Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Best Halloween Joke in History

A seasonal favorite, from the archives of Fraters Libertas ...

How do hillbillies celebrate Halloween?

They pump kin.

The enduring charm of that joke stems from its universal quality. The denigration of "hillbillies" represents the joke in its classic form. But since the apex of anti-hillbilly consciousness in the 1950's (marked by the satirically withering Beverly Hillbillies television program and the sardonic Ma and Pa Kettle franchise) the "hillbilly" has subsided in our nation's pantheon of disdainful ridicule.

But in the grand tradition of American pluralism, you can use that joke to attack the niche lifestyle group, ethnicity, national origin, or performance troupe of your chosing. It works for anyone for whom you wish to allege has improper levels of intimacy with their direct relations. And doesn't that describe everyone's enemies? For example:

How do members of the Ike Reilly Assassination celebrate Halloween?

They pump kin.

Ah yes, it works beautifully every time and it never fails to bring smiles to bigots, xenophobes, and closed minded chauvinists of all ages. And today, Halloween, is the day to use it for its maximum effect.

Have fun kids and Happy Halloween from Fraters Libertas.

Trick or Treat

Folks looking for some light, seasonal entertainment might have been lured into this event last Sunday:

Ghost songs and Stories with Garrison Keillor -

Spooky tales, a signature monologue and spirited sing-alongs will make this family-friendly Halloween concert a treat for all.

A loose definition of "all" to be sure -- everyone besides the 48% of the state population not inclined to vote for Democrats. Not advertised was this horror of a different nature on the schedule:

... retiring U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., took the stage at Orchestra Hall on Sunday ... a poem was composed, which Sabo recited with vigor, given that its continuing refrain was, "Those Republicans will get you if you don't watch out."

Partisans in the full house may have winced at the depiction of Republicans' dumping sewage in waterways and putting foxes in charge of henhouses.

It's hard out there for a Republican looking for Halloween entertainment. If they're not spitting in your face at Orchestra Hall, they're calling for the assassination of the President at Valley Fair.

Thankfully, none of these people were ministers speaking in a church, because then it would be illegal instead of government-approved family fun.

Patriot Reality

A couple of observations regarding last night's Patriots jackbooted crushing of Viking dissent at the Metrodome:

1. The Tony Kornheiser experiment on Monday Night Football is a complete and utter failure. He adds nothing to the broadcast. In fact, his lame little attempts to be witty are such an annoyance that one has a strong temptation to hit mute and watch the action sans sound. I'd rather listen to the inane blather and cliched-filled commentary from one of the legion of boring, dough-headed ex-players than hear Kornheiser open his yap again on MNF.

2. Tom Brady could be the best NFL quarterback of all-time. Yes, it's a big COULD, but it's not completely unthinkable. One of the most impressive aspects of his achievements is that he is essentially throwing to a revolving cast of no-name characters. Most of the top-notch NFL quarterbacks of the last forty years had one or even two excellent receivers to chuck to. Terry Bradshaw had Swan and Stallworth. Staubach had Drew Pearson. Marino had Duper and Clayton. Elway had Sharpe. And while Joe Montana certainly had Hall of Fame talent, would he be considered among the best ever if Jerry Rice wasn't around hauling in his passes?

Today, Peyton Manning has Marvin Harrison and Brad Johnson has Troy Williamson (heh, heh). Meanwhile, Deon Branch leaves the Patriots for Seattle and Brady merely nods and throws the ball to whoever steps in his place. Four TDs last night to four different receivers. He could very well be the best ever.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Crime and Punishment

The recent demise of Rambix and the Red Star is a loss to information consumers all across the Twin Cities. This blog was somewhat unique in the blogosphere for actually fulfilling a specific need in the market place - an aggregation of crime reporting without the politically correct filters imposed by the monopoly newspaper in town.

Rambix specialized in reporting the facts of the rising crime wave in Minneapolis and its destructive reverberations in the surrounding communities. And for that he earned the respect and daily readership of a wide range of readers in town. Many of these who happened to be living in the center of those destructive reverberations and who came to endorse his work.

Of course, with blogging, that's about all you ever earn. I know Rambix spent a lot of time compiling information and writing, and that investment without tangible reward is hard to justify over the long haul, so his (her?) abandoning the post is understandable.

There is one other thing blogging earns you besides the admiration of the like-minded. That is, the vengeful spite of the unlike minded (especially if the unlike minded are from the Left). There was no shortage of grave dancing after Rambix announced he was done. For example, this from one of the kids at the liberal web site, MN Speak:

This was a blog serving expressedly racist and homophobic points, wrapped in a paranoid fantasy about social ist control of the cities. I suppose racists and paranoiacs will miss it, but those of ion the reality based community will be glad to continue to debate the subject without having it debased by lunatic screeds.

Name-calling, wild-eyed accusations, and celebration of the demise of someone presenting an alternate interpretation of the official crime story seems like behavior contrary to "continuing the debate." But I guess the self-professed "reality community" is free to define that anyway they like in their world.

Another criticism from the same source:

Rambix never seemed too concerned with corporate crime, or environmental crime, or fraud, or graft, or criminally unsafe construction work,or illegal wars, but if a gun went off on the North Side, you'd better be sure there was one blogger ready to report on it!

No one ever accused the Left of understanding such things as specialization and filling a market need, which is probably why this writer in unlikely to experience the success of a Rambix. You want news about environmental crime and illegal wars - start your own blog. And join the chorus of thousands of others on the Left screaming about (and being ignored or laughed at for) just that.

Good news though, from the ashes of Rambix another blog has risen: Minneapolis Crime Watch. It's being run by a person with a first person perspective on the matter, North Minneapolis's own Margaret Martin. When she's not busy dealing with her neighbors' houses being burgled and set on fire, or co-hosting Tax Payer's League Live! on AM1280, she promises to keep us up to date on all the crime news deemed not fit to print elsewhere.

I believe she is also looking for contributors. Interested parties looking to help "continue the debate" should drop on by and leave her a comment.

At The Beep, Leave A Message

If you think Minnesota politics is getting a little too down and dirty this year, you'll be relieved (or horrified) to know that it's much worse in other parts of the country. Here's a little local tropical flava from the political scandal du jour here in Miami. State's top lawmakers help Arza plot course:

In a rare and high-stakes meeting, one of Florida's most powerful legislators and a top lieutenant flew to meet Rep. Ralph Arza at his Miami Lakes home Saturday and discussed whether he should resign for using a racial slur in mean-spirited phone calls placed to a colleague.

Neither House Speaker Allan Bense nor Rep. Dudley Goodlette could be reached to say whether they joined the bipartisan chorus calling for Arza's resignation, though numerous sources say Republican leaders want him gone to avoid shaming the chamber and embarrassing the GOP.

Bense spokesman Towson Fraser said the Panama City Republican and Goodlette took the extraordinary step of meeting with Arza personally because "this is heavy stuff. You don't talk about things like this over the phone."

If Arza doesn't step down by Nov. 21 -- the first day the post-election Legislature meets and installs his friend Marco Rubio as Florida's first Cuban-American speaker -- he'll imbue the otherwise historic, flower-filled ceremony with racial animus if Democrats and black lawmakers make good on their promise to ask for a vote to remove the Republican. Democrats plan a walkout from the House chamber if Arza's not expelled.

On Monday, Goodlette, the House Rules Committee chairman from Naples, is to submit a report to Bense concerning Arza's messages last weekend, in which Arza called Miami Beach Republican Rep. Gus Barreiro a "bitch" and "my nigger." The day before, Barreiro had filed a complaint with Goodlette's committee alleging Arza had shamed the House by using repeated racial slurs to describe Miami-Dade's black schools chief, Rudy Crew.

A relative of Arza's, Paulino Barbon Jr., also left threatening and explicit messages on Barreiro's phone the same night as Arza, sources have told The Miami Herald. The lawmaker turned the matter over to police for an investigation.

Straight Outta Stuttgart

A couple of weeks ago when I was in the in The Netherlands for business, I developed a bit of a morning routine. As I prepared to get ready for work, I would flip on the television for a quick update on world news. After a couple of minutes of gathering that nothing much new was under the sun--other that our on-going journey to Hades in a hand-basket--I would surf over to a video channel for one of my guilty little pleasures: European hip hop.

Yes, it's as bad (and hence good) as it sounds. They've imported all the standard American rap video staples: baseball caps, baggy pants, gold chains, money, guns, hot cars, and skanky 'hos. They're rolling with the defiant 'tude, the hand gestures, the slouching posture, but most of them are pasty white boys laying down their rhymes in German. From the mean streets of South Central Cologne to Euro-rap video stardom.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM today for another episode of the fresh, young, exciting, and highly relevant Northern Alliance Radio Network.

Today's show includes an appearance by one of the great conservatives in state history, Sen. Rod Grams. He's now running for US Congress up in the 8th District of MN (which dips its toe into the metro area around Isanti and Chisago counties).

Also scheduled to appear, a great in the making, state Representative Jeff Johnson, now running for Minnesota Attorney General.

Stragic appearances by John Hinderaker, the Nihilist in Golfpants, and much, much more.

It all begins at 11 AM central. Listen locally at AM1280 the Patriot, and streaming world-wide here. Calls encouraged at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pags On Parade

Camille Paglia is back. And she opines on liberal talk radio:

Don't even mention Al Franken -- I can't listen to him for 30 seconds without falling asleep. A voice like molasses and never a fresh idea.


I had great hopes for Randi Rhodes for a while, but she drove me away with her monotonous kvetching. Radio is an entertainment medium and requires variety of tone. Rhodes constantly sneers -- it's the shallow Maureen Dowd syndrome, turning political players into babies. Well, come on, we're dealing with issues of life and death on a global scale. You can't constantly reduce politicians to cartoons.

It'd Be Worth Him Doing It If I Could Catch Him Doing It

Does anyone else feel like climbing through the TV and clocking the Mac Guy on those Apple commercials?

What a perfect stereotype of a jaded, seen-it-all, trendy socialist hipster. Is that the market Apple is shooting for?

Look at this precious little puke:

Bring The Heat

After taking a fifteen-month-old through airport security yesterday, I'll never complain about going through it solo again. Okay, I will, but at least I'll have a better appreciation of how much more difficult it could be. Although we were lucky to deal with a TSA agent who had the discretionary authority to allow our son to proceed through the checkpoint without removing his shoes. You never can be too careful you know.

His first flight went off quite well. Just over three hour to Miami and no meltdowns, minor or major. We can only hope to be so lucky on the way back.

I didn't take my first airline flight until I was seven years old. Minneapolis to San Antonio through Kansas City on a multi-colored Braniff aircraft. I can still remember the crappy scrambled eggs on the flight and trying to find some children's aspirin at the Kansas City airport because JB had a headache (yes, he was a bit like this kid). Good times, good times.

Hate to cut this short, but I have a pool waiting outside with my name on. And a beer or eight. It's eighty-five and sunny here in Miami. I don't think I'll be getting homesick anytime soon.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

That's Entertainment

For the Halloween season, local amusement park Valley Fair has turned into Valley Scare! In addition to rides and strolling ghouls and goblins, this entertainment is offered:

Live Killer Shows and Entertainment

In addition to haunted rides and wicked attractions, ValleySCARE?s Halloween Haunt also offers killer, side-splitting shows day and night.

Killer entertainment, you say? Who knew we were supposed to take them seriously. From City Pages music critic Jim Walsh:

I'm here to say that Ike Reilly stood on a stage at an amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota last night, in front of 200 or so hardy souls in f*cking hats and gloves and down coats, fending off winter and celebrating Halloween and Friday the 13th, and sang "Who says you can't take a shot at a president?" and "We're drinking to your assassination" three weeks before Election Day. And those might not have even been the best moments

Given recent stories about Secret Service interest in similar threats against the President, ol' Ike seems to be taking some risks here. Oh well, "art" is supposed to be dangerous, isn't it? But maybe he's more of a student of federal law than I would expect. My reading of US Criminal Code Chapter 41 section 18 tells me he skates on this one:

a) Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Just don't drop those lyrics in the mail any time soon, Lee Harvey.

Criminal or not, family-friendly Valley Fair seems like a rather strange outlet to stage a celebration about assassinating the President. But I guess people were warned:

Daytime entertainment is suitable for guests all of ages. Nighttime entertainment is not recommended for young children.

Middle-aged children and above, come on down and sing along!

Anyone who has had the experience of attending an Ike Reilly concert (as I endured about 5 years ago at the Turf Club) knows this Valley Scare disclaimer was probably more apt:

From the moment guests enter the gates ... over 200 ghosts, goblins, mutants and other strange creatures will be lurking in the fog to scare YOU!

A world of horrifying mazes and shocking scare zones will bring your worst fears and phobias to life ... a place where screams of sheer panic will pierce throughout the Minnesota River Valley.

Cool Blue Reason

Listening to Hugh Hewitt interview debate Andrew Sullivan on his radio show last night was like listening to a man argue with his wife. I'll leave it up you to determine who was wearing the pants in the conversation. (Sorry ladies, but if the slipper fits...)

It also brought to mind these remarks on Sullivan by Timothy Fuller in a review of Sullivan's book that appeared in the October edition of First Things:

His is a Christianity of informality and sentiment. His analysis of Christianity tends to be ahistorical, in that he views everything from the issues of the present moment.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Separation Anxiety

Local blogging gadfly and self-professed "centrist" Flash on why you need to vote for Democrat Patty Wetterling:

... religion needs to take a back seat to politics, or the problems we are experiencing will magnify. Besides, isn't there something in the Constitution about separation of church and state, or does the party in power think the Constitution should be cherry picked for political purposes. I'm really beginning to think they believe that.

I think he's got 'em there. Republicans DO believe in cherry-picking the imaginary Constitutional provisions they wish to ignore (those fascists!)

You do have to respect Flash for the honesty with which he expresses ignorance (although it doesn't stop him from jumping to ill-informed conclusions and political endorsements). To reiterate:

isn't there something in the Constitution about separation of church and state

If only there were some sort of easy-to-access information resource where he could actually read the Constitution and know for sure.

Admittedly, the belief in the "separation of church and state" as a foundation of our government is virulent among the populace (especially among those of us with public school backgrounds). But that phrase, indeed that very concept, is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

Its ascendance in the public imagination starts with a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to some Baptists in 1802 and takes off with a 1948 Supreme Court decision concerning the legality of public reimbursement of transportation costs to parents driving their kids to public and parochial schools (side note - how did they ever manage that without a $77 million levy?) and it's been relentlessly shepherded down our throats ever since by the likes of the ACLU and other anti-religious zealots.

This month's edition of Imprimis magazine has an excellent article on the historical foundations and consequences of the belief by Daniel Dreisbach. His conclusion:

The judiciary's reliance on an extra-constitutional metaphor as a substitute for the text of the First Amendment almost inevitably distorts constitutional principles governing church-state relationships. Although the "wall of separation" may felicitously express some aspects of First Amendment law, it seriously misrepresents or obscures others, and has become a source of much mischief in modern church-state jurisprudence.

Speaking of mischief, this from the Star Tribune endorsement of Patty Wetterling:

[Michele Bachmann's] career in the Minnesota Senate was built on the narrowest of agendas, chiefly injecting her religious values into the public sphere. Her recent testimony to a Brooklyn Park congregation that God called her to run for Congress -- and win -- is an embarrassment.

This condemnation of "injecting religious values into the public sphere" would have been considered laughable to most Americans, until quite recently. In fact, that "injection" was considered by most to be a requirement for participation in the public sphere.

How do you get citizens and the government to behave in responsible manner? Prior to the American experiment, you simply relied on the force applied by dictators and you hoped they were in a good mood. But democracies would have to rely on something else, the morality of individuals. And the source of that, fellow citizens? Hold on to your dribble glasses Star Tribune editorial board - religion! Dreisbach writes:

There was a consensus among the founders that religion was indispensable to a system of republican self-government. The challenge the founders confronted was how to nurture personal responsibility and social order in a system of self-government. Tyrants and dictators can use the whip and rod to force people to behave as they desire, but clearly this is incompatible with a self-governing people. In response to this challenge the founders looked to religion (and morality informed by religious faith) to provide the internal moral compass that would prompt citizens to behave in a disciplined manner and thereby promote social order and political stability.

Believing that religion and morality were indispensable to social order and political prosperity, the founders championed religious liberty in order to foster a vibrant religious culture in which a beneficent religious ethos would inform the public ethic and to promote an environment in which religious and moral leaders could speak out boldly, without restraint or inhibition, against corruption and immorality in civic life.

But in this modern age, that earns you nothing more than the sneering derision from the monopoly newspaper in town. We've come a long way, baby.

A question to the gang at the Star Tribune, if not from religion, where should candidates be allowed to get the values they inject into the public sphere? And how about the Star Tribune editorial board and their injection of things into the public sphere every blessed single day. From where do they get their values? My guess - fortune cookies in the Star Tribune cafeteria.

We're Here, We're Queer, We Don't Want Anymore Sharks

The results of our latest poll asking "What is the gravest danger currently threatening The Republic?" are in and they show that your concerns are not being addressed by our leaders.


Iranian nukes--19.2%

Al Qaeda--16.2%

Illegal immigration--15.1%

Bush's Theocon cabal--8.2%

North Korean nukes--7.1%

Trans fats--4.9%

Secondhand smoke--4.3%

Gay Congressmen IM'ing pages--3%

Global Warming--1.3%

Nowhere is the shark threat more urgently felt than right here in the Heartland. Were you aware that at this very moment there are sharks at the Mall of America? Yes, the Mall of America has been infiltrated by shark sleeper cells. This town is infested with sharks. But do you hear any of the candidates for public office even talking about this clear and present danger? Sadly no.

Until a full fledged Shark Patrol is on duty around the clock, none of us will sleep safely at night. While some--like Atomizer--may rely on a rock to keep sharks away, I for one will be happy to pay for a shark-free Minnesota.

Muddying The Waters

We continue our official election endorsements today with the all important Hennepin County Soil & Water Conservation District races. Near as I can tell, there are two seats open in this election cycle.

Soil and water supervisor Seat 2 with candidates Dan Flo, Ernest K Lehmann, and Phil Willkie. Dan Flo is the incumbent and has a perfect name for a position involving water. Normally our inclination (and lazy nature) would be to say go with Flo.

However, further research has revealed that there is a better choice in this race. Ernest K. Lehmann's philosophy on the position is one that we find common ground with:

The Hennepin County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors is currently spending about two times its income and is in serious difficulties. The board needs to reconsider its mission, role, function and legal authority and status, indeed its very existence.

You gotta love a guy who runs for an office with the intention of turning off the lights (permanently) when he leaves. That's how you limit government. We officially endorse the Ben F. Dickerson Award winning Ernest K. Lehmann for Hennepin County Soil & Water supervisor Seat 2.

Soil and water supervisor Seat 4 with candidates John Crampton, Stephen Jenkins, and Ryan C Wilson. I'm pretty sure that Ryan Wilson called our NARN radio show last week to pimp for votes. Anyone that desperate has a hunger that deserves to be sated. We throw our full support behind the Ryan Wilson juggernaut.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Moppers, Boppers, Where'd You Get Them Choppers?

Local blogger Teaparty, from Les Enfants Terrible, scored an interview with Governor Pawlenty. It demonstrates once again the affable, easy-going nature of T-Paw:

In fact, I am pretty sure he would have been content to spend the entire 40 minutes talking about hockey. All in all, a great guy in general.

Somehow I don't think the same thing could be said about Mike Hatch.

He's Our Captain

It's once again time for the editorial staff here at Fraters Libertas to officially endorse candidates for public office. We understand that many readers actually print off our endorsements to bring with them to their polling places to help guide their electoral decisions. We recognize that this is a grave responsibility and do not take it lightly.

The first race that we will address is the hotly contested battle for the coveted seat of Mayor of Eagan, Minnesota. After much debate and careful deliberation, we have decided to support Captain Ed Morrissey in his Quixotic write-in campaign to end the era of Orwellian one-party rule that has oppressed the good people of Eagan for far too long. And since one of us actually lives in Eagan, this endorsement is more than just a moral victory for Captain Ed, it will have an impact at the ballot box. Assuming Atomizer is sober enough to vote on November 7th. Good luck Ed.

They Can Take It, They Just Can't Dish It Out

Hot on the tail of my decision to finally relent and get a cell phone comes news that men who use mobile phones face increased risk of infertility:

Men who use mobile phones could be risking their fertility, warn researchers.
A new study shows a worrying link between poor sperm and the number of hours a day that a man uses his mobile phone.

Those who made calls on a mobile phone for more than four hours a day had the worst sperm counts and the poorest quality sperm, according to results released yesterday at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.

Doctors believe the damage could be caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by handsets or the heat they generate.

The findings suggest millions of men may encounter difficulties in fathering a child due to the widespread use of mobile phones and offers another possible explanation for plummeting fertility levels among British males.

So those hyper-masculine Brits aren't getting it done, eh? Who would have thunk it?

I would have thought that the biggest fertility challenge facing British men would just be getting women to agree to have sex with them in the first place. Perhaps it's once again time for a few Yanks to go over there and help our Anglo cousins rediscover the real meaning of good breeding. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know wot I mean?

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Phil Angelides Experience

Tired of lame campaign ads rehashing the same played bits over and over again? What if creative, funny people made the ads instead of stale political hacks?

Thanks to Mike Nelson and RiffTrax, we can get a sample of what the future might hold.

RiffTrax Riffs the Governor's Race - Part 1

RiffTrax Riffs the Governor's Race - Part 2

Like A Hole In The Head

It is with regret that I must report that I have at last succumbed to societal pressures (to say nothing of my wife's urgings) and now am part of the cell phone nation. For years I had resisted the idea of owning a cell phone. Phone calls are for the most part a necessary annoyance of modern life, but why make it easier for someone to annoy you? Alas, the tide can be fought no longer and I have been swept under by the telecommunications Tsunami. My Luddite cred is now all but shot.

Another jackass with a cell phone. Just what this country needs.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

These Are The Memories That Made Me A Wealthy Soul

After years of experiencing few if any difficulties while traveling, 2006 has not been a banner year for me. It started in January with a day turning into a night of hell in Houston trying to get to Chihuahua, Mexico. Then, in July, I had an unplanned detour to Gander, Newfoundland on my flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis.

When this last Thursday dawned, I was expecting a fairly routine day of travel. Check out of the hotel in Veenendaal, The Netherlands, drive to the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, drop off my rental car, and check in for my 1pm flight back to Minneapolis. The traffic to Schiphol wasn't too bad and by 10am I had returned my car and was ready to check in. So far , so good.

After using the self-service kiosk to print my boarding pass, I went to check my luggage and noticed that the flight was denoted as "delayed" on the status screen. Oh well, I can always kill a little time at the airport, especially one with the amenities of Schiphol, I thought.

When the KLM agent punched up my info at the baggage check, she informed me that my flight was delayed. "I know," I responded, "How long is the delay anyway?"

She paused for an instant before blurting out, "Tomorrow. It looks like your flight is delayed until tomorrow."

Tomorrow? TOO-MAH-ROW? What the hell do you mean TOMORROW!?!?


"Yes, I can book you on the flight tomorrow at 9am and then you can take a shuttle to a hotel..."

Great. Just frickin' great. A whole bleepin' day at the bleepin' airport hotel in Amsterdam.

"...or because you have elite status I could try to book you on another flight today..."

Hal-a-freakin-lujah! There is hope! I just about jumped over the counter.

"Yes, please see if you can get me on another flight today."

After a couple of calls, she informed me that I was booked on a flight from Amsterdam to Washington Dulles and then to Minneapolis. I had to go back and get a new ticket from KLM, but this agent came along with me and made sure that I went to the front of the line (passing up some other poor slobs who had just discovered the news about their flight to Minneapolis). She did a fantastic job in a very difficult situation and epitomized customer service.

When I got my tickets, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I would be flying business class to D.C. Our company only allows you to fly business class if the flight is over eight hours. Minneapolis to Amsterdam is right around that and, unless you can scam an upgrade, you always fly coach. Getting business class on the this flight was a much needed ray of sunshine on a otherwise gloomy day.

Not only did I have a bidness class seat, I didn't have anyone sitting next me. Bonus. Perhaps a little karma was at play. A couple of Scotches, a couple of glasses of red wine, a pretty decent meal (especially by airline standards), some reading, and a much needed nap later we began our descent. After a rough start, the day was turning out to be okay after all.

Then I arrived at Dulles. I realize that the airport is under construction (what airport isn't) and someday it will be a paradise for the weary air traveler, but right now its pretty much a hellhole. The unpleasantness began immediately after leaving the aircraft when we were shuffled onto these oversized people-moving contraptions that seemed more at place in the drab dystopian future of "Soylent Green" than the United States of America in 2006. They looked like East German subway cars placed on the frames of giant dump trucks. I could only imagine the negative impression that first time visitors to the United States were getting. Maybe all that talk of George Bush's police state wasn't an exaggeration after all.

After a tolerable wait to clear immigration and customs, I emerged at the main terminal and encountered the security line. It snaked and stretched through the terminal like the lines of British troops waiting to get picked up from the beaches of Dunkirk, except that the Tommies were much more orderly and less panicky. It was a nightmare. Video monitors flashed ominous Department of Homeland Security warnings about liquids and gels, while harried TSA agents strode up and down the line hectoring the crowd about being ready to go through security. "Take out your laptops!" "Put you liquids and gels in a plastic bag!" "If its more than three ounces, throw it away!" It seemed a trifle absurd since it would be a good forty-five minutes since we would get anywhere near the checkpoints.

The fact that five years have passed since 9/11 and we still can't get our airport security shiite together is a damning indictment of the failure of the DOHS bureaucracy. Encountering an excruciating airport experience in Moscow is somewhat understandable. The Russians have been beaten down by seventy years of communism and now suffer under Putin's kleptocracy. But this is the United States of America. We're the leaders of the free world. You can't tell me that we can't figure out a way to get travelers through airport security without being subjected to the hassles and degradations of the current process. The first thing that I would do if I ran the DOHS would be to ask the good people from Disney to come in an teach my employees the basics of customer service. Because at this point, they don't have a clue.

Like a painful kidney stone, I eventually passed through the security checkpoint. Then, after a three-and-a-half mile walk, I reached the concourse where my flight would depart from. And I have to admit that it was pretty nice (as opposed to the main terminal). I sampled a few brews from the Old Dominion brewery and killed a couple of hours before my flight to Minneapolis, which thankfully turned out to be uneventful.

By the time I got home and laid head to pillow, nearly twenty-four hours had passed since I woke up in The Netherlands. Regular travel teaches you a lot of things--none more than the power of patience--and this trip provided another valuable lesson: avoid Dulles at all costs.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

THE State Of Hockey

Gophers 7, Ohio State 2:

Seven Gophers scored goals in a 7-2 rout of Ohio State before an announced crowd of 4,707 at Value City Arena. All seven are Minnesotans; all seven have been drafted by NHL teams.

"They're special players," Ohio State coach John Markell said. "Minnesota develops great players, and those great players want to play for Minnesota."

UPDATE--James e-mails to add:

4707 attendance at Value City Arena? That place holds about 17,000. Jesus.

Nice to hear that Glen Sonmor has stopped referring to Eric Johnson as "The Big Johnson Kid". Someone must have talked to him.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Abandon All Hope

Last night, on my flight from Dulles to Minneapolis (more on that later) I happened to be seated next to a high ranking GOP campaign operative and he told me that the party's internal polling shows that the outlook for the election is even worse than is being presented in the media. In fact, he said as it stands now Republicans are trailing in all 435 House races, the 33 Senate seats up for grabs, and the 36 statehouses at stake. He said that at this point the most the party can realistically hope for is to hold on to the Coeur d'Alene dogcatcher's seat, although even that is up for grabs. He also urged Republican voters to not only stay home on November 7th, but to slit their wrists in a warm bath to avoid the inevitable agony.

Casting The Net Wide

If you missed last week's Northern Alliance Radio Network Volume I, you can now download the first hour here.

You'll want to be sure to tune in to the NARN tomorrow to hear Saint Paul unveil his new Helen Thomas impersonation when White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins us at 11:30am. We'll also have Mark Kennedy on in the second hour. Listen to all six hours of the NARN from 11am-1pm on AM1280 The Patriot WWTC or live on the 'net.

You Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows

My forecast is for a strong, hot wind to be blowing out of Eden Prairie next Sunday night.

As if the Archdiocese of Mpls/St. Paul doesn't have enough to do in saving the souls of all the sinners in these parts, they've announced their participation in this crucial initiative:

The Office for Social Justice is proud to present Global Warming: A Catholic Perspective, an event we are co-sponsoring with Congregations Caring for Creation. This event kicks off a new level of Archdiocesan involvement to address the consequences of global warming: on the environment, the common good, and especially people in poverty.

I'm sure there won't be any partisan political implications to that presentation. Just in case, maybe George Soros will give the gang from Minnesota Monitor the night off from stalking Michele Bachmann and they'll send a few representatives over to make sure this speech meets with the approval of the Internal Revenue Service.

It gets worse ...

Featured speakers include Will Steger, polar explorer; Paul Douglas, WCCO meteorologist; and Dr. John Hart, Environmental theologian from Boston University.

Paul Douglas leading a Catholic seminar? What's next, Sven Sundgaard on Natural Family Planning? Sunny Haus on the theory of Just War Doctrine? Janie Peterson on the moral consequences of unemployment? (Cheap shot, forgive me Father ... )

Thursday, October 19, 2006

There's No Sources Like Dead Sources

Regarding JB's comments on the lack of verification in newspaper reports, as Bob Woodward can attest, there's no better source for getting through that sticky wicket than quoting the dead. Those folks tell no tales, of course. Which makes it exceedingly difficult for the layers of editors, ombudsmen, and blogging skeptics to fact check with due diligence.

Nick Coleman's adds his contribution to the art today. In his latest assault on religious conservatives, we get this factoid from the great beyond:

Bachmann's supporters sometimes literally have thumped Bibles on the heads of secular citizens inside the Capitol. (Such an indignity was visited in 2004 on Sue Rockne, the well-known women's rights activist, who died last year.)

Pending confrontation of her testimony from the gaping abyss, I guess we'll just have to take his word on that.

But to help judge the veracity of the messenger dear readers, note his characterizations of the departed as a "women's rights activist." Other observers with a more objective perspective might have called her instead "a paid lobbyist for abortion clinics."

Or they might have characterized her as this tribute on the MPR web site did:

Sue was a incredibly tough, loud and fearless feminist. We will continue to carry on in her name.

A deceased, loud feminist, paid by abortion clinics to advance their interests as a source on a Michele Bachmann story? Hold the front page! A source so perfect, if she didn't exist, someone would have to invent her.

Real Conversation

The following is an honest-to-goodness, real conversation that took place last night in my household:

Me: (looking up from paper) What is he doing over there?

Wife (holding infant son): He's scratching at the couch like a little cat!

Me: Don't be a pussy, boy!


Special Agent Orange, That Was Me

Much has been made of the superiority of newspapers vs. blogs. We've all heard how the papers have processes, fact-checkers, grammar police, gate-keepers, etc. to ensure that what they write will be truthful, accurate and factual.

But anyone with half a brain knows that in practice it's hogwash and the NARN boys prove it every week with their This Week In Gatekeeping segment.

So yesterday I was reading the Rochester Post-Bulletin and came across this on the front page regarding a series of articles on the homeless:

Eight months ago, after a homeless man was severely burned when his shelter caught fire, photographer Jerry Olson and reporter Jeff Hansel started an in-depth look at a mostly hidden minority in Rochester. They began interviewing homeless people and those at risk of homelessness.

This week the Post-Bulletin presents the first stories based on interviews with about 100 people, including more than 60 people who were homeless at the time they were interviewed.

Social workers, police, educators, health providers, family members, volunteers and aid workers also were interviewed. Although it has not been possible to verify every detail, much of the information presented has been independently checked through discussions with former employers, court documents, police reports, family members, friends and observation.

So "much" of the information will be right and the rest could be BS. Problem is, we'll never know which information has been verified and which hasn't and this is important since the entire point of the piece is anecdotal personal stories--which may be simply fabricated.

The biggest lie consistently told by the supposedly "homeless" is that they are veterans. Seems to me this would be a fairly easy thing to check but what do I know? A savvy reporter could easily verify the veracity of a vet claim by merely asking a few pertinent questions like what unit were you in, where did you serve or what was your fifth General Order.

I'm thinking of the movie Trading Places where Billy Ray Valentine (played by Eddie Murphy) is begging on the streets of Philadelphia and gets approached by two cops:

Who's that? Who's there?


We've had complaints about con men
pretending to be blind and crippled.

I ain't seen nothing since
I stepped on that landmine in Vietnam.

It was very painful.

You were in 'Nam? So were we. Where?

I was in...Sang Bang...

Dang Gong...

I was all over the place, a lot of places.

What unit?

I was with the Green Berets,
Special Unit Battalions...

Commando Airborne Tactics...
Specialist Tactics Unit Battalion.

Yeah, it was real hush hush.

I was Agent Orange,
Special Agent Orange, that was me.

But actually checking a few pertinent details would get in the way of the template-approach that most reporters take to the whole homeless story: a veteran is being shat upon by the very country he served so honorably after falling on hard times because of cuts in social services. Sigh.

I want to come up with a disclaimer to use for explaining behavior to my wife. Something like "Honey, I'm about to tell you where I was last night. And although I cannot verify ALL the details, most of them are not bullshit. Okay, we started the night at the Dew Drop Inn..."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Organizing At Home And In The Wal-Mart

An editorial in today's WSJ (subscription required you cheapskate) lays bare the cozy relationship between activist groups, leftist think tanks and their controlling overlords the unions.

Bottom line: the unions call the tunes (while stuffing the tip jar with cash) and the activist groups and the think tanks play them note-for-note in the steppin'est fetchin'est manner possible.

The media like to portray this as a populist uprising against heartless big business. But what they don't bother to disclose is that this entire get-Wal-Mart campaign is a political operation led and funded by organized labor.

So that makes the activist groups nothing more than political hacks funded by a self-interested cabal? Shocking.

We've done a little digging into the two most prominent anti-Wal-Mart groups, and they might as well operate out of AFL-CIO headquarters. An outfit called Wal-Mart Watch was created by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), probably the most powerful union in America after the National Education Association. Wal-Mart Watch is backed by Five Stones, a 501(c)3 organization that received $2,775,000 in 2005 from the SEIU, or 56% of its $5 million budget. According to financial records, SEIU also gave Five Stones $1 million in 2004 to launch the anti-Wal-Mart group, and SEIU president Andy Stern is the Wal-Mart Watch chairman.

You mean the groups aren't grass-roots organizations that rose up (Being The Change they believed in) in righteous indignation of Wal-Mart's business practices?

Most of the local protests against Wal-Mart are organized through the left-wing activist group ACORN, an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN is the group that put the squeeze on the Chicago City Council to pass an ordinance this summer to require Wal-Mart, Target and other big-box stores to pay a minimum $10 an hour wage and $3 an hour in benefits by 2010. (Democratic Mayor Richard Daley vetoed the bill.) ACORN also pretends it is a locally organized and funded voice of the downtrodden masses. But guess where ACORN gets much of its money? Last year the SEIU chipped in $2,125,229 and the UFCW $165,692.

Then there are the anti-Wal-Mart "think tanks," if that's the right word for these political shops -- notably, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center. The job of these two outfits is to publish papers backing the economic claims of Wal-Mart critics. The UC Berkeley group recently asserted that Wal-Mart "reduces total take-home pay for retail workers."

The UC Berkeley Labor Center has received at least $43,550 from SEIU. The Economic Policy Institute received $100,000 from the SEIU and $40,000 from the UFCW in 2005 and has published several anti-Wal-Mart studies, particularly on the benefits of the Chicago ordinance. By the way, Andy Stern also sits on the EPI board. He's a busy guy.

Bought and paid for activists. Ironically the very thing lefties continually accuse conservatives of being, albeit without a hint of evidence.

So next time you hear the anti-WM talking points of the activist groups or supposedly independent think tanks, remember that they come directly from the hacks that hate the fact that WM is non-union and are scared they will lose their control of yet another labor racket in the supermarkets.

SP ADDS: When they're not covertly undermining American business, they're dabbling in election maninpulation. More blessings from the fine foks at SEIU:

The FEC website says the Service Employees International Union has started running $93,234 of radio ads on behalf of DFLer Patty Wetterling. The union is also doing robo calls on behalf of Wetterling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Drunk In My Past

I have officially forgotten how to sleep. Since I awoke Sunday morning, I have lain in bed or on the couch for nearly twenty hours. By my estimate, no more than four of those hours were actually spent sleeping. My head is pounding, my back constantly aches, my throat feels like it has been sliced by rusty razors, I have no voice at all and my soul hurts.

Now, it could be the dramatic change of seasons we experience here in Minnesota that is affecting me so adversely. A few short weeks ago it was 80 degrees and sunny. It has now been 50 degrees and raining for several days. Brutal.

It could also be the emotional letdown after my Minnesota Twins were dispatched from World Series contention with incredible haste by a team that, as it turns out, had even less collective ability to hit a baseball. Unbearable.

Or...I suppose it could possibly be the activities of this past weekend that have me in such a funk. Late this past Sunday I returned from a weekend trip to parts east of Virginia, Minnesota. It's a semiannual jaunt up north for a couple days of poker and male camaraderie with a few close friends of mine. I like to call it the "The Semiannual See How Much Five Grown Men Can Drink In A Drafty Log Cabin Up North With Two Stinky Dogs And A Freezer Full Of Pizza and Bacon Without Widowing Their Wives Extravaganza" (I know, the title is a bit lengthy...but it is descriptive).

This celebration is usually followed by a weeklong period of decompression and detoxification which I like to call "Hell Week". This begins when the alarm clock rings the following Monday morning, as it did yesterday, wrapping up 8 glorious hours of tossing, turning and profuse amounts of sweat.

So the detoxification has begun. Actually, it began retroactive to Sunday afternoon when I had my last gin and tonic...but it will continue for a full week after that. Unless, of course, someone were to offer me a drink. It would be rude of me to turn such a gracious offer down and, frankly, nobody likes a rude drunk.

I must also have wine with my dinner. A meal without wine is like, well, breakfast...unless Bloody Marys are being served. Then it's not like breakfast at all. In fact, breakfast isn't even like breakfast without Bloody Marys, and my doctor told me I need to eat breakfast every morning. So that's settled.

Then there's Thursday Trivia at Keegan's where at least two pints of Guinness shall be required. Oh, and I can't forget happy hour on Friday, game one of the World Series on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday afternoon.

There it is in black and white then, my detoxification plan. Bloody Marys at breakfast, wine at dinner with Guinness on Thursday night followed by a long happy hour on Friday and a weekend full of sporting events and beer. All of this is punctuated, of course, by knocking back whatever an acquaintance of mine may wish to buy me anytime in-between (strongly discouraged as I AM trying to recover here, people).

By the time I reach my target, 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, I shall be fully detoxified and ready to celebrate with a delicious Bombay Sapphire martini.

It's gonna be a rough week.

A, O, Oh Way To Go Ohio

Tom e-mails to take issue with my Live and Local? post from yesterday:

Ahem - As a transplanted Ohioan here in the Great White North, I resent your implication that "Sterling" Scheissler is being imported from some "low-cost third world state". A check of the latest information from the The Tax Foundation--State and Local Tax Burdens by State shows that Ohio and Minnesota have recently switched places - from 4th to 3rd and vice versa.

We have our issues--like your pal Red Right 88 aka Hugh Hewitt being a native--but that's Northern Ohio which is too far left for even Ontario to claim it.

I believe that the reason Sterling is on the air has more to do with the company Sterling works for--"Evil" Clear Channel. Evil Clear Channel (as the lefties call it) has a remote broadcast operation set up outside Cincinnati that utilizes technology to remote broadcast anywhere. Lots of stations are taking advantage of this technology -does it say something about the dearth of good on-air talent in this area to get a decent local show?

Look, I don't disagree with you - Sterling sucks. I told him so when he had a weekend show in Cincinnati. It doesn't surprise me that even your NARN stable of stars mate Meeotch Berg (from the blog "Shot in the Dark" aka "Mitch and the Liberals who Hate him but Keep Crashing his Comments Section with their Wordy BS" can't figure out why Sterling is on the radio here.

Honestly, when I first moved here, I listened to KSTP, but now that the only two people I like are on while I'm at work--the station is not worth having on my presets-- unless Mishke moves back to late nights. By the way, I listen to the NARN faithfully each Saturday - could you play the Gatekeepers theme under the show all the time or at least on your blog? I just can't get enough--bump, bump, bump, bump, da na, da na na na?

If Saint Paul had his way, we would do just that Tom. He spends most This Week In Gatekeeping segments bobbing in his chair like a buoy in the North Sea. The music most definitely moves him. We'll see if we can put up a link to the theme here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

When You Lay Down With Poseurs

There's more scribbling today in the The Old Gray Bitch Lady about how important CBGBs was. A few choice quotes:

Mostly, however, CBGB just grew more encrusted: with dust, with band posters stuck on every available surface, with bodily fluids from performers and patrons. Ms. Smith did some casual spitting of her own during her set.

Casual spitting? It aint so casual when you are the recipient. How authentic.

...that happened to house artists and derelicts side by side, inspiring some hard-nosed art.

I don't like derelicts and I certainly don't like hard-nosed art (whatever the hell it is) but I understand how being cool trumps all else.

Yet punk, as codified by the Ramones, has turned out to fulfill some perennial adolescent need...

Exactly. ADOLESCENT. As in adults don't listen to the garbage or think it was some kind of Important Movement or write long, indulgent passages on it's demise.

But what of the future of music for losers, misfits, weirdoes and other strange persons:

"You just got a place, just some crappy place, that nobody wants, and you got one guy who believes in you, and you just do your thing. And anybody can do that, anywhere in the world, any time."

Bottom line: it's much easier to be cool than good. So don't learn to play or sing or write--find a scene that let's you do your thing and hope there are enough like-minded misfits that will listen.

Believe it or not, the Chinese seem have a more rational perspective than the American press:

CBGBs, a small rat hole of a club known as the spritual home of American punk closed its doors Sunday in Lower East Side New York after more than 30 years as a birthplace of underground rock bands

By its own admission "a small, dirty, beer-soaked, dark pit" the club -- officially named CBGB OMFUG -- or Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandisers -- was described by music magazine NME in 1975 as "toilet, an impossibly scuzzy little club."

Ringing Stinging, Jerking Like A Nervous Bird

Jim Geraghty asks whether traditional phone polling is still viable at National Review Online:

As I've mentioned from time to time, I have a theory that the traditional system of telephone polling is broken. I suspect that caller ID, cell-phone only homes, the general public's busier lifestyle (who has time to spend a half hour answering a pollster's questions?), suspicion of pollsters and the media, the spread of push-polling and a host of other factors have come together to make it nearly impossible to get a good representative sample.

If the way my wife and I handle phone calls is any indication of a wider trend, pollsters may have to go back to the drawing board. We rarely answer the phone during the evening on weekdays, figuring that if it's important for someone to speak to us they'll leave a message. Despite having signed up for the "do not call" list, we still get a decent number of telemarketing calls, usually from charity (one of my pet peeves and the subject of a future rant post), political, and other non-profit organizations. The chances that a polling call would reach us either one of us are slim.

Geraghty also points out that the potentially flawed sampling does not necessarily favor either party:

I'm hearing I'm not alone in that assessment; apparently in polling circles, there's some discussion that phone polling is nowhere near as accurate as it used to be. But where I had wondered if this meant samples were underestimating GOP turnout, a respected Smart Washington Guy recently suggested to me that the polls could be wrong in any direction. The Republicans could be doing even worse than the polls show.

Let's hope that last bit of speculation is not true or John Hinderaker's gonna be ordering Zoloft by the case.

Live And Local?

"Local" radio, direct from Columbus, Ohio:

On Thursday when snow flurries were flying, the newest voice on KSTP (1500 AM) -- a host known only as Sterling -- complained to listeners about the semi-hysterical reaction of Twin Cities weather forecasters.

"I'm fairly new here, but do we have to be whipped into a fervor about the snow? Here in the Twin Cities," he added, "it's going to snow."

Only Sterling wasn't "here" at all. He was sitting in Columbus, Ohio, where the weather was clear and 51 degrees.

Although he mentioned Ohio later, saying he "had worked and lived there," he never told listeners that he was broadcasting his noon-to-2 p.m. show from its capital city, and has done so every day since early September, when he started full time at KSTP.

Ohio? Why are we outsourcing our jobs to a low-cost third world state? I know that radio is tough work, but is this really the kind of job that Minnesotans just won't do?

Rest assured that while it may occasionally seem like we're phoning it in, the Northern Alliance Radio Network will always be live and locally broadcast from the sprawling AM1280 The Patriot compound in Eagan.

Be The Change!

If you missed last Saturday's Northern Alliance Radio Network, you missed the debut of a little ditty currently climbing the progressive-folk-alternative-college charts called "Be The Change!" sung by local artist JB Doubtless. Don't be the last one in your co-operative to hear this heart-felt call to action. This is the one that all the kids at the protests will be humming along to.

It's now available free for a limited time only at Fraters Libertas. Download it here and share it with all those interested in a better tomorrow for the children.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Hostile Work Environment

We continue our series on the "Women of HP" (sorry no pics--unlike some less respectable blogs we're not going to stoop to showing cheap T&A just to attract readers) with a book review from Thursday's Wall Street Journal on Carly Fiorina's "Tough Choices":

Ms. Fiorina was recruited with much fanfare in 1999 as the first outsider ever to run Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Valley's legendary printing and computing company. She was sent packing in 2005 with the stock price in tatters and wide doubts about the wisdom of her signature deal, the $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer. Since then, H-P's stock and earnings have surged. That leaves room for Ms. Fiorina to contend that her strategy made sense, even though a different chief executive officer was needed to execute it.

But why take the high road when you can settle some scores instead? In "Tough Choices," Ms. Fiorina airs a long list of grievances.

Sounds like Festivus. I can hardly wait to break out the pole again this year.

One of her first post-college bosses, at AT&T, "was having a romantic relationship with a woman upstairs, and he didn't have much time for me," she writes. On the way up, customers were sexist and rude. Other executives undermined her until she made them stop. When she became a CEO and H-P's stock faltered, it was because Wall Street analysts didn't understand her vision.

As Ms. Fiorina marches through her enemies list, the particulars of each new act of villainy start to blur -- and the author's bitterness starts to fascinate. There is little evidence that she made friends or even found reliable allies during her five years as H-P's boss. She became a leader without followers, frustrated with various subordinates, most of her board and all the media. Only her husband, Frank, a retired AT&T executive, cheered her on.

Sounds like a great place to work, don't it? And it again calls into question whether the very attributes that help career-driven women climb the rungs of the corporate ladder don't end up dooming many to failure and misery at the top.

UPDATE-- Robert e-mails to add:

Obviously I cannot mention his name, but a friend of mine is a manager at HP, and his first assignment was to make a case to fire a woman (and member of approved minority groups to boot) who arguably should never have been hired, if her resume was to be believed. Evidently, word had come from higher that such and such a minority/woman MUST be hired, forget the consequences. So the least disqualified applicant...

Building Bridges To Nowhere

Another week, another puff piece on Keith Ellison by the Star Tribune's Rochelle Olson. While she does devote a couple of paragraphs to criticisms of Ellison, most of the article once again reads like a press release from the Ellison campaign. Number of Ellison's "detractors" (a bit of a loaded word, isn't it?) who were contacted for the story? Zero. The only quotes we get are from Ellison himself, Minneapolis Mayor RT "Float Diver" Rybak, and U.S. Attorney Todd Jones, who sounds like a longtime bobo of Ellison. Hard-hitting journalism at its best.

One of the things that we keep from hearing from Ellison supporters (like the Star Tribune) and Ellison himself is that instead of focusing of Ellison's past involvement with the Nation of Islam, his questionable personal conduct (including an inability to park legally, pay tickets and taxes, and file campaign finance reports), and his dubious ties to groups that support terrorist organizations, we should only talk about Ellison's positions on the critical issues of the day. You know, like the way they do with Alan Fine?

Okay, I'll bite. What are some of Keith Ellison's accomplishments in the Legislature?

Ellison, 43, was elected to the Legislature four years ago. He cites his work supporting lead abatement in old housing containing lead-based paint, pushing to convert the coal-fired Xcel Riverside electricity plant to gas, helping repeal vagrancy laws that criminalized homelessness and fighting for school funding and local government aid.

If you travel around the country at all, it's easy to notice the cities which encourage homelessness and those that don't. Maybe the people of Minneapolis want their city to become another haven for the homeless like Seattle and San Francisco. Personally, I would not.

And what could we expect to see if Mr. Ellison does go to Washington?

In Washington, he says, his priorities would be getting out of Iraq, universal single-payer health care and the environment.

So let's see, we have a defeat in the war, socialized medicine, and higher energy costs? Where do I sign up for that?

Oh yeah, about those dubious ties...

Islamic organization to host Florida fundraiser for Ellison:

State Rep. Keith Ellison is going to Florida on a two-day, five-event fundraising tour including a party hosted by the state's director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that has become a flash point in the campaign to succeed Rep. Martin Sabo in the U.S. House.

Altaf Ali, CAIR's executive director in Florida, and Saif Ishoof are listed as the hosts for an event with a suggested donation of $100. It is scheduled for Saturday and will be at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Ellison will not receive a warm welcome from everyone in Florida. Standing Against Hate:

Coral Springs, FL -- On Saturday, October 14, 2006, Americans Against Hate (AAH) will be leading a protest against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Minnesota Candidate for U.S. Congress Keith Ellison, and Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Davis. The protest will be taking place at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center, in Pembroke Pines, Florida, which is playing host to a CAIR sponsored event featuring Ellison as Keynote Speaker.

The reason for the protest is to call attention to the fact that both Ellison and Davis have accepted campaign donations from CAIR officials. According to records, Keith Ellison received contributions from CAIR's National Executive Director Nihad Awad and CAIR's Government Affairs Director Corey Sawyer. As well, according to records, Jim Davis has received a contribution from the Communications Director of CAIR-Florida Ahmed Bedier.

AAH calls this a conflict of interest and a betrayal of the voters, as CAIR has been linked to convicted terrorists, terrorist acts and terrorist groups overseas. CAIR was incorporated in June of 1994 by three leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas front co-founded by the number two leader in Hamas today, Mousa Abu Marzook. Two of CAIR's former representatives are currently serving jail time for conducting terrorist activities with groups connected to Hamas and Al-Qaeda. And CAIR is currently the defendant in a lawsuit for the murder of an FBI Agent who was killed during the 9/11 attacks.

Both Awad and Bedier, two of the campaign contributors, have made disturbing statements with regard to terrorist organizations. Awad stated, in March of 1994, "...I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO." And Bedier, in December of 2005, when asked if he believed Sami Al-Arian's association with Palestinian Islamic Jihad was immoral, said, "To a certain degree. Now, before 1995, there was nothing immoral about it." In addition, in July of 2006, Bedier co-hosted a radio show entirely devoted to praise for Hezbollah.

No need to worry though. From the Strib story on the Florida visit, the Ellison campaign assures us that it's all kosher:

Ellison spokeswoman Bridget Cusick noted that CAIR cannot donate to candidates and that its political arm hasn't endorsed Ellison. "Keith's entire campaign has been about building bridges -- to new voters, between communities," Cusick said.

He's a uniter, not a divider.

More on the Strib, Keith Ellison, and Alan Fine at Power Line.

Taxpayers League Unleashed

The fine folks from the Taxpayers League of Minnesota have finally gotten around to starting a blog, the rather oddly titled State of Nature. I take it that their color scheme is a symbol of how the TPL is a thin blue line fighting to protect the taxpayers of Minnesota from the greedy paws of government.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sheik Out

Back in the days of our youth, JB and I couldn't wait for Sunday mornings. It wasn't the Sara Lee coffee cake that we had for breakfast every Sunday. And, as much I would like to say it was, it wasn't going to Mass either. No, what had us eagerly anticipating Sundays was the chance to watch Vern Gagne's AWA wrestling on local television.

Half of the reason we watched was for entertainment value. The other half educational, as we were constantly looking for new ways to beat the snot out of each other. I don't recall us ever going so far as to bring a folding chair into play, but other than that our daily bouts were pretty much no-holds barred.

This was the glory days of the AWA. Names like Adrion Adonis, Nick Bockwinkel, Jumpin' Jimmy Brunzel, Crusher Jerry Blackwell, the Gagnes of course, Curt and Larry Hennig, The Crusher, Hulk Hogan (before he went big time), Ken Patera, "Mad Dog" Vachon, Jesse Ventura, Baron Von Raschke, and Buck "Rock N' Roll" Zumhofe to name just a few. Just like the wrestlers of today, these guys all needed a shtick, something to separate them from the hapless banal nobodies who would come oh so close to winning, but somehow always end up getting pinned at the end of the match.

One of the ways to differentiate yourself was to lay claim to a geographic or national identity foreign to Minnesota. Crusher Jerry Blackwell was supposedly from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Adrion Adonis and Jesse Ventura were the East-West Connection, with Adonis being from New York and Jesse from California. There was also always a rash of foreigners around to rile up the crowd. The fact that "Mad Dog" Vachon was French-Canadian certainly helped build his reputation. This being the height of the Cold War, Russians always made good villains and it the AWA always seemed to be able to find a representative from any country the US happened to having trouble with at the time.

Later in life, when we learned more about the inner-workings of the AWA, it turned that a number of these claims were dubious at best. That hated Russian from Siberia had actually lived in Mounds View most of his life. The Cuban Commando was really a third generation Nicaraguan immigrant from Hopkins who was about as Cuban as a Los Blancos Robosto.

Which is why a story in Saturday's Wall Street Journal is so fascinating. 'Sheik of Baghdad,' The Pro Wrestler, Actually Was One:

MINNETONKA, Minn. -- Adnan Alkaissy gained fame among professional-wrestling fans in the 1980s as the Sheik of Baghdad, a villainous character who entered the ring with a broad sword and belly dancers. Mr. Alkaissy became notorious during the first Gulf War as General Adnan, a character based on Saddam Hussein.

Little is what it seems in the over-the-top world of pro wrestling. But it turns out these personalities weren't so implausible for Mr. Alkaissy.

Mr. Alkaissy, 67 years old, has revealed in a newly published autobiography that he was born in Baghdad, was a childhood friend of Mr. Hussein and later played an unlikely role in helping Mr. Hussein's Baath Party consolidate power in the 1970s. Even his "sheik" title was legitimate: He inherited it from his father, a prominent Sunni spiritual leader in the 1950s, he says.

The Sheik was real? Almost restores the innocence of my youth and faith in wrestling. The Sheik was a classic AWA villain and usually very easy to hate. Except of course after that Rumsfeld meeting in '83 when he became a good guy for a while.

For years, Mr. Alkaissy says he kept quiet about what he experienced during Mr. Hussein's bloody rise to power for fear of endangering his relatives, including several brothers, who still live in the country. But with Mr. Hussein on trial in Baghdad, Mr. Alkaissy, born Adnan Bin Abdulkareem Ahmed Alkaissy Elfarthie, has broken his silence.

"I know now that Saddam used me to benefit him and the Baath Party," says Mr. Alkaissy, who wrote his autobiography with Minnesota sports author Ross Bernstein.

The Sheik of Baghdad: Tales of Celebrity and Terror from Pro Wrestling's General Adnan

[ I used to play pick-up hockey with Bernstein by the way.]

Mr. Alkaissy's standing in Iraq during the 1970s was corroborated by a half-dozen Iraqis interviewed who lived in the country at the time. Dozens of photographs from the period show Mr. Alkaissy in the ring in Baghdad, wrestling before thousands, as well as posing with Baath Party officials, including Mr. Hussein, and heads of state from other countries in the region. Mr. Hussein's legal team didn't respond to requests for comment about the wrestler's account of his relationship with the Iraqi leader.

Yeah, I imagine they've got a couple of other items on their plate right now. What with the daily death threats and client being accused of genocide and all.

Mr. Alkaissy and Mr. Hussein went to the same Baghdad junior high school in the mid-1950s, according to Mr. Alkaissy. He says he got to know the future leader by playing chess with him in neighborhood coffee houses. At the time, Baathists were fighting with Communists for control of the country.

While Mr. Hussein in his teenage years began his rise to power in the Baath party, Mr. Alkaissy left Iraq at the age of 17 on a scholarship to play football at the University of Houston, he says.

You've already got the makings for a great movie here. And it only gets better.

He later left college and began his pro wrestling career as Chief Billy White Wolf, an American Indian. He developed his own signature move involving a pincer action with his legs, dubbed the Indian death lock. During the next years, he wrestled throughout the U.S. and abroad.

An Iraqi immigrant playing an American Indian? What a country!

In 1969, he returned to Iraq to visit his family. Mr. Hussein, who had become a high-ranking official in the Baath Party, summoned his old friend for a cup of tea and suggested Mr. Alkaissy bring pro wrestling to Iraq, he says. When Mr. Alkaissy explained he was only visiting the country for a couple of months, Mr. Hussein replied, according to Mr. Alkaissy, "We are expecting you to do this as your duty to Iraq." He would stay in the country for the next nine years, he says.

Sounds like the Iraqi equivalent of an "offer you can't refuse."

The matches became major events. Mr. Alkaissy imported the fake wrestling that characterized professional wrestling in the U.S., though he claims Mr. Hussein and the rest of the country, at least in the early years, thought it was real.

I don't think this bodes well for the prospects for success of our current enterprise in Iraq. We're expecting people who couldn't figure out that pro wrestling was fake to pick up on the nuances of constitutional democracy?

For Mr. Hussein, the wrestling was more than entertainment. It diverted the people's attention from the killings that marked the Baath Party's tightening grip on power at the time. It also helped the party's image to be associated with a powerful, young wrestler who had enjoyed success abroad, Mr. Alkaissy says.

Ahmed Ferhadi, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, says when the Baath Party came to power in 1968 it was eager to appear more attractive to the Iraqi people, compared with its short-lived, bloody takeover in the early 1960s.

Mr. Alkaissy's wrestling "became the pastime of almost every Iraqi. It was riveting," says Prof. Ferhadi, who grew up in Baghdad and fled the country in 1983. When Mr. Alkaissy vanquished the French behemoth Andre the Giant, Iraqis in the stadium celebrated by shooting their guns in the air, according to Mr. Alkaissy.

Of course, Iraqis also celebrate a good morning bowel movement by squeezing off a couple of AK-47 rounds.

Mr. Alkaissy became a national hero, lauded in poetry and folk songs, according to Fawziya Abbas, a 43-year-old housewife in Baghdad. "Everybody loved him," she says. The Baath Party built him a modern, domed mansion and gave him luxury cars and a position as a director in the ministry of youth, he says. Fans appeared at his door offering goats for sacrifice.

Sounds pretty sweet, eh? The problem with popularity in a dictatorship is that it comes at a high price. Especially if that popularity attracts the attention of the Grande Jefe.

But Mr. Alkaissy says he began to fear he could suffer the fate of others whose popularity was perceived as rivaling that of Mr. Hussein. A relative in the government told him his life was at risk, he says.

Some Iraqis interviewed say Mr. Alkaissy escaped when it became known the wrestling was fake and Mr. Alkaissy, who won every match, was splitting profits with his opponents. Mr. Alkaissy acknowledges suspicions were rising within Mr. Hussein's inner circle about whether the matches were rigged.

I imagine a bunch of mustachioed Iraqis in full military regalia, deep in a hardened concrete bunker pounding a table and arguing about whether wrestling was real or fake. Somebody make this movie, please.

Mr. Alkaissy says the early matches brought in more than $1 million in revenue each. Initially he pocketed most of the money, since he was responsible for organizing them. Later, when the government realized how much Mr. Alkaissy was making, it took over the finances, Mr. Alkaissy says, giving him cars, trips and spending money.

Toward the end of 1978, Mr. Alkaissy says he stuffed a suitcase with $50,000 in cash and fled to the U.S.

Back in the U.S., Mr. Alkaissy resumed his career, this time as the Sheik of Baghdad. He wrestled with the American Wrestling Association, the main wrestling group in the U.S. at the time, through the 1980s. Mr. Alkaissy's big break came in 1990, when Mr. Hussein invaded Kuwait, triggering the Gulf War.

What do you remember about the Gulf War?

The brutal occupation of Kuwait?

The burning oil wells?

The anti-aircraft fire over Baghdad?

The "Highway of Death"?

The Shia uprising in the south?

Or the many career opportunities it provided?

Under the auspices of the World Wrestling Federation, which was becoming the dominant wrestling body in the country, Mr. Alkaissy teamed up with a wrestler named Sgt. Slaughter, a patriotic figure who dressed in fatigues. Mr. Alkaissy played a Mr. Hussein look-alike named General Adnan who, operating largely from the sidelines of the ring, "brainwashed" Sgt. Slaughter to turn against American troops.

Sounds like a definite Article 3 violation to me.

"It's quite amazing that he actually turned out to be a real sheik," says Sgt. Slaughter, whose real name is Robert Remus.

What?!? Sergeant Slaughter wasn't really a sergeant? I feel the cynicism seeping back in.

These days, Mr. Alkaissy, who has a deep tan and flowing, white hair, still appears as the Sheik in bars and casinos around the state. In recent months, he has given more than a dozen speeches around Minnesota about his life in Iraq.

His dream is to return to Iraq and put on another match in downtown Baghdad. One recent morning in the kitchen of his modest suburban home here, he sorted through black-and-white photos from his wrestling days in Iraq. Most of the officials in the photos have since been killed, he said.

His wife, Kathleen, a school lunch supervisor who met Mr. Alkaissy after watching him wrestle in the 1980s, thinks another match in Iraq would be historic.

"You should go over there and throw a show for the soldiers," she said. "Just like Bob Hope."

The Sheik making a wrestling comeback at a main event in Baghdad? Now that would make a grand ending to a most improbable story.

Wellstone Is The School For Me?

St. Paul teacher charged with possessing child porn:

A Twin Cities teacher is now formally charged with possessing a disturbing collection of child pornography.

James Wichmann, 47, made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon in Burnett County, Wisconsin.

A perverted criminal from Wisconsin? Who would have thunk it?

When is the government of Minnesota going to get serious about securing our eastern border anyway? This is just the latest example of the abject failure of the guest worker program. Mr. Pawlenty, build up that wall!

Investigators say a man working on Wichmann's fireplace noticed a large folder. The folder reportedly contained images of naked girls possibly between the ages of 10 and 12 performing sex acts.

As disturbing were the collection of photos with young girls faces - possibly cut out of school yearbooks - that were superimposed on naked bodies.

"Definitely, there were images of students that appeared to come from a yearbook of some sort that were super imposed over other bodies, but we can't positively identify the ages of the bodies they were superimposed on," said Burnett County Attorney Ken Kutz

Wichmann's attorney said he will plead not guilty and will argue that the images in the teacher's possession do not constitute child pornography according to a Wisconsin statute.

Wickmann is on administrative leave from the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary School in Saint Paul.

Let's just hope there wasn't any Instant Messaging involved or we might have a full-blown scandal on our hands.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We Like It Here?

It's October 11th and I can see snow blowing outside. It's not much and I doubt if there will be any accumulation to speak of, but it's still too freakin' early for the white stuff. Only last Saturday it was eighty and sunny.

Who'd Have Thunk It?

Federal deficit falls to smallest level in 4 years:

The federal budget deficit, helped by a gusher of tax revenues, fell to $247.7 billion in 2006, the smallest amount of red ink in four years.

Wait a second. Are you saying that cutting tax rates leads to increased tax revenues? Imagine that.

Next you'll try to tell me that gas prices go up when demand exceeds supply.

Mom's Brain On Drugs

After my brief post yesterday on a story in the Strib on Wendy Wilde, particularly her weasely response to questions about her previous remarks on smoking marijuana, I received a number of e-mails asking for further details.

Here is the original 2002 forum post by Wilde:

We visited several European nations last summer and were impressed while biking around Haarlem, Netherlands, to talk to residents and find that marijuana coffee shops are low-key places with no smarmy, rowdy, dangerous characters as U.S. anti-drug proponents might want you to think (whereas bars in the U.S. are often rowdy places where fights and other dangers lurk). I did smoke... it is not illegal there... and while I could care less about getting high (I also don't care to get drunk), I can't see any reason to make marijuana illegal when booze here is okay??? How confusing. I don't understand why we in the U.S. are actually CREATING a crime underworld for ourselves by making something so inane illegal.

That should clear up any confusion about her "not remembering" whether she smoked or not. Clearly she did.

Later in the same post, she unveiled a couple of her pet theories on why marijuana is illegal:

I have a theory: When the cold war ended, they didn't know what to do with all those highly trained agents... so President Reagan invented a "War on Drugs" to give the agents jobs and keep that part of the military-industrial economy going. How many billions of dollars have we spent in the past 20 years... and the drug use rates in the United States have not dropped even a sliver. In 1980 roughly 10% of Americans said they used drugs... and in 2000 the numbers are basically the same (I believe it is actually a tiny fraction higher, now)!

Theory II: I really believe that marijuana is illegal in the U.S. because it is a natural, easily grown weed that the big drug companies cannot patent. If marijuana was decriminalized, anyone could grow it cheaply in their back yard and the big guys who profit from selling designer (prescription) drugs to stressed out Americans couldn't make any money off it... and might even cost them money because people would use a backyard plant instead of an expensive prescription to help them relax a little.

Interesting theories. There is a little problem with the timeline for number one since Reagan's War On Drugs was declared in 1982 and the Cold War really didn't end until 1991. Minor details I suppose.

Wilde went on to speculate that marijuana use may actually make the roads safer:

Same laws should apply to marijuana as apply to booze... minimum age, no 'open containers" ... oh... and a new study out of Britain a couple months ago showed that people who smoke marijuana and drive actually were BETTER drivers! The authors of the study said they were stunned and did not expect such results. They theorized that the marijuana relaxed people so there was less tendency for stress and road rage!

And you want to be my Congresswoman?

Those who would dismiss Wilde's positions on pot as "ancient history" would do well to remember that this forum post is less than four years old. It wasn't as if Wilde was a naïve college student at the time. She was a mature, middle-aged woman of the world with plenty of life experience and a couple of kids to boot.

Is this really the mom you want cleaning house in the Congress?

Madhatter Of Madtown

Instructor who doubts 9/11 compares Bush to Hitler:

MILWAUKEE--A University of Wisconsin-Madison instructor who has come under scrutiny for saying that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks compares President Bush to Adolf Hitler in an essay that his students are being required to buy.

The essay, "Interpreting the Unspeakable: The Myth of 9/11," is part of a $20 book of essays from 15 authors called "9/11 and American Empire: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Speak Out," according to an unedited copy first obtained by WKOW-TV in Madison and later by the Associated Press.

The book is on the syllabus for the twice-a-week course, "Islam: Religion and Culture," being taught by part-time instructor Kevin Barrett, but only three of the essays are required reading, not including Barrett's essay.

Barrett is active in a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose members say U.S. officials, not al-Qaida terrorists, were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Like Bush and the neocons, Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies," he wrote.

Barrett said Tuesday he was comparing the attacks to the burning of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in 1933, a key event in the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship.

"That's not comparing them as people, that's comparing the Reichstag fire to the demolition of the World Trade Center, and that's an accurate comparison that I would stand by," he said.

But he did say in an interview: "Hitler had a good 20 to 30 IQ points on Bush so comparing Bush to Hitler would in many ways be an insult to Hitler."

The good people of Wisconsin can rest easy tonight knowing that their tax dollars are being put to good use.

Same for the parents of UW students. What's tutition for a year at Madison go for these days? Twenty to thirty grand?

Everybody's A Comedian

Franken touts candidate at events:

Al Franken put aside most of the jokes Tuesday for a duet of college appearances on behalf of congressional candidate Patty Wetterling.

Fortunately Wetterling and her supporters picked up the slack for Al and delivered a couple of classic knee slappers:

Wetterling, a St. Joseph child safety advocate, talked about her work lobbying for state and federal laws to track sex offenders and notify the public when a child is kidnapped or a sex offender is moving into a community.

She also mentioned the national attention her campaign has received since she began calling for an independent investigation into the congressional scandal and for the resignations of anyone involved in covering it up.

"It was a risk to speak up," she said. "But we cannot tolerate it on a community level and we cannot hold Congress to a lower standard."

Yeah Patty you really went out on a limb there, didn't you? Speaking up against a twisted old fruit hitting on teenage boys and the alleged covering up of said conduct was quite the brave stand to take.

Wetterling has spent a lot of time on campus at the College of St. Benedict, and College Democrats are excited about her candidacy, said Vanessa Williams, 19, co-chairwoman of the group.

"Patty has a real record of going to Washington and getting things done," she said.

I imagine that one brought the house down. A real record of doing what?

Number One with a Bullet

Esteemed classicist Victor Davis Hanson on the American public education system and the ability of its graduates to put in perspective events such as Mark Foley emails and North Korean nuclear tests:

Or is the nuttiness because most Americans below 30 are now so poorly educated that they don't know, or care to know, the difference between Pyongyang and poontang?

If this line ever makes it into one of his scholarly tomes, I suspect the footnote would look something like this:

Nugent, Ted; "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" (Cat Scratch Fever, Epic/Legacy; 1977).

It has been a while since Ted Nugent had a song on the charts. And for the man who wrote the following timeless, universal lyrics:

Kiss my ass - Janet Reno
Kiss my ass - C'mon Billary
Kiss my ass - Callin' on Jesse Jackson
Kiss my ass - United Nations
Kiss my ass - All those Liberals

I don't think charges of jingoism, political opportunism, or basic idiocy will dissuade him from throwing his guitar into the works of current political events either. With that in mind I submit to Ted the following update of his romantic classic:

Wang Dang Sweet Pyongyang

That Kim Jong il, what a nuclear fiend
He ain't looking so clean, especially near the DMZ,
what I don't like

He come to town, he be foolin' around
and putting us down like a UN-sanctioned clown
It's all right

Wang Dang Sweet Pyongyang

Wang Dang what a sweet Pyongyang
a shakin our six party thang as a rang-a-dang-dang in the bell

It'll be so sweet when we yank on their teat (and shut off their wheat)
Down on the street you know we can't be beat
What the hell

Wang Dang Sweet Pyongyang

Thank you. Please, please sit down. We don't deserve the adulation. Really, we wrote this music for the children. It's all about them, not us.

(FYI - All forthcoming royalties should be distributed to VD Hanson and SP Ward. And watch out for our next song writing endeavor: It's Hard out Here for a Phalangite.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wilde Weasel

Radio's Wilde is running as "Mom":

During the DFL primary campaign, candidate Gavin Sullivan took aim at Wilde on his website, listing a 2002 Internet posting she wrote about a trip to the Netherlands, which indicated she smoked there and discussed decriminalizing marijuana.

Wilde said she didn't remember smoking the drug, but acknowledged she may have tried it there. She said she does not use illegal drugs and wrote the Internet posting as a discussion point, wondering why marijuana is illegal and why the war on drugs hasn't had a positive effect.


Personally, I wouldn't hold a little casual marijuana use against a candidate for office. What I can't stand is when they try to weasel their way around it. "I don't remember" and "I may have tried it" just doesn't fly. She remembers and she knows whether she did or didn't inhale.