Tuesday, May 31, 2005

They're Fading Away Fast

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a Memorial Day service in St. Louis Park, the city (first ring 'burb really) that we call home. The event was organized by the local VFW post and included music performed by a community orchestra, speeches, and ceremonial salutes to honor the fallen. State Senator and possible gubernatorial candidate, Steve Kelley was among the politicians who spoke and he delivered a solid, if unspectacular effort, appropriate for the occasion. It was interesting to note that while the politicians managed to keep politics out of the event, a couple of the other speakers strayed over the line in this area.

It has been widely noted that we're rapidly losing the members of the "Greatest Generation" that fought in World War II. With their passing, we're losing their first-hand recollections of the events that changed history. We may be losing the only people who seem to be interested in organizing events like the one we attended yesterday as well.

Because, if my observations are any indication, Social Security's got nuthin' on the VFW when it comes to ticking demographic time bombs. If the VFW had a Doomsday Clock, it'd be at two minutes to midnight. Each and every VFW member who participated in the event, from the rifle squad that fired off a salute to the flag bearers who struggled to retire the colors to the poor bugler who feebly, but valiantly blew his way through "Taps", appeared to be World War II era vets. Some may have been veterans of the Korean War, but I don't believe any were younger than that.

Maybe the VFW post has members who served more recently (or even Vietnam vets) and they just didn't participate. Maybe there is a new guard waiting in the wings to fill the very big shoes of these veterans. But I fear that we may be seeing the last of the breed of men and women who year after year answer the call of duty to remember those who served (and those who serve today). If so, we won't just be losing the members of the Greatest Generation in body, we'll be losing their spirit as well. And that's a loss that will be felt by all the generations that have followed them.
He Could Be The Guy Next Door

Peter e-mails to report confirmation of a brush with fame a long time in coming:

Our former neighbor acknowledges what we have assumed for years. We lived at Watergate At Landmark (307 Yoakum Parkway) in the west end of Alexandria, VA from 1978 to 89. Mark Felt lived two doors up the hall from us (on the 17th floor). He never implied that he was Deep Throat, but he was the acting deputy director of the FBI during the Watergate break-in (not related to the name of our large condo in Alexandria). As I remember, L. Patrick Gray was the acting FBI director at that time. Mark was typical of tens of thousands of faceless bureaucrats in Washington, DC, he was faceless and would go without notice as anyone of importance.

Here's the story from MSNBC:

W. Mark Felt, who retired from the FBI after rising to its second most senior position, has identified himself as the "Deep Throat" source quoted by The Washington Post to break the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon's resignation, Vanity Fair magazine said Tuesday.

"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," he told John D. O'Connor, the author of Vanity Fair's exclusive that appears in its July issue.

Felt, now 91 and living in Santa Rosa, Calif., reportedly gave O'Connor permission to disclose his identity.

If It's The Tuesday After A Holiday Weekend In Minnesota?

...it must be one of the most gorgeous days of the year. Just in time for us to plod our way back into the salt mines, that cruel hag Mother Nature "blesses" us with an absolutely frickin' beautiful day weather-wise. Friday failed to live up to expectations (especially for those of us who took the day off). Saturday suffered from cloudy skies and temperatures far below average. Sunday satisfied our longing for sunlight with an altogether too short promise of summer climes. Monday moderated our grumbling somewhat with decent conditions. But today, today is the kind of day that we live (and suffer) for here in these parts.

Today is an almost perfect early-summer day. And, although the calendar may not yet mark it as such, it is now summer in Minnesota. Because if this Gloomy Weather Gus says it's summer, you better believe that it indeed is.
The Canary Sings

Word is that this post has ruffled a few feathers among Governor Tim Pawlenty's faithful followers. And well it should. If Pawlenty is losing the support of people like Margaret, it does not bode well for his political future:

Which brings me to my final point. As much fun as it has been to read about "our Tim" as Presidential material in the national media, I confess that lately I have found it kind of scary. How can a guy who can't stand up to Dean Johnson stand up to terrorists? How can an executive whose main interaction with the legislature is to call people names and use his veto power, work with Congress? When I look at his administration, I don't see a Karen Hughes or a Karl Rove. With a few isolated exceptions, I see the B-Team.

It might be time to pump some fresh air (and new blood) into the mineshaft.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Glacial Pace In The Information Age

The contest between the Northern Alliance Radio Network and Hugh Hewitt to see who could get their new site design completed sooner is over. And I'm proud to say that we kicked Hugh's butt.

Yes, it's only taken us about six months to redesign the NARN site, while Hugh's promised "new look" still is likely nowhere near completion. Boston had the "Big Dig." Hugh has his "Slog Blog." Anyway, you can check out the new NARN site here. If you have any comments or suggestions, drop us a line and we'll update the site as appropriate. Look for those changes to be complete sometime in early 2006.
Look for the Union Label (Over Their Mouths)

As blog readers are probably aware (and non blog readers probably are not), Linda Foley, the president of the Newspaper Guild, has been making claims about the US military intentionally targeting and murdering journalists. Yes, the Newspaper Guild, the journalists' professional union, and their leader is making the same incendiary charges that got Eason Jordan torched at CNN.

Thomas Lipscomb of the Chicago Sun-Times has been diligently calling for a truth reconciliation in the matter. And he's been equally dismayed by his colleagues' silence in questioning Foley as by her specious claims in the first place. His latest plea to break the relative media blackout on this story was published in Editor and Publisher. It included the lonely roll call of those overcoming their conflict of interest to speak truth to power:

To date, not a single pundit, editorial writer, or newspaper ran anything, with the exception of the Chicago Sun-Times story I wrote, a St. Paul Pioneer Press column by Mark Yost, and a Washington Times column item.

Congratulations to our man Yost and the Pioneer Press for once again providing a perspective on the news which would have been happily buried by the rest of the MSM in this town.

Friday, May 27, 2005

They Don't Like It Here

It's been a tough week for Minnesota among the imported paid opinion commentariat. First the Bard of Tangletown (by way of Fargo), the great James Lileks, threatens to leave us because our weather sucks. (With the local forecast for the Memorial Day weekend I fear he may have already booked passage to Tucson.)

Now City Pages blogger Michael Tortorello is ripping us because we talk funny. I see that he is not one of us either. His tone and the olive oil seeping from his last name implies he's from out East somewhere. (And I don't mean the East Side, although he might fit right in at Yarusso's.)

Tortorello has managed to tolerate living among us for 14 years, but that's not nearly enough time to get whichever spaghetti bending hell hole he hails from out of his system, as this decidedly un-Minnesotan review of how we sound demonstrates:

The accent ... it is either charmless or monstrous. The reason no one in Minnesota has ever eaten a good bagel is because the word itself does not exist. (I have no idea how to format a schwa with this blog software, but I can say definitively that "beggl" is not acceptable.) I suspect the reason Minnesotans, alone among Americans, picked Mondale over Reagan owes to the fact they couldn't pronounce the Gipper's name. (It's more like "Raygun" than "reggn" or "raggn"--where the "a" sound rhymes with "rat." This pronunciation phenomenon is a variant on what linguists term the "northern shift.")

Not sure who he's been talking to about Ronnie Raygun (around the watercooler the CP, I'm just happy to hear he's referred to by something other than "that senile, warmongering Bonzo bedding B-actor!"). But in my semantic circles, you're about as likely to here "Reeg-in" as "Raggn" in reference to the great man. Luckily we now have a President who's name we can all pronounce correctly together: BUSH. You see, that man really is a uniter, not a divider.

Tortorello does do us the service of pointing to University of Wisconsin professor Bert Vaux's survey of dialects, showing the regional distribution of various terms and pronunciations. It's fascinating stuff, finding out exactly where the tectonic plates are for the pronunciation of "mayonnaise" or how we refer to glancing at someone in a lustful way (Minnesotans tend to be "oglers" rather than "ooglers").

This does open my eyes to the remote possibility there may be other places just as good as, if not better than, here. For example this map shows the distribution of terms for drive through liquor stores.

There are places with drive through liquor stores? Up until now I thought that was reserved for heaven.
Memorial Day Movie Pick

You can't go wrong this weekend with the documentary Return With Honor (1999):

RETURN WITH HONOR tells the powerful, moving story of American pilots shot down over North Vietnam and their challenge to survive with honor as POW's. A tribute to heroism, endurance, and brotherhood under duress, the film recalls the transformation from top-gun aviators to captives. Told in their words, rich with survivor humor, and complete with North Vietnamese archival footage, the film is a universal story of honor and duty.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tears of a Clown

I'm not sure why, but Senator George Voinovich is taking the nomination of an Ambassador to the United Nations very, VERY personally:

Ohio Republican George Voinovich came close to tears as he implored fellow senators yesterday to think hard before voting to approve John Bolton as UN ambassador.

Does this guy have an autographed picture of U Thant in a heart shaped frame on his desk or something? Maybe stock in one of Kojo Anan's business ventures? Or does it have something to do with a US Senator just not getting his way and stomping his little feet and holding his breath isn't a part of the sacred Senate rules (yet). Either way, I'm sure on beautiful this day a Backstreet Boy is laughing.

Voinovich, get a hold of yourself man! You're supposed to be a dignified member of the worlds greatest deliberative body. And now you're blubbering over the fact that a majority of your distinguished colleagues may approve the promotion of a civil servant - to the world's worst deliberative body. Is this any example to set for the fine folks from North Korea and Sao Tome and Principe?

Two quotes from the Godfather would seem to apply:

Now you listen to me, you smooth talking son-of-a-bitch. Let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is. [Harry Reid] will never get that rejection. I don't care how many dago guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork.

Oops, wrong one (although I appreciate the veiled reference to John Corzine). I meant these two:

Sonny: You're taking this very personal. ... this is business and this man is taking it very personal.

Don Coreleone: You can act like a man! What's the matter with you. Is this how you turned out? A Hollywood fannuchio that cries like a woman. [Don Corleone imitates him sobbing]

Maybe the real Godfather (Karl Rove) can call Voinovich and deliver this message personally. Failing that, I nominate the Misanthropic Frat Boy.
Sinking Standards At The Strib

Geez, these days the Strib will publish a letter to the editor from just about any nutjob who can string three words together, won't they? Check out the one called "Demonizing the other side" from today's paper (at the bottom of the page).

(Via three who KARe)

Please, Oh Please...

MPR- Fundraising letter indicates Hatch has eye on Pawlenty's job:

Attorney General Mike Hatch has taken another step toward running for governor in 2006. Hatch sent a fundraising letter to DFL contributors, asking them to help him finance a gubernatorial campaign.

< Mr. Burn's Voice >


< /Mr. Burn's Voice >

This would almost be as good for the local right-wing noise machine as having Al Franken run for the Senate.
That Is Just Scary

I was laying around this weekend watching the Twins and whilst flipping came across the classic movie Mrs. Doubtfire on cable. I watched for a few minutes and laughed a few times. Then it hit me. I recognized Mrs. Doubtfire from somewhere. In fact I had seen her mug that very morning in the Star Tribune.

Nick Freaking Coleman is Mrs. Doubtfire!

Mrs. Doubtfire




Mrs. Doubtfire



I know he knows stuff and all, but who knew the guy was so versatile.
Every Face Needs A Nose

Apparently, there's this Phil E. Buster fellow lurking about the U.S. Senate chambers lately. The Democrats want to hear him speak and the Republicans think he's a complete and total wanker. He was never elected to actually serve in any official capacity and, in fact, the American people have been growing less and less enamored with the folks he supposedly speaks for these past several years.

Now, I understand that some big agreement has been reached that will allow Mr. Buster to mingle amongst our elected representatives just as long as he stands there quietly, doesn't make too much of a fuss when the grown ups are talking and stays the hell away from Sen. Kennedy's secret hooch cache.

I guess that's all fine and good for the time being...he bit his tongue today as the folks in the Senate actually sat down and did their job for a change. I do fear, however, that some day soon, Phil's buddies are going to call upon the old guy to stand up and make a whole lot of noise just when some mighty important legislatin' needs to be done.

If that happens, we need some one with the guts to go Gillooly on this guy's ass...and Senator Rick (don't call him Shane) Stantorum seems to be just the man for the job. God knows that this Frist fellow ain't acting like he's up to the task.

Having said that, it's hardly time to self implode. I think some of my friends in the New Media (wink, wink, nudge, nudge to the Nickster) need to chill out just a tad, wait until the cloud from this most recent dust-up settles a bit and have an ounce of faith in the party that put us where we are today.

You don't have to donate anymore, but let's try not to obliterate our present position with pointless intra-party sniping and backbiting just yet.

The true test is yet to come.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Well, you can, but it isn't easy. Check out Tim Blair's Quote quiz which challenges you to:

Pick the genuine screaming leftie moonbat quote from the two fake screaming leftie moonbat quotes in these 20 batches of screaming leftie moonbatism!

Here's a sample:

10 a) "The fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia."

b) "Jews have all the money, and if you've got the money, you've got the power."

c) "A racial purity test should be applied to all prospective media owners in Australia."

Blair thoughtfully provides the answers, including the source of the quote. In this case it's:

10 a Online maverick Margo Kingston, 2004

A woman of many titles that Margo is. Try your luck at all twenty of Blair's quotable questions.

All I Am Saying Is Give Him A Chance

Unlike many of my conservative brethren, I'm not apoplectic over Monday's filibuster deal. At this point, I think it's too early to pass final judgment on it. At first blush it appears to be a defeat, but, depending on how things shake out down the road, it could prove to be a positive for the GOP. While I certainly don't believe that the deal is a victory for Bush, I don't think that it's going to hurt him either. And, as the impact of the compromise starts to sink in (and as "out of the mainstream radicals" like Owens, Brown, and Pryor are confirmed), I think we're going to see more liberals react like this.

The big winners in the compromise are those whose names are being mentioned as possibilities for the GOP ticket in '08. Clearly, this deal spells the end of John McCain's presidential ambitions. (At least as a Republican. Last night, Hugh Hewitt was speculating on his talk show that McCain could pull a "Perot" and run as a third party candidate, which more than likely would ensure that a Democrat (Hillary?) would win the White House.) All the flirting, back slapping, and cheerleading for McCain by the likes of Chris Matthews won't help the Arizona Senator get back in the good graces of the GOP faithful now.

Bill Frist is also done. Weak leadership, vacillation, and indecisiveness don't look good on the resume when applying to be the CIC. Especially, when such qualities are on display for the whole country to see. The fact that the deal was made is not Bill Frist's fault. The fact that there existed an environment where such a deal could be reached is.

You also have to think that this doesn't help Chuck Hagel either. Even though he wasn't directly part of the compromise, when the Republican primary votes look back on these events, they'll likely connect Hagel (almost as much of a "maverick" and media whore as McCain) with those who stood on the podium with Robert Byrd.

For the rest of the field, the damage done to these three by the compromise certainly brightens their hopes for '08. Assuming that Rice, Jeb Bush, and Cheney don't run this means that Romney, Allen, Thune (Hugh's new dark horse), Owens, Sanford, Pawlenty, Pataki, Barbour, Santorum, Huckabee, Gingrich (Saint Paul's man), and Rudy Giuliani were all probably sporting sly grins on Monday night (assuming of course that they all have in interest in running in '08 and are capable of guile).

Last week, there was talk around these parts about the prospects of Pawlenty taking a run at the top spot, especially with the now controversial reception for bloggers at the Governor's mansion in St. Paul.. It was also a week that saw Rudy Giuliani come to town and speak at a Center for the American Experiment dinner. I was lucky enough to be able to attend both events and so had an opportunity to compare two of the men said to be in the mix to succeed George W. Bush.

In my opinion, Giuliani is much closer to having what it takes than Pawlenty does. Pawlenty is quite good at coming across as a down-to-earth, honest, common sense kind of guy who gets stuff done. This has served him well in Minnesota politics and helps explain why his popularity has not really been dinged, despite some rough political patches of late. But these are not necessarily the kind of qualities that work on the national stage. People are pleased with Pawlenty, but not many are passionate about him. I think that in order to emerge out of a crowded field of contenders, and to have a good chance of winning the whole thing, you need to inspire passion in your supporters.

Giuliani can do this. He's a gifted speaker and has a great story to tell. It's much more than just 9/11 too. It's about taking on the entrenched bureaucracy of New York City, reforming the city's institutions, and reversing the decline that the city was in. And Giuliani tells it with passion and conviction. He also has a presence. It's hard to put your finger on it exactly, but you see him and you think, "He could be the President" (at least I did). I don't feel this with Pawlenty (at least not yet).

This is not to say that I'm going to be in my garage this weekend spray painting "Rudy" signs in anticipation of the 2008 Republican National Convention. It's far too early for me to pick a horse in this race, although South Carolina's Mark Sanford did catch my attention already. But last Thursday was the first time that I've seen Giuliani speak live and I was impressed by what I saw and heard.

What is a little distressing to me is how ready and willing a number of Republicans are to write Giuliani off. After the speech, I talked to several people about Giuliani's prospects in 2008 and the reaction was almost universally negative. "He'll never get through the primaries." "Too soft on social issues." "I could never vote for someone who isn't pro-life."

Having been around GOP politics for some time, I recognize these sentiments and understand them. However, I think that Republicans eager to throw Giuliani overboard already do so at their own (and the party's) peril. Yes, he's got a divorce (and a messy one at that) under his belt. Yes, he's not as conservative on social issues as many Republicans would like. And yes, he isn't pro-life. But ask yourself what exactly has been accomplished in the fight against legalized abortion in the four plus terms of pro-life Presidents since Roe vs. Wade was handed down. Restrictions on partial-birth abortions, limits to federal funding, and parental notification aside, we're not exactly talking about much of a rollback here, are we?

And consider what kind of judges Giuliani would appoint. The real problem with Roe vs. Wade isn't pro-life vs. pro-choice, it's that the decision took the abortion issue out of the hands of the states, where it rightfully belongs. I'm only speculating here, because I know nothing of Giuliani's legal philosophy, but I have a hunch that it's probable that he would favor judges likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade on these grounds. This is a topic that obviously deserves further consideration, but it's at least worthy of discussion instead of simply slamming the door and dismissing Giuliani out of hand because he's not pro-life.

It's also a little inconsistent for conservatives, who just got done hectoring libertarians that they had to vote for Bush because the War was the overriding issue of the day (I know because I was one of those doing the hectoring), to once again go back to an absolutist position that it's all about abortion. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that the GWOT ain't going be wrapped up when 2008 rolls around, and having a guy like Giuliani to continue its successful prosecution seems like a desirable option.

Again, I'm not on the Giuliani bandwagon yet. There's a lot more I need to know about his positions and, at this point, we don't even know who else may be in the hunt. But I do know that the GOP is going to need a strong candidate in 2008, with at least some appeal to moderate voters. We're not gonna be running against John Kerry or Al Gore again (sigh). Take a good hard look at the now slightly narrowed GOP field and tell me who you think is going to be the kind of candidate with a realistic shot of preventing a Clinton sequel. I'm not saying that Giuliani is definitely that candidate. I'm am saying that we should at least give him a chance.

UPDATE: Doug at Bogus Gold has a good post with more on Giuliani and conservatives.
More Pods In Place

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Michael J. Anderson, proprietor of the newly launched blog Tativille. Another right-of-center blog getting into the game is hardly breaking news, but Michael's bio is anything but run of the mill:

I am a Minnesota native (from Mark Kennedy's home town of Watertown... a few houses away, actually) who currently lives in Lower Manhattan. I have an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. in European Studies from Hillsdale College. So I did my undergrad work at arguably the country's most conservative institution and my grad work at one its most liberal ones. My bent is right-of-center, but I am interested in a number of areas not often associated with the right.

Let's hope that Michael's post on the Democrats and free trade is a portent of what we can expect in the future:

Which leads us back to the quandary that the Democratic party finds itself in today. First, let's be clear about something: many on the Left do not believe that wealth can be created, but rather that it is a zero-sum matter. Hence, the existence of class warfare in political rhetoric and the continued counter-intuitive degradations against Reaganomics. Moreover, this basic belief in what wealth is and how its created informs everything from the advocacy of Free Trade coffee to the current well-intentioned movement to eradicate poverty: wealth needs to be transferred because it can't be created -- never mind any historical evidence to the contrary. This is the basic supposition of the MoveOn left.

Tativille joins reelcobra as right-of-center blogs run by former Minnesotans in areas that you wouldn't necessarily expect to find them: Lower Manhattan and Hollywood.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Can Be Very Litigious

From today's Strib...

Lizz Winstead sues Air America radio network
May 25, 2005 WINSTEAD0525
Comedian-turned-radio-host Lizz Winstead filed a lawsuit in New York this week against her former employer, the liberal radio network Air America.

Winstead, a Minnesota native who was one of the first hires made by the network, claims she is owed $200,000 for on-air work, $14,423 in unused vacation time and $83,333 in severance pay. She was fired in March as co-host of Air America's show "Unfiltered," which has since been replaced by "The Jerry Springer Show."

"It's the sad old story of someone devoting 16-hour days to build an exciting, new venture -- and she's out the door without ... what she's promised," her attorney, Edward Hernstadt, told the New York-based newspaper Newsday.

Air America told the paper it wouldn't comment on pending litigation.

Deborah Caulfield Rybak

$200 g's? Not bad. Problem is you actually have to collect it, which doesn't sound like it's very easy. I'd hate to have to say that they are replacing me with a Jerry Springer re-run. Ouch.

A Lazy-Media Label Separated At Birth?

James Garner playing the lead role in a TV Western and....

Tom Cruise playing the lead role in a military movie and...

John McCain playing the lead role in a political compromise?

Here's a little help from Thesaurus.com:

Main Entry: maverick
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: radical
Synonyms: bohemian, dissenter, extremist, malcontent, nonconformist, radical
Antonyms: conformist
Source: Roget's New Millennium Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.1.1)
Copyright © 2005 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

I think malcontent works pretty well in McCain's case.

Frist: You and Hagel really are cowboys.

McCain: What's your problem, Frist?

Frist: You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go out on the floor, you're disloyal. I don't like you because you're dangerous.

McCain: That's right! Doc...man. I am dangerous.
The sunny side we also may view

Rick at Stones Cry Out sees the fillibuster compromise as a " Brilliant Political Move" by the GOP. Meanwhile, Sisyphus at Nihilist in Golf Pants also chooses to remain upbeat with his list of Top 11 Things the Republicans Get in Exchange for Surrendering on Judges. That sort of positive outlook is to be much admired. It will help us ev'ry day, it will brighten all the way.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Peace In Our Time

Who is the biggest winner in the Great Filibuster Compromise of Aught Five?
Senate Democrats
John McCain
Bill Frist
All other possible GOP candidates for President in '08

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Playing Politics With Education

Cheri e-mails on my post last Friday concerning the struggles of Parents for Truth in Education in Colorado:

Regarding your post on teachers' union activities -

Take a look at this report - it shows how, across the country, taxpayer dollars are being misused for political advocacy. HF 1948 was introduced in the MN House this session as a result of this report. (Unfortunately, there was no companion bill in the Senate so it may go nowhere this session.)

Here is a just a small sample from the report itself:

A number of incidents occurred in Minnesota during the 2004 campaign cycle that highlight the importance of clear policies regarding the ethical issues of using publicly funded resources or school children to promote political causes:

* In Lakeville (ISD 194), the teachers' union sued the district in an attempt to force the use of teachers' mailboxes for the distribution of material endorsing John Kerry for president.

* Controversy swelled over the opportunity for high school bands in both Lakeville (ISD 194) and Robbinsdale (ISD 281) to perform during a presidential campaign visit.

* In North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale (ISD 622), fliers advertising a political fundraiser for a state House candidate were sent home in the backpacks of third graders.

* Anecdotal stories of teachers expressing their political views in the classroom abounded, culminating with a letter to the editor by a seventeen-year-old student from Woodbury (ISD 833) decrying what she saw as political advocacy by teachers.

These issues are not isolated to Minnesota. Similar examples can be found across the country.

It's A Duck

Still wondering whether Governor Pawlenty's proposal to tack a seventy-five cent a pack "fee" on cigarette's is a tax or not? Look no further than this editorial in today's Star Tribune:

Let not the best display of gubernatorial leadership Minnesota has yet seen from Gov. Tim Pawlenty be sullied by a fuss over semantics. If he's willing to collect an additional 75 cents on each pack of cigarettes sold in this state, and spend that money on health care and schools, he can call it "squatski" for all we care.

The Strib is positively giddy about the plan, which they see as just the first step:

By whatever name, the proposal is a positive step. Yes, it's two years overdue; it's burdened with too many unwise conditions, and it's undersized, compared with the state's needs. Nevertheless, Pawlenty has made a commendable move toward a better 2006-07 state budget than the one he proposed four months ago, and toward reasonable results from the 2005 Legislature. He finally displayed some of the flexibility Minnesotans expect from a talented man elected not to lead his party or posture for national office, but to govern this state. We're eager for more.

It's not big enough. It should have been done it earlier. And the Star Tribune editorial board is "eager" for more.

You better believe that this is a tax baby.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

America, F*** Yeah!

I picked up the Team America - World Police (Uncensored and Unrated Special Collector's Edition) DVD on Friday.

The good news? The movie is hilarious.

The bad news? I can't get the song "America, F*** Yeah" out of my head and it keeps coming up at the most inappropriate times, today at church for example.

Oh well. I guess freedom isn't free as they like to say. It's a buck oh five.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Peace Train Sounding Louder

Members of the "religion of peace" made their voices heard yesterday in London as they gathered in front of the US embassy and called for more innocent Americans to be slaughtered.

Are you still looking for a reason why? Well here's a clue for you all:
There were threats of "another 9/11" from militants angry at reports of the desecration of the Koran by US troops in Iraq.
Any more of you morons want to claim that the countless missteps by the mainstream media don't play a role in fostering hatred towards the United States?

With that in mind, I'm sick to death of hearing how cramming the Koran down a toilet has somehow now become the crime of the century. We've got people constantly cramming my country and my religion and my way of life and my fellow countrymen down the freakin' crapper every damn day that I breathe...and I'm just supposed to live with it?

Then I have to read crap like this:
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Martin Mubanga told the crowd he had seen a copy of the Koran "desecrated" during his time at Camp Delta.

He said: "This was one of the methods they used, throwing the Koran, my Koran, on the floor in my cell."
Well boo-freaking-hoo to you, Martin. Your "book of peace" was tossed on the floor...and I had to watch thousands of my countrymen die in an unprovoked attack that sent the entire world reeling into turmoil from which, almost four years later, we have not quite yet recovered. Yeah...that sounds about equal.

Pick that damn book off the floor, Martin, and flip to whichever page that calls for peace (if you can find it). Let's get busy makin' some harmony. That is, if you and yours could stop with the whole "kill the infidels" nonsense.

Personally...I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Through The Looking Glass

Law Talking Guy: Mr. Elder, you've been the boy's friend for fifteen years. Do you really think he could be the leader of the local right-wing noise machine?

Elder: Well, not the leader, I mean... [looks over at Atomizer] [cries] Oh, it's true, it's true! All the pieces fit! [bawls]

And apparently our readers have pieced the puzzle together as well and correctly fingered Atomizer as the key link in the daisy chain of the local right-wing noise machine. In our recently completed poll, Atomizer finished ahead of the field by a comfortable margin with John Hinderaker and Sideshow Bob tying for second.

An interesting feature of the poll was the manner in which the results were distributed. When you graph it, there is a remarkable symmetry to the distribution. Further evidence of intelligent design? Or the just the latest example of the evil genius of Karl Rove?

Talk About Speaking Truth To Power

This year, the Center of the American Experiment celebrates its fifteenth anniversary and last night they did it up right at their 2005 Annual Dinner at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul. Rudy Giuliani was the key note speaker and the former mayor of New York City did not disappoint. I hope to have time for a more in-depth post on last night's event later, but for now let me note one of Rudy's most interesting revelations. During his stint as mayor, he challenged the city's most powerful unions in order to push the reforms needed to turn New York around. The police unions, the fire unions, the city workers unions, health care unions. You name 'em, he took 'em on and dragged them kicking and screaming along with his plans that revitalized a city previously thought to be on an irreversible decline.

All except one. Giuliani admitted that the one area that he was unable to make any real progress in New York City was education. This was the man who stared down drug dealers, Mafia bosses, and the hostile New York media. The man who pared back the New York City welfare rolls, dramatically reduced crime, and made the Big Apple livable again. The man who emerged unbowed, defiant, and resolute following the horrific attacks on 9/11. This man finally met his match when he went up against one of the most powerful, well organized, deeply entrenched organizations in the world. Rudy Giuliani could not overcome the resistance of the teachers unions.

But if there is to be any hope for reforming public education in the United States, these unions must not be allowed to continue to control the agenda. Their hegemony over public education must be ended and they must be held to account for their role in the decline of American educational standards and achievement.

A great way to take the first steps to making this happen is to support groups like Parents for Truth in Education:

We're two parents in the town of Fort Collins, Colorado. Next week we go head-to-head with the teachers unions in court, and we desperately need to get the word out about our cause.

We filed a legal complaint against our local union for violating election law last year. In our first hearing, the union's motion to dismiss was rejected and we managed to get the statewide Colorado Education Association and the local school district enjoined as co-defendants.

We go to trial next week. Our legal complaint states that the union illegally conducted blatant campaign operations during school hours and using school resources. Teachers even complained --in writing-- about the campaign demands on their time.

The local and state teachers unions, working through the schools, used district resources to recruit volunteers, organize meetings, and offer inducements to volunteers on behalf of Bob Bacon's campaign for State Senate. This was done using school resources during school hours by school employees.

We are seeking injunctive relief, meaning that our suit could re-write election law and force teachers unions to change how they do business in the future. This could be the little lawsuit that significantly alters the balance of power in Colorado politics.

We created Parents for Truth in Education, and we quickly put up a website at www.parentsfortruth.com so we can accept PayPal contributions. Without significant financial help, we will not be able cover our legal fees. We need money, and we need it immediately.

You can read more about their case here, here, and here.

This fight is taking place in Colorado, but it's more than a local issue. It's about the future of education in America. The future of the country itself.

Take the first step and help Parents for Truth in Education in their struggle against the power of the teachers unions. Let's win this one for Rudy.

Connecting The Dots

A few of my cohorts have shared their thoughts regarding our attendance at Governor Pawlenty's Reception For The New Media this past Tuesday evening. None of them, however, adequately described the details of what really went on that night.

It was a truly magical evening that began with a rather informal gathering in the mansion's spacious but elegantly soft-spoken foyer. I must say here that First Lady Mary Pawlenty has really done an impressive job with the interior of the old Ventura place. One can only imagine what she could do with a canvas as big as The White House. Dare to dream....

The group chatted in the foyer, caught up a bit (most of us hadn't seen each other since the Kentucky Derby party over at Yostie's place) and were soon welcomed by some of the Governor's staff who, after introducing themselves, ushered us all into a basement room for what we were told would be a brief "media presentation".

As the lights dimmed, a large projection screen began to drop out of the ceiling at the end of the room...and the hush of anticipation filled the air. That silence was soon usurped by uproarious applause as the visage of local hero David Strom filled the screen. David's ten minute long taped message was passionate, inspirational and, at times, just plain brilliant. One of his biggest applause lines of the night was: "We need you bloggers to stay on message, stay on target and to keep ridin' those liberals' asses!" Great stuff.

Stromie's performance was followed by a very brief intermission and then the screen exploded with light once again. This time, the face that greeted the room made every last one of us snap silently to attention. It was none other than Karl Rove himself. His address kept us all in stunned reverence for nearly twenty minutes. I can't go into to the details here (as it would seriously compromise our mission) but Mr. Rove succinctly spelled out what we all need to do in the coming months and years to fulfill the President's far reaching goal to destroy the twin evils of godless terrorism abroad and progressive liberalism at home.

What I can say is that Mr. Rove did assuage our massive egos by mentioning most of our blogs by name. I swear that Doug nearly choked on his martini olive when he heard Bogus Gold mentioned not once, but twice.

As the projection screen was being retracted, Governor Pawlenty himself entered the room (to thunderous applause, of course) and gave us another brief but poignant pep talk on the importance of the New Media in today's world. He then invited us upstairs where we feasted on fresh salmon, lobster and wild game with all the free liquor, beer and wine we could swallow. Let me tell you, we bloggers can swallow a lot.

Pictures with the Governor (here, here, here and here) and more chit-chat followed.

Believe me, not one of us wanted that evening to end. We left, however, with a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling that our mission was clear. We have our marching orders...and march we shall.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rumors of MOB Activity in Stearns County

The inaugural outstate meeting of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers will be held this Saturday in St. Cloud. King Banaian has all the details at SCSUScholars.

If you have been unable to attend previous MOB functions because of their Twin City-centric locations, this is your opportunity to fulfill your membership requirements.

I know that at least a few of the metro based MOBsters also are planning on attending, including the man who officially makes (and rumor has it can also break) MOB members, our own Saint Paul. Look for the guy wearing the pinky rings.
Such A Lovely Audience

I'm nearly finished reading a biography of P.G. Wodehouse aptly titled Wodehouse: A Life, by Robert McCrum. Wodehouse did not lead a fascinating life by any stretch of the imagination. His day to day existence was actually remarkably mundane, with changes in settings and events unfolding around him providing most of the real interest. Still, it is always enlightening to discover what kind of life noted writers have lived as well as their views on writing itself. Here's a classic from Wodehouse that I particularly enjoyed:

"I know those blank periods when the idea of writing just seems silly and you wonder why you ever started the thing...my trouble [is] a sort of scornful loathing for the reading public. One feels what's the use of strewing one's pearls for these swine?"

The Power To Change The World

Publius Pundit asks if Andijon was another Tiananmen? If you're not sure what he's talking about, you're not alone. Recent events in Uzbekistan have not gotten the attention they probably deserve. It's a difficult situation for the Bush administration and their oft professed support for democratic movements around the world. Publius Pundit hopes they make the right call:

Remember, freedom has the power to change the world. When the time comes, none of those issues will matter anymore. Unfaltering support for the values of democracy will bring America both the friends and security it needs throughout all regions of the world, quelling Islamofascism and the remnants of totalitarian communism where they hide. The war on terrorism can only be fought by conducting a war on tyranny. Stability can only be achieved when democratic governments held directly accountable to the people are instituted. Please, President Bush and Secretary Rice, keep this doctrine in mind when facing the challenges posed by the uprising in Andijon. Reform and regime change cannot be expected over night, but it should certainly be expected.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In Saint Paul, They Love The Governor

Last night, we had the good fortune of being invited to a reception at the Governor's Mansion in St. Paul along with a number of other local bloggers and outstate talk radio hosts. The entire Northern Alliance of Blogs was on hand with the notable exception of James Lileks. Apparently he was too mainstream for this particular affair. Other prominent bloggers of note who attended the reception include the triumvirate from Kennedy v. The Machine (Gary, Doug and John), the two fine young gents from the Patriot Blog, and Jerry, who is an outpost of red in a blue district at the SD63 blog (he knows a thing or two about beer as well).

Not since the heyday of Tyrell Ventura had such an eclectic crew been invited inside the residence. For the record, we were much better behaved than Tyrell's cohorts and the taxpayers of Minnesota can rest assured that the dignity and integrity of the stately home (not to mention the rugs, furniture, and fine China) were not compromised in any way by our visit.

The highlight of course was the opportunity to chat with Governor Pawlenty and some of his staff. He proved to be an engaging, affable host who genuinely seemed to enjoy the opportunity to converse with members of the emerging "alternative" media. Or at least he did a damn good job pretending to.

Everyone has their own "pet" issues that they're passionate about and the Governor took the time to indulge us the opportunity to air our concerns on pressing issues of the day that we feel deserve special attention.

Here Governor Pawlenty and the Warrior Monk from SPITBULL shake hands after the Governor agrees to consider WM's request to call out the National Guard and wage brutal and uncompromising war against the insurgent squirrels who keep the WM awake at night.

JB Doubtless and his fiancé made the trip up from Rochester, which gave JB the chance to vividly demonstrate the horror of the recent Springsteen concert in St. Paul to Governor Pawlenty.

When my turn with the Guv came, I began by weighing in the on the possible economic implications for Minnesota if the Chinese government elects to float the renminbi, but that topic was evidently not capturing his imagination. He was obviously interested in more substantive discourse and so I elected to play the tried, but true Ralphie card.

Everybody loves Ralphie and the Governor proved just as susceptible to the little guy's charms. An unfortunate incident on the way to the gala had left Ralphie's head in the rather precarious position of no longer being connected to his body. But the Governor was able to see beyond Ralphie's physical limitations and discover the true spirit within him. It's clear to everyone who knows Ralphie that he's got a good head on (or off) his shoulders, and Governor Pawlenty was no exception.

While Ralphie appealed to his heart, I made a pitch to the Governor's head and asked that he rescind the title of Minnesota Commissioner of Hockey that he bestowed upon Hugh Hewitt a few years back. Governor Pawlenty found my arguments compelling and my logic that Hugh does not adequately represent the interests of hockey in Minnesota to be flawless. He promised to take care of this matter at his earliest available convenience and plans on personally delivering the news to Hugh on his show in the near future.

This may not be the beginning of the end of Hugh's spree of collecting meaningless, ill-deserved titles, but I believe that we can say with confidence that it is the end of the beginning. The rollback is underway.

For more on last night's festivities check out:

Captain's Quarters

Kennedy v. The Machine

Bogus Gold


Shot In The Dark

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Don't Lose Your Head Ralphie!

It's just Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota and possible future candidate for President of these United States. Tonight, Ralphie had a chance to get up close and personal with a guy who likes hockey almost as much as he does and Governor Pawlenty had a chance to get inside the head of the world's most famous bobble-head doll with an uncanny resemblance to a nationally syndicated talk radio host. The occasion was a special reception for bloggers and out-state (I should have clarified that earlier) talk radio folks at the Guv's pad in St. Paul. More details tomorrow as time allows.
It's Not Easy Being Green

It is always disturbing to be in agreement with a Green Party member on matters of public policy. And I think I find myself in that situation with regard to the garbage burner baseball stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

The two Greens on the Minneapolis City Council (yes, Greens aren't an amusing novelty in Minneapolis, they're the government), have come out against the ballpark:

A resolution introduced Friday would put the city on record against the plan. The council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee will consider the resolution at a meeting May 24. The council's two Green Party members, Natalie Johnson Lee and Dean Zimmermann, introduced the proposal.

Seeing Dean Zimmermann's name attached to this proposal makes me even more nervous. Recall, he's the fellow, while a member of a Marxist-Leninist cult, cited the following as models for a just society:

"We looked to Cuba, which had health care for everyone. We looked to China, which eradicated starvation. We thought we could transform our society and eliminate the chasm between the rich and the poor"

Nope, that cult was not the Minneapolis City Council, it was something called "O". But I suspect ol' Dean carries over many of these same warm and fuzzy feelings for brutal, socialist dictatorships into his new endeavor, governing the city of Minneapolis. And now me and Dean are in lockstep agreement on the baseball stadium.

Luckily, before scheduling a battery of psychological tests and a desperate review of my economic analysis and philosophical foundations, I read the rest of the article, which details the alternative path Zimmermann took to arrive at the same conclusion as I:

Zimmermann said he thinks the proposal is a great one in a great location, but he questions how it's funded.

OK, a baseball stadium next to a 1,000 ton per day garbage processing facility, "a great location," that's starting to sound like the Zimmermann we know and love. Then, the clincher:

"This is the most blatant example of corporate welfare that I've seen since George Bush invaded Iraq to fill the pockets of Halliburton," Zimmermann said.

Whhew, I feel much better now. He's still crazy after all these years. His position on the ballpark is merely a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day, or a blind nut finding a squirrel, or something. And knowing this nut will soon be paying $353 million for a garbage burner baseball stadium seems be rough justice, on some level. Minneapolis gets the government, the baseball stadiums, and sales taxes they deserve.
Mamas, Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Snipers

Tony Woodlief writes on the dreams of a dad at NRO:

I have to begin by acknowledging that the thought of her son becoming a Navy SEAL sniper fills my wife's heart with dread, as it probably would many mothers. She can't understand why I would encourage fate by giving voice to such an idea. But I nurture my dream nonetheless. Let's face it, the number of people around the world in need of a match-grade round between the eyes is on the increase, and you and I aren't up to the task. I'm proud to think of my son filling that niche in the job market.

He goes on to list the qualifications that he believes his son (all of one year old) possesses for that line of work. Well worth a read.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Twelve Hour Party People

Over the course of my involvement in politics I've attended a lot of conventions. Senate district conventions usually at local schools, congressional district conventions usually at hotels, and state conventions usually at venues like the Xcel Energy Center. Many a beautiful spring/summer day in Minnesota, have I wasted spent indoors dealing with the arcane machinations of the political party process. I've also helped organize and run a few of these events and know that it's a difficult, thankless task.

But in all my years of conventioneering, I've never heard of anything quite as fouled up as last Saturday's Minneapolis DFL get together. As Doug Grow reports:

The convention, which was to go about the business of endorsing a mayoral candidate, was to have begun at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Sounds simple enough. Endorse a mayoral candidate, dish out endorsements in a few other hotly contested races (park board, etc.), and go home. No problem, right?

But it wasn't until that time that the party leaders figured out they had a problem: There weren't as many seats as there were delegates.

After much fussing and feuding about who was going sit where (read Grow's column for all the gory details), the convention was officially called to order at around 11:30am. A little late but still plenty of time to take care of business, right?

Not for the Minneapolis DFLers. Apparently the voting for the mayoral endorsement did not start until 2:30pm. It ended after five ballots. And no endorsement:

Minneapolis DFLers went home late Saturday without endorsing a candidate in the mayoral contest between incumbent R.T. Rybak and his main challenger, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

I've been through a few of these endorsement battles myself and know that they're no picnic. You vote. Then you wait as candidates and their allies try their best to woo delegates and create the impression that they have the momentum. Then you get the results. And then you vote again. Lather rinse and repeat until one of the candidates hits the magic number.

It's not surprising that the Minneapolis DFLers had such a battle on their hands on Saturday. What is surprising is how long it took them to go through five ballots.

The convention ended after 12 hours.

Twelve hours, five ballots, and no endorsement? I know that you're urban Democrats and getting things done is not your strong suit, but c'mon how hard can this be?

I gotta think that one of the problems is just the sheer size of this circus.

A rainy, cold day brought about 1,900 delegates to the convention in the Augsburg College gym, more than double the previous record for attendance.

1,900 delegates? According to figures from the 2000 Census the population of Minneapolis proper (just the city, not the surrounding 'burbs) is 382,618, which means that you had a DFL delegate at Saturday's convention for every 201 residents of the city. Even if you assume, as some local talk radio hosts do, that anyone living in Minneapolis must be a Democrat, this still seems to be gross overrepresentation. By comparison, there were 2510 delegates at the 2004 Republican National Convention representin' the whole frickin' country.

Being a bit more selective might have also helped ensure that events were more orderly as well:

Heavy turnout meant a long delay in getting started and a messy, chaotic marathon of procedural challenges and frequent heckling.

Frequent heckling? Procedural challenges come with the territory at political conventions (I swear some people live for Roberts Rules of Order), but frequent heckling does not. Or at least it should not.

Saturday's DFL convention was indeed a true reflection of the party that rules Minneapolis. They planned it poorly, started it late, wasted incredible amounts of time bickering amongst themselves, and in the end accomplished nothing. Residents of the City of Lakes can rest easy knowing that the party that dominates their City Hall is about effective on the weekend as it during the work week.
Smells Like Government Spirit

Hey, good news out of Hennepin County. The proposed site for the new Twins baseball stadium doesn't stink - much.

From the front page of the Star Tribune, one of the most ardent supporters of using tax dollars for this multi hundred million dollar government subsidy, an article with the charming title (in the print edition): Taking a Good Stiff Whiff.

But after more than a year of daily monitoring, [Hennepin County Senior Environmentalist Jake Smith] and four other trained air smellers report that it's unlikely that aromas from the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) will overpower the odor of hot dogs -- or bad pitching -- in any stadium next door.

Yes, the government of Hennepin County, those same folks who recently voted to give $353 million of tax revenue to the Minnesota Twins (while denying the request for voters to give approval via referendum) are also in charge of administering the study that seeks to prove there will be no adverse consequences for locating the ballpark right next to a facility which burns 1,000 TONS of solid waste PER DAY.

With that gem of a parcel of land selected, you can start to see why there isn't a private investor in the world who would sign on to this project. No, instead the force of government will be used to make us all investors in this field of dreams. And what are we going to buy for our money?

... [Smith] found the scent of solid waste distinguishable at only four sites, although one was close to where home plate may someday be.

Understand, the Star Tribune is reporting this, the official Hennepin County line, as good news. Fellow citizens, for your 353 extra large, you're getting a ballpark where a thousand tons of solid waste burning a few hundred yards away is "unlikely" to overpower the smell of hotdogs. At least at more than 4 sites, only one of which is near home plate. Where do I sign up for my personal (toilet) seat license?

Here's another way of relaying their message of "Don't Panic," at least until the bill passes the state legistlature and becomes law.

At opposite corners of the HERC property along 7th Street N. the panel detected incinerator odors for three straight days only once at each point.

That is reassuring news. Very few four game series will suffer the stench of blazing trash throughout every game. Sounds like a good reason to buy season tickets right there, the odds of at least some stink free baseball will be almost assured.

More good news, at this hand picked site, the smell of burning garbage is the least of our worries:

On his 3-mile walk-and-sniff Friday past 21 specific points on a route that rippled outward from HERC toward downtown and into the Warehouse District, Smith detected a lot of distinct smells: bus exhaust, sewer gas, blossoming plants, fish from a fish wholesaler.

Ah yes, the ambiance of the warehouse district in Minneapolis. Which may turn into a home field advantage, once the Twins get used to inhaling bus exhaust, fish, and sewer gas on a daily basis. Recalling those scrappy 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, maybe we can start calling the Twins "The Sewer Gas House Gang".

The absurdity of this story highlights the essential problem with government intervention in the private capital markets. Not only are they taking the people's money and redistributing it to support an entertainment option they would never freely choose on their own, the government picks a site that is a baseball atmosphere. One bordered by a garbage burner, an interstate highway, and a series of cement parking ramps. It's what you don't want, where you don't want it!

Only the government can get away with something like that. And under a one party (DFL) regime like Minneapolis/Hennepin County, that's business as usual. Business for which there will be no electoral consquences. What are the people of Minneapolis going to do, vote Republican? (Ha!) No, instead, their government will serve them garbage, tell them it's peanuts and crackerjack, and the local paper is more than happy to spoon feed it to us all.
Good For Saint Paul?

Stars aligning for a 'Prairie Home' movie:

Stargazers, get out your binoculars and your autograph books. This summer, the most high-wattage star power ever to convene in Minnesota for a single film will alight in St. Paul.

Legendary director Robert Altman will direct the film version of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" at the Fitzgerald Theater in July, his production company confirmed Sunday. The big-name cast includes Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin and John C. Reilly, with more big names coming.

"As a longtime Keillor fan, I'm thrilled to be doing this project with him," Altman said Sunday. "I can't wait to begin."

Garrison Keillor wrote the as yet untitled movie's script, a comic fable about an iconic radio show that is suddenly canceled after 30 years on the air.

Rumor has it that an specially designed annex will be built to the Fitzgerald Theater before filming begins to house Keillor's ever expanding ego.
A Pope After My Own Heart

Hard not to like a Pontiff who enjoys a good beer:

Hat tips to The Paragraph Farmer and The A Saintly Salmagundi for digging up more specifics on the beer -- Malteser Weissbrau from Stuttgarter Hofbrau-- favored by our Teutonic Pontiff.

Malteser Weissbrau? Definitely going on my list of beers to rate.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Long And Winded Road

The Nihilist hipped me to this review of Springsteen's show this past week in Saint Paul.

Keeping true to form, reviewer John "Foghat" Bream let us know that it was a special group of patient, dedicated and apparently suffering fans who attended the all acoustic show:

Springsteen offered stripped-down, sometimes tuneless ballads and soft-as-a-whisper stories about desperation and desolation. It takes a committed crowd to appreciate and absorb such soft, contemplative material in a hockey arena, set up to half its usual capacity. And the 7,996 fans clearly appreciated the artfulness of the evening.

Tuneless ballads--sounds very entertaining. Desperation and desolation--if I wanted desperation and desolation, I'd hang out with Chris Riemenschneider (the Strib's other music reviewer) in Uptown.

Notice how he praises the crowd as "committed" because apparently a normal group of people swigging a few beers and looking for a good night of entertainment would have been out of luck. You really had to bare down in order to enjoy yourself watching Springsteen acoustically.

Artfulness. God help us when this phrase is thrown about in a music review. It's hard to decide who is filled with more self-importance, Springsteen, Bream or his die-hard group of lefty fans who were there for art.

And if you are a conservative and like Springsteen or even attended this show, you really need to wake up. The guy hates you and everything you stand for. Is that clear enough? Another quote from the piece:

This was Springsteen the troubadour, not the rocker, playing his second solo tour, his first since 1995-96. Unlike October, there weren't nonstop political plugs. He did make a couple of pointed remarks, slamming the president before singing the sarcastic "Part Man, Part Monkey" and calling for a "humane immigration policy" before "Matamoros Banks."

Part Man, Part Monkey is Springsteen's snotty take on creationism versus evolution including these lines:

Well did God make man in a breath of holy fire
Or did he crawl on up out of the muck and mire
Well the man on the street
Believes what the bible tells him so
But you can ask me mister because I know
Tell them soul-suckin' preachers to come on down and see
Part man part monkey, baby that's me

What is interesting about these lyrics is the patent elitism of his take on this issue. He says the man on the street is basically a simpleton who believes anything the bible says. I always thought Bruce spoke for this man on the street, the simpleton, the guy that puts in 8 hours a day, the backbone of the country, etc. Now he uses the man on the street to describe an unsophisticated hick who gets brain washed by soul-suckin' preachers. If only that guy would just listen to his social betters like Springsteen and understand we all came from apes!

And what night of art would be complete without vulgar references to anal sex? Luckily for the fans on hand in Saint Paul, Bruce did not dissapoint with his song Reno(which, btw, got his CD banned from Starbucks something I'm sure his lefty fans applauded):

She took off her stockings
I held 'em to my face
She had your ankles
I felt filled with grace

"Two hundred dollars straight in
Two-fifty up the ass" she smiled and said
She unbuckled my belt, pulled back her hair
And sat in front of me on the bed


Like Bream said, art isn't always easy. If you are a true, deep thinking fan, you would have sang along as he described anal sex with a prostitute. And after shelling out 100 bucks for a night of torture, you would have known how it felt.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Stem-Winder Sleeps Tonight

Even the best hitter strikes out sometimes. The best quarterback throws a pick. The best guard misses a lay up. The best goalie lets a dump in slip between his pads. The best golfer misses a two foot putt. And, once in a blue moon, the best trivia team misses a gimme.

Such was the case with the Fraters squad last night at Keegan's Irish Pub. We let an easy one slip through our fingers and it ended up costing us a chance to share in yet another trivia championship . One question made the difference between the joy of victory (and more importantly the joy of free drinks) and the agony of defeat (you haven't seen true agony until you've witnessed the Nihilist having to open his wallet to pay for a beer). One question that we had no business missing, yet inexplicably did.

A history question no less. On a matter that we are all at least moderately well versed. The query that tripped us about was,

"Who gave the longest speech in UN history in 1960?"

As soon as we heard the question, the possible answers started flying fast and furious both at the table and in our minds. Adlai Stevenson seemed like a good response until we realized that he did not become US Ambassador to the UN until 1961. U Thant was mentioned and I also thought that Dag Hammarskjold was a possibility. After further discussion we ruled out the Secretary Generals from the mix. We then went back to a name that had come early on and decided to go with it: Nikita Khrushchev. We figured maybe he did more than just pound his shoe at the UN. Maybe, just maybe he also tried to bore us as well as bury us.

It turned out that we had the wrong Commie. After the cards had been corrected and just as Marty "Wayne" Newton was about to read the correct answer, it hit Saint Paul like a thunderbolt:

Fidel Castro

Fidel F'in Castro. Of course it was Fidel Castro. In the last three months Saint Paul and I both had penned posts regarding the spectacular length of Castro's oratories. And yet last night, when we most needed to come up with that nugget of knowledge, it was nowhere to be found. The gods of trivia work in mysterious and sometimes cruel ways.

The evening was not a total loss. A night at Keegan's never is. We had the pleasure of meeting Ryan from ZERO TWO MIKE SOLDIER! (another MOB member in good standing). In addition to being a mil-blogger, substitute teacher, and jazz aficionado, Ryan also plays in a local ska band called The Secondhand Ska Kings. We're hoping that someday soon the band will be playing at Keegan's in the coveted Thursday night post-trivia time slot. Developing...

We were also able to take advantage of a great deal on Stella Artois beer. For three fitty you got a pint of Stella and a nice glass. You also had a chance to win a free beer if you got a chocolate coin with your glass and Saint Paul and Atomizer were both fortunate enough to do just that.

The Jameson gals were on hand as well, passing out free samples of their fine Irish Whiskey. Cheap beer, quality barware, and free whiskey definitely helped ease the pain of our trivia failure.

At the end of the evening things got even better as I was pleasantly surprised to be able to exit the parking ramp behind Keegan's without having to pay. Free parking baby. Truly one of life's simple yet very satisfying pleasures.

SAINT PAUL AMPLIFIES: Margaret Martin, of Our House blog and the diva of Taxpayers League Live! (9AM Saturday, AM1280 the Patriot) reminds us what trivia victory tastes like.

THE ELDER ECHOES: Very thoughtless of me to forget to salute those who bested us. Hail to the victors!
Better Than Pulling A Double At BK

Parents, are you looking for a chance for your kids to earn a little extra money this summer as well as learn about one of the most pressing political issues of the day? Here's your chance. Tell little Johnny or Jane to sharpen up their pencils and minds to take a crack at this essay contest on Social Security reform sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

Essays should be between 250 - 750 words. Please address some of these questions:

* Why does Social Security matter to you and your family?

* What will happen if nothing is done to fix Social Security's financial problems?

* What kind of Social Security system would you hope for in the future?

* What would you change about the current Social Security system?

* What is your view of the proper relationship between a citizen and the government? How does Social Security affect this?

Essay Prizes: There will be two divisions in our contest: the Senior Division will be for students in Grade 9 through 12, and the Junior Division for Grades 4 through 8. The following prizes will be awarded: Junior Division (Grade 4-8) Senior Division (Grade 9-12) First Prize: $250 First Prize: $250 Runner-Up: $100 Runner-Up: $100 Third Place: $50 Third Place: $50

Two fitty will buy a lot of rock candy kids.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

They'd Rather Be Hibernating

It's 12:30pm and the temperature is a balmy thirty-six degrees here in the Twin Cities today. And it's raining. A hard, cold rain that sucks the warmth right out of ya.

In a little less than half an hour my nephew will be taking the field at the National Sports Center in Blaine with the University of Montana lacrosse squad. The Grizzlies will be taking on the hated Johnnies from St. John's University in their opening game of the 2005 US Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates National Championships.

There is no such thing as a rain out in lacrosse. The only way the game would be cancelled is if there was lightening, which appears unlikely.

You know, a day in the office doesn't sound bad at all any more.

UPDATE: Reports indicate that the Grizzlies mauled the Johnnies 13-8 to move on to the semifinals. We'll see ya tomorrow morning!
The Dream Realized

For the record, I saw NAACP Chairman Julian Bond on Saturday night, standing in front of Cafe Latte on Grand Ave. in St. Paul. He was amiably chatting with some old, short, white people. Proving, we can all get along. At least when there's Raspberry Triple Chocolate Torte in the immediate vicinity.
You're Not Good Enough, You're Not Smart Enough, And...

The other night JB Doubtless and I were talking about the early rounds of "American Idol" and the delusions that so many of the contestants labor under in when it comes to their true abilities. They seem to have bought into the notion that if you work hard enough and hold on to your dreams you can do anything. Of course, you can't do anything if you don't have the talent for it, no matter how hard you work or wish to make it happen. One of the funniest things on "American Idol" is watching people who don't make it promise that "I'll be back, you haven't heard the last of me America." You know I hate to break it to ya champ, but I think we can safely say that we have in fact heard the last of you.

Steve Salerno has a great piece at NRO in this subject called, Overdosing on Oprah:

But common sense suggests that this relentless emphasis on personal satisfaction betokens grim news for marriage, workplace camaraderie, or unity of any kind. One wonders how a nation comprising 295 million individuals, each vowing not to let anyone take away his dreams, could arrive at a true sense of collective purpose, especially with humility now in such short supply. Pop-psychology once taught us to wallow in our faults and limitations. It now teaches us to deny them, if not revel in them (as anyone who watches early-season episodes of American Idol can attest). As a culture, we went from impotence to omnipotence, sneering at the more realistic middle ground we sped past en route.

If empowerment is a quasi-religion -- which is how Oprah and some of its other champions seem to frame it -- perhaps it could use an updated version of the serenity prayer made popular by the twelve-step regimens it disdains: Something like, "Lord give me the enthusiasm to pursue what I excel at, the modesty to admit what I stink at, and the wisdom to know that there is a difference."


While you're over at NRO, don't miss this update from Catherine Seipp on that beacon of tolerance and civil discourse, Lawrence O'Donnell. The man who once sought to shout down Swift Vet champion John O'Neil by screaming "Creepy Liar!!!" over and over again when the two appeared on MSNBC's Scarborough Country turned his ire Seipp's way on the Dennis Miller show:

I suspect, by the way, that this dynamic may have had something to do with how infuriated Lawrence O'Donnell got last week on Dennis Miller when I questioned his insistence that "every single one" of the teachers at his daughter's elite public elementary school was "GREAT!" (And maybe all the children there are above average?)

Perhaps hearing a woman suggest that he doesn't know quite as much about his child's school as he thinks he does pushed some of his buttons, because this really was an amazing meltdown -- which I now feel lucky to have witnessed before Miller was cancelled yesterday -- complete with clenched fist and throbbing neck veins.

But remembering how O'Donnell puffed up his chest, stuck out his manly jaw and sat up extremely straight as he became enraged on the Miller show -- I suppose so I could get the full effect of just how much taller he is than I -- makes me wonder about something I've noticed lately: When did it become O.K. for a man to yell at a woman in exactly the same tone he'd use with another man in a bar fight?

What a class act. You the man Lawrence. You the man.
NASA Needs To Get Bold

Ever since the end of the moon landing era, NASA has struggled to recapture the public's imagination (and with it the possibility of even more funding). Sure the occasional space probe will provide us with spectacular shots of other worlds, but most of NASA's current missions are nothing but after thoughts for vast majority of Americans. The only time we pay attention to the space shuttle is when it fails and the international space station has proven to be a big yawner.

So what can NASA do to once again get the space program front and center on the American cultural landscape?

Kurt at Writing History (another august member of the MOB) suggests that they get back to basics and focus on their true mission:

NASA claims its mission is to explore space but it isn't being honest with itself. What NASA does is explore things in space, moons, planets, suns and whatever else is flying around out there. Space is just the in-between stuff from here to there.

I propose NASA live up to its claim of space exploration and launch the first manned mission to space. They get a crew together, stock the space craft with a lifetime supply of Tang and crossword puzzles, pick a nice empty spot in space and LIFT OFF! Just like Star Trek, boldly going where no man has gone before.

And never coming back:

It would be the ride of a life time, in fact it would take a lifetime because there would be no returning, one way only. How bold would it be if they turned around half way and returned to earth? What is the point of this? Like any other exploration, to find out what's out there. No one knows what having human consciousness that far away from earth would be like.

But who would volunteer for such a mission?

Picking a crew wouldn't be as difficult as you first might think. There would have to be a certain religious element. Maybe some cloistered monks wanting a change of scenery. It might be kind of lonely if you're the last surveying member of the crew but you'd accept that possibility going in. Or how about some Scientologists, wasn't L. Ron a science fiction writer, seems like a perfect fit. They could let John Travolta steer.

While monks or Hollywood celebs might not be a bad way to go, why not turn this into the ultimate reality TV show? Instead of fifteen minutes of fame, you'd be signing up for a lifetime of stardom. As extreme as that notion may seem, I bet people would jump at the opportunity.

Start off with a bunch of contestants and let the public vote each week to narrow down the field and eventually pick the crew. Show them going through training. Show the launch and their continued adventures as they hurtle through space. You think people on the Real World get up in each other's faces? Imagine being stuck in a spaceship with seven or eight strangers for the REST of your life. We're talking ratings gold here baby.

I don't know about the technical considerations for building a ship that could undertake such a journey. But then again I ain't a rocket science, I'm an ideas man. Anyway those pointy headed geeks at NASA should be able to work out all of those sort of details. That's what we're paying them for, right?

Now we just need a name for the show...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm?

You can hardly swing a dead prairie dog in the Twin Cities these days without hitting someone who has moved here from North Dakota. In fact, you can hardly swing a dead prairie dog in the broadcast booth during a NARN show without hitting someone who moved here from North Dakota (sorry about that stain on your shirt Mitch).

This migration out of North Dakota to greener pastures has been going on for years now, and, as is detailed in the latest issue of The Economist, it's becoming more and more of a problem:

HAVING survived the winter, North Dakota's stouter residents feel they may as well stick it out, at least till the end of summer. But many younger folk have already left. Cold is one of several reasons why the state has a "brain drain" problem.

Virtually all the state's counties have been losing well-educated young people to other states. Only Iowa retains fewer of its young home-grown college-educated residents. And, as with Iowa, lack of good jobs is another crucial factor. With farm jobs slipping away, North Dakota has struggled to find new ones in services.

Whenever you see your state being compared to Iowa, you know you're not in good shape.

But North Dakota's brain-drain problem is also, paradoxically, a symptom of its success in educating its residents. It has the second-highest high-school graduation rate in the country, and ranks first in the number of students who continue on to college. The trouble is that they don't stay: the state ranks 22nd in the proportion of residents over 25 with a college degree.

North Dakota's education system is essentially creating a pool of educated talent that other states reap the benefits of.

This may be changing, gradually. Census estimates for 2004 show that the state's population grew for the first time since 1996, albeit by barely 1,000 people, to 634,000. Births outnumbered deaths, and the number of college graduates staying in the state for at least a year after graduation rose 3.5% to 57%. Chuck in rising elementary- and secondary-school enrolment, and a new theory is emerging: young families are returning to North Dakota, particularly to its bigger towns and suburbs.

Laugh if you will, but any positive population growth is welcome news for the Peace Garden State. Of course, it is important to realize where that growth is taking place.

The main beneficiary is Fargo, North Dakota's largest city, which grew by more than 20% in the 1990s. Microsoft, which bought a local company in 2000, now employs 1,000 people there. The city is spreading outward into the Plains, and its downtown boasts an increasing number of chic restaurants, including one based vaguely on Berkeley's Chez Panisse.

I would love to see how a restaurant in Fargo can be "based vaguely" on a Berkeley hot spot.

The thing about Fargo is that it doesn't exactly represent the heart and soul of North Dakota. It sits on the eastern border of the state and in many ways it's relationship to the rest of the state is similar to that of the East Coast to the Midwest. Fargo is the Manhattan of North Dakota if you will. (To continue this thread, you could also say that Grand Forks is the Boston and Bismarck the Chicago.)

In short, though very white and staid, Fargo seems to be just interesting enough to lure back young professionals. Tamra McCullough left North Dakota for Seattle in 1995 and got a job at Starbucks Coffee's headquarters. In 2002 she returned to Fargo with a husband and a son. She was afraid they would get bored, but they didn't. She encouraged Starbucks to open a shop in Fargo last June.

Starbucks may hardly be the apex of hipness. But Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles-based demographer, points out that good coffee is now part of the list of assets that North Dakota offers refugees from California and New York. The state's longer-established temptations are its schools and its clean air, plus the second-lowest average commute time in the nation and the lowest median house price.

Okay, so it's not exactly the Upper East Side. But to the folks in Richardton, Napoleon, or Rock Lake Rocklake (thanks Bill) it may as well be. And much of the state is not sharing in the growth and prosperity either.

None of this, of course, helps rural North Dakota, and many small farming towns are dying.

What to do?

This has led some locals to consider a modern version of an old idea, the Homestead Act of 1862, which helped to populate the Plains by giving settlers up to 640 acres of land in exchange for a commitment to stay for five years.

One of those lured by this bribe was the great-grandmother of Byron Dorgan, the state's Democratic senator. Mr Dorgan is the chief author of the New Homestead Act, which would provide a host of incentives to people who settle in counties that have lost more than 10% of their population in the past 20 years. These include tax credits for starting small businesses and buying homes, and a $3 billion venture-capital fund to seed new businesses.

Mr Dorgan has introduced the bill into the Senate twice already, in 2001 and 2003, with no success. Undeterred, he introduced a new version last month. "We may discover that [the demise of the Plains] was inevitable and there's nothing we can do about it," he admits. "But it won't be for lack of trying."

Dorgan never has passed on an opportunity to steer Federal pork to his state and it's the main reason why he keeps his seat in the Senate, despite not sharing the same political views as most NoDakians. In this case, it seems like even he realizes the hopelessness of the cause. You can throw more money at the problem, but you're not going to change the facts on the ground.

Young North Dakotans are going to continue to leave the small towns for better opportunities and lifestyles elsewhere. The best thing the state could do at this point is to try to make sure that more of those opportunities are available in places like Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks. You aren't going to be able to keep 'em down on the farm, but you might be able to keep 'em in the state.
What Dreams May Come

Lately I've been remiss in not updating the Travels With Ralphie page, which chronicles the adventures of everyone's favorite bobble head doll with an uncanny resemblance to a nationally syndicated talk radio host . I have finally gotten around to adding a section on Ralphie's historic February space flight. For much more on Ralphie's quest to slip the surly bonds of earth, check out Team Vatsaas' Ralphie Goes Ballistic! page, which includes lots of pictures of Ralphie's flight along with a complete flight data summary.

What's next for Ralphie? No one knows for certain, but rumor has it that he will soon be meeting with a well known local politician (and fellow hockey fan), who some say may be a contender for the big prize in 2008. Ralphie in the White House some day? It never hurts to dream.
Looking At The World Through Brown Colored Glasses

I've never really been a "glass is half full" sort of person. When I look at that glass I can't help thinking that while it may very well be half full, I'll always know that the pitcher that filled it is at least that much emptier.

That sentiment certainly colored my thinking when Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson was lining up to attempt a routine 38 yard field goal with just over two minutes left to go in the 1999 NFC championship game. Nihilist In Golf Pants correctly chronicles my pre-kick prediction and...we all know how it turned out.

Some wish to pin the blame for that debacle on my pernicious pessimism. I say balderdash to all that...and I'll throw in a poppycock or two for good measure.

If my all too frequent predictions of doom for our local sports teams in general, and the Vikings in particular, had even the most tenuous link to causality we'd never even get the chance to celebrate a win in this city. Ask anyone who knows me...if "wearing your gamer" had the decisive influence on sporting events that Vox suggests it does, there is no way in hell that the Vikings would have won 15 games in 1999. Trust me.

All that aside, I've been known to be quite the optimist at times.

Take this past Sunday, for example, when the Twins' third string catcher (and fifth string DH) Matthew LeCroy was at bat with runners on first and third. I said "I'll bet he smashes one over the fence." Well...no...I didn't quite say it that way. I think what I said was more along the lines of "I'll bet that pathetic waste of human flesh is going to hit into a double play again."

The final box score reads that Matthew powered one over the left field fence for a three run homer...but I'll always know it was nothing more than a double play ball that hit one hell of an updraft somewhere between home plate and second base.

How's that for optimism?