Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Everything Means Less Than Zero

I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately. Some of you may have noticed. Hell, most of you may be completely unaware that I'm still a contributor to this august compendium (I still know how to string together pretty words like those from the dictionary, though).

Well, there's a reason why I've been so reticent recently (I haven't lost my amazing alliterative abilities either...Booyah!!!). My sporadic posting has been the direct result of my newfound desire to reduce my personal Carbon Footprint.

I know, I know...most of you still mock the teachings of The Global Warming, but hear me out. I have come around. I now very strongly feel that if I fail to do everything in my power to stave off the imminent destruction of Our Planet, I will have failed every single member of the human race. Not to mention all those adorable little paramecia and molds and such.

"But Atomizer, what does this Carbon Footprint nonsense have to do with your lack of posting?" I hear you all querying (NOT as gay a word as it sounds, according to my dictionary). More than you think, would be my answer. More than you think.

The electricity used by me while posting is an obvious one as it can take upwards of a eleven or twelve hours of me staring at a blank screen before I get properly motivated (read: drunk) to put fingers to keyboard, not to mention all the juice required to allow the millions of you to read one of my award winning posts*.

Then there's the gasoline used to get me from my palatial east side estate to my office at Fraters Libertas World Headquarters. The ride home hurts Mother Earth even more as I'm usually barreling down the road at an incredibly obnoxious speed with several exhaust spewing squad cars close behind. Those environment hating cops make me so mad.

I like to eat beef jerky when I blog. Lots of it. The long path my jerky has to take from inhabiting part of a cow (I don't want to know which part) to inhabiting part of me (equally distasteful, I must say) is a journey fraught with perilous Earth-killing activities so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.

I could go on and on here (most of you have probably stopped reading anyway) but you get the point. So, in light of my newfound respect for The Global Warming, I'm going to have to reduce my posting frequency in an effort to save The Planet.

It may seem so utterly futile, but if we all do our part we can make a difference. A million or so futile activities, or lack of activity in my case, can amount to a big wonderful pile of Earth saving futility. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

See you in two months. Atomizer...out.

*Inaugural recipient of The Nihilist in Golf Pants' Rock Solid in the Blogosphere Award

UPDATE--The Elder Rides To The Rescue: Fear not dear Atomizer, all is not lost. After a late-night emergency meeting of the Fraters Libertas executive compensation board, the firm has elected to reach into its deep pockets and pony up for an indulgence offset to cover your Goresque carbon footprint. Please feel free to resume blogging post haste, footloose and guilt free.

Unsung Once Too Often

Mark Moyar, author of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (listen to our interview with him here), says that when it comes to the media's treatment of military heroes and its self-congratulatory back-patting, the war in Iraq is indeed like Vietnam:

Neil Sheehan began his Pulitzer-Prize winning book "A Bright Shining Lie" by pronouncing the Vietnam War "a war without heroes." In the rest of the book, the Americans in Vietnam largely came across as fools, liars, criminals, or a combination thereof, with the exception of Mr. Sheehan and his fellow journalists, who were depicted as brave unmaskers of ineptitude and absurdity. Sheehan ignored the real heroism of many brave Americans--such as Marvin Shields, Carlos McAfee, Antonio Smaldone, and Steven L. Bennett, to name but a few--and many military victories, for American triumphs did not square with his claims about the war. He badly distorted press involvement in the war so that he and his colleagues, particularly David Halberstam and Stanley Karnow, could dodge the blame they deserved for promoting the disastrous coup against the South Vietnamese government in November 1963.

The Vietnam-era journalists began a tradition that today's press consistently upholds. We hear very little from most large press outlets about American heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan, men like James Coffman Jr., Danny Dietz, and Christopher Adlesperger, or about our military successes there. Instead of associating such names with these wars, Americans associate the words they hear most often from the press, like Abu Ghraib and Haditha. As in Vietnam, too, the shunning of heroes does not extend to the press's coverage of itself. Awards to journalists, both those who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who have not, are considered worthy of lengthy news stories.

In Like A Lion

March is shaping up to be a big month for guests on the Northern Alliance Radio Network Volume One. The fun starts this Saturday, when we'll be joined in studio by Adnan Al-Kaissy, a.k.a. The Sheik of Baghdad.

You may recall that I wrote about The Sheik last October after he was featured in a front page article in the Wall Street Journal (sub req).

We'll discuss his fascinating life story (documented in The Sheik of Baghdad: Tales of Celebrity and Terror from Pro Wrestling's General Adnan), what he thinks about the future of Iraq, and see if he'll perform a gutwrench suplex on John Hinderaker. Live, on the air! You won't want to miss that one.

On Saturday, March 10th, the incomparable Father Richard John Neuhaus will be our guest. Father Neuhaus is the founder and editor of First Things and the author of Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, And the Splendor of Truth, which I just finished reading while in Mexico. It is absolutely a must-read for Catholics or anyone interested in truly understanding the Church. Another sample to whet your appetite:

The delusion was also sustained because it was echoed through the general media. The media's dominate story line regarding the Church--sometimes, or so it seems, the only story line--is that of progressive dissidents challenging an authoritarian and ossified Church leadership. It is always David versus Goliath. Never mind that David is now a septuagenarian.

The Church is ever so much older and bigger, and thus can forever be depicted as Goliath. When one gets weary and is afflicted by doubts about playing David, it no doubt helps to be assured by the "New York Times" that one is on the cutting edge of inevitable change. It is no little thing to be depicted as the champion of such great goods as intellectual inquiry and academic freedom. The anointed paladins of change have, it seems, little occasion or inclination to reflect on their unoriginality.

Then, on Saturday, March 17th, we will welcome Dennis T. Avery to the show. He is co-author of Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years and although he likely will not be receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota anytime soon (or an Oscar), he does bring some much needed light to the increasingly heated rhetoric of the climate change scaremongers.

Each of this guests will be appearing at noon central time and, as always, you can hear them on AM1280 The Patriot here in the Twin Cities or live on the internet stream anywhere in the world. Feel free to join the fun by calling us 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss any of it!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not The Cart Again

Attention airlines! I have a simple suggestion for you that will not only increase customer satisfaction, but cut costs:

Can the ridiculous beverage "service" on flights that are three hours or under.

Don't get me wrong. I like to knock back a few pops when I'm flying up front as much as the next guy. But I'd gladly give that up to be spared the annoyance of the damnedable beverage cart banging my elbow up and down the aisle, creaking and groaning every time the flight attendant stops and resets the brake, and causing a major disruption for a very minor reward.

Can we not attend to our own needs when it comes to in-flight liquid refreshment? Are we really nothing more than helpless infants while on a plane?

"Do you want a snack?"

"Do you want some juice?"

Yes, mommy. Why not go ahead and just put it in a frickin' sippy cup for me?

If I want a Coke or a water, I can buy one at the gate. If not, I think I'm perfectly capable of making it through a two-hour flight without a drink. And I might actually be able to catch a couple of minute of shut-eye for a change.

UPDATE-- Bert e-mails to add:

One other thing about the drink cart; when the airlines give away drinks without something to eat, that liquid goes through most passengers startlingly fast. (whatever they're saving on snacks, I bet they're losing on whatever that blue stuff is in the toilets) I'd keep either both drinks & a real snack (without paying $5 or whatever), or get rid of both.

Pulling Back The Curtain

The Kool Aid Report has shocking news that the Minnesota DFL has determined that Michael Brodkorb and his blog "Minnesota Democrats Exposed" is not, I repeat IS NOT, an objective, unbiased, and balanced news source. The local blogosphere has been stunned by this revelation.

If we can't trust MDE to play it right down the middle, who can we trust? Next thing, you'll be telling me that "Centrisity" has partisan leanings too.

What Goes On In Davos...

I have to admit, I'm starting to worry about climate change. Not about the actual impact of the earth moderately warming mind you, rather the fact that more and more folks, some of them previously thought to be reasonably minded, are getting on board Al Gore's "we must act now to save the children and prevent the end of the world as we know it" bandwagon.

As Jay Nordlinger reports in the latest issue of National Review (sub req), climate change was the subject du jour at Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos:

But no matter who you are, you are deeply, deeply concerned about climate change, or at least pretend to be. Early on the first day, I find myself on a panel with Arianna Huffington, the Greek-born writer and doyenne of the L.A. Left (which is to say, of L.A.). She says that debate about global warming has now ended. Television no longer pits one person arguing for global warming against another person who says no, sir. The question is settled.

I'm afraid I agree with this, although I don't think the shutting off of debate is to be welcomed. A little dissent here would be helpful. The global-warming people have scored a great lexical and rhetorical coup in calling skeptics, or dissenters, "deniers." This is parallel to "Holocaust deniers," and, speaking of them, they are reigning supreme in Tehran, openly planning the second holocaust, even as they dismiss the first. I am hardly the first to make this point, but it should be made more often. And, in Davos, there is much more concern about climate change than there is about a nuclear Iran.

But it's not just the usual suspects in Davos who are buying the hype:

But the British prime minister, Mr. Blair, does fairly well. Giving a speech in the Congress Center, he calls global warming "a moral cause." And he, too, praises Schwarzenegger, and also McCain, who is in attendance. McCain, says Blair, has "driven the agenda forward in the United States." Soon, McCain himself is onstage, driving the agenda forward. He says, "I bring you good news"--and that news is that Congress will probably act quickly on global warming, and that the administration is coming along, too. "I freely admit to you that it's very late and may not be enough, but I think that for the first time there may be some action on this very important issue."

My sense is that McCain's global-warming passion is almost enough to make Davos forgive him for the Iraq War. In this, he is not unlike Tony Blair.

It will be interesting to see how McCain's "global-warming passion" plays with GOP voters in the aught-eight primaries.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wall of Sound

You already know the place to hear such radio giants as Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Hint - AM1280 the Patriot

Steve writes in to inform of us of an aggregator site, Internet Radio Network, with links to FREE webstreams for some of the lesser, though still worthy, talkers out there, no longer heard in this market. G. Gordon Liddy, Mark Levin, Dr. Laura, and a bunch of guys I've never heard of. But they're on the radio, so they must be good.

Give 'em a listen and increase the volume of the right wing noise machine even further.

Two Mexicos

Thursday night, near the tail end of a barbecue party in Chihuahua, the host borrowed a page from John Edwards and launched into a brief, but entertaining diatribe on the subject of "Two Mexicos." His passionate rhetoric was no doubt fueled by at least half a dozen Modelos and several pulls on the omnipresent bottle of Tequila clutched in his meaty hand. He was addressing me and another American co-worker.

"You know, those Mexicans who live in the U.S.? The ones you call F***ing Mexicans?"

He didn't mean us specifically, but Americans in general.

"Let me tell you something; they're not real Mexicans. You see, there are two Mexicos. is the real Mexico. Them? They're not really Mexican."

This isn't the first time I've heard this attitude expressed and I imagine it's much more common than most Americans would think.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM today for another episode of the continuing saga of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Never fear, the blizzard of the century will not affect the broadcast. We scoff at the great wall of white death descending on our fair cities and will recognize it only for evidence that Al Gore is not qualified for any Academy Award aside from perhaps best fictional screenplay.

The highlight of today's show promises to be our guest in the noon hour. We'll be talking about the movies with the eminent film critic Stephen Hunter. He is the Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post movie reviewer. Also a fine novelist and author of books such as Point of Impact and one of my favorites from a few years ago, American Gunfight: the Plot to Kill Harry Truman.

Plus Loon of the Week, this Week in Gatekeeping, near constant weather reports, and much, much more.

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

Buffalo Ottawa Brawl From Last Night

This is a doozy.

Listen to Ruff Lindy (as I used to call him) yelling at the Ottawa coach Bryan Murray "Don't effin' go after our Captain!"

The goaltenders have a go too. In fact, the Ottawa goalie Emery dances with two partners.

Have I ever mentioned I love hockey? THIS is what it's all about!

The Elder Joins The Fray: Did you hear the crowd reaction as the scrums spread Commissioner Bettman? Yeah, hockey fans hate fighting.

Now THAT Would Be A Get

A few weeks back, I read a short book review in National Review that caught my attention:

Why do conservatives seek, as the famous phrase has it, to stand athwart history yelling Stop? Because they are horrified by the sight of society coming undone. They have witnessed the breakdown of the family, the withering of liberal-arts education, the constriction of economic freedom, the corrosion of aesthetic standards, soaring crime rates, drug addiction...the list is as familiar as it is dismaying.

Ralph de Toledano, a key figure in the founding generation of this magazine, was there to see it all. In Cry Havoc: The Great American Bring-Down and How It Happened (Anthem, 254 pp., $18), he lays out a chilling history of Western decline. In his capable hands, the story is dramatic: With the sympathy and support of an international Communist infrastructure, neo-Marxist intellectuals working within the West's own academic institutions produced and injected the intellectual poison that would slowly atrophy the vital organs of Western civilization. Tradition, religion, morality, and the family--all of these were cast as obstacles to progress, bulwarks of an old order that had to be crushed and cleared away.

Toledano traces the rise of the Frankfurt School from its Soviet-inspired roots in Germany through its migration to Columbia University, and from there its projection of the noxious "critical theory" into the mainstream of Anglophone academe. The intellectuals who led this movement lived by the Marxian principle that the aim of the academic is not merely to study the world, but to change it. Toledano shows just how terribly successful they have been.

Cry Havoc illustrates that, while political and military matters dominated the headlines of the Cold War, an equally important battle was being fought for control of the intellectual high ground. The fight began with a surprise attack, and, years later, the casualties are still coming in.

Now that would be a great topic for a radio show, I thought. This week, I finally got around to Googling the author to see if he would be interested in appearing on the Northern Alliance Radio Network.

Sadly, I discovered that he will not be available:

Ralph de Toledano, a prolific author and journalist and a passionate partisan for the cause of conservatism, died Feb. 3 of cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 90 and a longtime resident of Washington, D.C.

Mr. de Toledano was a former editor for Newsweek and National Review. His political views migrated steadily rightward through the decades, a political path trodden by a number of leftist intellectuals from the 1930s and 1940s. Ardent anti-communism was the impetus, Mr. de Toledano said in books, articles and interviews.

Ralph de Toledano R.I.P.

As if learning that the author you wanted to book as a guest had died wasn't bad enough, it appears that getting a hold of a copy of "Cry Havoc" won't be an easy task either:

We've been getting some inquiries about Ralph de Toledano's book, Cry Havoc. We have been informed that it's not available through Amazon, but can be purchased directly from the publisher, Anthem Books, Suite 1010, 500 23rd Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20037. (Unfortunately, Anthem has no website or phone number.)

UPDATE: The last word on Ralph de Toledano belongs to William F. Buckley from this obit in National Review (sub req):

Ralph de Toledano was the saddest man I ever knew. One only hopes that his death on February 3, at 90, ended that sadness, though it requires a very dogmatic belief in God to be confident of it.

I heard from Toledano ("not de Toledano," he instructed me years ago) at regular intervals. There are perhaps 150 letters from him in my files and, without exception, they complain. That he is friendless in Washington, that he cannot find a publisher for his books, that the world no longer has any interest in his accomplishments.

Much of this was correct, though the fault was not always that of others. Toledano, although he had published more than 20 books, was not good at self-promotion, by which here is meant writing copy that has a fair chance of catching the eye of editors because it will serve their purposes. The only purpose Toledano ended up serving by his prolonged absences from the public stage was the care and feeding of his muse.

No one can ever have expressed Weltschmerz more fully, more evocatively, more eloquently. "Do you know anyone ready to buy an oil lamp, long in my family, which goes back to Cervantes' time?" He was speaking of his imminent poverty. And "For all my efforts, I find myself unwept, unhonored, and badly sung--contemplating two books that I cannot get published and wandering about my apartment talking to Eunice [his late wife], whom I mourn every day."

He had had a great deal to write about. He was an editor at Newsweek during the great Chambers-Hiss trial. It was during this trial that he became a close, apostolic friend of Chambers (Regnery published a volume of their letters in 1997, titled Notes from the Underground). During the trial Toledano became, also, a friend of Richard Nixon, and it was widely assumed that if Nixon reached the White House, Toledano would be appointed his press secretary.

Another betrayal?

Toledano wrote on, but the market for his material diminished to virtually zero. "A case could be made [for publishing his then-current book] with ISI, AEI, or Cato. But I know no one at any of these organizations." Question, why? "In fact I have discovered that I know no one anywhere these days. Can you suggest someone at the above to whom I might make an approach?"

One of his projected books teemed with politically licentious material. He tried it out on Regnery's Marji Ross. "With Friends like Dick Nixon would not have been a bio but a tell-all account of a long 'friendship,' with anecdotal material never before published, with now-it-can-be-told inside disclosures of what went on behind the scenes during various brouhahas, [Nixon's] relations with J. Edgar, Ike, Pat [Nixon], the why of his double-cross of Herb Klein [press secretary] and attempted ditto of Rose Woods [Nixon's longtime personal secretary] and how Pat blocked it, how he used me and then cut my throat--that's a book, a kind of Deep Throat, that would sell, but Marji Ross says there are too many bios of RN...But enough of this. It's bad enough being a has-been without inflicting it on you."

It can't be predicted that this poet of melancholy will live on, other than in the archives. But it won't be said that he passed on without the affectionate notice of devoted admirers. He was a truly learned friend of the West, a superb literary technician, who despite his sadness gladdened the lives of those who knew him.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Whip Inflation Now

Les Enfants Terrible directs us to a web site associated with a class action lawsuit against the Star Tribune for alleged circulation reporting irregularities.

The Complaint alleges that between 2000 and 2006, the Star Tribune Company falsely inflated sales and circulation volume on paid subscriptions, marketed and promoted those false sales and circulation figures to potential advertising customers, used those figures to set advertising rates, and, as a result, charged its advertising customers excessively high advertising rates.

The Star Tribune was sued for similar reasons back in 2005:

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, the plaintiffs accuse the Star Tribune of overstating its circulation figures by as much as 15 percent since 1999.

Among other things, the advertisers say the Star Tribune required distributors to dump unsold newspapers at hospitals, hotels, schools and shopping centers, and counted them toward its circulation numbers.

That case was settled with a cash payout to the plaintiffs:

Keith Moyer, president and publisher of the Star Tribune, said, "When the plaintiffs approached us to settle the suit, we felt an obligation to explore a way to end this matter that we have said from the outset had no merit. This nuisance settlement allows us all to move forward."

Under the terms of the agreement, lawyers for Masterson Personnel Inc. and Alternative Staffing Inc. will receive up to $40,000 for out-of-pocket expense incurred by their clients. In addition, the two employment agencies will share up to $15,000 in advertising rebates on a pro-rated basis for advertising in 2007 based on their advertising spending next year.

Not sure if this new case has any merit or not. But the term "class action" being used by lawyers tells me $55,000 will probably not be enough to make them go away this time.

The Greatest Story Almost Told

Tonight on the 10 PM news, KSTP-TV is going to revisit the Flying Imam story from last November.

Islamic men thrown off a Twin Cities flight. You've heard their side. Now hear from passengers.

That fun-size sound bite notwithstanding, this story might actually be worth watching. Their ads this morning promoted ambush style interviews of the Flying Imams themselves ,skulking outside their Phoenix redoubt. (Charged enough language for you? I really should be writing their promos).

You may recall, when this story first hit the press, there seemed to be a few provocative leads not followed. The dominant news source in town, the Star Tribune, was uninterested. Even when one of their own valued employees handed them a source, a story outline, and practically grabbed them by their hands and moved their fingers over the keyboard to type it out.

I was talking today with a guy I know; he'd been at a suburban hotel for an annual company sales meeting. The regional manager was having a difficult time speaking, since the party in the next conference room was praying about as loudly as is humanly possible, and had followed the prayers with a speaker who expressed in rather . . . forceful terms the depth of Muslim oppression in America. Unless there are several Muslim religious conferences going on in Minneapolis at the moment, I'd guess that might be the one. If so, I wonder if the reported truculence of the men might have been influenced, or at least reinforced, by the speaker. Whoever he was. I phoned the info in to the paper, as a good citizen. Wonder if there's anything to it.


Back to work now; more tomorrow, including a discussion of the piece in the local paper about the background of that fellow who was kicked off the plane last week. I mean, given the questions and peculiarities of some of his associations, I am certain a full accounting is forthcoming.

Because I can't see any reason why such a piece wouldn't be written.

Ergo, I'm certain it's en route.

Quite certain.

Absolutely dead-bang positive.

Really. I also expect that a reporter will have called the hotel where the conference took place, found out who was in the adjacent room, contacted a representative of that organization, asked for a recap of what they heard, and ran the assessment past a newly prominent local politician [Keith Ellison] who was in attendance to see if it squared with his recollection. Said politician would also be asked about the deplaned imam's connections, regardless of whether this seemed like recrudescent Islamophobia, because these are crucial issues.

As I said at the time, THAT'S an article that would create a buzz in town. No matter what facts were actually uncovered in the investigation, people would be talking about it and buying copies of the paper and hitting the internet to check out this original investigative reporting, getting new information on a local issue of high interest.

But, the Star Tribune yawned and did nothing about. As the editor at the time, Anders Gyllenhaal, said:

I don't think the paper dropped this story, but I do think it had run its course. I would like to have seen a story delving into who these folks were, a good suggestion, but I don't think it's timely at this point. I think this is one of those stories that runs for a couple of days, then subsides. I gather you disagree, which is fine.

According to the instincts of the Star Tribune, that story was entirely played out within 3 weeks and not worthy of further comment. According to the instincts of KSTP, the story still has legs three months later and they're running it during sweeps week, when they're trying to attract their largest possible audience.

From the promos of tonight's broadcast, it looks like KSTP isn't following the exact angle Lileks proposed. But there's no reason they couldn't do a sequel. Competition in the news business is a beautiful thing and the Star Tribune has left underserved a significant market demand.

Unstoppable Global Smarming

David from Elk River e-mails to report that skis won't be the only thing getting waxed this week in Hayward:

The American Birkebeiner--the largest citizen Nordic ski race in North America--has showings and discussions of "an Inconvenient Truth" at 3:00 and 6:30pm today [and tomorrow!]. There is no mention of who the moderator is or what his political persuasion happens to be, but since our own Minneapolis Mayor Rybak couldn't help adding a plug for man-made global warming into a trail report he submitted earlier this winter, I am not optimistic. My son wanted to go race at this event, but we also don't want to participate in a venue that is hosted by blatant leftists. If only they could leave the politics aside and just enjoy an athletic event….But I am afraid to them it is not a debatable political issue; it is a fact, and they just don't understand why there is opposition to their solution.

BTW, I wrote the host of the aforementioned trail report website and asked him to edit the trail report, which he did fairly promptly. He removed the poetic editorial about global warming and how we should all use less energy, and left the trail report portion of the report intact.

One Of These Groups Just Doesn't Belong Here

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says:

(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer--

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or
otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants
for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any
individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his
status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion,
sex, or national origin.

Local taxpayer-supported, public television behemoth tpt's classified ad in the Star Tribune says:


The successful fellowship candidate will:

* Be a minority as defined by tpt. Minority is defined as a person of color, GLBT, a person with a disability, or any other designation determined by tpt that reflects diversity;

Well, at least their standards aren't arbitrary or capricious. Apparently to tpt, defining minorities is like defining pornography: they know them when they see them.

(Thanks to Mike for the heads-up.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Joy of Flying

Tough week for Minnesota's Congressional delegation. The pride of the 5th district, Keith Ellison reveals he can't work and play well with others. Jim Ramstad goes wobbly on the war and supports the self indulgent resolution to begin the bail out. Jim Oberstar briefly returns from Washington to tell our Minnesota legislature to raise the state gas tax by a staggering 10 cents PER GALLON, lest we lose out on the opportunity to accept the billions in Federal tax collections he has arranged to channel our way.

And then there's Collin Peterson. The DFL representative from up in the normally conservative 7th district is working harder than ever on one very important issue.

"It's a pretty stupid deal," said Peterson, 62, the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

He has worked on the issue since Jan. 4, when the House passed its new rules.

He's been working tirelessly for almost two months on this issue. Very impressive. I guess that happens when your most precious constituency has its interests threatened. That constituency being the most precious to all career politicians, themselves:

He said his Democratic colleagues were "trying to do the right thing" by cracking down on lawmakers flying around in fancy [corporate] jets, but he was surprised when he was told he could no longer be reimbursed for flying his own plane for official business.

"And I told Nancy Pelosi that if she didn't get this fixed, I was going to quit and there was going to be a Republican in my place, that if I couldn't fly I wasn't going to do this anymore."

If he's not allowed to have the taxpayers fund his preferred method of travel, he'll take his plane and go home! Please revise your definitions of public service accordingly, you poor SOBs in the 7th district who voted for him.

I also like how he uses the fact that the Democratic party is fundamentally out of step with the people in his district as leverage for getting his way. Give me what I want or I'll le the people elect someone who genuinely supports their interests! Talk about a loaded gun at the head of the Democrats. I'm surprised Nancy Pelosi didn't offer to get him Air Force 1.

So what is Peterson's excuse for needing the taxpayers to pony up for his flying around the district in his own plane?

Mark Brownell, Peterson's chief of staff, said Peterson has flown to at least 47 cities in his district in the past two years. He uses small airports or private landing strips.

"A plane has made it possible for him to be up in Roseau in the morning, Marshall in the midafternoon and then back up to Warroad at night," Brownell said.

Yes, I'm sure it's absolutely critical that he shows his puss in all of these cities in the same day. How would the people possibly survive without seeing their Congressman? To paraphrase the movie Sixteen Candles, there's nothing a teen age girl looks forward to more than seeing her grandparents.

Actually, I'm there may be some people who are happy to see Collin Peterson dropping down from the clouds. Those people who know he's bringing presents. Like these people in Roseau:

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson announced that the U. S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration awarded the City of Roseau $1.9 million for upgrades to the existing storm water system and repair and replacement for sanitary sewer lines.

And these people in Marshall:

Collin Peterson announced that both the Marshall Airport, and the Southwest/West Central Services Cooperative are slated to receive funding through the federal appropriations bill that passed the House last weekend.

"I'm pleased to see these two projects recognized in the appropriations process, and I am glad I was able to help secure funding for Marshall and the surrounding region,” Peterson said. The Marshall Airport will receive $1 million as part of the Airport Improvement Program.

The SW/WC Services Cooperative will receive $340,000 from the Fund for the Improvement of Education, for the development of infrastructure of a youth program that teaches free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

And these people Wilmar:

Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-7th District) announced that the Willmar Municipal Airport has been awarded $2 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for construction on the new airport.

"The current airport has outgrown its space," Peterson said. "As someone who often uses the airport, and knows how important an airport is to economic development in the region, I am looking forward to seeing the new one when it's complete.:

I think we can see the real motive behind Peterson's need to fly to all these far flung locales, something he ought to call Air Pork. Bringing home the bacon to the voters just doesn't have the same punch over the telephone.

The law Peterson is so anxious about(H RES 6, Section 207 which amends Rule XXIII clause 15(a) of the Rules of the House of Representatives) states:

15. (a) A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not use personal funds, official funds, or campaign funds for a flight on a non-governmental airplane that is not licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate for compensation or hire.

To which Rep. Peterson submits (without a single cosponsor) in H RES 170:

Resolved, That clause 15(a) of rule XXIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by inserting before the period at the end thereof the following: `, except that when a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner uses his personally owned airplane in the performance of official or campaign travel, he may be reimbursed on a rate per mile basis for the cost of the use of the airplane from official or campaign funds, respectively'

So not only will Peterson be reimbursed for "official business," he'll be reimbursed for campaigning. At least he's got enough shame to pretend there's a difference.

Ash Wednesday Thought

We were once like you.

Soon you will be like us.

Bloodied By The Contest

Edward T. Oakes writes on the Lenten "homiletical brilliance" of John Henry Newman at FIRST THINGS:

Is there any Christian who starts by taking Lent seriously on Ash Wednesday and yet comes to Easter Sunday who does not feel "bloodied by the contest," caught up in the ganglia of sin coiling about the soul? But for Newman that's just the point. For it is the struggle itself that teaches us how we stand before God. Reliance on grace is taught in the pedagogy of the struggle, and Lent is that pedagogue:

I am speaking of...what every one must know in his own case: how difficult it is to command himself, and do what he wishes to do; how weak the governing principle of his mind is, and how poorly and imperfectly he comes up to his own notions of right and truth; how difficult it is to command his feelings, grief, anger, impatience, joy, fear; how difficult to govern his own tongue, to say
just what he would; how difficult to rouse himself to do what he would, at this
time or that; how difficult to rise in the morning; how difficult to go about
his duties and not be idle; how difficult to eat and drink just what he should,
how difficult to regulate his thoughts through the day; how difficult to keep
out of his mind what should be kept out of it.

These are difficulties for all Christians, of course, but most especially for those serious about Lent. That was why for Newman Lent ultimately was the season for learning how to rely on the grace of God--and on the hope that is the fruit of that grace. And that, in the last analysis, is all he can really have to say to us infirm sinners: "As men in a battle cannot see how it is going, so Christians have no certain signs of God's presence in their hearts, and can but look up towards their Lord and Savior, and timidly hope."

The Business Of The World Is...

[Belated scribblings from a few weeks back]

After a half-hour spent living the life of Puddy, not reading, not napping, just staring straight ahead in mindless bliss, I eventually summoned the energy to put pen to paper and jot down a few observations from the Northwest WorldClubs lounge as I waited to board a flight to Manila.

In the past, the lounges that airlines reserved for use by their First Class passengers probably carried an air of sophistication and luxury. Today, they are far more utilitarian places, which no doubt suites the needs of the majority of their users just fine. For while you still will see the occasional well-heeled couple who truly are First Class travelers, most of the seats in the lounge are occupied by business fliers, allowed entry into the once exclusive domain on their company's dime.

The experienced American business traveler is easy to spot: non-nonsense button-up shirt, jeans or Dockers with appropriately colored belt, sensible slip-on shoes, and a laptop, cell phone, or Blackberry (or some combination of) in pretty much continuous use. They like to give off the impression that they are relaxed yet industrious and whatever they're working on is quite important.

You can usually differentiate a Euro (or at least a Continental) from a Yank by the clothes. Their outfits are not garish or obnoxious, just slightly off, at least to this American eye. It's the little differences, as Vincent would say. Individually, the shoes, the shirts, and the trousers are not especially offensive. But when combined together, they just don't mesh, especially when you throw in the oft funky spectacle frames.

Of course, they have nothing on the Japanese when it comes to fashion. Sometimes it seems as if Japanese travelers, especially the younger set, have intentionally made wardrobe selections that seek to maximize the clash of color: red shoes, striped brown pants, and a bright green parka are but one example that caught my eye today. You have to admire their willingness to be bold, if not their fashion sensibility.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Non-binding Revolution

Ed from Eden Prairie e-mails to confirm that the fallout from last week's vote continues:

Your broadcast on The Patriot Saturday prompted me to write this letter to both my Senators and my RINO rep, Ramstad:

This week is the first in my memory that I'm actually ashamed to be a Minnesotan. Last week, both of my Senators and my Representative engaged in meaningless political posturing in an effort to seek political cover and embarrass the President on the eve of a troop deployment to Iraq. Maybe treason is too strong a word, but sedition certainly applies. And while I understand many quislings had fled the chamber before he spoke, Sam Johnson on the house floor took the day for me,

"Debating non-binding resolutions aimed at earning political points only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy. The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops...Just ask John Murtha about his "slow-bleed" plan that hamstrings our troops in harm's way."

I'm afraid Bin Laden was right when he said our nation did not have the will to win against Al Qaeda.

You scare me. Are you unaware that the battle in Iraq is not just about what happens there, it's about a global fight against Islamic terrorists who are waging war on us? That fight will continue, whether or not you succeed in ham-stringing us in Iraq. You may disagree about the way this war has been, and is being, fought. And you may plead you care so deeply for the military and their families who are being pushed to their limits. But do you care at all for the safety of my children and grandchildren? By engaging in this debate, you are already jeopardizing our mission.

Once you're elected President and Commander in Chief, you can have it all your way. In the meantime, I find your resolutions and your posturing deeply offensive.
Well said Ed.

Time For A Bender

If you missed our interview a few weeks back with Omar Ansari, founder and owner of Surly Brewing Company, you can now listen to it here.

He's Serious Enough

Red Wing Republican Eagle:

To hear some talk radio pundits and blowhards [ed. note: needlessly repetitive] tell it, comedian/author Al Franken's bid for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota is just another joke. They are trying to write off Franken as a liberal lightweight who has no business challenging incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.

They protest too much.

It could be they realize Franken will be a formidable candidate. It could be Coleman fans are so nervous about even the possibility Franken could get the DFL endorsement that they are pulling out all the stops now in an effort to discredit the former Saturday Night Live regular.

Damn, they're on to us. I guess it's time to fess up. It's true, we're simply terrified of the prospect of an intellectual heavyweight with a populist touch like Al Franken challenging Norm Coleman. The mere thought of Franken's rousing stump speeches keeps us up at night and haunts our sweat-soaked dreams. We knew that was no chance we could ever hope to defeat such a formidable candidate and realized that our only chance was to mount a desperate effort to "Swift Boat" Franken before his campaign built the momentum of a runaway freight train.

Sigh. Now that the cat's out of the bag, it looks like all is lost. There's nothing we do to derail the Franken juggernaut, which will surely steamroll to victory in 2008. It's time to accept the inevitable and admit that we're powerless over the force of Al Franken.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Life Of Bertie

From The Code of the Woosters:

I supported myself with a trembling hand on the mantlepiece.



"More brandy!"

"Yes, sir."

"And stop doling it out in small glasses, as if it were radium. Bring the cask."

Of Two Minds

A couple of e-mails with from 3rd District constituents with conflicting views on Jim Ramstad's vote in favor the non-binding House resolution on Iraq.

We start with Steve from Minnetonka.

Here is the letter I sent to Jim Ramstad, after his vote to support Nancy
Pelosi's anti-surge bill:

Mr. Ramstead, with all due respect, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with your vote supporting Nancy Pelosi's anti-surge resolution. I find myself embarrassed that I spent so much time pushing for your election. I was obviously mistaken, and I shall not make that mistake again. You have betrayed me, betrayed the people of Minnesota, betrayed your country, supported our enemies and, through your encouragement of our enemy's efforts, possibly gotten some young American killed.

I have a blog, where I am posting your name, and the name of those 17 Republican Representatives who voted with you and the Democrats in Congress. I hope to post that list as often as I can, in as many places as I can. I want everyone to see who our friends are and who they aren't.

I hope that you someday realize what you have done, here.

Sadly, between President Bush, Norm Coleman and Jim Ramstad, I am not very happy with the Minnesota delegation. I wrote Coleman that the United States has a very good chance in succeeding in Iraq...and when that happens, there will be bills to pay.

The solution is not to run candidates against these guys, but to write the Republican National Committee and tell THEM that we will NOT contribute the RNC if IT supports these two bozos. Let the Republicans take care of them. We stand a far better chance of replacing them that way.

The Republican Party does not own Conservatives. It is up to the Republican Party to maintain Conservative principles, if they want Conservative support, and if they don't, it is up to us to hold their feet to the fire.

While that stategy may help with a Senate seat, I still think the best way to send a message in the House is to mount a challenge in the primary. The truth of the matter is that Ramstad has always been a mushy moderate, but we counted on him to vote the right way on the most important issues. Now that he's not doing that, I see no reason at all to support him.

Meanwhile, Liz, who has a very personal stake in the matter, offers a counter-point:

Oh, and don't be too hard on Ramstad. I live in his district; my husband is part of this National Guard deployment that got extended for the surge. I understand why Ramstad voted the way he did and have no hard feelings.

UPDATE: Liz has her own letter to Congressman Ramstad at a Blonde moment.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Ben e-mails with an offer:

I'm not rich, but I have $1000 campaign contribution for any conservative running against Ramstad in the GOP primary.

And the subject of his e-mail, "Conservatives Against Ramstad" provides a good PAC (political action committee) acronym: CAR (Conservatives Against Ramstad). We have our CAR. Now, all we need is a driver.

The floor is open to nominations from the 3rd District.

My World Makes Sense Again

Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers today.

Our long national nightmare is over. Baseball season has returned.

The Elder Chimes In: It was a long wait, but well worth it. Atomizer posting again that is.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Orphanage Fundraiser Wrap-up

UPDATE V: A strong close allowed us to meet and surpass our goal. We ended up just a hair shy of $1500. Thanks to all who generously donated. I will post a report on our visit, complete with pictures next week.

UPDATE IV: Thanks to a couple of very generous donations, we're within one hundred dollars of our goal. A hundo? That's nuthin'. Atomizer spends that much on Jack Bauer action figures dolls a year. Let's close the gap.


It's time once again for our somewhat annual, semi-regular fundraiser for the Misericordia Orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico. This is the third year that we've been soliciting funds for this very worthy cause. Here's a report on the 2006 effort.

If you would like to make a contribution to the cause--100% of your donation goes straight to the orphanage--you can do so via PayPal or if you're the sort of who doesn't trust all that new fangled finance, you can drop me an e-mail at and I can let you know where you can send a check.

But time is of the essence. The window for this year's drive will be compressed. Our goal is to raise $1000 through a combination of on-line donations and fundraising at the workplace and I would like to have a pretty good idea of where we're at the by the end of the day on Saturday.

Thanks as always for your support.

UPDATE: We're off to a good start and already almost a third of the way to the goal.

UPDATE II: Forty percent and risin'.

UPDATE III: C'mon people. Don't make turn this into an NPResque fundraising with desperate hourly pleas and Atomizer hawking "free" Fraters totebags is you donate now.

We must never, ever let that happen again

You can listen to Sam Johnson's (R-Texas) closing remarks in the House "debate" on Iraq here.

Update: Amos e-mails with a link to YouTube's video of the speech.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Contact Congressman Jim Ramstad - Minnesota's Third District

You can email Jim at (Please be sure to include your mailing address)

Congressman Jim Ramstad
1809 Plymouth Road South #300
Minnetonka, MN 55305
Phone: (952) 738-8200
Fax: (952) 738-9362

Congressman Jim Ramstad
103 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2871
Fax: (202) 225-6351

Saving The World With Music

Al Gore, Cameron Diaz throw weight behind "Live Earth" concerts to fight climate crisis:

MUMBAI: Detailing an effort to engage billions of people across the globe, Kevin Wall, former US VP Al Gore, Pharrell Williams, film star Cameron Diaz, and the MSN Network have launched Save Our Selves (SOS)--The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis. The announcement was made at the California Science Center.

SOS is designed to trigger a global movement to combat our climate crisis. It will reach people in every corner of the planet through television, film, radio, the Internet and Live Earth, a 24-hour concert on 7/7/07 across all 7 continents that will bring together more than 100 of the world's top musical acts. Live Earth alone will engage an audience of more than 2 billion people through concert attendance and broadcasts. MSN has partnered with SOS to use its reach to make the Live Earth concerts available across the globe.

Friday, February 16, 2007

You're Nothing To Me Now

Ramstad crosses party lines; votes in favor of Iraq resolution:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., sided with Democrats Wednesday in support of a resolution against President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

"The original mission of U.S. troops in Iraq was to liberate the country and turn it over to the Iraqi people," Ramstad said in a House speech. "We need to get back to that original mission."

Ramstad, a moderate who often crosses party lines, said that the resolution Congress passed in 2002 authorizing force against Iraq "was never intended to provide justification for sending 21,500 more American troops into the middle of a civil war."

Not exactly a profile in courage by the Rammer. Especially when you compare his comments to that of Representative Sam Johnson from Texas, a former POW from the Vietnam War, who delivered the closing statement on the Iraq resolution debate:

We POWs were still in Vietnam when Washington cut the funding for Vietnam. I know what it does to morale and mission success. Words can not fully describe the horrendous damage of the anti-American efforts against the war back home to the guys on the ground.

Our captors would blare nasty recordings over the loud speaker of Americans protesting back home...tales of Americans spitting on Vietnam veterans when they came home...and worse.

We must never, ever let that happen again.

The pain inflicted by your country's indifference is tenfold that inflicted by your ruthless captors.

Our troops--and their families--want, need and deserve the full support of the country--and the Congress. Moms and dads watching the news need to know that the Congress will not leave their sons and daughters in harm's way without support.


Debating non-binding resolutions aimed at earning political points only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy.

The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops...Just ask John Murtha about his "slow-bleed" plan that hamstrings our troops in harm's way.

Now it's time to stand up for my friends who did not make it home--and those who fought and died in Iraq--so I can keep my promise that when we got home we would quit griping about the war and do something positive about it...and we must not allow this Congress to leave these troops like the Congress left us.

Today, let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past... instead learn from them.

We must not cut funding for our troops. We must stick by them. We must support them all the way...To our troops we must remain...always faithful.

God bless you and I salute you all.

When Susan Met Al

Susan Lenfestey is the local raging DFL activist the Star Tribune has tapped for monthly editorials, known for such wisdom as:

But it's George Bush's lack of public morality that's on display in "Fahrenheit 9/11." We see him profiting from his family's old and oily ties to the Bin Laden family and from his cozy cheek-to-cheek relationship with his father's corporate cronies.


President Bush's actions at home - the merging of religion and government, the dismantling of environmental protections, the cold shoulder to children living on the margins, the short shrift to civil liberties, and the new round of Bush toadies appointed to the Cabinet, just to name a few, have indeed stripped away most of my bark. But it's Iraq that leaves me bare.

If being a liberal is to despair over the futility of winning a war while savaging a nation, creating a democracy while humiliating a culture, and smashing terrorism while infusing it with new fervor, then call me a liberal, peeled of all bark and yes, utterly miserable.

She sounds like a fun gal. A good conversationalist to invite to your next dinner party. At least she is if you're a candidate for the DFL nomination for the Senate.

Sometimes it take an Australian to alert us to a summit meeting of Democratic minds right here in Minneapolis. Ladies and gentlemen, the dinner party of Al Franken and Susan Lenfestey.

Last night I had dinner with Al and Franni. Yeah, Franken. A bunch of folks were invited to their house to "hear his ideas" on the eve of his announcement that he's running for the US Senate, for the seat once occupied by Paul Wellstone and currently occupied by the oily keister of Norm "I'm-a-99-percent- improvement-over-Paul-Wellstone" Coleman.

Again with the oily fixation. Do I detect a bad experience involving some Oxy 10 in years past?

Other highlights:

Well, the serious, cleaned-up Al Franken is very impressive

As opposed to the Al Franken we've been subjected to for the past 30 years.

Its almost scary to see how much is churning in that big head of his.

A subtle reference to Franken hurling after dinner?

When asked his greatest area of vulnerability, he said it was that he cares too much.

I see Franken has been studying his Great Answers to Job Interview Questions manual. Other acceptable answers to that question are "I'm a perfectionist" and "I work too hard."

His study seems to have paid off, as far as Susan Lenfestey is concerned, he's hired:

for now the front-runner is Al Franken, and for now I'm impressed.

If only Franken can count on the majority of Minnesotans having the keen judgment of Susan Lenfestey, he's in.

Oh We Don't Want Him, You Can Have Him, He's Too...

Minnesota is one of the most provincial of states. It's been said before that if someone once made a connecting flight in Minneapolis, we'll seek to claim them as "one of our own." And towns and cities often vie to be known as the "Home of ____."

So what it does it say when the Albert Lea Tribune seeks to distance their town from being too closely associated with Al Franken:

Comedian Al Franken is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. We have heard people remark, "Hey, Al Franken is from Albert Lea."

Al Franken lived in Albert Lea for two years as a small child. He moved away at 6. While we and most anyone appreciate that the Franken family lived here for a time and we like other folks appreciate that Al Franken remembers our fair city, let's be honest here. He is not really from Albert Lea in the way that, for instance, actress Marion Ross is from Albert Lea or musician Eddie Cochran is from Albert Lea. Franken is from St. Louis Park.

As a current resident of St. Louis Park, I don't think we should let Albert Lea off the hook so easily. He's all yours.

Required Reading

On my recent trip to Manila, I brought along three books.

Grant Comes East

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Code of the Wooster's

I didn't get a chance to crack open "The Code of the Woosters," so it will come along on the next journey. Wodehouse is timeless.

If you're a Civil War buff like our own Saint Paul or even a Civil War buff buff like Atomizer (he enjoys spending his time studying people who enjoy spending their time studying the Civil War), you'll enjoy "Grant Comes East." It's a sequel to "Gettysburg" and the second work in the Gingrich/Forstchen alternate history trilogy. History purists are sometimes turned off by the alternate history genre, but this is what I would call reasonable alternative history, not "what if the South had AK-47s?" a la Turtledove.

Rarely have I heard as much hype about a book as I had prior to reading "The Looming Tower." Usually when your expectations are set so high you're bound to be disappointed, but in this case there is a reason for the hype. This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the roots of Al Qaeda and what they seek to achieve. You'll read it now and refer back to it often.

Whilst on the subject on books, I should report that I just started reading Father Richard John Neuhaus' Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, And the Splendor of Truth and, after only a few chapters, I'm already recommending it for those with an interest in the Church. A quick sample:

Dissent from the official teachings--typically from teachings that do not sit well with the surrounding culture, and most typically from teachings touching on sexuality--is taken to be a mark of having grown up. The disposition is this: "Yes, I am Catholic but I think for myself." The somewhat implausible assumption is that what one thinks up by oneself is more interesting than what the Church teaches.

Father Neuhaus will be joining us on the Northern Alliance Radio Network at noon on March 10th to discuss this book and other matters of religion in the public square. Mark your calendars.

SAINT PAUL AVERS: Recommended reading for Atomizer and his fellow Civil War Buff Buffs is Confederates in the Attic.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You Can Take The Mexican Out Of Mexico...

After spending a good chunk of my morning at the Mexican consulate in Saint Paul, I can say without equivocation that nothing that an average American experiences dealing with local, state, and national governments can compare to mind-numbing, soul-crushing bureaucracy and wasteful inefficiency of the Mexican government. Since 99% of the people waiting with me were Mexicans (all properly documented I'm sure), they didn't seem to mind as they have long been accustomed to spending wasting time in this particularly onerous circle of hell.

Meanwhile, I was on the verge of major meltdown which would have resulted in a profanity laced tirade that few in attendance would ever forget (assuming that they spoke enough English to understand) and possibly would have led to a reprise of the Mexican-American War. Thankfully, my prayers for patience were answered and a major international incident was avoided (although I believe the Doomsday Clock did inch a few seconds closer to midnight).

It was touch and go for a moment around 10:30am, when I had to fight the urge to reach over the counter and thrash the impudent clerk who advised me that I could either wait twenty more minutes or come back at 1pm. Having already spent more than an hour waiting for something that I had expected to be able to simply pick up, I was in no mood for the 'tude he was giving me. I informed him that I would wait twenty minutes, but if my items were not ready then I was going to have a word with his jefe.

I then stepped outside to cool my heels (and clear my head) and sure enough, when I returned fifteen minutes later, everything was in order. If I had to deal with this sort of indifferent incompetence on a daily basis, I'd probably make a run for the border too.

Can't Have Nothin' Nice

Since 1970, twenty songs have swept the two most prestigious Grammy awards, Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Review the list below and identify which of these songs just doesn't belong there:

{red neon pulsate}2007 - "Not Ready to Make Nice", Dixie Chicks{/red neon pulsate}
2003 - "Don't Know Why", Norah Jones
2001 - "Beautiful Day", U2
2000 - "Smooth", Santana & Rob Thomas
1999 - "My Heart Will Go On", Celine Dion
1998 - "Sunny Came Home", Shawn Colvin
1997 - "Change the World", Eric Clapton
1996 - "Kiss From a Rose", Seal
1993 - "Tears in Heaven", Eric Clapton
1992 - "Unforgettable", Natalie Cole
1990 - "Wind Beneath My Wings", Bette Midler
1989 - "Don't Worry, Be Happy", Bobby McFerrin
1986 - "We Are the World", USA for Africa
1985 - "What's Love Got to Do With It", Tina Turner
1982 - "Bette Davis Eyes", Kim Carnes
1981 - "Sailing", Christopher Cross
1980 - "What a Fool Believes", Doobie Brothers
1979 - "Just the Way You Are" - Billy Joel
1974 - "Killing Me Softly With His Song" - Roberta Flack
1973 - "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" - Roberta Flack
1971 - "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - Simon & Garfunkel

With the exception of this year's winner, I can instantly hum a few bars of each and with the proper preparation (hic) do a serviceable karaoke presentation. (And on anything by Celine Dion or Roberta Flack, I WILL bring tears to your eyes.) Just about everybody can.

Why? Because these songs were actually popular. Smash hits, most of them, crossing genre lines, played on a multitude of media outlets. People bought them in droves and wanted to hear them played on the radio. Agree with them or not, they have messages about the human condition that resonated with the masses (yes, including Bette Davis Eyes, which I'm told resonated heavily with lonely ophthalmologists). They are the standards for the generation past. And the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences had a tradition of recognizing that.

And then we have the Dixie Chicks and "Not Ready to Make Nice". Like most Americans, I've never actually heard the song. (Slog through it here if you care.) It doesn't get a lot of airplay on the stations I listen to (AM1280 the Patriot and AM1570, the Patriot 2) or anywhere else in the media. And the message -- recording artists lashing out at their fans for not sufficiently supporting their injecting politics into their music -- doesn't exactly strike me as universal. Or as something with a good beat that I can dance to. The single's flat performance on the billboard charts shows most people came to this same conclusion.

Yet it goes down in history as The Best of 2007. I think history will laugh at this conclusion, if it bothers to note it at all. But in the present, it is one more depressing instance of a supposedly respected, unbiased arbiter of truth revealing itself as nothing more than a platform for superficial partisan politics . Victor Davis Hanson briefly turned his attention away from the implications of the Boiotians advance under Epaminondas to liberate the Messenian helots to comment about the Chicks:

Reading the self-righteous remarks of the Dixie Chicks reminded me of the Nobel Prize announcements, to the effect from one judge that Jimmy Carter had been likewise rewarded for his vocal opposition to the war in Iraq.

The result is that we can no longer be sure whether merit and truth are the primary criteria in bestowing awards or reporting news.This is not partisan criticism, but rather evident from remarks of a judge on the Nobel Prize committee, Jimmy Carter himself, the Dixie Chicks, etc., all apparently unafraid to make explicit the connection between politics and recognition.In the short-term, all this posturing brings advantage, but in the long-term, Samson-like it is bringing down the temple of our basic institutions

The squandering of the responsibility and trust placed in the current keepers of our elite institutions is a hallmark of this generation. These excerpts from the reporting by another formerly respected institution tells you all you need to know about what makes the best song in 2007.

The awards amounted to vindication for the Dixie Chicks, who found their career sidetracked in 2003 after the singer Ms. Maines told a London concert audience shortly before the invasion of Iraq that the band was "ashamed" that the president hailed from their home state, Texas.

As far as Grammy voters were concerned, the Dixie Chicks "made a great album this year, and their music and their commentary resonated with our membership, as it did with the entire nation," said Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Recording Academy's formal title.

Reviewing that list of winners from past years, I cannot testify as to their artistic merit. But time has not been kind to many of them, especially those that are now remembered exclusively as pop culture punch lines. But what cannot be taken away from them is the fact that they once held the imagination of the entire country. The people loved them. And that's the one thing that can't be given to "Not Ready To Make Nice," no matter how many awards they throw at it.

Separated at Birth?

Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr of the Mahdi Army


Radical waitress Shirly from What's Happening?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Got A Friend In Jesus

At FIRST THINGS, Michael Linton urges Evangelicals to stop attacking the messenger (in this case Alexandra Pelosi) and reflect on the validity of the message:

It's a scene familiar to any Evangelical. As standard as the Venite was in Morning Prayer, our worship now begins with twenty minutes (sometimes more) of uninterrupted praise choruses like this one lead by a rock band onstage (the production Pelosi tapes is actually rather tame; the megachurch down the street from me uses dry ice and lasers). The tune is infectious, the words few and easily memorized, and the message upbeat; you feel great singing it. And it's kinda scriptural.

Kinda. James 3:23b quotes Jehoshaphat's plea for the Lord's intervention (2 Chron. 20:7), where the king calls the people of Israel "the descendants of Abraham thy friend." In his high priestly prayer, Jesus calls his disciples "friends," but his salutation is conditional: "You are my friends if you do what I command you," and it's delivered within the context of the Lord's preparation for his crucifixion; friendship requires obedience and sacrifice (John 15:14).

But the king's startling honorific for Abraham is for the patriarch alone. The title was peculiar to him and based upon his obedience. Jesus' invitation to friendship is open to all, but it, too, is based on obedience and, in the context of John, obedience even until death. The scriptural formula appears to be obedience, suffering, then friendship. And that pattern has been an important teaching Evangelicals have shared with other Christians (look at all those "cross" hymns we used to sing). But there's not a hint of that pattern in this song. Instead, there's the suggestion that friendship with God is our right simply by being human. By only referencing the scriptural pattern in part, the song distorts it in whole. And, at least in Evangelical circles, distorting the Bible is supposed to be a big problem.

But while the song distorts the Bible, it's true to the way we tend to live. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am. I am. I am.

The Tetragrammatron, the Name of God, made into a mantra, applied to us. I am. I am. The blasphemy is an accident of thoughtlessness, but, like the Freudian slip, it reveals to us an aspect of our character. I love how I feel about God. I love the great sex I have because of God. I love the power I yield in God's name. I adore "the me" that God made. I am...

We scoff at Shirley MacLaine running into the surf and joyfully shouting "I am God, I am God!" But when Haggard boasts about our great sex, and Falwell crows about our political power, as we sway like Dervishes chanting mantras, we don't look that different from her-just drier and not as pretty. We've become sensualists, aesthetes, untroubled by either self-reflection or accountability.

Well worth reading the whole post.

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is...Ourselves

In a piece in today's WSJ (sub req) Brian S. Wesbury says the easiest way to screw up the economy is by trying to "fix" it:

It's the best of times. It's the scariest of times. Last year, U.S. exports, industrial production, real hourly compensation, corporate profits, federal tax revenues, retail sales, GDP, productivity, the number of people with jobs, the number of students in college, airline passenger traffic and the Dow Jones Industrial Average all hit record levels. For the third consecutive year, global growth was strong, continuing to lift (and hold) millions of people out of poverty. From 30,000 feet, heck from 1,000 feet, it sure looks like the best of times.

In relative terms, the first five years of the current recovery have been much better than the first five years of the 1990s recovery. But all this has not softened the pessimism of many pundits and politicians who are either unimpressed or expect the whole thing to come crashing down any minute. That is, unless the government firmly grabs the reins of the global economy and steers it clear of disaster.

Many believe that the debate is over on global warming, nationalized health care, tax hikes, rich-versus-poor, the trade deficit and "obscene" oil company profits. Forgotten in this rush to pass judgment on capitalism is the fact that the last two times government seriously tried to control the U.S. economy -- in the 1930s and in the 1970s -- they made a terrible mess of it.

Keep your hands off the wheel. Please.

Romantic Thought Of The Day

Lloyd: The first time I set eyes on Mary Swanson, I just got that old fashioned romantic feeling where I'd do anything to bone her.

Harry: That's a special feeling, Lloyd.

Hearts Grow Warmer From The Cold

We hope all of you can spend Valentine's Day with someone special.

Ain't love grand?

(Thanks to Derek for the sweet--excuse the pun--graphic work.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When You Mess With The Vox... might end up getting gored, as local blogger and Minnesota Monitor "journalist" Jeff Fecke recently discovered.

Mmm... Open-faced Club Sandwich

If there's one thing that I've learned in my business travels to far-flung parts of our pale blue dot, it's that the one reliable "taste of home" room service selection--whether you're at a hotel in Mexico, China, or the Philipines--is the club sandwich. You order a hamburger and Lord knows what you're going to get: is that supposed to be ham or burger? Pizza or pasta? A crap-shoot at best. But the good ol' club never lets you down.

After a grueling day of meetings and bidness strategery in a foreign locale, when you finally get back to your room and sit down to watch a movie on HBO with a club sandwedge, fries, and a couple of local beers you're instantly back in your comfort zone again.

In my opinion, the Shangri-La in Manila makes the best club sandwich on the planet. The secret? A fried egg. With the toasted bread, the various meats, and mayo, it's simply delicious. Wash it down with a San Miguel or two and you're living large.

I'm not the only one who appreciates the simple joy of a room service club.

UPDATE: Club sandwiches make for strange bedfellows.

Missed That Train

Some years ago, my sister-in-law from Colorado was all atwitter about a new shoe that a local businessperson was selling in the Boulder area. She was telling everyone she knew about the shoes and sending them as gifts to family members.

My wife and I were very skeptical. Gaudy-colored plastic clogs? C'mon, there can't be much demand for something like that.

A few years and many millions of dollars later, I think it's safe to say that we were very very wrong. Today's WSJ reports that Crocs are now moving to the catwalk (sub req):

Crocs Inc., maker of the brightly hued plastic clogs that surged to popularity last summer, is quietly planning a surprising strategy aimed at avoiding fad status: a bold step into everything from women's fashion footwear to apparel.

Yet many on Wall Street aren't convinced Crocs can continue at its torrid pace, which has seen its sales rocket to an expected $338 million in 2006 from just $1.2 million in 2003 and its stock soar to more than $54 from its $21 offering price in its debut a year ago. As of last month, roughly 30% of its outstanding shares were held by short sellers looking to profit from a decline in the share price if Crocs ends up a one-hit wonder.

Even if Crocs is not able to continue its remarkable run, it still is incredible to me that these unusual shoes could go from kiosk carts at local malls to worldwide distribution in what essentially is the blink of an eye.

You CAN Legislate Insanity

Visit SCSUScholars to vote for the most ridiculous piece of DFL legislation to be introduced in the last thirty days in Saint Paul. My personal fav is HF620 a.k.a. "Seat Belts For Shopping Carts." Sadly, you can't make this stuff up.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hockey Moms For Al Gore?

From the February 2007 edition of Minnesota Hockey Journal Magazine (article not available on-line):

One of the scariest things about global warming is the long-term effect on the creative skills of an entire generation of young hockey players unable to hone their skills on slushy ponds.

What about the children young hockey players????

What The Lone Ranger Did To Rossini

Finally got around to watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Not a bad effort, although why it had to clock in at two hours and fifteen minutes is beyond me.

One difficulty I had with the movie was reminding myself that I wasn't listening to the intro to the Hugh Hewitt Show. That score has been forever...scored with the association.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Media Lied?

Acceptance that Saddam Hussein supported terrorism?

Hints at ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?

Speculation about how these ties could lead to WMD getting into the hands of terrorists?

Must have been those nefarious neo-cons attempting to "massage" pre-war intelligence, right?

Try an ABC News report from the year 2000. Power Line has the video that harkens back to the good ol' days when the media actually cared about such matters.

Genuine Sacrifices In Real Wars

Jonathan Gurwitz on Help for the Intrepid in today's WSJ (sub req):

SAN ANTONIO -- The word "sacrifice," like the word "war," lends itself to political and rhetorical excess. There are symbolic sacrifices in metaphorical wars. Then there are genuine sacrifices in real wars.

The latter was on display last week at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, as representatives of a grateful nation dedicated the Center for the Intrepid and two new Fisher Houses to those wounded in the global war on terror.

The center is a 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility. The Fisher Houses are homes away from home for the families of military personnel being treated at military medical centers and Veterans Administration hospitals. The center and the houses were built entirely with private funds. More than 600,000 Americans contributed $50 million to construct the Center for the Intrepid. Thousands more donated the $8.3 million needed to build the new Fisher Houses for Brooke Army Medical Center, home to the sole Army Burn Center and one of two Army Amputee Care Centers. BAMC has treated more than 2,600 service members injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. has cared for more casualties.

As the dedication ceremonies commenced, 300 wounded military personnel walked, staggered and rolled beneath the drawn swords of an honor guard to take their seats in the front rows. One of them was Staff Sgt. Jon Arnold-Garcia.

Staff Sgt. Arnold-Garcia of the 101st Airborne Division lost the lower half of his right leg to a grenade when insurgents struck his convoy in Hawija, Iraq. Not yet fitted with a prosthesis, Staff Sgt. Arnold-Garcia was on crutches.

As the Joint Service Color Guard of the Military District of Washington presented colors, Staff Sgt. Arnold-Garcia rose to attention, without crutches, on one leg.

Next to him was a soldier I knew. Staff Sgt. Steve Bosson of the 1st Cavalry Division is a bear of a man. Looking at his frame, you wouldn't know he's been through three years of surgeries, prosthetic fittings and rehabilitation. Staff Sgt. Bosson lost the lower half of his left leg to a grenade in an ambush west of Baghdad.

At moments during the National Anthem, Staff Sgt. Arnold-Garcia would teeter a bit. To keep his balance, he would occasionally touch the elbow of his right arm, drawn up in salute, to the shoulder of Staff Sgt. Bosson. It was a fleeting yet moving portrait of genuine sacrifice.

A few have actually had the temerity to question this private effort, saying that it's something that the government should rightly be doing.

Arnold Fisher, the philanthropic force behind the center, who saw it through from groundbreaking to completion in fewer than 15 months, provided a rhetorical answer: "Why would we want our government to do that which we could do ourselves in half the time, at half the cost and twice the quality?"

Well said.

The Biggest Mismatch Since Reagan-Mondale?

Patrick for President

Larry the Lobster as an opponent? Please. Even John Kerry would be a better candidate. Well...

Swiftee To Embrace Alternative Culture

Our old reliable pal Swiftee has apparently decided to start focusing on a new topic on his blog--what he calls the "Biking scene in Minnesota".

Is this what he has in mind?

UPDATE--Saint Paul, Atomizer and The Elder add: Please be clear in noting the author of this post. JB as in JB Doubtless. We just want to be sure to distance ourselves, in a very real and physical sense, from any association with its content.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Taming Of Tammy Bruce

Despite the fact that I like some of the writing that she's done in the past, when I listen to Tammy Bruce filling in on the Laura Ingraham Show, one word keeps coming to mind: shrew.

Four Peas in a Pod

Separated at Birth?

Amanda Marcotte and John Edwards from the John Edwards for President Campaign:

Amanda: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit? You'd have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

John: I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word.

Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn from Dumb & Dumber:

Lloyd: Man, You are one pathetic loser. No offense

Harry: No, none taken.

Union and Rebellion

Disturbing news out of Santa Barbara, CA:

Three reporters - Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia and Barney McManigal - were fired Monday evening, while three others - John Zant, Thomas Schultz and Melissa Evans - were terminated Tuesday.

I suppose another woeful tale of the heartless and irresponsible Internet gobbling up audience, advertising market share, and formerly tenured positions. Or perhaps another example of corporate greed forcing out the precious gatekeepers of truth and justice.

Wrong, ink-stained wretch breath:

The firings came after a group of employees displayed a banner reading "Cancel Your Newspaper Today" from a bridge over Highway 101 in Santa Barbara during last Friday morning's rush hour.

Well. that's one way to get management's attention. Like most things in life, this reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. The one where George got a job offer from the Mets, but before he could take it, he had to get fired from the Yankees. From the episode, The Millenium:

GEORGE: Of course. But I really wanna leave my mark this time, you know, uh. I wanna walk away from the Yankees with people saying 'Wow! Now that guy got canned!'

JERRY: So you want to go out in a final blaze of incompetence?

GEORGE: Ehh. (nostalgic) Remember that summer at Dairy Queen where I cooled my feet in the soft-serve machine?

After several failed attempts to get fired, George resorted to:

[Yankee's Parking Lot. George is driving his car in a circle in the parking lot. Trailing behind the car, on a rope, is the World Series trophy which bounces and clatters on the tarmac. George is leaning out of the car window, with a megaphone.]

GEORGE: Attention Steinbrenner and front-office morons! Your triumphs mean nothing. You all stink. You can sit on it, and rotate! This is George Costanza. I fear no reprisal. Extension five-one-seven-oh.

The tactics are the same, but the motives of the Santa Barbarian reporters were quite different than George's. In fact, getting fired for trashing their employer was the last thing they expected. Crazy logic, you say? Cue the union interpreters:

Teamsters Union officials say they are seeking quick action from the National Labor Relations Board in response to this week's firing of six more Santa Barbara News-Press reporters, who were accused by the newspaper's management of "disloyalty."

"We asked the NLRB for new urgency under the circumstances," said union attorney Ira Gottlieb. "We'll go to federal court to ask a judge to reinstate these people immediately."

The union and reporters contend that the demonstration was federally protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Gottlieb assailed the firings as a "blatant, bare-knuckled attack" on the newsroom employees' rights under federal labor law.

"They engaged in collective expressive activity on behalf of their union, which is fully protected by the National Labor Relations Act," Gottlieb said.

They're gonna to fight for the right to cut their employer's throat. I better search the fine print on my Constitution for that hidden clause.

No matter how this dispute is resolved, you have to empathize with the employer, dragged into court for having the unmitigated gall to fire employees actively encouraging their customers to abandon them. Suddenly McClatchy Corporation's $600 million loss on sale of the Star Tribune looks like a reasonable maneuver. Get out while you can boys.

I have to wonder what sort of draconian atmosphere, what sort of intolerable depredations, could cause this level of hysterical newsroom employee rebellion?

The newspaper has been in turmoil since last July when most of the top editors resigned over alleged newsroom meddling by owner Wendy McCaw. McCaw said she wanted to eliminate "bias" from news stories and also sought stronger local coverage.

It all makes sense now.

So Lazy And Surly

Since it appears likely that the Democrats in Congress will soon try to reimpose the "Fairness Doctrine" on us, the hosts of the Northern Alliance Radio Network Volume One (a.k.a. NARNVI) have elected to try to get ahead of the game by allowing equal time on our talk radio show.

In the past, we've had Summit Brewing founder and owner Mark Stutrud on the show a couple of times. Now, in the interests of fairness and sharing of the public airwaves, we are pleased to announce that Omar Ansari, founder and owner of Surly Brewing Company in beautiful Brooklyn Center (the real Brooklyn), Minnesota, will join us this Saturday at noon to discuss the wonderful world of beer. If there is anything about beer making that you've also wanted to know, but been afraid to ask, feel free to call in at 651-289-4488. As always you can catch the NARN on AM1280 The Patriot or on the internet stream.

If you like beer, good beer, I suggest you go out and grab yourself a four pack or two of Surly cans (yes, cans!). It's not sold everywhere but the list of stores carrying Surly covers the metro area and is growing. If you like a well-hopped beer, you've got to try the Surly Furious. It's a taste sensation.

UPDATE: Derek concurs on the Surly cans.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Feeding At The Public Trough...Forever

My ol' buddy Noah Winer (that's his real name) e-mails with their latest call to action:

George W. Bush is trying--yet again--to slash funding for NPR and PBS. This week, Bush proposed a new budget with devastating cuts to public broadcasting. "Sesame Street" and other ad-free kids' shows are under the knife. So is the independent journalism our country needs.

"Independent" journalism as provides by the likes of the strictly non-partisan Bill Moyers.

Enough is enough. We've fought this fight before and won-but we can't afford the risk anymore. With the new Congress, we can make sure this never happens again. We need Congress to insulate NPR and PBS from the political winds.

We can make it happen if enough of us sign this petition: "Congress must save NPR and PBS once and for all. Congress should guarantee permanent funding and independence from partisan meddling.

Permanent funding? So no matter what happens to the country, no matter the seriousness of the challenges facing the Republic, taxpayers will be required by LAW to continue shelling out for Garrison Keillor and Big Bird?

The Great Depression of 2015? Keep paying for NPR and PBS. A world war with China? Can't cut a dime from that public broadcasting funding. Al Gore's wildest global warming fantasy comes to pass and Manhattan is swallowed by a tsunami? Sorry New Yorkers. Get in line behind Caillou.