Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scribblin' Separated At Birth?

From the Talk of The Town pages of the New Yorker Hendrik Hertzberg and...

...from the editorial voice of the newspaper pages of the Star Tribune Steve Berg?

A Problem Of Production, Not Distribution

Robert T. Miller takes Pope Benedict XVI to task (gently of course) for economic ignorance in a post at FIRST THINGS:

Speaking about the many people in the world who go hungry, Pope Benedict XVI says that we need "to eliminate the structural causes linked to the system of government of the world economy, which allocates the greater part of the planet's resources to a minority of the population."

In focusing on the allocation of goods, however, Benedict misdiagnoses the problem, which really concerns economic growth. Like most non-economists, he speaks as if the world's stock of goods and services were fixed, the only issue being how properly to distribute them. In fact, the total amount of goods and services in the world has been increasing very rapidly for a long time.

Miller goes on to provide a stark comparison:

But economic growth is very uneven, with the economic output of some countries increasing much faster than that of others. If you want to know why some countries have become wealthy and others have stayed poor, therefore, you need only compare the growth of their respective GDPs per capita. Consider South Korea and Zimbabwe. In 1970, their respective GDPs per capita were virtually identical: $290 for Zimbabwe and $291 for South Korea. By 2004, Zimbabwe's GDP per capita had hardly budged, having increased to just $351, meaning that the average Zimbabwean was only marginally better off in 2004 than 1970. In South Korea, however, GDP per capita increased to $14,266, an astonishing forty-nine-fold increase. (In fact, matters are even worse than these numbers imply, for Zimbabwe's GDP per capita had been as high as $867 in 1982, and from 1997 to 2004 it declined every year, from $735 to $351.) Comparisons for similar pairs of nations--e.g., Singapore and Zambia--yield similar results.

It is thus true, as Benedict says, that the greater part of the planet's resources is enjoyed by a minority of the population, but this is because the greater part of those resources is produced by that same minority of the population. The world economy is not rigged in favor of the rich nations. South Korea did not get rich, and Zimbabwe did not stay poor, because the captains of industry and the Wall Street bankers met in a smoke-filled room and decided that they loved South Korea but hated Zimbabwe. The South Koreans got rich because they earned their riches and continue to do so, year in and year out. Zimbabweans are poor because they produce little--and less now than twenty years ago. People who produce wealth naturally think they are entitled to keep most of it for themselves and their children. I don't dispute that such people ought to give away more of what they have, but we should be clear that they have this wealth in the first place because they are producing it themselves, not wrongfully taking it away from others.

UPDATE: King weighs in.


It's a well-established fact that talk radio host Hugh Hewitt bears striking resemblance to Ralphie Parker from the classic film "A Christmas Story."

Hugh is also a native of Ohio and big booster of all things Cleveland. Now, in what can only be described as delicious case of karmic convergence, the two threads are intertwined.

Fan Gives 'Christmas Story' House Another Shot at Fame:

CLEVELAND -- Ralphie Parker and Brian Jones know what it's like to want something.
For Ralphie, the object of desire was an official Red Ryder, carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle. (Go ahead, say it: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid.")

For Jones, the gotta-have-it item was Ralphie's house -- the one in "A Christmas Story," the quirky film that's found a niche alongside holiday classics like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street."

Jones has restored the three-story, wood-frame house to its appearance in the movie and opened it for tours beginning this past Saturday. His hope is that it will become a tourist stop alongside the city's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other destinations.

He's unsure whether he'll make enough money to cover his $500,000 investment, but as sure as a kid's tongue will stick to a frozen flagpole, he's committed to the project.

"I just want people to come and enjoy it as I have," said Jones, a 30-year-old former Navy lieutenant.

I think I smell a divine radio remote promotion the next time Hugh is in Cleveland: "Hugh Hewitt Live From Ralphie's House!" Life is indeed beautiful.

You've Ruined Another Christmas

It is with regret I have to inform you, the viewing public, that you already missed the one and only airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Yes, it has come and gone and December hasn't even started yet. The programming wizards, and presumptive Satanists, at ABC put it on this past Tuesday. A mere 5 days after Thanksgiving and 9 days after they ran A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving! Are they mad!

It is an outrage, it is a travesty, it is an abomination. No right thinking American expects it to be on this early. And since Monday Night Football was moved to ESPN there are exactly zero reasons to ever intentionally turn the channel to ABC. How in the name of Rankin and Bass are we supposed to catch this holiday classic? ABC, I condemn you. May you spend the afterlife watching reruns of According to Jim for an eternity.

After some research, I am relieved to report that none of the other holiday classics have passed us by this year. They are all still on the horizon, though bearing down on us like a freight train. (Really, why don't they wait until we're closer to the big day before showing these? With Linus's poignant reading of Luke 2: 8-14, Charlie Brown Christmas would be the perfect Christmas eve fare. As Charles Schultz himself is reported to have said: If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?).

Circle these dates on your calendar so you don't miss the other must-sees this season:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - the all-time classic, nothing else need be said. Next Friday, Dec. 8, at 7 PM central on CBS.

Rudolph's Shiny New Year - an underappreciated gem. Rudolph, Ben Franklin, and a cave man (voiced by Morey Amsterdam) in a fight for the future. Inexplicably relegated to cable, ABC Family (Comcast channel 46), next Saturday, December 9 at 3 PM.

Gack! a conflict with NARN 3: The Final Word on AM1280 the Patriot. Which is a show about a political operative and economist (coincidentally, voiced by Morey Amsterdam) in a fight for the future. Never fear, Shiny New Year reruns during prime time on Dec. 13 , 22, and 24. But strangely NOT on Dec. 31.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Kris Kringle from cradle to the fat, bald, old scamp we know him as today. Featuring Fred Astaire, Burgermiester Miesterburger, and the Winter Warlock singing one of the catchiest songs of the holiday stop animation oeuvre, "Put One Foot in Front of the Other". It's must see TV. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 PM on, hold your nose, ABC.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Tuesday, December 12, 7:00 PM on, you guessed it, ABC. The "According to Jim" fan base will be beside themselves, it's pre-empted for the third week in a row!

Note, this is the Boris Karloff narrated cartoon version, the 40th anniversary showing no less. The inferior, live action Jim Carey vehicle is also on ABC, Saturday December 9 at 7 PM.

Year Without a Santa Claus - A different view of Jolly Old St. Nicholas, as a vain, hypochondriac, prima donna. He comes down with the sniffles and threatens to pull the plug on the whole she-bang. I don't recall how this situation was resolved, but I do remember the appearances by the Heat Miser-Cold Miser brothers were worth the price of admission. Airs on ABC Family, THIS FRIDAY, at 7 PM. Reruns on the same channel on December 3 at 9 PM, December 13 at 8 PM, December 15 at 6 PM, and December 24 at 8 PM.

Believe it or not, NBC is premiering a live-action remake of this cartoon next Monday, December 11 at 8 PM. Don't know much about it, except Heat Miser is being played by a gay cross dresser and Cold Miser by the less funny member of the Lenny-Squiggy tandem. If ever there was a night for a very special episode of According to Jim to score in the ratings, this would be it!

And finally, the highlight of any Christmas season . . .

Midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica - featuring the Vicar of Christ himself, Pope Benedict XVI, and the heavenly host, LIVE! on EWTN (Comcast channel 21) on Christmas Eve at midnight Vatican time, and usually a replay at 12 midnight local time on one of the network affiliates. Not sure which one, but I know it's not ABC, since they'd schedule it to run sometime around Dec. 16.

Enjoy! And happy holiday TV watching from Fraters Libertas.

UPDATE--The Elder Adds: Don't forget THE Christmas classic movie for the ages, "A Christmas Story," which will air on TBS for twenty-four straight hours beginning on Christmas Eve at 8pm eastern time. You can flip back and forth between it and the Pope's Christmas Mass.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Separated At Birth?

The spate of SABs continues with this entry from Paul:

Deceased Russian spy who ate poisoned sushi, Alexander Litvinenko and...

...Duran Duran singer who was Hungry Like The Wolf, Simon Le Bon?

[Note: A more updated photo of Le Bon seems to show that while his appetite hasn't slowed since the '80s, his metabolism definitely has.]

About This e-Business Business...

Now that the internet has become part of our daily lives, you would think that companies would have the whole e-business thing pretty well figured out. And yet, a good ten years in, I still encounter company after company that appear clueless when it comes to serving customers in cyberspace.

My interest in this matter is strictly from the viewpoint of the consumer. I'm sick and tired of wasting my time and being frustrated that so many companies can't get it together. And so I offer up my three piece approach (the three "Es") to successful e-business:

Exist: As obvious as this one would seem, I'm still regularly surprised by the number of businesses with no web presence. Last week, I was trying to find a web site for a local restaurant and, after much messing around, had to conclude that they didn't have one. Make no mistake about this: if you're running a business that serves consumers, you HAVE to have a web site. It probably won't be a differentiator, it's simply an expectation of being in business.

It doesn't have to be fancy or graphic intensive--in fact, it's usually better to keep it as simple as possible--it just has to be there. At a minimum, it should include hours of operation, your location, and contact information. When it comes to contact information include as much as possible; phone number, address, and e-mail. If you're a restaurant, having a copy of your menu on-line is essential as well.

It also has to come up in at least the top 20 Google searches for the company name. Top ten is better, but you gotta at least be among the first twenty.

If you're a technophobe, there are plenty of companies who can handle the design and hosting for minimal cost. You'll probably never be able to figure out who much your web site helps the bottom line, but you'll also never know how much business you're losing by not having a site. I can almost guarantee that it's higher than the cost of having one.

Engage: You HAVE to respond to your customer inquires. I'm constantly frustrated by companies that set up an e-mail address for you to contact and then never respond. It makes you look incredibly unprofessional and will likely cause your customer to look elsewhere. One of the reasons that I use the internet and send e-mails is to avoid making a phone call. If I have to end up calling you to get an answer, I am not going to be happy.

There's a national chain of bowling centers that has a special contact form on their website for information on planning corporate events. I submitted such a form over two weeks ago and have yet to hear word one from said company. Instead, I've been forced to pick up the phone and make a call. If you're going to go through the trouble of having such a venue for communication available, the least you could do is make sure you get back to your customers.

Make it Easy to use: The other day I was trying to find some information on a local hotel/water park. The web site was chock full of neat looking Flash animation and graphics. But when I tried to find out how much it would cost to use the water park on a particular day I entered a cyber-hell of being forced to follow link upon link upon link (while animation played for each one) until I was finally able to find what I was looking for. And then, when I was curious about the room rates, I had to go through the same rigmarole again only to eventually be instructed to "call for information." Arghhh! If I wanted to call, I would have done that in the first place. The whole idea of visiting the web site was so that I didn't have to make a fargin' phone call.

Think about the top two or three reasons that customers are visiting your site and make that information as easy to find as possible. Fancy graphics are nice, but what I really care about is finding what I'm looking for as quickly as possible.

It shouldn't be all that complicated. Set up a web site, make sure you answer your mail, and make it easy to find critical information. It ain't rocket science, it's just the internet.

And They're Not Going To Take It Anymore?

[Gomer Pyle voice]

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

[/Gomer Pyle voice]

The political leaders of Minneapolis suddenly develop a little backbone when it comes to their lesbian fire chief:

Efforts to remove embattled Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek will proceed, after Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council members rejected a proposed settlement Tuesday that would have allowed her to remain a supervisor in the department.

The unanimous vote of the city's executive committee, led by Rybak, to reject the deal came as a surprise to Bleskachek's lawyer, Jerry Burg, who had revealed terms of the agreement Monday: a cash settlement of less than $50,000 and a voluntary demotion for Bleskachek, the nation's first openly lesbian fire chief.

Why the unexpected stiffening of spine?

But the mayor's office and council members were flooded with calls Tuesday, criticizing the proposed deal.

Are the long-beaten down taxpayers of Minneapolis finally rising up and saying enough's enough?

Dozens of calls and e-mails poured into the mayor's office in the past day, Hanson said. By far, callers didn't want Bleskachek to return as chief, he said.

Many City Council members also heard such comments Tuesday.

Well, it's a start anyway. But don't expect the guardian of the city's purse to change their stripes overnight.

But while there was some sentiment at Tuesday's meeting for firing her, there was no straw poll, and no consensus that she should be forced out of the department.

No, of course not. Wouldn't want to do anything drastic and actually follow through and can an employee who has no business running a lemonade stand to say nothing of a fire department.

Bravo to the taxpayer of Minneapolis for saying "no mas" at last. It's a good beginning, but you've got a long way to go baby.

Separated At Birth?

Incredible athiest fool (and Vox Day nemesis) Sam Harris....


The Incredible Hulk his damnself Lou Ferigno?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Airing of Grievances

Since I hardly ever write about the things people do that irritate me, this post will be a refreshing look at the humorous human foibles that make every day of life on earth so interesting and enjoyable. Wait...scratch that. Reverse it. Since I almost always write about the things you people do that irritate me, this post will be yet another in a long list of grievances I have against other humans for constantly doing things that make every day of life on earth a bothersome chore.

Actually, today I'm feeling somewhere in the middle of those two views...but don't push me because tomorrow could become a bothersome chore very rapidly.

With that ominous warning, let's move on to today's admittedly rather innocuous grievance.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, a building or room dedicated to the practice and/or art of regurgitation called a "vomitorium". The word is actually an architectural term that is defined here as:
a passage situated below or behind a tier of seats in an amphitheatre, through which the crowds could "spew out" at the end of a show
Now I don't normally get too bent out of shape about things like this. Today, however, I just happened to be in an exceptionally irritable mood and, believe it or not, I heard "vomitorium" misused on two separate occasions (once by this chronic repeat offender who should have the book smarts to know better).

So, for the record, a vomitorium is not a place to go to vomit just as an auditorium is not a place to go to get audited and a sanatorium is not a place to send our Senators...well, bad example, but you get my point.

Now, on to The Feats of Strength...

Separated At Birth?

Anyone can come up with obvious celebrity separated at births. It takes a good eye to spot the more obscure ones. James from Folsom displays just such keen vision with this SAB submittal:

Golden State attorney general Bill Lockyer and...

Golden Gopher assistant hockey coach John Hill?

The Real Cost Of Preferential Hiring

If you're a Minneapolis taxpayer, I take pity on you. A good deal of your problems of course are your own fault, since you keep electing bozos who keep finding new ways to squander your money. But when it comes to tales of fiscal woe like the following, I feel your pain. When you read this article keep in mind that the reason most oft cited by Mayor RT Rybak for the city's inability to afford to put enough cops on the streets is the LGA (local government assistance) cuts made by the state more than three years ago.

Time to oust fire chief, Rybak says:

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called on Monday for the removal of embattled Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek, saying he no longer has confidence in her ability to lead the department.

He no longer has confidence in her abilities? Now? What was it R.T., the FOURTH lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that finally got your attention? Or did you actually sit down and figure out how much this little diversity play was costing the city?

Under the proposal, Bleskachek is asking to remain in the department as a captain, said her attorney, Jerry Burg, of Minneapolis. If the settlement is approved by the City Council, Bleskachek would receive a severance payment because her chief's contract has not yet expired.

Bleskachek, who has been on paid administrative leave for eight months, is accused of allowing her romantic liaisons to color her ability to manage the department. She has been the target of lawsuits brought by four firefighters.

That litigation depicts a lesbian chief who allegedly favored some firefighters and retaliated against others.

It also depicts a firehouse culture where careers rose and fell based on who slept with whom.

Bleskachek was ill with the flu Monday and unavailable for comment, Burg said.

Well, at least she didn't have to call in sick.

Burg said he believes the severance package amounts to the difference between what Bleskachek would have earned as chief and her salary as a captain. The settlement payment, if approved by the council, would be one year's worth of that difference, he said.

Given her salary of $113,000 and that of a senior captain -- $68,000 -- that would put the payment at roughly $45,000.

Let me get this straight. She commits workplace violations that would have gotten anyone in the private sector thrown out on their arse long ago without so much as a second thought and now she not only is going to continue working for the Minneapolis FD, she's going to get paid difference between her position as chief and her new "demotion" to captain? Unbelievable.

Bleskachek, 43, has been the focus of internal investigations as the suits claiming discrimination and sexual harassment were pressed.

A city investigation continues, but it has already been determined that the department gave preferential treatment to lesbians or those socializing with them.

Good advice for budding job seekers out there: be sure to network with lesbians.

Bleskachek joined the Fire Department in 1989, quickly emerging as a leader and pioneer. Fifteen years later, she became the first lesbian in the nation to head a big-city fire department. Then, a few years ago, the city's Civil Rights Department accused her of repeatedly mixing her romantic relationships with her professional life.

Burg calls such claims baseless and painful. Now, he said, the embattled chief simply wants to return to what she loves: fighting fires and helping people.

And freeloading off the taxpayers of Minneapolis for as long as possible and running a fire department as a lesbian dating service.

You want to talk about pain? Here's some real pain for the hard-working taxpayer of Minneapolis:

In all, Minneapolis has spent more than $410,000 on the investigation, legal settlements and compensation of Bleskachek during her paid leave.

Since she was placed on leave March 22, Bleskachek has collected about $90,000 in salary and benefits, said Matthew Laible of the mayor's office.

Through early October, the amount paid to the private law firm conducting the internal investigation was $220,580, but that figure continues to rise, Laible said. The city is paying Bleskachek's attorney, and as of early October, that amount totaled $7,125.

So far, two of four suits brought by firefighters have been settled. On Oct. 6, the city paid Jennifer Cornell $65,000 and Kathleen Mullen, $29,000. Their suits contended that the chief prevented those firefighters' promotions because of her own grudges.

Ouch. Each figure another dagger in the wallet of Minneapolis taxpayers. But hey, your city hired the first lesbian in the nation to lead a big city fire department and that's gotta be worth something, right? Right?

UPDATE-- Bert e-mails to bring up some other costs:

It should be remembered that the cost of Bull Bleskachek's tenure as fire chief is costing the city far more than $400,000 when one considers that a lot of bright young firefighters have probably left the force when they realized that they wouldn't exactly be on her short list of prospective dates, and it's possible to likely that certain emergency situations were not handled as well due to their absence.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Beautiful Face Without A Name For So Long

A duet with Ann Coulter? I'm not much of a singer and the college tour dates would be rough, but if her album sells anything like her books I'd be a fool to pass on the opportunity. Sign me up.

They're Happy To Give...As Long It's Your Money

In an illuminating piece in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req), Arthur C. Brooks breaks down the results of the much-discussed survey on charitable giving:

Why does Giving America behave so differently from Non-Giving America? The answer, contrary to what you might be thinking, is not income; America's working poor give away at least as large a percentage of their incomes as the rich, and a lot more than the middle class. The charity gap is driven not by economics but by values.

Nowhere is the divide in values more on display than in religion, the frontline in our so-called "culture war." And the relationship between religion and charity is nothing short of extraordinary. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey indicates that Americans who weekly attend a house of worship are 25 percentage points more likely to give than people who go to church rarely or never. These religious folks also give nearly four times more dollars per year than secularists, on average, and volunteer more than twice as frequently.

It is not the case that these enormous differences are due simply to religious people giving to their churches. Religious people are more charitable with all sorts of nonreligious causes as well. They are 10 percentage points likelier than secularists to give money to explicitly nonreligious charities like the United Way, and 25 points more likely to volunteer for secular groups such as the PTA. Churchgoers were far likelier in 2001 to give to 9/11-related causes. On average, people of faith give more than 50% more money each year to non-church social welfare organizations than secularists do.

A second core value affecting charity shows up in the belief citizens have about the government's role in their lives. Some Americans (about a third) believe the government should do more to reduce income differences between the rich and poor -- largely through higher taxation and social spending. Others (about 40%) do not favor greater forced income redistribution. This is a major difference in worldview -- not just about taxation, but also about the perceived duty of individuals to take personal responsibility for themselves and others. This difference affects people's likelihood of voluntarily giving to charity. The General Social Survey shows that people who oppose government income redistribution donate four times as much money each year as do redistribution supporters.

A third key value affecting charity is reflected in family life. Couples, even when they earn the same amount as single people, are more likely to give to charity, and the simple act of raising children appears to stimulate giving as well -- children help us fill the collection plate even as they drain our wallets. Further, family life is the ideal transmission mechanism for charitable values: Data show that people who see their parents behave charitably are far likelier to be charitable themselves as adults.

Don't you just love it when evidence comes along to confirm beliefs that you've long held? It's nice to see that marriage and religion, a couple of bedrocks of our civilization that have been taking a beating in recent years, are once again shown to be unqualified goods. Not just good for your personal happiness and contentment as previous studies have shown, but good for society as a whole. Maybe there is something to these traditions that have lasted for thousands of years after all.

It's also heartening to see that what conservatives have long suspected of "government as the ultimate answer" liberals is indeed true: they're more than happy to spend money to "help" others, just as long as it isn't theirs. It's easy to make yourself feel good by calling for higher taxes and more spending. It's much harder to dig into your pocket or donate your own time to do something that actually does make a difference.

Voluntary giving enriches both those who receive the benefits of the charitable act, as well as those who give. It's good for the soul. Confiscatory taking and redistribution do nothing for the one being forced to "give" and, in the long run, are damaging to the individuals purportedly being helped as well as the larger society. It's sad that the Left is still viewed as caring more about people despite years of experience and reams of evidence to the contrary.

I Wish They Could All Be "Nick's Peeps"

Shawn e-mails to advise us that Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is looking for a few good Minnesotans:

I am looking for My Peeps of the Year.

If someone else had taken up the slack, I would've been happy to let them. But when you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So here's my idea: With your help, I'd like to name my ColeMan and ColeWoman of the year. Two Minnesotans who deserve to be recognized as Person Of The Year (POTY) for being the most outstanding -- or the most outrageous -- among us.

I am no Saint Nicholas: Nominees do not have to be good little boys and girls. Nor do they have to be someone I approve of, voted for or want to hang with.

Nor, in order to not minimize the participant pool, do they have to be someone who wants to hang with Nick.

Based on his preliminary list, it looks like he needs all the help he can get:

How about Minneapolis Fire Chief (on leave) Bonnie Bleskachek, who has made fire houses far more, ahem, interesting to me than they were before, and who leads the country in the number of four-alarm law suits she has sparked? She could be in the hunt.

Other names among the usual categories of suspects include:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who won re-election and made it through the whole year (so far) without publicly dropping an F-bomb along with the puck.

Joe Mauer, who won the American League batting title.

Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, the Honorable Muslim from the great state of Minnesota. Or Amy Klobuchar, our first elected woman senator. Or Judi Dutcher, who turned a campaign around and won the election (for the other guys).

Or, turning our sights to loftier plateaus, a St. Paul native named HeideMarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, who did rings around all of them (and around the planet), as a crew member on a space shuttle.

Yawn. Thankfully, you have a chance to liven up this lame list:

Send your nominations to me, by e-mail at the address below. Remember: There are two awards, one for a man and one for a woman. I will sort the nominees and make an initial effort to winnow them down. Then, on Dec. 17, I will report back to you with the names of our finalists. That's when you will have a chance to vote. We'll get a ballot online on the Star Tribune website, so you can choose the winners. They will be announced on Dec. 24.

E-mail early, e-mail often.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Draft Condi?

Condoleezza Rice was the runaway choice in our poll as the most likely member of President Bush's cabinet to be successful on the game show Jeopardy. She certainly would be a better choice to represent than Margaret Spellings was. Losing to Lenny still has to sting.

Lost And Found

Found: Several maize and blue jock straps, believed to belong to defenseman, forwards, and the goaltender from the seventh ranked University of Michigan hockey team, were found at Mariucci Arena after Saturday night's 8-2 thrashing at the hands of the Gophers. If one of these jock straps belongs to you, and you're not too embarrassed to admit it, you can contact the janitorial staff at Mariucci Arena to have it returned. To prevent a repeat of such losses in the future, please limit your hockey playing to CCHA games where you have a chance of not being completely humiliated by a superior opponent. Thank you for your cooperation.

UPDATE--Scott e-mails to express his cautious optimism:

I too watched the Gophers destroy Michigan on Saturday night. I started to think, maybe this team has a chance at defeating Holy Cross this year.

Of course, the season is still young...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Geopolitical Redemption

Ross Douthat points to a lengthy piece on Iraq by Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books. It's well-worth reading, especially since Danner has good insights on what compelled the Bush administration to go to war.

According to Woodward, this report had "a strong impact on President Bush, causing him to focus on the 'malignancy' of the Middle East"--and the need to act to excise it, beginning with an attack on Iraq that would not only serve, in its devastating rapidity and effectiveness, as a "demonstration model" to deter anyone thinking to threaten the United States but would begin a process of "democratic transformation" that would quickly spread throughout the region. The geopolitical thinking animating this "democratic domino theory" could be plainly discerned before the war, as I wrote five months before US Army tanks crossed the border into Iraq:

Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq--secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil--that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.

This is a vision of great sweep and imagination: comprehensive, prophetic, evangelical. In its ambitions, it is wholly foreign to the modesty of containment, the ideology of a status-quo power that lay at the heart of American strategy for half a century. It means to remake the world, to offer to a political threat a political answer. It represents a great step on the road toward President Bush's ultimate vision of "freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes."

It represented as well a breathtaking gamble, for if the victory in Iraq was to achieve what was expected--which is to say, "humiliate" the forces of radical Islam and reestablish American prestige and credibility; serve as a "demonstration model" to ward off attacks from any rogue state that might threaten the United States, either directly or by supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists; and transform the Middle East by sending a "democratic tsunami" cascading from Tehran to Gaza--if the Iraq war was to achieve this, victory must be rapid, decisive, overwhelming.

Only Donald Rumsfeld's transformed military--a light, quick, lean force dependent on overwhelming firepower directed precisely by high technology and with very few "boots on the ground"--could make this happen, or so he and his planners thought. Victory would be quick and awe-inspiring; in a few months the Americans, all but a handful of them, would be gone: only the effect of the "demonstration model," and the cascading consequences in the neighboring states, would remain. The use of devastating military power would begin the process but once begun the transformation would roll forward, carried out by forces of the same thrilling "democratic revolution" that had erupted on the streets of Prague and Budapest and East Berlin more than a decade before, and indeed on the streets of Kabul the previous year. Here was an evangelical vision of geopolitical redemption.

Was it folly to believe that such a vision could be realized? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But opponents of the war should at least acknowledge what the true aims and goals were and direct their criticism accordingly, rather than attacking imaginary cabals, oil-greedy warmongers, and imperialistic cowboys.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble

Thanksgiving seems to be a time to reflect on the past as well as gives thanks for the present. In that vein here are some of my scatter shot Thanksgiving memories.

When we were kids, we ALWAYS went to our grandparents in Iowa for Thanksgiving. While it may seem like a raw deal, it was a small price to pay for being able to stay home for Christmas. Straight through, it's a little over a three hour car ride, which in kid time is like three days. Not exactly the most exciting scenery either. We'd leave right after school on Wednesday afternoon and more often than not it seemed to be snowing. Or maybe I just remember the years that it snowed. We'd stop for dinner somewhere along the way and usually by the time we arrived in Iowa, JB and I would be crashed in the back seat of our parent's car (sans seat belts or any other child safety restraint of course).

It was usually a full house for Thanksgiving, so we often ended up on the living room floor in sleeping bags. A hard floor with very thin carpet and a German cuckoo clock, whose incessant noise-making made sleep difficult. We'd be up bright as early as our grandma would start cooking at around 4am. Okay, maybe it only seemed like 4am to a dumb kid, but the woman wasn't one to sleep in or be mindful of people sleeping nearby when she was rattling around the kitchen.

The rest of the day would be a haze of food and football. JB and I would always get stuck at the "kids table," some crappy, wobbly card table with decrepit folding chairs with our like-aged cousins. It did allow us to be out of the watchful eye of grandma, which meant we could have a glass of milk WITH the food. How we were we supposed to wash it down without?

One odd memory is the way our grandpa would rave on and on about all the mashed potatoes one of our girl cousins ate. Mashed potatoes, we thought, who the hell cares how many mashed potatoes she eats? Alas, the extra grandfatherly attention didn't ensure happiness down the road as she ended up popping a couple kids out of wedlock and has had difficulty leading a stable life.

Apres the feastin', if the weather was decent, we'd go outside and play football with our cousins and some of the town kids we had gotten to know (we used to play "riot" with some of these same kids with JB and I playing the role of baton wielding cops and they the role of disruptive hippies. Good times, good times.). If not, we'd watch it on TV and laugh at the fact that the Iowans had no professional team of their own to cheer for. Pitifully, they were forced to "adopt" teams of their own choosing. There were always a lot of Vikings and Bears fans of course and then those who jumped on the successful teams of the day like the Cowboys and Steelers. There were also a few outliers like one cousin who was a diehard Lions fan. Poor bastard.

If we managed to make it through the day without incurring the wrath of our uptight English professor uncle or our creepy loner uncle (by marriage)--who always was skulking off somewhere to read Louis L'amour novels--we considered the day a high success. The best part of course was the food. The turkey, the buns, the gravy, the stuffing, all was top-notch. Since it was Iowa farm country, even simple things like corn, butter, and milk were better than what we were accustomed to. And the pie...oh, the pie. A slice of hot apple pie with a scoop of ice cream was heaven on earth.

Thanksgiving as an adult of course takes on an added dimension: the drinking. Beer, wine, gin, Scotch, etc. when it comes to Thanksgiving drinking the mores the merrier. Two of the more memorable Thanksgivings in this regard are the times that my wife and I spent Thanksgiving with JB when he was living as a bachelor in Boston (believe it or not he wasn't always a backwards-arse hick).

The best thing was that once we got to Beantown, there was no place to go on the big day. We'd pick up an amazingly over-priced free range turkey (I think they were around $17 a pound) and other food stuffs at Whole Foods-- along with plenty of booze of course--the day before and we were golden. No car trips. No relatives. Nothing. Frankly, it took some bit of motivation to even decide to bother with a shower. After all, we weren't going anywhere.

My wife would take the lead in the kitchen (otherwise JB would be serving up toast and popcorn), which allowed the two of us to basically sit on the couch and start the drinking nice and early. No obligations, no pressures, no need to not be completely yourself and let it all hang out (eventually I did have to insist that JB put some pants on).

After much eating, drinking, and football watching, we'd each settle in for a nice nap late in the afternoon. No one to disturb your rest. Nothing to feel that should be doing instead. Completely guilt-free sloth. It really doesn't get any better.

Then we'd get up, grab a couple of turkey sandwedges, watch a movie or two, and recommence the imbibing. Pretty much the way the 'Grims must have envisioned it being when they broke bread with the Indians at that first Thanksgiving so many many years ago.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving. And go easy on the mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Fine Line Between Clever And Stupid

I don't know what's worse. Our Secretary of Education coming in second--behind David St. Hubbins--on the game show Jeopardy:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says she studied hard to prepare for Tuesday night's airing of "Celebrity Jeopardy!"

"I didn't want to be the education secretary who didn't know how to spell potato," Spellings joked, describing how she read books and sought advice from a former show contender and her daughters.

In the end, Spellings said she thinks the effort was worth it. She came in second behind the actor Michael McKean, best known for his role as 'Lenny' on the television show "Laverne and Shirley" and for the movie "This Is Spinal Tap."

Placing third was actor Hill Harper, from the television show "CSI: NY."

"I think I held my own," Spellings said in an interview Tuesday, hours before the show aired. She noted McKean had an edge, having been on the show before.

Or her deputy press secretary Trey Ditto (is that a name made for Sports Center or what?) sending out a press release touting her "achievement":

Last night, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings won second place on Celebrity Jeopardy and $25,000 for ProLiteracy Worldwide.

Michael McKean, best known for his role as 'Lenny' on the television show "Laverne and Shirley," and actor Hill Harper, from the television show "CSI: NY," made strong starts, but after the first commercial break, Secretary Spellings went on a streak to gain solid control of second place.

Behind the guy who played Lenny. Keep that bar nice and low.

During Double Jeopardy, Secretary Spellings played smart and conservative. In fact, her strategic play led to answering BOTH Double Jeopardy questions correctly and maintaining a significant lead over Mr. Harper.

In the end, Secretary Spellings successfully answered the Final Jeopardy answer, "What is To Kill a Mockingbird" and came in second place with $11,100.

Secretary Spellings was the first Cabinet secretary ever to appear on the popular quiz show. She said she'd like to return for another try.

And maybe next time she might even play to win!

Is it really too much to expect that our Secretary of Education could beat a comic actor in a trivia game? Is finishing in second place in a contest with three players good enough for America in 2006? Sadly, this little spectacle has a lot of parallels with the general state of American education today.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Brownback Mountain?

Why Mitt Romney is not an option:

Forty-three percent (43%) of American voters say they would never even consider voting for a Mormon Presidential candidate. Only 38% say they would consider casting such a vote while 19% are not sure (see crosstabs). Half (53%) of all Evangelical Christians say that they would not consider voting for a Mormon candidate.

Overall, 29% of Likely Voters have a favorable opinion of Romney while 30% hold an unfavorable view. Most of those opinions are less than firmly held. Ten percent (10%) hold a very favorable opinion while 11% have a very unfavorable assessment. Among the 41% with no opinion of Romney, just 27% say they would consider voting for a Mormon.

It is possible, of course, that these perceptions might change as Romney becomes better known and his faith is considered in the context of his campaign. Currently, just 19% of Likely Voters are able to identify Romney as the Mormon candidate from a list of six potential Presidential candidates.

The response to a theoretical Mormon candidate is far less negative than the response to a Muslim candidate or an atheist.
[Woo-hoo] Sixty-one percent (61%) of Likely Voters say they would never consider voting for a Muslim Presidential candidate. Sixty percent (60%) say the same about an atheist.

For the record, I'm with the 43%. Conservatives looking for a kindred spirit in the White House without the religious baggage might want to take a long look at Sam Brownback in 2008.

[Via Vox]

Hat Trick, Eh?

Morneau edges Jeter to win AL MVP award:

First baseman Justin Morneau, who hit .348 after the All-Star Game as the Minnesota Twins stormed back from a 12-game deficit in July to win the American League Central Division, was named Tuesday the AL's Most Valuable Player.

In the closest vote in five years, Morneau edged New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter 320 points to 306 for the honor as voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of American. Morneau, Jeter, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye were the only four players named on every ballot.

Morneau, who batted .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBI, was named first on 15 of the 28 ballots. Jeter, who was second in the league in batting with a .343 average and had 214 hits, 118 runs, 97 RBI and a career-high 34 stolen bases, was listed first on 12 ballots.

The other first-place vote went to Twins pitcher and unanimous Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana (19-6, 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts), who placed seventh overall.

Cy Young, batting title, and MVP winners? Not a bad year for the local ball club.

Hand In Glove

Bing West and Hans Binnendijk suggest the U.S. adopt one of the key lessons from Vietnam and embed more troops with Iraqi units (WSJ-sub req):

But any diplomatic package will fail unless Iraq's security forces restore order. The only way to rapidly do that is to shift platoons from American battalions into 140 Iraqi army battalions and critical police stations. Currently the U.S. has about a dozen military advisers working in each Iraqi battalion. These advisers spend their time as managers. They are too few to give combat advice and moral reassurance out on the streets during daily operations.

As a result, Iraqi platoons, lacking self-confidence, restrict their patrolling in the dangerous areas where they are most needed. To infuse combat confidence in each Iraqi battalion, we propose embedding about 60 advisers -- by transferring a reinforced platoon from every U.S. infantry battalion in Iraq. Each American soldier and Marine so deployed would be a force multiplier, greatly increasing the effectiveness of the Iraqi soldiers. The total number of advisers would expand to 20,000, plus additional support. Air and artillery strikes would be on call. Additional U.S. battalions would be needed to provide Quick Reaction Forces should the embedded forces need them. Special Forces commandos would still seek out al Qaeda operatives anywhere. U.S. units would maintain security in parts of Baghdad and 10 other key cities.

The huge increase in advisers would be offset by a drawdown of American conventional battalions and base support units. American-only patrols are becoming counterproductive, with fewer direct enemy engagements, more sniper and IED attacks, and more alienated Iraqis. In return for the embedding, the U.S. would insist that Iraqi officers accused of malfeasance by their advisory teams be relieved of duty.

By shifting missions from American-only patrolling to embedded combat advisers, the overall U.S. troop requirement might be cut nearly in half during the coming year. But the effectiveness of the mission should increase, based on past experience. In Vietnam, the Marine Combined Action Platoon (CAP) program deployed over 100 squads to live in hamlets with Popular Force units. Large areas were patrolled at low cost and 60% of the Marines involved extended at the end of their tours. Last year in northwest Iraq, the American commander in al Qaim replicated the CAP experience by integrating his battalion into local police and army forces and driving al Qaeda out of the city.

Such an integrated approach, with advisors living, training, and fighting alongside native troops to provide needed backbone, has proven successful in past counterinsurgencies. It usually results in better intelligence gathering and helps minimize the overt presence of the foreign "occupier." Why it hasn't been widely adopted in Iraq up to this point is a bit puzzling. Let's hope that the advice offered by West and Binnendijk become part of the much talked about "go long" approach the military is considering.

Monday, November 20, 2006

And When I Looked The Moon Had Turned To Gold

A couple of years ago, when I first noticed that Blue Moon beer was becoming increasingly popular, I was surprised that most people, including those who were regular Blue Moon drinkers, were not aware that it was a product of Coors. Today's Wall Street Journal explains that the mysterious background of Blue Moon is not an accident:

Candace Lawson loves Blue Moon beer. "It's the only beer I drink," she says.
But the 27-year-old Chicago bartender has no idea who makes it. "I just know it's a Belgian wheat beer," she says.

Except it's not -- or not exactly.

Blue Moon is indeed a Belgian-style wheat beer, and it has become a hit in the increasingly important segment of the market catering to fans of "craft" beers -- traditionally the products of small brewers. But what many Blue Moon drinkers don't know is that the beer is made in Canada by Molson Coors Brewing Co., the third-largest brewer in the U.S., after Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Miller Brewing Co.

Typically, linking a large brewer to a craft beer would be the kiss of death. But Coors has managed to have it both ways, relying on a "stealth" marketing campaign that rejects the macho TV commercials that offend many craft-beer aficionados. A Coors spokesman says Blue Moon has an agency -- Omnicom's Integer Group -- that creates the brand's point-of-sale materials, but "our marketing has been very minimal."

As have been any indications of ties to Coors. The approach seems to be paying off:

Industry estimates predict the company will sell between 400,000 and 500,000 barrels of Blue Moon this year. If so, that would make it the third- or fourth- largest craft brewer in the U.S., behind Boston-based Boston Beer Co.; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, Calif.; and New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colo.

Distributors credit the success of Blue Moon in part to its visual appeal in "on-premise" locations like bars. In what turned out to be a masterstroke of marketing, Keith Villa, Blue Moon's creator, decided that the company should suggest that bars to serve the beer with an orange slice garnishing the rim of the glass.

"When people saw a beer with an orange slice in it, it piqued their interest," says Jim Doney, president of Chicago Beverage Systems LLC. "They said, 'Hey, let me try one of those.' " As the beer developed a strong following in on-premise accounts, says Mr. Doney, distribution was then expanded to off-premise accounts, like grocery stores.

When you read something like this, it's hard to argue against the stereotype of your average beer drinker being about as sophisticated as Homer Simpson. Beer with orange slice? Me want try. with orange slice. Can Skittle-brau really be that far off?

While I'm not normally a big fan of adding an orange to my beer (lemon in a good hefeweizen is perfectly acceptable of course), I have to admit that it works with Blue Moon. On so many levels.

Although Blue Moon has been around for more than a decade, Molson Coors won't talk in detail about its strategy for the beer, citing a highly competitive marketplace. But as the beer has become more widely known, so, too, have some of Molson Coors's tactics: playing down the beer's connection to its corporate parent; avoiding TV ads; using distributors who know how to sell smaller brands; and targeting key markets and accounts.

The U.S. craft-beer segment is still relatively small, accounting for about 3.4% of the volume and 5.3% of sales in the U.S. in 2005, according to the Brewers Association, a craft-beer trade group based in Boulder, Colo. But the craft segment represents a desirable demographic of young, educated, affluent beer drinkers willing to shell out more for their brew. And big brewers are eager to tap this market.

Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch introduced two organic beers, Wild Hop Lager and Stone Mill Pale Ale. Like Blue Moon, both play down their relationship to their parent. Stone Mill's label says it's brewed by Crooked Creek Brewing Co., and Wild Hop is marketed as a product of the Green Valley Brewing Co.

Would it be possible to come up with lamer sounding names? You can tell they were run through the corporate marketing grinder until every last ounce of authenticity was wrung out. They're utterly banal and completely indistinguishable. Yeah, I'll have one of them Stone Hop Pale Ales from Green Creek Brewing. Or whatever.

Miller, too, is trying hard to crack the craft market. In April, its Leinenkugel brand introduced Sunset Wheat. It is, for all practical purposes, a clone of Blue Moon, down to the use of coriander.

This is a little bit misleading. While Leinenkugel is owned by Miller, and is not a craft brewer per se, it has been brewing beer that comes closer to the craft than big brew category for some time (at least in terms of styles and flavors). And Sunset Wheat is hardly a clone of Blue Moon, although Leinenkugel's has copied the orange slice bit.

Mr. Thompson attributes much of Blue Moon's success to Molson Coors distributors, who he notes are very good at selling smaller brands. Blue Moon's success, he notes, has also been a slow process, taking more than a decade, but one that has earned the beer respect.

Die-hards don't consider Blue Moon to be a true craft beer. True craft beers must be produced by small, independent and traditional breweries, generally those producing fewer than two million barrels of beer a year. But even beer snobs admit to liking it.

"It is nice," said Jeff Meyer, host of The Good Beer Show, a podcast that often originates from the Heorot Pub and Draught House in Muncie, Ind.

The Heorot is a real beer lover's bar. It's got 53 draft lines, 350 bottled beers and plaques on the wall for anyone who has tried 100 different beers. Stan Stephens, president of the Heorot, says he has one rule: "No Budweiser, no Miller, no Coors." But he makes an exception for Blue Moon. "Blue Moon's real popular," he says.

Although I've been accused of being one, I don't consider myself a beer snob. I just happen to like beer with taste and flavor. Most of the beers that meet this standard are craft beers, but frankly I don't care who makes the beer as long as it's good. And Blue Moon is definitely that, especially on a hot summer day.

Before You Hit "Send"...

...and forward that e-mail about gas price conspiracies, the government's secret plan to bring back the draft, or how some company is not supporting the troops, take a minute and check the facts behind the frenzy. My favorite resource is, but there are plenty of places you can go to find the truth. It is out there if you're just willing to do a little looking.

Catholic In Name Only?

If you live in the Twin Cities and have ever wondered about the origins of today's nominally Catholic politicians--like Kerry, Kennedy, Snowe, and Durbin among others--who seem to take their Church's teachings on life issues about as seriously as they do Jon Stewart's commentary on the Daily Show, there's an event in town tomorrow night that you may want to attend:

THE KENNEDY COMPROMISE: How America's First Catholic President Inaugurated an Era of Compartmentalized Faith in Politics

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 7:00 pm

The Cathedral of Saint Paul
239 Selby Avenue, Saint Paul

Free and open to the public

When President John F. Kennedy addressed a skeptical and largely anti-Catholic crowd at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960, he promised that he would sever his Catholic faith from his political decisions. That promise propelled him to election as America's first Catholic President. It also influenced a generation of aspiring Catholic politicians, by encouraging a gap between private faith and public service that has widened to a chasm in the ensuing four decades. Author and former presidential speechwriter Colleen Carroll Campbell will chronicle the development of this separation between faith and works in Catholic politics, its consequences for the Church and the culture, and the possibilities for a more integrated public witness by Catholic politicians in the years to come.

Lost Weekend

You ever have a weekend where you do absolutely nothing? Under some circumstances, spending two unproductive days can be a very good thing. But when you're forced into such slothful inactivity because of illness, it ain't no picnic.

On Friday, I came down with a case of Dengue Fever (or some other exotic dehabilitating ailment). By Saturday morning I pretty much incapacitated. Every joint, muscle, tendon, ligament, disk, and vertebrae (especially the vertebrae!) was sore and aching and sleep was well nigh impossible. My head was throbbing and my brain wracked by fever. My bowels were roiling and it was all I could do to keep down the precious sport drink that was hydrating my system.

As I mentioned, sleep did not come easy. Reading was impossible. Even listening to the high-brow discourse of talk radio proved too taxing About all I could do was prop myself up with pillows on the couch and watch TV. And watch TV I did. All I can say is thank God for college football. I watched a lot of college football and it, along with a couple of naps replete with fever-fueled dreams, was able to get me through to the start of the Gopher hockey game that night. Like I said, I watched a lot of TV on Saturday.

Sunday was better in some respects, worse in others. The fever was gone as was most of the aching, but now my body had apparently decided that the best way to dispose of the intruder within was to flush the system. Completely. Again, not conducive to getting much done. At least I was able to read and by the end of the day had managed to complete a couple of light tasks around the house. I even showered, shaved, and brushed my teeth, activities that had seemed like impossible dreams on Saturday. I also ventured outside for a spell, so I suppose saying the weekend was entirely lost is a exaggeration.

Today, I'm in the netherworld between sickness and health. I desperately want to feel "normal" again and find enough signs to indicate a complete recovery that I start believing it true. But then the retreating forces of malady will find a soft spot in my defenses and launch an unexpected counter-attack. It's an on-going battle that I must win before Thanksgiving--truly "the most wonderful day of the year"--rolls around.

How was your weekend?

What Not To Buy Your Daughter This Christmas. Your Wife Maybe.

This is a real product for sale at Amazon.

Here's the link.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Win One For The New Guy! What's His Name Again?

Today, Brad Chidress managed to accomplish something no coach before him in Viking history had. He lost a football game to quarterback Joey Harrington. Harrington had been 0-6 in his career against the Vikings. Until he played the offensively anemic Childress-led 2006 team. Pathetic.

What was almost as pathetic was the factor that was supposedly motivating the Dolphins. Daunte Culpepper. Yup, since Daunte was injured and couldn't play against his former team, the Dolphin players were reported to have "dedicated" the game to him. A guy who's played all of what, four games for the Fins? He didn't exactly remind fans of Bob Griese or Dan Marino during his short starting stint either. And now we're to believe that the Dolphins were all pumped up to "win one for Daunte"?

Next game maybe they can find a sick kid to dedicate the game to. It shouldn't be hard to find someone more deserving than Daunte.

Saturday, November 18, 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.

The post election realities are just settling in and we'll have all the latest on the back biting among the back benchers now emerging as our national leaders. Plus Tim Pawlenty's unmoored drift to the left, Keith Ellison's first week in Washington, Loon of the Week, this Week in Gatekeeping, and much, much more.

We'll be sans Chad the Elder who I beleive is finally cashing in that "Day of Beauty" gift certificate I gave him last christmas at Mr. Jose's Tan and Wash in Hopkins. But, as usual, John Hinderaker will be on hand.

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, November 17, 2006

Kiss and Make Up

It's always good to see people seemingly made for each other ending up together, despite all the impediments society throws in their way:

The Star Tribune and the organizer of the Twin Cities' annual gay pride event announced Tuesday that they settled a dispute dating to 2004 over the newspaper declining to run advertisements featuring a same-sex kiss. The newspaper will resume sponsoring the event and GLBT Pride/Twin Cities will drop a pending lawsuit, according to a news release by the parties.

That's a relief. The Twin Cities annual gay pride event without the Star Tribune is like gay men's chorus float without the Mayor of Minneapolis stage diving off of it and injuring his knee - it just feels wrong.

It is good to see this brief spat over what constitutes "community standards" and discrimination has created some emotional growth and maturity that will only bring these parties closer together:

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the two organizations said they "regret their difficult and strained relationship" after working together for many years. "The positive side of this dispute is that we both have grown in understanding each other's views of their rights, responsibilities and missions," the statement said.

Or, as Peter Cetera once crooned:

Hold me now It's hard for me to say I'm sorry
I just want you to stay
After all that we've been through
I will make it up to you I promise to

Just what has the Star Tribune agreed to publish in future ads and bring into the homes of unsuspecting families all over the metro area? Details are sketchy:

They are still discussing details of their sponsorship agreement, the statement said.

The circulation department waits and worries.

I Want My Monkey Man

You've winced at his columns in the newspapers.

You've suffered through his ill-fated radio ventures.

And now ladies and gentlemen, brought right into your living rooms in vivid Technicolor, Nick Coleman on your television.

At least he was tonight when we happened to have the local Fox affiliate's news on. He was doing a commentary segment on the lines of people waiting at a local Best Buy for the PSIIIs and how it spelled the end of civilization as we know it. Yes, it was that bad.

It really was the worst of all worlds. His commentary was remindful of his carping columns. His voice of his off-putting, snarky radio shows. And to top it off, we had to look at his smug face the whole time. How many mediums can one man befoul?

Finger In The Dike?

Dutch government wants burqa ban:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The Dutch government announced plans Friday for legislation banning full-length veils in public places and other clothing that covers the face ? putting the Netherlands at the forefront of a general European hardening toward Muslim minorities.

The Netherlands, once considered one of Europe's most welcoming nations for immigrants and asylum seekers, is deeply divided over moves by the government to stem the tide of new arrivals and compel immigrants to assimilate into Dutch society.

Based on conversations that I had last month when I was in Holland, I would guess that this is just the beginning. Anxiety about the future of the country was evident and fears of the growing Muslim population were being openly expressed. The Dutch are starting to wake from a long slumber. Let's just hope that it's already not too late in the day.

This Cliche Has Left The Building

While listening to NPR this morning, I caught Mara Liasson employing one of the most tired, overused political cliches of recent years. Discussing the Democratic presidential prospects for 2008, she referred to Barak Obama as a...

[wait for it]

[you know what's coming don't you?]

..."rock star." Sigh. Put that one to rest Mara. It's played.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

I'm usually overjoyed when the annual A.I.A.-MN convention rolls into town. In years past, it has meant nearly four stress-free days spent away from the office at company funded architecture seminars. While that may not sound like fun to you, it does get me away from the constantly ringing telephone, the always annoying co-workers and the 100% flavor-free office coffee.

This year, however, I am a bit conflicted. I always enjoy the time away from the office, I usually enjoy a few of the seminars and I most certainly enjoy the fact that being at the Minneapolis Convention Center puts me within walking distance of two of my favorite downtown drinking establishments (neither of which I will link to here in deference to the official pub of Fraters Libertas...but, believe me people, I take full advantage of "bar proximity" every chance I get).

The conflict I am suffering arises with the theme of this year's exposition. It's entitled "In the Mix" and it is officially described as an attempt to:
-encourage architects to become more engaged in the external community
-create more livable and sustainable communities
-explore the role of the architect of the future
Guess which bullet point has become the focus of this year's convention.

Let me just throw at you some of the "greenspeak" that has been flung my way in the last 72 hours:
-carbon neutral mortgages
-carbon neutral marriages
-carbon neutral car loans
-fossil fuel free cities
-compact walkable green cities
-thinking beyond the automobile
-sustainable transportation
-cities powered by the sun
-city building
-community building
-transit friendly retail
-urban villages
-greening the light rail corridor
I seriously don't think I can survive one more day of this. I leave the convention each evening with a nagging urge to hack a few trees down, pour gasoline down the sewer and kick a squirrel or two. That's about what it's going to take to get my mind right again. If I could only find my pair of squirrel kicking shoes...

Time Is Money

Speaking of waiting, whilst at lunch today, I noticed the freaks and geeks camped outside of Target and Best Buy waiting for their chance to purchase a Play Station III tomorrow. This being Minnesota and November, the teenage and twenty-something dateless wonders were bundled up with parkas, blankets, and their Transformer sleeping bags. They made for a pretty pathetic site.

Amongst the huddled masses yearning for a life, I was surprised to find Mrs. Nihilist In Golf Pants and the Nihilist childrens queued up. She informed me that they had joined the line on Wednesday, right after their monthly plasma pay day (Do you have any idea how much they're paying for infant plasma these days? The Nihilist does.)

Apparently the Nihilist, being a dedicated disciple of the recently departed Milton Friedman, had analyzed the supply and demand situation for PSIIIs and determined that an opportunity for a lucrative pay off existed in the market. And he's willing to have to his family wait outside Best Buy as long as it takes to realize it. Now you know how the other half really lives.

Rumors and Innuendo

It looks The City Pages guide to reporting has attracted a few converts.

Sisyphus with the Top 11 other things overhead while skulking around the GOP election night gala.

And Learned Foot goes under cover at the CP offices. Shocking revelations include:

1130: Lunch time. My contact informs me that a lot of the female staff use their lunchbreak to get abortions.

The Waiting Game

Joseph Bottum on the virtues of patience at FIRST THINGS:

Except it was. All right, I'll admit it: Even the conscious ironic comedy of browsing frowsy old magazines didn't help. These are the reading material the demons lay out in the waiting rooms of hell, and if I could have found a box of kitchen matches, I would have burned down the offices of the various doctors I've been forced to visit over the last three weeks.

Not to worry: There's nothing wrong with me except some aches and pains and lingering colds, all caused by general lack of "taking care of yourself," as one doctor kindly explained. In fact, she said, "You are in as bad a shape as a body can possibly be and not actually be very sick. There are these things called exercise, sleep, and regular meals. You ought to try them sometime."

Turns out that coffee and cigarettes are not completely reliable substitutes. Good to know, I suppose. But that physicians' tone of moral authority--oh, how it grates, and, oh, how it works. Even dentists have it, the voice that speaks from certain knowledge of right and wrong in your personal behavior: "Do you floss after every meal?" There isn't priest or pastor left in America who would dare assume that stern, judgmental tone.

Speaking as a someone who's spent far too much time having his teeth poked, prodded, drilled, and pulled in the last year, I can testify that the old bugaboo of "Catholic guilt" can't hold a candle to dental guilt.

"Dentist forgive me for I have sinned against my teeth."

"How long has it been since your last cleaning, my son?"

"Oh, I don't know, seven, eight months maybe?"

"According to our records it's been over a year. And you ignored our repeated phone calls to come in. What other sins do you have to confess?"

"Well, I was playing hockey without wearing a facemask and..."

"You were playing hockey without a mask? That wasn't very smart now, was it?"

"No, I guess it wasn't. It'll never happen again."

"It had better not. What about flossing? Do you floss every day?"

"Well, I try to..."

"Try? Trying isn't doing. Look at those bleeding gums. Do you want to get gum disease?"


"You need to start taking better care of your teeth. For your penance, you'll have to get three shots of Novocain, a root canal on #10, and a thorough cleaning with an extra sharp dental pick. Now go forward and sin against your teeth no more."

"Thank you dentist."

Besides, it comes at you just when you're worn down--by the sickness that brought you there in the first place, by having nothing to read except an age-yellowed copy of People, by the sheer, unendurable boredom of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

I realized today, waiting to see yet another doctor for yet another test, that I have organized my life to eliminate waiting, insofar as anyone who is not wealthy can. It wasn't conscious, but I've always worked in fast spurts rather than steady flows, and when I start something or arrive somewhere, I want it to zip and zing and get done. And the body--that vile slosh and sway of meat around our bones--ah, yes, that's the thing that breaks us, in the end, to the yoke of mere enduring.

A man after my own heart. There are few things in life that I despise as much as waiting. Although we're told that you develop patience as you get older, I find that I have less and less tolerance for waiting as the years go on. Whether it's at the coffee shop on the way to work, the checkout line at Target, or waiting to get seated for dinner, I can't stand delays.

Sometimes I drive my wife crazy because I consider a half-hour wait at a crowded restaurant unacceptable. I'd rather leave and spend twenty minutes driving to another restaurant to wait fifteen minutes than spend thirty at the place we're already at. When we shop together, she's appalled at my willingness to forgo buying something (even it's a great deal) if there's more than three or four people in line at the checkout. I'd rather pay more to not have to wait in line.

For the medievals, patience was the virtue opposed to the vice of anger, while for moderns it seems rather to be the virtue by which boredom should be confronted. I hadn't realized the connection until recently, for the idea of boredom always suggested to me the dangers of ennui and acedia. Sitting in the doctor's office, like patience on a monument, however, I start to get it.

To borrow an oft-used paraphrase of Saint Augustine, "God, give me serenity and patience--but don't make me wait."

A Great Man Passes

Influential Economist Friedman Dies at 94 (sub req):

Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman, one of the most influential economists of the last century, died today. He was 94.

Mr. Friedman died of heart failure after being taken to hospital near his home in San Francisco, his daughter, Janet Martell, said today. His wife Rose Friedman, who co-authored many of his books, survives him.

Mr. Friedman's death was also announced at a conference of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington by the institute's vice president of academic affairs, James A. Dorn. The audience of academics and policy makers observed several moments of silence in observance.

Mr. Friedman was awarded the Nobel prize in 1976. He has long championed the cause of political and economic freedom and the links between the two. He has originated, or been associated with, many breakthroughs in economics since the 1950s. He is best known for explaining the role of the money supply in economic and inflation fluctuations. He also, with this year's Nobel prize winner Edmund Phelps, developed the theory in the 1960s that policy makers couldn't achieve a permanent tradeoff between lower unemployment and higher inflation, and that efforts to do so would simply result in the same unemployment rate and higher inflation, a view that holds sway at major central banks today, including the Fed.

Mr. Friedman also exercised extraordinary influence not just through his academic work but through his advice to politicians and his many popular books, such as Capitalism and Freedom in 1962 and Free to Choose, with Rose Friedman, in 1990, which was made into a television series.

Mr. Friedman had enormous impact on economic policy though he never had a formal job in a government administration after World War Two. His opposition helped lead to the end of the draft. He was an adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He has been closely associated with school vouchers and other applications of free market principles to policy issues.

Milton Friedman R.I.P.

UPDATE-- King shares a personal remembrance.

Those Who Can't Do, Protest

Landing the 2008 GOP convention means that the Twin Cities will also have to deal with the wretched refuse that such events invariably attract:

With nearly two years to go before the gavel falls at the 2008 Republican National Convention, anti-war demonstrators already are planning to march on the convention arena in St. Paul.

The Anti-War Committee, based in Minneapolis, has applied for marching and demonstration permits from the city of St. Paul.

Delegates "have 17,000 hotel rooms; I hope we have numbers at least as many," said Jess Sundin, a member of the Anti-War Committee.

As many what? Tents? Cardboard boxes? Giant puppet heads?

But even worse than crowds of decaying hippies and mush-minded youth, our zone is going to be flooded with liberal law-talkers:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU) says it expects more protest groups to sign up for the Twin Cities convention, and is getting ready to help them get access to the convention site.

"We've already started discussions and lining up attorneys," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the state ACLU. "They have these conventions every four years and they take away the First Amendment rights of everybody except the people they agree with."

Yeah Chuck, because if these brave voices of dissent (from hygiene) aren't allowed to go wherever and whenever they want to harass and hurl obscenities at convention goers, then their free speech is being crushed. Never mind the rights of the citizens who are peaceably gathering to do their civic duty by legitimately participating in the political process. The scraggly man on the street is the hero, the successful man in the hall is the bum.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stereotypes Confirmed

It's no secret that the staff of heavy breathers over at the City Pages spends an inordinate amount of time hatin' on conservatives. How thrilled they must have been when they sent a couple of smirking, cynical scribes over to the GOP party on election night to skulk around the fringes, and guess what, they found things to smirk and be cynical about. Excerpts from their live blogging-like time line:

8:35 p.m.: In the Navigators bar on the hotel's ground floor, a group of five revelers expounds on race relations. "There's a difference," explains one of them. "It depends on what kind of blacks you're talking about. There's the light-skinned blacks and the dark-skinned blacks. And they're different. But you can't just say that."

You know, I was at the GOP party and Navigators bar that night, talked to a lot of people, and I didn't hear anything like that discussion. It's like a miracle that people who view Republicans with such disdain would just happen stumble on rhetoric that justifies their prejudice. Then again, miracles are much more common when the standard of reporting is overheard conversations from anonymous bar flies.

8:47 p.m.: A twentysomething guy is wearing a black T-shirt that reads, "Liberalism is a mental disorder."

Minneapolis hot house lilies, meet The Savage Nation.

8:55 p.m.: Enthusiastic applause greets the announcement that purported closet-case Charlie Crist has won the Florida governor's race.

Ha, those hypocrites! Take note Republicans, if you want the approval of the City Pages, you need to jeer all purported closet cases.

12:44 a.m. A GOP partisan, frustrated by slow late-night returns from St. Louis County, says to no one in particular: "What are they? A bunch of Iron Range hicks?"

Was this anonymous partisan the same as the anonymous guy from the bar? If so, this is an equal opportunity bigot. Come on, let's hear it for equality!

2:37 a.m.: A young Republican counsels an elder comrade on protocol for hooking up on election night. "Give it up, dude," he tells him, sipping from a can of Coors beer. "She's a college Republican. I'm a college Republican. You're like 50."

OK, that happened. But my calling Chad "50" was in jest, exaggeration to make a point. He only looked like he was 50 due to the mandated Patriot uniform for the night.

To provide balance, we're looking for volunteers to skulk around the City Pages staff Xmas party this year and we'll report what you thought you might have overheard in passing. In the name of journalistic integrity and blending in, violations of any substance abuse statutes and/or the Mann Act will be overlooked.

UPDATE--The Elder Adds: First off, I'm only forty-nine. Secondly, this sort of drive-by slander posing as journalism is despicable. Funny how the City Pages staffers just happened to overhear a racist conversation at a bar at a hotel where the GOP victory party was taking place. And funny how the quote they happened to catch was a just oh so perfect example of what the writers and CP readers really believe about Republicans. Best of all, there is no way that anyone can ever check it. It's the perfect crime.

Swimming Against The Current

Tired of trying to buy clothes for your daughter and finding nothing in the stores but the latest and greatest (in other words most revealing) in skankwear? You now have a modest alternative at Up Stream Girl:

We founded Up Stream Girl with a desire to provide fashion apparel with a more feminine, classic look for girls, teens and juniors. The kind of clothes we had when we were younger, but with today's fashion - the fashion which makes these clothes great! Fun and cool colors, new fabrics and great styles. We call these "Today?s Classics".

Our objective is to make your life easier, to give you a single place to shop that provides the fashion apparel that is so hard to find these days such as beautiful dresses, fun skirts, cool bermuda shorts, and fun & practical modest swimwear. It can be very time consuming to shop for girls clothing and there is no guarantee of success; unless you want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Up Stream Girl is not about fitting in, we are about standing out.

And if you live in the Twin Cities, you can attend their Mother/Daughter open house this weekend:

Saturday November 18, 2006 from 10:00am to 4:00pm at:

1864 Eldridge Avenue West

Roseville, MN 55113

Call with questions: 651-485-0307

Just because all the other girls look like runaway teen prostitutes doesn't mean that your daughter has to.

Now That The 2006 Election Is Behind Us...

...can everyone please take the frickin' 2004 campaign bumper stickers off your vehicles? Most of the ones that I see are Kerry/Edwards, but I'll still note an occasional "W '04" too. My personal standard would be that you remove all campaign bumper stickers within a month of the election. Don't even get me started on the pathetic people who insist on sportin' the green stickers for a guy who's been dead for four years.

You Can't Have One Without The Other

Ramesh Ponnuru has a piece in the latest issue of National Review on the crisis of conservatism:

Which brings us, finally, to the real crisis of conservatism, which is neither political nor philosophical but a mixture of both. That crisis can be boiled down to two propositions. The first is that, at least as the American electorate is presently constituted, there is no imaginable political coalition in America capable of sustaining a majority that takes a reduction of the scope of the federal government as one of its central tasks. The second is that modern American conservatism is incapable of organizing itself without taking that as a central mission.

The Republican party is a coalition that includes some libertarian-minded members, some social conservatives, and some voters who have a foot in both camps. It is easy to imagine (as Sager does) that it can choose which kind of majority party to be: one oriented toward the libertarians, or one oriented toward the social conservatives. If that were the case, a voter could root for one definition or the other, depending on his own priorities. But only one of those coalitions would actually form a majority. If over the last generation the Republicans had not absorbed the statist social conservatives at the price of losing some libertarians, it would have remained a minority party. If it had instead tried to pick up libertarian Democrats while alienating social conservatives, it would have become a much smaller minority than it already was.

You can try to separate the economic and social conservatives, but it's an illusion to think the groups can prosper independent of each other.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Own The Middle-Class Voter? Owns, Owns!

Ross Douhat and Reihan Salam, who blog at The American Scene, have a piece in the Weekly Standard that looks at why white middle-class voters, much maligned by liberals after the 2004 election for their irrational voting in books such as What's The Matter With Kansas?, were more receptive to the Democrat's message of economic populism this time around:

For Rose, the economic story of recent decades is not one of immiseration but one of dramatic gains for both middle and working-class families. His most striking finding: When you average-out family incomes over 15 years and capture only the peak earning years--from age 26 to 59--fully 60 percent of Americans will live in households making over $60,000 a year, with half of these households making over $85,000. This has meant that more and more workers feel like beneficiaries of the changing economy rather than victims of it--and as a result, feel comfortable voting for the GOP.

So what happened in 2006? Why is left-wing populism suddenly resonating? What's masked by Rose's averaging, and by the general picture of working-class success, are the tremendous fluctuations in annual income created by the globalized economy. This has made economic security, not poverty or prosperity, the central concern of today's working class--whether you're talking about the small business woman who can barely afford health care or the autoworker who's just discovered that his corporate pension is a mirage. And the bad news for the GOP is that the left has begun to figure out how to speak their language. In cutting-edge polemics like Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift, the smartest liberal voices are focusing on voter anxiety about health care and income volatility--anxiety that the GOP hasn't even begun to find a way to address.

The good news for Republicans, on the other hand, is that the left's preferred solution--making America more like Europe through a vast expansion of the tax-and-transfer state--is still extremely unpopular with most voters, which is why Democrats talked up economic security in 2006 but were thin on policy detail. To working-class Americans struggling to figure out how to get ahead in a more competitive economy, when you can expect to change jobs several times in a decade let alone a lifetime, the "Lou Dobbs Democrats" don't have much to offer--a minimum wage increase, a critique of the alleged inequities of small-bore trade deals, and tough talk on border security that will be drowned out in a caucus that's eager to liberalize immigration laws and increase the influx of low-skilled laborers. Once the artfully named bills pass and the signing ceremonies fade into the past, working class voters will probably wonder, as Walter Mondale once put it, "Where's the beef?"

This gap between what the Democrats are promising and what they can deliver offers a renewed opportunity to the GOP. To date, Republicans have failed to come to grips with the issue of economic insecurity, offering table scraps and tax credits in place of real solutions. This signal failure is the reason that the Bush-Rove vision of a lasting Republican majority has hovered just beyond the GOP's reach. It's easy, however, to imagine a renewed "ownership agenda" focused on spreading capital ownership, freeing workers from employer-based health care, rewarding low-wage work, and defending the interests of hard-pressed parents. The question is whether Republicans, in their present state of drift and disarray, will be farsighted enough to embrace it.

In May of 2005, Hugh Hewitt had an essay contest where he asked people to describe what the GOP message should be for the 2006 midterm election. This is part of my entry:

The GOP strategy for 2006 should be to follow up the "ownership society" message that George W. Bush pushed (not aggressively enough in my opinion) in his 2004 reelection campaign. The message is a powerful one that appeals to all Americans, but particularly to young twenty and thirty-somethings that the party has made inroads with already. It also has strong appeal to minorities, who are beginning, however slowly, to realize how hollow the Democrats message of victimization and government as the only answer really is.

It's a message of personal responsibility, individual freedom, and optimism that encapsulates the American Dream. But it needs a little rebranding. Instead of "ownership society" it should be simplified to "It's Yours."

It's your retirement.

It's your health care.

It's your kid's education.

It's your government.

And most of all, it's your country and it's your future.

It's impossible to say that such a message could have prevented the loss of the House and Senate in the recent elections. But, as Douhat and Salam point out, it is a message that at least begins to address the issues of middle-class economic security that the GOP for the most part chose to ignore in 2006. There is no reason that Republicans shouldn't own these issues if they decide to focus on them.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Expert Testimony

Mark Steyn, perhaps the finest politcal writer in the world, on the state of the political writing at the monopoly newspaper in Minneapolis:

Aside from its political bias, which I think is actually quite disgraceful, the Star Tribune is just unreadable sludge and in the end, people are not going to carry on paying money for unreadable sludge.

That sounds reasonable. But most of those readers are the same people electing the likes of RT Rybak, Keith Ellison, and Chris Stewart to positions of power. Keen discernment is not exactly their strong suit.

But it's not that bad at the Star Tribune, is it? They do have Lileks, Katherine Kersten, and these Top 11 Other Things.

The Company You Keep

Remember when your parents told you to be sure to run with the right crowd? As the years go by, it's amazing how much of that parental advice that you discounted as an all-knowing teenager is proven to have been spot on.

In fact kids, if you hang with the smart set at special events and make the right connections, maybe one day, you too can get elected to Congress.

I jest of course. While I'd like to think that we may have played some infinitesimally small role in her success last Tuesday, Michele Bachmann won her race because of her incredible energy, determination, and conviction.

You can listen to our election night interview (after her victory speech) with Michele here. You may not agree with her on everything, but you have to admit that she's got Saint Paul figured out.

Quick Note To The Parents Of Girl Hockey Players

I went to the rink yesterday for an hour or so of skating with the family. In the sheet next to the open skate a girls hockey game was about to begin. It seemed like many of the girls couldn't even carry their own equipment bags or lace up their own boots. Dads were doing it. And these girls were 12 or 13 years old.

If you can't even carry your own gear...

If you think it's so great that your daughter is acting like a boy, don't be surprised when she comes home from college with a girl.

UPDATE--The Elder Adds: Actually ALL kids who play hockey should be carrying their own equipment. I've been dismayed in recent years by the numbers of parents I've seen lugging equipment bags in for their spoiled children. If you can't carry the bag, you can't play the game.

Getting The Leadership Right

Before Republicans can determine what they need to do to get back on the right track, they need to make sure that the right people are driving the bus. Stephen Moore's opinion piece (sub req) in today's Wall Street Journal makes a strong case for House Republicans to put Mike Spence behind the wheel:

If Rep. Mike Pence, the fourth-term Republican from Indiana, wins his bid this Friday for House minority leader, he will become the second most influential conservative in Washington, behind President Bush. The leadership contest, of course, does not take place in a vacuum. The congressional Republicans are engaged in a desperate search for a new revolutionary, a Newt Gingrich figure to help them rediscover who they are and what they believe in. One story about Mr. Pence suggests that he might just be the man:

"The president said, 'Mike, I really need your vote for my prescription drug bill," Mr. Pence recalls of his first-ever meeting in the Oval Office. "And I responded, 'With all due respect, Mr. President, I didn't come to this town to create new entitlements, but to rein in the ones we already have.'" A few days later, this wet-behind-the-ears sophomore congressman captained a conservative revolt that fell one vote short of killing the hugely expensive legislation.

That wasn't the first time this maverick bucked his party leadership and his president. His first spending vote in the House was against the No Child Left Behind education bill that the Bush White House still considers one of its crowning achievements. His reasoning: "Why are we federalizing schools and education?"

A great question that far too few Republicans have bothered asking in recent years.

The silver-haired Mr. Pence is most known as a free-market conservative who fought to make the Bush tax cuts bigger and the Bush spending smaller, and he relishes the idea of taking on the trade protectionism of the Democrats. On immigration, he rejects as economically wrongheaded the Pat Buchanan isolationism of the party. He wants a border security bill that includes expanded legal immigration and a system to allow illegal workers to go back home and secure a green card for re-admittance if they have a willing employer who will hire them.

The closed-border Republicans have screamed "amnesty" -- a policy Mr. Pence says he's "dedicated to preventing." It says a lot about his likeability and conservative credentials that even his highest-profile opponent on the immigration issue, Tom Tancredo, is a Pence supporter in the leadership race.

Music to my ears. What about the notion of the need for bipartisanship?

One complication for Republican leaders is that over the next two years a legacy-minded Mr. Bush might work to make bipartisan deals with a Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- on questions like minimum wage, health care and entitlement reform. Mr. Pence sees the House Republicans' game plan for winning back the majority as pretty much the opposite: to oppose such deals whenever they deviate from Reagan principles.

"The duty of the Republican minority as I see it is to contest and where possible defeat the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party and Speaker Pelosi," he stresses. "But I think that we will only defeat the Democratic agenda by presenting positive, substantive reforms based on Republican values for every major legislative initiative of the Democratic majority -- whether the issue is the economy, security or values." There's a definite spirit of combativeness, not cooperation -- thank God.

Amen to that. Pence almost sounds too good to be true. He's just what the House GOP needs to get back to principles and win back the respect of conservatives. Which probably means he doesn't have a chance of getting the nod.

Whether the Republicans decide to go with Boehner or Spence will say a lot about the direction they're going to take in the House. And about their chances of getting back into the majority.