Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jim Fusilli And The Misfit Culture

Jim "Fusilli Jerry" Fusilli is an accomplished author. He also dances about architecture writes about music in the WSJ. I have been reading Jim for a number of years and have always been struck by his fascination with (and high praise for) music that is dark, negative, alienated, angry and petulant.

For Jim, the darker the soul of the musician the higher the praise for their work.

In a piece in today's Journal titled Thirty Years Later and Better Than Ever he continues in this vein by heaping even more praise on the dark mistress Patty Smith and celebrates her supposedly classic album "Horses".

"When we did 'Horses,' my mission was to do a piece of work that would remind people that rock 'n' roll was a cultural voice that contained everything -- the political, sexual, social -- and it belonged to the people, not rich rock stars and businessmen," the 59-year-old Ms. Smith told me via telephone from her home in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. "I wanted to address people on the fringe of society because of how they dressed or their sexual identity. I wanted to do it in a spirit of solidarity."

A socialist's rock opera if you will.

There's very little about "Horses" that isn't striking. Its studied, defiant photographs of Ms. Smith by Mapplethorpe suggest the arrival of an artist aware of her substance. Its opening lyric -- "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine" -- is rock's equivalent of the opening lines of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," establishing a distinctive voice and attitude in a single phrase. Ensuing songs portray a high-voltage lesbian sexual encounter, a boy confronting his father's death, a girl who commits suicide on a gay beach...

My. That does sound like fodder for the soul after a long, hard day of work. I can see why Jim is so effusive in his praise.

Music does not need to be all puppy dogs and ice cream, but must the fringe freaks like Smith be canonized as geniuses for this dreck? This is entertainment that a normal person would want to bring into their life? Why on earth would anyone want to enter Smith's pathetic teenage world of nihilism?

Only someone who believes that American society is corrupt (if not downright evil) would promote the work of a misfit weirdo like Smith.

Jim goes to on to remind us that Patty was not a one suicide record wonder:

She resumed recording in 1988 and eight years later released another masterwork, "Gone Again" (Arista), a quiet, stirring reflection on her husband's death. Mr. Smith died of heart failure at age 45.

They should have released these two records together as a box set, with a complimentary noose for the listener to end it all after sitting through this rubbish.

Why a paper with the highest quality standards in the business would continue to print this kind of alternative culture horse-hockey is beyond me. Attention WSJ editors: Your readers are not weirdoes. Or freaks. Or alternative culture practitioners. Please adjust your music coverage accordingly.
Come Children, Do Not Be Afraid

What would you think of a web page that:

A. Looks like it was designed in 1997?

B. Is devoted to the cult of Gary Gaetti? And...

C. ...also worships Jeannie's Restaurant in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Ronnie James Dio, Space Ghost, drinking, some of the best dive bars in Grand Forks, Mystery Science Theater 3000, hockey, Phil Hendrie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spinal Tap, and Don Cherry (among other things)?

I may be a bit biased given my five year stint in The Forks back in college and my admiration for Gaetti during his days as a Twin, but I thoroughly enjoyed scrolling through the strange world of The Gary Gaetti Cült of 514 Cottonwood. Thanks to Henry for hepping me to it. As an added bonus, you won't want to miss the The Jeff Dubay and Doug Woog Local Media Hall of Shame page either.
A Simple Plan

According to the hash that the Dems have been slinging, one of the reasons that we haven't been victorious in Iraq is the lack of a grand master plan. Never mind the countless speeches by President Bush and other senior administration officials laying out why victory in Iraq is critical, what they believe that victory will look like, and how we can achieve it. Or the numerous interviews and articles by these same people covering the same ground. Nope, that wasn't enough. We needed "a plan."

Well, now we have one, called The National Strategy For Victory in Iraq. And it has a spiffy multi-color title page to boot. I imagine that the release of the thirty-eight page document that Democrats have longed for will give them pause in their relentless criticism of the war. Yeah, right.

We've got a plan, but that won't be good enough (because the truth is that nothing would). What will they demand next?

"A PowerPoint presentation! We need a PowerPoint presentation showing how we're going to win in Iraq. The administration has failed miserably by not having a PowerPoint presentation."

Note to the administration's PowerPoint guru: Be sure to include lots of animation and slide transitions to keep Barbara Boxer interested.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Don't Let The Facts Get In The Way Of New Journalism

Friday's Wall Street Journal contained a interesting review of Marc Weingarten's book, The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, and the New Journalism Revolution, by Kyle Smith called When Facts Were Beside the Point:

The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight" is a celebration of what Tom Wolfe dubbed "the New Journalism," which in the 1960s and 1970s brought to fact pieces the flair of fiction. Unfortunately it often brought the making-up-stuff part as well.

Mr. Weingarten admires writers like Mr. Wolfe (whom he credits with inspiring the book), Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, Michael Herr and Jimmy Breslin, each of whom gets one or more chapters extolling his steady rise and eventual triumph amid the barking of tight-fisted editors.

Despite Mr. Weingarten's reverent tone, close readers may find themselves growing uneasy, if not alarmed, by what he reveals. Mr. Herr, the author of the lauded Vietnam memoir "Dispatches" (1968), wrote his editor that the war "goes deeper than anything my generation has known, even deeper, I'm afraid, than Kennedy's murder. No matter when it ends or how it ends, it will leave a mark on this country like the trail of slime that a sand slug leaves." A valid opinion, possibly. But he wrote these words before he left for Vietnam. Does impartiality matter? Maybe not. New Journalists make their subjectivity part of the show. Does the reference to Kennedy's murder suggest a paranoid streak? Maybe that doesn't matter either.

But three pages later, when Mr. Herr's story about an unidentified general "seen... leaving the house of a famous courtesan" is questioned by his editor at Esquire, Mr. Herr writes back in a huff: "He's fiction -- I hoped that that would be obvious."

Huh? Yet Esquire editor Harold Hayes "signed off on it," Mr. Weingarten tells us.
What happened here? Did Esquire print these stories with a headline reading: "Warning: some facts not actually true"? How many other fictional elements appeared in the work of Mr. Herr, a man (in Mr. Weingarten's words) given to "inventing composite soldiers whose personas were stitched together from what Herr observed during many zonked-out late-night bull sessions over cheap scotch and locally procured marijuana"? Should "Dispatches," which resulted from Mr. Herr's Esquire reporting, be reshelved in the fiction department?

I read "Dispatches" some years ago and, since it was not presented as anything but straight reporting, I took it as such. Apparently this use of "composites" is a regular feature of New Journalism.

We learn that "composites" -- New Journalese for "fictional characters" -- appeared regularly in Esquire, whose "best nonfiction writers were pushing their reportage into murky territory where creative interpretation mingled with straight documentation." Ah, to push into murk: the goal of every journalist. Or do only hero-journalists get to do that? Mr. Weingarten doesn't say.

Nor does he linger on the fancies of Mr. Breslin, the author of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," the novel that suggested Mr. Weingarten's title. Mr. Breslin's colleagues at the New York Herald Tribune believed his columns about New York street life "too good to be true"; his editor described his work as full of "wild, crazy fabulations" but continued to run it.

Remember this the next time you hear that canard about the superior credibility of the mainstream media because "they've got editors." What's truly disturbing about this "creative interpretation mingled with straight documentation" of New Journalism wasn't just that these writers were often playing fast and loose with the truth, many of these "New Journalists" were also employing these dubious techniques to push their own political agendas in hopes of "making a difference."

It isn't Mr. Weingarten's purpose to fact-check the leading journalists of the 1960s and 1970s, though some young reporter out there could make a splash doing exactly that. He is content to gather and flesh out a lot of the oft-told tales about how these scribe-gods made their names. But in his telling there seem to be two kinds of New Journalist: those, like Mr. Wolfe, Gay Talese and Ms. Didion, who write like novelists because they have done so much research that they nearly achieve a novelist's omniscience; and those who have done just enough research to cover up their lies.

I gotta believe that a young reporter (or very motivated blogger) could make just as big (if not bigger) a splash by fact-checking the leading journalists of today, especially a local columnist or two who've made careers out of their "man on the street" or more accurately "man in a bar" reporting. It would be interesting to find out if these men (and women) were actually real people or merely composites or even complete fabrications. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction's much easier to fit into your storyline.

Monday, November 28, 2005

That's Entertainment!

There's something deeply wrong with the city of Minneapolis on almost every level. We are all aware of what the leftist political class has done to the jernt and is usually where the action is in terms of posting material, but the culture of Minneapolis is in so many ways so weird, so antagonistic to normal values, so juvenile (save for experimental theatre--Mitch Berg loves the experimental theatre (!)) that it is interesting once in a while to see what that culture produces.

This review of a recent performance by a local rock band had me in stitches from it's unintentionally funny description of the lead singer's depression and how this was supposed to be something musically inspiring:

...Between singer/songwriter Darin Wald's battle with depression (which formed the basis for all of the songs on Suicide Note Reader's Companion)...

BDR followed up with "Seven Hours," a slow-starting acoustic song detailing Wald's hospital admission ("Took a vacation to the state hospital/My sister came to pick me up/Take the meds from a paper cup")

Wald's reserved stage presence and his weary vocal delivery reinforces the claustrophobia of a depression spiraling out of control. From losing his sense of self ("Cancer in my bones/I'm tired of this old skin/I don't know how I got here/I'm crucified again" from "Lately") to the fear of losing those around him ("Who'll pay the bills/Just in case I have to stay?" from "Just In Case"), one could feel the pain and alienation that he went through as he relives it on stage.

I feel I must again let the writers and musicians of Minneapolis know that I DON'T WANT TO FEEL PAIN AND ALIENATION! I don't want to hear some depressed hipster pouring his soul out on stage. I don't want to hear songs about committing suicide or songs about being admitted to the nut house and no normal, well-adjusted, mature person would either.

Depression is a serious illness that often needs to be treated medically, but song fodder it aint. It's just amazing how almost every aspect of Minneapolis is backward, wrong, muddled, confused or just plain weird.

Enjoy that experimental theatre Mitch. That and listening to suicide songs in a bar are just another of the joys of city living that I guess I'm missing out on.

If your children happen to enjoy Louis Rukeyser...

After a mysterious, lengthy Brando-like hiatus from the world, Michael J. Nelson is back with a couple of new offerings at the section of his web site with the titillating (and for the most part accurate) title Other Things. The time off must have done him good, as Mike is in rare form with a look at how Harper Collins is retouching history as well as his long-awaited "in-depth" review of Dr. Doolittle II:

He brings the bear into the forest to meet Ava and though he is smitten, she thinks he's a geek, no doubt because she suspects he juggles. Now, in order to convince the she-bear that Archie is matrimonial timber, he must show her that he's ready to be "wild." This could have been taken care of rather quickly if Archie had simply turned on Murphy, mauled him, consumed a portion of him, then buried the rest for later. (The audience would have cheered as well.) But instead they begin working on him Eliza Doolittle style (no relation).

Unlike Eliza Doolittle, however, converting Archie to a wild bear involves a lot, I mean a lot, of talk about his bowel movements. Now, I enjoy poop talk as much as the next guy (which I assume is not at all) but when the bear eats too much ice cream, starts to suffer extreme gastric distress and says about a restaurant toilet, "It's not gonna be big enough!" well, I start to regret my last meal. And when Murphy himself says, "I have to give my sphincter a little pep talk," I begin to regret that I ever ate anything, ever. Later, when Murphy describes in nearly subatomic detail how the bear has to eat hair and moss to plug up his, um, digestive system, I begin to wonder if I'll stop vomiting during the current administration or sometime in the middle of the next.

If you like what you read there, you'll definitely want to tune in this Saturday to the Northern Alliance Radio Network Show (noon to 3pm streamed live on the 'net) when Mike will join us in the third hour. If you have a question for Mike or just want to talk about why he sucks, give us a call.
Pro-war In Madtown?

From deep within the liberal socialist enclave of Madison, Wisconsin, Grant Anderson is bearing the conservative torch through his work at Patriot Blog and the new conservative newspaper at UW-Madison (yes, it really exists) called The Mendota Beacon. Recently, he interviewed three veterans of the Iraq war who are now students at the school. You can read (and listen) to the interviews here. Not surprisingly their views on the war are a little different from most of their classmates:

One veteran, Jake Kraschnewski, spent seven months as a Marine in Iraq, primarily based out of the city of Yusifiyah. He is frustrated by the poll numbers.

"90 percent of the stuff [in the media] is five army soldiers killed in blast, 30 civilians dead," Kraschnewski said, "It seems like that is the only stuff that makes the news."

The media, Kraschnewski said, portrays Iraq as far more dismal than it really is. "It wasn't everyday we were there people were dying, it wasn't like that at all."

Hello Cleveland?

Vikings 24--Browns 12

Timberwolves 89--Cavaliers 85

Too bad there's not an NHL team in Cleveland or the Wild would surely have soundly beaten them this past weekend as well.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

And I'll Bet He Enjoyed A Fine Smoke With It

From this morning's WSJ:

The dollar has been down, the demand for single-malt scotch has been up, and where supplies are limited to what's left after many decades in the barrel, prices have soared to giddy heights. A bottle of the most expensive whiskey on the market -- the Dalmore 62 -- sold for $55,000 six months ago, up from a still far-from-shabby $40,000 in 2002. A bottle of Macallan 1926 single malt that traded for about $1,500 when it was first released in 1988 now runs north of $35,000.

Dang. Dalmore 62 for $55k. It's hard to imagine what a $55k Scotch would taste like but it's fun to imagine. A big shooter in England was able to find out earlier this year:

One advantage of collecting rare whiskey is that it is likely to become rarer still as others fully indulge their expensive tastes by actually tasting the goods. The Pennyhill Park resort hotel outside London bought one of the 12 bottles of Dalmore 62 to display at its swanky bar. Earlier this year, a middle-aged businessman paid about $55,000 to have the bottle brought to his table and opened. He and a few friends drank it in one sitting. And here's to them!

Agreed. Here's to the middle-aged businessman in London who enjoyed almost $60k worth of Scotch. I will probably never taste the Dalmore 62. The closest I will come to experiencing what this man had is when I get my bill after several hours of drinking at Keegans.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Have You Ever Seen A Squonk's Tears?

My wife is a crafty little devil. Last night upon returning from the Thanksgiving Day Feasting she informed me she was going to rise at an ungodly hour this morn and attempt to score a laptop at one of several local discounters.

I attempted to poo-poo this idea based on the melees I heard about last year at Best Buy and from the simple fact that she is preggo, but she was having none of it and insisted that the chance to save 400 bones on a laptop doesn't come along often.

Being that my cheapness is bested only by the Cheapest Man In The World (The Nihilist in Golf Pants) I decided to let her venture out in the 12 degree weather at 3 am, but only if she went to my beloved WalMart and could stay inside.

The little thing got to Wally at 3:20 and discovered that the laptops were going to be sold back at the layaway area. She was the 11th person in line and proceeded to take a seat on the floor with her fellow WalMart lovers for the next hour and a half.

Shortly before 5, the manager announced that they would be selling 15 Hewlett Packard laptops that normally sell for ~$800 for $378, besting the Best Buy laptop deal by a buck. She happily waited another half hour for those in front of her to be rung up and to complete her transaction.

She returned triumphant this morning shortly after six in time to make my morning coffee and wake me from my warm bed. To say she was excited is a huge understatement so I had her clean the entire condo to work off some of the excess energy as I configured the wireless network to add the laptop.

All in all a very productive Black Friday for the Doubtless family.

UPDATE: Things didn't go quite so well for customers trying to get laptops at a WalMart in Orlando (via Drudge).

More video of the WalMart mayhem (this time in Michigan) here.

Good Lord.

Puck In The Mouth: It Hurts On So Many Levels

If you tempt fate often enough, it's inevitable that you'll end up getting kicked in the teeth. Or taking a hockey puck there.

A while back, the face shield on my hockey helmet broke. I've been wearing a full-shield ever since I received a stick induced gash on my face playing roller hockey about seven years ago. A lot of blood, a trip to the emergency room, stitches, and a scar were enough to convince me that playing without a full-shield was fool hardy. So I planned to replace my recently broken shield at the soonest available opportunity. Soonest available opportunity being whenever I got around to ordering a replacement on the internet. In the meantime, I played a few times sans shield without incident.

I happened to mention this to JB the other day and he advised me that he had an extra shield available that he was not planning on using. Yesterday, he handed off said shield to me at our Thanksgiving gathering. By the time we got home last night I was exhausted after a grueling day of eating, drinking, and being merry. My plans called for a little pick up hockey on Friday morning to work off the rust built up after not skating for a few weeks due to my recent traveling. Before I hit the sack last night, I briefly considered the idea of installing the shield. Nah, I thought, I'll skate without one tomorrow and put it on before my game on Sunday.

So this morning it goes down like this. Guy on the other team is in the corner with the puck. I skate toward him with my stick extended so I can block any attempted pass. He does attempt to pass and I do block it with my stick. Actually it was more of a deflection with the puck leaving the ice and drilling me on the upper lip.

Pain. Blood. Teeth? At first, I thought I lost my front teeth. But I couldn't feel 'em loose in my mouth and I couldn't see 'em on the ice either. I went to the bench and grabbed a towel to stem the flow of blood. One of the other guys who was playing was a doctor. He checked my mouth and recommended that I get stitches. And see a dentist. My teeth weren't gone. But a few had been pushed further back in my mouth by the impact of the hard rubber biscuit. And one had been fractured.

The nice thing about the emergency room in the morning is that you don't have to deal with the usual late night suspects or the long wait times. I was able to get right in and received excellent care from the crew at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Wife and son met me there and Nathaniel was quite interested in watching dad get sutured up.

After being injected with enough Novocain to make an elephant comfortably numb, I received three stitches on the outside of the lip and five on the inside. And a prescription for Percocet. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get the good stuff that got Favre hooked (Vicodin), but, after having your upper lip rearranged by a hockey puck, any painkiller is a good painkiller.

Target wasn't particularly crowded considering it's "Black Friday" (a light snowfall may have dampened shoppers enthusiasm) and I was able to score my Perc without undue hassle. I also picked up "The Simpson's" Season Six DVD since it was priced at a mere eighteen bones and I figured I might have significant couch time over the next few days. My appearance drew more than few odd stares at Target, enough so that I was tempted to go John Merrick on them and start screaming, "I am not an animal! I am a human being! man!"

I'm at home now and the 'Cain is beginning to wear off. It'll soon be time to start riding the Perc Train. More later (including a pic) if time and consciousness permits.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Nothing Gold Can Stay

On this day of giving thanks to God for our many blessings, John Derbyshire reminds us all to include a line item for this unique time and place in history we are all inhabiting:

The sum total of those reflections is that I have been living in a golden age that will soon end. Born between VE Day and VJ Day, I missed all the greatest horrors of the 20th century. If granted a normal lifespan, I shall miss the horrors of the 21st, too. If my parents' generation was the greatest, mine has been the luckiest. For that, in this Thanksgiving season, I give sincere and heartfelt thanks.

Amen. We children of Western Civilization in the mid- to late 20th century have been able to eschew the companions nearly all other human beings have had to endure throughout the ages. War, poverty, sickness, mass death, and the stone cold fear that shrouds them all. The absence of these conditions in our lives and the individual liberty that allows us to control the outcomes of our existences blinds us to the reality that the civilization we've enjoyed is not a result of predestination.

For our lives right now, we should all be profoundly grateful to God and to the generations previous who had to suffer and struggle to make it possible.

And we need to remember, this civilization is not guaranteed to us in the future. We are an historical anomaly. We are living at the summit of a centuries-long, uphill, violent struggle for truth and freedom. And that summit is precarious and subject to the constant gales of base human nature and to nature itself. Derbyshire, ever the fatalist (though a chipper one at that), recounts some of the forces conspiring to expel us into ascent, back to the the terrible constants of history.

Nuclear weapons, throughout my lifetime kept safe under guard in just a handful of reasonably well-ordered nations, will be traded for cash in third-world bazaars and smuggled into American cities ready for the day of judgment. (Perhaps they already have been.) Clever new viruses will mutate, escape from labs, or be released...

Perhaps the greatest threat is the one we pose to ourselves, in our decadence, short-sightedness, and ignorance of history:

Enterprise is being choked off by the Iron Triangle of taxation, regulation, and litigation. France's present, of which we have heard so much comment recently, is our future. Government is hopelessly broken. Though far larger now than in 1957, it does less, and it does that less very badly. Its most elementary functions -- defending our borders, keeping a thrifty eye on the national wealth, apprising us of what our enemies are up to -- are no longer performed to any effect.

And the roots of what we do to aid and abet our governmental self-destruction is based on what we are taught:

The concept that lay beneath and supported our collective consciousness until recently, the concept that white Europeans, their civilization and their bourgeois culture, were the apex of human achievement, will have been shamed, mocked, and badgered out of existence -- along, of course, with that civilization and that culture.

I reflect on the modern Left and their actions, denigrating our traditions and culture at every opportunity. Embracing and aggressively pushing the public policies that weaken our resolve and belief in our own abilities to achieve and overcome the inevitable challenges that will confront us. Their efforts all seem to have the object of sapping the vitality of the golden civilization we've inherited and inhibiting our ability to resist the common causes that have brought down civilizations throughout time.

It is depressing and a tragic process. It's ending assumed by even such smart and prescient observers like Derbyshire. I'm not at that point of resignation, yet. And I think my interest in politics (and it's practical application - blogging) and my electoral support of Republicans is, more than anything else, an attempt to resist this process. And for those who are engaged in defending and trying to preserve our civilization (you know who you are), for you I am thankful as well.

In other words, Happy Turkey Day, you mugs!

TV/Reality Separated At Birth?

Ron, played by actor Bari K. Willerford (without the 'stache), the large, bald, flamboyantly homosexual black clerk working at the photo store in the 1996 episode of Seinfeld called "The Package" and...

...the anonymous, large, bald, flamboyantly homosexual black clerk working at the photo studio yesterday at the Southdale Target?

I don't have the photos to prove it (for obvious reasons), but seriously, these guys are dead ringers right down to their soft, effeminate voices and mannerisms. It was an uncanny experience when we brought Nathaniel in for his first (and very likely last) holiday photo shoot. I almost wanted to ask the guy if he was doing a bit, but elected not to (again for obvious reasons).

A bit of advice for new or would be parents out there: bringing your four-month old baby in to get a holiday picture at a busy retail store on the day before Thanksgiving is not the brightest idea in the world. Live and learn.

Here's wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Now Is The Time At Balsawood When We Decorate

Just a few short days ago we had a house full of, well, house stuff. You know the general clutter I'm talking about; the end table overloaded with six month old magazines, the coffee table straining under the weight of a years worth of photographs and several Sunday papers worth of unused coupons and the kitchen countertops covered with unread junk mail and unwanted catalogs. All of that changed Monday when the lovely Atomizerette took a day off from work and...set the snowmen free.

Clutter has been replaced by snowmen. We have snowmen with bells. We have snowmen that sing. We have snowmen that play the piano. We have snowmen that skate. We have snowmen, and their cuddly-cute snowwives and snowchildren, on every single available horizontal surface in our well as most of the vertical ones. Our house has literally been overtaken by snowmen and, believe it or not, I am feeling strangely fine with it all.

Perhaps my acceptance of the snowpeoples' power grab inside the house has something to do with what I recently did to the exterior. Last year, I complained to the wife about the size of our exterior Christmas lights (insert lame sexual inneundo here). We had those little mini white things that look good on a fern or a potted plant but when applied to something as big as an entire house look rather pathetic. So I complained, and I whined, and I generally made an obnoxious annoyance of myself every single time I had the opportunity to. Apparently, it worked.

This year, I had the real deal to work with. She bought me the big husky sized bulbs...the ones that really scream "CHRISTMAS!" rather than meekly suggesting that the holiday season may soon be upon us. So I strung those babies up last weekend. I was so excited about displaying my new lights that I forgot about my tremendously incapacitating fear of heights long enough to climb up on the roof and line the eaves with four full strings of Christmas joy. We even bought the outdoor timer so the neighborhood would not have to endure even one single night without my illuminated homage to the birth of our Lord and Savior.

And then I plugged them in. Our home's proximity to the airport now concerns me greatly. I seriously fear the glow from these lights may actually disorient a pilot enough that we will soon be awakened by an errant 727 landing in our backyard. How bright can they be, you ask? Take a look for yourself.

Needless to say, any complaints about the number of snowmen scattered about the house will now fall on deaf ears...not to mention blind eyes.
A Call To Arms

If you can't best your opponent on the political playing field, take 'em to court! That's the strategy that Democrats have recently employed against the likes of Tom DeLay and Ron Ebensteiner. And now, we're seeing this same use of the legal system as an extension of politics against one of our fellow MOBsters, Minnesota Democrats Exposed:

I need your help. My right to blog anonymously is being challenged through legal maneuvering by Inside Minnesota Politics.

Today, representatives from Inside Minnesota Politics contacted Domains by Proxy to again request that my contact information be provided so I can be sued for copyright infringement.

I thought this matter had been resolved when I removed the picture in question. But the DFLers behind Inside Minnesota Politics have decided to continue pursuing their lawsuit.

This is not about my use of a picture that I properly sourced, but rather it's about Democrats tired of being exposed on Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

Through a frivolous lawsuit, Democrats are trying to force Domains by Proxy to reveal my identity. Democrats who can't challenge my fact-based message are now resorting to lawsuits to end my right to blog anonymously.

Here's what you can do to help MDE:

1. Tomorrow I will try and establish an anonymous legal defense fund. If I can establish a defense fund, I would ask that you provide a contribution link on your website.

2. If I can't establish a legal defense fund without revealing my identity, then I may ask for pro bono help from a lawyer.

3. Blog on this subject. Blog to protect my right to remain anonymous. Blog to protect the rights of all of the other bloggers who blog anonymously.

We understand the desire to blog anonymously and, although we don't go to quite the lengths that MDE does to maintain the veil of anonymity, we will zealously defend his choice to do so, especially against the sort of underhanded tactics being used by Inside Minnesota Politics. If you can help MDE in any way, we urge you to do so.

I can think of a lawyer or two or even three with MOB connections.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lost Weekend

She's baaaack...but still without permalinks. One of my favorite MOB bloggers, Katie at Yucky Salad with Bones, returns from a brief hiatus to report on what's been keeping her away from the keyboard. It's a sordid tale of addiction involving sleep deprivation, shocking lapses in personal hygiene, withdrawal, betrayal, denial, and finally the road to recovery (at least for now). What was this fiendish scourge that almost destroyed a marriage and ruined countless lives? Crack? Meth? Crank? Vanilla extract? You'll have to read the post to discover her secret shame.
Shades of Gray

Wendy Wilde, local Air America radio show host, comments on why she's asking for a tanning salon membership for Christmas this year:

... I actually live in a community that is 50 percent non-White. And I'm not really White, I'm beige, which is kind of a combination of different colors. But you're right -- I'm not a member of a racial minority community.

Actually, that comment isn't the preamble to a Christmas list, it's an excerpt from an interview Wendy Wilde conducted last month with failed Minneapolis Mayoral candidate Farheen Hakeem. According to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, they got into an on-air spat about who is keeping it real and Ms. Wilde went on the defensive:

Wendy Wilde: But I guess I don't like being told I don't understand, either. I live in a community that has one of the higher crime rates in Minneapolis, and we chose to live there because we wanted our children exposed to a great diversity of people, and all of the cultural benefits that they would gain from that.

Farheen Hakeem: Well, good for you! That's good to know.

That is a perfect response to Wendy Wilde's bleeding heart sacrificial offer, articulated in other words as "you see what we put up with to live next to you people?!"

I'll take Wilde at her word that she's living in a crime-riddled neighborhood (Uptown? Downtown? South Minneapolis? North Minneapolis? The possibilities are endless.) But remember, it's all for the good of the children!

Read the Spokesman-Recorder article for an extended transcript of the Wendy Wilde show on which this argument occurred. It's a fascinating look into the conscience of a liberal. But enjoy it while you can, it may be the last time you ever see such a thing in print:

Janet Roberts, AM 950 station manager, supports Wilde's position completely, although she said she was very disappointed that the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder would be printing excerpts of the interview "out of context" and that the station hardly ever releases interviews to the public.

"I never would have given you a copy of the show had I known you would use it in this fashion," said Roberts. "I will never give your media outlet another copy of anything, or work with you."

Air America Radio, where dissent is crushed and a chill wind silences all debate. Who knows, maybe that policy will improve their ratings? It sure couldn't make them much worse.
They Say These Jobs AIN'T Goin' Boys

We all know what's been happening to the U.S. manufacturing sector over the last few years, right? The media is full of stories (most completely anecdotal in nature) describing how greedy corporations have been outsourcing all the "good jobs" to places like Mexico, India, and China, closing down the factories and "meels" (as John Edwards would say) that made America a great nation, and leaving the average working class American with a dismal future of low-pay, no-benefits jobs at either McDonald's or Wal-mart.

The problem with this woeful tale of American manufacturing decline is that those spinning the sad stories have rarely bothered to talk with those firms actually doing the manufacturing. From today's WSJ (subscription required) we learn that the problem is not a lack of jobs, but rather a lack of skilled workers:

Difficulty in finding enough skilled workers is hampering the ability of many U.S. manufacturers to serve their customers.

Eighty-one percent say they face "moderate" or "severe" shortages of qualified workers, according to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers and Deloitte Consulting LLP. More than half of manufacturers surveyed said 10% or more of their positions are empty for lack of the right candidates.

The shortfall is especially acute in skilled trades, for positions such as welders and specialized machinists. Gaps on the factory floor can make it harder for manufacturers to move quickly to exploit new market opportunities and could hasten the exodus of jobs as more employers hunt for skilled workers outside the U.S.

You mean that companies often have legitimate business reasons (like serving their customers) for moving work overseas?

The recent survey, based on responses from 815 U.S. companies of varying sizes, found that companies see the biggest shortfall in skilled production workers. Eighty percent of respondents expect those workers to be in short supply over the next three years, while 35% expect a shortage of scientists and engineers. More surprising, 25% said they expect a shortage of unskilled workers over the next three years.

John Edwards was right about one thing. There are two Americas: one that wants to work and one that doesn't.
Merchants Are Doin' It For Themselves

Tired of waiting in vain for the City of Minneapolis to respond to concerns about increasing crime, a business association in the Uptown area is taking matters into their own hands:

Uptown residents will soon see a more prominent police presence after a series of robberies in the neighborhood, but they won't be provided by the city.

The Uptown Business Association will be paying off-duty, uniformed Minneapolis police officers to patrol the area on foot. The officers will cost the association $15,000.

The association's Cindy Fitzpatrick said the extra officers were part of a plan to increase security for the upcoming holiday season, and they are not part of a response to the recent robberies. "We wanted to let [people] know Uptown is safe," she said.

Yeah, that's exactly the message I'm getting.

The neighborhood has been beset by robberies in the past few weeks. One woman was carjacked at gunpoint at the YWCA on Hennepin Ave. S., and another was robbed at gunpoint while with her two-year-old daughter.

One of the most important roles for government is to protect the life, property, and livelihoods of its citizens. The City of Minneapolis is failing miserably to fulfill this basic mission of government, so much so that business owners feel the need to take action on their own accord in order to survive. Not exactly the kind of message that's likely to attract future business.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Road To Hell

A few weeks back there was an article on the front page of the WSJ about a Montevideo, Minnesota "Family" that took in a New Orleans family destitute because of hurricane Katrina.

Last week the Strib had basically the same story--minus many of the interesting details that the WSJ thinks it's readers are smart enough to handle--but that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to show what a perfect microcosm the story is for how Minnesota (and MPLS in general) takes in the poor of Chicago, Gary, Vietnam, Russia or wherever with the hope of giving them a new life and where those good intentions often lead to.

The story goes like this. A woman and her partner (btw, what did lesbians call their mates in the Old West Days--"pardner"?) offered to take in a mother and a child homeless from the hurricane in New Orleans. They were looking for two, but got eight instead. Apparently thinking that this would be a manageable situation, they added those eight people to the three kids they already had cobbled together from their own various broken marriages (apparently before they both became lesbians, who knows) and tried to make a go of things in Monetvideo.

At first, it was fun. Both families had much to learn from each other and the stale cliches taught by Diversity Educators seemed to be holding true.

In the first few weeks, the newness of the situation and the excitement of having the town rally around them helped things run smoothly. Donations of clothes, toys, furniture and money arrived every day for a time.

At night, Ryan Thornbury, 12, and Esaw Singleton, 11, would sneak out of bed and gleefully play video games.

Video games? I thought these people were poor.

I guess I need to update my understanding of "poor". But anyway, things went well for the first few weeks until an important disagreement threatened to blow the modern liberal dream apart. But what was the disagreement about? Religion? Politics perhaps? The lesbianism of the host women?


Having given up her office so Dot could have a bedroom, Tanya had tucked her desktop away in the laundry room so she'd have space of her own to cruise eBay, the online auction site.

After finding that the area didn't have radio stations playing the hip hop and rap that they liked, Nicole and Helen wanted to download music from the Internet. Tanya said no, partly to protect the computer from viruses and partly to preserve a teeny area of private space. Nicole and Helen didn't understand.

So things started to turn when the poor people demanded Itunes access? Do I understand this right? You might think there would fighting over something a little more substantial like the meager scraps of food in the house with that many poor people, but it was the lack of Jah Rule, Jay Z and D-O to the double G that caused the spat.

I'm not sure where access to rap music falls in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but I'm sure it's right up there.

So after this first fight, many more ensued with the police finally coming out for a domestic disturbance call.

Now the New Orleans family is moving out of North Minneapolis.

Shortly before Halloween, Nicole Singleton found a Twin Cities church offering a north Minneapolis house rent-free for a year to hurricane survivors.

Dot and the kids arrived in the Twin Cities on Oct. 28. Their new home has a large dining room and kitchen and a big yard. The kids, she said, are settling in and enrolled in Minneapolis public schools. The family plans to stay in Minnesota.

This story mirrors the overall disaster that rolling out the welcome wagon for the poor has caused the state. Years ago, word got out that Minnesota offered higher than normal welfare and various other entitlement benefits. Soon, Greyhound after Greyhound of poor were rolling in from Chicago, Gary and points unknown. Soon after that Minneapolis got it's infamous moniker Murderapolis and the crime continues unabated to this day (see our colleague Rambix for the latest outrage).

You can almost hear the disbelief of the lefty-types who engage in the kind of thinking that has lead us to where we are: "But, but, we had good intentions!"

Update: More on this morality tale at Rambix and the Red Star.
Thanks For The Memory

An excerpt from James T. Como's Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis:

When in his prime in the 1940s and when it was his practice to have students, friends, and colleagues to dinner parties at Magdalen College, Oxford, at which much drinking and even more revelry would transpire, Lewis might perform an astonishing parlor trick. Upon being told how horrible it was to remember nothing, Lewis would reply that it was even worse to forget nothing, as was the case with everything he read. Of course, this declaration would be met with incredulity and demands that he put up or shut up. And so he would solicit a series of numbers from the most skeptical guest, these corresponding to a bookcase, a shelf within that case, and a book upon that shelf. The guest would then fetch the specified volume, which could be in any of several languages, open to a page of his own choosing, read aloud from that page, and stop where he pleased. Lewis would then quote the rest of that page from memory. To the pleasure of all present he would, as John Wain saw, show off.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Market Dance

The art of bartering with the wily merchants (mostly women) at the local markets is a skill that a visitor to China is well-advised to pick up and hone as rapidly as possible. At first the process is a little intimidating, but with observation and practice, one can quickly adapt and even come to quite enjoy it, as I did on my recent trip to Shanghai.

Typically the exchange goes something like this:

Me (pointing to object): How much?

Vendor: Oh for you, very special price.

She then reaches for the omnipresent calculator, punches in a number that only an utter fool (or U.N. procurement specialist) would pay, and smiling passes it to me.

I glance at the figure, smile, shake my head knowingly, input an offer than makes what the Indians got for Manhattan seem generous, and return the calculator.

Now the real drama (and fun) begins. She looks at the cipherin' machine and reacts by wailing as if I had just ripped her first (and in China usually only) born offspring from her cradling arms.

"No, no, no. This good quality. This good price. I give you discount."

She taps in a new, slightly lower number and returns the calculator to me. I glance around, throw my arms out in exasperation, and do my best to pretend to be offended that she would dare try to gouge me with such an insulting price. I raise my offer ever so slightly

We go back in forth in this manner for a few more rounds until we she hits the price that I had originally set as my buying point and we have a deal. Or we can't come to agreement and I walk away. At which point she pursues me, grabs me by my arm, and leads me back to the booth to hear her new "final offer." If you want to have any success in these negotiations at all, you must have the will to break off talks and leave the table if you're not making progress. As Kenny Rogers famously advised, you need to know when to walk away and when to run.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Second City Journalism?

From an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal on the possible sale of Knight Ridder:

On Nov. 1, Private Capital Management LP, a large shareholder in numerous newspaper companies, wrote to the management of Knight Ridder asking that the nation's second largest newspaper chain "aggressively pursue the competitive sale of the company." Two days later, two other large shareholders seconded the motion. Shortly thereafter, Knight Ridder announced that it had decided to "explore" alternatives, "including a possible sale of the company."

It is axiomatic on Wall Street that bear markets beget consolidation. The bear market in the newspaper industry should foretell a spate of mergers and acquisitions. But what if there are no buyers? This is the question that looms over Knight Ridder. Companies that might reasonably be expected to jump at the opportunity to acquire Knight Ridder, like Gannett and the New York Times, have expressed zero interest. New media companies -- Yahoo! and Google -- weren't even called for comment. In the end, it was left to a few Wall Street talking heads to announce interest, which they did by insisting that "big private equity firms" would be the likely buyers, if only to acquire the whole at a discount and then sell off the parts for a gain.

This lack of enthusiasm for a company once regarded as a money machine is evidence of how thoroughly the Internet has disrupted media business models. And with broadband now reaching into more than half of U.S. households, disruption has morphed into menace.

Comes this shot:

Knight Ridder has been publishing mostly second-rate newspapers for as long as anyone can remember.

He did say "mostly second-rate" so perhaps his broad brush swipe doesn't include our local KR entity.
All the President's Men II

As the Plame-gate story widens, perhaps the greatest scandal revealed so far is the level of communication going on at the Washington Post between the reporters (Walter Pincus) and the editors (Bob Woodward). The New York Times reports on this critical exchange:

"The way [Bob Woodward] describes it, which is he walked by and said something about Wilson's wife being at C.I.A., I have absolutely no memory of it at all," Mr. Pincus said in a telephone interview. "And I think he may say that my reaction was 'What!' " like I was surprised. He now thinks I may never have heard him, and said, 'What?' "

And the fate of a nation hangs on an implied punctuation mark.

The foundations of journalism of have always been taught as "Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How?" I think the Washington Post needs to take a step back and start teaching "Hunh? What?, Eh?, Pardon? and Whachu talkin' 'bout?"

It's the primary political story in the country and the accuracy of the Washington Post coverage hinges on a two sentence conversation held while Bob Woodward doesn't break stride on the way to the caffeteria. It'll be interesting to see how Robert Redford handles this in the movie.
The Corn Field Circuit

While U.S. leaders visit the centers of business and government in China, the Chinese take their message to the heartland. The Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Zhou Wenzhong, hits the campaign trail in Iowa (WSJ-subscription required):

Zhou Wenzhong was on the road again, this time in central Iowa, which he calls "a heart state." A silk scarf tossed over his shoulder, the new Chinese ambassador to the U.S. came to fiddle with wooden turkey callers and sniff animal-feed additives, while touting China as a land of opportunity that just wants to be America's friend.

It's a hefty challenge, but Mr. Zhou picked his latest destination -- the third state he's visited in four weeks -- with pinpoint care. He came to Iowa, he says, "because this is where America's political battles are settled." One morning on his three-day visit, he traveled with aides in a minibus for a five-hour roundtrip to Cedar Rapids, the district of Rep. James Leach, a Republican who chairs the Asian subcommittee within the House International Relations committee.

"It is important to have friends, especially out here," said the 60-year-old Mr. Zhou (pronounced "Joe"), as he passed grain silos and shorn corn fields on a late autumn drive.

After years of often ham-handed diplomacy, China is trying as never before to win friends and influence people, not just in Des Moines but in Denver, Schenectady, N.Y., Minneapolis -- and above all, Washington. The reasons are clear. China must maintain its scorching economic growth to pull its massive population out of poverty and become more of a global power. To do that, it must keep the peace with the U.S., its largest trading partner and the catalyst for millions of its jobs.

Zhou's attempts to reach out to the folks in flyover land is just one example of the new approach that China is taking to improving its image in the United States:

The Chinese government, partly to counter Taiwan's own well-fueled public-relations juggernaut in the U.S., has begun to hire high-priced lobbyists and is bringing in a younger, savvier crop of diplomats to work the halls of the U.S. Congress. Its embassy is reaching out to Washington's many think tanks to solicit guidance, while top diplomats like Ambassador Zhou also work the hinterlands. China's embassy itself will soon become a symbol of the country's new presence in Washington: Since 1979, when the countries normalized relations, Chinese diplomats have worked out of a dreary former hotel. But in April, China broke ground on a new embassy, designed by I.M. Pei and expected to be the city's largest when finished in 2008.
Turkey Town

John from Stillwater writes in with some cogent observations about the Pioneer Press and what passes for journalism at our hometown paper:

Thursday November 17, 2005, is the day the St. Paul Pioneer Press officially became a shopper -- The Stillwater Gazette with a Sunday edition.

The dominant graphic on the front page of Section A of my beloved hometown paper was of a flock of turkeys. The above-the-fold headline, the grabber that would get people dropping their quarters into Pioneer Press newspaper stands around the city, was "TIME TO TALK TURKEY." Photo and copy took up just under half the total space of the front page.

Was this a story about the threat of bird flu? No. Was it a business piece about the turkey business in Minnesota or the economic impact of the "holiday" season? No. An animal rights story? No. Was it a news story of any kind? No. It was essentially a house ad for an article in the PiPress "EAT" Section. It's no coincidence that advertising-wise EAT is a very profitable section for the Pioneer Press.

The couple of paragraphs set in up-sized type, next to a picture of the EAT Section to ensure that readers could find it, informed us that people eat a lot of turkey at Thanksgiving time. By turning to EAT we could learn about traditions of "four professional foodies" and a "cornucopia of restaurants" that are alternatives to a homemade Thanksgiving dinner. Heck, the diligent journalists at the Pi Press even dug up some "tasty takeout turkey dinners for easy home entertaining."

Let me say here, I love my hometown paper. I have long been a critic of newspapers for failing to market themselves effectively. I think the Pioneer Press emphasis on local news is a spot on strategy for gaining market share against the Strib and capturing a larger share of local advertising. Local coverage also opens the door to a lot of stories that might not otherwise get covered.

But love makes one blind, not necessarily stupid; there's a difference between marketing and shilling; and "local, local, local" doesn't have to mean "innocuous, innocuous, innocuous."

Is this really what newspapers have to do to survive -- run promos on the front page? If so, sorry, it's not a newspaper; it's a shopper. Does market now determine news "content"? Is the new motto of journalism "All the News You Want to Know?" Is the purpose of the local section to uncover local "news," or is it to make sure that every high school student, athlete and local "personality" gets 15 minutes of fame and the Pioneer Press a place on family refrigerator?

Change, is necessary for the Pioneer Press even if uncomfortable for readers like me but still it ought to be change for the better. Making the Twin Cities a one-newspaper town -- one "news" paper and one shopper -- is not for the better.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I Get It, The Label Guy Is Like, Dumb And Stuff!

I have never met anyone who doesn't like Johnny Cash. In fact, I would actually find it refreshing to meet a person and hear them say "You know, just between us, I never really liked Johnny Cash. Average singer. All his songs sounded the same and that dark crap he got into at the end was just pathetic."

Now that person would be (mainly, the dark crap at the end WAS pathetic--JRC singing Nine Inch Nails? Please) wrong, but it would at least be nice to hear some divergence of opinion.

With the release of I Walk The Line, the critics are already lining up to laud praises on what looks to me to be a lousy movie.

I watched the Johnny Cash music special on CBS Tuesday and several scenes from the movie induced my eyeballs to roll. In one, the MIB is in the EVEELL Record Producer/Label Guy's office discussing his next record. The ERPLG is of course played by a fat, sweaty doofus in a bad suit and he is incredously asking "You mean to tell me you wanna make a record in a pen-ee-ten-tur-ee? Are you crazy? The public will never buy it!"

I just hate being worked like this by directors. I guess I'm supposed to think "Man, those record label guys were SOO STUPID and Johnny was SOO SMART. What a maverick he was!" The scene was so hackneyed, so cliched so simplistic--I really can't imagine two hours of that.
By The Numbers

The weather is cold and the ground is brown, but, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. I got back in the Twin Cities this morning and just happened to be on the same flight from Tokyo as the Governor. Don't worry T-Paw. What goes on in Northwest's World Business Class, stays in Northwest's World Business Class.

If you happen to be in said World Business Class seating anytime in the near future, you may want to check out the in-flight trivia game that is offered through the personal entertainment system. You'll find yours truly holding down three of the Top Ten scores, including the number one position.

I've now been through Tokyo's Narita Airport six times in the last year and my streak of stopping in the Northwest lounge for a beer perfectly poured by Japanese technology remains intact. Six for six baby. Tradition is a good thing.
Nothing Compares To You

In discussions about the President's choices for SCOTUS nominees, you often hear that he promised that he would put forward a justice who was "another Scalia" or "another Thomas." I hate to break it to the conservative base, there isn't anyone else out there like Mr. Antonin Scalia, especially when it comes to his writing. Which is a genuine shame.

Here's the man in action from a book review in November's First Things:

But in a democracy, it is not the function of law to establish any more social policy than what is fairly expressed by legislation, enacted through prescribed democratic procedures. It troubles Smith, but does not at all trouble me--in fact, it pleases me--that giving the words of the Constitution their normal meaning would "expel from the domain of legal issues . . . most of the constitutional disputes that capture our attention," such as "Can a macho military educational institution dedicated to what is euphemistically called the 'adversative' method admit only men? Is there a right to abortion? Or to the assistance of a physician in ending one's life?" If we should read English as English, Smith bemoans, "these questions would seemingly all have received the same answer: 'No law on that one.'"

That is precisely the answer they should have received: The federal Constitution says nothing on these subjects, which are therefore left to be governed by state law. Smith's response is revealing: "We have not been content with this sort of modesty in our law." The antecedent of the pronoun is unspecified, but I fancy it refers to the legal academic community which establishes the permissible boundaries for Smith's thinking, or at least his writing. Many Americans outside that community yearn for this sort of modesty. Indeed, it was something of an issue in the last election. Smith's complaint is that the judges will not have the degree of power "we" would like them to have. Long live the common law!

And the conclusion:

Steven Smith is a diligent observer of academic correctness. This is evident in the fact that his book has at least as many shes as hes ("So the hiring partner said, 'I'll call you,' did she?")--excluding, of course, those pronouns referring to antecedent proper nouns that are masculine, for which Smith can hardly be blamed. One would never expect Smith to violate the "norm prescribing that religious beliefs are inadmissible in academic explanations." Vining (with appropriate disclaimer) is about as far as one can go without offending the proprieties. Could it be, however, that Smith is inviting, tempting, seducing his fellow academics to consider the theological way out of the quandary--the way that seemed to work for the classical school?

As one reaches the end of the book, after reading Vining's just-short-of-theological imaginings followed by Smith's acknowledgment of "richer realities and greater powers in the universe," he (she?) is sorely tempted to leap up and cry out, "Say it, man! Say it! Say the G-word! G-G-G-G-God!" Surely even academics can accept, as a hypothetical author, a hypothetical God! Textualists, being content with a "modest" judicial role, do not have to call in the Almighty to eliminate their philosophical confusion. But Smith may be right that a more ambitious judicial approach demands what might be called a deus ex hypothesi.

Broke the mold with that one they did. Broke the mold.

"The 8th Of November"

The new Big and Rich CD features a haunting, beautiful ode to the gallant men of the 173rd Airborne who took on 1200 NVA and VC soldiers in the Gang Toi Hills of South Vietnam November 5-9, 1965. Badly out-manned, they managed to more than hold their own while sustaining heavy casualties themselves.

Read more about it here and here.

THIS is why I love country music. Who is writing anything even REMOTELY patriotic like this on the rock side? REM? Bruce? U2? You'll never hear it out of the rockers, lest they offend their lefty and MOR Putz base. They would want something more "nuanced" or "subtle".

The song was written after Big and Rich met one of the soldiers who was there, Niles Harris, and were moved by his story.

Said goodbye to his momma
As he left South Dakota
To fight for the red white and blue
He was 19 and green
With a new M16
Just doin' what he had to do
He was dropped in the jungle
Where the choppers would rumble
With the smell of napalm in the air
Then the Sargent said
Look up ahead
Like a dark evil cloud
1200 came down
On him and 29 more
They fought for their lives
But most of them died
in the 173rd airborne

On the 8th of November
The angels were crying
As they carried his brothers away
With the fire rainin' down
And the hell all around
There were few men left standin' that day
Saw the eagle fly
Through a clear blue sky 1965
The 8th of November

Now he's 58
And his ponytail's grey
But the battle still plays in his head
He limps when he walks
But he's strong when he talks
About the shrapnel they left in leg
He puts on a grey suit
over his airborne tattoo
And he ties it on one time a year
And remembers the fallen
As he orders a tall one
Swallows it down with his tears

Compare the truth and beauty of these words to the lies and vitrol of Bruce Springsteen's take on the war in any number of songs ("To go and kill the yellow man," etc.) and you'll know why country should be the music of choice for every conservative.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Low Spark Of Dim Witted Fools

Vice President Dick Cheney finally took a swipe at those who would have you believe that President Bush was the sole inhabitant of this planet to believe that Saddam Hussein was a threat to our well being.

In a speech to the Frontiers of Freedom Institute yesterday, Cheney said:
The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone- but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them.
Now, just who in the world could the Vice President be referring to? Well, here's a smattering of "outrageous distortions" and "lie drenched" claims that just might fill the bill:

Howard Dean (1/31/98 on CBC/PBS's The Editors):
There are such a thing (sic) as international outlaws. I'm not sure China is one but I'm quite sure Iran and Iraq are.
Sandy Berger (2/18/98 Columbus, OH Town Hall Meeting):
He (Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again as he has ten times since 1983.
Nancy Pelosi (11/17/02 on NBC's Meet The Press):
Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There's no question about that.
Jay Rockefeller (10/10/02 Remarks on the Senate floor):
There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years...we also should remember we have always underestimated the progress that Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Hillary Clinton (9/15/02 on NBC's Meet The Press):
I can support the President. I can support an action against Saddam Hussein because I think it's in the long term interest of our national security.
John Edwards (1/7/03 on MSNBC's Buchanan & Press):
Serving on the Intelligence Committee and seeing day after day, week after week, briefings on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his plans on using those weapons; he cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It's just that simple.
For even more of these outright lies and misleading claims, please visit the RNC website and check out the Democrats: Dishonest on Iraq video. Those who once agreed with the President may just surprise you.
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

You know one of things that I'm really going to miss when I get home is my daily dose of the Shanghai Daily. It's a treasure trove of interesting and unusual material. Here is my favorite example from today's paper. More eateries sue over bad reviews:

THREE more eateries are lining up to sue, a Website that publishes restaurant reviews by ordinary consumers, saying some of the comments from one reviewer went too far, and were insulting.

Last week, a court heard suits filed by two other restaurants against the Website.

The suits are all based on "venomous" reviews from one consumer, who goes by the online name "Old Dinner Bucket."

Wasn't he a guitarist for Guns N' Roses at one point?

Yang Wei, chairman of San Lin Tang, which filed a lawsuit with the Xuhui District People's Court yesterday, said that on June 23, 2003, Old Dinner Bucket published a pair of couplets on the Website saying the restaurant was "heartlessly murdering customers for their money" and expressing his hope it would soon go out of business.

That does have a little bite, doesn't it?

"The couplets are so venomous that they aren't only a comment about the dishes and restaurant environment, they are a personal insult," said Yang.

While has deleted the "insulting words," the restaurant's lawyer has kept a copy of the original page, and had it notarized.

San Lin Tang is seeking 50,000 yuan (US$6,173) in compensation and a public apology, the same demand Kongjia Garden and Hong Yun Lou made in suits heard last week.

They've set their sites on more than just too:

Wu Hualiang, the lawyer representing all three of the eateries, said he has asked the Shanghai Public Security Bureau to search for Old Dinner Bucket, so the reviewer can be added to the suits as a defendant.

Round up the usual suspects. You know, the guys writing withering social commentary in their underpants.

"A Netizen must live in the real world, no matter what name he or she uses," Wu said.

You mean there is living, breathing person behind the Nihilist In Golf Pants moniker? Be afraid, be very afraid.

Wu said China's Internet Information Service Management Regulation bans Websites from publishing and spreading insulting information, and says they can be held legally accountable for such statements.

Even if they're true?

He argues that zSurvey didn't check the comments on its site carefully and even referred to Old Dinner Bucket as a gourmet, so the company helped in defaming the restaurants.

Now I know where I heard that name before. I saw Old Dinner Bucket on Iron Chefs a while back.

By the way, all the meals I've had so far in China have been quite good. Top notch all the way. No complaints. No sir, you won't find any venomous reviews or personal insults here at Fraters Libertas. We'll leave that to the Old Dinner Buckets of the world. Especially when it may cost us fifty large RMB.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Migration Pending

China confirms first human bird-flu death:

THE Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed the first human death from the H5N1 bird flu in China.

The ministry also confirmed another human case of the disease and reported a suspected case.

A female farmer in Anhui Province, who developed a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms on November 1, died from breathing problems on November 10. The ministry confirmed yesterday she had contacted the bird flu virus.

Several chickens and ducks she kept at her home died one to two weeks before she became ill and she had contact with sick and dead birds, the ministry said.

The ministry also confirmed yesterday that a 9-year-old boy in Hunan Province's Xiangtan County had the disease, but has since recovered.

The boy surnamed He came down with a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms on October 10. There was an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in his village.

Time for this bird to fly away home.

It's Raining Men

According to sources, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak has a torn meniscus for which he'll be undergoing surgery today. The cause of the injury:

Rybak injured his knee last summer while diving off the Gay Men's Chorus float in the Pride parade, [Press Secretery Jeremy] Hanson said, and it's been bothering him throughout the campaign.

Artist's conception of RT's Gay Men's Chorus leap here.

We're still checking into the veracity of one eye witness account that RT Rybak was actually thrown from the Gay Men's Chorus float for being "not masculine enough."

Breaking updates as events warrant.
Missed Connection

I had every intention of trying to catch up with Governor Pawlenty's group in Shanghai last night at a reception they were holding in the city. Unfortunately, it was not possible to coordinate my schedule with the Guv's agenda. Another round of shopping at a local knockoff market (did you know they offer watches for sale? and DVDs?) and dinner with a group from work sucked up most of my available free time. Maybe next time around.
They Say These Bars Are Going Boys And They Ain't Coming Back (Redux)

A letter from the publican of Keegan's Irish Pub & Restaurant to Hennepin County:

Keegan's Pub opened three and one-half years ago in the revitalized Old St. Anthony area of Minneapolis. For three years we met our financial projections before every level of government stepped in to put an end to it.

The Federal government forced the State to give us .08

The State government forced us to give a pay increase to our bartenders and servers, our highest paid employees.

Hennepin County gave us the smoking ban.

Minneapolis gave us a smoking ban and more costly and restrictive parking for our customers.

Now Hennepin County can recognize the economic hardship it has caused and act on it. Please do so!

For the first three months of 2005, our sales were up 8% over the same months in 2004. For the most recent three months our sales are down 7.5% compared to the same months in 2004. That is a swing of 15.5%. Although our percentage decrease is smaller than some, it represents the difference between profit and loss. We have not had a profitable month since April, and the trend is downward. October 2005 was 17% down from October 2004. Cold weather will only accelerate the trend as smokers will be less willing to smoke outside. Hence, they will go to locations where they can smoke inside.

Rent, heat. and light are up and heating costs are sure to be way up this winter. Additionally, we had to rent outdoor space for a patio and purchase patio furniture, just to minimize our losses. No business can survive under these conditions.

You may be interested to know that we have four fewer employees than we had in March. That translates into unemployment claims and other county benifits.

It appears that St. Paul is encouraging Hennepin County to stay the course with the promise that St. Paul will enact a total smoking ban. It seems to me that promises from St. Paul and Ramsey County were broken last year. Regardless of what St. Paul does or does not do, for Northeast Minneapolis the real problem is Anoka County, just two miles north of us.

One final thought: The argument that non smokers will flock to our restaurants now that we are non smoking is totally bogus. Where are they?

Please act.

If you want to act before Keegan's becomes the latest business in Hennepin County to go up in smoke, you can share your thoughts with the powers that be at:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ignore 2,000 Years Of Wisdom At Your Peril

People love to mock The Church for her stance on birth control. Catholics are mocked, impugned, laughed at, dismissed and worse for even suggesting that perhaps, just maybe interfering with the natural rhythms of life isn't right and will end up harming those who practice it.

Now we hear of evidence that the latest form of "The patch" may be causing blood clots in women:

The Food and Drug Administration warned users of the popular Ortho Evra birth control patch that they are being exposed to more hormones, and are therefore at higher risk of blood clots and other serious side effects, than previously disclosed.

Until now, regulators and patch-maker Ortho McNeil, a Johnson and Johnson subsidiary, had maintained the patch was expected to be associated with similar risks as the pill. But a strongly worded warning was added to the patch label Thursday that says women using the patch will be exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than those using typical birth control pills.

"I wish I had known. It's quite likely I would never have used it," said Jennifer Cowperthwaite, 26, of Broad Brook, Conn., who still suffers breathing problems after a blood clot reached her lungs two years ago after using the patch.

2,000 years is a long time to develop wisdom. Too bad more Catholics don't heed it.
Those Penises Are Gone Boys And They Aint Never Comin' Back

Another reader who has been to Thailand writes in with his own experience:

It's hard to tell a dude there and I heard some mind blowing stories from
fellow travellers when I was there. You should see all the old German men
with cuttoys (thai for trannys, I thought locals were saying "cut boys").
They were too drunk to realize they were dudes or they didn't care. I
couldn't figure out which. Thai cultural tradition dictates that if there
are too many boys born in a family then one of them has to become a girl. I
heard that story a few times there, but I don't know if I believe it. It's
a wild place, and the dangerousness of it is part of the allure. It's like
the 1870s Wild West in America over there. No rules, no law, everything's
available, and watch yourself. I'd go back anytime. The natural scenery
and the crazy urban scenes are awesome.
Yammering Don't Know No Political Persuasion

Big news. There is a new, all-dame blog on the block, called appropriately enough Woman Talk.

What, all that time on the cell phones when they're driving isn't enough?

I guess not.


Singapore Gambles On Future

Singapore lures 'starchitects' to casino project:

SINGAPORE is wooing top architects such as I.M. Pei and Daniel Libeskind to design an iconic casino building on a par with Sydney's Opera House and Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum.

The city-state, better known for its shopping malls and rigorous urban planning, now wants a breath-taking skyline. It has invited gaming firms to team up with leading architects, or 'starchitects,' when they submit proposals for two casino resorts that are expected to cost up to US$5 billion.

Across Asia, eye-catching designer buildings are as much a statement of economic achievement as about creating internationally recognizable marketing symbols, from Kuala Lumpur's soaring Petronas Towers to Beijing's National Stadium, shaped like a bird's nest and planned for the 2008 Olympics.

Singapore's most distinctive building so far is its waterfront performing arts center, the Esplanade, whose spiky domes have evoked comparisons to the prickly shell of the tropical durian fruit or to bugs' eyes.

If you want, I could put in a good word for you Atomizer. A building shaped like a bottle of gin would be eye catching now, wouldn't it?
A Farm Subsidy That We Can All Support

Poultry farmers get free vaccine:

BIRD flu vaccine is now available free to farmers, China's chief veterinary said today.

Jia Youling, director of the Veterinary Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, warned farmers not to use unauthorized vaccines, which may have no effect.

He said the central government will share the cost of vaccines with local governments, and the proportion depends on different regions. The central government will pay 20 percent in the eastern region, 50 percent in the central region and 80 percent in the western region.

Local governments will pick up the rest.

Jia stressed that people must not eat birds that die of disease. The H5N1 virus will not stay alive in a high temperature, but people can be infected if they pick up a dead chicken or remove feathers.

Monday, November 14, 2005

You there,fill it up with petroleum distillate, and re-vulcanize my tires, post-haste

Joe e-mails to observe:

This line at Hugh's blog is just begging for the Fraters treatment:

"First, given that F Troop is perhaps the most politically incorrect show ever made,..."

I guess he's never seen an episode of South Park. Obviously, Hugh stopped watching TV in 1967.

Which I believe is just about the same time he stopped dyeing his hair as well.

Crowd Mobs Gov. Schwarzenegger in China:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had just finished speaking at an event in Beijing on Monday when he and his wife, Maria Shriver, were briefly mobbed by dozens of fans and photographers.

The governor, on the first of his six-day trade mission to China, became separated from his wife and their official security detail at Beijing's Millenium monument when crowds descended upon the governor's entourage. Police had to shove away the mob.

Also in China this week is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and President Bush, who is visiting as part of a multination Asia trip.
One Night In Bangkok

Makes a hard man humble:

THAI transvestites are often pretty enough to fool tourists and expatriates into taking them home for the night, but the unwary foreign visitor risks losing his wallet as well as his pride, Thai police warned yesterday. Members of a transvestite gang have confessed to concealing strong sedative pills under their tongues and spitting them down the throats of their victims while kissing. It causes victims to pass out so they can be easily robbed. The confession came from three attractive transvestites arrested last week in Bangkok for stealing more than 300,000 baht (US$7,300).
City Mouse vs. Suburban Mouse

The debate over the merits of city living continue at Shot in the Dark. And don't forget the comments section, where Mitch Berg elaborates on his theories of the Catholic Church and who has the right to engage in conversation about children - it's really quite enlightening stuff.

UPDATE: More from Freedom Dogs

UPDATE: More from Spitbull

UPDATE: The final word, from Sisyphus.

An Ignoramus Or A Fool

The inimitable Vox Day has a new column today where he gets to the heart of the goals of public education and it aint readin', ritin' or rithmetic'.

California parents are reeling from the recent decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which asserts that parents' have no right to control how the public schools educate their children. In Texas, parents are angrily protesting their children being medicated by school personnel against their wishes.

However, these despicable actions should come as a surprise only to the ignorant - who are clearly the great majority - since only an ignoramus or a fool would voluntarily pass his children through the pagan fires of the public schools.

I strongly agree with that last sentence. It amazes me how many seemingly smart people are completely unaware of what happens in the public schools (and yes, that does include the one in YOUR neighborhood). Listen to (local talk show host) Soucheray any day and there will inevitably be some guy calling in from Shoreview or wherever that is indignant that his son/daughter is being taught any number of lies stemming from an aggressive secular humanist agenda.

I just want to ask these people what they think conservatives have been talking about all these years. I'm afraid these people suffer from what I call the "MOR Putz" syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by a unexamined faith in always trying to find the middle ground of issues--of always looking for the Middle Of the Road. "Yeah," they say to themselves, "maybe those conservatives are right in their criticism of the schools, but then again they DO sound kind of angry, so maybe there's something wrong with them. Oh well, who knows. Off to the public schools Brandon".

This defaulting to whatever the popular culture throws their way (In But Not Of anyone?) makes for great problems down the road when they actually wake up and realize what they are condemning their children to.

What's that you say? You'd just love to send your kids to private school, but dang it, you just can't afford it? Sorry Charlie, no sale. What kind of cars do you drive? How big is your house? Where did you vacation this year? I flat out reject the affordability excuse when many people are living the lifestyles that were once only afforded to CEOs, business owners or government employees.

If I sound preachy, deal with it. This issue isn't going away.

The only people that should have their kids in public schools are leftists who actually believe in and agree with the secular humanist agenda. If you aren't one and don't, then you have to ask yourself one question:

Are you an ignoramus or a fool?
Shanghai Surprise

Shanghai is similar in many respects to New York City. Soaring skyscrapers, busy streets, teeming crowds, and dudes pimping fake Rolex watches. Walking around the shopping district on Nanjing Road, as I did on Saturday, is a something like strolling through New York's Chinatown. Except that it goes on and on and on (no Little Italy in Shanghai) and there are a hell of a lot more Chinese folk milling about. It also is remindful of New York in that spending a day prowling the streets is a draining experience, as much if not more mentally than physically.

The hotel where I am presently sequestered in is located in Pudong, so named because it is east of the Huangpu River. Pudong is a booming financial and commercial district, with bright lights and gleaming office towers that exemplify the go-go capitalism of the "New China." Puchi (The name's Poochie D And I rock the telly, I'm half Joe Camel And a third Fonzarelli) is west of the river and is home to The Bund, where you can find historic buildings with a variety of archictural stylings, as well as the Nanjing Road shopping experience.

To get from Pudong to Puchi, you can take a pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath the Huangpu River. This being the "New China" and all, it's not merely a tunnel, it's a tourist attraction. Cable cars whisk you through the tunnel and you are "treated" to a visual display that includes smoke, lasers, trippy music, shimmering lights, and even giant puppets. It's all supposed to be so very futuristic, but it has more of a late '70s Pink Floyd laser light show at the planetarium feel to it. The first time through it's mildly amusing. When you make the return trip it's slightly annoying.

A Westerner walking down Nanjing Road is well-advised to observe the same protocol that military convoys do. The key to survival is to keep moving at all times, even if you run into an ambush. You're always a target. But if you stop, you're that much easier to hit.

The hustlers can spot a Westerner like a circling hawk eyes a field mouse in the thick grass. And they pounce with the same ferocity and desire to feed.

The pitch usually followed the same progression:

"Sir, you want shoes? Watches? Antiques? Wallet? DVDs?"

I swear that one enterprising gent followed that up with "Pussy?" but his English was poor and it's possible that I misunderstood his offer.

While they're running through the gamut of goods available for purchase, they're attempting to stab a brochure into your hands and walking beside you. Right beside you. I quickly learned that a simple "No" would not suffice. My boilerplate response soon evolved into a rapid and firm "No. No. No." accompanied by vigorous shaking of the head and employment of the international wave off signal.

The one item that I desperately wanted to buy was a t-shirt that simply read:

"NO, I don't want a frickin' watch, shoes, antiques, wallet, DVD or ANYTHING ELSE you have to offer. Leave me the hell alone."

Unfortunately, such an item was not available for purchase as near as I was able to ascertain.

When it comes to spitting in public, the average Chinese man (and even woman) plays second fiddle to no one, not even a good ol' boy from 'Bama. Having your shoes spat upon at any moment is but one of the hazards (and easily the least serious) that you face when strolling the streets of Shanghai. It's a wonder that the population of the city has grown to what it is (around sixteen million souls) when you observe the behavior of drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians first hand. Somehow, what from what appears to be random acts of mindless stupidity and utter chaos, a strange ordering emerges in the traffic cosmos that allows the vast majority of bodies in motion to avoid collisions that seem all but inevitable to the watcher.
Keepin' It Dismal

As a rule, economists are not often the subject of heated and passionate debate. But in China these days, they've taken center stage. Unfortunately, it's more of a bull's-eye than a spotlight. We start with an editorial in the China Daily called, Internet war on economists lesson for many:

As a class war is being waged in the ghettos of French cities, another class war, as it were, is being waged on the Chinese Internet - and is teaching us a lesson about where reforms may need to be stepped up.

The Chinese war is the war against "mainstream economists." There are many definitions for that phrase, from apologists for the rich to lazy bones in research.

They does pretty much covers the range for economists, don't it? Now where would King fall?

Some overseas Chinese academics are taking advantage of this event to promote themselves. Someone reportedly declared that there are no more than five top-notch economists on the Chinese mainland. Although he later reportedly retracted some of his words, there are already different versions of mainland economists' rating lists.

Already more than 90 per cent of Chinese Internet surfers have agreed with the poor assessment of economists, according to a survey on a major news portal.

We know how unreliable those internet polls are. Still, that ninety percent's gotta hurt.

The picture may get messier when more individuals and journalists add fuel to the debate. Soon enough, I am afraid, more personality attacks may be involved. The debate will degenerate into a boring game of mud-slinging and name-calling under hollow moral slogans.

We are still talking about economists here, right?

More from another editorial on the same subject (two editorials on economists on the SAME day?) in the Shanghai Daily:

ON October 26, Ding Xueliang, a professor of sociology at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said that there are no more than five economists, in the real sense of the word, in China.

In his view, a true economist treats the economy as a subject rather than as a way to get rich or become famous.

The latter undoubtedly being the reason that most enter the field. That and the chicks.

But many so-called economists in China today are so concerned about looking after their own personal interests that they've neglected to obey the basic work ethics that go with being an economist.

Economists have a work ethic?

Although his conclusion seems to be too absolute, there's still some truth in it. And that poses a question: Should economists pursue fame and wealth? And, if so, to what extent?

A better question would be, what the hell are they smoking if they think being an economist is the way to pursue fame and wealth?

According to a survey conducted by InsightCN, an online research corporation, 89.5 percent of people surveyed believed that it is all right for economists to seek a better life, but they should at least maintain their conscience.

Economists have a conscience?

But the fact is that we have seen many economists acting as public speakers on behalf of certain companies or institutes just for their own interest. Even in such a stagnant Chinese stock market, there are still economists urging the public to buy certain stocks and promising them certain profit.

Or hawking Iraqi Dinars on the radio. Have they no sense of shame?
A Friend Indeed

Paul e-mails to call for an intervention:

Hey Elder we have a problem on our hands and I thought you were who I should come to for this problem. When we see a friend struggling it is our responsibility to call attention to the problem and see to it that they get the help they need. Our friend in question is Hugh. He fell off of the wagon and it is not a pretty site. He has gone nerd on us big time. He has a damn Lord of the Rings personality test on his site for Pete's sake. For the love of God the poor schmuck is about five minutes away from doing a remote from the Star Trek convention at the Orange County Hilton. Do something quick or the next thing you know he is going to declare himself the Dungeon Master of Minnesota on Monday's show.