Saturday, April 30, 2005

Precious Moments

What do you get when a St. Paul City Councilman marries a former Jesse Ventura staffer? A web site dedicated to their wedding, of course. It's the perfect storm of love, devotion, and an insatiable hunger for self promotion.

Excerpt, from Their Story:

Pat can build a beautiful bowl of chili and Laura can build her own garage. Laura runs competitive marathons and Pat watches Hogan's Heroes marathons. Pat likes action movies and Laura enjoys a good old-fashioned love story. Of course Pat thinks that "Rocky" is truly a love story. Pat likes salty snacks and Laura likes sweets. Pat is a night owl. Laura is an early riser. Pat works at Voyageur Asset Management and the City Council. Laura works at the League of Minnesota Cities and manages Pat. Pat is Irish and Armenian and Laura is German and Swedish. Pat's favorite food is nachos. Laura loves food, period. They share a love of books and reading (and of course large screen TV's). They cherish family and friends, and they are blessed for all they have in life and for the chance to share their good fortune with others.

Today's wedding is presumed to be the event of the season for the local political and media elite. Meaning, of course, I was not invited. That's OK, if Tyrel Ventura isn't hosting, it's probably not worth attending anyway.

We wish Pat and Laura all the best. But stay away away from those salty snacks, you crazy kids.

Link found via the terrrific, new, reconstituted Politics in Minnesota email newsletter. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up for a FREE, three month trial subscription today.
Mass For The Masses?

Interesting article in the The Economist on the growth of Christianity in China, especially among the urban elite and business people. It seems that they have an appreciation for aspects of the faith that much of the Western intellectual elite is missing.

But Christianity appeals particularly to intellectuals because it is the faith most deeply rooted in the countries that well-educated Chinese most envy--principally America. "Some people have begun to think that the birth of capitalism and modern science in the West is not entirely unrelated to Christianity," says Mr Li.

Christianity as a key factor in the emergence and advancement of Western Civilization? Not exactly a popular notion on most college campuses. At least not in the West.

Most striking in recent years has been the spread of Christianity among urban intellectuals and businesspeople. A Chinese academic (and party member) at a government-affiliated institute says that in the past five years especially, Christianity has flourished on university campuses. Most universities, he says, have several clandestine Christian "fellowships", comprising students, graduates and teachers, who meet regularly to read the Bible and discuss their faith. "You'd be astonished to see these meetings. They are completely different from the way we've viewed house churches in the past, as places that attract old women and the illiterate with little scientific understanding," he says.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Spank the Monkey

Apparently there's been some pre-series trash talking by diehard Angels fans (isn't that an oxymoron?) in anticipation of this weekend's visit to the Metrodome. The truth is that I have a hard time getting too worked up over the we're the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim...tomorrow maybe the West Covina Angels. And apparently they don't worry the Twins much either. Twins 7 Angels 4

The Not So Fast and Furious

It was all feeling so good yesterday on my commute home from work. And I'm not just referring to the Hooked on Chuck Mangione CD I had in the player. It was warm out (for MN standards), I was off work at a reasonable hour, and a night of camaraderie, competition, and glory lay ahead at Keegan's Thursday night trivia challenge. A real workingman's American dream if I've ever heard one.

A fantasy that endured all the way up to the time I paused at the last stoplight on Hwy. 36 before hitting the Interstate. At which time I noticed, slowly pulling up behind me, a late model, dark blue Crown Victoria, with pulsating, flashing lights on the side view mirrors and the dash board. Given my mood and run of positive luck of late, I of course assumed this must be the KDWB Party Patrol prepared to grace me with free passes to the upcoming G Unit/Sticky Fingaz Star Party.

But instead of Ton E Fly or Tack Hammer and their marketing interns bouncing out of the car, I got a rather stern looking middle-aged woman, sporting a crisp brown uniform and a boxy, Smoky the Bear hat. All of which I recognized as being consistent with the ornamentations of a law enforcement officer.

In short order, her status as such was confirmed. And she politely informed me that I had been clocked going 76 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. My initial reaction was wondering if that was even illegal. A mere 11 MPH over on a state highway, on a clear, dry day, and going right along with traffic all the way. Who cares?

Even as she elicited and received my confused denials (was I speeding? Inconceivable!) and subtle "I've had a long day at work" plea for mercy and proceeded back to her car with my vitals, I still thought I'd be let off. The nature of the offense was laughably minor and the traces of empathetic rapport between us had clearly been established. I figured my chances were excellent to get one of those mythical "warnings" to slow down, I've heard so much about. A warning I'd heed, I assure you. At least until I got out of Oak Park Heights. Come on lady justice, be sweet to your daddy tonight!

Alas, this deluded optimism lasted only long enough for me to check the rear view mirror and notice my super trooper wasn't alone in her unmarked, stealthy conveyance of state sponsored surveillance and interception.

For in the passenger seat was a slightly built, crew cut wearing adolescent. I could hear his voice cracking in the gleam of his wide eyes. And then I saw he had a uniform on as well. Though he looked to be about 16 years old, he was also an officially registered agent of the government enforcement bureaucracy. A fuzzy cheeked rookie on the Wash. County sheriff's department. Ye gods man - this was to be a teaching exercise! Meaning, in no uncertain terms, I was dead meat.

I watched as the wise teacher with a badge took the young lad step-by-step through the various computer checks and procedures involved with identifying and documenting a genuine, unadulterated scoff law. I swear it was just like watching a mother vulture rip shreds of rancid bison flesh off a carcass to feed to her rapacious, screeching fledgling.

I must say she was very pleasant to me when she returned and officially confirmed that I was to be punished by the court for my heinous violation against society. I guess she just loves the joy of teaching others. I'm happy for her. But when she handed me the ticket (or as they subtly phrase it at the top: a SUMMONS) and cheerily requested I slow down in the future, I offered no pleasantries in return. Only brooding silence. As far I'm concerned, the social exchange officially ends whenever someone decides to brand me a criminal and starts issuing confiscatory fines. You want me to maintain my Minnesota niceties, give me a warning and I'll kiss your hobnail booted feet all you like.

Reading the ticket, the consequences for pleading GUILTY and WAIVING MY RIGHTS to a trial (do they really have to phrase everything is such Constitutionally apocalyptic terms?), is an ice cold 120 bones for going 11-14 MPH over the posted limit. Interesting to note, the penalty for 15-20 MPH in excess is $130. A mere 8% increase in penalty for a 31% increase in speed. Kids, the broader lessoned learned from this is to never travel 76 MPH in a 65 zone when 85 will do.

My sense of violated justice over this alleged offense prohibits an immediate, compliant kowtowing to the court. Some more brooding will be in order. Followed perhaps by an inquiry to my old pal, Dr. Flash. He always seems to have the right prescription to resolve these things in a civilized, minimally expensive, and non-record tainting manner. From what I understand, this has nothing to do with throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. Instead it's all about throwing yourself into the meshing gears of the machine and gumming things up long enough to get them to beg you to leave with a slap on the wrist. Fellow citizens, let justice be done.

The Elder Adds: I feel your pain brother. Or more accurately, I felt it about a year and a half ago. A period of brooding is most appropriate.
You Don't Have To Go Home, But We Don't Want You To Stay Here

William e-mails to apologize for the food poisoning on my recent visit to San Diego and to thank me for not letting the city gate hit me in the ass on the way out:

Sorry about your problem here in San Diego.....Probably caused by an illegal alien working in the restaurant who can't read the signs posted in all restrooms regarding washing their hands after using the facilities....or in the alternative, reads the signs and has it in for "legal" tourists such as yourself.

Gee, thanks. I feel so much better about the whole situation now. I guess we should have known better than to eat at place called Poppie's.

The Midway is a great attraction and is breaking all expectations on visitors.....I enjoy your blog immensely every day. Keep up the great work, and perhaps the best thing about your enjoyment in visiting San Diego, for me, is that you aren't thinking of moving here like so many others....

San Diego's new motto: move along, nothing to see here.

Actualy we have a great job available now since our Mayor resigned,and you might want to consider the possibilities. Thanks again for your cogent discourse.

Thank you William. Actually we did have an enjoyable time in San Diego and would definitely like to visit again some day (if that's okay with you).
Oh Those Crazy Commies!

I have a great idea. Let's start a "right leaning community of bloggers - with room for everyone" and call it Benito's Blogs, in honor of everyone's favorite fun loving Fascist.

Sounds offensive, you say? Is it really any worse than the moniker that the gang at Che Blogs has chosen?
Laying It On The Line

Reelcobra points us to an example of a guy who really did ask what he could do for his country:

On 9/11, I was 36 years old, and could not sign up for any branch of the military, though I tried. Then on Mar. 22, 2005, nine days before my 40th birthday (Mar. 31), I read that the Army has raised the enlistment age from 34 years and 364 days, to 39 years and 364 days for Reserve enlistees. I had until Mar. 30 to take the Oath of Enlistment and, on Fri., Mar. 25, I did.

So, at age 40, I start boot camp on Apr. 15 in Oklahoma, and then advanced training in Texas. Good God what did I do? :-)

It should be an interesting experience that I am looking forward to, despite the difficulties I will face, specifically, in adjusting to a new lifestyle and the physical demands. That said, I have always felt that a part of my life was not fulfilled and this is my last chance to rectify this. While there are indeed risks inherent with enlisting even as a Reservist, I am more than willing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan should the Army activate me full-time after my training is complete.

Shawn is obviously already at boot camp, but stop by his blog and wish him well.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Short Memories?

While watching the President's news conference tonight, I had a couple of questions to ask the assembled reporters who seem fixated on holding the President responsible for the "bitter" "divided" "partisan" nature of American politics today:

Who won the frickin' election anyway? And why aren't you asking the same questions of Reid, Kennedy, Kerry, and Pelosi?

It's incredible to see how the Republicans (who hold control of the White House, the Senate, and the House by will of the American people) are to blame for the "poisonous political environment" in the minds of the media because they actually are trying to implement the policies that they ran and WON elections on.

I know that in the minds of these reporters, they're asking probing questions to try to help inform the public. But in my opinion, about 80% of the questions directed toward the President tonight were nothing more than not-so-subtle snarky shots, motivated by hostility towards his policies, and designed to catch the President in a "gotcha moment."

Let's hope it's another year before we have to witness one of these circuses again.
How Many Manys Must A Man Listen To

Before he unleashes a rant? Dave e-mails to vent:

I've reached the final point of no return with the MSM. Russert does it. Georgie does it. Ted does it. Gibson does it. Most network reporters do it. Lefties do it when they want to kill a conservative point.

What is it they are doing? They represent the perspective they are reporting on by quantifying it with the magical preciseness of "MANY".

They are doing it when the report on the new Pope. Many Germans are concerned about the new Pope. Many American Catholics are upset with the new Pope.

Is "Many" less than "Most"? Is Many a lazy way to infer "Most"? (We never said most, we said many.)

Often, they use the term "MANY" when they want to state a negative (as opposed to making a positive point) in either a report or a debate. Many has become fact instead of myth.

What constitutes many? 3 out of 100? 20 out of 40? 100 out of 10,000? 800 showing up to an antiwar rally in a city of 2,000,000? I would think 800 out of 2,000,000 is closer to a "very few". (Stastically, zero)

How do they know if the position and supporters they are reporting on is a groups of "many"?

They never have to state how MANY are the MANY they refer too. Just "Many".

Talk about relativism! "Many" is the new "trick word" replacing both "basically" and "frankly".

I'm sure that many of our readers would agree with Dave on this one.
On Falling Stars

Tom writes in to further mine the public policy ruminations of Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson.

Hey SP - This was almost too easy given your recent mention of Kevin Richardson. If you read the entire article from the AP hyperlink, seems our good man Kevin had some rather "enlightened" things to say about the U.S. not more than 24 hours after we were attacked:

Most notoriously, on Sept 12, 2001, Richardson said the previous day's terrorist attacks should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that some of its policies were resented abroad. "I just think we are a little bit of an arrogant nation and maybe this is a little bit of a humbling experience," he said in a television interview.

Not to be outdone, yesterday Maggie Gyllenhaal offered her best Kevin Richardson impersonation (well, o.k. she's slightly less hairy than Kevin and has brownish hair instead of black, but otherwise they're practically indistinguishable from one another):

The actress, whose post-9-11-themed feature, The Great New Wonderful, just debuted at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, said in an interview last week with Manhattan cable channel NY1 that the United States is "responsible in some way" for the attacks.

"Because I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy with which it's dealt allows that to sort of creep in," she said.

For priding themselves on being so culturally advanced and aware of what's going on around the globe, it's truly remarkable how today's actors/actresses have such an infantile and warped understanding of the world's most important events. How did Tinseltown become so virulently Blame-America-First in its attitude, especially during wartime?

It wasn't always this way. The leading actors (as opposed to little known bits like Maggie Gyllenhaal) of, say, the WWII era staked their reputations on being publicly pro-American, patriotic defenders (literally) of America. Compare the Gyllenhaals and Richardsons of today to the Jimmy Stewarts and Glenn Millers of yesteryear. It's quite a dismal comparison by any measure.
Marching Orders

I received this e-mail from my buddies at today with helpful instructions on what I can do to make a difference:

Dear MoveOn member,

House and Senate Republicans are about to reach a deal on budget legislation that would drastically slash healthcare for children and seniors and explode the debt. Also, tucked into the bill is a provision that would open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil.

Senator Norm Coleman is considered one of the key swing votes on this legislation because he has previously stood up to some parts of the Republican agenda. Sen. Coleman needs to hear from constituents right away. The Senate is expected to vote tonight or tomorrow on this terrible legislation.

Please make a phone call right now:

Senator Norm Coleman
DC Phone: 202-224-5641

Tell whoever answers that you are a voter in Minnesota, then say:

"I expect Sen. Coleman to vote NO on the budget because it would cut healthcare for children and seniors, explode the debt, and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling."

Ask for a letter explaining the Senator's position on these issues.
Then, please report your call by clicking here:

MoveOn PAC

Your phone calls have made the difference before. We need to keep Sen. Coleman voting right on these important issues.

Thanks for all you do.

Whew. Thank God that wasn't too complicated. I would hate to have to think for myself when it comes to such vital matters.

Wait a second. After I ask for a letter explaining the Senator's position on these issues do I hang up the phone or report my call right away? D'oh! They really do need to clarify these things. I can only hope that their next e-mail telling me step-by-step how to conduct my nightly bowel movement is more specific. I always seem to screw up the order of that whole wiping part.
Great Moments in Self Governance

As the investigation into Senator George Voinovich's history of rage fueled temper tantrums widens it is becoming apparent that the true victim of his behavior may have been the American people.

Voinovich as the Chairman of the critically important Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sub-committee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Wetlands has been entrusted with caretaking Mother Earth's bounty for all of us. And when given the opportunity to hear expert testimony on a vital issue the valley filling of residual coal sludge byproduct, he stalks off in an ego driven fit of pique.

Here's a sample of what Voinovich missed, from coal mining expert, Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson. Who, if not an expert, is at least an eye witness. From 40,000 feet.

I am not a scientist, but I do know what I've seen on flights over the coalfields.

Which I think means he either looks out the window while passing flyover country or that he rented Coal Miner's Daughter for his personal DVD player on his last flight.

Richardson concluded his testimony with this challenge to the Senators:

In closing, I would like to personally invite each of you to take a flight with me over the coalfields and see firsthand how our future is being robbed.

According to a committee spokesman, all attending Senators politely passed on this offer, based on it sounding "a little too delightful."

It's interesting to note that the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sub-committee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Wetlands has been somewhat of a magnet for celebrity expert testimony over the years.

Here's supermodel Christie Brinkley on the Reauthorization of the Price/Anderson Act (which, strangely, has nothing to do with the current market rate of Pamela Anderson). Excerpt:

With the advent of deregulation, limited liability corporations are taking ownership of almost half of the fleet of the nation's nuclear power reactors. Many of these limited liability corporations are thinly capitalized.

When asked for corroboration on this assertion, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan replied "yaggada yaggada yaggada".

Rocker Don Henley also made an appearance before Voinovich's committee, in support of something called the Caddo Lake Ramsar Wetlands Science Center Program (which I understand, like most government programs, you can join anytime you like, but you can never leave).

No matter how inarticualte, you do have to respect a celebrity who, unlike Christy Brinkley, writes his own copy:

So we suggest that, as we examine how we accomplish conservation in this country, we should make note of and accommodate the flashes of community brilliance that occur to illuminate and fulfill a federal conservation commitment.

Henley later testified he witnessed those flashes of community brilliance while flying over Muncie, Indiana.

And finally, a real puppet of the Hollywood entertainment-industrial complex, Elmo. (Photos of this seminal moment in democracy found here).

Elmo came before Congress wanting to tickle them to the sum of $2 million for children's music programs or as the line in the puppet's script read: "Please, Congress, help Elmo's friends find the music inside them."

Lobbying Congress to help his friends find the music inside them, right after helps them find access to the wallets of the American taxpayer. Et tu, Elmo?
Teach them well and let them lead the way

UPDATE: This Saturday Friday, the battle over Social Security reform is coming to the campuses:

The Minnesota College Republicans are holding a Social Security rally on April 29, 2005 at the University of St. Thomas. The College Republicans will use the rally to inform students about the crisis facing Social Security and make their voice heard.

Guest speakers will include Representative Mark Kennedy, State Auditor Pat Anderson, Dr. Cheri Pierson Yecke, and Eric Hoplin, College Republican National Chairman.

The rally kicks off at 11am at 155 Murray Herrick Center (MHC) University of St. Thomas St. Paul, MN 55115

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Moving Further And Further On From Reality

Here's a couple of the reasonable, moderate folks at a filibuster protest in Minneapolis.

(Photo courtesy of the Republican Party of Minnesota)

I don't know which is worse: the shameless inflated hyperbole or the shameful ignorance of history?

UPDATE--Scott e-mails to add:

I offer another option - the shameful ignorance of how to spell legalized.
Murphy's Revenge

Yesterday was the longest day of my life. It didn't have to be that way. All that was on the agenda was waking up, getting ready, checking out of our hotel, grabbing a cab to the airport, and catching a flight back to Minneapolis. Piece of cake, right? Of course it is, unless you're dealing with a nasty bout of food poisoning.

Monday in San Diego began innocuously enough. It was a warm pleasant morning and we caught a ferry out to Coronado. We walked across the "island", spent a little time on the beach, and had lunch at the stately Hotel del Coronado. I had an Ahi tuna salad, a beer, and water. My wife a veggie wrap, a mango smoothie, and water. The food was good and the view spectacular.

After lunch we walked to the ferry landing and headed back downtown. The ferry made an unexpected stop at the Naval Air Station, North Island (Coronado), which gave us an up close and personal glimpse of the carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68). For security reasons we were not allowed to take any pictures.

Next it was a tour of San Diego's Aircraft Carrier Museum: The USS Midway. This is a stop not to be missed if you're in San Diego. We spent almost two hours aboard, but I could have easily used a couple more.

My wife started feeling a bit queasy on the ship and by the time we arrived back at the hotel, she was illin'. We had planned on enjoying a seafood feast that evening, but that was obviously not going to happen now. I was doing just fine at that point, and so, after ensuring that my wife didn't need anything, I went out to grab a bite.

When I came back, she was still hurting. My turn to ride the food poisoning pony started at about 10pm. For the rest of the night, and a good part of the next morning, we took turns shuttling in and out of the bathroom to perform various bodily functions. Neither one of us was able to catch more than a few moments of sleep. It was miserable.

The worst part of vomiting is not the actual regurgitation itself, but rather the in-between phase. You've just spilled your guts into the toilet. Now you pause for a moment, grasping the side of the bowl, and gasping for breathe. Your nose is running, your eyes are tearing up, and your whole body is shaking. You can see and smell the product of your previous work. You know that your reprieve will be short lived and that there's more where that came from. And here it comes...

The law of diminishing returns also comes into play while calling Ralph on the big white phone. While the first round is not a walk in the park, it's much less painful than those that follow. You get a lot of bang for your buck and when you're done you actually feel much better and begin to believe that you're out of the woods. Until your next little circle of nausea hell starts to kick in...

Tuesday was terrible. My head hurt, my body ached, and I was alternating between spells of fever and chills. I felt like I had been run over by light-rail transit. My wife was in much the same state.

Little things like packing bags, taking showers, and checking out of hotels become monumental tasks when you're in the condition we were in. Don't even get me started on the travails of brushing my teeth yesterday. Once we got on the plane I zoned. I tried to do a little reading, but my body and mind just weren't up for it. It was a LONG plane ride. We got in about 8pm last night and both crashed shortly after getting home. No bags were unpacked. No mail was opened. No cats were fed. Okay, I guess we did feed the cats.

All in all, (despite that whole food poisoning thing) our trip to San Diego was excellent. And we learned one important thing about "America's finest city": it's a great place to visit, just don't drink the water.
Candid Camera

There's never a good photo editor around when you need one. Luckily, there are usually good bloggers, like Triple A at Residual Forces, who goes the extra mile in fact checking the reported color of Michele Bachman's blazer. For the record, she's smokin' in any colored jacket.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Watch Where You're Swinging That Satire, Eh?

Last week, the frequently flattering masthead quote at the top of this page had a line from Robert Sopuck of a Canadian organization called the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (you can tell they are Canadian types by the outrageous spelling of the word "center"). In a piece about blogs, he wrote that the Fraters crew:
...takes it upon itself to rip to shreds the pretensions of the "progressive" elements of North American society. And it has great fun doing so.
I think we can all agree that a more fair, balanced and factual comment would be nigh onto impossible to find.

The very next line in Sopuck's piece, however, had me shaking my head with incredulity:
These blogs are becoming real players in the policy game. Lynne Cheney, wife of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, follows Fraters Libertas on a daily basis, as do many others in the political and policy world.
While I do not doubt that the brilliance we at Fraters Libertas purvey on a daily basis (semi-weekly, in my case) is followed by many "in the political and policy world", I was stunned to discover that Lynne Cheney had made it a habit to check in daily.

Then I remembered this piece that I wrote late last year. It was written shortly after an installment of Hardball in which guest host Campbell Brown asked Mrs. Cheney what her favorite blogs were. Grandmaster Hewitt proudly boasted on air the next night about the fact that his site was the first one she mentioned, along with fellow Northern Alliance stalwarts Powerline and blog giant Instapundit.

In that post, I impishly decided to have a bit of fun with the story by claiming Hugh had intentionally left out this important exchange:
Cheney: One site I must check on daily, sometimes hourly, is Fraters Libertas. Have you ever heard of them Campbell?
Brown: No. I can't say that I have.
Cheney Well, you really should give them a read. Powerful prose, incredible insight...they're a must read in my book. Except for the one that calls himself Atomizer. He kind of creeps me out.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have been a little clearer in indicating that this bit of back and forth between Cheney and Brown was, in fact, 100% reality free.

Perhaps I should have titled my post:
Atomizer Crudely Channels Scott Ott

Or, maybe I should have prefaced the bit with something like:
***WARNING***Satire Ahead***WARNING***

No...still too subtle. I really think the problem is firmly rooted in the vast cultural divide between us and the denizens of The Great White North.

So, for the benefit of our Canadian friends, I have translated my feeble attempt at humor to read as follows:
Cheney: One site I read daily, sometimes after each Moosehead, is Fraters Libertas. Have you ever heard of them, you hoser?
Brown: Take off, eh? You gonna eat that back bacon?
Cheney: Get your own, hosehead! It's really a beauty of a website. Powerful prose, incredible insight...I've got to tip my toque to them. Except for that Atomizer hoser. Geez...he's a knob. Now quit horkin' all the beer!
Fraters Libertas...bridging the cultural divide one Canadian at a time.
Senators in Glass Houses

More disturbing questions have emerged regarding Senator George Voinovich and his fitness to judge John Bolton as a nominee for UN Ambassador. Last week Senator Voinovich indicated "interpersonal skills" and one's "relationship with their fellow man" as primary qualifications for employment and threatened to derail President Bush's nomination of Bolton over high crimes such as impertinent email exchanges and the slamming down of phones.

The veracity of those claims against Bolton have yet to be proven. But bullying tactics of this nature are nothing new to Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson. And no, I'm not talking about the time those thugs from Boys II Men played keep-away with his hair mousse at the Teen Choice Awards. No, Kevin Richardson knows first hand the spiteful wrath of none other than the Honorable George Voinovich. From the Associated Press:

"I'm a 31-year-old man who's seen a lot - a lot of things that have disturbed me. (Ed. - like the video for "I Want it That Way"). And instead of ... not doing anything about it, I thought I'd use my voice to express my concerns and try to help."

Not everyone appreciates Richardson's activism. His mining testimony ruffled the feathers of Senator George Voinovich, who - in a protest against what he called Richardson's lack of expertise - boycotted the hearing.

"That was sad," Richardson says. "He was saying, 'Music has no place in politics'. Politics is for everybody. We all have a right to speak our minds."

Why is George Voinovich making Kevin Richardson cry? Why does he hate freedom of speech and the First Amendment? Why does he hate music? Important, serious questions that demand an answer.

When asked for comment (three years ago), Voinovich was unable to even momentarily soothe his own savage breast. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"It's just a joke to think that this witness can provide members of the United States Senate with information on important geological and water quality issues," Voinovich said in a written statement. "We're either serious about the issues or we're running a sideshow. Someone needs to make up their mind."

Members of the American Carnival Geek and Sideshow Freak Association (coincidentally, also represented by Kevin Richardson) immediately filed a protest against Senator Voinovich for his insensitive, divisive comments.

In a hastily called damage control press conference, Voinovich kept digging with this explanation.

I pushed hard to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Cleveland. This isn't about music, it's about substance," said Voinovich. "Even if this guy [Richardson] was a polka musician, I would still object to him."

According to reports, the outraged estates of Frankie Yankovic and Whoopee John Wilfahrt have contacted the Senate Ethics committee for immedidate redress of this vicious slander against them.

George Voinovich, of course, deserves his day in court. But for the good of the country, we cannot possibly let this man further participate in the Bolton hearings until all the accusations are heard. Recuse yourself sir, you've caused quite enough pain already.
All the Representation We Can Stand

Kate Parry is the relatively new Reader's Representative or the Star Tribune. Her column is, succinctly put, awful. Her defensive dismissals of legitimate reader inquiries (like this classic from Spitbull) and superficial understanding of the new media don't add value to anyone's appreciation of the process of MSM news gathering and information dissemination.

For example, here's some of her recent work representing the readers:

Imperfect as they can be, newspapers are still the highest-quality information source about your community. I firmly believe the health of our democracy is bound to the health of a free press.

No one else can match the staff, resources and rigorous standards newspapers bring to writing broadly, deeply and fairly about our communities. This is the place where people who disagree with each other can engage in debate for everyone to read, fueling the great ongoing civic discussions around dinner tables and over backyard fences that undergird democracy. This helps us make good decisions, as Minnesotans and Americans, about what to do next.

Does anyone know of a program I can add to my computer that provides a laugh track for columns such as this? It worked for Gilligan's Island and F-Troop, and I have to believe it would make Kate Parry's work so much more enjoyable too.

Accurately naming her column the Reporter's Representative column or the Reader's Brick Wall would help too, although it may not be as emotionally satisfying to those for whom the facade of being responsive to the readership is deemed important.

Check out Peter Swan from Swanblog for a terrific job of detailing Parry's standard operating procedures.

Monday, April 25, 2005

When The Elder Comes To Town

Murphy resigns:

First the quarrelsome city attorney demanded that San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy quit. And last week Time magazine named Murphy one of the three worst big-city mayors in the country. Then came increased rumblings of a recall movement.

And then?

Less than five months after starting his second four-year term, Murphy, 62, announced this morning he would resign effective July 15.

Kickin' It Old Town

Yesterday we hopped the red trolley to Old Town. Trolley meaning a light rail transit system very similar to the one that Minneapolis has begun using. The cars are red, but there really is nothing very trolley-like about them. Still, it was a work of savvy marketing by the San Diego governmental bodies to dub it the "red trolley." Trolley has a charming appeal that LRT lacks. And as an out-of-towner, I appreciate having such public transit available, especially since I'm not forced to bear the tax burden of supporting it. For five bucks a piece, we purchased all day passes to ride the trolley as much as we wanted to. Which turned out to be a round trip excursion to Old Town.

Old Town is where the original city of San Diego was founded. Today it's been reconstructed as a historic site. As tourist traps go, Old Town isn't too bad. That probably has something to do with it being a state park. Oh there are plenty of quaint little shops (and even more shoppes) trying to pry open your wallets with "art", trinkets, nick-nacks, and a host of other offerings that serve no useful purpose. But most of them bore a semblance of quality and class, unlike the cheesy crap that was being hucked at Seaport Village.

We had another fabulous Mexican lunch in Old Town too. While the chow has been great, two days of Mexican food is enough to sate our cravings. Time to move on to some of the many seafood establishments in town.

This morning we're off to Coronado and then a tour of the Midway this afternoon. There wasn't a chance that I was leaving San Diego without getting that in.

Or a stop or two here and here. So many beers, so little time.
Hangin' Tough

The John Bolton nomination for UN Ambassador continued to descend into new levels of absurdity with the vote being delayed last week due to certain Senators' belief that he doesn't work and play well with others. In the hyper politicized, ego driven world of the Senate, that passes for statesmanship, the national interest be damned.

Republican George Voinovich merits particular notice for crawling out of the woodwork to make sure the new UN ambassador makes a habit of saying "pretty please" when asking for crushing economic sanctions on rogue nuclear states. Voinovich had this to say, before voting to delay a vote on the Bolton nomination.

"I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton," Voinovich told the rest of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressing concern about reports that the nominee had bullied subordinates.

"I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me," he said. "I call it the kitchen test. Do we feel comfortable about the kitchen test? I've heard enough today that gives me some real concern about Mr. Bolton."

Senator Voinovich never really tells us what the "kitchen test" is. Given the privilege US Senators are accustomed to, I suspect it has something to do with the hired help serving his meal in a timely fashion without getting uppity.

Oh sure, Voinovich is probably just another folksy, common man from Washington DC, that's certainly what he'd like us to believe. But I hope he's never subject to the whims of a petty, self-aggrandizing Senate confirmation hearing, with people like George Voinovich sitting in petulant judgment of him. Because no matter how much your employees would love to have you hanging around in their kitchens, there's always someone out there you can dig up to testify about a lack of interpersonal skills. The case for the prosecution against Voinovich will likely be based on this incident (via the LA Times):

In 2002, [Voinovich] drew national media attention when he boycotted a Capitol Hill hearing where a member of the Backstreet Boys, a teen-oriented singing group, testified about coal mining.

During Voinovich's hearing, I can almost hear the gasps from Christopher Dodd and the press when a sobbing Howie Dorough testifies that the subtext of "We've Got it Goin' On" is actually the horror of black lung disease. Followed by Howie's icy glare in Voinovich's direction and the sneering taunt: "Backstreet's Back! (All right!)".

And maybe it won't stop there. Perhaps Voinovich has shown this anti teeny pop prejudice before. A little digging may produce a full panel of tearful, bloated, goateed, 40-year-old former boy band members testifying on how George Voinovich treats his fellow man. Maybe we'll find out about how he boycotted the testimony by N' Synch on the horrors of racial intolerance. His dismissal of New Kids on the Block speaking on the heartbreak of lactose intolerance. His ignoring of 98 Degrees, speaking on the heartbreak of bad singing intolerance.

You see where this is going Voinovich? For your own good, get the John Bolton nomination to a vote ASAP. Don't make me contact Vanilla Ice (please).

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A City That Can Project Power

We arrived in San Diego yesterday and spent most of the day prowling around the city. The hotel we're staying at is downtown, about six blocks from the harbor. After pounding the pavement for a while, we enjoyed some damn good Mexican food at a restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter (thanks for the tip Hippster-once again, sorry about your ball club).

Speaking of baseball, I'm officially re-reversing my position on a new stadium for the Twins. I'm gone back and forth on this issue a number of times over the years, but after seeing PETCO Park yesterday, I'm back on board the new stadium bandwagon. PETCO is a beautiful little ballpark (capacity 42K) smartly tucked into downtown San Diego.

The Padres aren't it town so I won't get a chance to catch a game at PETCO, but we were able to get a nice look at the field from a park behind the stadium. Seeing the spectacular green grass, the sun shining on the bleachers, and the charm of a real ballpark had rekindled my desire for the Twins to get outside where they belong.

More on San Diego later. For now I'll leave you with this thought: how can you not like a city that has three aircraft carriers (one the decommissioned Midway which now serves as a museum) parked in its harbor?
There's Nothing Wrong With Shooting...As Long As The Right People Get Shot

I love being a lifetime member of the NRA. The greatest joy is seeing the looks on people's faces when you announce your membership in "mixed" company. They have a bit of a surprised look, then you can see the wheels turning and you imagine them thinking "Oh, he's one of THOSE."

But I also love getting the monthly magazine that comes with my membership: America's First Freedom. There are plenty of lively pieces about encroaching legislation, cool ads for various weaponry and my personal favorite, the Armed Citizen column.

This column details the stories the MSM usually ignores (or buries on back pages)--the ones where ordinary citizens blast worthless criminals to kingdom come. To wit:

Robert Birstwhistle had been awakened about 1 a.m. to the sounds of his front door being kicked in. He took a pistol and went downstairs, warning the intruder to stop or "he was going to get what was coming to him." The intruder however, kept trying to get in and eventually broke down the door. Birstwhistle fired once, and the intruder fell to the floor. When police arrived, the intruder was pronounced dead at the scene; he was later identified as James Rosebush, who lived only blocks away.

--The Indianapolis Star, 2/18/05

I love stories like that. When I watch Cops, they often talk about "taking another gun off the streets" as if that has anything to do with making the citzenry safer. But when a law-abiding citizen blows a criminal away, that criminal will never try to break down another door or commit a crime of any kind. And that is a victory.

God bless Robert Birstwhistle.

Friday, April 22, 2005

To Honor Earth Day

Why not read a book about the environment? A good book about the environment. A book such as The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjorn Lomborg. Do it for your Mother.
There Must Be Fifty Ways To Leave Your...

Michael points us to the Top 50 ways to get fired:

11. The Come On Down

Bring a little television into your cubicle and watch the Price is Right everyday, cheering loudly. Be sure to call bullshit when you guess wrong, and insist you could get that item cheaper at any grocery store in America.

Raising Cain

Herman Cain on "Separate Water Fountains":

It is now evident that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to the Social Security system. Due to the rising retirement age, differences in life expectancy between Blacks and Whites, and mandatory payroll tax deductions, the system by its very nature discriminates against black men and women.
P & P

Vox Day on Nick Coleman, hermaphrodite-at-large. No further comment required.
How To Lose A Job In Ten Days

The suggestions for "how to get laid off" are starting to flow in.

B.D. offers a conventional approach:

-Never volunteer for any projects

-Do enough to JUST get by

-Any projects that you do, do mediocre (i.e. do minimal research)

-Never work more than 40 hours

-Work on projects that don't necessarily help the company, just busy work

-Never have any ideas

-Question all changes, be annoyed by changes within the company (i.e. process changes)

-Bug your boss a lot about your work (the inability to work independently)

Not bad, although I don't know if it's enough to differentiate yourself from 80% of the corporate workforce.

Das shares a coworker's experience:

When I was an engineer at Honeywell I had a coworker, Frank, who hated his job and all his peers. During one of the annual layoff/purges of engineers Honeywell always has, a management drone, comfortably ensconced at layer 16 of a 35 layer deep org-chart, decided to interview all of us to make us justify our jobs. In this group interview Frank, when asked what he did all day, said "I usually sit at my desk and tinker with my pc for an hour or so, then I walk around the plant until lunch and then nap until 4:00. He then asked "What do you do to add to the bottom line?"

This wasn't enough to get him gone. So one day he sticks his head into a big meeting at about 11:00 and says "Hey, I'm going over to a movie at the Cooper (It was still there at the time) and then to TGI Fridays for a few drinks. You can reach me there."

That still didn't work, so he got into a fistfight with a coworker. That worked.

Life imitates Office Space? More likely the other way around.

Finally, Shawn sounds a warning:

That list of "things I've tried" all seem, to me at least, to be things you could do that could get yourself fired, rather than laid off. "Fired," of course, meaning that there is no severance package, mediocre or not. Granted, I'm no HR professional, nor do I play one on television, but doing something like surfing for porn on company computers opens the company up to some serious liability for a sexual harassment suit. One inadvertent "Ctrl-P" could print something out, a screen could be left open and someone see it, someone could be looking for a file on your computer and come across a stash, etc. That seems to be the most egregious thing I see on the list. The other items just make you appear to be an ignorant lout.

And offers a possible way out:

Now, if you are looking for the lay off, and think they are coming (we always knew when the date was for layoffs at my previous employer, and most days knew who was affected the Thursday or Friday before the event), one thing a guy could do is go to his boss and just say: "Hey, I get the feeling (or know) that there are layoffs coming, and I know it's a hard decision for you, and I'm really not that happy here anymore. Do us both a favor, and have me on the list."

Brutal honesty? Hmmm...Nah, it'll never work.
So you want to go out in a final blaze of incompetence?

Anonymous writes in seeking advice in an area that I would imagine our readers have some experience:

I'd appreciate if you would solicit suggestions for how to get laid off. I really want to get "let go" but have a problem. For three years I've been thinking it likely and thus have attempted to position myself as indispensable, especially recently. But now I want out but and think I did too good of a job "positioning." I would hate to walk from a mediocre severance package.

Some things I've tried that do not work:

-Making personal long-distance phone calls

-Running your own business from the employers office

-Coming in late and leaving early to make up for it

-Loudly telling sexist jokes after a couple of cocktails while traveling with co-workers

-Surfing porn


-Surfing (yes, it really exists)

-Swearing often

-Drinking at lunch

-Swearing more often and louder after drinking at lunch

-Shirking responsibility claiming I'm too busy

-Happily accepting additional responsibility knowing full-well that I will ignore anything that takes up valuable porn-surfing time

-Reading and trying to think of clever ways to get published during office hours

Hopefully the Fraters Network can come up with some ideas I haven't yet tried. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. If my employer found out I do all these things or any combination of three or more, I might actually get fired and lose any possibility of a severance package so please protect the names of the not so innocent.

The call for help has been made. Obviously this is a very worthy cause and any assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

"Remember that summer at Dairy Queen where I cooled my feet in the soft-serve machine?"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Truth Is Out There

It looks like the guy who "knows stuff" has been Googling himself lately. Be careful, Nick. You never know what you'll find.

Take a step that is new...

On Saturday, my wife and I are heading to San Diego for an extended weekend getaway. Nothing extraordinary about the trip itself, except that it will be the first time that my face has ever bathed in the eternal sunshine of the Golden State. That's right. I've never been to California.

I've been to Iceland. I've been to the Philippines. To Mexico several times. But I've never visited the land where anything can happen.

It should be an interesting time. Even if we don't get a chance to experience "the happiest place on earth."
Finger Lickin' Good

[Editor's note: with the absence of Saint Paul and the dearth of material from other contributors, the Elder has been forced to take on the persona of other members of the Fraters crew in order to provide the depth and variety of subject matters that you have grown accustomed to reading. On Tuesday this angry Twins rant was an attempt to capture the spirit of Atomizer. In this post, he tries to channel JB Doubtless.]

I ain't got much love for the commercial with Hootie and crew (although Hootie's musicianship and songwriting genius is often over looked by the hipsters who sneer down their noses at anything with pop appeal), but I must say that the BK Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch Chicken is one helluva san'ich. I hit the drive through at the nearby BK at lunch today, plopped down my four semolies, and drove away with a taste experience that left me more satisfied than most any meal that I've had at a "fine dining" establishment. And it didn't cost me no thirty bones either. There's a reason why BK is so popular. The food's good. And cheap.

Here's another view on the The Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch commercial.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

When Ann Comes To Town

Douglas has another first hand account of Ann Coulter's speech at St. Thomas on Monday over at Belief Seeking Understanding.
That Rabbit's Dynamite

Go to Nihilist In Golf Pants now and read all of the Jimmy Carter rabbit attack posts (I believe there are currently seven of them celebrating the 25th anniversary of the infamous event). Ouch. I don't think Carter's taken a beating like this since the 1980 election. My favorite line is from the post on how others would have handled the attack:

Jacques Chirac- Would have sneered condescendingly at the rabbit before surrendering to it.

Cette dynamite du lapin. Se sauver! Se sauver!
They'll Be Cake And Punch In The Conference Room

Starting a new job is never easy. Most companies try to ease the pain and discomfort for new hires by arranging for some type of activity to break the ice and help them feel more at home. Maybe they have a group lunch or serve treats to recognize the new addition and give that person a chance to meet and greet their coworkers.

Katherine Kersten is set to join the Star Tribune as a columnist shortly, but based on comments from one of her future coworkers (and fellow columnist), I don't expect her to receive a real warm welcome at the Strib offices:

"The Star-Tribune now has hired a by-god certifiable right wing activist and power megaphone."

I didn't think he's going to be bringing in bagels on her first day.
beer and laphroaig on the campaign trail

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of talking with Craig Shirley on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Craig is the author of the very informative and highly entertaining book, Reagan's Revolution : The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All. I would encourage anyone with in interest in political campaigns, the rise of conservatism in America, or Ronald Reagan to read it.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from "Reagan's Revolution".

-Standing in the wings before a speech in Tallahassee with the candidate and Mrs. Reagan, Reagan asked Keene what he should say to the waiting crowd. Keene replied, "Well, Governor, you have two options: You can go out there and follow the Eleventh Commandment and lose your ass, or you can kick the s*** out of Jerry Ford and win this thing."

-At the end of a hard day on the campaign trail, Reagan and Laxalt were surprised when a messenger delivered a telegram to the motel that was signed by GOP elected officials telling Reagan to get out of the race. Laxalt recalled in his memoirs. "Instead of intimidating him, the message had just the opposite effect. In profane terms, which he rarely used, he told us what the Republicans politicians could do to themselves."

- [John] Wayne hosted a fundraiser for Reagan at his home in California and proceeded to have a few cocktails. When a reporter for NBC News approached him and asked why he would support Reagan over Ford, Wayne replied, "Because Jerry Ford is too f***ing dumb to be President."

The times change, but the labels don't:

-Sometimes the young staffers Reagan and Ford would run into each other at a Washington watering hole where the Ford kids would refer to the Reagan kids as "right-wing nut jobs" and young Reaganites would call the Ford kids "geeks."

-An unsigned memo was generated in the Ford White House, analyzing the Texas results....The memo concluded, "We are in real danger of being out-organized by a small number of highly motivated right-wing nuts."

Hmmm...Sounds sorta familiar doesn't it?

A huge difference between 1976 and today was the way the booze flowed freely on the campaign trail. As Shirley explained during the interview, drinking was considered a normal part of politics at that time.

-Despite the arduous schedule, [Michael] Deaver remembered it was, "the most fun I ever had on a campaign. We stored quarts of whiskey and gin in the back of the bus."

John Sears, who would run Reagan's 1976 primary campaign, shows up for what essentially is a job interview:

Sears' first meeting with the Reagan team in 1974, at the invitation of Walker, did not go according to plan. He flew across the country on the day of the planned dinner and on the plane ride had a few drinks too many. By the time he got to the Firehouse Restaurant to huddle with Meese, Nofziger, and company, he was pretty well smashed and, in the words of Hannaford, "just babbled."

-Hours after Ford had eked out his win in New Hampshire, Sears "broke out the booze," according to Charlie Black, and his team met to discuss a new rhetorical direction for the candidate.

The media played their part as well:

On May 4, the night of the three primaries, the President Ford Committee invited reporters to its D.C. headquarters to watch and report on the results and ply them with alcohol.

Morton [Ford's campaign chair] was also photographed looking askew in front of a table filled with half-empty bottles of liquor, which was sent out to all the wires and published in both the Washington Post and Washington Star. The photo was unfair, as the media, according to Jules Witcover, had consumed most of the liquor.

Finally, I'll close with a quote on government health care that is vintage Reagan:

What the nation does not need is another workout of a collectivist formula based on an illusion promoting a delusion and delivering a boondoggle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If Clutch Is Everything...

...then the Twins are nothing. At least not tonight. Six innings. Ten hits. Zero frickin' runs?!? How is that even possible?

Will somebody please get a hit that matters? And is it too much to ask for more than a single? I mean, they're nice and everything, but I'd like to score at least ONE BLOODY RUN tonight, okay?

UPDATE: Fourteen hits. One run. A 3-1 loss to the hated Pale Sox. Pathetic.

UPDATE: Atomizer sez: On the bright side (and I'm ALWAYS looking on the bright side), the Twins have close to four months to figure out how to get a clutch hit against the Sox. The sixth game of eighteen slated tilts between these bitter rivals won't happen until August 15. In the meantime, the Twins will have to live with their inexcusably lame 1-4 record against the only real threat to dethrone them in the AL Central. Enjoy your summer, boys.
Dream of Californication

The hot rumor around the gin cooler at Fraters World HQ (I knew it was a mistake to put Atomizer in charge of office supplies) is that Saint Paul has cashed in his life savings, packed his suitcase full of hopes and dreams, and hopped a Greyhound bus to Hollywood where he'll likely face years of rejections and failures till he's spit out the bottom of the porn industry. Either that or he's gone to Los Angeles for a work related convention.

The bottom line is that he will be in LA for the rest of the week (unless a Hollywood agent notices his boyish good looks and signs him to a lucrative movie deal) and there's a good chance that he'll find his way down to the studio where our good friend Hugh Hewitt cranks out his daily dose of intelligent talk radio. What will Saint Paul find when he goes behind the curtain? Tune in to Hugh's show tonight to hear what happens when worlds collide. I just hope that Saint Paul managed to get that pie through airport security...
Ve Have Vays Of Making You Vorship

The smoke is white. Let's hear it for the man formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, your new Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.

(And there was much rejoicing.)

If it wasn't going to be the Nihilist, at least it's a German. I gotta think the whole hand-holding crap during the Lord's Prayer will not play well with the new Pope.
No Sale

Tim writes in to talk tax reform:

I don't think I've ever heard what the official opinion amongst the Fraters fraternity is when it comes to tax reform. From your post and link to Deroy Murdock's column, I assume you're a flat-taxer.

I have a certain affinity on the subject of taxes because my wife is self-employed and I have to write that big check every three months. If any of your readers don't think taxes need to be reformed, I would like to issue a challenge: for the next three months stop federal withholding from your paycheck, and write a check to the IRS for that quarter. It hurts. Try doing it four times a year, and then again on April 15th. Federal withholding of taxes is the biggest Ponzi Scheme ever devised by the Federal Government.

Do you know what the tax rate was when Congress passed the 16th Amendment? Are you sitting down? Ready? It was a measly 4%. How many members of Congress would have approved the amendment if they would have known in the future that the middle class of America would see 20-30% of their income withheld?

Did you know that the Congress approved and the IRS spent $28 million to reduce the number of hours Americans spent to do their taxes? $28 million. And despite these efforts, the number of hours the average American spent completing his taxes still went up? Of course, all of the articles I read on this subject conveniently blame the tax cuts put into place by President Bush. Shame on him for thinking Americans should keep more of their own money. Altogether, Americans spent 6.6 billion hours completing their taxes.

Although the hurdles are higher, I prefer the national sales tax, for several reasons. 1) Nothing would make me happier than to see the IRS completely evaporate. Think of the annual savings to the Federal budget. 2) The government cannot make you buy anything you don't wish to buy. 3) The average business spends about $750 to remit $100 to the IRS. I know there are a lot of tax accountants and tax lawyers that will have to find other work if a sales tax is put into place, but there are still accounting jobs and lawyering in other sectors that needs to be done.

Lastly, every year the radio and TV news stations like to go to the post office and get "the man in the streets" reaction to paying taxes. They always show people who are just giddy that they're getting a refund. Wake up you dolts! It was your money to begin with! You're getting back your own money! The gov'n'mint ain't "giving" you anything!

Last Saturday, we had a discussion of tax reform on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. As Tim deduced, I am in favor of a flat income tax rate. While abolishing the income tax and going with a national sales tax does have its appeal, there are a few problems that I see with that approach.

First off, it would no doubt lead to a burgeoning black market. Most of the national sales tax proposals that I've seen talk about a rate of around 23%. If you assume that local state and city taxes would still be in place, some people would be paying 30-35% in tax on every purchase. That would drive people into the black market and result in a proliferation of such unofficial, underground exchanges.

The other problem would be how consumers would react to the tax. Today Americans probably spend too much and save too little. But a national sales tax would likely dramatically change this behavior. With an economy that is increasingly dependent on consumption, the economic consequences (at least in the short term) could be severe.

I had some firsthand evidence this weekend of the power of sales tax on consumer behavior. Or rather the temporary absence of said tax. No, I didn't load up on tax free booze as JB Doubtless so gluttonously did on Saturday (by the way, not everyone is impressed with his taste in beverages).

No, I took advantage of a sales tax free event at IKEA on Sunday. They actually had signs inside the store encouraging you to "stick it to the man" and man were people in a mood to do just that. Despite the fact that it was a gorgeous Spring day, the joint was packed. And people weren't just looking. They were buying. This little flurry of consumer activity was a result of shoppers saving 6.5% on their purchases. It doesn't take much to get people to the stores and I don't think it would take much to keep 'em away either.

Let's see here, at the end of the day, we ended with a new piece of furniture while JB ended up with a cart full of booze. As much as it pains me to say it, in this case it's clear: advantage JB.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Report from the Front Lines

A far too long absent Warrior Princess returns with this report of today's Ann Coulter presentation at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Just returned from Ann Coulter's speech at the University of St. Thomas Undergrad. Not much to report in the way of content. It was typical Ann: abrasive, witty, contentious and correct. I'm not a huge fan of her style, but I respect she gives very frustrated conservatives a voice in the political arena. And regardless of whether I agree with her or not, I believe she has a right to speak on a college campus.

The security getting into the event was pretty thorough, so luckily there were no attempted "pie"ings. Quite possibly the very large imposing body guard that stood behind Ms. Coulter at all times had something to do with that. It is hard to pin a number on exactly how many had to be removed. Within the first minute a man had to be removed for belligerent incoherent screaming. Ann chalked it up to that wonderful liberal commitment to free speech. Shortly after that, she mentioned President Clinton, at which point a very disruptive group of college Democrats proceeded to clap and scream for an inordinately long amount of time. Ann then asked, where Luke was, and asked Luke if he wouldn't mind heading up to the balcony. Luke, a young man about 6'2" and 300lbs, did as he was told. The group was relatively well behaved after that. After that there were a few more kerfluffles in the balcony. I don' t know if they caused anyone's removal. And one more person removed for getting up to ask a "question" but never seeming to get anywhere near a question before the microphone was taken away from him. From what I understand, this is the kind of reception any conservative commentator can expect on a college campus in today's sensitive, tolerant society.

The goal of liberal activists in all this, has to be either to get attention, to feel relevant, or to quell a person's right to free speech. Much has been said by individuals much more knowledgeable than I, i.e. David Horowitz, on this topic, so I won't bore the readership. But I will make one observation. The amount of tension in that room was astounding. I was constantly looking behind and around me because of a very real fear that violence would break out. When someone would move a bag or ruffle their keys you could see people tense up. It was a phenomenally stressful hour and a half. And I wouldn't even have been the object of the violence! Everywhere Ann Coulter goes she faces the same level of rancor, and that has to take a big toll. Ann looked very very skinny, and rather tired, and I can see why. I don't think liberals can kill free speech, but they sure can take out the speakers espousing that speech. Its rather sad to see that their ideas are so inadequate their only resort is to try to take out the most powerful speakers on the other side. I only hope Ann and others are able to keep up the work.

Architectural Separated At Birth?

Steve Gigl provides evidence to back up Lileks' contention that the new Walker Art Center resembles a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot.

It's a shame that we're forced to outsource our SABs in these situations. Too bad we don't have an in-house architectural authority to call on.

UPDATE Richard e-mails with an observation:

The Weisman Art Museum on the U of M campus definitely looks like a building that lost a fight with the Walker Art Center.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Because It's Never Too Early...

John J. Miller is looking ahead to the possibilities for the GOP nominee in '08 and in an article from the April 25th edition of National Review, he gives us a peak at South Carolina's Governor, Mark Sanford:

Since then, he has gone on to become one of the best new governors in the country, ranking near the top of the Cato Institute's latest fiscal-policy report card and putting himself in position for an easy reelection next year. Conservatives have praised his efforts to slash taxes and limit the growth of government. A college student in Maryland has even launched a "Draft Sanford for President 2008" website.

Sanford was elected to Congress in 1994 and became an early advocate for Social Security reform:

His main focus, however, was Social Security. Sanford began offering reform ideas -- beta versions of what President Bush advocates now -- shortly after his 1995 swearing-in ceremony. His first bill was his most ambitious one. It would have allowed workers to redirect a chunk of their payroll taxes into private accounts.

Okay, you've got my attention. Tell me more.

Unlike some local Congressman, Sanford kept his term-limit pledge:

After six years in Congress, Sanford honored a term-limits pledge and stepped down. He indicated that he had no plans to run for another office, and he even joined the Air Force Reserve as a logistics officer who coordinated medical crews aboard C-17s. (He still belongs, and may be called up -- which would present an interesting problem.) "It was an odd midlife crisis," he says. "We've disconnected the rights of being Americans with the responsibilities. I wanted to have some juice in the deal, and to set an example for my boys." (Sanford and his wife have four sons.)

This guy is sounding better and better.

In 2002, he was elected governor:

It wasn't long before Sanford set his sights on the governorship. As a candidate, Sanford proposed abolishing the state's income tax over the course of 18 years. As governor he wasn't able to move this idea through the statehouse, even with Republicans in control of both chambers. Instead, he found himself issuing 106 budget vetoes in an effort to reduce spending -- but legislators overrode 105 of them. Sanford protested their taste for pork by carrying a pair of piglets into the capitol building. His prickly relations with lawmakers continue this year, as he keeps on pushing for tax cuts that South Carolina's senatorial grandees don't want to give him.

106 budget vetoes to reduce spending and still pushing for tax cuts? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Sanford in 2008? It could be just the ticket.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

If You Try To Drink I'll Tax Your Liver

One of the only downsides to heavy alcohol use is the amount of tax you have to pay to the government for your vice. It almost makes me want to cut back. Almost.

So I was elated this afternoon when I made a jaunt to my local hootch house and found that the tax would be on them today! For joy, for joy!

Here's what went in the cart:

1. One bottle Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer
2. One bottle Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon
3. One bottle Chateau St. Michelle Pinot Gris
4. One bottle Kendall Jackson Chardonnay
5. One bottle O'Keefes Irish Creme
6. One bottle Mother's Sour Apple Schnapps
7. One bottle Sauza tequila blanco
8. One bottle Kettle One vodka
9. One 1.75 liter Jim Beam Black
10. One bottle Shaker's Wheat vodka
11. One twelve pack Tecate
12. One twelve pack Boulevard Pale Ale
13. One twelve pack Pacifico Clara
14. One six pack Sierra Nevada Christmas Ale
15. One six pack Smirnoff watermelon (fiancee's)
16. One six pack Smirnoff madarin orange (ditto)

All this put a hosing to The Man to the tune of 32 samolians!

A small victory, perhaps, but a joyous one nontheless.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Only Certainty Is That They'll Be The Death of Me

During most of the year, I'm a fairly mild-mannered, calm, rational sort of guy. I'm not prone to angry outbursts, temper tantrums, or mindless ranting. I'm usually in a good mood and would consider myself happy.

But all that changes for a few stormy days every April when it comes time to prepare our taxes. I put off this task for as long as possible since I know the inevitable pain and suffering for my psyche and, especially in the last few years, the hit for our pocketbook that will result.

I don't want it to be this way you understand. I imagine myself strolling into the den, taking off my jacket, loosening up my tie, rolling up my sleeves, pouring myself a glass of milk, and cheerfully doing my duty as an American in a manner reminiscent of Ward Cleaver.

Instead I find myself in my boxers and a t-shirt, slumping in front of my computer screen, scratching myself, swearing like a sailor with Tourette's syndrome, swilling beer, and desperately looking for ways to reduce our tax burden in a manner reminiscent of Homer Simpson.

"Honey, did you invest in or operate a qualified business in a Job Opportunity Zone last year?"


"Honey, were you a small ethanol producer last year?"


"Honey, did you receive benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board?"

"Are you sure?"


By the time I'm done (or more accurately have given up all hope) with the Federal portion, it feels as if I've been kicked square in the groin. Then the State, the big bully's little toady friend, comes along and gives me a boot in the arse while I'm helplessly writhing on the ground in pain. It's not nearly as painful, but it still stings.

After more cursing, gnashing of teeth, and screaming at the cat (leave that W-2 alone damnit!), I'm a beaten man and ready to submit my return. All the kids are talking about "E-filing" these days, so I consider the option. Let's see, it's quicker and makes it easier for the IRS to process your return.

And it's only $15.95 each for Federal and State e-filing.

Thirty-two additional dollars to make it easier for the fargin' IRS to take my money?

Yeah, sign me up. Why don't I just buy the broom handle and pull my pants down for them too? It'd be easier, wouldn't it?

Needless to say, I did not opt for e-filing. The checks are in the mail. And once again, I'm a happy man (although still a little bitter). I just have to content myself with the knowledge that our tax money is being put to good use. By that I mean that it's being used toward the cost of a Hellfire missile. A man can dream, can't he?

(For ideas on how this ridiculous ritual might be made easier, check out Deroy Murdock at National Review Online and Captain Ed.)
Stop The Inanity!

Thanks to a generous offer from Cathy in the Wright (an offer made by possible by the good folks at Olsen Chain & Cable), Saint Paul, Atomizer and wife, and me and my wife will be heading down to O'Shaughnessy Auditorium at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul tonight to catch Sean Hannity and the AM 1500 "Talk Stars." To say that I'm not a big Hannity fan would be an understatement. While he definitely is a smooth talking host who always seem to be saying the right things, I get the impression that there's really no "there" there. His political views are shallow and not really backed by a solid ideological foundation. At least that's what comes across to me. When you compare him to the likes of Prager, Medved, Hewitt, and Bennett, he appears to be a bit of an empty suit.

But free tickets is free tickets and I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, the word on the street is that none of the AM 1500 "Talk Stars" were all that thrilled about being asked forced to share the stage with Hannity tonight. There definitely will be a bit of tension in the air and that tension could make for some entertaining discussions. Especially if Mischke has a couple of Summits before the show.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Clearly You've Never Heard The Sticky Fingers First Record

(read the Atomizer's post, then this)

I love how the Rolling Stone editor used the phrase "safe" as a put-down to Dubya's iPOD song list. You see, in the post-modern world of hipsterism (see City Pages as an example) music should not be safe. It should challenge. Far as I can tell the biggest challenge is to see if you can actually listen to an entire song of, say Wilco, without gnashing your teeth or laughing out loud at the petulant lyrics.

Some guy is actually trying to diss the President of the United States because he is insufficently cool? It amazes me that some people never grow up and out of the cooler than thou mind-set. What series of unfortunate events must have beset these people to make them like this?

The cool people in high school didn't like them, I think. So they became part of a little subculture of fellow rejects that had it's own arcane rules of what was REALLY cool. The music had to be obscure. It had to violate most established rules of melody, lyric and order. It had to challenge. It had to question why society was so wrong and it's not me it's them and why did my parents get divorced?

Most people grow out of this little phase and join the human race. They realize that much of the music that is popular is popular because it succeeds in bringing something pleasant to the listener. Something to relax to, or something the listener can relate to.

Some have attempted to take this subculture and make it dominant and label anything outside of it as somehow less worthy and deserving of scorn. They invented words like Important to describe music. The Clash were Important. The Replacements were an important band. What the hell does that mean? How does that help me enjoy their music more?

There seems to be an unstated assumption amongst this crowd that people are looking to music for wisdom, insight, guidance or political suggestion. Anything that doesn't provide that is not Important. Most normal people (who have never uttered the phrase "_________ saved me life" whatever that means) want music to sound pleasant with an occasional turn of phrase that is interesting, or to set a particular mood.

Can you imagine taking a beauty-ful young thing back to your place, dimming the lights, pouring a glass of champagne and then saying "Tammi, let me put some music on. This is the most important post punk band to come out of Seattle since the Pixies. This changed my life." ?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Look Out World 'Cause Dubya's Using Technology

The latest question for the hippest among us to ponder these days seems to be "What's on your iPod?". Personally, I couldn't care less what you all are listening to. I have my musical tastes and you have yours and I vehemently resent the implication that I need to seek validation in the knowledge that others share those tastes. Listen to whatever crap you want to listen to and leave me the hell alone. Besides, I don't own an iPod. I have no intention of ever buying an iPod. Cripes...I even feel silly just typing the word "iPod" with the pretentious little uncapitalized "i" and the implied coolness that surrounds the whole phenomenon.

Despite all that, I found this piece about the contents of President Bush's iPod (ughhh!) to be quite intriguing. It's not because I care what Dubya is listening to...I already went over that. No, it's because of this quote from Rolling Stone deputy editor Joe Levy:
This is basically boomer rock 'n' roll and more recent music out of Nashville made for boomers. It's safe, it's reliable, it's loving. What I mean to say is, it's feel-good music. The Sex Pistols it's not.
My first thought was that only a fool could imagine George W. Bush kicking back after a long day of strategerizin' and listening to the Sex Pistols (actually, my immediate thought was that JB Doubtless could have a field day with Mr. Levy's quote...and he just might). But, upon further review, I began thinking of an old Pistols tune that Ol' George might actually cotton to.

The song Bodies from the Sex Pistols' 1977 release Never Mind the Bollocks is widely perceived to be a statement against abortion. Johnny Rotten, who penned the classic, claims it takes no side on the issue. The lyrics strike me as landing squarely in the "anti" camp.

You be the judge (expletives deleted, vivid imagery've been warned):
She was a girl from Birmingham
She just had an abortion
She was a case of insanity
Her name was Pauline she lived in a tree

She was a no one who killed her baby
She sent her letters from the country
She was an animal
She was a bloody disgrace

Body...I'm not an animal
Mummy...I'm not an abortion

Dragged on a table in a factory
Illegitimate place to be
In a packet in a lavatory
Die little baby screaming

Body screaming ****ing bloody mess
It's not an animal it's an abortion

Body...I'm not an animal
Body...I'm not an abortion

Throbbing squirm
Gurgling bloody mess
I'm not a discharge
I'm not a loss in protein
I'm not a throbbing squirm

**** this and **** that
**** it all and **** the ****ing brat
She don't wanna baby that looks like that
I don't wanna baby that looks like that.

Body...I'm not an animal
Body...I'm not an abortion

Mummy! Arrgh!
Grotesque and vulgar, no? Well, so is abortion.

Still, I can't help but think that Dubya might just gain an inkling of appreciation for Johnny, Sid and the boys after getting an earful of that. Then again, who cares? He only listens to country music and classic rock. What a square.
Will Success Spoil Eddie Morrissey?

The boys at Power Line might be the darlings of Time, but Captain Ed has now captured the attention of the international media. From the April 9th-15th edition of The Economist comes Shivering Mr Martin's timbers:

FOR the past week, an unassuming call-centre manager in Minnesota has become a key player in Canadian politics, whipping up a storm that could end in a snap general election. On an internet blog-site dubbed "Captain's Quarters", Ed Morrissey has been posting the explosive details of supposedly secret testimony to a judicial commission in Montreal that is investigating a huge political corruption scandal centred on the ruling Liberal Party.

Most of the government-appointed commission's hearings have taken place in public. But Judge John Gomery, its chairman, imposed a publication ban on the testimony of Jean Brault, former head of Groupaction, an advertising agency, as he is to stand trial on fraud charges in June.

Sitting on the American side of the Canadian border and thus able to ignore the ban, Captain Ed, as he is known to his friends, has blithely been publishing all the juicy details that the Canadian press has been unable to touch. After the story of his blogging exploits broke in Canada on Monday, the normal traffic on his website increased tenfold as delighted Canadians rushed to log on.

Make that a formerly unassuming call-centre manager. We'll never get him to stop wearing that Notre Dame jersey now...
They Shoot Cats, Don't They?

They're talking about cat hunting next door:

Although Wisconsin residents have voiced their support for a plan to legalize wild cat hunting, some legislators and cat lovers say they will continue their fight.

The proposal would allow licensed hunters to kill free-roaming cats, including any domestic cat that isn't under the owner's direct control or any cat without a collar, just like skunks or gophers - something the Humane Society of the United States has described as cruel and archaic.

I imagine if this plan were ever to become law, there'd be a lot of discarded collars found throughout Wisconsin. "I swear it wasn't wearing a collar when I shot it officer."

As anyone who has ever "owned" a cat can attest to, there is no such thing as "under the owner's direct control" when it comes to felines. They're not real big on the whole command and control concept.

But despite my affinity for cats, I think I could come around on the idea of cat hunting. As long as a similar provision were put in place that would allow me to pick off any whining, nippy little dogs that happen to be wandering my neighborhood collarless, just like rats.
They Point The Cannon At You

On Sunday May 1st, Freedom Day will be celebrated in St. Paul:

Labor Day is in September, and Independence Day is in July. Those days were set aside to reflect on our nation's independence from England as well as the labor of the working men and women of America.

May 1 is designated as Freedom Day. This day we celebrate those most American Values - Freedom and Individual Liberty.

And what's the best way to celebrate freedom and individual liberty? How about with three black powder cannons firing periodic salutes and four bands rocking on the front lawn (Upper Mall) of the Minnesota State Capitol?

Guns, Guitars, and Grass. Does it get any more American than this?

The fun starts at 10am with the National Anthem and wraps up at 3pm with the closing ceremonies. Check out the Freedom Day web site for all the details, including info on parking. You might just want to bring some ear plugs with you too. Freedom isn't free and on Freedom Day it won't be quiet either.
Like A Rolling Rock

Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost compiles a list of Thirty Three Things From This Fool's Paradise. Be sure not to miss number eight.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Say It Ain't So Joe

The award for worst metaphor at the recent Senate confirmation hearings for soon-to-be US ambassador to the UN John Bolton has to go to Senator Joe Biden:

"Some have said sending you to the UN would be like sending Nixon to China. I'm afraid it would be more like sending a bull into a china shop," said Biden.


I'm so sick of politicians (of both the Left and Right) coming up with these obviously prepared cutesy little lines that they hope will play as sound bites. I'm sure some lackey staffer of Biden's was smugly glowing with pride when the Senator uncorked this "zinger" that they had probably spent hours concocting in preparation for the hearings.

Did anybody really say that sending Bolton to the UN would be like sending Nixon to China? I highly doubt it. But it doesn't matter. As long as it helps make Biden look witty with a memorable tag line, then he'll run with it.

I liked Biden's material better when he was lifting it from Neil Kinnock.
A Torch To Guide The Way

If the pain of high taxes (I just finished mine last night and this year's cut is especially deep) isn't enough to get you to the Capitol in St. Paul on Friday morning for a rally sponsored by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, then how about a special guest appearance by the man formerly known as "Minnesota's Mr. Right" (a title now unofficially claimed by Saint Paul)? That's right, Jason Lewis will be back in town to help stiffen the spines and the strengthen the spirits of the conservative crowd.
Appellative Separated At Birth?

From the befuddled mind of Senator Mark Dayton, we get political hard-baller, Hillary Rodham Clinton and...

...former basket-baller, Dennis Rodman?

As an added bonus Senator Dayton introduced Hillary as, "the great Senator from the State of Minnesota, and the next president of the United States of America...", leading to another possible SAB in Dayton's world:

the State of Minnesota and...

...the State of New York?

The similarities are eerie, aren't they?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Rally 'Round Tha Family

As everyone is well aware of, this Friday, April 15th is tax day. This year, instead of wallowing around, gnashing your teeth, and muttering under your breathe about how the gubamint is screwing you again, why not do something more productive?

Come on down to the Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul and join Governor Pawlenty, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, and a host of other like minded citizens who are not "happy to pay for a better Minnesota", if "paying" means the State reaching into your pockets to confiscate more of your money against your will. The rally starts at 8am and word on the street is that the coffee is on Strom.

The movement to raise taxes in Minnesota is gathering strength. You can see and hear it building in the local media, and every advocacy group looking for a bigger piece of the pie, such as teachers unions and government employees, is echoing the call: "_______ (education, the environment, health care, etc.) in Minnesota is going to hell because of that tax-cutting theocrat Pawlenty and the radical Republicans refusal to raise taxes."

It's going to take a united front of concerned taxpaying citizens to thwart this effort. On Friday morning, come to the Capitol and stand with those who are standing for you. Remember, the people with the orange signs are out there and they're more than happy for YOU to pay.