Friday, September 30, 2005

Disguised As The Great Defender Of Freedom

Currently churning my way through The Aclu Vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values, which I received in the mail a few weeks back. Initially I was a bit put off by the strident title, as my feelings about the ACLU were pretty close to those attributed by the authors to most Americans in the opening pages:

Most Americans are unaware of the extreme positions of the ACLU. Many believe that either the ACLU exists to stick up for the little guy, or it was an organization with noble beginnings but took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. This book will demonstrate that neither view is the full story.

Now after reading about the history of the ACLU (especially the people who founded it) and being reminded about the stances they've taken on many issues of late (Boy Scouts, gar gay [thanks Robert] marriage, abortion, etc.), I can see why it was chosen. This item in the news yesterday certainly does nothing to dispel the notion. Judge orders release of new Abu Ghraib photos:

Pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released despite government claims that they could damage America?s image, a judge ruled Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.

Brutal images of the abuse at the prison have already been widely distributed, but the lawsuit covers additional photos not yet seen by the public.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had maintained in court papers that releasing the photographs would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against U.S. troops.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called it historic. "While no one wants to see what's on the photos or videos, they will play an essential role in holding our government leaders accountable for the torture that's happened on their watch," he said.

But don't you dare question their patriotism.
That This Group Would Somehow Put Out Damn Lies

Michael reports on the latest fear mongering about guns from the Brady bunch in a post at Presto Agitato.

Start Planning Your Riot Now

Kessel Impressing Teammates at Minnesota:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby. The University of Minnesota has Phil Kessel.

Crosby has drawn comparisons to countrymen Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, while many consider Kessel the top American prospect since Mike Modano.

"He's the real deal," Gophers teammate Gino Guyer said. "He gets up and down the ice, he's a good playmaker and he has a really heavy shot."

The Gophers won an intense recruiting battle for Kessel, who chose Minnesota over Wisconsin, located in his hometown of Madison.

That really makes it all the sweeter for Gopher puck fans, doesn't it?

The 6-foot, 190-pound forward played the last two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He led the Under-18 team in goals (52), assists (46) and points (98) last season on his way to breaking the team record for goals in a season.

In two seasons with the bantams in Madison before he left for Ann Arbor, Kessel scored 289 goals in 157 games.

That's what you call Talent with a capital T.

Lucia has been hesitant to heap praise on a freshman, but one of the things that drew Kessel to Minnesota is the fact that he's one of a handful of stellar freshmen in this class. He joins goalie Jeff Frazee and forwards Blake Wheeler and Ryan Stoa as perhaps the best recruiting class in the nation.

To paraphrase Bob Johnson: It's a great year for hockey. Gopher hockey, that is.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'll Make A Fight For The Forefather's Plan

Me and my pal Mitch over at Shot In The Dark like to spar over the relative merits of the rock and roll music. He seems to like it along with the hamburger sandwiches, french-fried potatoes and malted milks that go along with that whole culture (apologies to Mike Nelson).

Me, I see no value in most of the today's rock. Mainly a bunch of secular humanist, leftist poseurs who just want Rolling Stone to like them if you ask me. But country, now there is a place a good conservative can get some serious red meat.

Take Gretchen Wilson's new album "All Jacked Up" released this past Tuesday and the song "Politically Uncorrect".

The original country outlaw Merle Haggard joins Gretchen for a duet on the song and the lyrics speak for themselves:

I'm for the preachers who stay on their knees
And I'm for the sinner who finally believes
And I'm for the farmer with dirt on his hands
And the soldiers who fight for this land


And I'm for the Bible and I'm for the flag
And I'm for the working man, me and ol' hag
I'm just one of many
Who can't get no respect
Politically uncorrect

I guess my opinion is all out of style
Aw, but don't get me started cause I can get riled
And I'll make a fight for the forefather's plan (Ed note: Gretchen is a strict constructionist!)
And the world already knows where I stand

I await a popular rock song to have lyrics that are even 10% as right on in terms of a worldview as these. U2 aint writin' 'em, Bruce sure as hell aint.

Great singing, great playing, fun songs and a political viewpoint that doesn't make me want to throw my stereo across the room: remind me why I would want leftist drivel in my life again?

Something's Hoppening Here

Lots of news brewing on the beer front.

Item #1: The Beer Ratings have just been updated, with the addition of ten new brews (new ratings noted in red). The list includes a couple of fine selections from Arcadia Brewing Co out of Michigan as well as a trio of beers from Breckenridge Brewing in Colorado.

A quick aside while we're on the subject of Colorado beers. I hate to break it to the folks in the Rocky Mountain State, but Fat Tire Amber Ale, produced by New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins is not the end all and be all of beers. Yes, it's a tasty brew, but it can't possibly live up to the hype that now surrounds it. I actually believe that Sunshine Wheat, another offering from New Belgium, is a much superior beer.

Back to the ratings. Lately, I've been finding my geographic area of beer knowledge confining and limiting to future growth. I needed to expand my boundaries and my borders. I felt the need for Trinkensraum. And so, like so many others have before me, I looked to the wide open spaces of the East. Russia, the FSU (former Soviet Union), and Eastern Europe to be exact.

The community where I live has a sizable number of émigrés from these lands and so local liquor stores stock a decent offering from the East. For this particular round, I selected three beers to evaluate:

Baltika Extra Pale from Russia

Zhiguly Ale from Lithuania

Jurand's Mocne from Poland

All in all, I was not impressed. The Baltika was the best of the bunch, which is not saying much. Alcohol is a critical part of the taste of a good beer, but in these three beers, especially the Zhiguly, it was overwhelming. Considering the punch these beers pack, I suppose that's not surprising, although other beers with similar alcohol content do a much better job masking the flavor. When it came to taste, there's no just not much else there with this trio.

But I'm not going to give up on the East based on three beers. I shall return to my neighborhood liquor store and explore some more. Baltika produces several different brews and I may one of them more to my liking.

Item #2: Speaking of beers with high alcohol content, the beers of fall are now upon us. Some of my favorites from years past include:

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
Full Sail's Octoberfest
Summit Octoberfest (although I prefer the Alt that they used to brew)
Capital Brewing's Octoberfest
Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest
Schell's Octoberfest
Sam Adam's Octoberfest
Sarnac Oktoberfest

I picked up six packs of Autumn Ale from Breckenridge Brewing and Tabernash Brewing's Octoberfest the other day and expect to rate them shortly. Leinenkugel also has an Octoberfest that I've yet to try, but plan to soon. Prosit!

Item #3: Via the Funky Monkeys, I learn that Louisiana's Abita Brewing Company is coming out with a beer to help ease the pain of Hurricane Katrina:

Abita Beer's "Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale"

We began crafting this new beer from the moment we saw our brewery had been miraculously spared any major damage from Hurricane Katrina. We are proud to be a Louisiana company and feel blessed that we are still able to produce our product and keep our employees working.

This golden ale brew should hit store shelves by mid October. For every six pack sold Abita Beer will donate $1 to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation.

Drinking for a good cause. Charity doesn't get any better than that.

Item #4: The Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild Autumn Brew Review Festival has been rescheduled:

The Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild presents the 5th Annual Autumn Brew Review: A day devoted to beer.

Sat., Oct. 8, 1 - 7 p.m. (Note date change)
Peavey Plaza
1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

For only $25, sample the finest craft ales, stouts, ambers and porters from over 30 Midwest brewers and the first 1500 attendees will receive a commemorative glass. In addition to the brews, see some great local bands and sample some tasty fare.

A day devoted to beer? Saturdays don't get any better than that.

Item #5: Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis is celebrating their 8th Anniversary the week of October 24th-29th, culminating in an anniversary party on Saturday October 29th. Stop in and help them celebrate by hoisting a few of their excellent craft brews.
One Of These Teams Just Doesn't Belong Here

After 158 regular season games, it comes down to this. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians are vying for the two remaining American League playoff spots. Either the Yankees or the Red Sox will win the AL East and the other will be in the running for the wild card slot with the Indians. Technically speaking, the Indians still have a shot at the AL Central title, but they trail the White Sox by three games with only four remaining. It would take a monumental collapse by the South Siders for the Indians to pass them and is very unlikely to occur (although it sure would be fun to watch). The standings look like this after last night's action:

Yankees 93-65 --
Red Sox 92-66 1
Indians 92-66 1

The Yankees have one game left with Baltimore and then close the season with three at Fenway. The Red Sox host the Jays again tonight before welcoming the Yanks to town. The Tribe will try to get past the pesky Devil Rays tonight before they end the year with three against the AL Central leading White Sox.

Which team will be left out in the cold after this weekend? Vote in our poll at the top left of the page.

One intriguing possibility is that all three teams could end up tied with identical records, which would set up an interesting situation. Usually if two teams end up tied, either for a division title or wild card spot, they have a one game playoff to determine the winner. If fact, coin flips have already been conducted to determine who would get the home field for such games. But what if three teams are tied? Do the Red Sox and Yankees play for the AL East and then the loser plays the Indians for the wild card? I poked around on the official MLB web site, but couldn't find an answer.

No matter what the final result is, it should be a great weekend for baseball.

UPDATE--From Major League Baseball we learn:

What if the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians all finish with the same records?

The Yankees and Red Sox play in New York for the AL East title and the loser plays the Indians for the Wild Card berth on Tuesday. New York is at the Jake if the Yanks lose and the Tribe is at Fenway if the Red Sox lose.

Why, you might ask, is there a Wild Card playoff game when the Indians would have a half-game better record than the Yankees-Red Sox loser? MLB has determined that it would not be fair for a team that's tied for a division title at the end of the regular season to be displaced in the postseason by a second-place team. Thus, the mandatory Wild Card playoff game.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Am I Having Fun?

Been reading plenty of them book-learnin' books lately. More later, but for now a few choice quotes from Mark Kriegel's Namath that I picked up in SF:

Joe went to Alabama for college with renowned coach Bear Bryant. Bear prided himself on having tough linemen and made sure they were that way by the Kill or Be Killed Drill:

(Namath)"Three guys got in a circle and they just started fighting when the whistle blew. Literally fighting: kicking, slugging, anything." Namath was told it would toughen up the boys a bit. When the whistle blew again, trainers came for the kid on the ground, who'd been kicked in the mouth; the other two were excused. Then, another whistle, and three more boys went at it. While Namath thanked God he was not a lineman, he never questioned Bryant's drill or the effect it would have on the guys who'd be blocking for him. "I knew is ture as hell made 'em tougher, the guys who survived," he said.

Another great little anecdote from the book involved one of Joe's favorite drinking buddies, Mickey Mantle:

The 1969 Astrojet celebrity golf tournament, sponsored by American Airlines, was held in February at La Costa in Carlsbad, California. Namath was paired with his buddy Mickey Mantle. They were easy to spot out on the course; their cart was the one being followed by another, this one carrying two amply bosomed blondes and a cache of cold beer. " We're waiting for them to come off the course to interview them," recalls a reporter. " But, they make a turn, go up a hill, leave the golf carts and disappear with the girls for about an hour. Finally, they come back down, half-cocked. The girls are still with them. Joe goes into the press area to be interviewed. And the first question--it was classic: ' Joe, are you having fun?'

Namath almost spit up his beer. "Am I having fun?

Noble & Necessary

Fouad Ajami has an important piece on Iraq and the Arab world in today's WSJ called Heart of Darkness. I believe it is available to everyone and is a must read. A couple of key paragraphs:

We have not always been brilliant in the war we have waged, for these are lands we did not fully know. But our work has been noble and necessary, and we can't call a halt to it in midstream. We bought time for reform to take root in several Arab and Muslim realms. Leave aside the rescue of Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar have done well by our protection, and Lebanon has retrieved much of its freedom. The three larger realms of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are more difficult settings, but there, too, the established orders of power will have to accommodate the yearnings for change. A Kuwaiti businessman with an unerring feel for the ways of the Arab world put it thus to me: "Iraq, the Internet, and American power are undermining the old order in the Arab world. There are gains by the day." The rage against our work in Iraq, all the way from the "chat rooms" of Arabia to the bigots of Finsbury Park in London, is located within this broader struggle.

Over the horizon looms a referendum to ratify the country's constitution. Sunni Arabs are registering in droves, keen not to repeat the error they committed when they boycotted the national elections earlier this year. In their pride, and out of fear of the insurgents and their terror, the Sunni Arabs say that they are registering to vote in order to thwart this "illegitimate constitution." This kind of saving ambiguity ought to be welcomed, for there are indications that the Sunni Arabs may have begun to understand terror's blindness and terror's ruin. Zarqawi holds out but one fate for them; other doors beckon, and there have stepped forth from their ranks leaders eager to partake of the new order. It is up to them, and to the Arab street and the Arab chancelleries that wink at them, to bring an end to the terror. It has not been easy, this expedition to Iraq, and for America in Iraq there has been heartbreak aplenty. But we ought to remember the furies that took us there, and we ought to be consoled by the thought that the fight for Iraq is a fight to ward off Arab dangers and troubles that came our way on a clear September morning, four years ago.
If You Don't Know...

I found an interesting side note in an article in the September 15th edition of The Economist on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):

Ever since ECT was pioneered by Ugo Cerletti, an Italian neurosurgeon, in the late 1930s, it has had a bad press. In books ("The Bell Jar", "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"), in song ("Electric Co" by U2) and in film ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Tarnation"), it has been portrayed as a sinister procedure that leaves the patient a dribbling dullard. But in spite of this, ECT remains one of the fastest-acting and most effective antidepressant treatments known.

As a long-time U2 fan, I had no idea that "Electric Co" was about ECT. In fact, the lyrics seemed completely meaningless to me. After reading them, you can see possible references to ECT, but they are certainly not obvious:

Boy, stupid boy
Don't sit at the table
Until you're able to
Toy, broken toy
Shout and shout
You're inside out

If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.

Red, running red
Play for real
The toy could feel
A hole in your head
You go in shock
You're spoon-fed

If you don't know
Electric co.
If you don't know
Electric co.

One three four
I can't stop
You stay still in the song
You stay still in the song
Say reach out

If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.
If you don't know... Electric co.

See someone breaks the willow
To say the sound go
To the top of casandro
Covering me
Just to hear me
Two hours...
Two hours and two hours
Listen I can't find my way home
So alone...
(Can't you, can't you get it)

You know
And you know
And you know
And you know
And you know

I still think you could make an argument, as some have, that the song is actually about this.
The Scorpion King

Mike from Arizona, follows up on his earlier e-mail with more on scorpions:

Scorpions in Phoenix-area houses may not be as common as roaches but they're not that uncommon- I found out a friend of mine has them- since his neighbors spray their houses and he cannot spray his due to his wife's allergic reaction to pesticides he has to actively patrol his backyard for them- last year he killed 500 of them.

Other people have chimed in about their problems with them, in a very matter-of-fact way. One said she gets stung every now and then- in the hand or foot- it's like being pierced by a needle. Slowly the leg or arm goes numb, she doesn't worry till it gets past the knee and elbow. She told me to go get a black light (they really show up to them) and go out and squash them like a man.

I now have the same scorpion poison my neighbor has- he's a chemical engineer and says it's good stuff, keep the pre-death twitching to a minimum. I better go ahead and use it, I've heard the scorpions are talking to the fire ants in the yard and black widows in the garage about forming an axis of evil.

Keep up the good work and you have a great fan base out here in Arizona. If you ever get the chance tell Lileks about all the fun bugs we have- he mutters about moving to Arizona every April, after all he likes the heat and it's 102 degrees today. Of course he'll probably move by his in-laws in Scottsdale and if they're by the desert's edge he'll have to deal with killer bees and rattlesnakes on his pool deck as well.

Just another day in paradise.

A regular Garden of Eden, isn't it? Winter in the Upper Midwest is not sounding so bad after all.
Good Morning Starquake, The Earth Says Hello

As Americans continue to struggle with the never-ending task of properly placing blame for the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a disaster with untold intergalactic ramifications has gone virtually unnoticed.

As you read this, Magnetar SGR 1806-20 is dying:
Astronomers have found the first evidence of cracks in a neutron star's crust. The star cracked when it was rocked by the strongest "starquake" ever recorded...

Last December, astronomers worldwide monitored the explosion that caused this starquake. The eruption was huge- in the first 200 milliseconds of the event the star released energy equivalent to what our Sun produces in 250,000 years. It was the brightest explosion ever detected outside of the Milky Way.

Now scientists have used a collection of data from various satellites to provide the first observational evidence that the blast caused the star to form cracks several miles long.
There is no word yet as to why it took Earth based astronomers nearly ten months to assess the damage caused by this unprecedented starquake.

Local SGR 1806-20 officials, who were caught completely unprepared despite having detailed evacuation plans specifically addressing crustal cracking, were quick to place blame on former FEMA director Michael Brown and the White House.

Neither Mr. Brown nor President Bush could be reached for comment.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

At Least He's Not Bitter Or Anything

They say that timing is everything in life. I certainly hope there's more to it than just that for our colleague Saint Paul because once again it's turned out that he has no timing whatsoever. No sooner does he depart for the safety and seclusion of an extended vacation in a Rocky Mountain redoubt, then his old buddy Brian Lambert, late of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, does emerge from underneath the rotting carcass of the recently extinct Nick Coleman Radio Show to pen an article for local monthly The Rake titled Newspapers in Turmoil!.

As one would expect, it's a rich vein of golden material ripe for the mocking. Lambert became a special favorite of Saint Paul's due in no small part to his continuing claim that there is no liberal media bias, which usually was made in columns that pilloried conservatives and were themselves prima facia evidence of the very bias that Lambert sought to deny. We get plenty more of the same here with bonus mentions of "my friend Nick Coleman," "The bard of Anoka, Garrison Keillor," and another of Saint Paul's bete noires, Dan Barreiro. Somewhere in the mountains of Colorado, Saint Paul is experiencing the phenomenon of "remote salivating."

I'm not going to give Lambert's piece the thorough attention it so richly deserves here. I'll save that for Saint Paul's return. It's not right to jump another man's claim like that. Instead I'll just share a few of the nuggets that I culled from it:

Simultaneously, political ideologues of all persuasions, but primarily of the right wing, have badly intimidated MSM editors and news directors into playing a disingenuous "balance" game to counter bogus charges of being politically biased.

Sniff. We're sorry for bullying those poor ninety-pound weakling MSM editors.

Maverick journalists and "original thinkers" need not apply for management positions in the new system; they are considered remnants, holdouts, and cranks of a bygone era.

Which is why I, Brian Lambert--maverick and original thinker, was fired.

The new manager lives in an insulated echo chamber, constantly exchanging boilerplate corporate prattle among his or her management peers and superiors, and issuing too-frequent-to-be-credible "red alerts" rushed out for employee consumption--and despair. It's a fair question whether this new crowd are journalists at all.

Unlike me, Brian Lambert.

By the time the mainstream has fully squandered the essence of its influence (probably over the next decade, accelerating after the complete conversion to digital media), there will be at least three or four dozen marquee bloggers well enough established to declare parity with run-of-the-mill Op-Ed pages in both analytical acuity and readership. At that point NBC/GE might as well let Brian Williams read daily transcripts from Power Line and Daily Kos.

Good luck getting more than three or four word in from Kos without running into problems with the network censor.

So yes, traditional news--news gathered by professionals operating under well-understood rules of engagement, where fairness and accountability matter more than speed and sensation--is very much under siege.

Exactly when was this heralded era of "traditional news" with fairness and accountability anyways? I seem to have missed out on it.

Some of the reasons for the great decline are external, contrived, and cynical, particularly the crackpot chorus that perpetually squawks about political "bias."

You're preaching to choir here Brian. Make that the "crackpot chorus."

A now-classic example of the kind of "balance" trap the MSM has got itself into was the so-called Swift Boat Veterans issue during the 2004 presidential campaign. The point was not that a Democrat, John Kerry, was the victim of a contrived, baseless smear.

You see, none of those guys were really "Swift Boat Veterans." In fact, there really is no such thing as a "Swift Boat" either. The whole thing was all just a dirty trick made up by Karl Rove to get John Kerry.

The point was that, rather than persistently assessing the accuracy of the charges of the Swifties, standard newsroom protocol required persistent "balance." Six inches of quotes from the Swifties balanced by six inches of response from Kerry. Day after day. Eventually, readers were left with the "balanced" view that there was no truth and both sides were idiots. In terms of campaign tactics, Kerry has been justly criticized for failing to take the Swifties head on. But in too many news reports, that failure became a bigger, far more frequently reported story than whether what the Swifties said was even true.

Fully reporting and regularly declaring the Swifties' tale to be the transparent lie it was would, of course, have left journalists open to blistering attacks from talk-radio hosts and bloggers, and probably also an uncomfortable chat with upper management. But the Swift Boat episode falls into a familiar pattern whereby the media's quaint notion of "balance" has it reporting more on the fracas than the facts.

Interesting to note that Lambert never does get around to explaining exactly what these "facts" were. Instead he just continues to beat the drum that the Swift Vets' stories were lies without ever bothering to produce one shred of evidence to back up his claims.

In my experience, ninety-five percent of reporters and editors are well within the mainstream of political attitudes, appropriately skeptical about every politician and every overreaching ideology.

You know, the Brian Lambert/Nick Coleman "mainstream."

In fairness to Lambert, he does make a couple of good observations about newspapers needing to allow their writers to write and become more like blogs:

The attitude and writerly personal style of blogs is most similar to that of the best columnists--metro, politics, sports, whatever--and mainstream newspapers are constantly struggling with how much freedom they dare parcel out to even those characters.


Papers still have the wherewithal to fight back against the appeal of the best bloggers. But in order to compete, they're going to have to let at least some of their writers be actual writers, loosen their foundation garments, assert their opinions, employ more literary devices, and in general have some fun with the topics and people they cover.

Amen to that notion. Unfortunately, I'm not optimistic about seeing such changes any time soon.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that Saint Paul is enjoying his well deserved vacation in the Rockies. He doesn't even know what he's missing out on back here at home.
Your Prying Eyes

Congressman Mark Kennedy has apparently heeded Hugh Hewitt's words:

You know that the phrase a "pair of twenty something operatives" doesn't even begin to describe what's been going on around there. Wait until Mark Kennedy and Katherine Harris check their credit bureaus for unauthorized release of credit reports.

Today, the Kennedy for Senate 2006 campaign released a letter sent to J.B. Poersch, Executive Director of the DSCC:

Mr. Poersch,

This letter is in response to the recent discovery that two employees of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) illegally obtained the personal credit report of Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele. It is my understanding that the two employees were members of the research department of the DSCC. It is also my understanding that these employees were performing 'opposition research' on Mr. Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

As you are well aware, Congressman Mark Kennedy is running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota. According to National Journal, the Minnesota Senate race has already been declared the number one Republican pick-up opportunity in the country. As the General Chairman of Congressman Kennedy's campaign, I am requesting a formal response, in writing, from the DSCC as to whether or not Congressman Kennedy's personal information was also illegally obtained by the DSCC.

I look forward to your response.

The crew at Kennedy v. The Machine has a copy of the letter posted.

The South's Gonna Do It Again

If you haven't already been directed there from other blogs, Patrick Ruffini has another Straw Poll on possible GOP candidates for '08 up and running. There are a couple of new features this time around too.

My new ticket? Barbour/Sanford baby.
There's No Doubt That He's A Devious Linguist

Larry e-mails with a screen capture of Drudge's initial headline on the arrest of Cindy Sheehan. It was changed shortly afterward, but I have ever reason to believe that this is the real (and very amusing) deal. (click for larger version)

If you have to ask, you'll never know.
Of course Elder'll help to build the wall

Mike from Arizona e-mails to support the idea of walling off bars:

Holy crap what a great idea!!!!!

Out here in Arizona there will probably be a state-wide referendum on banning smoking in public areas. Why state-wide? Because the few cities out here which did ban smoking saw an immediate drop-off in restaurant and bar business by smokers running across the municipal line. No doubt there will be calls to impose the ban in order to save the children - though they would never ever let children into bars at all (What ever happened to that? As kids we went with the family to numerous bars and taverns- that's where the best pizza was).

What a great counter-point if we could just let our favorite adult-beverage dispensing establishments totally wall-off the smokers from the non-smokers. ... separate entrances so the two would never have to mix. A win-win!!! Of course it would be a non-starter because the goal isn't to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke but to deprive honest, sovereign citizens of the right to poison themselves. I can only imagine what would be next.... my Irish whisky? My home brew? From my cold dead hands they will...

This great concept can expose the last pretensions of these fools and show them for the 2-bit petty tyrants, no-goody nannies they are. I would hope come November 2006, my fellow Arizonans will treat these people as they deserve and give them an "Arizona boat ride"...

... or make them sleep at my house. I've got scorpions and cannot get rid of them... maybe if I took up smoking inside the house...

Scorpions? Kinda puts the whole Asian lady beetle thing that we have to deal with into perspective.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Sins of the Father

Yesterday, I realized that, in addition to rugged Conan O'Brien-esque good looks, pigmentation more conducive to burning than tanning, and the most comprehensive collection of Simpson's figurines this side of Jasperwood, my son Nathaniel will be inheriting something else from his old man. Something that will haunt him throughout his life and cause him moments of agony, frustration, and ultimately hopeless resignation. Something, like Original Sin, that is not imposed as a result of his own choosing but rather because of the actions of his fore-bearers. But something, unlike Original Sin, that there is no ultimate hope for Salvation from.

Yes, it's sad true but true. He's all of nine weeks old and he's already been baptized... a Vikings fan. And it has definitely been a baptism of fire. He's watched parts of all three games with me and learned many a lesson. Such as it's not all that fun to be sitting on dad's lap when Dante drops a fifty-three yard strike into the mitts of Troy Williamson for a TD (a lesson already well-learned by our cats during Gopher hockey telecasts). I shudder to think what else he's picking up from watching dad watch Viking games.

Although it's no doubt better than the example being set by the players themselves:

Two starting offensive linemen on the Minnesota Vikings were arrested shortly after 3 a.m. today when they refused to leave a 24-hour service station where a crowd had gathered, according to Minneapolis police.

Bryant McKinnie, 26, and Marcus Johnson, 23, were charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, which are misdemeanors, and were released from the Hennepin County jail early today after they each posted $50 bail.

Officer Ron Reier, a police spokesman, said that officers responded to a disturbance at 3 a.m. at Bobby and Steve's Auto World, a service station at 1221 Washington Ave. S. that also operates a small restaurant grill and is a late-night gathering spot after the city's bars close at 2 a.m.

Nice to see the Vikings maintaining their reputation as the most arrested team in football. Not an easy claim to make in this day and age either.

One day, Nathaniel will be able to read all about his favorite Vikings being arrested too. It's comforting to know that some traditions will always carry on.
One Man's Bacon Is Another's Bread

The Porkbusters want to pay for Katrina reconstruction by cutting the fat. wants to raise taxes:

Congressional Republicans have proposed to offset Katrina with nearly a trillion dollars in cuts from vital national services, like health care for the poor and elderly, student loans, Amtrak, and eliminating all funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. These cuts are almost five times the cost of rebuilding, which could be paid for entirely by ending Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. This is divisive politics at its worst and we can do better. Please sign the short petition below:

"In times of national crises we must all do our part. The reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region must be fully funded by ending President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, and not by cutting any vital national services."

Atomizer's Gin Palace?

A story in last week's Economist reported that newly proposed smoking bans in England may lead to the return of the gin palace:

A BAN on smoking in pubs came closer last week, when the government's consultation on a proposed new law ended. For libertarians this unwelcome news is tempered by the possibility that the law could bring about an unexpected architectural revival.

The proposed law distinguishes between places that serve food--to be smoke-free--and those that do not. One way to get around a ban would therefore be to stop dishing up pub grub. But another, according to Richard Seedhouse of the Victorian Society, which worries about the preservation of 19th-century buildings, might be to restore the original interiors of pubs, many of which are Victorian. A typical Victorian pub was divided up into many smaller spaces. If those were restored, smokers and non-smokers could avoid each other, without interrupting the flow of lasagne and chips from pub kitchens.

Victorian pubs typically had at least two separate areas: a public bar for the poor and for labourers and a better room for shopkeepers and skilled workers. The two were split by frosted glass and mahogany. Some also had a smoking room. The rooms had separate entrances from the street (to avoid any unsavoury mingling) and charged different prices for the same beer.

Actually this sounds like a great idea for Keegan's Irish Pub in Minneapolis. I can see it now: a better room reserved solely for the Fraters Libertas trivia squad. It could be a smoking room with a separate entrance to avoid all that unsavory mingling. And of course, different (read lower) prices for the same beer. Yes indeed, I believe the time has truly come.

Mr. Keegan, put up that wall!
Top Shelf Thinkers

You can select your choices for the Top Five Living Intellectuals here (via Professor Night Train) from a list of one hundred names. You can also submit a person that you feel has been unjustly excluded from the list. My votes went to:

Pope Benedict XVI
Hernando De Soto
Bernard Lewis
Jagdish Bhagwati
Vaclav Havel

The absence of William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, and historian Paul Johnson as possible choices is simply inexcusable, especially when the likes of Paul Krugman made the list.
Is The Best Baaaarrrr In The World In Baar?

Clay Calhoun is bar hopping in Switzerland. I am not.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Purple Pangloss

What a difference a week makes. After embarrassing themselves in Cincinnati last Sunday, the Vikings circled the wagons today and did what they had to do to down the New Orleans Saints. It was far from a flawless effort, but compared to what we witnessed in the first few weeks, it was quite satisfactory. Dante looked like Dante again. I was especially impressed with the way he spread the ball around to different receivers. It was also nice to see that Troy Williamson show that he may be the deep threat the Vikings so desperately need. And the defense did just enough (with a lot of help from the error prone Saints) to keep the Saints offense under wraps for most of the day.

But the most encouraging news for Vikings fans is not that the team finally showed up. It's that the NFC North is the NL West of the NFL. From "top" to bottom, it may be the worst division ever fielded in the history of the National Football League. The Lions are leading the desiccated pack with a 1-1 record after having a bye today. Their win came against the 0-3 Packers and last week they were destroyed by the Bears, who sit tied with the Vikings in second place at 1-2. Did I mention that the Packers are 0-3? And that two of those losses have come on the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field? You can almost feel the cloud of Green and Gold angst hanging over the state of Wisconsin from here.

There is no excusing the two losses that the Vikings had to open the campaign. But the losses are now looking a little more reasonable in light of the fact that both teams that beat the Vikings are now 3-0. The Bengals mauled the Bears today in Chicago, while the Tampa Bay pillaged the Pack for a rare win for the Bucs at Lambeau Field. Did I mention that the Packers are 0-3?

Yes, next week will be tough for the Purple as they head to Atlanta to take on Michael Vick and the Falcons. Vick has made the Vikings defense look silly in the past and Mike Tice's squad doesn't exactly have a rep as road warriors. But for now, it's time to savor the victory and keep the impossible dream alive. Having a record of one win and two losses ain't quite where most Vikings fans thought the team would be right now, but it's a hell a lot better than being 0-3. Did I mention that the Packers...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Face Of The Enemy

A couple of quick observations while watching today's A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition anti-war rally tonight on C-Span:

1. The four countries most prominently mentioned as victims of American "aggression" in the of the signs held by the crowd and the speakers were Iraq (obviously), Afghanistan, Palestine, and Haiti. Haiti? To the anti-war crowd, Jean Bertrand Aristide occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of heroes along with Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Not exactly a cause that most average Americans are going to relate to.

2. Speaking of relating to average Americans, the anti-war "cause" is going nowhere unless they can come with up some fresh faces. One of their big hitters they rolled out today was Ramsey Clark. Yes, that Ramsey Clark. Clark is a doddering fool who struggled to string coherent sentences (to say nothing of thoughts) together and could barely get a rise out of a crowd that very receptive to his message, as muddled as it was. And no. Cindy Sheehan is not the answer.

3. Along with the fresh faces, how about some new rhetoric? The loose talk of revolution didn't play in the Sixties and it sure as hell ain't gonna play now. Don't they know it's gonna be alright?

4. Hurricane Katrina was mentioned by every speaker I heard. Not just anti-war but now anti-hurricane as well? A good drinking game would be to take a pulll every time you heard Katrina or Palestine mentioned. Drink!

5. My favorite speaker had to be poet (labeled "poet activist" by C-Span) Suheir Hammad who read a silly "poem" about Hurricane Katrina. I actually laughed out loud during most of it. Actually the whole thing is pretty damn amusing.

6. The anti-war crowd labors under the delusional that the more attention they get through rallies such as this, the more the American people will support them. In reality, just the opposite is true. The more you watch and listen to these freaks, the more you realize just how extreme their positions are. The more pub they get the better. For the rest of us.

Friday, September 23, 2005

sell out, with me oh yea

Article in today's WSJ on bloggers selling out and cashing in:

It used to be rare for an established, mainstream company to buy an individual's personal blog. Blogs are frequently updated online journals, typically authored by professionals, hobbyists, or regular Joes reaching out to share their thoughts, information and photographs with others. Few consider their blogs a business, though the growing use of advertising links and blog sponsorships have helped some turn a modest profit. While sales aren't making headlines every day, there has been some business interest in buying blogs and hiring their authors as employees.

The article identifies three keys to blogs salability:

So, if you're a blogger, could you cash in, and should you cash out? Here are three signs your blog may have what it takes to attract bids from prospective buyers, plus some considerations if you're mulling a sale.

1. You have Web cred. If you're an expert within your industry or passionate hobbyist who can bring insight to a topic -- and have the ability to turn a phrase -- your musings may attract a buyout offer.

Respected bloggers typically are obsessed with the subject matter they cover, she adds, and they attract a community of like-minded individuals that companies want to reach.

It's been my experience that it's usually the disrespected bloggers who are the most obsessed.

2. Your blog is a cash cow. Beyond authoritative and popular commentary, there are other reasons corporate buyers are looking at personal blogs. Revenue is one, says Steve Broback, a founder of Blog Business Summit, a conference organizer in Seattle. Income sources from blogs can include ad sales; sponsorships; affiliate programs, where bloggers encourage readers to buy products from merchants or services in return for commissions; and your garden-variety swag, such as books, T-shirts, and mugs.

Or "Deserve Victory" bumper stickers.

3. You attract a coveted crowd. The type of readership your blog draws may affect the value of your blog to potential buyers, says Weblogs' Mr. Calacanis.

"Certain communities are worth more than others. For example, if you have a blog for dental surgeons and the buyer is a provider of medical equipment, that's a highly valuable community," he says.

A blog for dental surgeons?

"Dr. Watley nails it again with his latest Fisking of this article on Pain and Immunologic Response to Root Canal Treatment. Ouch."

What kind of money are we talking about here anyway?

Most often, companies will buy the rights to the blog and then hire the blogger, either as a full-time staffer or as an independent contractor, to continue writing the blog.

Pay is all over the map: from a low of $4 per post to a flat fee of up to $75,000 for a sponsored site, according to research by Blog Business Summit.

$4 a post? Atomizer and JB Doubtless would have a tough time feeding their families at that rate. Although a little incentive may increase productivity.

For the record, Fraters Libertas currently is and always has been up for sale. We'd sell out so fast it'd make your head spin. Make us an offer, any offer. The oft misunderstood and mispronounced name, the stable of thoroughbred writers, the long running features, the loyal and oft drunk readers; it could all be yours if the price is right. Of course, once the blog is yours, you can do what you will. Keep it running as is, change the cast of characters, or even shut her down.

Bloggers who sell their blogs and don't stay on to continue blogging risk having their blog content altered or used in ways they'd never intended. Or the blog might wither and die from neglect, says Jeremy Wright of Ontario, Canada. Mr. Wright recently sold a blog,, for $2,000. (His reported sale of business and technology blog last year for $15,000 ultimately fell through.)

Still, bloggers who are burnt out after years of feeding the beast may welcome the idea of passing it on, says Mr. Wright.

"For some people it's like having a dog. You'd rather see it go to a good home than put it down," he says.

I guess that all depends on much you get for putting the mutt down. Have your people call our people if you're interested George.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Goes to...

The folks at Knight Ridder have announced the names of major award winners:

Knight Ridder (NYSE: KRI) today announced the winners in its nineteenth annual James K. Batten Excellence Awards competition, designed to recognize and celebrate the successes of Knight Ridder people. The winners will be honored at a special dinner hosted by Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder on Oct. 31 in San Jose. The winners will receive a total of $37,500 in prize money.

The name of the honoree taking home the big hardware should be quite familiar to our regular readers (referenced here, here, here, here, and here).

The top prize, the John S. Knight Gold Medal, was awarded to Knight Ridder Cairo Bureau Chief Hannah Allam, who served nearly two years as head of the Baghdad Bureau. Knight Ridder Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder said, "Hannah Allam, all of 28 years old, is a genuine prodigy -- a journalist of outstanding accomplishment and a leader who, by her courage, compassion, commitment and talent, is an inspiration to the many others working with her. As a reporter from Iraq in the summer of 2003, and our Baghdad bureau chief from December 2003 until just recently, she has won the admiration of the entire press corps for the quality of her coverage. "She assembled a remarkable staff of Americans, British and Iraqi (including Sunnis and Shiites) who regularly out-report and out-write the competition. She has also, as her nomination said, 'mastered challenges few of us will ever face. She has run down a street with bullets pinging off the pavement to cover the siege of a mosque. She has felt the concussion from a roadside bomb. She saved a colleague from assassins. She has comforted sobbing employees grieving the loss of a staffer who drove into an intersection where a military operation was under way and was killed by an American bullet.'

Woah, back it up, back it up. Beep, beep, beep. American bullet? Funny, I didn't happen to catch where the "bullets pinging off the pavement" came from, the origin of the "concussion from a roadside bomb", or the affiliation of the "assassins" that she saved a colleague from. Let me give it a shot:

"terrorist bullets pinging off the pavement"

"concussion from an insurgent roadside bomb."

"She saved a colleague from Al Qaeda assassins."

Apparently to Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder, these are just natural events that occur in Iraq, much like the weather. But when a staffer is ACCIDENTALLY killed when he is unfortunate enought to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, it requires a precise identification the source of the bullet. I'm sure that if the staffer had been accidentally shot by Iraqi Army units, he would have said "killed by an Iraqi bullet." Yeah, right.

More on Goddess Hannah:

"It is rare that this award goes to someone without a long record of achievement within the company. In Hannah's case, she has squeezed into two years what many others don't experience in a lifetime. John S. Knight would be very proud." "Hannah is a talented reporter and a stalwart leader," the jury said. "She has accomplished so much, and she has so much heart as well. She's a Mozart, a Beethoven -- she's a prodigy."

At least the jury was restrained and measured in their praise. You wouldn't want these things to be too over the top as to inspire ridicule. Right?

A journalistic prodigy with well-manicured nails and a hell of Karaoke singer to boot. She really is the complete package of outstanding achievement in the field excellence.
The Pay Sucks, But The Perks Ain't Bad

The best thing about blogging, other than the free love and easy access to psychedelic drugs, is getting to know people from around the country who share your obsession interest. People who live in places like Salt Lake City. People who are generous enough to send you stuff. Stuff like bags of premium coffee beans. Coffee beans like Colombia Narino Supremo and the Anniversary Blend.

Thanks much Jonathan. Now if I can only get to know a blogger in the Scottish Highlands...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We're Coming To Your Town, We'll Knock Your Buildings Down

I'm presently immersed in Annie Jacobsen's new book, Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again. You may recall that Jacobsen created quite a stir in the 'sphere last July with her account of a harrowing encounter with a band of Syrian musicians aboard Northwest Flight 327. The book recounts the events that Jacobsen witnessed unfold on the flight (backed up by other passengers), the follow up (or lack of) investigations of the affair by federal officials, and similar stories of suspicious in-flight activity submitted to Jacobsen by other travelers and airline employees.

Whether what happened on flight 327 was a dry run (or "probe") for a future terrorist attack or merely Jacobsen misinterpreting the activities of the band members has not been conclusively proven, although those who were quick to explain away her initial claims might do well to address the further information that she has uncovered since the flight, which is documented in the book.

This Saturday at 1pm, the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee willing, we will be interviewing Annie on The Northern Alliance Radio Network. Tune in, listen up, and call in if you have a question for the author.
Blogger Damned By Praise from Dubious Source

Socialist ideologue George Galloway brought his barnstorming book tour to the friendly confines of Madison Wisconsin on Sunday and ran smack into that city's favorite blogging war hawk, Uncle Jimbo. Thanks to some homemade press credentials and an authoritative stride, he got past security and was able to engage America's favorite anti-American directly:

[Galloway] called on me and I asked him to reconcile his call for troop withdrawal with his warning that a civil war in Iraq was the worst possible outcome. He smacked me back saying that this was a simplistic view of the situation, which I thought unfair since how deep can one get in a two sentence question.

I wasn't going to let that stand as my only shot, so as he tried to wrap up I looked him in the eye and he said "OK, I'll let you back in, my friend" following an explanation of his statement that the planes on 9/11 didn't come out of a clear, blue sky they came out of a swamp created by western policies. My question was, given that Bin Laden's own statements contain many grievances dating to the 12th century wasn't it simplistic to consider recent actions as the cause.

Then he did it. He tagged me with a sentence that may haunt me. I saw him nodding his head during my question and it appeared he came to the conclusion that I was actually calling him fairly on a point. He began his answer saying "I'm beginning to get the impression you might be an honest man" Damn!
Flashing For More Than Just Beads

Long-time Fraters reader Joe, recently relocated from New Orleans, provides an update on his personal situation as well as a cause that I think we can all get behind:

House? Two years of sweat equity renovating a 115 year old shotgun? Gone...

Job? Company under water? One last check? No? Income? No? Health benfeits? Maybe? Gone...

Shelter in the last 3 weeks? Tom Joad? Couch hopping with friends? One room rental in outer Baton Rouge? I'll take it...

Working full time at the Lamar Dixon Red Cross shelter in Gonzales setting up their computer center to register evacuees, reunite families, and co-ordinate the master needs list with the donation effort? Glad to do it...

A relief effort I

Boobs for Bourbon Street!

Hell yes.

Speaking Truth to Cartoons

Joe from Brooklyn Park takes exception to an animated editorial broadside against the US military in yesterday's Star Tribune:

Regarding the cartoon on the Strib editorial page yesterday that showed Bush defending the military response to Katrina - the closing balloon had Bush saying: "There are more than enough troops to screw up both places" - the other being Iraq.

This is not only beyond insulting to the troops, but just plain ignorant. If anyone transitions well from providing humanitarian aid to killing bad guys with utter lethality, it's the U.S. military (and the Bay Ridge faction of the Gambinos, who ran my old neighborhood). I still recall Marine Commandant Krulak's comments about fictitious three-block city that he envisioned. In one block, his Marines had to kill bad guys; in the next block they had to care for refugees; in the third block they had to separate warring factions with a centuries-old hatred for one another. And they had to do all equally well.

He also sent young officers from the Basic School and the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab at Quantico to the NY Mercantile Exchange to watch commodities traders and learn how they made split-second decisions based upon the information available.

Sure, those Marines have their challenges. But have they ever tried to incorporate hoary liberal clichés into little cartoons four times a week for the amusement of aging hippies and radical wannabes? Didn't think so! Until they do, they can just shut their cartoon chicken hawk traps!

UPDATE: Mitch Berg has more:

Steven Ambrose once noted that throughout world history, a squad of teenagers with weapons - whether they were hoplites, legionairies, knight's retainers, bashi-bazouks, vikings, redcoats billyanks, or Russian, German or Japanese soldiers - was always something the innocent bystanders had to fear; rapine and pillage travelled with them. The US soldier has always been the exception, never more so than today, when the "bystander" might be a thug with an IED. Many of the world's armies throughout history would have solved that problem by mowing down the whole crowd to get to the muj and avoid getting hurt.

But again, no matter. It's not about history to the cartoonist. Iraq, goes the conventional wisdumb, is a quagmire. So is New Orleans. What do they have in common? Chimpy McBushiitlerburton!
Get On To The Bus?

From yesterday's Grand Forks Herald:

ROCHESTER, Minn. - The City Council voted down an attempt by a man with two pending DWI charges to start a bus service for bar-hoppers.

The 3-2 vote came Monday on a motion to grant Bryce Bjork, 30, of Rochester, a city transportation franchise. Bjork said he was still looking to start his business Oct. 6 under separate state regulations.

"Really, what I'm trying to do is a good thing," said Bjork, who will hire professional drivers. "If there's someone who knows the detrimental effects of driving after you've had a couple of drinks, it's me."

City Attorney Terry Adkins said Bjork has been convicted of driving while intoxicated several times in the past five years, and is scheduled to stand trial on two felony DWIs in December.

His driver's license is canceled and he cannot reapply until October 2006.

Bjork said his business, the Rochester Bar Hopper, will provide an important service by keeping drunken drivers off the streets as well as by enlivening the bars and restaurants along the route.

Sounds reasonable enough. Why did the city turn him down?

Council members disagreed, saying the business would encourage drunken driving.


"I'm not sure what the public interest is," said council member Marcia Marcoux. "I do not see a public need for this type of transportation service."

JB Doubtless for Rochester City Council: At least the drunk buses will run.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sarcastic Justice

Sisyphus from the Nihilist in Golf Pants is offering his services to our country as the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States. As is his generous spirit, he's even taken the liberty to script the exact text of his confirmation hearing, in advance. Excerpt:

SCHUMER: Since none of us have been able to lay a glove on you, what could we ask you about that would trip you up?

SISYPHUS: Well, it was a long time ago, but you could ask me about the time I founded a branch of the KKK.

SCHUMER: (Schumer does a touchdown-celebration dance) I knew it! You're a racist, anti-Semite! That's it for you! All of you Republicans are racist klansmen! It doesn't matter how long ago, you're out of the mainstream! Out of the mainstream! Out of the mainstream! Now we can filibuster!

SISYPHUS: Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't me who founded the KKK chapter, that was Senator Robert Byrd.
Nobody's Fault But Yours

I haven't had anything to say about the response to Hurricane Katrina in the past few weeks because, frankly, enough has been said by everyone else. By now, we're all well aware of the failures at every level of government to adequately deal with this unprecedented disaster.

Today, however, I ran across this piece containing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's incredibly lame response to the Feds questioning his decision to send thousands of people back into the city prematurely and just had to comment.

The piece reads:
...Nagin is now re-thinking the timetable for bringing people back to the city...because of "external factors," such as a tropical storm that's headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier, Nagin bristled at what he suggested was federal interference. He said the federal official in charge of the recovery effort, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen, was acting like "the newly crowned federal mayor of New Orleans."
Perhaps a "federal mayor" is just what the city of New Orleans needs right now since the current mayor seems to be more interested in placing blame than getting things done.

Hop in your Wayback Machines, if you please, and recall the September 1 interview of Mayor Nagin conducted by WWL-AM radio correspondent Garland Robinette:
NAGIN: You know what really upsets me, Garland? We told everybody the importance of the 17th Street Canal issue. We said, "Please, please take care of this. We don't care what you do. Figure it out."
WWL: Who'd you say that to?
NAGIN: Everybody: the governor, Homeland Security, FEMA. You name it, we said it.
Later on in the same interview:
NAGIN: And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now.
WWL: What can we do here?
NAGIN: Keep talking about it.
WWL: We'll do that. What else can we do?
NAGIN: Organize people to write letters and make calls to their congressmen, to the president, to the governor. Flood their doggone offices with requests to do something. This is ridiculous.
There's a certain twisted consistency in Nagin's ranting here. He takes the blame for absolutely nothing yet wants every last ounce of credit for beginning to restore normalcy to his decimated city. When the water was fifteen feet high and rising, Nagin was begging for the federal government to swoop in and drain his city, jail his looters, reopen his French Quarter and then get busy reanimating his dead.

Now that the worst has seemingly passed, Nagin demands that the Feds stay out of his business so he can stand atop a newly reconstructed levee and claim to have reopened the City of New Orleans despite the incompetence of George Bush, FEMA, the Minnesota Vikings and any other group of bumbling fools he can point a finger at.

This is ridiculous? I agree wholeheartedly, Mr. Mayor.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Those Were The Days

Craig Westover reminds us of a time when government officials took the Constitution seriously. The late 19th century, to be specific. Old Grover Cleveland had this to say about drought stricken Texas farmers set to received $10,000 in Congressionally appropriated relief:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.

Mister, we could use a man like Grover Cleveland today. Not because he was fiscally stingy (not just because of that, anyway). He also understood the deleterious effect big government has on private acts of conscience:

Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

Amen, brother. Cleveland, believe it or not, was a Democrat. Not of the variety you'd recognize today. At some point that party came to embrace the idea of generating expectations of paternal care on the part of the Government. Why? Because it wins elections, by threatening the increasing ranks of dependents with the removal of that paternalistic care, by those mean SOBs across the aisle. And if the bonds of our common national brotherhood are weakened in the mean time, all the better for making sure captive demographic classes never consider voting for the demonized party of the other.

Regarding Cleveland's prescient concern for our national character, one of the most tragic results of the flooding in New Orleans is that the suffering caused didn't generate more introspection and thus more wisdom. When the false promise of an omnipotent government is trotted out as the solution, people stop questioning what they could have done to avoid this suffering, or what they could have personally done to ameliorate its effects. The victims can blame the government for causing their suffering. And the witnesses to the suffering can assume the government will make it all better (at least $200 billion better) without them personally have to take responsibility for anything. That, fellow citizens, is the perfect storm. One from which there is no high ground to run to.

Stuck on You

As any resident of the Twin Cities knows, bumper stickers are the preferred way for Democrats to deal with political loss. Driving the highways and byways of these towns you see them everywhere, symbolic, tragic, self adhesive tributes to their fallen heroes: Kerry/Edwards, Gore, and, of course, the many faces of Wellstone!

If Elisabeth Kübler-Ross had used the Twin Cities as a case study for her research, her stages of grief would no doubt have been:

Bumper Stickers

This summer, I saw a literal loser mobile with stickers for Kerry (loss in 2004), Gore (loss in 2000) and, believe it or not, a Mondale! (losses in 2004, 1984, 1980). Mondale's name with a trailing exclamation point may be the most inappropriate use of punctuation in political history. Unless it was there to express alarm rather than excitement. All things considered, it would have been more correct to go with something like: Mondale;

Dave in Minneapolis has also noticed the bumper sticker phenomenon and writes in with a suggestion:

I'm wondering if either of you has access to a warehouse full of old Bob Dole '96 bumper stickers. I see a constant stream of "John Kerry" or "Kerry/Edwards" bumper stickers as I drive around town (usually they're on the back of that slow-moving vehicle in the left lane). Since the people sporting these stickers obviously haven't cottoned on to the fact that the election is over, and that their guy lost, perhaps the rest of us could put up "Dole" bumper stickers so they don't have to feel so bad about looking so silly.

Of course, their stickers could be a sign of a problem deeper than simple "denial": it could be that keeping these bumper stickers around gives them a certain feeling of smug satisfaction - a feeling that, because they voted for Kerry, somehow they're better than the rest of us. Once again, I view the "Dole" bumper sticker as the perfect antidote: "Oh yeah, you think YOU'RE cool 'cuz you voted for Kerry? Well I voted for Dole! Take THAT, Mr. Smug!"

If not that, do you at least have some old "Hinderacker for soil and water conservation district" bumper stickers? This should send the same message. I await your thoughts and guidance, and possibly the blueprints to Hugh Hewitt's garage (which I'm sure is chock full of old inventory for BOTH campaigns).

A good idea, unfortunately, we don't have access to Dole bumper stickers ourselves. But someone out there on the Internet does. In fact, you have your choice between Dole's ill fated campaign in 1996, in 1988 or in 1980. Or perhaps you'd prefer his vice presidential plunge in 1976? Or maybe you really want to send a message about Quixotic irrelevancy, try this fleeting glimpse of another Dole effort.

Sadly, none of these are probably enough to shake the Democrats out of their electoral fantasy funks. At this point they're in too deep. Drastic times call for drastic actions and perhaps only one remedy will work. Scaring them straight.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

They Will Always Be With Us

The distinguished former Governor of Minnesota takes time out from his busy schedule to correct the Star Tribune:

Once again, Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is at it ("Storm doesn't still stadium shills," Sept. 11). I am writing to set the record straight.

First of all, I have supported a special session to build a stadium for the University of Minnesota. I specifically noted that it should not be part of a professional package. Yet Coleman pushes aside the truth in order to advance a misconception.

Second, my commentary in the Star Tribune was published long before Hurricane Katrina, so I fail to understand the connection. It is my belief the University of Minnesota will be building a football stadium, and the question of when is important because the longer the wait, the higher the costs.

Third, if Coleman is suggesting that there be a cessation of public expenditures in Minnesota as a result of Katrina, then he should develop that argument rather than casting insults.

The public benefits from a healthy, thoughtful debate, but we lose when mistruths are substituted for truth.

Arne H. Carlson, Plymouth
former governor

Ouch, babe. Three corrections for a single column. Makes you wonder how bad it would be if Coleman didn't "know stuff". But where were his celebrated editors and fact checkers on this one? MIA, it appears. The weary tone of Carlson's note reveals he's familiar with the Star Tribune's typical response to critical review of their employees' work: apathy and dismissal.

I suppose Arne could contact Reader's Representative Kate Parry (cue laugh track). Maybe she could grapple with this one, as soon as she frees up her hands from patting her colleagues on the back - again! Excerpts from a recent column, representing the readers:

Today, it's worth analyzing the NWA strike to reveal just how editors and reporters have pulled off coverage so complete and balanced it seems to have credibility with both sides.

The coverage is a study in meticulous planning, hard work, long hours, second-guessing, checking facts and digging through data. It's not sexy work, but the result is great journalism, fair and accurate.

With reader's representation like this, who needs crushing migraine headaches?

It kind of makes one pine for the days of old Lou Gelfand, the former Reader's Rep. Sure, he was as much of an establishment creature as Parry and rarely addressed the substantive issues of bias and error that plague the Star Tribune. He prefered to hunt down vioations regarding misplaced picture captions and dangling participles. But at least he made a point of trying to be critical about something, as weak and quaint as that criticism was.

But despair not Twin Citizens, the weak and quaint era of Lou Gelfand is not over. Recall, the Star Tribune "reassigned" his tired keister last year - and he promptly sued them for age discrimination. According to reports, that case has been settled out of court, terms not disclosed. But ladies and gentlemen, welcome the new Business Ethics columnist at the Star Tribune, octogenerian Lou Gelfand!

The excitement surrounding this announcement is best summarized by editor Anders Gyllenhaal:

"We're very glad to have Lou coming back to the paper," Gyllenhaal said.

Yep, nothing makes a manager happier than having a disgruntled ex-employee sue his way back on to the staff. Wouldn't it be great if Gelfand devoted his first ten columns to the ethics of age discrimination in the workplace, with examples straight from the halls of the Star Tribune. What are they going to do about it - fire him? Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

We can laugh now, but if this Gelfand thing proves anything, it's that it's damn well impossible to get rid of newspaper columnists. My entire local newspaper reading life has been populated with more or less the same coterie of hacks serving up the same opinions, three times a week, decade after decade. There are no term limits for these people and as far as I can tell, they are eternal. Yes, I can see why Arne Carlson is so tired of dealing with them. And it's miles to go before he sleeps.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Round Three: The Sinister Piffle

More on the Hitchens-Galloway throwdown from Kimberly Strassel in yesterday's WSJ:

If I had to choose two words to sum up the overwhelming impression left by this week's raucous "debate" over the Iraq war between polemicist Christopher Hitchens and British MP George Galloway, I'd have to choose the ones that came straight from Mr. Hitchens's mouth: "sinister piffle." Mr. Hitchens was of course referring to everything Mr. Galloway had said up to that point, a verbal burble that unfortunately defined too much of the evening.

She was not impressed by the debate itself:

What a letdown. Mr. Hitchens, it should be said, gave it his best shot. Famous for his erudition, the writer came armed with facts, figures and inescapable logic. He kept to the formal debate style -- "we on this side of the House hold?" -- and gently waved down those of his supporters who would heckle Mr. Galloway. He picked apart his opponent's positions and did it with wit and humor. If this had been a true "debate," any Plato, Disraeli or Webster would have handed Mr. Hitchens the win on a plate.

Judge for yourself tonight on C-SPAN at 8pm (central).
They Said These Bars Are Goin' Boys And They Ain't Comin' Back

Another Minneapolis bar with a long history is in danger of extinction thanks to the smoking ban imposed by anti-smoking zealots and their nanny state allies. Clearing The Air reports on a fundraiser to help Porter's stay in business:


As many of you know since the smoking ban went into effect business at Porter's Bar and Grill has been significantly reduced! As a matter of fact business has gone down approximately 45%. With that being makes it tough to keep the business going. I am organizing a fund raiser for Porters and Kathy and John to help them keep their heads above water and keep the "Porter's Family" together. Many of you receiving this message have been instrumental in the success of Porter's and we certainly want to continue the tradition. The fund raiser will be Friday, September 23rd. Depending on what we get donated, at this time the plan is to sell $10.00 per person tickets. For that $10 you get 1- Burger or Hot Dog/ Chips (other food if donated) , 2 - glasses of keg beer and the chance to win tickets to the Vikings vs. Detroit game on November 6th. (need not be present to win tickets).

Porter's Bar & Grill
2647 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Tel: (612) 872-0808

Just keep telling yourselves that the smoking ban is good for the "community", while individual businesses (and people's livelihoods) continue to disappear.
Wal-Mart Tries To Get Back On Target

Today's WSJ (its first ever Weekend Edition) reports news that Wal-Mart Begins A Big Makeover:

Wal-Mart Inc. has begun a fundamental rethinking of the formula that made it the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart grew enormous by cramming its shelves with merchandise at the lowest prices possible. Now, responding to big shifts it sees in the American economy, it is changing the way it does business to reach out to more upscale shoppers.

This month, Wal-Mart unveiled an eight-page advertising spread in Vogue that uncharacteristically emphasized fashion, such as a leopard-print tank top with pink lace, instead of price. On Monday night, the huge public screen in Times Square will display video from Wal-Mart's first New York fashion show. The Bentonville, Ark., company even has a trend-spotting outpost now in the U.S. fashion capital.

Wal-Mart has created a store prototype with wider aisles, lower shelves and more elegant displays of pricey products. The retailer once prided itself on selling the first DVD player under $100. Now it also offers 42-inch flat-panel plasma TVs for $1,648 to $1,998.

It sounds like they're trying to become more like that other retailer. You know the one with the red circles:

But Wal-Mart needs to shake things up. Its sales at stores open at least a year, a key measure of retailing performance, have been lagging. Over the past year, such sales at more fashionable Target Corp. have been rising twice as fast as those at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's share price, which hit a 52-week low yesterday, is down 17% in the past year, while Target's has risen 18%.

Wal-Mart more like Target? Somewhere in the wine country of California, JB's mighty heart is breaking (for the second time this week). Oh well, there's always K-Mart.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Round 2

Regarding the Hitchens-Galloway debate, blogger Tigerhawk attended and provides a comprehensive, first-hand account of all the action, including this scoring of the decision:

In the end, an honest scoring of the debate would have found Hitchens as the clear winner, since most of Galloway's attacks did not respond to Hitchens' substantive arguments. That does not mean, however, that either will change many minds.

Watch it when it comes on. It was a spectacle the likes of which we rarely see in this country.

Earlier I remarked on Hitchens' uncharacteristic absence of response to George Galloway's pre-debate insults. Turns out I wasn't looking in the right place. His latest column at Slate, includes this anatomical dissection:

Galloway's preferred style is that of vulgar ad hominem insult, usually uttered while a rather gaunt crew of minders stands around him. I have a thick skin and a broad back and no bodyguards. He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a "popinjay" (true enough, since its original Webster's definition means a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest). In a recent interview he made opprobrious remarks about the state of my midriff, which I will confess has--as P.G. Wodehouse himself once phrased it--"slipped down to the mezzanine floor." In reply I do not wish to stoop. Those of us who revere the vagina are committed to defend it against the very idea that it is a mouth or has teeth. Study the photographs of Galloway from Syrian state television, however, and you will see how unwise and incautious it is for such a hideous person to resort to personal remarks. Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs.

The Elder Adds: Jeff from Peace Like A River (another fine MOB blog) has more on the debate, including a round-up of reactions.
A Spirit With a Vision is a Dream With a Mission

This Sunday I'm off to the North woods of Minnesota for our company's two day off-site strategic planning conference. There's guaranteed to be plenty of visioning, missioning, wordsmithing, breaking out, and, just for "fun", even a little team building. And since we are talking about strategic planning, we'll be operating at the ten-thousand foot level. Or is it the twenty-thousand foot level? I'll have to remember to bring my altimeter along for reference.

It should be a gold mine of corporate jargon and clichés. I can't wait to discover the latest batch of nouns that have been verbizied (see how easy it is) to expand the business speak dialect. At the end of the day, I just hope I have the bandwidth and face time to touch base with my associates to leverage the learnings, key takeaways, and action items that emerge from the conference. Going forward, it may be necessary to dialogue and drill down to discover what incentivizes them to close the loop to get their buy in and minimize pushback.

Debate Club

It sounds like I missed a great debate Wednesday, between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, regarding the Iraq war. Not that I generally consider two old leftists shouting at each other to be high entertainment (which is why I stopped attending St. Paul mayoral debates). But in the past few years Hitchens has become one of the most articulate defenders of Western values and of the American led efforts against the Islamic-fascist movement. And his opponent, former British MP George Galloway, is so corrupt and outlandish in his mouthing of anti-war banalities (while remaining a hero to the Left), this sounds like a match up that would reinforce all of my pre-existing notions of why I am right and why they are wrong. As Vince McMahon would surely attest, that, my friends is entertainment.

Check out some of the trash talk before the match. I can envision Gene Okerlund with a microphone vainly trying to restore order here.

When Mr Hitchens dared to question Mr Galloway on his record of support for unsavoury Arab regimes, the MP called him "a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay", and turned away.

Zing - I think. I know what drink-soaked and Trotskyite mean, but popinjay? For that definition, let's go to the Internet:

Popinjay: A vain or conceited person, one given to pretentious displays.

This deeply insulting word is now rather dated or literary. A good example can be found in Joseph Conrad's short story The End of the Tether of 1902: "When he looked around in the club he saw only a lot of conceited popinjays too selfish to think of making a good woman happy."

Dictionaries say a popinjay was also at one time the usual name for a parrot, and in that lies the origin of the derogatory term. What could be more gaudily and squawkingly in your face than a parrot? What more perfect term for an empty chatterer, fop or coxcomb? Who's a pretty boy, then?

I get the sense that would actually be an insult to an Englishman (that is to say a fop or coxcomb).

More pre-debate smack down from Galloway:

if Mr Hitchens chose to get "down and dirty" he would find "my street-fighting style more than a match for his effete public school performance." He added: "If he turns up drunk he'll be a pushover. If he turns up sober he?ll be shaking like a leaf."

Attacking his masculinity and calling him a drunk. Now these are some insults we can all get behind. Surprisingly, I can find no response to these brickbats from the pugnacious Hitchens. Maybe he was taking the high road. But when the debate began Wednesday night, he did do some substantive mudslinging:

I believe it is a disgrace that a member of the British House of Commons should go before the United States Senate Subcommittee, and not testify, but decline to testify, and to insult all those who try to ask him questions with the most vile and cheap gutter snipe abuse, I think that's a disgrace.

Not bad. Calling someone a "gutter snipe" sounds impressive. But upon further review, the term is less than scalding:

a child from a poor area of a town who is dirty and dressed badly

Now that the greater New Orleans area is full of gutter snipes, this actually may backfire on Hitchens. Or perhaps he was using the other definition of gutter snipe:

One or more stamps to which is attached the full gutter from between panes, plus any amount of an adjoining stamp or stamps. This term is typically used in reference to US stamps. Gutter snipes are freaks caused by miss registration of the cutting device or paper fold over.

Take that Galloway - as any philatelist will immediately understand, you're a freak!

As is his style, Galloway takes a more direct approach to analysis by insult:

What you are ... what you have witnessed since is something unique in natural history, the first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug. And I mention slug purposely, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trail of slime.

When it comes to verbal slurs, if you pull a knife on Galloway, he pulls a gun. Another of Hitchens verbal thursts during the debate also went awry:

In an apparent Freudian slip, Mr Hitchens confused the Dundee-born politician at one point with Libyan leader "Mr Gaddafi".

Freudian slip or a Tanqueray and tonic slip? I suppose the difference is negligible.

From these reports it doesn't sound like our man Christopher acquitted himself very well. But maybe these are distortions from a gaggle of reporters eager to have their champion Galloway win the day. Fellow cable TV subscribers I have good news, we can decide for ourselves. CSPAN will rebroadcast the debate this Saturday night at 8 PM Central, in what should be must see TV.

As long as we're on the topic of compelling Saturday media options, a reminder to listen to the Northern Alliance Radio Network this week. In addition to the normal blend of brilliant political analysis and inspired lunacy, we'll be interviewing cartoonist extraordinaire, Chris Muir of Day by Day fame. The show is noon to three Saturday afternoon on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming available here. Don't you dare miss it!

Reaching Through The Darkness

After a long absence (State Fair broadcasts, travel commitments, etc.), Saint Paul and I will back in the sprawling AM1280 The Patriot studios for this week's edition of The Northern Alliance Radio Network. Let's hope they've got that annoying ear wax buildup cleaned off the headphones. He might be a great financial planner, but Josh Arnold could use a little more organization on the personal hygiene front.

We are delighted to welcome cartoonist, Chris Muir to the show in the second hour (1pm central). Chris is the creator of Day By Day, which is without a doubt the most topical, timely, and witty comic strip in the land (yes Atomizer, it's even better than Cathy).

Tune in on The Patriot this Saturday from 12pm-3pm if you live in the Twin Cities or listen to the live internet stream here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Sophisticated Flatworm

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. identified a new species in the Senate:

Take a particularly sophisticated organism, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a planarian among paramecia. Last week he proposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies. These are the same oil companies that, in response to higher oil prices, we are relying upon to increase investment in the search for oil and production of gasoline. His bill would be perverse and self-defeating. But Mr. Dorgan was quick to add he didn't plan on it actually becoming law: "Most likely Congress will do little or nothing but talk a great deal and hold hearings."

A sophisticated flatworm, indeed, is one capable of such multileveled dialogue. Advertisers are increasingly able to target consumers individually. Mr. Dorgan will one day be able to use the Internet to tailor separate and totally contradictory messages for every voter in his state, depending on whether they are clueless enough to believe that confiscating oil company profits would improve the gasoline situation.

I caught one of the hearings that Dorgan refers to last week on C-SPAN. Specifically, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Full Committee Hearing on Global Oil Demand/ Gasoline Prices, which took place last Tuesday. Listening to the Senators question the three expert witnesses was at time funny and at times frightening.

Say what you will about the political philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand (amoral, not fully developed, etc.), but giver her credit for nailing down the type of person who opposes capitalism in the West. Not the outright Communalists or Socialists. Rather those that give lip service to the idea of a free market economy, but throw shackles around those who dare to profit from it.

The performances by some of the Democrats during this committee hearing could have been straight out of a Rand novel. The worst offenders were Dorgan, Dianne Feinstein, and the pride of Oregon, Ron Wyden. Feinstein spent most of her time reading off a list of the profits reported by oil companies this year, while Dorgan and Wyden focused obsessively on oil futures trading and "price gouging." Wyden was appalled that anyone could possibly have made money in the oil markets after Hurricane Katrina, despite the best efforts of the one of the witness to explain the way markets work to him.

For those who like to spout off that there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats, I'd urge you to catch a few minutes of the action the next time this committee gets together. While the Republicans who spoke focused on efforts to increase the supply of oil, gasoline, and natural gas, the Democrats harped on "price gouging" and "excessive profits." If the Dems would have discussed fuel efficiency standards or other methods to reduce consumption, they would have demonstrated that at least they understood the underlying economics of the matter. Instead it was nothing but empty grandstanding, veiled threats of price controls, and attacks on anyone who dares to profit in the oil/gas markets.

One of the Republicans, I believe it was Lamar Alexander, mentioned the recent temporary relaxing of certain environmental standards to help increase the supply of oil/gas and then asked if some of them should be permanently relaxed. Some of them? How about all of them? Republicans have been afraid of appearing anti-environment in recent years, but I think that rising energy prices and stories of EPA overregulation of the oil/gas industries have convinced many Americans that the zeal to protect the environment has gone too far. I heard these feelings expressed frequently on my recent trip to North Dakota (which is admittedly a very red state despite the Dorgans and Conrads) and I think that it's an issue that Republicans can and should exploit in '06 and beyond.

The more I watch the Senate in action, the less respect I have for the "world's greatest deliberative body." One of the reasons is the ridiculous deference that is shown to the Senators by the witnesses. The unlucky trio called to testify at these hearings were Guy Caruso from the U.S Department of Energy, James A. Overdahl, Chief Economist U. S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission", and Rebecca Watson from the U.S. Department of the Interior. I did not envy them having to sit there and put up with the inane questions and pompous blathering from the Senators.

At times, you could tell that they (especially the economist) were just itching to zing the Senators after particularly gallingly stupid queries. But, apparently for the sake of decorum, they held back. A select few, who are called before the Senate on a regular basis, have figured out how to reveal the empty suits in the body without appearing impolite. Rumsfeld is a master at this, although even he has a hard time resisting the urge to aggressively respond when being questioned by the likes of Mark Dayton.

I'm not a big fan of George Galloway, but I gotta think that they Senate would be a better place if more witnesses had the gumption to return fire in the manner he did when he appeared before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee earlier this year. Maybe if the Senators had to fear being exposed for what they really are, they would spend more time preparing relevant, well-formed questions and less time babbling and trying to play to the cameras. It certainly would make the Senate hearings a lot more watchable.