Tuesday, July 31, 2007

...and a button nose and two guys still on the dole

Front page story in today's Wall Street Journal on the local creators of the infamous Snowman Video from the CNN/You Tube Debate (sub req):

MINNEAPOLIS -- Just a week ago, Nathan and Greg Hamel didn't know whether their talking snowman would be picked to ask a question during the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate.

Now, their 18-second video, which asked candidates about their environmental policies, has turned "Billiam the Snowman" into a cold, wet symbol of all that's good and bad about efforts by voters and politicians to use the Internet to reach one another.

Snowman Wins," declared the Chicago Sun-Times after the debate. MSNBC personality Tucker Carlson, wrinkling his nose at "these homemade videos," nonetheless declared: "This is the future." The unemployed Hamel brothers, who live with their parents in a suburb of Minneapolis, have done interviews with local television, snagged a spot on the Wisconsin Public Radio game show "Whad'Ya Know?" and are working on a line of "Billiam the Snowman" T-shirts. They've also launched a "Billiam the Snowman" presidential exploratory committee -- online.

"We figured if he won the debate, he might as well run for president," Nathan says.

Feel the pride.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Deserving Better

When you visit China--with its communist government and its booming quasi-free market economy--you often end up asking yourself, how does all this work?

When you visit the Philippines--with its largely educated English-speaking people and close historical ties to the U.S.--you ask yourself, how does this not work?

If you went back twenty years and tried to predict what countries would emerge (along with China) in the next wave of Asian economic players, the Philippines would have seemed a natural choice. Marcos had just been removed from power. Finally, the people of the Philippines would have the freedom to realize their potential and fulfill their unmet expectations dreams.

So what happened? South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand became the economic "tigers" of Asia, while the Philippines--despite its obvious advantages--lagged behind. There are a host of reasons for this opportunity lost, but most of it can be boiled down to poor and unstable government.

The Philippines should be the natural location for US companies seeking to get a foothold in Asia. As I mentioned earlier, you have a young, fairly well-educated populace. English is widely spoken and the culture--at least in the big cities--is probably the most Americanized in Asia. Why wouldn't you want to start up operations there if you're a US company?

Well, it doesn't help when the government gives every indication that it doesn't want you. The populist impulse of the movement that overthrew Marcos also led to a resentment of American influence and many Yankees heeded the message and went home along with the US military. Only in recent years has the government realized that foreign investment is critical to economic growth and that you need have a friendly business environment to entice multi-national companies.

Corruption and coups aren't confidence builders either. Businesses crave stability. They want to know what the rules are and that the government will be there to enforce them. Some of the countries that I mentioned above, probably aren't any "freer" or as free as the Philippines from a political perspective. But they are usually stable and successions follow elections (when held) without major disruptions.

It seems unfair to pin the old adage "you get the government that you deserve" on the Filipino people. But with democracy comes responsibility for your leaders. And if you look around the world at countries that work and those that don't, you find--with a few obvious exceptions--that the quality of the government is often the determining factor in a country's success or failure.

Hanging With The Boys

We are glad to report that Saint Paul's bachelor party did not go awry this past Saturday night, although one invitee did learn the downside of being fashionably late. A variety of beers, top shelf Irish whiskeys, and tequilas were consumed. Food was grilled. Baseball was watched, dissected, and endlessly debated. Bars were hit. No one was arrested. A good time was had by all.

More importantly, we learned that Atomizer can do a killer Frank Pentangeli impersonation. It was as funny the next morning at breakfast as it was in the drunken haze of 4am which shows it has some real staying power.

The only slight buzz kill of the entire evening was The Nihilist in Golf Pants whining about going to a karaoke bar so he could debut the new song that's he's been working on. Fortunately for all involved, more sober minds prevailed and the integrity of the event was maintained.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Love, Filipino Style a.k.a. 'Nila Wafer

[Another post from my trip to Manila a few weeks back]

There's really no such thing as "light traffic" in Manila. Even on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the streets are hopping as soon as dawn breaks. Actually they never really stop hopping, as cars, trucks, Jeepneys, motorbikes, and other assorted vehicles are prowling the city's roadways 24/7. The most prevalent odor in the air is a slightly sour smell like fresh paint with a hint of dirt frequently interrupted by wafts of engine exhaust filling your nostril.

Crossing said streets is no picnic either. In what I like to call the "Manila Traffic Dance," pedestrians will raise one hand up as if to say: "Don't run me over as I step in front of your vehicle." In response, the drivers honk madly to signal, "Get out of my way or I WILL run you over."

It's amazing that there aren't more accidents and fatalities. My survival strategy is to always try to put at least one person between myself and on-coming traffic when crossing the road and follow the crowd.

It's also extremely difficult to predict where and when the traffic will congest. For that reason, I was picked up from my hotel at 9am to travel to a wedding that started at 11am. Fortunately, traffic was manageable and we arrived at 9:45am with plenty of time to spare. What to do until the ceremony began?

Head across the street for "breakfast" at KFC. Breakfast consisting of the usual KFC fare: fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, fries, and mashed potatoes along with unique offerings such as rice and spaghetti. To me it seemed odd to be eating fried chicken at 10am, but apparently it wasn't unusual for my hosts (I already had my breakfast at the hotel).

A line of young people snaked around the front of the building. Lines and young people are ubiquitous in Manila. At times, when it seems like all you see on the streets and the shopping malls is throngs of young faces, it feels like you've stepped into the world of Logan's Run with everyone over thirty having been "retired." You wonder what all these teens and twenty-somethings do for work.

It turns out that the line at KFC was for job applicants. One of my Filipino co-workers told me that they were applying for a few available positions and everyone in line likely had a college degree of one sort or another. A college degree to man the counter at KFC? Puts things in little different perspective.

The wedding itself was a typical Filipino combination of tradition and modernity. The groom, his groomsmen, and sponsors wore the traditional barong shirts with black trousers. The bride wore a white dress and her bridesmaids and attendants wore pastel blue and circus peanut orange outfits to ensure that no one upstaged her on the big day. Nice to see the universality of that particular custom.

The ceremony was videoed and photographed of course and neither recorder was the least bit shy about being front and center. The videographer had a lighting assistant who cast a powerful (and damn hot) glare as he swung his floodlight about. The photographer was always just a few feet away from the bride and groom openly shooting, moving around, and even staging during the entire Mass. At times it almost felt as if the altar, priest, and guests were just background props for a multi-media production.

Before things officially started (at 11:20am I might add), I asked if it was okay to take pictures in the church. It turned out to be a silly question as nearly every guest had either a digital camera or cell phone and clicked away with impunity. Filipinos take a back seat to no one (not even Japanese tourists) when it comes to picture taking. Anything, anyone, anytime. Click, click, click.

I noticed that one gentleman (not the wedding photog) was taking particular care to capture individual shots of every guest during the ceremony. No sooner had the Mass ended when three or four vendors descended upon us offering to sell four by six pictures in cardboard frames to commemorate the wedding. While I had no desire to purchase a picture of myself, I had to admire their ability to turn these things around. It couldn't have been more than twenty minutes from the picture being taken to having it to market. For EVERY single guest too.

The Mass itself was conducted in Tagalog, but I was able to follow along fairly well since the essence was the same. One thing that would have been nice in the old days of Latin Masses was the ability to attend church anywhere in the world and actively participate.

After the Mass ended, there were more pictures and then a traditional wedding exit complete with the tossing of rice. Then the reception. Pretty typical fare with food, DJ, toasts, and silly games. It also had a host and was conducted English which was nice for me. And it was alcohol free.

Back in JB's days as a rodeo clown in Oklahoma, he passed on tales of attending wedding receptions without alcohol in the "dry counties" of the Sooner state. Horrible, unbelievable stories of people "celebrating" without booze and being "high on life." Sickos.

But I had never personally experienced one. Wedding receptions are usually occasions to cut loose and live large, especially if your host provides any sort of booze sans charge. It's part of the long-standing wedding understanding: I give you gift in exchange for food and drink. If one fails to maximize on the second part of the equation, you feel as if you've been cheated in some way.

Obviously the best scenario is an open bar all night. That way you can do your drinking at a nice leisurely pace. However, it seems like most receptions these days place some sort of limits on your imbibing. An hour or two of open bar and then you pay to drink. Or maybe wine and beer for free, while charging for the hard (and good) stuff. Either situation requires a well planned and executed drinking strategy to maximize your alcohol inflow and minimize your cash outflow.

In any event, weddings and booze just seem to go together. So when you arrive at a reception and don't find any, it's a bit of a culture shock. Initially I just assumed that the customs were just a little different. We wouldn't drink before the food came, but with it. Then it was, we'll start drinking after the food is done. Finally, it was resignation to and acceptance of the fact that we would not be drinking at all.

The reception actually didn't last that very long. After the meal, there were the bouquet and garter giveaways (with slightly different twists), the first dance for the bride and groom, a version of the dollar dance (more like the envelope drop dance), and then most of the crowd began heading for the door.

I was back in my hotel room by 4pm. By 4:01pm I was cracking open a San Miguel from the room's mini-bar. Weddings always make me thirsty.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fingers On The Cultural Pulse

On his radio show tonight, Hugh Hewitt admitted:

"I've never seen an entire Simpson's episode from beginning to end."

No further comment required.

The Alarmist, Misleading, Drama Queen Neighbor

The great man, Thomas PM Barnett, makes the mistake of appearing on one of the B-List talk radio stations in town:

The Jack Rice Show appearance went okay.

Frankly, he came in a bit sensational and so I felt like I spent a lot of my time dialing down his implied statements, such as "America is building two dozen bases in Africa right now." I hate to let things like that pass on-air, because they're so misleading. So you do your best to not get trapped in answers that misinform more than they inform.

So I'd give myself a B- maybe, but I don't think I could have done any better given Rice's initial tone of alarmism. I realize he has to make everything sound quite dramatic, but I pride myself on providing strategic perspective, so there's a natural tension there.

I once got trapped in the back seat of a car traveling to Iowa with WCCO on the radio during the Jack Rice Show. It was so bad, I was actually hoping someone would turn the channel to Mark Larson substitute hosting for Hugh Hewitt.

Barnett is a brilliant guy who doesn't suffer fools gladly. All I know is that when Barnett was interviewed on the Northern Alliance Radio Network, our performance was reviewed positively on his web site. I hope his experience on WCCO doesn't sour him on making an appearance on all Twin Cities airwaves, we should get him back soon.

BTW, tomorrow on NARN Vol.1, interview with Stephen Hayes, author of the terrific new biography of Dick Cheney.

I will be absent, meaning the alarmism, sensationalism and misleading will be at a bare minimum. Chad and John will be masterfully running the show, starting at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot, and streaming on the web here. Don't you dare miss it!

Is Our Reporters Learning?

What do you do with a young reporter who made a series of errors and showed obvious political bias while covering the national education beat? If you're the Washington Post, you send this "rising star" to Iraq to cover the war. Red State has the details:

Mr. Paley is a twenty-something Harvard grad who has been covering the U.S. Department of Education for the Washington Post. If his present track record of covering education for WaPo is any indicator, we can expect to get a fable, not facts, from Iraq.

Getting his big break on the front page of the Washington Post in April, Paley wrote a host of hard hitting articles citing his leading source as a "senior official," "senior agency official," and even a "presidential appointee." Unfortunately, WaPo had to run a correction admitting that the source was none of the three.

Okay, but anyone can make a mistake, right?

Weeks later, Paley returned to the front page without fact checking. On April 21, 2007, Paley wrote, "The No. 3 official in the U.S. Department of Education, who oversees the student loan industry, had more than $10,000 invested in student lenders, according to documents released last night."

The fact was that the husband of the official owned the stock via a 401(K) and sold it before his wife faced Senate confirmation.

Instead of running yet another correction, WaPo just sneaked in two paragraphs in *a different story* mentioning these facts. This sneaky way to correct their prodigy's record even upset WaPo's ombudsman who called the handling "problematic" and wrote that the correction "should have had its own headline and more prominent display."

As we've learned from years of following newspapers, anytime you can get an ombudsman (or "reader's representative") to actually fess up to a mistake, you know something's gone seriously wrong.

Erick at Red State concludes:

So, realizing they need to do something to get Paley off the Education beat and stop the embarrassing need to substantively correct his front page stories, WaPo has come up with a great idea. They are sending him to Iraq as a war correspondent.

If this wasn't such a serious matter, it would be absurdly amusing.

Jerry: So, what did you say?

Elaine: Well, I called him all the way up to my office, so I had to tell him
something important. So I promoted him.

Jerry: What? What did you--

Elaine: Copywriter.

Jerry: He's writing copy?

Elaine: Well it can't be any worse than the pointless drivel we normally churn

Basic Instinct

Last week on NARN we mentioned Sen. Amy Klobuchar's participation in stripping the so-called "John Doe" protections from legislation moving through the Senate. A public servant fresh off a landslide victory taking a stance in opposition to the common sense wisdom of the vast majority of her constituency? I ain't no managing editor, but it seems like a newsworthy item.

Crazy talk, I know. Those currently presiding over the sinking ships of both newspapers know best and little was made of Klobuchar's actions in the local press. The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have trained us long-time residents of the Twin Cities not to expect this kind of coverage. (Not coincidentally, they've also trained us not to subscribe to them.) That kind of story just wouldn't be helpful and doesn't go far enough in afflicting the comfortable., I suppose.

Once again, Katherine Kersten does her best to fill the news breach from her opinion column. Her report is on Ms. Klobuchar's apparent flip-flop on the issue:

Klobuchar's vote was one of the three that seemed to sink John Doe. But on Monday, she told me that she had decided to support the measure. "It came up in the middle of the night, attached to an unrelated bill," she said. "I was thinking about a case I had in Bloomington as [Hennepin] county attorney. A security guard reported a series of fires set by a 'Middle Eastern man,' but police discovered he had set the fires himself.

Someone needs to check the facts on the xenophobic arsonist story. It might be true, or parts of it might be, but it sounds a little too PC-perfect for my ears.

True or not, Klobuchar's reliance on this example is illustrative of her mindset. The theoretical possibility that a false accusation could be leveled against a member of a protected class is enough to junk the notion that all citizens should be protected from getting sued for reporting suspicious behavior. So until we realize the utopian vision where racism doesn't exist in society, you people better think twice before objecting to the guy re-enacting a scene from United 93.

Of course, this utopian vision will never be realized. There is the potential for abuse in any law. The question is, on which side do you want to err?

If you enact this measure, people in protected classes might get falsely accused and not be able to sue for damages (gasp!). But if you kill the bill, those reporting their concerns, in good faith, may be frivolously sued and be financially devastated in defending themselves. And, more to the point, the mere threat of this would create a chilling effect on citizen's willingness to bother reporting suspicious behavior, with potentially fatal consequences.

Which do you chose? Who's interests are you looking out for? In this era of terrorism, and frivolous lawsuits, this seems to be an easy call. But not for the conflicted junior Senator from Minnesota.

I guess there is a happy ending. She has begrudgingly come around to supporting it:

"I wanted to make sure that the [immunity provision] had exceptions that would preserve the right to sue under such circumstances."

After the late-night vote, Klobuchar talked to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., a cochairman of the committee and a supporter of the John Doe provision. He alleviated her concerns, she said.

It would be nice if she actually understood the bill before she voted on it the first time. She's still new, maybe they didn't cover that in freshman orientation classes. But in the absence of perfect information, it's interesting to note what her instincts tell her to do.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On Selling Out

Carter writes in to let us know the Fratellis opinion on the planet killing nature of charged electronic devices is apparently as nuanced as Al Gore's opinion on $30K electricity bills at his house:

You have heard the Fratellis if you have seen any of the iPod commercials. The song "Flathead" accompanied many of the commercials.

Global warming hysteria hypocrisy aside, not bad. For a bunch of Scottish wankers.

This Debate is Over

Today's Wall Street Journal opinion pages feature another crackpot in denial about global warming:

Some scientists, journalists and activists see a direct link between the post-1995 upswing in Atlantic hurricanes and global warming brought on by human-induced greenhouse gas increases. This belief, however, is unsupported by long-term Atlantic and global observations.

Consider, for example, the intensity of U.S. land-falling hurricanes over time -- keeping in mind that the periods must be long enough to reveal long-term trends. During the most recent 50-year period, 1957 to 2006, 83 hurricanes hit the United States, 34 of them major. In contrast, during the 50-year period from 1900 to 1949, 101 hurricanes (22% more) made U.S. landfall, including 39 (or 15% more) major hurricanes.

The hypothesis that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the number of hurricanes fails by an even wider margin when we compare two other multi-decade periods: 1925-1965 and 1966-2006. In the 41 years from 1925-1965, there were 39 U.S. land-falling major hurricanes. In the 1966-2006 period there were 22 such storms -- only 56% as many. Even though global mean temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.4 Celsius and CO2 by 20%, the number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. declined.

It turns out that this skeptic carries a rather impressive pedigree:

Mr. Gray, professor emeritus in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and a research fellow at the Independent Institute, has been issuing Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts for the past 24 years.

In fact, some of his statements sound downright scientific:

Here's how it works. Though most people don't realize it, the Atlantic Ocean is land-locked except on its far southern boundary. Due to significantly higher amounts of surface evaporation than precipitation, the Atlantic has the highest salinity of any of the global oceans. Saline water has a higher density than does fresh water. The Atlantic's higher salinity causes it to have a continuous northward flow of upper-ocean water that moves into the Atlantic's polar regions, where it cools and sinks due to its high density. After sinking to deep levels, the water then moves southward, and returns to the Atlantic's southern fringes, where it mixes again. This south-to-north upper-level water motion, and compensating north-to-south deep-level water motion, is called the thermohaline circulation (THC).

The strength of the Atlantic's THC shows distinct variations over time, due to naturally occurring salinity variations. When the THC is strong, the upper-ocean water becomes warmer than normal; atmospheric circulation changes occur; and more hurricanes form. The opposite occurs when the THC is weaker than average.

Since 1995, the Atlantic's THC has been significantly stronger than average. It was also stronger than average during the 1940s to early 1960s -- another period with a spike in major hurricane activity. It was distinctly weaker than average in the two quarter-century periods of 1970-1994 and 1900-1925, when there was less hurricane activity.

A number of my colleagues and I have discussed the physics of Atlantic THC variations in our seasonal hurricane forecasts and in various conference talks for many years. Those who are convinced that greenhouse gas increases provide the only plausible explanation for the recent increases in hurricane activity are either unaware of our work, or don't want to consider any alternative.

One reason may be that the advocates of warming tend to be climate modelers with little observational experience. Many of the modelers are not fully aware of how the real atmosphere and ocean function. They rely more on theory than on observation.

The warming theorists -- most of whom, no doubt, earnestly believe that human activity has triggered nature's wrath -- have the ears of the news media. But there is another plausible explanation, supported by decades of physical observation. The spate of recent destructive hurricanes may have little or nothing to do with greenhouse gases and climate change, and everything to do with the Atlantic Ocean's currents.

Unless someone with more hurricane cred and experience than Mr. Gray wishes to dispute this, I think it's time to borrow a page from Al Gore's playbook and declare the debate about whether man-made global warming causes more frequent and more destructive hurricanes over. It simply does not.

Hot Air Predicted

You've heard the Fratellis on tape as a former NARN Loon of the Week.

Now hear them LIVE at the Electric Fetus this Sunday.

It's a guaranteed good time. No, I've never heard their music. But their thoughts on how to fight global warming were as entertaining as anything I've heard this summer.

Not sure how these Scottish lads got to America, given the planet killing carbon output of a transatlantic flight. But if you go, you may want to keep any freshly recharged cell phones out of sight. Remember, we've only got 9 years and change to save Mother Earth.

Don't Try This At Home

My favorite quote from this week's City Page's piece on the decline of our local newspapers:

Alex Friedrich, a Pioneer Press reporter who sits on the union's bargaining committee, argues that the proposed changes would significantly undermine the newspaper's editorial integrity. "Do you really want some inexperienced freelancer covering a city council meeting?" he asks. "Ultimately, it's the people of these two cities who are going to have to live with the consequences."

My God, he's right! What will happen to our lives if (gasp) someone who hasn't been to J school, doesn't have an ear for baloney, and most all doesn't "know stuff" is allowed to cover a precious city council meeting? The end is indeed at hand.

Got My Guanxi Working

Yesterday at work, we had a Q&A discussion on Chinese culture. Anyone who's even dipped their little toe in the business or governmental waters there knows that when it comes to getting anything done in China, it's all about the relationships (or guanxi). Guanxi is informally recognized as the third currency of the country, the first being RMB and the second the US dollar.

The importance of building relationships in China (and the reasons many US businesses struggle there) was vividly explained. According to a native-born Chinese businessman--who had studied and lived in the US for years before returning to China to manage several successful enterprises--the biggest difference between the US and China when it comes to business is the relative weight given to various considerations when deciding whether to undertake an action.

In the US, the individual would consider them in this order:

- Law: Is it legal?

- Reason: Does it make sense?

- Friendship: Will it help my friend?

If the answer to either of the first two is no, the individual in the US would likely decline to act.

In China, the order is this:

- Friendship

- Reason

- Law

It doesn't necessarily have to be legal or make sense from a business perspective if it helps my friend. That's how much importance is placed on relationships.

If you don't have your guanxi working in China, you're going to have a hard time getting anything done.

Golden Child

When I was in Shanghai last week, I learned that this year is considered an "auspicious" one to bring a child into the world. Firstly, it's the Year of the Pig. As this March 1st article in the Washington Post explains:

Since time immemorial, prospective parents have been told, children born under the pig's patronage will benefit from the animal's image as fat, happy and prosperous. Now, couples who schemed to have their babies in these blessed times are hoping for good fortune.

"My family already has two pigs, including my father, and I want to add one more pig," said a pregnant 28-year-old Beijing secretary who identified herself only as Ms. Lian.

"I guess three pigs will also bring luck to us," she explained. "Also, I believe people who are born in the Year of the Pig are honest, because my father is such a person."

Fat, happy, honest, and rolling around in slop? Who doesn't want to be a Pig?

But it's more than just rich, swiney goodness that makes this year special.

Many couples were acting on a belief that 2007 is not only a Year of the Pig, which comes along once every 12 years, but a Golden Year of the Pig, which comes along once every 60 years and showers extra-powerful blessings on those born during its passage.

This is what I was told in Shanghai. Apparently a much higher number of women than usual in the office there have given birth or are pregnant because they desired to have a Golden Piggy. However, all that glitters is not always gold.

But Ye Chunsheng, a culture researcher at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-Sen University and deputy secretary general of the China Folklore Society, said that belief was mistaken.

"This year is not golden," he said. "It is earthen. The last Golden Year of the Pig was 1971, and the next one should be 2031, with 60 years as the full cycle."

Bummer. Here my wife and I thought we nailed it with our the birth of our second son in May. I guess he's just a regular down to earth Pig after all. Which still sounds pretty good:

Ye Zi, a 30-year-old businesswoman, said she became pregnant eight months ago without any particular desire to see her son-to-be born in the Year of the Pig, but now is suffering long waits and crowding at Beijing Obstetrics Hospital because of the trend.

"The problems of having a piglet baby are already apparent in the hospital, so I can expect that it will be quite competitive for my child to go to school, to look for jobs or even to find a girlfriend," she said.

"But I still think it's great to be born in this year," she added. "I hope this will bring him good luck. The elderly keep on saying that boys born in the Year of the Pig are lucky. I have been hearing this since childhood. It's just a Chinese belief. But I feel very lucky to have a piglet child this year, and if it's the golden pig, so much the better."

Besides the role of "golden child" already seems to be taken by our eldest, at least in appearance. He turned two on Monday, which is a bit hard to believe. It seems like it was only yesterday that we welcomed the little Rooster to our nest.

All the things that make life worth living for!

Canadian boys will be boys:

Lets just say in Lutsen, Minn., pop. 1,200, they will not soon forget the day a Hurricane blew into town to party with a Penguin and a bunch of wild Canucks.

"Our jail had never been full before," laughs Darcy Ziller of the Cook County Sheriff's office in nearby Grand Marais.

But a bachelor party Friday for Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal, 22, in the resort town on Lake Superior, changed all that and landed the superstar a night in the slammer with nine of his friends and relatives.

"We would have kept them all in for the night if we had room," Ziller said.

They considered putting Penguins rookie sensation Jordan Staal, 18, and three others in the women's cells but "since there was a woman in there," they decided to release him instead.

Needless to say the brothers, hockey royalty from Thunder Bay, will take some good-hearted ribbing at training camp this fall.

And perhaps even at the older Staal's wedding next Friday in the Lakehead.

It all started out innocently enough...

It always does.

...as a day of golf and an evening of partying at the posh Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas on Lake Superior. But as the sun fell and the beer flowed, things became a little rowdier amongst the 20 young men in attendance.

"It was a bunch of Canadian boys going wild," an employee at the resort, two hours south of Thunder Bay, joked last night. "It was a bachelor party that went awry."

It's been my experience that every truly memorable bachelor party goes awry at some point.

Police reports were not as humorous - stating the men were "warned multiple times to be quiet or they may be removed from the property, issued citations, arrested, and/or deported from the country."

This young man has had a very trying rookie season, what with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country's refusal to accept him.

That was at 12:30 a.m.

At 3 a.m., according to a police press release, "staff at Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas ordered the group to leave the property, as they were not obeying the warnings. Cook County Sheriff Deputies, a Minnesota State Patrol Trooper, and a U.S. Border Patrol agent assisted with the removal of the suspects."

At 4 a.m., "after leaving the property, the group gathered on Highway 61 and began harassing passing motorists," the release alleges. "The suspects were placed under arrest for disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Some of the suspects fled into the nearby woods."

Dude, it's cops! Run! How many of us can honestly say that we haven't been there and done that? Multiple times.

When daylight came, the arrested men were no longer disorderly and in fact quiet and co-operative.

It's amazing how waking up in jail in a foreign country with a killer hangover will do that to you.

If you happen to read reports of similar shenanigans this weekend in the Washington County, rest assured that none of the crack staff here at Fraters Libertas would ever stoop to participate in such unseemly activity. Besides, you can't get kicked out of Stillwater, can ya?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Where Did I Leave That Fork?

Ah, yes, now I remember...I left that fork in the Minnesota Twins since I have officially declared them done. After inexcusably being swept by the division leading Tigers last week they are currently wrapping up a dismal 4 game stretch against the Angels and Blue Jays in which they have been outscored 33-7. I say currently because the hitting impaired bums are being hammered by the Jays 13-1 as I type this.

While their pathetic season can be blamed primarily on their lack of pop at the plate, I chose to aim a little bit of my ire at their completely inadequate pitching staff. To illustrate, here is Juan Rincon's line from today's game:

Innings Pitched: 0.0
Number of Pitches: 14
Hits: 3
Runs: 4
Earned Runs: 4
Walks: 1
Strikeouts: 0

And that's a fairly good outing from Juan since he's been off the juice. Regardless, I vow right now to never attend another game as long as Juan Rincon is wearing a Twins uniform. Unless it's dollar hot dog day, of course.

Thinking about it, however, that doesn't seem like a harsh enough penalty for this team being the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. Maybe what these guys deserve is a Major League style downgrade to their locker room facilities and equipment. Hmmm...I wonder if I know anyone who has the ability to make that happen?

The Elder Jabs His Fork In: Maybe it's the uniforms. Can you get them cotton? They're cooler, they're more comfortable...they're happier - they're gonna play better.

I missed the game last night, but tuned in to the post-game to catch Ron "Homer" Coomer talking about how Baker had just pitched a good game, but made a couple of mistakes by leaving the ball up. Not knowing the score, I wasn't sure if that meant the Twins had won or maybe lost a close one.

Then they flashed the final. Jays 7 Twins 0. Baker gave up four runs in seven innings. While that wasn't a terrible performance, it doesn't exactly fit my definition of pitching a "good game" especially when your team just got their clock cleaned.

Why must these announcers insist on treating us like children?

Still Skeptical After All These Fears

Forrest heps us to an e-mail sent out by the Sierra Club promoting a web site designed to silence those pesky global warming skeptics once and for all:

So, Uncle Henry gets a sadistic smile on his face whenever he sees you, "So, Chicken Little, still trying to claim the sky is falling?" Many of us have climate skeptics in our lives - those people who always find a way to deny that global warming is an issue. Well, now you've got a tool on your side. Grist, an online environmental news and discussion site, has put together a one-stop shop, including a comprehensive list of theories, arguments, and rants frequently used by climate skeptics, along with pithy, annotated responses that will leave Uncle Henry rushing back to his talk radio station for solace.

Stereotype much? Anyway, here is the site in question:

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming.

Being a noted skeptic (or crank if you will) of the "sky is falling" climate change religion myself, I decided to take a look. At first glance the site is very impressive. They've done a good job assembling a list of the most common arguments presented against anthropogenic global warming leading to untold disasters for the planet and the need AND ability to stop it.

But when you start reading some of the individual topics themselves, you will see that while the responses are indeed pithy and annotated, they often don't stand up to scrutiny once skeptical commenters (including some with a PHD behind their name) start weighing in. Then, the climate change faithful (including the series author himself Coby Beck) usually come back with an "Well, even if it's not exactly true, we still should be alarmed because..." or try to discredit the source of the contrary evidence because of exaggerated ties to the oil industry (I saw him getting gas at an Exxon station just last week!).

No solace needed.

More Farfegfrickingnugen!

A word of advice to the wonderful German engineers who designed the cup holder in our Jetta:

Next time you might want to come up with something that allows the driver to access the stereo controls with a cup in the holder. Another nice feature would be the ability to turn a corner without spilling scalding hot coffee all over the car.


You freakin' yupster! You spilled some of your precious latte on your business casual attire while trying to insert the latest Norah Jones CD, didn't ya? Admit it Elder!

I had a similar thing happen the other day. But I was driving my '83 Olds and I spilled some Old Mil while trying to put in a Hank Williams Junior casette.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

94 East

Finally, a state has heeded the words of visionaries like Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore and taken the bold step forward to make government provided health care a reality. An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (free for all) reports that Wisconsin--a state long-noted for pioneering health care trends--is going to ante up and care for its citizens from cradle to grave as any good government should:

Democrats who run the Wisconsin Senate have dropped the Washington pretense of incremental health-care reform and moved directly to passing a plan to insure every resident under the age of 65 in the state. And, wow, is "free" health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.

Employees and businesses would pay for the plan by sharing the cost of a new 14.5% employment tax on wages. Wisconsin businesses would have to compete with out-of-state businesses and foreign rivals while shouldering a 29.8% combined federal-state payroll tax, nearly double the 15.3% payroll tax paid by non-Wisconsin firms for Social Security and Medicare combined.

I for one applaud Wisconsin's leaders for acting to solve the state's health care crisis. Especially since I live in Minnesota:

As if that's not enough, the health plan includes a tax escalator clause allowing an additional 1.5 percentage point payroll tax to finance higher outlays in the future. This could bring the payroll tax to 16%. One reason to expect costs to soar is that the state may become a mecca for the unemployed, uninsured and sick from all over North America. The legislation doesn't require that you have a job in Wisconsin to qualify, merely that you live in the state for at least 12 months. Cheesehead nation could expect to attract health-care free-riders while losing productive workers who leave for less-taxing climes.

We send you our unemployed sickos and you send us jobs, entrepreneurs, and high-achievers? Sound like a win-win deal. On Wisconsin!

UPDATE: King's on board with this new plan--which I like to call "Escape From Wisconsin" in honor of those old tourism bumper stickers--to boost economic growth in Minnesota as well.

Say It Ain't So

JB heps us to a site whose name says it all: FIRE JOE MORGAN. From the Q&A section:

Why are you guys so hell-bent on getting Joe Morgan fired?

Oh. Well, the thing is, we're not.

Here's what happened. A group of friends thought it would be fun to post some of the ridiculous things that they heard and read from sports journalists in one place.

So in April of 2005, dak founded FJM as a way for him and some of his buds to keep track of everything they came across. Joe Morgan, because of his penchant for ignorantly slamming Michael Lewis's "Moneyball," seemed like a good figurehead to use in the title of the site, but "Fire Joe Morgan" shouldn't be taken as much more than a name.

We've also never been singularly devoted to picking on Joe. You might notice that the first post ever was about Sean McAdam. I think you have to take "Fire Joe Morgan" as an overall attitude towards conventional wisdom and poor journalism in baseball, rather than a hostile attack on one old dude who refuses to read certain books.

Basically, our goal has always been simply to entertain ourselves (and over time, the growing number of people who read the site); our goal has never been to launch any sort of legitimate campaign to get Joe Morgan fired.

Now, don't get us wrong. We hate Joe Morgan. We do think he should be fired. But that's probably never going to happen, and after all, the dude's a grandfather. We certainly don't wish him any serious harm.

A recent poll of FJM editors confirmed that Joe Morgan is in fact our least favorite broadcaster / commentator / journalist, but he was followed very closely by John Kruk and Tim McCarver. (Others receiving votes included Dan Shaughnessy, Chris Berman, Stephen A. Smith, Rob Dibble and yes, Hat Guy.)

Joe is definitely no Bert.

Scotch Egg On His Face

On a couple of critical issues, Norm Coleman has not exactly been a profile in courage of late and local conservatives have had good reason to wonder when he will next go wobbly when the rubber meets the road. But one area where Norm has never wavered and in fact has been a rock of strength is his leading role in investigating the UN's Oil For Food scandal. In today's Wall Street Journal he pens an opinion piece on a new report by the British Parliament on George Galloway's role in said wrongdoing called Scurrilous George (sub req):

Two years ago George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, came to the U.S. and attempted to make a mockery of an investigation into allegations of corruption within the United Nation's Oil for Food program. Readers will remember that Oil for Food started as a way to feed Iraqi children, but became a vehicle that Saddam Hussein used for bribery and extortion.

Mr. Galloway dismissed accusations that he benefited substantially through a charity he was involved with (the Mariam Appeal), from Saddam. Evidence that he and the Appeal had received lucrative oil benefits had been released by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, of which I was chairman. In testimony to the subcommittee, Mr. Galloway denied the accusations and later attacked the integrity of his accusers, including me. His bombastic denials won him international attention.

But now, thanks to an investigation conducted by the British Parliament, the truth is out. Last week the House of Commons's Committee on Standards and Privileges issued a damning report presenting "undeniable evidence" that Mr. Galloway and his political operation at the Mariam Appeal benefited from Saddam's regime through Oil for Food. This report is the fourth official investigation -- from the U.N. to the U.S. to the U.K. -- to condemn Mr. Galloway for his misconduct.

The committee report, which is remarkably thorough and objective, is highly critical of Mr. Galloway, ruling that he violated the House of Commons Code of Conduct on numerous different counts. In fact, the committee ruled against Mr. Galloway on every count brought against him. It concluded that Mr. Galloway, through his extensive misconduct, brought the House into "disrepute." It also chastised him for his inappropriate conduct throughout their investigation, including making inconsistent statements, acting belligerently and verbally attacking key witnesses. "Mr. Galloway has consistently denied, prevaricated and fudged in relation to the now undeniable evidence" that his political operation (and he indirectly) received money from Saddam Hussein's regime via Oil for Food.

The committee recommends suspension from the House of Commons for a month -- a rare and severe punishment -- and that Mr. Galloway apologize to Parliament for his improper behavior.

Galloway is a smooth-talking silver-tongued devil who won great acclaim from many on the Left when he came to the US and supposedly made Coleman and the US Senate Committee look foolish. It's encouraging to see that in the end, facts and not bombastic rhetoric have won the day. Well done Norm.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

You Are What You Drink

Eric Felten in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on the Pina Coloda and the "men" who drink them (sub req):

Franklin Delano Roosevelt reveled in making Martinis; Harry Truman was partial to Old-Fashioneds; John F. Kennedy was a Gin and Tonic man. The drink for Bill Clinton? The Piña Colada.

In 1976, Mr. Clinton was gearing up his campaign to become attorney general of Arkansas. One evening, he and his wife, Hillary, went to the house of her brother, Hugh Rodham, for dinner and talk of political strategy. Mr. Rodham "made us piña coladas that tasted like fruit juice but packed quite a punch," Mr. Clinton recalled in his autobiography, "My Life." How much of a punch? "After two or three I was so sleepy that I went outside and climbed into the back of my Chevy El Camino pickup truck." It was just the place: "The back was covered in Astroturf, so I slept like a lamb."

Passed out in the back of an El Camino after a couple of Pina Coladas? Ladies and gentlemen, your future President of the United States. Interestingly enough, I understand that's the way Hugh Hewitt ended his high school prom night as well. Strange bedfellows indeed.

UPDATE-- Paul e-mails to make Bill's escape:

Maybe the reason Bill Clinton likes Pina Coladas is he was tired of his old lady, they'd been together too long.

Step By Step

My biggest frustration with air travel is not the overall time that it takes to get through the process from entering the airport door to being seated on your plane. Nor is it typically the queue time at any particular step in said process. No, what tries my patience (and sanity) is the number of steps involved.

Despite a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from travelers, the US process is actually not that bad in this regard. E-ticketing, internet check-in, and self-service kiosks have greatly reduced the amount of time (and hassle) that it takes to get checked in. Security can be (and often is) a nightmare. But once you get past security at a US airport, you're usually home free. Some airlines still require a passport check at the gate for international flights. In most cases though, all that remains to be done is present your pass and board the aircraft. Psychologically, it's fairly easy to handle this three step process.

Compare that to boarding an international flight at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport:

- Check in: Not that bad although your checked luggage is hand-searched before your actually check in which can add time and another mini-step to the process.

- Customs clearance: A form must be filled out and then you wait in line to hand it to an inspector and put your carry-on through a customs x-ray machine.

- Immigration: Another form must be filled out and you again queue up to wait your turn. This turned out to be the biggest bottle-neck in the process.

- Security: The immigration bottle-neck actually reduces the passenger flow to a trickle so security lines are not long. And you get to keep your shoes on which is always a plus.

Clear sailing now, right? Wrong.

I've now flown out of Shanghai three times and the boarding process is always messy. On this particular flight, they take your boarding pass at the top of an escalator and flight of stairs which lead to the gate. There are allegedly two separate (and not equal) lines for Business Class and Economy, but it's not clear which is which and where one begins or ends. Invariably people get in the wrong lines or ignorantly believe they can cut in front because THEY'RE in Business Class. Guess what a-hole? So am I. Now get to the back of the line.

Okay, but once you've handed over your boarding pass it's smooth sailing, right? Again wrong.

You get to the bottom of the stairs and find yet another line, this time to have ANOTHER security person hand search your carry-on bags on the jet way. But the fun's not over yet. Just in case someone somehow slipped through the gauntlet there are MORE security people waiting check your boarding pass and passport. That's right, TWO MORE STEPS to get through when you're so close to the plane (and your seat) that you can almost touch it.

By this time, even the most fanatically devoted Jihad Joe type would have found his spirit broken and no will to do anything other than collapse in his seat in defeated resignation. Screw slaying the infidels, martyrdom, and that whole seventy-two virgins thing. Get me a double Scotch.

To recap. Steps in the US:
1. Check in
2. Security
3. Boarding

Steps in Shanghai
1. Check in
2. Customs
3. Immigration
4. Security
5. Boarding
6. Jet way carry-on security search
7. Jet way boarding pass and passport check

Is there a method in their apparent madness?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Put A Lid On It

King heps me to The economics of hockey helmets:

James Surowiecki's new essay in the current issue of the New Yorker reminds one of an interesting insight from Thomas Schelling:

Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless.

The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn't afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage.

I'm not a hockey expert (and perhaps what I claim in the paragraphs below will prove it), but it seems that not all hockey players are created equal. Some are better than others. (Perhaps missing teeth are a sign that person is a better hockey player, because they tend to have control of the hockey puck more often, and are therefore frequently running up against beefy opponents determined to take it away.) Assume also that, as in any sport, the really good players are outnumbered by the lesser-skilled ones. So maybe the secret preference of a majority of hockey players for a helmet requirement is simply signalling that most mediocre hockey players are hoping to handicap everyone, on the chance that the better ones will suffer most.

This would dovetail nicely with the incentives of the owners. Because the NHL is a business, I'd imagine that the owners would always prefer to have more spectators. I also suspect that I'm not alone in believing that hockey is more exciting when there are lots of players getting slammed into walls. But that sort of thing might happen less when nobody has an incentive to wear helmets. Thus, the helmet requirement prevails.

Not sure I'm buying the talent evening angle on this one. I don't see the benefits of not wearing a helmet as being significant at all. Not wearing a face shield does offer one a better field of vision, but a helmet? Hockey helmets themselves don't interfere with your peripheral vision.

The real explantion for the difference between the what the players did and what they said in the secret ballots is simple: image. Hockey players love the tough guy image. There's nothing worse than being thought of as "soft." The guys back in the seventies knew in their heads that wearing a helmet made sense, but there was no way they were going to risk looking weak in front of their peers so they went without a lid.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Separated At Birth?

Kate e-mails:

A sooper-liberal friend of mine brought to my attention a separated at birth:

Tammy Faye Messner and...

...Lady Elaine Fairchild?

Northern Alliance Radio Network

In the midst of your beautiful July Saturday tomorrow, don't forget to spend sometime quality time indoors (ideally in your basement, in your undershorts) listening Northern Alliance Radio Network, at AM1280 The Patriot. It all begins at 11 AM and continues in various iterations until 5PM. As you may be aware, we are delightful and amazing. If you don't believe me, take the word of Anne, who writes in from a city slightly outside the Patriot broadcast area (no, not Stillwater).

I just wanted to send some fan mail your way. I really enjoy listening to your podcasts on the Northern Alliance Radio show. I don't know what kind of audience you usually get for those podcasts (editor's conception)- but lest you think it's mainly midwesterners or minnesotans, today I listened to your podcast while relaxing at the swimming pool of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem . (editor's conception).

I'm a first-year rabbinical student (oops, sorry), and while my program is based in the United States (I'm from Texas), we study for the first year in Israel. We get Friday afternoons off from our week of pretty intense study, so I took great delight in getting some time to chill out and catch up on the podasts from the past few weekends. One of my all-time favorite podcasts was the one with Father Neuhaus. I started reading First Things after that one. And I am so glad I got to hear that amazing interview with Marcus Luttrell. Keep up the great work!

And so we will. If you're not able to catch it on the Patriot, listen to the live streaming here. Or the podcasts, archived on Power Line and at Town Hall (featuring all the Northern Alliance programs).

Don't you dare miss it! Acutally, I think it's fair to say it would be impossible for you to miss them.

Light Snail

When it comes to urban transit, our light rail has nothing on Shanghai's maglev line.

The top speed of the Hiawatha Line is probably what, seventeen miles an hour? Shanghai's maglev meanwhile smoothly chugs along at over 185 mph.

Plus the station has a much better design.

Finally, even though the Shanghai maglev line--running from a station far from the heart of the city to the airport--does about as much to reduce congestion as our beloved 'doggle, at least they were smart enough to get the vendor (Siemens) to pick up most of the cost. The real ancient Chinese secret? Don't get taken to the cleaners.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Free Par

The publisher of the Star Tribune, Par Ridder, has been accused of, and has admitted to, some questionable business practices. In his move from the Pioneer Press to the Star Tribune, he apparently violated certain non-compete agreements. And he allegedly absconded with some strategic, internal business information that would aid his new employer at the direct expense of his old. As a conservative, i.e., an adherent of fair play and the highest of ethics in business , that is decidedly not cool.

However ...

There's got to be something right about a guy who's enflamed such hatred in the local journalism community. The journalist union at the Star Tribune recently voted 110 - 2 to call for the resignation of their boss. A bold move for a bunch of people in a floundering industry about to start negotiations on a new contract. (To pass along some ancient advice, if you're going to try and kill the king, better make sure you kill the king.)

Their statement:

We, the journalists of the Star Tribune, call on Par Ridder to resign as publisher," the resolution said. "We believe the unethical actions to which he admitted in court have damaged the Star Tribune's credibility and integrity and undermined our ability to hold public figures accountable for their actions. For the good of the Star Tribune and the community it serves, we believe he should step down.

Please. Par Ridder's antics damaging the "credibility and integrity" of the Star Tribune is like saying the ocean floor damaged the hull of the Titanic.

Liberal media columnist Brian Lambert has been documenting (and reveling in) the enmity local journalists feel toward the man. He recently recounted some of his experiences working under Ridder at the Pioneer Press:

One of the two occasions I had the good fortune to listen to Mr. Ridder up close -- prior to his court appearances, I mean -- was a "Business Literacy"-Lite gathering he held for the staff of the Pioneer Press A&E section back in 2004. At one point he explained how he believed it was a good idea to steer the Pioneer Press Op-Ed page into "a conservative alternative to the Star Tribune."

Hmmm. That is an excellent idea. I wish I'd have come up with that. Wait a minute, I did. From August 2004:

Newspapers are my favorite medium and to get a local one providing a counterbalancing voice to the unyielding yammering of liberal ideology expressed in this town day in and day out? It would be nothing short of exquisite, for me and the other tens of thousands of conservatives in this increasingly 50-50 state and metro area. Such a move is also good business, particularly for the weaker sister in this tandem.

Also from Lambert, this report on Ridder's opinion on newspaper endorsements:

Par was explicit, I'm told, in seeing no good reason for the Star Tribune to continue making presidential endorsements.

Flashback to me, from October, 2004:

With the election fast approaching we are now entering the season of candidate endorsements by the local papers. In my humble opinion, one of the low points of the year for journalism.

Of all the quarrels and quibbles we have with the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, there's no more alienating event for the readership (specifically the Conservative segment) than reading the official institutional judgment on who we should be voting for. From on high, these self-selected experts on politics decree the right man for the job.

And at that moment, every dime you ever spent on that paper's subscription or patronizing its advertisers, feels like icy, bitter self-betrayal. Your local paper, as an institution, wraps it's arms and legs around a candidate you may despise and tells you and the world to vote for him. It doesn't get any more lonely than that for the dissenting news consumer.

This is getting eerie. Has anyone ever seen Par Ridder and me in the same room at the same time? I don't think so!

No, I am not Par Ridder. We just happen to be the two brightest young media executives, and visionaries, in this town.

If the palace coup succeeds in dumping him from his perch at the Star Tribune, rest assured, Par will always have a home with us at Fraters Libertas. Here's a vision for you, the Ridder Family fortune bankrolling the efforts (and six figure contributor salaries) of this fine web site. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Respect Your...

Joshua e-mails:

Ah, now we know what this Asia trip is all about.

Former Leaders Create Freelance Global Diplomatic Team:

JOHANNESBURG, July 17--Melding serious statesmanship and a dose of audacity, the former South African president, Nelson R. Mandela, and a clutch of world-famous figures plan to announce on Wednesday a private alliance to launch diplomatic assaults on the globe's most intractable problems.

The alliance, to be unveiled during events marking Mr. Mandela's 89th birthday, is to be called the Elders.

Just doing my part.

How Much Would An Up Chuck Chuck Up?

One of the more insidious ways that newspapers further a left wing agenda is through the seemingly innocent human interest feature piece.

Under the guise of just "telling a story" the reader is emotionally manipulated into thinking the anecdotes written about are representative of a situation.


Like immigration. Last week, Chuck Haga wrote a piece on how great it is that Burnsville is getting less white. Now a fair piece might go into both good and bad repercussions of a huge influx of people from various and sundry third world countries where there is often no such thing as free speech, the rule of law, private property or running water who don't speak English moving into a community where those things are taken for granted. Nope, instead we are treated to a child-like slice of life that shows just how wonderful our new neighbors are.

Nothing tells the story of the changing suburbs like numbers from the Burnsville schools, where nearly one student in eight -- 1,229 of 10,339 -- has a limited proficiency in English.

Grab yer wallets residents of Burnsville, teaching remedial English aint cheap. And expect your kids' test scores to drop as the school district takes focus and dollars away from more advanced subjects.

"The community itself only has a history of 40 or 45 years," said Ben Kanninen, the district superintendent. "In the past 10 years, they've seen demographic change far more rapid than anything they saw in the first 30 years."

Change has not come without problems, but difference is increasingly seen as the norm, said Kay Joyce, principal at Burnsville High School.

"Change has not come without problems..." Like what? Why doesn't Chuck tell us what some of the problems are? Are there fights with other students? Vandalism? Increased pressure on budgets due to a lack of English speaking? We don't know because Chuck doesn't think we should know.

And what the hell does "...but difference is increasingly seen as the norm" mean, in, err...English? The first part of the sentence talked about "problems" then "difference." Are problems viewed as diversity in the Burnsville district?

"It's not unusual at all now to see a student of color voted in as homecoming king or queen or as captain of an athletic team," she said. "In the elementary grades, especially, it's what they all know."

Kanninen agrees. "There are people who resist change -- any change -- and there are individuals for whom this is a bad thing," he said.

So don't you dare question what is happening in any way taxpayer. You don't want to be seen as being resistant to any kind of change and if you do you clearly have psychological problems.

Chuck now really starts to lay it on thick as he sharpens his Noble, Kind, Generous Immigrant arrows and zings them directly for our syrupy hearts. He begins to describe the family:

Still, the decision to leave wasn't easy.

"Leaving parents, that is hard," Ajayi said, and as he spoke, Marriam began to cry.
"We lived with both of our mothers," he said, reaching to comfort his wife. "We have cousins who are getting married this year. We would have been the key people for them to have at their weddings."

Africa remains in her brother's memory. He remembers the fragrant bean cakes called akara that his grandmother made especially for him. He misses her, and he misses her bean cakes.
"I miss my grandfathers," he said, softly but with weight, as if he were talking about the sun and the moon. "They were there, and I loved them."

Ummm..."As if he were talking about the sun and the moon"? Immigrants in articles like this are never just normal people, they are always mystical, deep, profound intellectual thinkers who we should all learn to be more like.

A sophomore at Burnsville High last school year, trim and fit, Peter says he may try out for the soccer team next year. He's good at math and wants to be a computer programmer.

Aren't most 15 year olds trim and fit?

Dipo is a gentle, courtly man, proud of his degrees and the professional reputation he established in Africa.

He is a man of strong faith -- he is pastor of a small nondenominational church in St. Paul -- and that faith extends to his new life in this new land.

Is this a PR piece or a news article?

Chuck must have known he was getting pretty over the top his own obsequiousness to this immigrant family, so he quotes the dad's boss:

After three months of study, he obtained the necessary credentials and landed a job with Met Life in Bloomington. He now works in insurance and investments at New England Financial, a Met Life company in Minnetonka.

"Dipo has a work ethic and attitude that surpasses that of most people," said Carol Schulstad, his supervisor. He is a model for achieving "good balance to his life," she said, and his story connects him with a growing segment of the Twin Cities population.

Can you imagine the management of New England Financial's joy when presented with this perfect opportunity for their own self-aggrandizement? What an opportunity to show themselves to be such caring, open-minded people?

Everybody wins with diversity!

What About That Junk On Your Scalp?

The Star Tribune is reporting that the Police Chief of Northfield is on indefinite leave after fudging the truth a little on the seriousness of the heroin problem in Wellstonia.

My funny business detector went off when I saw this picture of the Chief:


Hmmm...def looks like something perched on top of his existing mane there. For whatever reason, cops seem to sport almost as many rugs as politicians.

I Feel Better Already

Due to some recent revenue shortfalls here at Fraters Libertas Inc, we've been forced to cut costs. Part of that involves outsourcing our dental plan.

The new Manila clinic might not be quite as convenient, but the level of care will be as high as ever.

Charles e-mails to share this photo shot in Mindoro, The Philippines in 2005 (click to enlarge):

Don't be shy ladies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Get to Know 'Em

Things may be improving for the Twins on the field of late, but it looks like there are some disturbing trends in the broadcast booth:

[Manager Ron Gardenhire] met with team President Dave St. Peter on Saturday, expressing frustration with comments made on KSTP following Friday's game. Talk host Dave Thompson, who came on after the Twins' postgame show, made reference to the 10-game suspension Rincon received in May 2005 for violating baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and suggested Rincon hasn't been the same.

"It's been talked about, and it's being addressed," Gardenhire said. "We've had our say with our president, and he's going to take care of it. He's going to talk to them. "They're supposed to be with us. And some of the things that were said were uncalled for and wrong."

What do the Twins expect when they leave their long time broadcast partner WCCO to link up with a station employing notorious shock jocks like Dave Thompson?

He's not the only one attracting the attention of the Twins' Department of Official Information:

Before batting practice, Gardenhire also talked with KSTP color analyst Jack Morris about a question Morris asked Nick Punto following Friday's game. Morris asked Punto about the team trying to give the bullpen work in relief of Johan Santana. But Morris stressed Saturday that he wasn't second-guessing the decision to pull Santana with 91 pitches and a shutout bid.

With all the time and effort the manager is forced to devote to controlling the speech of KSTP radio announcers, it's a wonder he has any time to actually watch the ballgames. With multi-tasking ability like that, he has to be the leading candidate for manager of the year.

(The above paragraph will be attached to the resume I send to KSTP for the job openings I expect once their purging of counterrevolutionary thinkers takes place).

At the very least, Gardenhire seems to have a bright future with the FCC as a speech monitor, once the Fairness Doctrine kicks in.

I wonder if KSTP knew when they agreed to pay the Twins $1 million a year AND forfeit 100% of all advertising revenue during the broadcasts to the team for the privilege of broadcasting their games that they were throwing in their broadcasting soul as well? It was probably in the fine print.

I hate to see what was in the fine print when Hennepin County agreed to give the Twins a third of a billion for the privilege of having them play games inside their geographical boundaries.

BTW, Thompson's speculation about Rincon is entirely reasonable. Beyond the overwhelming anecdotal evidence, his stats reveal a clear drop off in performance, pre-suspension (2004) compared to post (2005 and onward). Is it possible that this could be related to his being prohibited from taking illegal "performance enhancing" drugs, 2005 and onward? Inconceivable!

I just hope my outrageous commentary here today doesn't find its way to the Twins executive suite and they ban me from capitalizing on dollar hot dog night next time I'm at the Dome.


This "they're supposed to be with us" garbage is what makes the Twins broadcasters so incredibly whitebread, banal, sycophantic and just BORING!

The Twin Plug Sporters on the TV side of things, Dick Bremer and "Circle Me Bert" are waaay worse than their radio brethren. There is never a negative word about the Twins, OR their opponents.

The other day I was watching a game and Bremer felt it necessary to do a Barreiro-esque "Now it's easy for me to say, since I'm not out there, but..." followed by the mildest criticism on a fielding play. Get some stones, Dick!

There seems to be a philosophy along the lines of "If you haven't played the game, you can't say anything negative about the players and if you DID play the game, you still consider yourself one of the guys still and don't want to upset them."

It makes for some dull television watching.

An Exclusive Club

It's a well-established fact that nothing beats a club sandwich when it comes to room service comfort food. It's also been my experience that the Shangri La Edsa hotel in Manila boasts the best club sandwich I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

I was able to reconfirm that last week in Manila with another delicious club experience. When I arrived in Shanghai this week, I thought that I might be crowning a new club champion. For this time around I'm fortunate enough to be lodging at the St. Regis Hotel.

The place is all class. From the butler service available to each room (right ho Jeeves!) to the executive lounge on the 40th floor, it's top-flight, top-notch service in every way. So when I ordered up a St. Regis club sandwich the other day (advertised as a "favorite"), I expected it to give the Shangri La a run for the money.

And it was a good sandwich. Definitely above average, but not in the same class as the Shangri La. The champion retains its crown.

A Potemkin City?

When you leave the Shanghai Pudong International Airport it feels like you're stepped in a game of Sim City. Everything is recently built or under construction. The roads, the high speed train line, the light poles, the signs, the perfectly manicured landscaping all are in near pristine condition, too new to yet show signs of age or wear. It's a city planner's wet dream and it's difficult not be impressed. But is it the real future or just a facade?

Cape Sicko

I see Michael Moore and CNN have been feudin' and fussin' over the alleged inaccuracies of the network's report about Moore's film Sicko. Can't say I watched the CNN report in question. Or Sicko, for that matter (only an authentic sicko would subject himself to both), so I cannot take sides in this dispute.

Precedent suggests Moore's latest movie is cheap, manipulative propaganda. But I wouldn't be surprised if CNN also botched their report. As the long running "This Week in Gatekeeping" segment on NARN demonstrates each and every week, there is commonly a shortage of accuracy and a surplus of lazy reporting in news reports from Big Media like CNN.

So what happens what a cheap manipulative movie gets subjected to a lazy, inaccurate critical review? Maybe it's like grammar with a double negative and something extremely awkward but ultimately positive comes out in the end.

I'd say that's a fair characterization of Moore's latest threat letter to CNN. With both of these heroes of the left butting heads, it will be harder for each to, say, continue eroding America's will to win its wars, at least for the time being.

I must say, the tone of Moore's letter to CNN exceeds even the hatred he's directed to people like George Bush and General Motors. Reading through it, it reminds me of only one thing, which leads us to this psychotic stalker rhetoric separated at birth:

Michael Moore and his letter to CNN


Robert DeNiro as Max Cady in Cape Fear.


Moore: Dear CNN, Well, the week is over -- and still no apology, no retraction, no correction of your glaring mistakes. I bet you thought my dust-up with Wolf Blitzer was just a cool ratings coup, that you really wouldn't have to correct the false statements you made about "Sicko." I bet you thought I was just going to go quietly away.

Cady: You think a couple whacks to my guts is gonna get me down? It's gonna take a hell of a lot more than that, Counselor.


Moore: Think again. I'm about to become your worst nightmare. 'Cause I ain't ever going away.

Cady: I'm thinkin' of settlin' here in New Essex, Counselor. It's a small town. Everywhere you turn, we're gonna run into each other.


Moore: After what the public saw with your report on "Sicko," and how many inaccuracies that report contained, how can anyone believe anything you say on your network? In the old days, before the Internet, you could get away with it. Your victims had no way to set the record straight, to show the viewers how you had misrepresented the truth. But now, we can post the truth -- and back it up with evidence and facts -- on the web, for all to see.

Cady: It's not necessary to lay a foul tongue on me, my friend. I could get upset. Things could get outta hand. And then in self-defense, I could do somethin' to you that you would not like.


Moore: I won't waste your time rehashing your errors. You know what they are. What I want to do is help you come clean. Admit you were wrong. What is the shame in that? We all make mistakes. I know it's hard to admit it when you've screwed up, but it's also liberating and cathartic.

Cady: I don't hate him at all. Oh, no, I pray for him. I'm here to help him. I mean, we all make mistakes, Danielle. You and I have. At least we try to admit it. But your daddy, he don't.


Moore: And now, for 5 days, I have posted on my website, for all to see, every mistake and error he made. You, on the other hand, in the face of this overwhelming evidence and a huge public backlash, have chosen to remain silent, probably praying and hoping this will all go away. Well it isn't.

Cady: I'm better than you all! I can outlearn you! I can out-read you! I can outthink you! And I can out-philosophize you! And I'm gonna outlast you!


Cady: I find you guilty, Counselor! Guilty of betraying your fellow man! Guilty of betraying your country and abrogatin' your oath! Guilty of judging me and selling me out! With the power vested in me by the kingdom of God, I sentence you to the 7th Circle of hell! Now you will learn about loss! You're gonna learn to be an animal! To live like one and die like one.

Moore: I find you guilty CNN! Guilty of betraying your fellow traveler! Guilty of betraying the anti-Capitalist cause and abrogating your oath! You're gonna learn to be an animal, Wolf Blitzer! To live and die like one!


OK, I made up that last Moore quote. But I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the next letter from the corpulent auteur. And if he starts tattooing Bible verses on his back, and broken hearts on his chest, CNN may want to think twice about renting any houseboats for a staff retreat.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Granny State

Grannies need help to raise our kids, say parents--Shanghai Daily:

THOUGH grandparents help raise nearly 90 percent of local babies, about 70 percent of parents are unsatisfied with the way they do it, according to a recent survey by the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Committee.

Rarely has a government organization had a more sinister sounding name.

The survey of 200,000 families with a child aged under three in 34 sub-districts and towns found an increasingly urgent demand for more scientific guidance for grandparents on pre-education.

About 71.5 percent of families hope to get expert advice on scientific concepts and attitudes as well as systematic guidance on rearing a baby.

Another 27.6 percent are mostly concerned about standard upbringing methods and solutions to common problems.

Almost all families want training, home service and regular examinations, as well as audiovisual reference materials.

Baby Einstein DVDS?

The survey revealed 76.5 percent of babies live with the grandparents and in many cases the parents do, too.

In more than half families, grandparents are in charge of caring for the baby.

Only 42.8 percent of parents take the main responsibility for bringing up their child. Another 2.3 percent hire a baby sitter to look after the infant.

Fewer than three percent of families have children fostered at others' homes.

Among the surveyed families, more than 83 percent believed it was necessary for grandparents to have pre-education guidance in modern families.

The whole idea of relying on the government to teach you (or your parents) how to raise your children brings to mind this classic by Saint Paul from way back in '03. After all these years, it stands the test of time.

And Nothing's On

Tobin shares the pain of television sports options in Asia in this e-mail:

Welcome to Asian TV! Your post on the three sports options made me laugh (unfortunately humorlessly). It's all too true for this part of the world. Here in Indonesia I'm lucky to catch one MLB game a week - if one is broadcast, it's always the Yankees, and I can't stomach much of that. Cockfighting would be something new though...probably because most of the satellite service channels we get come from Singapore.

Regarding text-messaging for military communications....another huge weakness would be the possibility of your message not appearing immediately. Here, it's not uncommon for messages to show up hours later, or even the next day at times; I assume the service is similar in the Philippines. And if your phone's internal storage is already full of other messages, forget it - your chances of receiving that new one aren't good.

Can you imagine living in a place where the only baseball you get is the Yankees? What a nightmare.

I did catch a little Japanese baseball on TV while in Manila and, although it's not MLB, it was watchable. The games were very low-scoring without a lot of power hitters. Kind of like watching the National League.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Worst Martini Ever?

Normally I stick with Scotch and wine when flying. It's usually pretty hard to screw up either (this being a notable exception) and drinking beer means getting up more than I prefer to.

However, on today's Philippines Airlines flight from Manila to Shanghai, I elected to deviate from the norm. The menu advertising "extra dry Martini" sounded very tempting. And I've been getting some guff from JB lately about my traditional drinking habits. He takes more of a Protestant approach, hoping from one new drink to the next, never realizing that the one true booze--most fully and rightly ordered through time--has been right in front of him the whole time.

So I asked for an "extra dry Martini." What arrived was not pleasing to the eye. A wine glass filled with a visibly diluted mixture and three huge ice cubes. I probably should have sent it back immediately, but felt obliged to at least give it a taste.

A watery, sour flavor with just the slightest hint of ginny goodness filled my mouth. I swallowed hard and grimaced. What this foul concoction was I did not know. A Martini--no less an "extra dry Martini"--it most clearly was not.

I exchanged my "Martini" for a glass of red wine--not great but drinkable--at the soonest available opportunity. Lesson learned. Again.

Trade Deficit

Normally I don't read the fine print on various customs and immigration forms that need to be filled out to enter a country. However, on today's flight from Manila to Shanghai I noticed this:

Article Prohibited From Importation In Accordance With The Law of the People's Republic of China

3. Printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, computers and other articles which are detrimental to the political, economic, cultural and moral interests of China.

Hmmm...Pretty far-reaching all-encompassing and yet intentionally vague at the same time.

I decided to take my chances with the June/July edition of FIRST THINGS, Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War, and The Children of Men. Good thing I left my subversive vinyl at home.


Mitch e-mails on text messaging among Filipino troops:

Robert Kaplan writes about this in "Imperial Grunts"; the Philippine military uses TM for getting orders out to the troops. Which, say their US Special Forces advisors, is a bad thing, since all orders are they erased, removing all accountability.

That, and the whole "troops carrying unauthorized cell phones" thing...

To say nothing of security.

I never read any mention in the Manila papers of American advisors in the stories of the ambush of the Filipino Marines or in the preparations the military was making to go after the perpetrators even though I'm fairly sure there still are US soldiers providing assistance.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

NARN Postscript

Besides the great Michael Barone, we were lucky enough to have Lt. Pete Hegseth call in. He's involved with a group called Vets For Freedom. As you might expect from a former officer with the 101st Airborne, he's not willing to just stand by and let political support for winning the war in Iraq go gently into the night. He's organizing veterans from the Iraqi and Afghani theaters to blanket Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday to directly lobby members of the House and Senate for continuing support of our efforts to achieve victory over there. Obviously they're working on short time, with limited financial resources. Any vets able to join this initiative and any citizens able to support the cause financially can check out their web site.

Today we also discussed Keith Ellison's latest bizarre remarks, this time regarding 9/11 conspiracy theories. We got a call from Nancy at Freedom Dogs who said she would be attending Rep. Ellison's "town hall" meeting today. She did and her report is here.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM today for another episode of the Norhtern Alliance Radio Network. Chad the Elder is somewhere in the Phillipines, at this hour no doubt stinking of cheap saki and cellophane noodles, and will not be appearing. But never fear, the show must go on, with me and John Hinderaker at the helm.

The highlight of today's broadcast promises to be our guest scheduled for 11:15. The great Michael Barone joins us to discuss his new book, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers. He's also one of the best political analysts in the business, so we'll be sure to query him on the cloudy atmosphere in Washington regarding the war in Iraq.

For those of you tuning up for MOB party tonight at Keegan's, we'll try to throw in a couple of extra awkward silences.

Plus Loon of the Week, This Week in Gatekeeping, 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!