Saturday, December 31, 2005

Standing Up For Moderate Islam

Yesterday, Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia, had a commentary in the Wall Street Journal called Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam. It's refreshing to see a man of his stature discuss the need for moderate Muslims and non-Muslims to jointly develop a strategy to blunt the advance of Wahhabi-inspired Islamist extremism.

It is time for people of goodwill from every faith and nation to recognize that a terrible danger threatens humanity. We cannot afford to continue "business as usual" in the face of this existential threat. Rather, we must set aside our international and partisan bickering, and join to confront the danger that lies before us.

He lays out the challenges that those opposing the Islamists face as well as their advantages:

An effective counterstrategy must be based upon a realistic assessment of our own strengths and weaknesses in the face of religious extremism and terror. Disunity, of course, has proved fatal to countless human societies faced with a similar existential threat. A lack of seriousness in confronting the imminent danger is likewise often fatal. Those who seek to promote a peaceful and tolerant understanding of Islam must overcome the paralyzing effects of inertia, and harness a number of actual or potential strengths, which can play a key role in neutralizing fundamentalist ideology. These strengths not only are assets in the struggle with religious extremism, but in their mirror form they point to the weakness at the heart of fundamentalist ideology. They are:

1) Human dignity, which demands freedom of conscience and rejects the forced imposition of religious views; 2) the ability to mobilize immense resources to bring to bear on this problem, once it is identified and a global commitment is made to solve it; 3) the ability to leverage resources by supporting individuals and organizations that truly embrace a peaceful and tolerant Islam; 4) nearly 1,400 years of Islamic traditions and spirituality, which are inimical to fundamentalist ideology; 5) appeals to local and national -- as well as Islamic -- culture/traditions/pride; 6) the power of the feminine spirit, and the fact that half of humanity consists of women, who have an inherent stake in the outcome of this struggle; 7) traditional and Sufi leadership and masses, who are not yet radicalized (strong numeric advantage: 85% to 90% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims); 8) the ability to harness networks of Islamic schools to propagate a peaceful and tolerant Islam; 9) the natural tendency of like-minded people to work together when alerted to a common danger; 10) the ability to form a global network of like-minded individuals, organizations and opinion leaders to promote moderate and progressive ideas throughout the Muslim world; 11) the existence of a counterideology, in the form of traditional, Sufi and modern Islamic teachings, and the ability to translate such works into key languages; 12) the benefits of modernity, for all its flaws, and the widespread appeal of popular culture; 13) the ability to cross national and cultural borders in the name of religion; 14) Internet communications, to disseminate progressive views -- linking and inspiring like-minded individuals and organizations throughout the world; 15) the nation-state; and 16) the universal human desire for freedom, justice and a better life for oneself and loved ones.

Though potentially decisive, most of these advantages remain latent or diffuse, and require mobilization to be effective in confronting fundamentalist ideology. In addition, no effort to defeat religious extremism can succeed without ultimately cutting off the flow of petrodollars used to finance that extremism, from Leeds to Jakarta.

Top Shelf Reading

The December 19th issue of National Review was a special 50th anniversary issue and included reviews of ten books that "advanced the cause of conservatism and of freedom in general." Here's the list:

The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

Suicide of the West by James Burnham

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton and Rose Friedman

Crisis of the House Divided : An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates by Harry V. Jaffa

Modern Times Revised Edition: World from the Twenties to the Nineties by Paul Johnson

Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 by Charles Murray

Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays by Michael Oakeshott

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Richard Pipes pens the review of Suicide of the West and includes this gem:

Liberal philosophy, which originated in the Enlightenment era, produces "ideological thinking," the distinguishing quality of which is to regard those who oppose it as either stupid or malicious. For a liberal, if doctrine and reality clash, reality "must give way." Hence no true dialogue with a liberal is possible: His thinking cannot be refuted either by logic or by evidence.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Little Help From My Friends

Dave e-mails looking for a little help:

Driving to work today, I came up on a car with a Wellstone bumper sticker and some patriotic/support our troops ones. "Odd combination" thought I. As I got closer, I saw that the Wellstone sticker was actually a Reagan one made to look like those that the liberals still have on their Volvo's.


White lettering, green background, with an exclamation point.

Where do I get one? One of you must know. If not, perhaps a call for information on a blog would reveal the secret source.

Someone? Anyone? Bueller?
Gophers Strong-Arm Tactics Bust Union

Gopher Puck Live:

The Gophers rolled over Union College tonight in the opener of the Dodge Holiday Classic, 8-0. The Gophers played well from start to finish, in all aspects of the game. Mike Howe had a hat trick, and both Ryan Potulny and Derek Peltier had 3 points each (1 G, 2A each). But it's not like this game wasn't a forgone conclusion from the drop of the puck as Union didn't present much of a challenge in any way.

(I couldn't resist the opportunity to use the post title.)
This Bird You'll Never Change

A couple of NHL players are now saying the new rule changes have wussified the sport and I have to agree.

Dan Hinote of the Avs (and a MN boy) had these strong words for the new, improved NHL:

"There's no testosterone in the game right now," said Hinote, a veteran right winger for Colorado. "They've taken a lot of the physical aspects out of the game. It's predominantly special teams now.

"There's no more battling in the corners. I won't say there's none, but there's a lot less. There's no scrums in front of the net."

I have many fond memories of watching those great battles in front of the net where guys like Dino Ciccarelli, who went a mere 5'8" and 170 would stand directly in front of Blackhawk's netminder Murray Bannerman while defenseman Doug Crossman worked over Ciccarelli like a ragdoll with crosschecks to the small of his back, slashes, punches--anything to move him out of there. And all the while Dino gave as good as he took. It was incredibly entertaining.

But since the NHL powers started listening to the wussies who attend focus groups and decry the "Violence" that "My child" has to watch, the game has gone downhill.

Hinote continued:

"There's far less hitting. You play a more tentative style because you don't want to put your team down," Hinote said. "On the other side, I think it is more entertaining for people to watch. From my point of view, the type of game I have to play, they've taken a lot of that part away.

"Now, is the league better because of these new rules? Perhaps. Maybe the fans like it more. And if that's what we're geared toward, then they're doing their job right. But there's a lot of hockey fans, fans who have been watching a long time, that are going to miss that part of the game."

Former Wild Andrew Burnette agreed with this assessment and took it even one step further with a true diss:

"I think they've taken away a little bit of the battles," Brunette said. "It's part of hockey. If not, it's kind of roller hockey. Roller hockey, that's not good."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

He entertains people at bank-machines and other of life's many lineups

Linda from Denver e-mails with more on queues in China:

I had a sabbatical year in China (1987-88) and noticed that the lack of the custom of queuing was only in the PRC (where people pushed and shoved even when there was no earthly reason to (two young men fighting to board first on a bus that had no passengers at all), while in Hong Kong they queued automatically even when it obviously wouldn't be necessary.

The PRC hasn't done well at engineering crowd control. If you want to buy a ticket on the Beijing subway, you have to push and shove or you'll never get to the window, because that's what everybody else is doing. And once you get to the window, you have to push and shove again to get out, because there's no established one-way traffic pattern.

I panicked once, in such a crowd, and when a guy shoved his arm in my face, I bit him. I was then able to buy my ticket and exit without interference.

Once I took my film to the main post office in Shanghai to send it back to the US for processing. There was the usual melee and I was grumbling under my breath because people kept pushing ahead of me (we've been socialized not to do that, and it is difficult to change). A man looked around, saw me and started marshaling the crown into lines. "You are embarrassing all Chinese with this bad behavior!" or words to that effect. (No Chinese ever stops to think that foreigners might speak the language.)

Well, it was a miracle. Everybody in that unruly mob knew exactly who had arrived just before him, and just after, and with no disagreement they sorted themselves into a snake. The man who had organized them was several people ahead of me, and when he'd finished and was leaving, he stopped near me and explained that he had been a graduate student at Ohio State.

The other interesting thing was that the people in the line maintained it. Someone would come in the door, see nobody pushing toward the counter and walk right up -- until people started loudly complaining about him, at which point he would slink to the end of the line and become one of the loudest complainers about the next unaware line-cutter.

There must be a dissertation in there somewhere.

Under The Radar

It seems hard to believe that you could describe a columnist who writes for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal as underappreciated and underrated, but when it comes to Holman Jenkins I think the tags are appropriate. Despite that fact that on a weekly basis he turns out what I consider to be some of the sharpest commentary in the land for what is clearly the nation's finest newspaper, I rarely hear his name mentioned or see bloggers linking to his writing (possibly due to the Journal's on-line subscription requirement). Which just ain't right when you consider the gold that he's spinning. Here's a sample from his latest "Business World" offering in which he applies a few lessons in economics and a few more lashes to one of favorite whipping boys:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, who keeps himself deliberately uninformed about the workings of the private sector lest it cast him into doubt about his easy demagoguery, recently castigated the oil industry for "buying back stock, hoarding cash and drilling on Wall Street."

Now, that's what you call an attention getting opening.

He is one of several who've backed legislation to confiscate the industry's "windfall profits" if companies don't reinvest the money in new energy projects.

In fact, the capital markets are in charge of deciding where money is best invested, and oil companies are only in charge of doing what corporate governance reformers insist all companies should be doing -- being careful with their shareholders' money. That's why the six biggest oil companies, Mr. Dorgan's fury notwithstanding, are expected this year to allocate more than 60% of their profits to dividends and stock buybacks while reinvesting only about one-third in the oil business.

Mr. Dorgan perhaps hasn't noticed but Big Oil has become a pygmy. It accounts for less than 16% of the world's current production and less than 10% of the reserves that will supply our needs in the future. The industry doesn't reinvest more in energy development because, bluntly, most of the opportunities are off limits to it.

The real powers today are the Saudi state oil company, the Iranian state oil company, the Venezuelan state oil company, etc. Not only are governments in control of most of the world's oil and gas reserves, but increasingly they decline even to make use of the technical and management skills of Big Oil anymore.

His withering wit is non-discriminatory as well:

Consider the perfected idiocy of Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who bought her Senate seat with a now-diminished dotcom fortune and has reason to worry about whether voters will find her worth re-electing. This undoubtedly explains her sudden and shrill emergence as the most unhinged of oil-industry bashers.

"Perfected idiocy." Beautiful.

Folks like Ms. Cantwell and Mr. Dorgan should look up from their polling data once in a while and take stock of the world, as statesmen are supposed to do. Their juvenile and myopic electioneering strategies are a big wet favor to the likes of Messrs. Putin and Ahmadinejad. Now is the time our leaders should be seeking to strengthen a profit-motivated global oil industry to balance the power of oil-controlling governments that don't have America's interests at heart.

Holman Jenkins appears Wednesdays in the Journal. Catch him if you can.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Good Lovin' Gone Bad

Just what is it about us bloggers that has the mainstream media practically wetting their underpants in recent days? When even syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, a self-described fan of blogging since at least 2003, has turned on us, you know something has gone terribly wrong.

From her July 13, 2003 column entitled Blogs breaking logjam of journalism, Parker writes:
As a regular visitor to a dozen or so news and opinion blogs, I'm riveted by the implications for my profession. Bloggers are making life interesting for reluctant mainstreamers like myself and for the public, whose access to information until now has been relatively controlled by traditional media.

...what I once loved about journalism went missing some time ago and seems to have resurfaced as the driving force of the blogosphere: a high-spirited, irreverent, swashbuckling, lances-to-the-ready assault on the status quo.
How does Parker feel today, you might ask? From her December 28, 2005 column Lord of the blogs Parker writes:
What is wonderful and miraculous about the Internet needs little elaboration. We all marvel at the ease with which we can access information - whether reading government documents previously available only to a few, or tracking down old friends and new enemies.

It is this latter - our new enemies - that interests me most. I don't mean al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden, but the less visible, insidious enemies of decency, humanity and civility - the angry offspring of narcissism's quickie marriage to instant gratification.
Wow...from being lauded as high-spirited challengers of the status quo to being cursed as insidious enemies of humanity on a level somewhere just below Osama bin Laden in only about 2-1/2 years. When someone falls out of favor with Kathleen Parker, they really fall.

Continuing to compare her two columns, it becomes clearly evident that Ms Parker has long since passed the googly-eyed puppy-love stage in her relationship with the blogosphere and is now deeply entrenched in the "Get your crap out of my house!" breaking-up stage.

Back when she still had those magical feelings for us, she proudly proclaimed:
While mainstream journalists are tucked inside their newsroom cubicles deciphering management's latest "tidy desk" memo, bloggers are building bonfires and handing out virtual leaflets along America's Information Highway...

...The view from my bunker suggests that blogs can't be anything but good for journalism. Just as a new restaurant is good for established ones, competition is good. And fun! As another famous cowboy recently put it, "Bring `em on!"
Today, after finding our dirty clothes strewn all over the bedroom floor every day for over two years Parker spits:
Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. Some bloggers also offer superb commentary, but most babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation's inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive.

Even so, they hold the same megaphone as the adults and enjoy perceived credibility owing to membership in the larger world of blog grown-ups.
Even those little quirks of ours that she used to find endearing:
The best bloggers, who are generous in linking to one another -alien behavior to journalists accustomed to careerist, shark-tank newsrooms -are like smart, hip gunslingers come to make trouble for the local good ol' boys.
She now finds them crass and annoying:
They play tag team with hyperlinks ("I'll say you're important if you'll say I'm important) and shriek "Gotcha!" when they catch some weary wage earner in a mistake or oversight. Plenty smart but lacking in wisdom, they possess the power of a forum, but neither the maturity nor humility that years of experience impose.
So, just what did we do to deserve such a heartless and insulting "Dear John" letter? Alas, I think our relationship was doomed from the start. At the close of her 2003 love letter, Parker tipped her hand:
...the blogosphere still ain't a newspaper. You can't hold the blogosphere in your hands. You can't feel a blog, smell it, fold it, hand it across the breakfast table or throw it down in a rage. You can't cut out stories and strawberry them to the fridge, line the birdcage, swat flies, house-train the puppy or wrap fish in it.

In the end, a blog is just a blog, but a newspaper -cradled caffeinated in a morning lap curled barefoot into the seat of a porch rocker -is a read.
She never really loved us. Sure, she thought we were cute and cuddly for a while...but her heart has always belonged to another, and she let us know that today:
Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.
And, her final parting shot at us:
We can't silence them, but for civilization's sake - and the integrity of information by which we all live or die - we can and should ignore them.
Ignore us now, if you must, Kathleen, but I will continue to take your words from two years ago to heart. Everytime I need to line the birdcage, swat a fly, house-train the puppy or wrap a fish, I'm going to reach for the nearest newspaper...and think of you.

Gate Keeper Missing in Action

From the unfortunately named Casper (WY) Star-Tribune (and heard on the Hugh Hewitt show), a report on the credibility of the mainstream media:

What started out as a bogus news release written as an April Fool's joke by Afton outfitter Maury Jones has turned up as fact in the media -- unfortunately, for the second time.

On its front page Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times wrote about continuing resistance to wolves in the greater Yellowstone area. Staff writer Julie Cart quoted from Jones' tongue-in-cheek release titled "Wyoming Governor tells feds to go to Hell."

Los Angeles Times deputy metro editor David Lauter called the error unfortunate. "We hate when this kind of thing happens, and we correct it as quickly as we can," he said.

Don't you hate it when you publish complete falsehoods on the front page of a major American newspaper? That can be so annoying!

I think now is a good time to recall the dire warnings about blogs delivered by the Pioneer Press yesterday:

Along with partisanship, credibility is another problem for blogs. There's nothing in the First Amendment about the need for an editor. Bloggers can write anything they want; they can spout fact or fiction. [U of MN Professor] Larry Jacobs advises readers to beware: "There's no gatekeeping here."

And there's nothing in the First Amendment about the need for an editor who doesn't have his head up his rear end either. The point being, mistakes happen. Pretending that the MSM has a better record in this regard than the blogs (at least those that take their work seriously) reveals nothing more than ignorance.

Speaking of which, here is the LA Times correction:


An article in Tuesday's Section A about tensions over the federal effort to reintroduce wolves into parts of the West wrongly attributed to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal a statement that Wyoming considered the Endangered Species Act no longer in force and "now considers the wolf as a federal dog." The statement, which was circulated on the Internet, was purportedly from Freudenthal but was in fact a hoax.

I knew it, that darn Internet is to blame after all! Bloggers, I beseech you, stop circulating hoaxes, before the LA Times is forced to publish them again.
Bury That Baby!

(Our scene begins deep within the bowels of the Los Angeles Times. A reporter is pitching his editor on a story idea.)

Reporter: I've got a hot one for you.

Editor (sighs): Let's hear it.

Reporter: Okay, it's the story of an African-American man...

Editor: Good start.

Reporter: ...who runs an alternative housing program for the homeless...

Editor (leaning forward with sudden interest): Go on.

Reporter: ...that's being forced to close after his landlord raised the rent...

Editor (nodding enthusiastically): Yes, yes.

Reporter: ...because the landlord doesn't like the man's political beliefs.

Editor (leaping out of chair excitedly): Gold! That's gold baby! We've got a minority victim, a repressive property owner, poor homeless people being thrown out into the streets, and another example crushing of dissent in George Bush's America!!!

(The editor grabs a pad and paper and pen and begins scribbling furiously.)

Editor: We're gonna need team coverage of this. Get a photographer down there right away. I want pictures. Lots of pictures. I can see the page now: shots of where the homeless people live next to pictures of the offices of the rich property owner. Yes, yes. And get someone from the entertainment section too. This story will get the celebrity cause crowd out. Mike Farrell? Jamie Foxx? My God, do you you think that Streisand might get involved? She's so wonderful.

(He pauses and reflects dreamily)

Editor: Back to business. What angle should we push? Racism or politics? Hell, we can do both! This is going to be front page material baby, maybe even an on-going series. I smell a Pu-litz-zer.

Reporter: Um...there is one thing.

Editor: What, what? Out with it.

Reporter: The man is a Republican.

(Screeching sound of a turntable suddenly stopping)

A commentary by homeless activist Ted Hayes called Prejudice appeared in today's WSJ:

But it is not only insults. I am the founder and director of a unique, progressive homeless facility in downtown Los Angeles, known as the Dome Village. Yet the 35 men, women and children and their pets who call the Dome Village home are being "evicted" from privately owned property after 12-and-a-half years -- apparently on account of my political beliefs and activities. You see, though I am a leading homeless activist, I am also a conservative Republican and a strong supporter of President Bush.

Here's how the situation played out. Recently, I was invited to address a local Republican Women's Club; my landlord read an article in the local paper reporting on the event. Soon after, I received a notice raising the Dome Village rent from $2,500 a month to $18,330. Shocked, I inquired as to the seriousness of the change and the property owner blurted out that the cause of our "eviction" was "because you are Republican." He said that as a Democrat, he was tired of helping me and the Dome Village. In other words, let the homeless be damned.

And people think the Democrats are the party of compassion and tolerance.
Private property should be protected, of course, and I have no intention of causing any trouble for this property owner as we part ways. Whatever he does with his valuable land -- it is only a few blocks from the Staples Center -- is no concern of mine, and I will not go to court.

Great story, isn't it? And one that did not escape the attention of the Los Angeles Times, which saw fit to publish an account of it in the State News section of the paper. On Christmas Day.

The View from the Cutting Room Floor

The local mainstream media is taking another quizzical glance at the "blogging" phenomenon with this article in yesterday's Pioneer Press, about the possisble influence of the medium in the upcoming election cycle.

Cutting room floor disclaimer, despite being interviewed several months ago for nearly an hour by the Pioneer Press reporter, Brady Averill (who at the time, was still a college student and some sort of intern at the Pioneer Press), and despite being uniformly brilliant on all queries, Chad and I didn't even get a one line, out-of-context blurb in the article. Which, I suppose, we should be happy for, based on the experience by Craig Westover.

Craig Westover, who blogs at craig and contributes to the Pioneer Press opinion pages, says he and his fellow bloggers are outworking the traditional media outlets on this big story, devoting more time and attention.

"They're going to eat the newspapers' lunch," Westover said.

Westover is one of the of the most thoughtful and insightful writers in town and to reduce his interview to seven words tells you all you need to know about the worth of this piece of journalism. What exactly was ol' Captain Fishsticks talking about with that quote? Was the lunch quote specifically about fish sticks? We'll never know from reading the article. But we do know he's wrong about whatever he did say. Not only is he taken out of context, he's used as the straw man for the "expert" refutations to come.

Not so fast, others said. Experts say readers typically look at blogs more in line with their own political ideologies, and that reduces their impact.

What that has to do with outworking the traditional media (eating their lunch), I don't know. But I must admit it is fun to gratuitously imply that Westover is wrong. His trivia partners at Keegan's next Thursday night might want to remember that rebuke next time he spouts off: Not so fast, Westover!

And maybe it is hasty to say the Fraters Libertas crew didn't get a mention. Because one of the "experts" cited in the article did have this analysis to contribute:

There are some right-wing blogs that even if you tried to have a conversation with them, it's essentially a bunch of frat guys having a party and doing a beer dance,'' said Michael McIntee, producer for the Inside Minnesota Politics blog and podcast. "And that's not useful; it's pretty much making noise."

Woo hoo, we may have gotten a mention. We'll commence the beer dancing as soon as someone let's us know exactly what that is.

I've never heard of Inside Minnesota Politics, so I'll have to take the reporter's word for it that this McIntee character is an expert ... in something. But it sure isn't the local blogging scene. (And we can rule out drinking beer and dancing as well).

Just who are these noisy "right wing" blogs that won't converse with him? And what "left-wing" blogs are proving to be so noise free and useful to the debate. Neither description meets with my years' long observations of the local blogging scene. In fact, the opposite is a better representation of reality. And you'd think an "expert" in the field would be able to name some names and cite examples. But he doesn't, he sticks with the anonymous slanders. Maybe the reporter left out his expanded remarks or she let him skate without insisting on details. Either way, I echo Hugh Hewitt's words regarding an LA Times writer's recent anonymous, name-calling attack on him:

But if he's going to slander me or some other radio show host again, perhaps he can borrow the spine to do so by name.

This article also exhumes the experts to levy one more common criticism denigrating the significance of blogs:

Along with partisanship, credibility is another problem for blogs. There's nothing in the First Amendment about the need for an editor. Bloggers can write anything they want; they can spout fact or fiction. [U of MN Professor Larry Jacobs] advises readers to beware: "There's no gatekeeping here."

In theory, I agree, having a stern, all-knowing sentry for truth vetting all of our commentary would be of value. And it would save time for all of us who give good faith efforts to do it on our own (which Fraters Libertas, and all Northern Alliance blogs do, with a high degree of reliability). It's true, we don't have that and mistakes are sometimes made. But its delusional to think the MSM doesn't make similar mistakes all the time. Sure, they have people who, in title, are supposed to be gatekeepers. Yet, despite their presence, MSM commonly presents, as fact, such things as forged National Guard memos, Minneapolis police wasting time arresting skinny dippers, no classroom books at Maxfield elementary school, etc. etc., etc.

It's interesting to note that the impression of blogs as less reliable than the MSM is endorsed by another local blogger:

Patrick Timmons, founder of the Minnesota Republican Watch blog, got into blogging for the sake of accuracy. He said he read a statement on a conservative blog that he believed was incorrect. The college student said he won't post anything without researching first.

Another local lefty blog (who I've never heard of) to the rescue!

There are two criticism about blogs levied in this article: 1) We're useless, partisan noisemakers (and available for rent for your New Year's eve party) and 2) we're unreliable because we have no pre-publication editorial review. For both, conservative blogs are employed as the offending examples. And for both, liberal blogs as held up as the sane alternative or remedy. Ah, where's that non-partisanship and that gatekeeper of truth and fairness when we need him.

I suppose it's hard to work in any depth or understanding or balance into an 831 word article, which is all Brady Averill is allowed to provide. But it's this kind of easy, cheap lunch the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have served up for years. This town deserves better from its newspapers. Whether blogs can consistently provide a superior alternative is an open question. But their potential and increasingly frequent success in providing better analysis and writing and reporting and critical review (i.e., eating their lunch) is a fact.

More on this article from Mitch Berg.

UPDATE: Our time investment in getting interviewed wasn't completely in vain. We do get a capsule summary of the site. Bonus quote by me, on the gravitas of Fraters Libertas:

The blog has no specific focus. "I don't care if you're going to put your grocery list up, you're going to put something up," Ward said.

Yes, that'll drive the readers our way!

In my own defense, that answer was in regard to a question about our early days, and our concerns about finding something to write about every single day. Ah well, at least they spelled my name right.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Queue Theory

There's an article in the Wall Street Journal today (available for free!) on how the Chinese government is trying to get its people to mind their manners in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing:

Beijing's Communist Party leadership has called for a full-blown campaign to improve etiquette and politeness ahead of the expected deluge of foreign visitors. Foul-mouthed taxi drivers have been called on to clean up their acts, and rowdy soccer fans to show more sportsmanship toward the opposing team.

"In 2008, what kind of Beijing shall we present to the globe? A Beijing both ancient and modern, a Beijing friendly and smiling," declares the Humanistic Olympics Studies Center, a city-government sponsored institute.

The next step to tackle, the powers-that-be have decided, is the art of standing in line.

Patiently waiting one's turn isn't a big feature of life in Beijing. Take an intersection on Chang'an Avenue, a main thoroughfare, on a recent Monday morning. Three lanes of cars and buses cram into a two-lane street, honking furiously. A swarm of bicyclists swerves onto the sidewalk to avoid getting trapped in the jam. Pedestrians dodge out of the way as the squeal of brakes announces a stopping bus and crowds rush to squeeze their way on.

Above them, a propaganda billboard reads: "Together enjoying a happy and harmonious life."

Trying to bring a bit more harmony to rush-hour chaos are people like Gao Shuang, a retired family-planning worker who now bears the title of deputy director of the Office of the Coordinating Group for Orderly Bus-Riding.

Now that's a title that only a socialist could love. Or Hugh Hewitt.

Two monitors armed with bullhorns and red flags announce the arrival of buses, then wave waiting passengers into orderly groups. Most of the morning crowd cooperates. But the habit of queuing up isn't deeply ingrained. As one bespectacled monitor rushes over to a busy bus, he turns his back on a carefully arranged line of passengers. Without his supervision, it degenerates into a scrum as the passengers try to force their way onto another bus so packed that only the steps are free.

Yet many of the country's traditional codes of politeness, once similar to those in other Asian nations such as Japan, were shattered by the Communist revolution and its campaigns to stamp out "feudal" thinking. China's pell-mell transformation to a market economy has brought out even-ruder behavior, as people elbow others aside in pursuit of every advantage, whether in competing for school admission, jobs or business deals.

While traffic engineering may be getting much of the money, social engineering is also a big part of the equation. A local government body, dubbed the Capital Civilization Office, is overseeing educational projects and contests to discourage spitting, littering, foul language, aggressive driving and catcalls directed at the opposing team during sporting events. Migrant workers, taxi drivers and teenagers -- thought to be particularly uncivilized -- are getting special attention.

My experiences in China lead me to wish the best of luck to anyone tasked with trying to get Chinese migrant workers, taxi drivers, and teenagers to straighten up and fly right when it comes to public etiquette. Talk about a Sisyphean chore. Unless they plan on going all Singapore on their asses, signs urging people to refrain from spitting, littering, swearing, and driving like Toonces on crack are not going to make a difference.

Don't even get me started on lines (or more accurately the lack of them) in China. I don't know what the root cause is, but most Chinese people seem either unable or unwilling to properly queue up. Boarding a flight at the airport can be a nightmare, especially if there is a gate change or multiple flights boarding in close proximity. I'm usually flying business class when I travel to China, but I'm still forced to fight my way through a throng a people oblivious to commonly accepted boarding procedures.

In fairness to the Chinese, I've found similar breaches of etiquette common around the world. People like to talk about "ugly American" travelers, but when it comes to public manners and civility, Americans tend to come off better than much of the world. My wife and I were shocked by the rampant line cutting and disregard for the queue when we boarded a plane to fly from Reykjavik to London a few years ago. Actions that would have probably started a fight in the US were apparently considered perfectly acceptable in Iceland. This seemingly simple ability to line up and respect the queue is something we tend to take for granted in the US.

In Germany, my wife and I found the ability to properly queue up wasn't such a problem, but the regard for personal space in public was. Whether on the street, waiting in line for a museum, or shopping in a store, our experience was that many Germans didn't seem to care that they were getting too close for comfort. If they did happen to bump into you or step on your foot, not so much as an "Entschuldigung" (excuse me) was offered. And the idea of holding a door open for someone (anyone? Bueller?) appeared completely foreign to your average Kraut.

We've spent a lot of time over the last century making the world safe for democracy. Maybe it's time we start making it safe for manners too.
Blast From The Past?

This time of year can always be a little disorienting, especially for those of advancing years who are already prone to confusion such as our good friend Hugh Hewitt:

Still time to enter the Los Angeles Marathon 2006, which will be run of March 19, 2005. If my knees hold up, it will be my first post-50 marathon.

I have challenged the whiners at FratersLibertas to join me in the jog, but Peeps, aka "Chad the Elder" responded unless there is a "roller skates-assisted division," he isn't coming.

All talk. Never any show.

Firstly, running is for uncoordinated geeks who can't play real sports. Which I guess describes Hugh to a tee.

Secondly, the 2006 LA Marathon must be taking place in a rip in the time/space continuum, since according to Hugh's account it will occur on March 19th, 2005. Einstein must be rolling over in his grave.

I think Hugh needs to drink a warm glass of milk, take his meds, and sit down in his easy chair wrapped up in his favorite afghan for a while. He needs some rest. Especially if really hopes to complete the marathon in fifty hours.

UPDATE: I notice that Hugh (or one of his minions) has now updated his post without any mention of the previous error. Seems like the kind of whitewash that one would expect from the MSM.

Talk About Warheads, His Girl's Got 'Em

From the City Pages, a report on a recording project from a local alleged comedy troupe, featuring this peek into the romantic history of Minnesota's most famous alleged humorist:

... the troupe's new CD, Oh My! (self-released), recorded at Jason Keillor's Angel Tits studio in Wisconsin. (According to the press release, "Angel Tits" was how Jason's father, Garrison Keillor, addressed Jason's mother in his early love letters.)

That old honey dripper. With wooing like that, it's not surprising they got married ... and divorced. Then Garrisonn got married and divorced again (to Celestial Casaba Melons). But we do wish Garrison the best with wife #3 (Ethereal Bazongas).

Monday, December 26, 2005

Truth Well Told?

Ed. Note: The Elder has been on me to write more. He says my expertise in both the NSA AND wire tapping make me an invaluable contributor to this important issue, and of course he's absolutely right. But with stalwarts like the Anti-Strib on the case, I'll move on to some of the other pressing matters of the day.

A few years ago I picked up a copy of Emily Post's classic book Etiquette at a garage sale for a buck. Published in 1957, it's 634 pages of do's and don'ts for the well-heeled and those who aspired to be. Open the book to almost any page and there's detailed advice on how to handle any social situation. I particularly liked this bit about business women:

The president of a great manufacturing concern supported his objection to women employees by the following criticism: "A man comes into the office at nine sharp, hangs his hat on a peg, and sits down at his desk ten seconds after coming in the front door. A woman comes in just as conscientiously at a minute to nine, goes into the dressing-room and it is anywhere from ten to twenty minutes before she has finished brushing her dress, and fixing her hair, and powdering her nose--and heaven alone knows what!"

If a large concern were to take account of every moment the women spend fussing with their hair and dabbing at their faces, the total hours wasted would be a surprise to the treasurer.

Then, too, women waste more time in conversation than men. A remark now and then seems to unimportant to note, but a minute now and then reduces efficiency...

Another important shortcoming of many business women is an inability to be impersonal--for instance being unable to take a criticism of their work without feeling that is a personal affront.

Man, how times have changed. What anachronistic garbage--working women fussing with themselves, talking too much and not taking criticism well!
End Of Story

4:34 this rings. It's Northwest. We cancelled your flight scheduled to leave at 8 this morning, how about one for 6:30 tonight instead? Uhh...okay. But why? Crew limitations.

Right. Crew limitations. Another way of saying our company stinks.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

That Hugh Hewitt Is Simply Abominable

The voting has closed and the people have spoken. And by an overwhelming margin you have decided that Hugh is the Bumble.

(Thanks Derek)

Oh well. He'll always be Ralphie to me.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Supporting The Troops With More Than Words

Yesterday's Pioneer Press, detailed what Minnesotans are doing to remember our troops:

There doesn't seem to be a shortage of Christmas spirit in Minnesota when it comes to remembering our troops. A number of individuals and groups have stepped up to help servicemen and their families in what can be a trying time, both emotionally and economically.

There are several national groups, including Fisher House (, Gifts From the Homefront ( and Soldiers' Angels (, that connect volunteers with servicemen who don't get regular mail or care packages from family or friends. We particularly like Soldiers' Angels because often other soldiers forward names to the nonprofit group, whose motto is "May no soldier go unloved."

That struck a chord with Terry Keegan, owner of Keegan's Irish Pub in Minneapolis, himself a former Marine who spent a year in Vietnam. He and his wife, Virginia, have been corresponding with and sending care packages to Army Lt. Weston Cramer, an Iowa native stationed in Baghdad.

"I know how much mail call means," Keegan said.

The Keegans send Lt. Cramer food, sun block, foot powder and other essentials that soldiers say they need to survive the harsh Middle East climate. They sent him three boxes at Christmas, paying for the items out of their own pocket, as well as a Soldiers' Angels tip jar they keep behind the bar.

"You'd be surprised at how many people drop tens and twenties in there," Keegan said. "Their generosity is just incredible."

One night, the bar band donated its fee to Soldiers' Angels.

Bill Koster of Edina, a Keegan's regular, also adopted a solider, Pfc. Mike White of Ohio, who's stationed in Iraq with an armor unit. Koster said he has sent White four or five care packages and dozens of letters. He also sent--at White's request-- crayons, coloring books and school supplies, which White distributed to Iraqi schoolchildren.

Bar owners and bar flys, all doing their part.

Friday, December 23, 2005

You Are One Pathetic Loser!--No Offense

Like an idiot I put off the vast majority of my Christmas shopping until about two hours ago and then attempted to cram it all in to one lunch hour. Yeah, real smart that.

I thought of the Simpsons episode where Homer waits until the last minute to do his taxes and has to drive it to the post office downtown. There's a long line of people waiting to drop off their taxes, including Krusty the Clown. A reporter approaches the line and asks "Sir, why did you wait so long to do your taxes?" and Krusty erupts "Because I'm a freakin' idiot, okay?"

The scene at the mall was what you would expect at this late hour. Hardly any women around, just a bunch of frantic dudes like me who were scrambling for any damn thing to fill out their lists. Buying for the Elder is easy. I just think of something I want, then buy the cheapest version of that thing that I can find. The Old Man is a little more difficult, but a quick trip to Sears usually takes care of matters there. My Ma, now that is a challenge. After giving her a calendar for six years straight, I knew I had to come through so let's just hope she knows what aromatherapy is.

If the stores were smart, they would suspend all sales during these last few shopping days. Men are so desperate for something, anything at this point that we are willing to pay top dollar just to get it over with. 58 bucks for this scarfey thing? What the hell? $134 for a sweater with a wolf on it? Sounds good. $452 for this Danish Maple jewelry box? Ring it up!

We're bad shoppers. We admit it. We don't care. I'm just surprised someone isn't taking advantage of us.
Can't You Smell That Smell?

Another volley directed at the Strib's Jim boyd from the muzzle of our friend Gary Larson at Intellectual Conservative:

Reprinted in E&P, Boyd's acceptance speech delivers aw-shucks faux humility. His opening line is real enough: "I have a very difficult time believing I deserve this award." Legions of Twin Citians agree; it's truly astonishing. Some say, jaws dropping, it's incredible.

Boyd's speech quickly descends into deceit: "His" editorial pages were "with Bush [about Iraq] so long as he worked with the [UN] Security Council." False. Boyd's paper from the git-go waged -- and wages today -- a savage name-calling war upon this president, their cheap-shot attacks hinting often of criminality. Boyd himself in a signed column from Germany equated Bush's going-to-war policies with Herr Hitler's. It's the vile stuff of in your daily newspaper. Did I say stench?

Wild Hosed

I have nothing to say about wire-tapping or the Mullahs (not that that has ever stopped dozens of self-important bloggers from going on and on about such topics, but...) so I thought I'd post on the Wild's hosing last night at the hands of the NHL.

From the Strib's account:

With the knob of his stick and his right pad sandwiched against the post, the Wild goaltender was absolutely mystified at just how it was possible Colorado Avalanche fourth-liner Brett McLean squeezed a shot through him late in the first period.

That's because upon further review, it didn't.

The puck actually slid under the side of the net. Unfortunately for the Wild, the "further review" that's supposed to happen inside the Pepsi Center's video replay booth never occurred.

It was a bizarre play that doesn't happen very often. An Avalanche player on the other side of the net had crashed into it and lifted it off it's mooring for about a half a second. During this time, McLean took a shot that normally would have bounced off the side of the net but instead went in.

Mike Murphy, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations, admitted there was a collective blunder committed by everybody from the on-ice officials to video goal judge Gary Pedigo to the league's war room in Toronto, where every NHL game is supposed to be scrutinized to ensure these type of mistakes don't occur.

Wes Walz was not happy with this incompetence:

"You have 20 guys in Toronto watching every game. What are they doing up there?" snapped an incensed Wes Walz. "Why do we have them? If I'm paying their salaries, I don't even want them there. It's a joke. It's embarrassing. Why do we have video replay?"

So at least they are admitting they screwed the pooch on this one, but it can't be much comfort to a struggling Wild team when every goal is a milestone.

Perhaps we can get that decrepit old crank Pat Reusse on the case to explain how it was actually anti-French bias on the part of the officials that caused them to stick it to Wild coach Jacque Lamaire.

Separated At Birth?

Okay, you're going to have to bear with me on this one. It's probably the biggest stretch in our glorious SAB history. And I believe that it's the first time that we've ever had an audio/visual SAB. Here goes?

The hooded sheep at the 2003 Minnesota State Fair whom we gratuitously compared to West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd and...

...the real Senator Robert Byrd as heard bleating in the background during John Kerry's braying in the Senate this week? (Turn up the volume and listen for Byrd to start to bah at around the 45 second mark. The entie clip is about one minute.)
I Wanna Be A Cowboy

Question: Will the pleothra of jokes about "Brokeback Mountain" ever got old?

Answer: Possibly, but not until sometime in 2007.

Over at the Nihilist in Golf Pants (your "Brokeback Mountain" humor headquaters) the latest offering is Top 11 New Titles For Gay Westerns. Among my favorites:

03. A Fistful of Back Hair

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Perfect Storm Of Amazing Geniuses? Not On My Watch!

Katie e-mails to second my call for a moratorium on use of the phrase "slippery slope":

THAT IS SO TRUE! You read my mind. That needs to be retired along with the phrase "perfect storm", the words "genius" and "amazing" and grizzled superiors yelling "Not on my watch!" in movies or Law and Order episodes! well done.

Nathan meanwhile, thinks I'm overreacting:

I'm sure I'm not the only person to mention this, but what the hell...

Banning one innocuous albeit overworked phrase puts you on a
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _

to banning ALL innocuous albeit overworked phrases. Which would pretty much eliminate all of the MSM and most of the blogosphere.

Innocuous? More like irritating, inane, and intellectually impotent.
Oh, you're gonna get yours, you're gonna get yours!

Steven Malanga, author of the The New New Left: How American Politics Works Today had a column in yesterday's WSJ on the NYC transit strike that asked, "What Would Reagan Do?":

A radicalized union that twice before has tried and partially succeeded in shutting down America's largest city is once again holding New York hostage. Using such aggressive tactics, or the threat of them, over the last 40 years, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has won for its members a wage and benefits package that far outshines what most blue-collar workers in the private sector can earn, including retirement at age 55 with half salary and cost-of-living adjustments.

If New York state and city officials are ever to stop the TWU's recurring blackmail, which has burdened taxpayers and riders with enormous costs, they should use this illegal strike to impose the Reagan solution. Faced with a militant public-sector union that violated the law with a walk-out, President Reagan dismissed thousands of air traffic controllers in 1981 and rebuilt the nation's air traffic system with a new work force. New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) could do the same by terminating striking workers and hiring new ones, because its relatively unskilled unionized jobs are highly sought-after, with over 30 applicants for each position.

If you wonder why people are lining up to work for the MTA, consider this:

Today TWU bus drivers earn, on average, $63,000 annually, while subway motormen make $54,000 and subway cleaners $40,000. Workers get full health benefits, make no contributions to insurance premiums and can retire after 25 years of service or at age 55. The MTA has an unfunded pension liability of $1 billion. Given the strike, one might think the MTA is asking for significant givebacks of these perks. Hardly. It asked to push the retirement age back to 62 for new workers but dropped that demand and is now merely asking that they contribute 6% of their pre-tax salaries toward their pension for their first 10 years on the job, as well as pay 1% of salary for health insurance. By contrast, the TWU demanded that the MTA lower retirement age to 50 for its current workers and grant 8% wage increases over the next three years.

Things certainly have changed since the days of Ralph Cramden. What a racket.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Sh*t Hits the Fans

Over the course of last year, when the Star Tribune metro columnists and editorial board were engaged in full frothing rage against all things conservative or Republican, we noted with incredulity/amusement that they seemed to be going out of their way to alienate a substantial portion of their potential customer base. Through biased, incompetent, inaccurate reporting and hyperbolic, ranting editorials the Star Tribune's message of hate and exclusiveness was relayed loud and clear to the 48% of Minnesotans who didn't believe voting for Bush in '04 meant endorsing a "narrow, perverted vision" (or that YOUR SCHOOLS ARE BURNING! or whatever).

We've naturally curtailed commenting on the belches coming out of the Star Tribune. Anyone who is paying attention to the local press, and who is intellectually honest, already knows it's happening and us pointing it out serves no better purpose than us pointing out that we breathe air and drink water. (Sorry to kill your next two blogging ideas, Atomizer).

We do still read the Star Tribune on occasion, particularly the sport page. And this week I was amused to see the effort to alienate the customers extends now into even this refuge from the free fire zone of the editorial pages. Check out this from columnist-for-life Patrick Reusse, commentary on why underperforming Vikings QB Brad Johnson wasn't booed enough on Sunday:

That serves to reaffirm that many Vikings fans are phonies at best, and overly fond of the idea of having a white quarterback at worst.

If you were among the thousands sitting there in silence as the offense stumbled through the second half Sunday, and want to claim you wouldn't have been screaming for Daunte's neck in the same circumstance, you are lying and you know it.

The Vikings fans are phonies, racists, and liars, according to the Star Tribune's lead sports columnist.

Professional football is, of course, the most popular sport in the country. The Vikings are by far the most popular team in town. Despite the lack of affection returned, people love the Vikings and love to watch the games on Sunday. And they love to read about the Vikings in the paper, as anyone familiar with the spike in single copy sales on Mondays following Vikings games, will attest.

Yet Reusse sees fit to utilize his precious column space, not writing about the actual game he's supposed to be covering or the team itself, but savaging the fans (his readers!), based on no more evidence than his own prejudices and his expert analysis of booing behavior.

Reusse's disdain toward the customers isn't a new phenomenon. A recent example came just a couple of weeks ago where he was working out his internal demons with this comment, again about the significance of booing behavior. This time not complaining that the fans didn't boo enough, but that they booed too much in the direction of an underperforming punter:

Followers of the Vikings are a collection of ungrateful louts.

Definition of lout: an awkward and stupid person. Unfortunately, the target of this booing happened to be white or Reusse might have had another opportunity to call someone else a racist.

Reusse is also a fixture on KSTP-AM and last week I heard him bitching about how he "hates" winter sports, particularly basketball and hockey. He said he used to love to go to Gopher's men's basketball games at Williams arena, but now goes only when he "has to" in order to write a column. What a despicable admission from someone employed for the sole purpose of enhancing the knowledge/entertainment of those who love those very sports.

Reusse's bored and contemptuous mindset toward his job is that of a sheltered union employee working for a monopoly. You can disrespect and ridicule the customers, then laugh and cash that fat paycheck every two weeks. The customers will be back, what other choice do they have? And what is his employer going to do, fire him? (Cue the union shop steward's laughter).

Bill Simmons is one of the most talented sports writers in the business today. He provides critical, yet always insightful and entertaining commentary about sports. Probably because he still loves sports as much as the fans he's writing for. He is currently employed by, primarily because he couldn't get hired by any traditional newspapers. In an interview earlier this year he discussed the reasons:

The bottom line is that newspaper unions have killed this business--writers stay too long and never leave, and young writers who would kill to have their jobs never have a chance. Quick, how many Boston columnists have been hired in the past 10 years at one of the two papers? Here's your answer--Howard Bryant and Jackie MacMullan.

So when someone like (Dan) Shaughnessy is bitching behind the scenes that I (or any other internet columnist)"never go in the clubhouse," well, you know what? I would have loved to have gotten a column that way. But all the dead weight was blocking my way.

Clearly, I was good enough to do this for a living, but there was no way I was every getting a chance doing it conventionally. That's what pisses me off. I never even had a real chance. I mean, this is the only industry where companies PAY PEOPLE TO LEAVE. Look at what just happened at the Herald [now at the Globe, too] - they had to spend four years worth of salaries to dump all their dead weight. This is a good system? If I suck for the next two years, you know what happens? ESPN doesn't renew my contract and I'm unemployed. With newspapers, you could basically hand in scribble for 20 years and they have to keep paying you. It's bad business. That's why so many newspapers will be going under soon, if they aren't already.

Make sense to me. But will it ever make sense to the other awkward and stupid racists cheering for the Vikings? Maybe only after they realize there are other places they can go for their sports journalism needs without getting taken for granted and abused.
When It Comes To Getting Incinerated, I'm Strictly Non-Partisan

In regard to the on-going wiretap debate, I've heard a few opponents of Bush's NSA policy try to put conservatives in a box by asking what they think is a clever hypothetical question:

Well, what would you have said if Bill Clinton had been doing the same thing to _____ (fill in the blank with anti-abortion, gun rights, etc.) groups during his administration?

The comparison is both invalid and unnecessary, since it's possible to construct a much better and more relevant hypothetical:

What would you have said if Bill Clinton had issued orders for warrant-less wiretaps of communications between Al Qaeda operatives overseas and domestic phone lines during his administration?

My answer is that I would have said, "You go Bill." I wish to hell that Bill Clinton had been more serious about fighting Al Qaeda during his administration and would gladly have supported his efforts to prevent attacks if there had been any such meaningful efforts to speak of.

And if, per chance, Hillary moves into the White House in 2009, my response to the same question with her as CIC would be the same. You go Hil. Frankly, I hope I never have to say those words. But if I do, they will be uttered in the conviction that the duty and ability of the President of the United States to protect and defend the country should transcend politics.
Tapped Out

Bert writes in response to my request for more technical background on how wiretapping works in the present day world of telecommunication:

I've approached telecom from both the microwave perspective and an IT perspective, and your source is both correct and incorrect. Given the prevalence of wireless communication, there is in many cases no "wire" to tap. That doesn't mean, however, that the NSA is listening in as I write to you, or you talk to your mother about whether Christmas should feature lutefisk or turducken. (joke, no insult intended there)

What they're likely doing is looking at the ADDRESS information on the packets and analyzing only those which feature the desired addresses. To monitor my cousin Earl's lutefisk plans and your mom's turducken recipe would require far more computing/personnel than is possessed by the NSA or, for that matter, anyone.

Never mind they'd all quit after monitoring Earl's lutefisk plans.

Based on cell phone conversations that I can't help but overhearing, I'd say that would apply to 99.99999999993% of all wireless communication taking place in the land.
Sometimes A Slope Is Just A Slope

Whether you believe that Bush's wiretapping order was legal and necessary to fight terrorism or that it was illegal and the latest jack-booted step on our way to Amerika, I think there's something that we can all agree on: the use of the term "slippery slope" has gotten completely out of hand. The overuse of the phrase has pretty much stripped it of any real meaning that it once had.

The problem is that just about anything can be described as a "slippery slope" if you stretch the definition enough. Parties of all political persuasions are guilty of pulling out this tired cliché on just about any issue that comes up. Enough is enough.

I hereby declare a moratorium on the use of the phrase in political ALL settings until further notice. This will no doubt have about as much impact as my previously declared moratorium on jokes about the French loving Jerry Lewis or Governor Pawlenty's skating ban, but I feel that that the time has come to make take a stand, however futile it may be.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tap Into America

Peter from Florida e-mails to remind us that this isn't your father's wiretapping we're talking about these days:

The "wiretap" of years past is used locally for specific telephone lines, but what is happening with al Qaeda is that the US and the UK are basically vacuuming up all communication (voice and data packages) that travel over the various international communication "lines" (fiber optic cables and transmissions to/from satellites) and the super computers of the NSA and GCHQ (the UK equivalent) sift through billions and billions of packages of data to find those coming from/going to certain people (al Qaeda in particular) of interest.

Also, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the NSA to NOT look at communication packages coming from Americans (or going to them) because they are mixed in with those of foreigners. When you talk on the telephone with someone in Rome your voice is sent in many data packages to the person in Rome over lines that are carrying data packages of thousands or millions of other people and computers at the very same time. You do not have a dedicated line to "tap".

If anyone with a technical background in this field has further information to share, we'd love to hear from you.
Solid Footing On The Slope

Excellent editorial (yes, I'm using the proper terminology this time Linda) from today's WSJ on the "secret" wiretapping controversy and what may really be motivating some of the more vocal critics:

Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be President, and that's fair enough. By all means go for it in 2008. The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who's always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, Senators, please stop stripping the Presidency of its Constitutional authority to defend America.

That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week's leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of Senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are "illegal," done "in total secret," and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. "I believe it does violate the law," averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.

The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power -- and endangering the country in the process.

If Bobby Brown was President (shudder), he might justify the NSA wiretapping in song, "I don't need commission, make my own decisions. That's my prerogative."

On Sunday Mr. Graham opined that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" FISA -- which suggests that next time he should do his homework before he implies on national TV that a President is acting like a dictator. (Mr. Graham made his admission of ignorance on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was representing the Republican point of view. Democrat Joe Biden was certain that laws had been broken, while the two journalists asking questions clearly had no idea what they were talking about. So much for enlightening television.)

The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.

The editorial also suggests an action that might limit some of the political posturing and grandstanding that we're seeing from Congress:

As for power without responsibility, nobody beats Congress. Mr. Bush has publicly acknowledged and defended his decisions. But the Members of Congress who were informed about this all along are now either silent or claim they didn't get the full story. This is why these columns have long opposed requiring the disclosure of classified operations to the Congressional Intelligence Committees. Congress wants to be aware of everything the executive branch does, but without being accountable for anything at all. If Democrats want to continue this game of intelligence and wiretap "gotcha," the White House should release the names of every Congressman who received such a briefing.

Why would I not be surprised to see the names of Misters Feingold and Graham on that list?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Is That A MOB In Your Bar Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Once again, it appears that a good time was had by all at Saturday's MOB get together at Keegan's Irish Pub. My evening was abruptly cut short by a medical situation on the home front (all is now well) and I apologize for not being able to get a chance to chat with anywhere near as many people as I wanted to.

A few people have complained that they were intimated by the immense size and girth of the MOB membership in attendance at Keegan's and suggested that they had difficulty taking it all in. For those who believe that size is not important, I suggest attending one of the Thursday night trivia competitions at Keegan's where the blogging crowd is more modest and less intrusive.

For a nice pictorial round up of the evening, check out Hammerswing75. Other recollections are posted at writing history, Yucky Salad with Bones, and Peace Like A River. Finally, this report from Learned Foot indicates that he may not be the kind of guy you want to share a pup tent with.
How Dubya Got His Groove Back

For supporters of the administration, one of the most frustrating aspects of George W. Bush's presidency is the inconsistency of the public performances by the Commander In Chief. When he's off his game, as he seemed to be for most of the summer and fall, it can be ugly. But when he's got it goin' on, it's a beautiful thing to behold.

And, with the recent quartet of speeches on Iraq (capped off by last night's address from the Oval Office) followed by a news conference this morning (which I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to), one thing is crystal clear: Dubya has got his mojo back and he's got it workin'. His performance this morning had just the right mix of confidence, passion, and humor that leaves admirers of the president pounding the steering wheel in agreement, screaming for more, and wondering where this George W. Bush, so full of fight and brimming with vim and vigor, has been hiding for the last six months. At least that's what I was doing as I listened to the news conference in my car.

It's good to have you back Mr. President. Please consider sticking around a little longer this time.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Touching 'Em All

I may not be a detached, objective observer with the non-partisan credibility of a Jim Boyd or a Mary Mapes, but as I listened to President Bush's address on Iraq on the radio as I drove to hockey tonight (that's right, I played HOCKEY tonight, proving that Governor Pawlenty's "ban" has about as much force as a typical U.N. resolution) I was extremely impressed. He covered the bases for why the war was justified, tackled most of the legitimate critiques of the war head on, and left no doubt of his resolve to achieve a victory that we're already well on our way towards. He knocked it out of the park as he continues to knock the legs out of Democratic arguments against the war.

But, He Knows Stuff, Doesn't He?

Joe a.k.a. Mr_Cranky has taken on the unpleasant but necessary task of fact checking Nick Coleman's arse and it looks like Nick's well-tuned ear for baloney is a little tone-deaf of late.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tonight's The Night We'll Make History

UPDATE: Last call for good cheer and alcohol.

The next quasi-official gathering of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) will take place on Saturday, December 17th at Keegan's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Nordeast Minneapolis. The fun starts at 5pm. As usual, there will be plenty of MOB bloggers on hands, selected movers and shakers from the local political, media, and Eritrean dining scenes, as well as assorted hangers-on, groupies, and stalkers.

If you are a member of the MOB, you are strongly encouraged (in a "Moose, Rocko, help the judge find his wallet" kind of way) to attend. If you are a blog reader and would like to meet the face behind the blog (believe me, it ain't always pretty), come on down to Keegan's and raise a pint or two with us. We promise not to bite. If you insist on saying anything about skating bans however, I may have to administer a savage gumming.

Anyway, if you plan to show up, drop us an e-mail at: party @ northernallianceradio dot com

See ya at Keegan's tonight.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Warmest Year On Record (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least since records began being kept in the 1860s)

It was exactly one year ago today that I challenged you all to help make 2005 a year to remember.

From the Fraters Libertas archives (12/16/04):
Let's all start by driving alone...everywhere. This carpooling and public transit nonsense ain't going to jack up those temperatures. We need cars on the road, and fast...the bigger the better, too. All of that air out there isn't going to pollute itself!

I know it's going to be difficult, but with a little hard work and dedication from each and every one of you out there, we can all help make 2005 be the best year ever.
Well, the results are in and they are official. Calendar year 2005 has been declared "The Warmest Year On Record (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least since records began being kept in the 1860s)".

I can't even begin to voice my gratitude to all of you out there who made this title a reality. Your wanton SUV travel, your reckless fuel usage and your callous disregard for our precious Mother Earth made it all possible. A hearty "Woo-Hoo" goes out to all of you.

More importantly, the designation of 2005 as "The Warmest Year On Record (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least since records began being kept in the 1860s)" finally exposes the year 1998 for the fraud it always was. I never trusted that little bastard.

As we celebrate, we must not let this victory cloud our vision of the future. 2005 may be "The Warmest Year On Record (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least since records began being kept in the 1860s)", but 2006 could be even better.

Let's keep reaching for the stars, people.
Free Elder!

Now that the plug has finally been pulled on the Tookie Williams Redemption Show & Circus, the we-care-more-than-you celebrities (Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, Mike Farrell, etc.), the angst-ridden activists, and the easily manipulated media will be looking for their next cause celebre. Fortunately, they didn't have to wait long.

Yesterday, in a raw display of the naked abuse of power, privilege, and government intrusion in the personal life of a citizen far worse than the feverish imaginations of opponents of The Patriot Act could ever envision, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, cajoled by radical right-wing shock jock and notorious GOP operative Hugh Hewitt, imposed an illegal, unconstitutional, and unconscionable prohibition that tramples civil liberties under a hob-nailed boot and threatens to dismantle the foundations of freedom that this great nation was founded upon:

HH: That's the guy. Governor, he is subject to my jurisdiction, as you've appointed me the Commissioner of Hockey. And I have twice, now, attempted to ban him from all ice, both man-made and natural, because of the danger he presents to others. Will you agree to issue such a proclamation, that he is, in fact, off of the ice permanently?

TP: I think a ban, a lifetime ban without the possibility of reinstatement is the only appropriate course here, Hugh. It's really in the interest of public safety, and I think, really, protecting him from himself. So again, I think another loving suggestion by Hugh Hewitt.

For a Republican politician facing a tough reelection campaign and a possible challenge from within his own party, it seems like a dangerous move for the Governor to so rashly unleash the hounds of governmental tyranny on a citizen of unquestioned virtue who has long stood by his side in the political trenches. It's bad enough that he had the audacity to betray the trust of the good people of Minnesota by outsourcing the job of Hockey Commissioner to a klutzy Californian who thinks that icing is the yummy stuff that he licks off the dozen Hostess Cupcakes that he inhales each day. This latest outrage simply will not sit well with the voters and hockey fans of Minnesota.

For I will skate. Governor "Bull" Pawlenty can dispatch his truncheon-wielding hired goons, his attack dogs, and his water hoses to indoor arenas and outdoor ice rinks throughout the state, but I will remain defiant and unbowed. I will not take a seat at the back of the skating bus Governor. I will stand up to you and your Gestapo state tactics and I will emerge victorious. Skate free or die.

(More from Sisyphus with the Top 11 Upcoming Hugh Hewitt Libels and Hammerswing75.)
Is This Thing On?

As a comedian, Tim Pawlenty makes a great governor. Evidence provided by this attempt to tickle funny bones by mocking the name of this august blog on yesterday's Hugh Hewitt show:


Don't quit your day job T-Paw.

Poll Shows Paul Martin Heading To Victory In Canadian Election

Not that Paul Martin. This Paul Martin. This could be just what Canada needs. A leader to teach them the right way to play hockey. The American Way.

Thanks to all who voted in our poll asking "Who will emerge as Prime Minister after next month's federal election in Canada?" The correct answer of course is "Who cares?" but since we knew that would be the easy winner, we elected to exclude that as a choice.

Look for our next poll soon. Rumor has it that it will feature a Christmas theme.
Really Making A Difference

Great editorial opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Matt Pottinger, who recently left his job at the Journal to join the US Marines. Why would a thirty-one year old man give up a position as a reporter at the best newspaper in the land to enlist in the military? Why I gave up journalism to join the Marines (available to all):

When people ask why I recently left The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines, I usually have a short answer. It felt like the time had come to stop reporting events and get more directly involved. But that's not the whole answer, and how I got to this point wasn't a straight line.

But why the Marines?

A year ago, I was at my sister's house using her husband's laptop when I came across a video of an American in Iraq being beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The details are beyond description here; let's just say it was obscene. At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't. We often talk about how our policies are radicalizing young men in the Middle East to become our enemies, but rarely do we talk about how their actions are radicalizing us. In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.

The entire piece is well deserving of a read.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Better Free Than Safe

It appears (if early reports are to believed) that the Iraqi people have once again turned out in large numbers to demonstrate their desire for political freedom despite the dangers and inconvenience involved in voting. Meanwhile, the drumbeat from many of the usual suspects on the Left continues that either:

a. It's impossible to say if the Iraqis are better off than there were three years ago


b. They most certainly are NOT better off than they were under the rule of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party

To back up the notion that the Iraqis were better off living in a Baathist tyranny, statistics are usually cited on the number of Iraqis killed in the war, the economic conditions in Iraq, how many hours a day the power is on in Baghdad, the number of children in school, the literacy rate, etc. They're often same sort of "standard of living" stats that these folks love to reference when talking about how Sweden is superior to the United States or how Cuba is a really swell place to live despite the bad rap that Fidel's regime has gotten.

The problem with using such measuring sticks is that without freedom they're meaningless. What good does is it to be literate if you don't have the freedom to choose what to read? What's the value of health and longevity if you don't have the freedom to decide what you want to do with your life? What's the value of having a job if that job is a life-long occupation chosen for you by the government?

Freedom is messy, complicated, unruly, loud, and sometimes chaotic, violent, and dangerous. Tyranny is often organized, simple, orderly, quiet, and safe (at least for those who keep their head in the yoke). There isn't a lot of complaining, protesting, or political bickering. The leaders don't have to concern themselves with approval ratings. The prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves are kept out of sight. The courts run smoothly and efficiently (The People's Revolutionary Court finds you guilty. Next!). The government statistics on unemployment, child care, women's rights, infant mortality, literacy, poverty, housing, and universal health care make the Noam Chomsky crowd drool with envy.

But without freedom, none of it means a damn. I would choose dangerous freedom over safe tyranny any day. And most of the Iraqi people appear to feel the same way.
It's Always Fun Until The Third-Chair Cellist Chokes On His Own Vomit

The Minnesota Orchestra Presents "The Music of Led Zeppelin: A Rock Symphony":

Bridging the gulf between rock n' roll and classical music, the Minnesota Orchestra joins singer Randy Jackson and an amplified rock band to capture the music of 70's rock legends, Led Zeppelin. Delivering a note-for-note interpretation, vocalist Randy Jackson (lead singer of the rock band Zebra) acts as a window between the audience and reworked material. Don't miss this incredible opportunity to hear the music of Led Zeppelin performed one night only, in concert with the spectacular sound of the Minnesota Orchestra!
You know, if you like that one, I got more...what are you looking for? Romance? Comedy? Adventure?...Erotica?

Last night, an episode of That '70s Show aired called Fun It:

Bored with hanging around in the basement all the time, the gang looks for some fun elsewhere; Randy takes them to a local burger place where they have a lot of problems with the manager. Seeking revenge for being treated badly, Randy steals the mascot for the restaurant, Fatso the Clown. This puts him in the gang's good books, until things go horribly wrong.

Stealing a ceramic clown mascot from a fast food joint and having things go horribly wrong? That hits close to home. A little TOO close to home. Anybody know a good intellectual property attorney?
This Is An Issue We As A Town Are Strong Enough To Ignore

R.T. Rybak is an idiot. The StarTribune reports on the Minneapolis mayor's response to Hennepin County's rollback of the smoking ban:
"I think the county's action was harmful," said Rybak, who said he would be open to meeting with the bar owners. "You shouldn't abruptly change course for small businesses. The worst thing you can do to small business is to have government step in, and then step in another way, and step in another way, and ask businesses to do a pirouette every year or so."
First of all, that last Rybak quote is about 22 words too long. If he'd have stopped talking right there I'd be in total agreement with him (a rarity, indeed).

Alas, the chucklehead had to continue flapping his lips with the whole government two-step nonsense. Tell me, R.T., if one of those steps by the government happens to place a gigantic boot on the throats of small business owners, then isn't abruptly changing course exactly what should be done?

To all the bar owners in Minneapolis, all I can say is "Good luck." You're sure going to need it with this guy at City Hall playing mayor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It Ain't Masonry, But It's Still A Challenge

When it comes to home repairs, I've never been much of a "do-it-yourself" kind of guy. I can usually find a way to take the simplest of tasks and turn it in to a full blown disaster.

A case in point was my rather feeble attempt at hanging a large mirror on the wall just a few short weeks ago. After carefully measuring the mirror, marking the wall and then re-measuring the mirror, it came time for me to actually begin screwing a few hollow wall anchors into my heretofore pristine drywall. Several twists of the screwdriver later, I had a 1/4 inch diameter hole in the wall and what I feared was the beginning of an enormous pile of barely used anchors inside the wall cavity.

I managed to fix that problem with a light duty picture hanger and an empty picture frame. Not quite the dramatic effect at the top of the stairs that the mirror would have had but it sure beats looking at that hole in the wall eight times a day for the next ten years.

Given that colossal failure, you can imagine the trepidation with which I approached my next challenge...the dreaded leaky toilet. The water stains on the bathroom tile had been growing for a few weeks and I had done a very good job of ignoring them until my inner handyman (he doesn't get out much) could absolutely stand no more. I confidently told the wife that the wax ring must be shot and put her on notice that I would be heading to the hardware store the very next day for everything I needed to complete the job.

When the very next day came, I proceeded to do what any good homeowner would do. I called a guy. The guy showed up shortly thereafter, the guy fixed the toilet, I wrote the guy a check and then the guy left. I was happy. The guy was happy. My wife was happy. And, best of all, I didn't have an 30 inch diameter hole in the floor where my toilet used to be.

Yes, I've discovered the secret to home repair, folks. The checkbook. Call me foolish. Call me wasteful. Call me Ishmael, if you'd like. At least I wasn't down on all fours sticking my hand in my toilet's waste pipe. I've used that toilet. I know what has been through that pipe. I'm never...ever...going to go near that pipe.

I have a job so I can pay people who know what they're doing (and apparently don't mind the pipes) to replace my wax rings and fix my flange bolts and caulk the hell out of my toilet base. They do it because people like me can't.

Now, if I could only find an emergency picture hanging service...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Blight On The Trade

Over at Editor and Publisher, folks are weighing in on the recent major award won by the Star Tribune's Jim Boyd and their reaction is far from positive, as is evidenced by this letter submitted by our friend Gary Larson:

Of the dark art of smear Boyd is past master. He hurls ad homimen smears with the best of the left, in a class with Dowd and Ivins on their better days. The truth-telling fellas at PowerLineblog "harass" him, he says, without explanation, but it's more than that. PowerLine in excruciating detail deconstructs Boyd's flights of partisan fancy. In short, they make him look foolish. My oh my, how that must irritate this part-time demagogue in the almighty press.

Boyd's antipathy for all things remotely conservative results in spewing vile stuff, not reasoned argument. His "exhaustive research [and] a willingness to tell truth to power," as the loony tunes award citation claims, is a crock. It fails the giggle test among legions who do not share in Boyd's leftist fantasyland.

Shame on the American Academy of Diplomacy for getting it so wrong, so ironically wrong, about Boyd, painting him as a mythic heroic figure in journalism, when he is clearly a blight on that trade, a poster boy for partisan flackery. Like Dan Rather, he is a purveyor of falsehoods when it suits his partisan purposes.

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Hennepin County approves scaled back smoking ban:

The Hennepin County commissioners on Tuesday approved an amendment to scale back parts of the smoking they enacted earlier this year.

On a 4-3 vote, the commissioners exempted traditional bars from the ban until July 2007. The county's current ordinance prohibits smoking in all indoor areas of "food establishments," including restaurants and bars.

Good news for bar owners in Hennepin County. Unless you're a bar owner in Minneapolis, Bloomington, or Golden Valley (all cities within Hennepin County) who will likely feel even more pain now:

If Hennepin County decides to exempt bars from the ban, local ordinances in Minneapolis, Bloomington and Golden Valley will remain intact.

In Bloomington, smoking is banned inside public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants. The ordinance also prohibits smoking within 25 feet of entrances, exits, open windows and ventilation intakes of public places and workplaces. Restaurants may designate up to one-half of outdoor seating capacity as permitted smoking areas.

In Golden Valley, smoking is banned in both indoor and outdoor dining areas of liquor and food establishments, within 25 feet of entrances, exits, open windows, and ventilation intakes of public places and workplaces, within 25 feet of any outdoor dining area, and in public parks and recreation facilities.

In Minneapolis, smoking is banned in liquor and food establishments, bowling alleys and pool and billiard halls.

In Golden Valley, sister city to Pyongyang, merely saying the word "smoke" is prohibited within city limits.

The Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco has spent $100,000 on print advertisements in favor of the Hennepin County smoking ban.

And still lost. This is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.