a blog.

Winner: The dynamic duo of David Strom and Margaret Martin from Our House, showing that marriage is about more than love. It's also about raising parakeets, lusting after bar waitresses and Canadian television personalities, and slashing rates on income taxes for upper income brackets.

The Monty Hall Award For Worst Blog Offer Of The Year

Winner: rphaedrus's One Used Cat

His name is King. He is a senior cat with diabetes, and I don't see a good way to take care of his needs with my pending travel. If someone would be willing to adopt him - temporarily or permanently - I would be greatly indebted.

Some things to know:

* He is Diabetic. He needs regular visits to a vet, sometimes needs regular insulin shots, and tends to go to the bathroom more than normal cats, meaning he goes through more litter.

* He can be tempermental. To those who he trusts and feels comfortable with, he is the most trusting, loving cat you'll ever meet. Seriously - I can do anything with him. However, to those he hasn't learned to trust, he can be touchy. If they don't make a point to say hi to him and they are too loud or energetic, he tends to react poorly. Needless to say, he should NOT be in a household with children or hyper dogs. If you are the one who feeds him and treat him affectionately, you will probably be one of the ones he trusts. He also likes women a lot better than he likes men.

Some of these negative traits are due to the fact that he was abused by his former owner's boyfriend. Some of them are because he is part Russian Blue, and they are like that.

Don't wait to act on this one. An offer this good just can't last.

The "Haley's Comet" Award For Rare Blogging Posts

There are many contenders for this coveted award, as the recipient is likely to be holding down a real job with a real life outside of blogging. Finalists who did not make the cut included our own Atomizer, who after a recent wedding will be expected to up his productivity. Another finalist was the Nihilist In Golf Pants, though the interminable lengths of his posts when he gets around to them led to his eventual downfall. The runner up in this category is our own J.B. Doubtless whose posts are rarer than a gourmet meal at TGI Fridays, and coincidentally consist of generally misguided superlatives related to the food at Fridays, Applebee's, and other mediocre establishments.

And the winner is...

Mr. Cranky, who managed to crank out all of six posts in the entire year. Remember folks, it's not the quantity, it's the quality.

The Award For Best Use of Wishful Thinking in the Guise of Informed Analysis

Runner Up: Fraters own Chad The Elder for guaranteeing that the Red Sox would choke in Game Seven of the ALCS. The Red Sox of course went on to crush the Yankees 10-3 on their way to a World Series championship.

Winner: Flash from Centristy, violating a cardinal rule of blogging - never go on record predicting anything with certainty. Especially when you have no idea what you're talking about. Here's his August 22 prediction on the prospects of a Bush re-election and the effect of the Swift Boat Vets for Truth on the race:

As the Righties continue to implode on themselves, Kerry will gain ground and leave them in the dust. BushCo. is in a rut right now, and only the RNC convention will be able to assist in the hemorrhaging. Not a good time to be a Republican, well, for those that are objective, anyway. The apologists simply have no objectivity left, and will pound this story until a few days after everyone else has moved along, and they will find themselves only talking to each other!

As Flash learned a few painful months later, 60,693,281 "unobjective apologists" are all you need.

The Barbara Eden "Genie, get back in the bottle" Award

Winner: Vox Day for spending the better part of the year championing the repeal of women's suffrage.

The Most Self Reverential Blog Post Award

John Hawkins at Right Wing News for this tribute to Ronald Reagan (and himself):

But, I feel like I owe to the Gipper to do my best to send him off right. So, I'm going to spend the next couple days doing what I can to pay tribute to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century and a better man than I'll ever be.

Well there's breaking news, one of the greatest Presidents in American history is a better man than some blogger will ever be. I guess we'll have to take his word that this is high praise. Because, for all any of us know about John Hawkins, Charles Manson is a better man than he'll ever be.

The Award For Most Boring Color Scheme In A Blog

Winner: SCSUScholars with their sterile white look. How about a little color there guys? A splash of off-yellow perhaps?

The Award For Biggest Waste Of Time By A Blogger

Runner Up: The 5,362,408 members of the blogosphere who spend vast amounts of time on our blogging obsession. Time that could be spent on family, work, education, and physical fitness. Time that none of us is ever getting back.

Winner: Chuck Olsen from Blogumentary who has spent years working on his documentary on blogging that has been screened a grand total of one time (despite a rave review from Mother Jones). Whenever the 5,362,408 of us feel guilty for wasting time, we can just remember that it's nothing compared to the time that Chuck has pissed away.

The Award For Least Enticing Opening Line to a Blog Paragraph

Again, from our friend R Phaedrus:

Let me tell you a story about me.

This one also wins the award for most honest description of every post ever done in the history of the blogosphere.

That's all for the 2004 Blogs of Distinction Awards. See you next year.

[Thanks to the Nihilist in Golf Pants, JB Doubtless, and Saint Paul for helping put the 2004 BODies together.]
End Of Year Mailbag

Peter from Sarasota has a plan for Tsunami alerts:

How can the world avoid another 100,000 deaths from the next Tsunami?

The Japanese are most concerned about tsunamis and are very serious about tracking anything that might cause a tsunami in the Pacific. My solution: First, encourage the Japanese Government to accept the responsibility for monitoring the entire world and install deep-ocean monitors in all of the world's oceans. Second, forget about using government and diplomatic channels for tsunami alerts. Rather, the Japanese would communicate directly and immediately to the various satellite TV news companies (CNN, BBC, Sky, Star, etc.). Third, forget any thoughts of providing funds for Third World countries to install their own regional tsunami alert systems. These countries have enough problems getting their trains to run on time. They could not handle issuing tidal wave alerts for tsunamis that might hit them once ever thirty years.

Dave has a request:

There I was enjoying the bombast of Nick Coleman's latest rant, but page 2 requires me to log into the Strib database which I refuse to do. Then when I try and back click back to your site, it keeps me locked into their website (behavior I think is just basically not very courteous to web surfers in general) and doesn't let me get back to the site where I came from. Request: If linking to an article in the Strib, could you copy and paste it rather than just link? I absolutely refuse to register with the Strib.

Posting the entire Coleman column would take up a lot of valuable real estate, and is probably not entirely legal either. Our suggestion for dealing with the Strib's onerous registration requirements are to throw a spanner into their demographic capturing works. For example, Saint Paul's Strib profile shows that he's a well-to-do, sixty-eight year old, divorced, bisexual woman living in Sauk Centre.

Father Matthew responds to my post on the Strib's look at Christian bloggers, and the low traffic levels they seem to have:

It seems that Catholic blogs (and probably most religion-specific blogs) get quite a bit less traffic than the leading political-oriented news blogs. Mark Shea had one of the biggest Catholic blogs until he suspended it recently and he claimed something like 1,000 to 3,000 daily visits. My own blog gets something below 700 visits per week and I'm actually better than average for a Catholic blog. Remember that Catholics are only 22% of the population, and active Catholics maybe less than half of that. Once you factor in how many avid net users are in that group you see's a niche market. I sent GutRumbles an email complaining about this injustice and got very little sympathy from him.

Fr Matthew K

None of that fake "frater" stuff here - I'm a REAL monk!

Whoa padre, back it up, back it up. (beep, beep, beep) Fake monks? None us have ever claimed to be monk-like in any way unless you count JB's unplanned period of celibacy a few years back. If you're looking for monk imposters however, you might want to take a look here.

Happy New Year everybody.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Laughs With Our Losses

A new Nelson is up. This week he prepares us for Vikings/Gophers defeats to come, bravely answering once and for all the musical question, are you ready for some football? Excerpt:

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways fans with losing teams can get ready for some football, and encourage their rowdy friends to come over and prepare themselves for some as well! To start, try getting everyone ready for some foosball. It's a very similar game, except in football the men are larger and have arms, but otherwise it's hard to tell them apart. Foosball is a good warm-up, because it's about 1/18th scale, so it takes eighteen times less effort to get ready for it.
The Same Old Song

I have perused the avalanche of Nick Coleman commentary from the blogosphere, including this insightful rendering:

Nick Coleman, colunista do Minneapolis Star-Tribune, escreveu um artigo (acesso mediante registo gratuito) acusando o Power Line de fazer parte de uma cadeia de blogues de direita dedicados a atacar a imprensa mainstream, ao serviço de certos "poderes"

And my meta analysis yields the conclusion that the primary reaction is:

Where are Nick Coleman's editors? Can't they intervene to prevent him from hurting himself or others (like the Star Tribune's reputation) again?

I do not know the answer to that question. But I will say it is not a new question. As a matter of fact, almost exactly one year ago today, that question was posed regarding Nick Coleman. No this wasn't in reference to a rage against progress and the irresistible tide of the future column. No, this was regarding something far more disturbing. That is, the poetry of Nick Coleman.

For years and years and years, someone named Bill McAuliffe has been submitting end of the year poems to the Star Tribune, attempting to summarize the events of the year in a light-hearted, amusing way. In execution it is, year after year, absolute doggerel. Corny, clichéd, disrythmic, dyspeptic pap.

For whatever reason, it is the Star Tribune's tradition to publish it, year after year after blessed year. (Suspected reason, the entrenched nonresponsiveness of a monopoly toward consumer demand.) But last year, the annual McAuliffe epic was deemed insufficient to satisfy the complete lack of demand for it. So Nick Coleman wrote virtually the same poem a few days later - and they published it!

Click here for all the sordid details (because, lord knows, you won't find them in the Star Tribune archives anymore). I'll sum up now as I did then about the oversight at the Star Tribune:

Embarrassingly out of touch or embarrassingly out of control? My money is on the latter, but I wouldn't be surprised at either.

By the way, as the end of the year draws near, the clock is ticking down to the magic hour when McAuliffe's poem is published again. The only question is, will there just be one of these things or two? The paid circulation waits ... and worries.
Credit Where It's Due

I just wanted to clarify that the spot-on satirical look inside the Star Tribune editorial board that I posted on Tuesday was the work of Robert, one of our readers. Looking back on the post now, I can see that I did not communicate that clearly enough at the time. Chock it up to travel fatigue after a full day spent driving through Wisconsin. Kudos to Robert for a job very well done.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


I missed all but the last fifteen minutes of tonight's embarrassing loss by Team USA to Belarus. The only good that may come of it, is if it serves as a wake up call for the squad as they head into tomorrow's showdown with the hated Czechs. Chin up boys.

Birth of a Sensation

Regarding the delusional Tom Shales comment linked to yesterday, about how the Rathergate documents have "not yet been proved" as forgeries, I direct you to page 39 of Hugh Hewitt's terrific new book on the birth of the new information revolution, Blog. Excerpts (transcribed by me, non-contiguous):

The now famous 60 Minutes 2 broadcast ran on September 8, 2004 and - based primarily on memos allegedly written by Bush superior Lt. Col. Jerry Killian in 1973 - the story asserted that Bush did not do his duty and had in fact disobeyed direct orders. Whether or not these charges, had they been true, would have mattered in the campaign is beside the point, because they were not true. The Killian memos were forgeries. In fact, they were bad forgeries.

The morning I read Powerline's initial entry I immediately turned to Google to locate a document expert to interview on my radio show. I found him in Farrell Shriver, a highly qualified document expert. I interviewed him on air on the ninth, and transcribed the conversation on my blog in the hope of reassuring bloggers generally that expert opinion backed them up.

The next day I would publish emails from Professor Robert "Corky" Cartwright at Rice University that would be widely cited as more definitive evidence that the forgeries were in fact forgeries. INDC Journal had found another expert in Dr. Phillip Bouffard, who declared that he was 90 percent positive that the documents were faked. Dr. Joseph Newcomer posted a detailed and final exposition on why the forgeries were forgeries, and the issue became undebatable, except by kooks and Dan Rather.

To that list, please add Tom Shales, media critic of the Washington Post. Or would that be redundant?

I'm only about half way through a comprehensive reading of Blog, but it's been terrific so far. (My first pass, of course, was just looking for our name. And Hugh doesn't disappoint, providing several generous attributions. Favorite one, from page 109: [Powerline] are also the senior members of The Northern Alliance - a group of Minnesota-based blogs that includes Lileks, Captain's Quarters, SCSU Scholars, Shot In The Dark, and Spitbull, and which are collectively changing the way Minnesota thinks. Did I mention Fraters Libertas? They are also part of The Northern Alliance, in the way that the crazy aunt in the basement is part of the family.)

In Blog, Hewitt chronicles the development of the medium via the four most influential episodes so far: 1) Trent Lott's resignation, 2) Howell Raines's resignation, 3) John Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia stories, and 4) Rathergate.

Hewitt argues, quite persuasively, that blogging will change the way people around the world access information. If so, this book is destined to be a seminal account of the medium.

Beyond the history documented and trends identified, what Hewitt does so well is capture the excitement of blogging. Lest we forget, the primary reason any of us started this is because it provided personal enjoyment. It was (and is) fun. Expressing our opinions on issues and countering the MSM view of reality was liberating and exhilarating, even before we had actual readers. Then just a few short years later, the merit based stars of blogosphere broke through and started getting mass exposure, and acceptance, by holding institutions and power accountable for their transgressions.

Think back to the Dark Ages (to extend a Hewitt metaphor), when the local monopoly newspaper was delivered daily to our front doors and three singularly-minded network news broadcasts beamed into our living rooms, each promoting political agendas largely contrary to our beliefs and heaping derision on our perspective. Who would have thought one day we could speak back, on an equal footing? And not just speak back, but also win the argument, based on the facts and the ability to persuade? Not me, friend.

But that is exactly what has occurred. It is a tale of freedom and mass empowerment. And that's the spirit Hewitt captures in Blog. (I can only imagine what awaits me when I actually have time to read the whole book!)

I strongly recommend you pick up a copy soon. Something I'd advise, even if I didn't receive a free promotional copy. (You can trust me on that, I'm a blogger.
It's Dr. Monkeystein's World...

...we just live in it. Now, if we can just get that embassy built in Jerusalem, everything will be set for their long-awaited return.
Jealousy Is So Unbecoming

Just a quick question since I don't much time for mindless musings today: How many times has Nick Coleman even been mentioned (to say nothing of appearing on the cover or being part of a featured story) in Time magazine? Anyone? Beuller?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Send In The Clown Redux

Even when in a hotel room in Deerfield, Illinois, I'm never far from the call of duty. And an e-mail from Robert speculating on what may be going on inside the castle walls of the Star Tribune editorial board was enough to stir me to action:

Around a large oak conference table festooned with blank notepads, pencils, and
Starbucks cups sits the editorial staff of the Star Tribune. It is now one half
hour into the meeting, and progress is slow.

They had already posted an editorial on the disaster in Tuesday's edition, but
it was nothing more than standard sympathy coupled with calls for more
comprehensive warning systems. Now, with the death toll increasing by the hour,
It was clear that this was turning into something monumental. A new editorial
needed to be written. This time blame was to be assigned. But connecting the
dots was proving difficult.

"There's got to be a connection we can make!" Shouted Jim Boyd, the Deputy

"If it was atmospheric, it would be a no-brainer" Managing Editor Scott
Gillespie replied, "just yell 'Kyoto' and it's a done deal."

"But, this is geological. I mean, as evil as he is, I don't think even he had
anything to do with this one. But no way are we going to let him off the hook."
said Jim.

"Oh, no, we won't. But it's pretty clear we have to come up with an angle that
makes sense." Scott answered. "Is there anything the U.S. has been doing in the
last four years that could have caused a seismic disturbance of this caliber?"

"You mean like drilling for oil, or underground nuclear tests?" Asked Susan
Albright, The OpEd Editor.

"Yeah, stuff like that. Or that low frequency noise the Navy uses to bother
dolphins. There's lots of things our military is doing to the ground."

Susan took a sip off her Venti skim half-caf one Splenda sugar free vanilla
extra hot latte. "How about something along the lines of global warming causing
the ocean to be more full of water and that made the waves bigger than they
should have been? That way we can nail Bush and the SUV drivers for thousands of
unnecessary deaths."

"Or!" Jim perked up. "This is only a foreshadowing of many, many similar
tragedies to come if we don't ratify Kyoto." He was moving his hand from left to
right in the air to simulate lines of type.

Scott pointed at Jim. "Now we're getting somewhere! The 'we're in for a lot more
of this because of Bush' angle!"

"We've got to go with it!" Chimed Susan. "In fact, screw the editorial. This is
totally Sunday 1A. Wait till those idiot suburbanites wake up Sunday morning and
find out what a waste their lives have been."

"There's only one person on our staff who can write this piece with the gravity
and intelligence that is required." Said Boyd.

"A real journalist!" said Susan.

"Someone who knows stuff!" Said Scott.

"NICK!" Said all three in unison.

Jim took a sip of his small skim not so hot extra froth Chai. "This is
beautiful. Not only will he tie the whole thing to Bush and the Republicans, but
he can work in a homeless angle and something about books, too."

"Ahh, the homeless and books." Scott sighed.

"So, where is Nick, anyway?" Asked Susan.

A hush fell over the conference room. Almost imperceptibly, the lights dimmed
ever so slightly. Susan noticed that Scott was staring at Jim. She in turn
looked at Jim too. Jim seemed to be bathed in the glow from a sole spotlight
recessed in the ceiling tile. Jim slowly placed both elbows on the table and
rested his bearded chin on his fists. For the first time, Susan noticed how worn
the elbow patches on his jacket had become in the last four years.

"The truth is," Jim started, "nobody really knows where Nick is. He could be in
a West Seventh barber shop, or a White Castle on University. He could be at a
shelter, or a downtrodden school. He could be at a gala Republican fundraiser or
a Twins game. He could be riding the 17A with laid off union workers or standing
in line with the poor waiting for flu shots."

"He carries no cell phone or pager. He comes in, submits his column, and rushes
back out to the streets. No one, not even Laura, knows where he is at any given
time. He's just" Jim paused, "there."

"Then how will we get him to write the feature in time for Sunday?" Susan asked,
her voice showing concern.

"Don't worry." Scott said. "He'll know. He always knows."

"He knows stuff" Said Jim.

Hope Springs Eternal

Washington Post Media Critic Tom Shales pulls his head out of the sand long enough to present his year end review, including this characterization of Rathergate:

Tireless press critics during war or peacetime, the conservatives were handed a valuable new weapon when CBS News fumbled a report detailing the president's shoddy record as a member of the National Guard back in Texas. The report was attacked virtually the moment it aired on "60 Minutes"; documents used to bolster the allegations were condemned by conservative critics as phony and forged, though no forging has yet been proved.

It sounds like he's still holding out for Divine Intervention on that one. Who says these guys aren't religious?

There are approximately five embarrassingly flawed/distorted assumptions in those two sentences alone (not bad for the preeminent media critic in the country). The largest of which being that the burden of proof still lies with those who've already comprehensively destroyed the credibility of those ridiculous documents, instead of those attempting to use them to degrade the reputation of the President of the United States.

Jim Treacher's comments quoted yesterday bear repeating:

Okay, I'm no Howard Kurtz or anything, but I've seen one or two episodes of Law & Order in my day, and ... isn't the burden of proof on the accuser? It is? Okay. And isn't this crewcutted septuagenarian fadebrain the one who made the really big serious accusation? He is? Check. So ... isn't he sort of, you know, under the obligation to verify his claims? And not in a position to sit back and demand that everybody else prove to his satisfaction that it's not clearly bullshit? Is it out of line for me to ask this stuff? Sorry. Sorry. But I mean, if these memos were scribbled in burnt sienna crayon on the back of a Denny's placemat and somebody had the unmitigated gall to say something about it, would that be part of the 'professional rumor mill'? I'm just asking here, no big deal."

Arrogant media bias being practiced by the person assigned by a MSM institution to report on media bias. It makes one nostalgic for Brian Lambert, wherever he is today.
Not Trying To Cause A Big Sensation

Speaking of Green Day BOTH of the Star Tribune music scribes voted the snotty punk-pop band's record "American Idiot" to be the Best of the Year.

I found this somewhat surprising considering John Bream is a "Bong rattling bass of Mel Shockter" Baby Boomer and Chris Riemenschneider is more of a "The Buzzcocks saved my life" Gen X'er. You would expect it from the latter and not the former.

There was a time when the paper employed only a single music writer. But after years of reading Bream's glowing reviews of Joan Biaz concerts, Star Tribune leadership decided new blood was needed.

I can imagine the lunchroom conversation at the Star Tribune between Bream and Remmy when they decided to vote Green Day's record to be The Best:

Remmy: I'm thinking that new Green Day record may be the best of the year
Bream: (humming)
Remmy: No, not Green Tambourine. The BAND is Green Day
Bream (humming)
Remmy: That's Green RIVER, by CCR!
Bream: (humming another)
Remmy: NO! That's Green Earrings by Steely Dan! Do you even know who Green Day is?
Bream: (blank, expressionless look of someone who has attended too many Foghat reunions)
Remmy: Green Day is an explosive post-punk band out of San Francisco. They sing of America's fascism and racism and try to spread social justice
Bream: Social justice?
Remmy: Yes, just like you guys did in the sixties
Bream: Giddyup!

The Trouble With Being Cool

Glenn Reynolds wrote recently how even some hipsters are not so interested in Green Day's teenage anti-Americanism. He then let us know that they, like, couldn't hold a candle to a TRUE punk like Johnny Ramone, man:

Johnny Ramone crapped bigger than these guys, and everybody knows it.

And this man is an adult!

I'm not sure which is sillier, Green Day's alienated stoner my-parents-are-divorced-and-I'm-angry-about-it nonsense or Glenn Reynolds' "That's not a knife" punk one- upsmanship.

Punk was adolescent and unlistenable in 1977 and it is adolescent and unlistenable now.
Separated At Birth?

Perky goverment largesse facilitator Matthew Lesko


Blogger of the Year Scott Johnson
Book Notes

It seems that the entire blogosphere, in addition to large parts of the troposphere and the stratosphere, is abuzz with excitement about a recently released book. The author's brilliance is a generally accepted fact and, despite languishing in relative obscurity to the majority of the country, is poised to make great strides in the coming year. I must also add that this man has lent considerable support to me as well as Fraters Libertas in the recent past.

I speak, of course about the new book entitled The Business Of The Practice Of Law: What Every Associate Should Know About Law Firm Life by William Koster.

About the author, noted radio personality Hugh Hewitt once wrote in a personal note to me: "Listen to your dad. Bill's smart." High praise indeed from a man who, I believe, also has a new book available. I haven't heard much about Hugh's latest effort, but I'm sure he'll sell a few copies as well.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of both books next time you're browsing Amazon. You'll make both authors very happy...and I think Hugh could really use the help.
Tell It Like It Is

In today's Pioneer Press, Mark Yost continues his series on the causes of outsourcing. Today's focus: immigrants. In short, we're getting the wrong ones. Instead of basing entry on our national interest (that is, inviting in those likely to contribute positively to our way of life), we're basing it on other factors, like being nice and making sure recent immigrants get to bring with them every nut from their extended family trees.

Interesting stuff, of the sort not usually found on local editorial pages. Beyond the ideological perspective, you've got to love the way Yost serves it up straight, no chaser. Excerpt:

The net result of the 1965 change in immigration policy is that today's newcomers are dumber and less entrepreneurial than those immigrants at the turn of the last century who contributed so much to the economic hegemony of the United States.

The local Left is used to a little more mollycoddling, a little more sugar coating than that. Actually they're used to not hearing this perspective at all. As such, I expect to see squeals of protest and calls for fines and suspensions on the Letters to the Editor page. The only question is what they'll find to be more offensive, the characterization of recent immigrants as "dumber" or the characterization of American economic hegemony as a good thing.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Swiss Cheese

Team USA held off the fiesty Swiss to claim a 6-4 victory in the World Juniors tonight. With the win, the US squad is now 2-0 in pool play headed into Wednesday's showdown with hated Belarus. But the play of goalie Al Montoya has to be a concern for the coaching staff. He was shaky at times against the Russians on Saturday. Tonight he was even worse, giving up two incredibly soft goals. A weak link in the nets probably won't cost the US when they play teams like Belarus. But if Montoya doesn't get it together soon, there won't be a repeat of last year's championship for Team USA.
The Year in Quotes

In case you missed it from last week, Tim Blair, Australian master in the art of ridicule and own petard hoisting presents the year in quotes (scroll down to Quotes of 2004 - January).

Excerpted from stories he covered in his blog this year, it's got a heavy Aussie emphasis, but the level of critique is so sharp, and the nature of the Left he ridicules so uniformly recognizable, it's immediately accessible to a worldwide audience.

Even more so for folks in this corner of the world. From September, memories of Rathergate, featuring our own Bloggers of the Year and their presumptive Goliath like adversaries:

"Later today the Boston Globe, the A.P. and Dan Rather all present new and damning information about how George W. Bush got moved to the front of the line to get in the Texas Air National Guard, and how he then went AWOL. I am putting every ounce of trust I have in my fellow Americans that a majority of them get this, get the injustice of it all, and get the sad, sick twisted irony of how it relates very, very much to our precious Election 2004." -- Michael Moore was so looking forward to Bush getting nailed on 60 Minutes II

"Tomorrow morning, dinosaur media across the country will be headlining the 60 Minutes 'scoop' as a blow to the Bush campaign." -- Powerline, one of the prime Rathergate blogs, makes an accurate call

"George W. Bush's cover story on his National Guard service is rapidly unraveling." -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe

"I know that this story is true." -- Dan Rather

"Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not [authentic], I don't see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill." -- Dan Rather

"Okay, I'm no Howard Kurtz or anything, but I've seen one or two episodes of Law & Order in my day, and ... isn't the burden of proof on the accuser? It is? Okay. And isn't this crewcutted septuagenarian fadebrain the one who made the really big serious accusation? He is? Check. So ... isn't he sort of, you know, under the obligation to verify his claims? And not in a position to sit back and demand that everybody else prove to his satisfaction that it's not clearly bullshit? Is it out of line for me to ask this stuff? Sorry. Sorry. But I mean, if these memos were scribbled in burnt sienna crayon on the back of a Denny's placemat and somebody had the unmitigated gall to say something about it, would that be part of the 'professional rumor mill'? I'm just asking here, no big deal." -- [blogger] Jim Treacher

"The fear I have is: How do you know who's doing the Web logs? And what happens when this stuff gets into the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate?" -- Emerson College professor Jeffrey Seglin

"I have never been more confident of a story in my life." -- Dan Rather

"Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret." -- CBS News President Andrew Heyward

The Horse Latitudes of Talk Radio

Are any talk radio hosts working this week? I tuned in the Bill Bennett show this morning, only to hear some droning hack filling in. Then I discovered the always available Dave Thompson subbing for Bob Davis. Even Laura Ingraham's show was a "best of." The only good news around the morning dial was that O'Connell and Rosenbaum were also on vacation. Don't hurry back boys.

UPDATE: Michael Savage is home for the holidays as well. Meanwhile, James doesn't think much of the fill ins at KSTP AM1500 for Rosenbaum and O'Connell:

Good lord, man. Did you actually listen to their replacements? Two women, one of whom was that nails-on-the-chalkboard Annette Meeks (sp?) and the other was some token lefty who kept throwing is cute lefty asides and then incited a segment on that silly Buy Blue website ("Oh, I always shop at Costco; they contribute exclusively to the Democrats!"). Geez.

I don't dislike Ron & Mark nearly as much as you do, but I'll take them any day to the single A replacements today.

A Christmas Ode To The 'Sphere

I'm not sure what's the more disturbing visual in this take off on "The Night Before Christmas" by the occurmudgeon; me and Hugh dancing or Rich Lowry wearing chaps. You are advised not to read this nightmare kindling before bedtime.

Hockey Fix

With no NHL season and most college hockey teams taking a break, it's a tough time of year for those of us who follow puck. Thankfully, we now have the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships taking place just down the road in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Thief River Falls, Minnesota to fill the void. On Saturday, I watched Team USA (the defending champs) battle the Russkies on ESPN2 in a highly entertaining contest that ended with a 5-4 U.S. victory.

Tonight, the U.S. faces off against the hated Swiss at 8pm (also on ESPN2).

This is dang good hockey featuring some of the best young players in the world including a number of sure-fire future NHL stars. The last time I saw Sydney Crosby play, he was fifteen and playing for Shattuck-St. Mary's in a game against my high school alma mater (which I attended with JB Doubtless immediately after the unforgettable 2003 Hugh Hewitt On Ice event). Now, Crosby is one of the stars for Team Canada, as evidenced by his three point effort in Canada's 7-3 tournament opening victory over Slovakia.

We very well could be headed for a rematch of last year's championship game between the Canucks and the Yanks. Now, wouldn't that be fun eh?
Tough Love

Last night, I poured myself a generous glass of Superstition from Isle of Jura, slipped into a warm bath (I'm nursing a thigh muscle bruised as a result of a close encounter with a puck), and cracked open Hugh Hewitt's latest tome, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World.

Like Hugh's other recent works, "Blog" is concise, to the point, and eminently readable. It's a wonder that he found the time to pen a thoughtful, well-documented look at the rise of the blogosphere what with his radio show, teaching, and blogging of his own. He's nothing if not prolific, and we're fortunate to have a visionary thinker like Hugh on our side. I would encourage anyone interested in the blogosphere and what it might look like in the future to order up a copy of "Blog" today.

I got about halfway through the book last night, but also did a little peeking ahead. In one of the chapters near the end, this paragraph caught my eye and brought back a few memories:

Design savvy bloggers mock my layout, and rightly so. At a party thrown by Lileks at Jasperwood, following a tour of his Hummels room and the drinking of much fine single-malt scotch, the assembled bloggers turned on me as if one and conducted a blogging intervention devoted to telling me how much Hugh Hewitt [the site] sucks.

Only because we care Hugh. Only because we care.
Post-Modern Teenagers

From Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950:

Gloomy prognoses also sell short the way in which thoughtful human beings are drawn to fundamental questions of existence. "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is a question that none of us can avoid completely, even in times when such questions are least fashionable. "What does it mean to live a good life?" is another. It is difficult to think about these things outside spiritual frameworks. The successive blows to traditional religion thought to have been struck by Darwin, Freud, and Einstein made some intellectuals give up the option of thinking about such questions within such frameworks, but there are good reasons for thinking that this too will prove to be ephemeral. It may well be that the period from the Enlightenment through 20C will eventually be seen as a kind of adolescence of the species--a time when human beings were deprived of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. In the manner of adolescents, humans reacted injudiciously, thinking that they possessed wisdom that invalidated all the things that had gone before--if Darwin was right, then Aquinas was no longer worth reading; if Freud was right, the "Nicomachean Ethics" must be wrong. But adolescence is temporary, and when it passes young adults discover that their parents had gotten smarter. That may be happening with the advent of the new century, as glib answers to solemn questions start to wear thin.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

We Wish You a C-List Christmas

Ever wondered what it would be like to have Goose Gossage and Lorenzo Lamas wish you a Merry Christmas?

Barring the ingestion of powerful mind altering drugs or profound depression, your answer is probably "no." Which makes me wonder exactly what's going on over at the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The fine folks in charge of defending our skies also does the service of tracking the progress of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for all the children of the world interested in such things. Which is great. Especially if you like flash animation of Santa buzzing aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines in war zones (and I do).

But this year, NORAD also presents video Celebrity Messages, in honor of NORAD's 50th year of tracking Old Saint Nick on Christmas Eve. And all I can say is, at least we can rest easy that the Pentagon isn't blowing its budget on talent fees.

Click on over and receive the finest of half-hearted, slightly confused greetings from the likes of Jose Canseco, Eric Roberts, Warren Moon, and Erik Estrada. (I knew it was difficult to find pro-US military celebrities in Hollywood, but this is ridiculous). And don't forget George Stroumboulopoulos. No, not George Stephanopoulos. This is George Stroumboulopoulos. An entirely different hairy celebrity Greek.

Next check out the best wishes from Brett Butt, Hayden Panettiere, Brie Larson, and Diamond Dave Somervile. Then, of course, hit Goolge, to find out exactly who Brett Butt, Hayden Panettiere, Brie Larson, and Diamond Dave Somervile are. Parents everywhere, and Donald Rumsfeld, will be relieved to hear that despite their names, none of them are adult film stars. Not yet, anyway.

Ghost of Vikings' Christmas Present

I did not witness the second half of the Vikings-Packers tilt on Christmas Eve. Instead, I made the spiritually correct choice of attending the early Mass at St. John's (in Rochester) on Friday night with the family. Spiritually correct in the broader, celebrating-the-birth-of-the-Savior sense. And also in avoiding having to witness yet another spirit killing loss for the Purple. In context with the rest of the night's meaning, ignoring the Vikings and their exploits felt right and made for an even more silent and peaceful mindset.

If there were any doubt that I might have missed this result of the game entirely, my email inbox was filled with glad tidings of the season, such as this from an ex-pat Packers fan in LA:

A game winning field goal from Ryan Longwell. There is a Santa Claus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Still worried about Davenport? Merry Christmas!

Your favorite Packer fan in Los Angeles, Jack.

Davenport's stats (11 rushes, 40 yards) reinforce the contention that his performance was not integral to the game's outcome. But Vikings coach (for now) Mike Tice isn't willing to give up the ghost yet, with this potential allusion to the invisible .... er, hand, of Najeh Davenport.

"We lost another tough game," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "It takes your insides out. When you've worked as hard as we've worked and gone through all the crap we've gone through, it rips out part of your insides that don't grow back."

Let that be the final word on the Vikings and Najeh Davenport.

No, let's let this be.
A Hallelujah In Need Of A Chorus

Yesterday, the Star Tribune had an article about Christian bloggers, which opened thusly:

Those shepherds would have a much easier time nowadays telling folks about their visit with the newborn Christ child. They'd just prop their staffs in the corner, fire up the Internet and do their glorifying and praising in a blog.

Web logs are no longer the exclusive domain of geeks, cranks and the self-absorbed.

It appears that Atomizer, JB Doubtless, and Saint Paul now have company.

The piece went on to talk about a couple of Catholic bloggers that I have never heard of, Joe Convert and Musings of a Catholic Convert. Here's how Joe Convert is described:

One of the better-known local Christian bloggers is Sean Herriott, host of a morning drive-time radio show on Relevant Radio, heard in the Twin Cities on WLOL, AM 1330. His blog,, generates more than 1,000 hits a week from around the world and chronicles his experiences as a convert to Catholicism.

A thousand hits a week? Either the reporter who penned this article, Susan M. Barbieri, got her facts wrong or local religious blogs still have a ways to go as far as developing audiences. One thousands hits (not visits mind you) a week is nuthin'. Heck, I bet even our friends over at the New Patriot can pull in that kind of traffic.

It appears that the focus of the piece was intended to be on local Christian bloggers, but the only one mentioned is Herriott. Musings of a Catholic Convert is written by Andy McNutt, who is a Catholic lay minister in Memphis who met Herriott through blogging.

If you're going to set out to write a piece about Christian blogging, you might want to expand your horizons just a bit. I imagine that there are probably several quality local Christian bloggers that Barbieri could have interviewed, to say nothing of those on the national scene such as Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost, Mark D. Roberts, and letters from babylon among a host of others.

Next time around Barbieri should try a little Googlin' or just follow a few links. There's a big ol' blogosphere out there with much in store if you're just willing to roll up your sleeves and explore a bit.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

All I Want For Christmas... a new furnace. Balsawood has cooled down to a chilly 54 degrees this Christmas morn. Thank God for the addition, of course, to thanking Him for that whole business about giving the world His one and only Son.

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:12-14

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Friday, December 24, 2004

All I Want For Christmas... Hugh's new book. Wait, a complimentary copy just arrived in the mail today. Finally, I'll be able to understand what this whole blogging thing is really all about.
All I Want For Christmas... to win the Christmas edition trivia competition at Keegan's. Wait, we did that last night, didn't we? Not even the formidable team put together by Captain Fishsticks (consisting of Mrs. Paul's, the Morton salt girl, and her boyfriend Sprout) could keep us from our appointment with destiny. The victories may be numerous, but each one is still so very, very sweet.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Good Man Passes

Earlier today, my uncle, Samuel Doughty died. He was an intelligent, thoughtful, easy-going, and kind man who will be greatly misssed. R.I.P.
Smackdown Iraqi Style

I'm not a big pro wrestling fan, but I gotta say that this is pretty cool. Vince McMahon was just on threatening a little smackdown of his own against the media for their negative portrayal of events in Iraq. This is probably not going to do boffo box office in the blue states.
All Hugh Wants For Christmas... his Hasselhoff. Imagine Hugh's excitment when he finds this package under his tree Christmas morning. However, Hugh may want to consider resigning his position as Vice President of the David Hasselhoff Fan Club if this turns out to be true.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Right from the Start

Further emphasizing the superior journalism lately appearing in the Pioneer Press, check out this poignant commentary on homelessness from yesterday (via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). Excerpt:

Sick unto death, at the end of his rope, one of the poor in spirit. And he reminds us that no holiday - no holy day - is properly celebrated without remembering the poor, comforting the distraught, tending the sick and seeing, really seeing, the least of these. And for one blessed moment knowing what is important.

Men are taught to lift their eyes, but they may forget to just look around. Show us a sign, we say, as if there were not signs everywhere. We seek The Star, and may not perceive the light of every day, or hear that lonesome whistle, and see our brother approaching.

During lunch today I stopped off at the bank and for the first time ever in leafy, livable Maplewood, I was confronted with two nominally homeless guys with cardboard signs, begging for money on the highway off ramp. The above column was on my mind as I stopped there (seized by a red light, before I could get away). And I considered giving some money to these, the least of JC's brothers. (My sympathetic instincts were increased due to the fact that one of these fellows looked just like Westover. I thought it might have been Westover, perhaps subverting Coleman's next charge that he's too lazy to actually be homeless, so he can't write about them anymore. But, upon further review, the guy on the exit ramp must have weighed 50 more pounds than the wiry Afton scribe.)

But ... my cold, analytical instincts remained as well. These were able bodied, middle-age men aggressively begging in the streets. Given this profile, the inevitable next thought was: 'I hope they don't damage my car or try to kill me.' And, to their enormous credit, they did neither.

I then noticed they were dressed appropriately, even for today's sub-zero temperatures. Hats, gloves, thick jackets with hoods. And they were begging in a relatively nice section of Maplewood. There are no homeless people living on these second ring suburban streets - meaning these guys had the wherewithal to travel.

My further speculation, knowing human nature as I do, is that these two were trying to capitalize on the pre-Christmas "good will towards men" vibe, on this, one of the last working days before the Christmas break. Stationing themselves near a bank, no less, assuring themselvs of an abundance of potential marks with freshly acquired wads of cabbage in their pockets. You have to admire their business savvy. If someone were teaching a course on how to successfully beg for money, these guys would be a good case study. They located near motivated, fully resourced "clients" and were now proceeding with a highly targeted sales pitch, one which many would feel vulnerable too (thanks to cooperative marketing provided by both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune this week).

These are not necessarily reasons to reject a contribution to them. But, choose to pass I did. While these two are not candidates to join the 21st Century Democrats anytime soon, I'm not at all certain they were the least of anyone's brothers. Their profile indicates they could be the kind of homeless person who freely chooses that lifestyle (to the detriment of all). Which, if not breaking a Commandment, certainly brushes up against a Deadly Sin or two.

More importantly, I didn't want to create an incentive for the practice of begging for money on highway off ramps in Maplewood. People work in that neighborhood and have property values to worry about. Business have customer bases they wish to avoid alienating or frightening off. And, for the able-bodied homeless's own good, they probably should be devoting their early afternoon hours to more productive pursuits than standing in the freezing cold looking for hand outs. I give them money, they feel justified in their efforts, and worst case scenario, they come back another day. In short, not interested.

So what's the moral to this story? I don't know. I read that beautiful editorial on taking care of my fellow human beings and I didn't change my behavior one whit.

Maybe my behavior isn't so bad after all. I give to charities (most prominently the Catholic Church) which address the problems of suffering and need more effectively than street handouts to questionable characters. Maybe I do just fine by the least of our brothers. Maybe I'm a kind, some might say, overly generous soul. Maybe I am a living, breathing embodiment of God's grace, place here on Earth to set an example for all.

Or maybe I need to read that editorial again. I think I missed something the first time.

The Rest Of The Story

Ever since JB's memorable encounter at the State Fair, readers have been asking us to explain just what a scotch egg is anyway. Now the truth can at last be told. (Thanks King)
What Side Are You On?

In today's Pioneer Press, Craig Westover gets (perhaps) the final word on the Maxfield Elementary reporting scandal. (The Star Tribune wouldn't let Nick Coleman devote a FOURTH column to this subject would they? Maybe they would, if they're adhering to an "if at first you don't succeed" policy. The fourth time could be the charm!)

It's good to see Westover stay on the high road, which is always the best way to refute the arguments of someone like Coleman (perhaps I should take my own advice sometime). Given the Pioneer Press's usual policy against directly engaging the rival newspaper in arguments, this column represents kind of a benchmark. Could this be the start of an old fashion newspaper feud? I hope so, it will be good for the readers.

Both papers seem to want to avoid it and I'm not sure why. At least the Pioneer Press should welcome it. As the clear underdog, they need the publicity. And if they stay on the facts, using the professional level discourse we've seen lately, it's an argument they can't lose. And it will create a stark contrast for the news reading public over who is a better source for local information and commentary. Which of these would you rather invite into your home every morning?

The Star Tribune:


Or the Pioneer Press:

A reasonable person will immediately note that well-to-do people who send their children to private and religious schools and select schools by choosing where to live already have school choice. Who does not have a choice in education? Low-income kids in inner city schools - the very kids that for some unfathomable reason the education establishment insists must stay in schools that are fighting for "survival."
On Tap

Four things to look forward to in the not too distant future:

1. The 2004 Blogs of Distinction Awards. The 2003 BODAs rocked the socks off the blogosphere and the early nominees for 2004 promise more of the same. If you have a deserving candidate for consideration, drop an e-mail to the new Master of Ceremonies himself at

The best thing about the BODAs is that there are not any set categories of recognition. We make 'em up as we go and you should feel free to do the same. Please submit all entries by December 29th.

2. The next MOB (Minnesota Organization of Bloggers) party on January 22nd at Keegan's Irish Pub in Nordeast Minneapolis. Bloggers, readers of blogs, local media luminaries, and Scott Johnson groupies are all welcome to join the fun, which will kick off at 5pm.

3. The same rocket scientists who helped launch the Hindrocket into fame are working on an even more ambitious project for 2005. Operation Red Ryder is slated to send Ralphie into space in late February. We've managed to unite Ralphie's original creator (his Geppetto if you will) with the Vatsaas brothers to ensure that Astronaut Ralphie has the equipment, training, and vehicle to boldly go where no bobble head doll who looks like a nationally syndicated talk radio host has gone before.

4. Finally, the Starve the Beast campaign will kick into high gear in 2005, with particular attention brought to bear on the Minneapolis Star Tribune. All good conservatives in the Twin Cities should resolve to rid themselves of their Strib subscriptions in 2005.
Sinister Sophistication

Wretchard looks at the true face of the enemy who perpetrated yesterday's attack in Mosul:

However, it is safe to say that the attack demonstrates asymmetrical warfare in action. The enemy chose the weakest point he could find to attack; exploited the known limitations of the American response; and understood that he was to all intents and purposes exempted from the condemnation attendant to attacking the wounded and medical personnel. The chaplain and the medical personnel knew this and did not mill around expecting the Geneva Convention to protect them from those who have never heard of it, except as it applies to their own convenience. They knew the true face of the enemy; a face which bore no resemblance to the heroic countenance often presented by the media to the world.
It's Their World

Dr. Monkeystein ends up on the wrong end of a game of cat and man. Anyone with a cat (or two) has felt his pain.
All They Want For Christmas... a nuke or two. The frightening notion of the Iranian Moollahs (they're not booing sir, they're saying "moolah") having nuclear weapons increasingly seems to not be "if", but "when" and maybe more precisely "how soon?"
The Rest Of The Story...

Hugh Hewitt has posted this transcript of Lynne Cheney discussing blogs on last night's Hardball with guest host Campbell Brown. Hugh's transcript concludes thusly:

Brown: You have got to have a favorite.
Cheney: I have a lot of blogs that I read.
Brown: What are they?
Cheney: Oh I love Hugh Hewitt, I think he's terrific. I love Powerline. I read Instapundit, and, I don't know, does RealClearPolitics constitute a blog? I certainly looked at it a lot during the campaign. It was a wonderful source and remains a wonderful source of articles that are being written in many places.

Now, not to take anything away from Hugh and the Powerline guys, but there was more to that interview than Hugh is admitting to. Mrs. Cheney went on to say:

Cheney: One site I must check on daily, sometimes hourly, is Fraters Libertas. Have you ever heard of them Campbell?
Brown: No. I can't say that I have.
Cheney: Well, you really should give them a read. Powerful prose, incredible insight...they're a must read in my book. Except for the one that calls himself Atomizer. He kind of creeps me out.

There you have it. Fraters Libertas...creeping out First Ladies since 1998. God knows it wasn't easy when Hillary had the job.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Toast to Yost

The Pioneer Press editorial page continues to impress with the contribution from the newest editorial board member, Mark Yost. Today he begins his series on the true causes of outsourcing in the US economy (hint, it's not John Kerry's Benedict Arnold CEOs).

Using Todd Buchholz's book "Bringing the Jobs Home" as his platform, Yost outlines three causes of the problem. Today's column, entitled Outsourcing is Our Own Making, focuses on how the public education system fails us. Excerpt:

Worse yet, the decline [in test scores] has come at a time when the global education landscape is more competitive than ever. Contributing to our demise, we've lost our focus on the basics.

"Teachers and administrators turned from enhancing skills to enhancing self-esteem" Buchholz argues. "Now our kids have high self-esteem but low test scores. American schools have not made our kids dumb. They've made them delusional."

(My interactions with the college age youth of today provides compelling anecdotal evidence to support this contention.)

Of particular concern is our ability to produce enough math and science graduates to sustain our increasingly high tech dependent economy. According to Yost:

Looking at America's increasingly underperforming public-school system, Buchholz notes that U.S. 12th-graders are behind Slovenians and barely ahead of South Africa and Cyprus in math and science. Chinese engineering students outnumber Americans three to one.

The role of the teacher's union in this problem, and their protectionist policies toward credentialing teachers, is quite persuasively emphasized by Yost and Buchholz. And the golden ray of hope that is school choice once again appears as a part of the solution.

Fascinating stuff, and, not to be redundant, but what a pleasure it is to have a part of the institutional voice of our local newspaper advocating, in a professional manner, for these sound, well reasoned positions.

UPDATE: More from King Banaian, on the educational consequences of putting self-esteem before accomplishment.
Rank Journalism

From yesterday's Pioneer Press, sports columnist Bob Sansevere, on the Vikings' recent play:

There's a reason the Vikings have one of the NFL's worst-ranked defenses. The reason is, it has a tendency to reek like underwear that hasn't been changed in three weeks.

Ba-boom! Upon first reading that, I admit to laughing out loud. For all the wrong reasons.

How much time did Sansevere spend crafting that simile? Ten seconds? Five seconds? No seconds?

I fear it's only going to get worse. Remember, the Packers come to town on Friday. Bringing with them one Mr. Najeh Davenport. The nature of his criminal past and the nature of Sasevere's prose, it's the perfect storm of scatological references. Parents, keep the kids away from the Pioneer Press sports section on Satuday morning, it could get very ugly.
Up In Smoke

The latest update from our mole in the Minnesota state legislature, the Smoking SOB:

The 2005 session begins January 4, and many House Republican (and DFL too, I bet) members are preparing legislative questionnaires to be sent to local constituents. One trend I see is that many, many members are asking the question, "Should smoking be banned from bars and restaurants?"

Indeed, smoking will be a prominent topic next year. First, there is the DFL bill to ban smoking in public places. Then there is the Blue Cross/Blue Shield bill to up the butt tax by $1 a pack and use the proceeds to address health-related taxes (Republican Rep Fran Bradley of Rochester had a similar bill two sessions ago). Then there is Republican Rep. Marty Seifert's bill to withhold welfare benefits from smokers. I can't wait to see DFL health and welfare rights advocates dance around that amendment.

Being a smoker, I love the attention. And unfortunately, I think you will see much of this legisation getting headway.

I proudly lit a much higher priced Camel filter in 2003 , when proceeds from the
Minnesota tobacco endowment were used to help fix the state budget deficit. I decided to smoke more and do my share during our budget difficulties. While smoking outside the State Office Building (SOB), I often nodded to lobbyists and representatives walking by, saying quietly, "You're welcome! Glad to lend a hand!"

Sigh. Few ackowledged my sacrifice. I was still seen as a pariah.

But I'm willing to pony up again. However, among members of the bipartisan SOB
smoking subcaucus, there is pronounced anxiety that not only will a smoking ban be enacted and taxes upped, but legislation will contain a Phyllis Kahn amendment to prohibit smoking within 150 feet of any public facility. I've often seen Phyllis approach the SOB, wearing her speedos, leering at me and my cigarette.

I've wondered, that as part of the state's tobacco lawsuit (which considered smokers victims of the tobacco companies' machinations), why I am not considered a victim under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)? Shouldn't I receive accommodation (a nice smoking room, with a fireplace, bar) for my disability?

Anti-smoking and related tax legislation will be fun to watch. A Merry Christmas to all!


Interesting legislative tidbit: If you call Rep. Dan Dorman's tire store in Albert Lea, the phone will likely be answered by Wanda, his mother. Be prepared to talk about the weather. A very nice woman.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Where Does the Man End and the Legend Begin?

Further insightful commentary on the situation at Maxfield School is provided by Prof. King Banaian of SCSU Scholars. Excerpts:

The debate over textbooks or reading materials misses a key point -- books themselves do not produce education. They must be complemented with other inputs. Textbooks must be complemented with teachers (and could well include parents working with kids at home, but down that road lies homeschooling, something I'm sure Coleman would not support.) Reading materials for students to take home require a parent to be sure the material is read.

Here's the question then -- what is Coleman assuming in thinking a book drive for extra books for kids to take home will accomplish? If the parents do not supervise, if the child's social pressures are such that academics is denigrated (Bill Cosby, call your office!), and if teachers cannot find creative ways to use those books, they may simply collect dust. Again: Just handing a child a book to take home and read does not guarantee better reading scores. A book requires a structure within which it is read, understood and discussed to help with comprehension, and along with it the development of a culture of learning. Otherwise it's no more effective than free condoms.

An endorsement of the Scott Johnson "your homes are burning" thesis. To which we can now add the King Banaian, "your condoms are burning" corollary (which illustrates why King is known as the penicillin of the Northern Alliance).

King also had this keen insight to offer about the NARN show last Saturday:

I thought Brian "Saint Paul" Ward of Fraters had said something profound in ...

"In" what really doesn't matter. When the chairman of an economics department at a major state university calls you profound, you accept it as just that. He is tenured, after all.

Another noted academic (South American comparative politics), Margaret Martin of Our House, had this observation from a recent Keegan's outing:

Last night was the weekly Trivia at Keegan's ... and we finished a miserable 13/25. But Team Fraters, with St. Paul and occasional blogger Nihilist in Golf Pants did the best of the evening, paired as they were with the Swedish Bikini team. (I don't know the score with that team combination.) David did his best to run Brian down to the bevy of blondes as we were leaving but David was rebuffed. We now know that Brian needs no one's help to find dates.

I wouldn't go that far Margaret, one can always use a good reference, especially when it comes to Swedish bikini models. My rule for them is identical to the rule in Irish Catholic families. There's always room for one more.
Power Line, Blowing Up

Blog Acceptance Week in the MSM continues with a visual I thought I'd never see: a super tight close up of Scott Johnson appearing on the front page of the Star Tribune Web site. Check it out quick, before they change it.

For those unsure of which picture is Scott's, it's the one right beneath the article entitled, "Zamboni Explodes; fire destroys Duluth arena." (I don't see Power Line covering that story. I guess the Star Tribune does still have a role to play in our society.)
Art Vs. Commerce

Recommended reading for the day, the Robbie Fulks series of essays, entitled "The Worst Gig I Ever Had."

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It's the story of what happens when one of the finest country songwriters/players in the nation agrees to be a part of the back up band for a Garth Brooks impersonator, for one night only. And it all happened right here in Minneapolis, at the NARN home away from home, the Minneapolis Hilton.

To put it another way, it's the story of a clash of motivations. When commerce (as evidenced by Fulks's comments):

People who fill non-musical roles in the music business routinely speak of their "passion" for the fine arts - musicians talk only about money.

Meets passion (as exemplified by the Garth impersonator's motivations):

"Fellows," said the entertainer, getting right down to business. Besides his fat cheeks and thin hair, his lack of physical resemblance to Garth Brooks was perfect. "I appreciate your learning my set. I know it's a lot of material. And I know that each of us is here with a common goal, putting on a great show, and paying tribute to Garth's work."

"Garth," said "Garth," turning thoughtful, "is an incredible force. It's beyond anything like simple musicianship. That's why his music has touched so many hearts. He's got loads of talent, no doubt about that, but his real gift is that rare ability to connect with people. That's what I emphasize in my show. That's the whole bottom line, right there, that connection to people's hearts."

We nodded mutely.

"Now," he continued, narrowing his eyes, "you guys did bring outfits, right?"

I encourage you to read the whole thing, it's hilarious. There's a lot of inside technical references about charts and pick ups and such, so musicians will appreciate it most. But Fulks is such a skillful writer, it works for a general audience (like me) as well.

(Acknowledgment to JB Doubtless, for hipping me to this article series and for recommending the music of Robbie Fulks years ago.)
Opening The Drawbridge

Jay Rosen writes about a newspaper that plans to bring bloggers into the fold rather than viewing them as barbarians outside the gates.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Wham, Bam, Gracias Ma'am

Got back on Thursday from a whirlwind trip to Chihuahua. After grabbing all of three hours of sleep the night before, I departed for Houston on Monday morning at 5:45am along with a couple of coworkers. We set down in Houston around 8:30am, and by 10am we were in a conference room at one of our sister divisions enjoying a scintillating conversation on inventory turnover.

The remainder of the day was spent discussing related matters and taking a tour of the facility. At 6pm we split for the airport, where we caught a flight to Chihuahua at 9pm.

The separation of church and state isn't quite the burning issue in Mexico as it is in the United States, as evidenced by the giant cross of lights that covers a good portion of one of the more prominent hillsides surrounding Chihuahua. On a clear, dark night it made for spectacular sight from the air, and let visitors know that in Chihuahua, wishing a "Merry Christmas" would not result in a trip to diversity reeducation office.

By the time I checked into the hotel, it was 11:30pm (Mountain time) and I was well past being tired. I had reached that almost Zen-like state of exhaustion where nothing really matter anymore. It can be liberating, but it's also dangerous as your common sense survival instincts pretty much shut down. If there had been a fire in the hotel, I might have just elected to stay in my room and not hassle with the whole emergency evacuation thing.

Knowing what the next day held in store (corporate board meetings of interminable length), a sane man would have turned in immediately. I turned on the television and began exploring the eighty-plus channels (at least a third of which are in English) available for my viewing pleasure. After scouring up and down the dial a couple of times, I settled on 2002's feel good hit of the year: Auto Focus.

The flick is a nihilistic nightmare that catalogs the swingin' sex life and pornographic passions that sent actor Bob Crane's career and life careening out of control. And like watching pornography itself, the movie leaves you feeling empty, emotionally spent, and dirty. At least that's what JB Doubtless tells me. The desire, need really to take a shower after this sordid little tale of debauchery was overwhelming. Not one for the kiddies or those with delicate sensibilities (take heed Atomizer).

I closed the night by reading a few more pages of Jacob Slichter's book So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life. Jake is the drummer from Minneapolis band Semisonic, and this book provides a fascinating behind the scenes view of the band's rise to the almost top. For long time Semisonic fans like myself, it helps explain why the band was never quite able to seize upon the success of 1998's smash hit "Closing Time" to establish a more permanent presence in the world of pop music.

This isn't another "tell all" expose of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Rather, it's a look at the nuts and bolts of the recording industry. Record deals, radio airplay, album sales, touring, and music videos are all explored from the view of someone who lived through it all. What's refreshing about Slichter is that he's not one of these artists who bemoans the commercialization of his craft at the hands of the "man." He wanted to make it big, to have #1 records and to enjoy all the trappings of fame that accompany it. For Semisonic fans, it's a must have. But I would also recommend it to anyone with an interest in pop music, particularly the business end of it.

Here's one of my favorite excerpts when the band is hunting for a producer and talks with a young candidate with some new ideas:

"I've been listening to your tape, and I'm got some suggestions for lyric changes."

Dan [Wilson] took a sip of Scotch. "What changes do you have in mind?"

"Well that line 'Fascinating new thing, you delight me'--I don't like the world delight. It sounds kind of...twee. What about saying 'You're stunning' or something like that?"

Had we been characters in a James Bond film, Dan would have set down his glass and pressed the button that opened the floor and dropped the young producer into a pool of hungry piranhas. With no buttons at his disposal, Dan affected a smile. "Stunning? Well, let me think about that." John [Munson] and I forced smiles, too. No fucking way.

Tuesday was another long day. As I mentioned earlier, I spent most of it attending a multi-divisional board meeting. I was not required to present anything myself, so I secured a spot in the back of the room and spent most of the day working on a presentation of my own due for a Friday meeting. Not only did I not have to stand and deliver, but the vast majority of topics that were discussed did not concern or interest me in the least. My name was brought up on a couple of occasions when the president of our division mentioned, "Yes, Chad's on that team" or "that's what Chad's been working on for us."

Upon hearing my name, I perked up like a loyal dog, and, as the attention of the group momentarily shifted to the back of the room, I nodded vigorously to indicate, "Yup, I'm on that team" and "Yup, that's what I do." That was about the extent of my contribution. But I just had to be there.

And I was until damn near 7pm. Thankfully I managed to avoid the uncomfortable experience of dining with the gathered corporate elite. I was able to bail since I already had made dinner plans with a long time acquaintance who lives in Chihuahua. It's not that the crew attending the board meeting are bad folks. Most of them are in fact quite nice. But they tend to be rather focused on one particular aspect of life: work. I enjoy talking shop as much as the next guy, and am not entirely averse to doing it after hours. But I find that I have a hard time relating to people who are so passionate about the intricacies of wage structure that they can debate it for hours on end. That's just not my bag baby.

On Wednesday, I was able to take care of some business at the plant and squeeze in a trip out to the Misercordia Orphanage (more on that in an upcoming post). Thursday morning I flew out of Chihuahua at 6:30am and was home sweet home in Minneapolis by mid-afternoon. It was a short, but exhausting trip. I'm looking forward to a long spell at home.

Here's to the Winners

As alluded to in the post below, Power Line has been selected as Time magazine's inaugural Blog of the Year. (Is this now an annual award? I can't tell. I guess I'll have to buy a copy of Time to find out.) Our hearty congratulations go out to all three Power Line contributors: John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson and Paul Mirengoff. They really deserve it for their efforts this year.

It can be fairly said that they played an important role in re-electing the President. After all, Bush's margin of victory was a mere 2.9%. According to George Will in his column today, that's the smallest margin ever for a president's re-election. What portion of that was salvaged by Power Line's instigating the eventually ubiquitous skepticism over CBS News's use of forged documents to impugn President Bush's record? Not to mention Power Line's efforts (along with Captain Ed) in publicizing the spurious John Kerry "Christmas in Cambodia" allegations. Not to mention the hearts and minds Power Line wins daily with their blend of intelligent, witty commentary and linkage.

They've helped redefine what media is for the new century and history will remember what they've done here (something that cannot be said for any current employees of the Star Tribune).

Beyond that, they're great guys. Via the Northern Alliance Radio Network we at FL have gotten to know Scott and John and their families, and it's been a true pleasure being associated with them. If you haven't had a chance to hear them yourselves, you can get a sample of their brand of commentary on the NARN replay, locally starting at 9 PM tonight at AM 1280, the Patriot. (And as always, worldwide, recycling continuously on the Web stream).

Congratulations again to Power Line and heart felt thanks for their ever so slightly altering the course of history, in the Right direction.

Facts Are Stubborn Things

The long awaited justification from Nick Coleman on his Maxfield Elementary reporting appears in today's Star Tribune. It looks like we know his style so well that we can now anticipate his actions with a high degree of accuracy, or perhaps he's taking style tips and inspiration directly from us, because he did fulfill two of the predictions we listed last week.

On Dec 13, we predicted he would:

Attempt to distract from the real issue via ad hominem attacks on bloggers (a status to which he'll assign Pioneer Press writer Westover). In Nick's mind the word "blogger" alone is enough to discredit any criticism he received, so he'll bleed it for all it's worth.

Excerpts (noncontiguous) from today's Coleman, regarding Craig Westover:

Unless, of course, you happen to be an ideological enemy of public education, like the full-time blogger and semi-pro newspaper columnist from the mean avenues of Afton who took the Maxfield story and twisted it into a rant against public schools.

After distorting the Maxfield story, Captain Fishsticks [Westover] was reproved in print by Maxfield Principal Zelma Wiley. Since then, Fishsticks has gone back to his boat and confined his tirades to the first refuge of scoundrels, his personal Internet blog, where he is toasted by other rum-swigging hearties daily.

An uncanny manifestation of our prediction, wouldn't you say? By the way, the "other rum-swigging hearties" includes us, as well as the other local bloggers drawn to the Maxfield issue. A not all together disagreeable description, I must say. We do occasionally enjoy strong drink (though not usually rum, we stay away from anything prone to having an umbrella in it). And "hearty" means "jovial" and we are typically merry souls, especially when strong drink is involved.

Back to the predictions, last week we said Coleman would engage in:

Clintonian parsing of language. He'll try to make us believe there is a difference between "textbooks" and "books in classrooms." Any readers who made the mistake of confusing the two will be blamed for their own ineptitude. Then he'll question the secret, evil motivations behind anyone who could possibly make the mistake of misreading a Nick Coleman column.

Coleman, in his charming way, did just that:

Deliberate idiocy is a terrible thing. When I wrote about a book shortage at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul Nov. 14, I made it clear that the books that were in short supply were reading books -- books needed to boost the literacy levels of kids who attend the school.

Sadly, "literacy" turns out to be a hard word for public school bashers to understand. Literacy means an ability to read and comprehend. But the professional bashers of public school education seem to have poor reading comprehension. Either that, or they are mean as snakes. I'm leaning toward snakes.

Fans of strict verification can review Coleman's columns from
Nov. 14
and Dec. 5 to see if there is any distinction made in types of books or a specific mention of "reading books." (Trusting souls and the lazy/casually disinterested can take my word for it, there isn't). And even if there were such references (and there aint!), the distinction is meaningless. What other kinds of books are there in schools, besides "reading books"? Did Coleman think we were referring to "bunion massaging books" or "books used to serve lunch on"?

Coleman uses the word "books" throughout, without any qualification. For example:

How could this happen? A school with not enough books?

"I don't want to go on the record with what I really think," Wiley said. "But I've never seen anything like this before. We haven't been adequately furnished. We don't have enough books."

Often times he uses it in conjunction with "classrooms," like:

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.


Former Education Czarina Yecke was canned by the Legislature but never seemed overly concerned about the special problems at a place like Maxfield. Then again, few have shown any interest. How else to explain that Maxfield doesn't have enough books?

"I was amazed," said Sarah Carlsson. "And a lot of the books we did have were the wrong level, like first-grade books in a fifth-grade class." Carlsson is a "literacy coach" at Maxfield, but was previously a classroom teacher who was unaware that the other classrooms were as sparsely furnished with books as her own.

Coleman's claim he made anything "clear" about textbooks versus "reading books." or anything else, is absurd.

In reality, the critical distinction of the types of books Maxfield was interested in acquiring never appeared in either Coleman column. The whole truth only appeared in the Zelma Wiley Pioneer Press commentary, where she explains:

Earlier this year, our school launched a drive to collect books for students to borrow, take home or keep. Our students love to read. Unfortunately, many don't have access to books at home (95 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch). Our goal was to satiate our students' hunger for books at home and supplement the great work being done by teachers and community partners in our classrooms.

It is an extracurricular book drive, to serve needs above and beyond classroom instruction. A far different situation than anything Coleman divulged in his reporting. Recall, he used the alleged book shortage at Maxfield as an example of why "YOUR SCHOOLS ARE BURNING." Based on the fact the principal of that school states that the book drive is for students who don't have books at home, Scott Johnson opined (on NARN yesterday) "it sounds to me like their homes are burning." (With quips like that, it's no wonder Power Line is Time Magazine's Blog of the Year.")

Amid all of the panic and bombast from Coleman, let's not lose sight of the real issue of this debate - finding the best way to provide public education. That is, the best way to utilize resources to educate the children of our community, not the best way to sustain the current system. Craig Westover has been dedicated to the premise that the best way to educate is by providing a choice to the parents. If the government schools aren't performing to parents' standards, they should be empowered to seek other options. And because of this, Nick Coleman labels Westover a "deliberate idiot," a "professional school basher" and a "snake" (not to mention "Captain Fishsticks" - which, to be truthful, is pretty funny).

For substantive, professional debate on this issue, keep an eye on Westover's blog. And on the Pioneer Press. Remember, that is where Principal Wiley chose to directly address her school's situation, not in the Star Tribune. And beyond Westover's once a week contribution to the Pioneer Press editorial page (which hopefully will increase in frequency), there are others, like today's excellent commentary on education reform by Steve Dornfeld of the Metropolitan Council.

Right now, school choice is but a dream in St. Paul. One worth fighting for, of course. But if you'd like to help conditions here and now, we encouage you to make a donation to Maxfield. Who knows, one of these kids may grow up some day to write a column in the Star Tribune. As Nick Coleman shows us, deliberate idiocy is a terrible thing. Let's nip this one in the bud right now.