Friday, November 30, 2007

Blood is in the details

This might be the best announced hockey fight I've ever seen/heard.

Listen to the detail the announcer gets into in describing Derek Boogaard's little bro scrapping.


Just got back from a hockey game between Traktor Chelyabinsk and Moscow Dynamo. We were packed ass cheek to ass cheek in the rink with 3500 other passionate and very knowledgable hockey fans. I mean that quite literally, for there was no room between you and the person next to you and very little in front or behind. The hockey was excellent and the crowd greatly enjoyed seeing their beloved Traktor team pull out a tight 3-2 win. My ears are still ringing from the chants of "Trak-tor! Chel-YAH-binsk!" that spontaneaously erupted every few minutes. A much more complete report will be posted at a future date including pics and possibly even a little video.

What Is Your Quest?

Kevin from West St. Paul heps us to an article in the Wall Street Journal on the Holy Grail of beers (free for all):

The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

Monks have been brewing Westvleteren beer at this remote spot near the French border since 1839. Their brew, offered in strengths up to 10.2% alcohol by volume, is among the most highly prized in the world. In bars from Brussels to Boston, and online, it sells for more than $15 for an 11-ounce bottle -- 10 times what the monks ask -- if you can get it.

For the 26 monks at St. Sixtus, however, success has brought a spiritual hangover as they fight to keep an insatiable market in tune with their life of contemplation.

The monks are doing their best to resist getting bigger. They don't advertise and don't put labels on their bottles. They haven't increased production since 1946. They sell only from their front gate. You have to make an appointment and there's a limit: two, 24-bottle cases a month. Because scarcity has created a high-priced gray market online, the monks search the net for resellers and try to get them to stop.

"We sell beer to live, and not vice versa," says Brother Joris, the white-robed brewery director. Beer lovers, however, seem to live for Westvleteren.

When Jill Nachtman, an American living in Zurich, wanted a taste recently, she called the hot line everybody calls the beer phone. After an hour of busy signals, she finally got through and booked a time. She drove 16 hours to pick up her beer. "If you factor in gas, hotel -- and the beer -- I spent $20 a bottle," she says.

Until the monks installed a new switchboard and set up a system for appointments two years ago, the local phone network would sometimes crash under the weight of calls for Westvleteren. Cars lined up for miles along the flat one-lane country road that leads to the red brick monastery, as people waited to pick up their beer.

"This beer is addictive, like chocolate," said Luc Lannoo, an unemployed, 36-year-old Belgian from Ghent, about an hour away, as he loaded two cases of Westvleteren into his car at the St. Sixtus gate one morning. "I have to come every month."

Two American Web sites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, rank the strongest of Westvleteren's three products, a dark creamy beer known as "the 12," best in the world, ahead of beers including Sweden's Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter and Minnesota's Surly Darkness. "No question, it is the holy grail of beers," says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock.

Some beer lovers say the excitement over Westvleteren is hype born of scarcity. "It's a very good beer," says Jef van den Steen, a brewer and author of a book on Trappist monks and their beer published in French and Dutch. "But it reminds me of the movie star you want to sleep with because she's inaccessible, even if your wife looks just as good."

There's little doubt that no beer can possible live up that to that kind of hype. However, if I've ever in the area, I'm definitely going to try to get my hands on a bottle. Who can resist the quest for the perfect beer?

Adolescent America

The way liberals and conservatives view their fellow Americans is markedly different. And this differing perspective leads directly to many of the political differences between the two groups.

Liberals tend to view most of their fellow citizens as children. Children largely incapable of taking care of themselves. They are not to be trusted with their health care, their retirement planning, their personal protection, their children's education, their safety, their charitable giving, their well being, etc. Rather than allowing people to make their own decisions in these areas (and live with the consequences), liberals believe that since people can't take care of themselves, the government must do it for them. For their own good of course. This belief leads to the liberal embrace of maternalistic state policies designed to ensure the well-being of the citizenry.

Conservatives on the other hand tend to regard most their fellow Americans as mature adults. They are rational, competent, self-reliant grown-ups perfectly capable of analyzing available information and reaching decisions that serve them best. If the government would only get out of their way and quit interfering where it isn't needed, people could run their own lives and make their own decisions. And live with the consequences. This leads to the conservative impulse for limited government, individual freedom, and personal responsibility.

The reality is that neither group's understanding of the American people is accurate. While the majority of Americans certainly aren't children, they haven't really reached the threshold of adulthood either. When you really think about it, the American people are for the large part teenagers.

Like teenagers, they will loudly proclaim their independence and their ability to stand on their own two feet. You're not the boss of me, I can take care of myself. Until they need gas money for the car. Or they get in trouble on their mortgage. Or when they need money to buy books for the semester. Or help pay to send their kids to college. Then, they present an open palm to Mom, Dad, and Uncle Sam and aren't shy about borrowing the credit card, receiving a farm subsidy, or getting government help having their home rebuilt after a hurricane, wildfire, flood, etc. whether they had the proper insurance in the first place or not.

Teenagers want the independence without the responsibility. Americans want the government to leave them alone unless THEY really need help. They may be against government spending in general, but when it comes to their pet programs, they feel its justified.

As Ramesh Ponnuru observed a few weeks ago in National Review (sub req):

And it's not just recent history that calls the administration's political premises into question. Spending restraint has rarely rallied conservative voters, and the GOP's reputation for it has never been much of a political asset. Polls have not recently been showing a public desire for less spending. But even when they have indicated such a desire, it has melted away when people were asked about particular spending initiatives. As long as spending programs benefit people who "work hard and play by the rules," as former President Clinton put it, the public supports them.

This idea of American adolescent came up a few weeks when my wife and I were discussing health insurance. She has a great deal of experience in the area and was telling me about a local company that is trying to migrate to a program where their employees would be responsible for their own insurance. Instead of the company paying the premiums, the employees will pay them and then be reimbursed by the company. It's the first step toward a system that would remove the company from the process altogether with employees being allowed to choose the health care plan they want and pay for it themselves with the additional income they would receive that the company now uses for health insurance. Sounds great, right?

To conservative ears, yes. Get the employer out of the picture. Give us the money, let us decide. The problem is in the execution. How many Americans do you really think are capable of managing under such a system? While conservatives would like to think nearly all Americans are, I have my doubts about many of my fellow citizens. It's not that they couldn't manage it if push came to shove, it's a question of their desire to if given the choice. People are busy. Or at least they like to think they are. For many, having to manage their own health care wouldn't be viewed as an opportunity, but a burden. And for instance, if they missed their premium payments and ran into problems with coverage, they'd scream bloody murder and blame the insurance companies.

I believe that this is one of the reasons that President Bush's push for Social Security reform never made much headway. While the idea of allowing individuals to have more control over their Social Security again rings the conservative bells, it probably was viewed as merely another hassle to fret about by others. You mean I have to decide where the money is invested? What happens if it doesn't pan out as I hoped? Meh. Easier to just let the government worry about it for me.

Coming to terms with this reality and accepting the unpleasant truth of Adolescent America is a pre-condition for conservatives if they harbor any hope of a resurgence in future elections. As Jonah Goldberg pointed out at National Review Online:

But the ideal conservative program of a federal government strictly limited to constitutional responsibilities and nothing else would fare miserably at the polls. Almost as badly as an ideal socialist program.

Like it or not, pushing messages of personal responsibility, an "ownership" society, and small government (as appealing as they may sound) is simply not going to play in an America that just doesn't seem quite ready to grow up.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Days Are Here Again?

Coming soon to a strip mall near you, the latest fad in retro restaurants: it's the CCCP Club. Actually I'm not sure if that was the actual name or not, but the establishment that we dined at tonight in Chelyabinsk (pronounced "Chel-YAH-binsk") was exactly that, a kitschy look back at the good ol' days of the USSR. Pictures of stone-faced Politburo members along with portraits of Lenin and Marx and their books shared space with Soviet propaganda art from the Thirties, including a replica mural of the happy and progressive people striding forward together that took up an entire wall.

It was all a little creepy when you consider the horrors and brutality of the Soviet era. Maybe since Uncle Joe seems to have been airbrushed from history--at least as portrayed at this restaurant--it's okay to have a little harmless nostalgia for that period of Russia's past Still, it would be impossible to imagine such a place existing in today's Germany with decor from the glory days of Nazism. It shows the confused and conflicted views that Russia continues to have with its past. Russia has moved beyond the days of the USSR and I doubt if most Russians would ever want to return to that time. But yet, they aren't ready to completely repudiate that period either and face up to the truth about what the Soviet Union really was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Separated at Birth

In honor of tonight's CNN YouTube Debate, a Fraters classic Separated At Birth.

Anderson Cooper


The Kid from Deliverance.

A Hitch in His Comparison

Christopher Hitchens on the silence of the mainstream media on the culturally unorthodox beliefs of Mormon Mitt Romney:

Why should Romney not be made to give an account of himself? A black candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan could expect questions about his faith in the existence of the mad scientist Yakub, creator of the white race, or in the orbiting mother ship visited by the head of the Nation of Islam. What gives Romney an exemption?

Actually, no. Precedent suggests a candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan need not expect those questions from the media either. Whatever exemption Romney is getting was first extended to now Representative Keith Ellison.

Not only did the media not see fit to ask for details, they avoided the question of his radical ties/beliefs almost completely. The gatekeepers deemed that just wasn't relevant information to help voter's determine one's fitness for office. Romney has faced the Spanish Inquisition over his beliefs compared to the free pass Keith Ellison received.

BTW, you can't mention the Spanish Inquisition either, what with Giuliani still in then race. Your self-censorship is greatly appreciated.

The Burning of Atlanta

It sounds like local TV news in Atlanta is a little more entertaining than what we get in the Twin Cities:

A weekend Atlanta anchor was fired after she was said to have uttered the word "m-----f-----" during her newscast.

Pow! That does sound a little beyond the standards of non-premium cable broadcasting. No word on whether there were mitigating factors, for instance, if she had been reporting on the performance of the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.

Actually, Ms. Champion denies using the expletive.

My co-anchor and I were talking about a mechanical screenwriter. It is difficult to use at times. The last part of our conversation was silly banter and barely audible, but it was picked up. I called the screenwriter a 'mothersucka' not the f-bomb.

I did not curse on the air, and what happened should not have cost me my job. 'Darn,' 'shoot' and 'heck' are all words that a listener may see as substitutes for curse words. But, they are not curse words . . . and neither is 'mothasucka.' The penalty seems extremely heavy-handed.

Back off you puritanical censors! She was only using a playful variation of the most obscene phrase in the English language.

I'm not sure a plea to mainstream one of the few remaining nuclear options left in the world of profanity will be a successful defense. However, she does have precedent on her side for this kind of news reporting in Atlanta:

Several years ago an Atlanta anchorman at another station actually said MF on the air and was merely suspended, not fired.

Two of these dropped within a couple of years in the Atlanta market? It's a trend! I presume the consultants will be selling the locals on this and I look forward to someday soon sitting down to watch the touching presentation on Channel 11 of Eleven MF'ers Who Care.

Post script: A Google search reminds us of this appearance by Cari Champion, back when she was a meteorologist at a station in Florida. CNN interrupted regular broadcasting to feature this commentary on the ravages of Hurricane Frances in September 2004:

CARI CHAMPION, WPTV CORRESPONDENT: Do not go outside in Jupiter, if you live in that city, because of the flooding, downed power lines.

The rain, I believe, honestly, the rain really had -- it did more of a job on the area as opposed to the winds because, again, it was a category two. The winds weren't bad. I mean, structurally, a lot of places were able to handle that wind, but...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, WSVN: Hey, Cari. I want a little figure -- I'm going to give you a little figure you can give to your newsroom.

CHAMPION: Yes, tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had the equivalent of, I would say -- let's see. Two and a half inches of rain, you've had about 12. That's five.

You had about 250 million gallons of water per square mile poured on you in a very short period of time.

CHAMPION: And that's what they were saying. At the P.B.I.A., Palm Beach International Airport, they reported eight and a half inches, I mean, like three, in like three hours, maybe.


CHAMPION: It was amazing. It was really amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These two and a half inches of rain is 40 million gallons per square mile.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Palm Beach right now has over a foot total; so, I mean, you're talking billions and billions and billions of gallons of water dumped in a very short period. That's why people underestimate flooding.
[ED NOTE: I can identify that male, it's Carl Sagan.]

CHAMPION: Your right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, WSVN: Yes, and sadly, it's not safe for drinking.

CHAMPION: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just a mass.

For her strength in resisting dropping an MF on this clown in 2004, she deserved at least a regional Emmy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Mitt Don't Fit

Mitt Romney is not the man among conservative bloggers, at least not the more than sixty right of center bloggers who responded to John Hawkins' poll, the results of which are now posted at Right Wing News:

1) Which candidate would you most like to see as the nominee?

A) Fred Thompson: 27 -- 46%
B) John McCain: 5 -- 8%
C) Mike Huckabee: 2 -- 3%
D) Mitt Romney: 7 -- 12%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 18 -- 31%

2) Which candidate do you think is most likely to capture the GOP nomination?

A) Fred Thompson: 8 -- 13%
B) John McCain: 0 -- 0%
C) Mike Huckabee: 0 -- 0%
D) Mitt Romney: 7 -- 12%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 45 -- 76%

3) Which of the candidates do you believe is the most conservative?

A) Fred Thompson: 38 -- 66%
B) John McCain: 2 -- 3%
C) Mike Huckabee: 11 -- 19%
D) Mitt Romney: 4 -- 7%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 3 -- 5%

4) Who do you believe would be the MOST electable candidate in 2008?

A) Fred Thompson: 14 -- 23%
B) John McCain: 5 -- 8%
C) Mike Huckabee: 1 -- 2%
D) Mitt Romney: 3 -- 5%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 37 -- 62%

5) Who do you believe would be the LEAST electable candidate in 2008?

A) Fred Thompson: 8 -- 13%
B) John McCain: 12 -- 20%
C) Mike Huckabee: 23 -- 38%
D) Mitt Romney: 17 -- 28%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 1 -- 2%

6) Which candidate do you trust the most to be tough on illegal immigration?

A) Fred Thompson: 39 -- 67%
B) John McCain: 1 -- 2%
C) Mike Huckabee: 7 -- 12%
D) Mitt Romney: 4 -- 7%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 7 -- 12%

7) Which candidate do you trust the most to be fiscally conservative?

A) Fred Thompson: 27 -- 46%
B) John McCain: 8 -- 14%
C) Mike Huckabee: 2 -- 3%
D) Mitt Romney: 12 -- 20%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 10 -- 17%

8) Which candidate do you trust the most on foreign policy issues?

A) Fred Thompson: 15 -- 26%
B) John McCain: 17 -- 30%
C) Mike Huckabee: 0 -- 0%
D) Mitt Romney: 4 -- 7%
E) Rudy Giuliani: 21 -- 37%

As Hawkins notes, the most striking results of the poll are Romney's weakness and the lack of suppot for Mike Huckabee, despite the recent media boomlet for him. For what it's worth (very little), I was among the five who chose John McCain for question one. A year ago, I wouldn't have thought it possible that I would ever favor McCain. It's not as if I've had any sudden revelation about him, it's just that the other candidates do nothing for me. For all his faults, you have to admire McCain's tenacity and fight. I don't think he's got a chance at winning the nomination, but at this point, he's the best of the bunch.

Rusty! Rusty!

Don't forget about this Wednesday's Patriot Primary:

Watch The Debate - Discuss - Participate in the Straw Poll

Wednesday November 28th, 2007
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

It's a free event where you can get together with fellow Patriot listeners, watch the GOP You Tube debate (should be a fun one) live, and then vote in a straw poll for your candidate of choice. Some of the NARN's most popular hosts (and King Banaian) will be on hand along with late-night work horse Rusty Humphries. Let's hope that he's been laying off the Beef-A-Reeno.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Can I Say What Has Never Concerned Me

Just doing a little math for a bidness trip that I'm departing on tomorrow. According to my latest cipherin', I'll be spending about eight hours in various airports and sixteen hours on various airplanes before I reach my destination. Throw in a half hour for transport on the front and back ends and you're looking at a total trip time of about twenty-five hours. One-way. If everything goes according to plan. It's going to be a long day indeed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Anatomy Of A Scandal

The Wall Street Journal editorial board weighs in on the Rachel Paulose "Scandalette" (sub req):

Most of the criticism against Ms. Paulose amounted to the accusation that she can be a difficult boss. If that's a hanging offense, most of Congress would be out of a job. It's also alleged that Ms. Paulose "mishandled" classified documents, and that she called a black woman in her office "fat and lazy." Yet the employee who was supposedly insulted never filed an adverse report against her boss, and Ms. Paulose has said she self-reported the documents incident to the Justice Department. Meanwhile, the accuser who claimed to have been "demoted" in retaliation for making the charges was one of the three who had publicly resigned in protest.

In sum, Ms. Paulose seems to have been an innocent political bystander who got drawn into a classic Beltway bloodletting. Congress wanted to take some public hostages, the media played up the fight, the career staff took the chance to trash a political appointee they don't like, and a scandalette was born.

It would be a scandal of its own if Ms. Paulose lost her job in these circumstances, and her transfer allows her to stay at Justice if she wants to. The Office of Legal Policy advises the Attorney General on a variety of public policy matters, and Mr. Mukasey will presumably have a chance to judge Ms. Paulose's capacities for himself. As for replacing Ms. Paulose in Minnesota, the AG ought to send that office someone who'll take no grief and clean out the whiners.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tha's Entertainment!--Black Friday Edition

So it's the day after Thanksgiving. You're at home trying to figure out what to do that night. You open up the paper and see a headline story (leading the front page of the "Scene" section) on a band that--according to Chris Riemenschneider--is not only all the rage, but most of all important:

At once bleeding-hearted but mostly apolitical, and apathetic but hopeful, the song "New Wave" is the opening track to the Florida punk band's new record of the same name -- one of the best rock albums of the year, and maybe the most important.

In the world of rock hipsters, the latter adjective is much more significant than the former. It might be the best album, but what really matters is that it's the most important. By the way, is it even possible to be both "apathetic" and "hopeful"?

The most surprising thing Against Me! has done was signing to Sire/Warner Bros. Records last year, after a decade climbing through America's indie-punk ranks.

It was a bold move: The band could bring substance and meaning to a corporate rock world dominated by fluffy-haired emo bands. But the punk world notoriously eats its own whenever a group like this joins the mainstream.

People like to pretend that punk is about rebellion and challenging authority. It reality, it's just a nihilistic ethos premised on self-destruction, emptiness, and most of all failure. The worst thing you can do in the world of punk is succeed. In that way it shares an affinity with gangsta rap culture which derides success in school as "acting white," while punk derides success in anything as "selling out." How dare you do well!

Gabel became the Angry Young Man of future Against Me! fame around age 12, when he moved to Naples, Fla. A coastal town where many wealthy retirees go to soak up the sun and tax breaks (including many Minnesotans), Naples "is absolutely oppressive to youth," he said.

"They don't even have a mass transit system in Naples. That tells you something."

Yeah, it tells me that they decided that didn't need it. It also tells me a lot about Gabel that he would describe spending his formative years in an "oppressive" environment. Part of being punk (and a big part of its appeal) means never having to grow up.

The album includes a song about a girl struggling with addiction ("Thrash Unreal") and even one down-and-out love song, "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart," a surprisingly rocking duet with Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara.


But the political fire-starters still drive the new record. "White People for Peace" finds Gabel decrying the futility of singing "protest songs in response to military aggression" (ironically, he's doing just that). In "Americans Abroad," he cringes at seeing the influx of U.S. corporations while on tour in Europe ("Wherever we go, Coca-Cola's already been").

Get it? He's using irony to make political statements. How original.

With tracks like those, plus past anthems such as "Don't Lose Touch" and the overtly titled "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists," Against Me! has been positioned as the next Rage Against the Machine -- the one mainstream band of today channeling the tumult of the world into the angst of young rock fans.

Yeah, because God knows what would happen if some bold visionary wasn't addressing the angst of young rock fans.

"I do think that, unfortunately, a majority of kids out there aren't necessarily interested. Instituting a draft might be the only thing that will really make them political. But it's not just kids, most people in general are happy just to be ignorant to what's going on."

If you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Or maybe you are, but you're just drawing different conclusions from the average muddle-headed rock musician. Now that would be novel.

Even after comments like that, Gabel said the notion of Against Me! becoming the poster boys of political rock really makes him bristle.

"I have no interest in filling that role," he said. "I don't want that at all. Anytime someone has suggested that we try and ape that and go that way, I've always been against it."

The guy resists even when it comes to being a resister. How punk-rock is that?

What if he resisted the idea of resisting being a resister? How punk-rock would that be? Thankfully, we've got Chris Riemenschneider in the region's major daily newspaper to tell us.

UPDATE-- Heh, heh. So my wife wasn't the only one who thought that I was channeling JB in this post. I guess that's what happens when you combine scribblin' and imbibin'.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's 11:30 Somewhere

10:18 am

JB: Ahh...time to crack the first beer of the day

Wife: It's only ten o'clock!

JB: I didn't say it was time for the first bourbon!

Wife: It's only ten o'clock!

JB: (opening beer, a Summit IPA) it's holiday

UPDATE: It's now 11:22 and I'm on to a Summit Pilsener. I love Thanksgiving!

JB's Pre-Gobble Gobbler

Here's a great Thanksgiving cocktail to choke down an hour or so before you begin feasting.

Highball glass
Ice. Plenty of ice
3 ounces Wild Turkey 100 proof Rye
1.5 ounces gin
1.5 ounces tequila

Then fill the rest of the glass with Sierra Mist Cranberry soda.

Then enjoy!

The Elder Takes A Swig:: Sounds delicious. A couple of more entries in our Thanksgiving drink off.

- From Adam Miser in Eagan:

Gin & Bear It
Take large tumbler. Fill with gin. Drin until bitter and surly. Refill glass. Whadya lookin' at? Get off of my yard!

-From Obnoxious Packer Guy in Milwaukee:

Go Packers!
Take can of Lyesol. Punch hole in it with screwdriver. Suck until dry. Pass out in shadow of Lambeau Field and try not to vomit on your Favre jersey.

Sounds like you've got some stiff competition JB. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Profiles in Centrism

Self-professed centrist "Flash" is celebrating his five year blog anniversary. He links to an Internet archived version of his early days in blogging, from March 2004 where we find this eloquent, insightful observation:

The Northern Axis Radio, and the group of Rush wannabes with their RNC talking points. I really was hoping for a more independent, objective look at the world's happenings. Instead, it is just a bunch of retreaded one-liners from a group of hacks!

Hey, he's talking about us. For having the unmitigated gall to take a conservative view of the world, you get labeled a Nazi? And an unoriginal one at that! When this is the voice of the political center in Minnesota, you can understand why the NARN needed to exist.

The Northern Axis Alliance Radio Network, Saturdays 11AM - 5 PM, on AM1280 the Patriot.

For another glimpse of the world from which we sprang, this observation on the state of local talk radio, from the guy who used to be paid to write about radio as an objective observer for the St. Paul monopoly newspaper:

For the unaware, [Dan Barreiro's] 4 to 7 p.m. KFAN show is something of an oasis of literacy in Twin Cities commercial talk. While the basic stratagem for holding male audiences continues to depend heavily on feeding the ill-informed near toxic amounts of bullshit and candy, Barreiro's act routinely reflects someone who reads material heavier than NewsMax, the deep thoughts of Hugh Hewitt and Fantasy Football websites. The ex-Strib sports columnist appears to actually read -- gasp! -- books, novels and more than one newspaper. What's more, his show reflects something more evolved than a supermarket check-out line intelligence level.

No mention that Barreiro is also a liberal. I'm sure that's not germane in any way to Lambert's admiration of him.

I'll take him at his word. It's all about education and intelligence that sets Barreiro above the AM radio howler monkeys. If only those Ivy League and advance degree holders like Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett, John Hinderaker, King Banaian, etc. would read as much, and be as intelligent as, sports writer and journalism degree carrying Dan Barreiro, then maybe they would be worth listening to.

UPDATE: I forgot Chad the Elder. Can you imagine how much better his interviews with the likes of John McWhorter, John Nagl, Victor Davis Hanson, etc. would be if he actually read books!

The Elder Hangs His Head: I gotta admit that I'm not as well-read as Barreiro having never been able get through those intellectually challenging Vince Flynn novels. I'm also jealous that he can keep up with political heavyweights like Pat Kessler. Meanwhile, we just have to settle for the likes of Michael Barone, Mark Steyn, Max Boot, and Michael Burleigh.

SP Piles on the Shame: Chad, if you're interested in rising to the level of the intellectual heavyweights of radio in this town, start taking note of Barreiro's "Book Tip of the Week". This week's selection and review:

Dark House, by Alex Barclay - Very solid thriller about a New York cop who moves with his family to a lighthouse in Ireland, only to find his son the leading suspect in a murder, and that a controversial old case is following him across the pond and will threaten his entire family. The story really moves. Excellent dialogue, ending a bit abrupt for me, but well worth the time.

My brain hurts already.

He's Old Enough To Know What's Right

Mark Steyn has an excellent piece at National Review Online on why we should be especially thankful to be Americans. He also addresses one of the myths about Europe that has bothered me for a long time:

But Americans aren't novelty junkies on the important things. "The New World" is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree "the Old World" can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists. We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany's constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy's only to the 1940s, and Belgium's goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it's not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative.

The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France's, Germany's, Italy's or Spain's constitution, it's older than all of them put together. Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent's governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of "the west'"s nation states have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they're so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas--Communism, Fascism, European Union. If you're going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich.

The idea that we have much to learn from the Europeans--at least politically speaking--because their history goes back so much further than ours has always struck me as absurd. Yes, the peoples, cities, buildings, etc. of the various European countries have been around a long time. But in many cases their democratic forms of government are actually quite new and, in the cases of Germany and Italy, the formal existence of the nation itself (in terms of unification) came well after the United States.

When it comes to continuity of a freely-elected constitutional government, most of Europe has nothing on the United States. That is just another one of the many things we should be very thankful for.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Today's Wall Street Journal had a blurb on a poll on which candidate Americans would invite to Thanksgiving dinner (sub req):

The latest Quinnipiac University poll has Sen. Hillary Clinton in the lead -- for Thanksgiving.

With 27% of the vote, Mrs. Clinton is the presidential candidate most Americans would want at their dinner table tomorrow, according to a survey of 1,636 voters. Sen. Barack Obama was next at 24%, and Rudy Giuliani came in at 22%. Down the line, Sen. John McCain of Arizona received 17%, followed by Fred Thompson with 14%, John Edwards at 13% and 7% for Mitt Romney. "Both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain do better as dinner guests than they do as candidates," observed Maurice Carroll, director of the polling institute.

You have got to be kidding. No matter what you make think of the merits of Hillary as POTUS, I can't believe that people would really want to share their Thanksgiving dinner with her.

"What do you think of the turkey Mrs. Clinton?"

"Thanks for asking. Let me start by saying that it's good. Not to say that last year's Thanksgiving turkey wasn't good because it was too. In fact, I can't really say if this turkey is better than any other turkey I've had because I've enjoyed them all so much. Let me add that I appreciate the hard work and dedication of turkey farmers across America who all do so much to make this holiday special. In my thirty-five years of experience with turkey..."

"Uh...pass the gravy?"

While Obama would probably be better company than Hillary, the one guy that I would invite without hesitation is John McCain. I don't always agree with him on politics, but he definitely would have the best stories to tell.

And there's also this from the story:

Women were also asked which candidate they would rather have baby-sitting their children. Mrs. Clinton was again the top choice with 33% of the vote, followed by Mr. Edwards with 18% and Mr. Giuliani with 15%.

Talk about child abuse. Personally, I wouldn't want any of those three watching my kids. Hillary doesn't exactly strike me as the maternal type, Edwards would probably have them suing their parents by the end of the night, and Rudy would scare the hell out of them with tales of the horrors of New York City before he took over.

The best bet would probably be Romney. No drinking on the job. No swearing and I imagine an early bedtime. The only danger would be that you might come home to find a "Gone Baptizin'" sign on the front door.

For Peace and Trust Can Win The Day Despite All of Your Losing

Last Saturday, we had the pleasure of interviewing Victor Davis Hanson on the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Dr. Hanson has recently co-authored a book with Steven Malanga and Heather MacDonald on immigration:

In the book and during his interview, Dr. Hanson expressed optimism that the tide has turned on immigration and that the majority of the country now favors an approach of closing the borders, controlling future immigration to better match up with America's real needs, enforcing workplace laws, and beginning a process of assimilation/attrition of those already here illegally. He also believes that this if Republicans get on the right side of the issue now, it could have a huge impact in the 2008 elections.

An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (free for all) at least somewhat confirms these views:

The Democrats' problem is that they raised immigration to a national issue by promoting an overhaul plan. Then, while it was left bubbling, they failed to pass a bill, despite having a majority in Congress, says Democratic strategist Peter Brodnitz who isn't affiliated with a presidential candidate.

Democrats further angered many voters by proposing some benefits for illegal immigrants before producing any economic relief for worried middle-class voters, adds Mr. Brodnitz.

Polls regularly show a majority of Americans resigned to legalizing immigrants if the process includes penalties and is balanced by improved border and workplace enforcement. But polls also show that Americans are outraged about government benefits for illegal immigrants, which makes framing a campaign message tricky for the Democrats.

In a new Quinnipiac University poll of voters in Ohio, a toss-up state, 55% favored legalizing unlawful immigrants. But only 11% said they should be allowed a driver's license and just 35% said their children should be allowed to attend public school.

In 2006, the debate over immigration reform was associated with the much ballyhooed "conservative crackup." In 2008, it could be the wedge issue that divides the Democrats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Grecian Formula

Take one comely lass with a British accent. Add ancient Greek history as the subject matter and you've got some must-see television. That's right, the camera's favorite classical historian (sorry VDH) was back last night with ATHENS: THE DAWN OF DEMOCRACY:

Against the glorious backdrop of ancient Greece, classical historian Bettany Hughes (THE SPARTANS, HELEN OF TROY) explores the truth about the "Golden Age" of ancient Athens. Far from an environment of peace and tranquility, democratic Athens was a bloody, tumultuous place of both brilliant ideas and a repressive regime with a darker side.

The last time I caught Bettany Hughes on TV, she was delving into the history of the Spartans and drawing rave reviews. Good to see her continue to expand the audience for classical history.

Still no update on the proposed VDH pin-up calendar. But when we spoke to him Saturday before his interview on the NARN, he was on his bike so the ladies will be happy to know that he's still working the legs.

Speaking of fantasies involving VDH, how about this as a dream vacation?

Professors Bruce Thornton and Tom Conner are distinguished students of Europe modern and ancient, and accomplished public lecturers and scholars. I have asked them both to help provide us with an intellectually stimulating tour of Western Europe, characterized by both onsite and evening lectures about the culture, literature, and military history of Europe-especially the great battles of the continent that have changed the course of Western Civilization.

Touring the battlefields of Western Europe with Hanson as your guide? It really doesn't get any better.

Talent Talks

Watching Randy Moss tear up the Buffalo secondary on Sunday night and continue his ridiculous season (sixteen TDs in ten games so far), it's difficult for a Vikings fan not to feel a hint of jealousy. And for those of us who opposed trading him in the first place, it's hard not to ponder what might have been.

While it's true that Moss never lived up to expectations in Oakland, he has always been an athlete of rare talent. Now that he's found a place to once again showcase that talent, you realize just how damn good he really is.

When it comes to professional sports, I believe that in the end the only thing that matters is winning. If a player can help you win, you have to find a way to make it work. Moss might have been selfish, lazy, and acted like an idiot at times when he was with the Vikings. But the bottom line was that his amazing talent made the team better. Consider the bottom line:

With Moss, the Vikings went 64-48 a .571 winning clip. Post-Moss the Vikings are 19-23 for a .453 winning percentage.

With Moss, the Vikings went 4-4 in the playoffs, twice reaching the NFC Championship game. Without him, they haven't lost a playoff game. They haven't won one either.

You can argue about all the other factors that explain the Vikings failures post-Moss. But watch him play now with the Patriots and tell me that he isn't one of top ten players in the league. You don't get a chance at talent like that very often and when you do, you have to hold onto those special players for as long as you can and build teams around them.

Thankfully for Vikings fans, it looks like we might have another player with game-changing talent in Adrian Peterson. We can only hope that organization doesn't squander it this time around.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something That You Should Really Worry About

The Wall Street Street has a front page story on the possible perils of reaching the limits of our oil production capacity (sub req):

Mr. Simmons thinks the world needs to shift its energy focus from climate change to more immediate concerns. "Peak oil is likely already a crisis that we don't know about. At the furthest out, it will be a crisis in 2008 to 2012. Global warming, if real, will not be a problem for 50 to 100 years," he says.

Actually what the article is talking about is not the infamous "peak oil" in terms of the amount of oil available on earth. The real issue is that many experts believe we're reaching a plateau of how much oil we can produce for consumption. That involves the location of the oil and the infrastructure and expertise required to effectively utilize it. Since demand doesn't show any signs of slowing, once that plateau is reached something is going to have to give. And that's not gonna be pretty.

Too bad no one seems to be interested in making movies, holding concerts, or handing out Nobel Peace Prizes to bring attention to it.

Twenty-One Is The New Eighteen

A graph in a story in yesterday's Strib on the dangers of binge drinking on your twenty-first birthday and what people are trying to do to minimize the risks caught my eye:

Twenty-one-year-olds think they're invincible and they can do crazy things and get away with it," said Ed Ehlinger, director of the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service. "The 21st birthday is probably the riskiest time. More kids get in trouble on that day than any other day of their 21st year."They are now legal and there is a lot of pressure to celebrate this big event. They intellectually know that alcohol can kill you, but they don't internalize it and they do respond to the peer pressure."

We're talking twenty-one-year-olds, right? I can understand peer pressure and feeling invincible when you're eighteen, but shouldn't you have matured past most of that by the time you hit twenty-one? It wasn't that long ago when an average twenty-one year old might have already served a stint in the military, be married with a child (or one on the way), and be holding down a regular full-time job.

So what's changed? Perhaps part of it is the expectations we now set. When you make the drinking age twenty-one, you're sending a message that people can't be trusted with controlling their drinking until that age. You set the stage for abuse and misuse of alcohol up until that point (and after) and create an allure of the mystery of the forbidden fruit.

Instead of trying to come up with a largely arbitrary age (why twenty-one and not twenty or twenty-two?) when you let people drink legally, why not make it the same age that we legally consider people adults, eighteen? But instead of making it a milestone for being able to drink as much as you want, let's return it to an event that carries with it added responsibility along with its freedoms.

You're eighteen. It's time to grow up and act like an adult. It's time to be serious about your life. You can drink and have fun, but you'll be expected to drink like a adult.

Part of this would involve introducing alcohol at an earlier age in controlled settings. There's no reason a sixteen-year-old shouldn't be taught how to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with the family at dinner. Alcohol shouldn't be a taboo and drinking shouldn't be all about getting loaded and acting stupid. Kids should be taught both the positive side and the peril of drinking. The message shouldn't be all or nothing, that you're either a teetotaler or an alcoholic. The path of moderation is one that far too few Americans discover until well past the time they should have.

What we're doing now is clearly not working. You can further infantilize society by move the drinking age out again, you can prohibit people from drinking at midnight on their twenty-first birthday (as Minnesota does), and you can warn people all you want about the dangers of binge drinking. But until you change the culture of drinking in America and teach people how to drink responsibly before they reach adulthood, it's not going to make a difference.

A Drink Worthy Of Our Thanks

There is no disputing the fact that the Wall Street Journal's Eric Felten is a cocktail connoisseur (correction via Mitch). His weekly columns provide fascinating back stories on some of history's more famous concoctions as well as shedding a spotlight on deserving drinks from the past that have fallen by the wayside. He's also not afraid to defy convention by altering a drink's recipe (either by changing the mixing ratio or substituting ingredients) in the quest for a more perfect potable. For all this, he is to be commended.

But even the best come up short on occasion as this last Saturday's column by Felten did. In it (sub req), he noted the dearth of drinks associated with Thanksgiving and asked some of his main mixologists to come up with suggestions.

I challenged some first-rate mixologists to come up with a Thanksgiving Day drink inspired by that empty cask of Metheglin. The parameters were fairly simple: The drink should involve honey and at least a few of the spices that have been used in Metheglin over the centuries. Oh, and yes, it should appeal to the modern palate.

Perhaps the most ambitious entry came from Greg Lindgren, an owner of the San Francisco bar Rye. He proposed poaching quince in honey, water and mulling spices, and then using the warm fruity broth to flavor a glass of brandy. Very nice indeed -- if you succeed in finding fresh quince.

Kim Haasarud, who runs an L.A. cocktail consultancy called Liquid Architecture, came up with a terrific aperitif for those hours spent waiting for the turkey thermometer to pop, a drink that we'll call Metheglin Punch. Make a syrup by boiling, then simmering, a pot of honey, water, cranberries, orange peel, cloves, allspice, cinnamon and vanilla. Once it cools, add two ounces of this Metheglin syrup to six ounces of beer. Garnish with fresh cranberries and a slice of orange peel.

Wait until after dinner to enjoy the elegant drink designed by Gina Chersevani of Washington's Rasika restaurant. She devised a honey syrup spiced with cloves, cinnamon and whole cardamom seeds. Combine the syrup, while still warm, with gin and calvados, and garnish with thin slices of apple. Made, as it is, with strong waters, I think it's only appropriate that we name this drink after Samoset, the first American Indian to enjoy the Pilgrims' hospitality.

Okay, the honey part I'm down with as it does make a connection with the history of the day. The making a syrup part however is right out. I want to mix a cocktail, not spend hours slaving over a hot stove, not to mention messing around with various spices and fruits. Thanksgiving is a holiday of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of family. A Thanksgiving cocktail should be icing on the cake, not a chore. It needs to easy to make and enjoy.

Therefore, I'm issuing a challenge to our readers, JB Doubtless, and other would-be mixologists out there. Come up with an original Thanksgiving cocktail that tickles the taste buds without taxing the work ethic. Bonus points for including honey, but that's not a requirement. Since it does have to have a Thanksgiving angle, it should include American spirits. A catchy name is also helpful.

Submit your entries by Wednesday afternoon and we'll post the best one in time for Turkey Day. Experiment early, experiment often.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Banaian Republic?

With his apporval ratings hovering around 35%, it's obvious that King Banaian has squandering the political capital he carried with him following his election as MOB Mayor. It's also become increasingly clear that he's now nothing but a lame duck, destined to serve out the remainder of his term as a largely powerless figurehead. Don't blame me, I voted for Atomizer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Got a whole lot of money thats ready to burn

For the first time in some while, I actually watched a decent portion of last night's Democratic debate in Vegas. The highlight was seeing most of the field struggle and squirm to answer the question of whether illegal immigrants should get drivers licences. It was a little surprising that it caused such consternation for the candidates given all the attention it received in the last go round. If there was one questions they should have been prepared to answer, it was that one.

Obama's response was almost as muddled as Hillary's the week before. Kucinich appeared insulted that the question was even posed. Despite the fact that Wolf Blitzer asked for a simple yes/no response, the only one who really followed through was Joe Biden with a straight-forward "No."

Speaking of Biden, he came across as the most personable and in many ways reasonable candidate (although his O'Reillyesque usage of "the folks" did get a bit annoying). He appears to have a real sense of humor as evidenced by his off the cuff remarks and casual banter. The other candidates had their canned joke lines, but Biden was the only one who seemed comfortable and having fun. The kind of guy you wouldn't mind sitting down and having a beer with.

Long before his global warming crusade began, I believed that there was far more to fear from President Gore than President Clinton. Now, I feel the same way about a President Edwards verus President Clinton II. He was by far the most demagogic last night. His populist claim that the country is run by "corporate interests" and the solutions he proposed to remedy the situation should send a chill up the spine of anyone who believes in free markets. The same holds true for his views on trade, which unfortunately seem to be shared to at least some extent by all the Democrats on the stage.

Trading Places

Trying to get a grasp on the factors that drive currency valuation and what can be done to strengthen the US dollar (if indeed it shoud be strengthened) against other countries currencies is not easy. There's a lot of confusion and misinformation swirling around on this. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Alan Reynolds tried to bring a little clarity with a piece on Interest Rates and Dollar Fundamentals (sub req):

The spectacular rise of the Canadian dollar was more closely tied to the price of oil than to interest rates, although the Bank of Canada did raise interest rates in July, just before the Fed began nudging rates down.

While prices of oil and gold were soaring, exporters of oil and gold such as Canada could trade their wares for more U.S. technology and services. Such improved "terms of trade" typically raise the global demand for the assets of commodity-producing countries and thereby raise their currencies.

Other commodity exporting countries, such as Australia and to some extent the U.K., also see their currencies rise whenever the price of their exports rises faster than the price of their imports. Trade deficits have nothing to do with it. Australia's current account deficit is a bit larger than that of the U.S., as a share of GDP, and Britain's deficit is not much smaller.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Drugs Not Hugs

David Harsanyi on a school that has banned hugs:

In Evergreen, not far from Denver, a middle school has banned the nefarious hug. Or more specifically they have outlined what a proper hug entails. Around two seconds of love, but no more.

"In many areas of our culture, hugging is completely appropriate and welcomed," said a letter to parents. "Unfortunately, some of our students were taking hugging a bit too far."

A second clarification letter states that there will be no "prolonged embraces between students that may be considered sexual harassment."

As most married men can readily attest to, hugs have little or no connection to sex. When your wife says she wants a hug, the chances of it leading to anything more are slim to none.

But in our current day hyper-sensitivity to anything even remotely resembling sexual harassment, I guess it should come as no surprise.

Wearing A Suit And A Name Tag

The Minneapolis Marriot Southwest in Minnetonka is going to be host to two events of note in the near future:

#1 The Patriot Primary

Watch The Debate - Discuss - Participate in the Straw Poll

Wednesday November 28th, 2007
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

It's a free event where you can get together with fellow Patriot listeners, watch the GOP You Tube debate (should be a fun one) live, and then vote in a straw poll for your candidate of choice. I also understand that Rusty Humphries will be wearing the special custom beret he picked up on his recent European vacation.

#2 Freedom Foundation State of Minnesota Conservatism Conference:

On Saturday, December 1, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is hosting the first annual State of Minnesota Conservatism conference. This day-long conference (at the Minneapolis Marriot Southwest in Minnetonka) will bring together a diverse group of conservative activists and leaders from throughout Minnesota to hear from nationally renowned conservative and political leaders regarding the state of conservatism in Minnesota.

Sessions will explore the past, explain what is currently happening on the ground in Minnesota (especially vis-à-vis Soros-funded leftist organizations), and examine what conservatives can do in the future. Just as importantly, conservatives from throughout Minnesota will have an opportunity to network with each other and exchange ideas.

Speakers include:

* Governor Tim Pawlenty
[This is a conference on conservatism, right? Just checking.]

* Michael Barone, FOX News contributor and author of The Almanac of American Politics

* Jason Lewis, host of KTLK's The Jason Lewis Show

* Tony Fabrizio, one of the nation's pre-eminent pollsters

* Former Congressman Vin Weber, one of the nation's most influential conservative intellectuals in Washington, D.C.

* ...and many others including a panel discussion in the afternoon including state legislative leaders

The last event is something that our own Saint Paul would normally be all over. Unfortunately, he's been suffering from a crippling bout of confobia--fear of eating food on flimsy plates while trying not to stain your tie too badly--lately and until researchers discover a cure for this dreaded psychological disorder, he's limited to watching such events on C-SPAN on his couch, in his underwear, with easy access to food, drink and the ability to change the channel during the boring parts. Be thankful that you still have your health.

Separated At Birth?

Speaking of SABs, my wife recently came up with this one:

John Krasinski in his latest Gap ad and...

...Bob Geldof as a Boomtown Rat?

Left And Rights Of Passage

If there's one thing that people of all political stripes can agree on, it's the enduring entertainment value of a good separated at birth. GreyHawk takes the SAB to another level through the use of image morphing software and borrows one of our Separated at Births for this post at the Daily Kos.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yeah, but are you gettin' it? - Armageddon it!

Yesterday, Lileks brought back some memories with his reference to Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth. The book postulated that the end times were just around the corner and offered evidence of current events to support the theory.

My mother owned a copy of said book and it was quite compelling reading. At least for a youngster who also liked reading the Book of Revelation for fun. Throw in repeated viewings of the first couple of Omen movies (the pond hockey scene still creeps me out) and I was all but convinced that the Anti-Christ was soon to make an appearance.

It's interesting to look back and realize that although my mother was a rock-ribbed Catholic, she was also running with an Evangelical/Born Again/Pre-Millennialist crowd back in those days. She would attend prayer meetings and lectures and come back with books on the evils of rock-and/or-roll (did you know that KISS stands for Knights In Satan's Service?) and strange theories about how the battle of Armageddon would begin.

One particular scenario that I can still clearly recall her passing on was that the USSR was going to invade Israel. When I expressed my twelve-year-old skepticism--borne of my reading of military history--about how realistic that actually was, she explained that they were going to use horses so as to not be picked up by radar. Okay, then.

A blast from the past. The good ol' days of end times.

The Rinks Of Ramsey County

We've had four hockey games so far this year. Keeping in mind that I live in St. Louis Park--a suburb just west of Minneapolis--the locations haven't exactly been commuter friendly:

Ken Yackel-West Side


Biff Adams

Aldrich Arena

Quite the swing through the East side of town. At least tonight at Aldrich we had showers for the first time all year. I think it's time for a little geographic diversity in the schedule.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Next, They Came For...

Anti-smoking groups' new target: apartments and condos:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After helping to push through a smoking ban in Minnesota bars and restaurants, anti-smoking advocates have set their sites on another target: your apartment.

One anti-smoking group plans to begin a campaign this week to encourage landlords to outlaw smoking in their buildings. While the program would be purely voluntary, some communities might follow two California cities by considering broader ordinances that would apply to multi-unit dwellings.

Anti-smoking groups still have millions of dollars from the state's settlement with tobacco companies to spend on campaigns against tobacco and secondhand smoke.

What, you thought they were going to stop with banning smoking in bars and restaurants? That wasn't the end, but only the beginning.

Here's a crazy idea for anti-smoking groups to consider, why not use some of those millions of dollars that the state extorted from the tobacco companies to actually help people who have lung cancer after years of first-hand smoke instead of trying to "protect" people from the all-but-nonexistent risk of second-hand smoke?

No There There

After catching a whiff of the noxious gas (two parts paranoia with one part delusion) wafting from the fetid fringe of the local fever swamps, I felt like William Shatner in that notable SNL sketch at the Trekkie convention:

GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a blog! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little group, that we set up as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?
You, you must be almost 60... have you ever kissed anyone?

I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just a blog dammit, IT'S JUST A BLOG!

For the sake of clarification, the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) is not a vast conspiracy to impose a neo-conservative theocracy and turn Minnesota into Alabama circa 1923. The MOB is nothing more than an extremely loosely knit grouping of local bloggers. If you're looking for an organization structure with lines connecting the bosses, capos, and crew you won't find one here. There are no "ties that bind" because there are no ties at all.

Joining the MOB is about as significant as joining the Hannah Montana Fan Club. And it's cheaper and easier. There are three simple requirements:

1. You blog in Minnesota or have a very strong Minnesota connection

2. You not be an obsessive stalker

3. You know how to spell ridiculous (special dispensation was granted to Andy)

That's it. There's nothing more to it than that. If you insist on pretending that there is, I offer three pieces of advice:

1. Get some perspective

2. Get a sense of humor

3. Get a frickin' life

All that being said, it is interesting to note that all of this controversy and resulting intracine bickering and arguing has taken place under King Banaian's mayoral watch. After waiting several days to react (he was rumored to be clearing brush at his Stearns County ranch style house), he finally offered this tepid response. Not exactly the bold leadership that one would expect in such a crisis. I expect that this bumper sticker will soon become quite popular.

War On The Middle Class?

If there is a "war on the middle class" as some pundits claim, this editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (free for all) indicates that the middle class is winning:

The Treasury study examined a huge sample of 96,700 income tax returns from 1996 and 2005 for Americans over the age of 25. The study tracks what happened to these tax filers over this 10-year period. One of the notable, and reassuring, findings is that nearly 58% of filers who were in the poorest income group in 1996 had moved into a higher income category by 2005. Nearly 25% jumped into the middle or upper-middle income groups, and 5.3% made it all the way to the highest quintile.

Of those in the second lowest income quintile, nearly 50% moved into the middle quintile or higher, and only 17% moved down. This is a stunning show of upward mobility, meaning that more than half of all lower-income Americans in 1996 had moved up the income scale in only 10 years.

Also encouraging is the fact that the after-inflation median income of all tax filers increased by an impressive 24% over the same period. Two of every three workers had a real income gain--which contradicts the Huckabee-Edwards-Lou Dobbs spin about stagnant incomes. This is even more impressive when you consider that "median" income and wage numbers are often skewed downward because the U.S. has had a huge influx of young workers and immigrants in the last 20 years. They start their work years with low wages, dragging down the averages.

This is one factor that's rarely mentioned by those who like to site income and wage averages as evidence of middle class decline.

UPDATE: King has more.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rescue Me?

You know the stories about toddlers accidentally calling 911 when playing around with a phone? Well, apparently they're not that unusual, as Grandpa and Grandma discovered much to their chagrin yesterday when our eldest son inadvertently dispatched a police cruiser to their home. At least we hope it was inadvertent.

UPDATE-- Andy e-mails with more:

In August, I left my kids to play while I stepped into the shower before work. I've got a 7yr old and a 2 1/2yr old. While I was drying off, I heard the phone ring, I stepped out of the bathroom to hear my littlest answer the phone. As I walked closer I heard, "Is your daddy home?". My son handed me the phone, IT WAS 911!! The pleasant lady on the other end said, "Don't be to alarmed sir, We get calls from kids all the time. We always give a call back first before we send out an officer." So it happens all the time. Well needless to say that kid comes in the shower with me now.

This is actually the same thing that happened with us. After my son was punching buttons on the phone, Grandpa hung it up, and it rang almost right away. "Probably 911 calling," I joked. It was. He explained what happened and the dispatcher understood. But apparently an officer was nearby and responded immediately anyway.

One To Watch

The 2008 GOP Convention Report is your one-stop shop for the latest and greatest on the aught-eight convention. Ony two-hundred-ninety-three days to go!

Sponge Worthy?

A whole day of SpongeBob episodes--Z to A countdown--capped by the all new made for TV movie Atlantis SquarePantis? And there was much rejoicing among kids (and parents) everywhere.

What are you lookin' at, butthead?

In the category of Best High School Football Captain In The Fifties Name For A Hockey Arena, the winner is Biff Adams in St. Paul. Don't see a lot of youngsters named Biff these days.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Whose Self-Interest?

Richard John Neuhaus on the moral case for parental choice in education at FIRST THINGS:

But the moral case standing on its own is not enough to persuade the majority of voters. The moral case is focused on the plight of the disadvantaged, especially the urban underclass, mainly black and Latino, in our larger cities. Here in New York, as in other major cities, expenditure per student in the government schools has multiplied many times over, and still less than half the young people end up with a high school diploma they can read. A third of all black young men in the country will spend some time in jail. In the inner cities, that figure is well over half.

The reality is that most parents in America are, wisely or not, more or less satisfied with the government schools that their children attend. They may have a twinge of conscience about their selfishness, but the teachers-union propaganda about vouchers taking money away from their own schools is powerfully effective. And, they understandably ask, whether caring about your own first is really selfishness or the exercise of parental responsibility. The brutal fact is that twinges of conscience can be easily stifled when they come up against self-interest.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Early Opener?

So I'm flipping around the television dial tonight and find "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" on TBS. The Grinch? On November 10th? A little early, doncha think? I mean, we watched it of course, but still it seems to be jumping the gun a tad to be airing Christmas specials nearly two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Toast To The Troops

Eric Felten comes up with the perfect drink (of course) for Veterans Day in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

Of all the world's armies, the American army gets the best equipment," wrote GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin in 1945. "But we missed the boat on one thing. Every other army gets a liquor ration."

Mauldin was part of the otherwise well-equipped amphibious landing on the Italian coast at Anzio in January 1944. The assault caught the Germans by surprise, and the troops might well have charged deep into the Italian countryside. But the timid general in charge hunkered down on the beachhead instead, much to Winston Churchill's dismay: "I had hoped that we were hurling a wildcat onto the shore, but all we had got was a stranded whale."

Pinned down along a broad stretch of coast for months, the American troops "were fixing up their own distilleries with barrels of dug-up vino, gasoline cans, and copper tubing from wrecked airplanes," Mauldin recalled in his memoir "Up Front." The result was a rough approximation of grappa. "The doggies called it 'Kickapoo Joy Juice,' " named after the fierce moonshine in the "Li'l Abner" comic. "It wasn't bad stuff when you cut it with canned grapefruit juice."

The grappa-grapefruit combination is not something I would have come up with on my own. But if you use some decent, professionally made grappa, the drink is downright tasty and a good way to toast America's veterans this weekend.

Felten suggests a mix of two parts grapefruit juice to one part grappa. Cheers!

You Got It!

This is beautiful.

Do not click if blood and hockey make you squeamish.

The Elder Throws A Right: Great clip. I love how the announcers enjoy a good scrap. And notice how the Bruins bench and the crowd react. Only an idiot would seek to take fighting out of hockey.

JB Chucks a haymaker:
One of the announcers says "Koci looks like he's making a donation to the Red Cross!" Great line.

Real Heroes

Mark Yost on A Museum Honoring Real Heroes in the Wall Street Journal (sub req):

Veterans Day should be about honoring the sacrifices of everyone who has served in our armed forces. But there's a place designed specifically to remember those who performed exceedingly above and beyond the call of duty. Medal of Honor Museum had long consisted of plaques and storyboards set up on the hangar deck of the USS Yorktown, moored on the Cooper River near Charleston, S.C. Earlier this year, the museum was given a more permanent home here.

The new, more formal entrance features a large wall display, listing all the names -- chronologically, by conflict -- of those who have earned our nation's highest award for valor. Inside, the small museum features storyboards that tell how and why the medal was first created, and how it has evolved over the years. There are interactive kiosks for the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam and the War on Terror that tell the stories of a handful of the 3,464 men and women who have earned the medal. And there are several interactive stations that let you search the complete database of Medal of Honor recipients by name, service or conflict. Read even just a few of their citations and you realize that we could not possibly build a place majestic or sacred enough to honor their service.

In The Corps

Happy birthday to the Marine Corps.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thank A Vet! Yeah, Go Ahead. I Said It.

Thank the Troops.

In The Land Where Anything Can Happen

Atomizer's been so busy spreading the Gospel of the joyous wonder of the new Twins stadium (it's going to be super-terrific-FANtastic, just ask him) that he probably hasn't even had time to ponder the architectural marvel going up in Beijing:

It may not have meticulously designed, state of the art urinal troughs, but it's an impressive building concept nonetheless.

You Got Your Politics in My Music Review

Neil Young appeared in Minneapolis last night and according to reports, he uncharacteristically left his tiresome, partisan hectoring out of the proceedings:

Young did not indulge in heavy politics in song or conversation, as he did last year on his "Livin' with War" album and his tour with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. On Thursday, he was friendly, chatting about "growing up a few miles north of here" (Winnipeg was his teenage home) and how geese make the sky seem dark (a comment as cryptic as some of his lyrics).

Never fear, what ol' Neil failed to put down, the Star Tribune reporter was glad to jump in on:

The true believers ate up the obscurities, including "Sad Movies,"Mellow My Mind" on a banjo and "Ambulance Blues," a Nixon-era tune with the line "I know a man who tells so many lies" that resonated in these Bush times.

And we all know what those "lies" are. Right? All those lies. Damnable LIES!

Or maybe you're one of the people who don't know. Or one of those people who identify the "Bush Lied" phraseology with a juvenille, asinine misinformation campaign to erode confidence in this administration and slime our country's motives in fighting the war in Iraq. And maybe you're one of those people who question the intelligence and integrity of those perpetuating this nonsense. And one of those people who are a little put off to see it showing up in the Entertainment section of the local monopoly newspaper.

Since this review was written exlusively by and for those who resonate with the notion of Bush LIES, those other people must not really exist. Or if they do, the newspaper management must think they don't count. They must not be potential customers and don't read newspapers. Maybe they're right. At least in that those people got the message and don't read newspapers anymore.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

And These Voters That You Spit On

This Saturday, we will once again welcome Vox Day to the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network airwaves. We'll discuss his forthcoming book "The Irrational Atheist" and will also likely get into his support for Ron Paul.

Now, I am not a backer of Mr. Paul. His proposed foreign policy solutions are not adequate to deal with the challenges we face in the world today and I don't believe that they will make America stronger and safer in the long run. I also think that he has done his campaign a disservice by embracing too much of the Left's rhetoric on Iraq. There is a principled conservative/libertarian argument against the war in Iraq, but Paul has too often strayed from making it. And I don't share his view that giving more power to Congress at the expense of the Executive branch is necessarily a good idea.

However, all that being said, I find myself appalled at the some of the mainstream conservative/Republican reaction to Paul and his supporters. While Paul's campaign has no doubt attracted a higher than average percentage of certified kooks, the vast majority of Paul's followers are solid, rock-ribbed conservatives who simply have lost confidence in the GOP.

They want fiscal constraint, smaller government, and secure borders to be more than campaign buzzwords. And you can't really blame them for that given the way the Republican Party has abdicated its commitment to these areas in recent years.

Ron Paul's candidacy and some of the policies he proposes may not be realistic, but the values underlying them are legitimate. For the most part, legitimately conservative.

And so, when I hear conservative commentators dismissing Paul and his supporters as a bunch of clowns or even worse accusing them of being anti-Semitic bigots, I get a little ticked. Last night, Hugh Hewitt was doing exactly this on his radio show.

After asking Paul backers to call in and explain why they supported him for president, Hugh alternated between condescension and outright smear. Just because someone likes Ron Paul and is suspicious of transnational financial institutions does not mean that he believes that "the Jews" are behind it all as Hugh tried to bait a couple of callers into saying. I'm sure that Hugh thought he was just having a little fun, but I found it shameful.

Instead of insulting Ron Paul supporters, we should be engaging with them. 2008 is going to be a tough enough year for Republicans already. Now is not the time to further alienate a group of folks who--despite their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party and differences on a few major issues--still share many common values. The GOP establishment should not look upon them as enemies, but rather as estranged friends who have parted company, but can still offer much-needed advice on how to at least begin taking steps (baby steps) to get back on the right path.

Their Exuberance, Their Raw Power - And Their Punctuality

A couple of upcoming events of note:

- Keegan's Irish Pub & Restaurant is having their annual Salute to Veterans now through Sunday. If you're a vet, stop by and share a free beer, a little SOS, and good conversation with your fellow comrades in arms. Terry Keegan served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and I understand that general manager Marty Newton was a member of the Civil Shore Patrol while growing up in Fargo.

- AM1280 The Patriot is putting on the first Patriot Primary:

Watch The Debate - Discuss - Participate in the Straw Poll

Wednesday November 28th, 2007
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Minnetonka Marriott South
5801 Opus Parkway
Minnetonka, MN

It's a free event where you can get together with fellow Patriot listeners, watch the GOP You Tube debate (should be a fun one) live, and then vote in a straw poll for your candidate of choice.

I will not be able to attend as I'll be in Siberia that day, but I imagine that most of the NARN crew will be there.

Featuring guest host Rusty Humphries (heard daily from 11 PM - 2 AM on AM1280 The Patriot)

And members of the Northern Alliance Radio Network (heard Saturdays from 11AM -5PM)

Ouch. That's a little bit like the Puppet Show/Spinal Tap billing. In any event I'm sure that it's not going to affect Saint Paul's performance. Don't worry about it may disturb him, but he'll rise above it, he's a professional.

One Doesn't Dissect Gossamer

I'm just finishing up Craig Silverman's excellent book on media mistakes, Regret The Error. He devotes a chapter to the subject of fact-checking at magazines and it's fascinating. For example, The New Yorker has long enjoyed a reputation for some of the most thorough and detailed fact-checking in the industry. But did you know that they go so far as to fact-check their cartoons? Now that's commitment to accuracy.

We interviewed Craig last Saturday on the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. You can now listen to the interview commercial-free here. You should also check out his Regret the Error site where he chronicles the most glaring and amusing media errors on a daily basis.

Was Ist Blog?

Earlier this week, I participated in a series of strategic planning meetings at work. One of the topics that came up was how we were going to serve our customers on the "Web 2.0" (just writing that horribly overused term makes me shudder). Among the possibilities were wikis, RSS feeds, and...

...blogs. Talking blogs in business meetings? Welcome to my wheelhouse.

Anyway, we chatted about blogs for a bit until a fellow from Germany cut in and asked, "What is this blog thing that you speak of?" (not verbatim by any means). His naivety and innocence on the matter were almost touching. I reached over, patted him on the back encouragingly, and began, "Well my friend, let me tell you about blogs...."

You Can Bring Home The Bacon...

...fry it up in a pan:

History will record that the first veto override of the Bush presidency will come over an obscure water resources bill that includes more than $97 million for Minnesota infrastructure projects from Lake Superior to the Mississippi River.


An earlier vote that sent the bill to the president's desk in September passed the Senate 81 to 12, easily surpassing the two-thirds majority needed to sustain a veto. Minnesota Sens. Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, both backed the bill and have said they will vote to override Bush.

The House voted 361 to 54 on Tuesday to override the veto.

Minnesota's entire House delegation voted to negate the veto, including Republican stalwarts who normally support the president.

Kudos to the 54 House members with the gumption to just say no. It's a shame that not one member of our delegation was among them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Free Swan Blog!

While Peter Swanson is serving his country over in Iraq he's unable to access Blogger to post. Therefore, he's asked us to post his latest work. So without further aideu, we give you Swan Blog as hosted on Fraters Libertas:

Banned, Challenged, and Oprah's Book Club

One of my favorite topics (some would say obsession) is the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week." Read samples of my work here, and here.

So I was surprised to read this story about Oprah Winfrey removing "The Education of Little Tree" from her recommended reading list.

"I am surprised, of course, that Winfrey would recommend it," says Lorene Roy, president of the American Library Association. "Besides the questions about the author's identity, the book is known for a simplistic plot that used a lot of stereotypical imagery."

Excuse me ALA? Why aren't you condemning Oprah for "banning" a book by a guy who wrote segregationist speeches for Gov. George Wallace? Does the ALA believe that only concerned parents and taxpayers can be guilty of book banning?

Blogger is still blocked in Iraq. Where is the ALA when we really need them? Free SwanBlog!

Now Don't Be Sad, Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

From today's Star Tribune:

Only one of the three levies on Stillwater's ballot passed -- a $927-per-pupil levy that will replace the district's expiring levy. The other measures would have combined to reduce class sizes by an average of 2.3 students and fund a curriculum review.

That should warm Saint Paul's pocketbook. I'm sure he would have liked to have a clean sweep, but beating back two of the three levies should still be considered a victory. Especially since levies in many other areas passed.

Out of 341 districts in the state, 99 were going to voters for more money. That's the second-most in recent history, trailing only 2001. Many schools were treating this year's results as critical to the future of their school programs. Some districts were poised to either reap tens of millions in new tax dollars or be forced to make drastic cuts.

As results came in, winners seemed to outnumber losers. The Associated Press was reporting 47 districts with at least one victory, compared with 27 defeats. Some with multiple questions had split verdicts.

Interesting to note that the labels "winners" and "losers" were applied to the districts, not to the taxpayers who actually pay for the levies. I'm pretty sure that Saint Paul considers himself a winner this morning.

SP ADDS: As with nuclear war, with the modern, teacher's union-driven school bond referendum, there are no winners, only losers.

If a majority of the voting citizens somehow overcome the crushing institutional PR campaign and manage to vote them down, the administration and school board are hell bent to make the students and community suffer. If these things pass, its more forced takings by the government and a validation of the notion that 10K per pupil funding wasn't enough and paying 50% of your income in total taxes is insufficient. Which means we'll probably be hearing more whining and threats from the "Yes to Kids!" crowd well before this new levy expires.

More evidence of loss, a "polarized" community (I love to use that term like a liberal, as a bludgeon against those who win elections yet are supposed to do what the losers want instead). The one levy that passed was still rejected by 47% of the community.

Finally, the one levy that passed in Stillwater was the monster - $64 million. My pocket book feels no warmth at having to only fund that one. The other two were much smaller and completely gratuitous money grabs. I suspect they were only added as cover for the first one. It allowed some of those Stillwaterians who were leaning against the school district's enormous and deceptive money demands to vote "no" on these obvious gravy boats and feel fiscally responsible, while still voting for the "replacement" levy. Problem is, the replacement is twice as large as the expiring levy. "Replacing" $32 million with $64 million. Only in government.

The Elder Piles On: I apologize for declaring victory too soon. It sounds like the most egregious money grab for Saint Paul's wallet did indeed succeed.

On Monday on MPR, I heard one of the Stillwater levy proponents describe the vote as "do or die." I guess education in Stillwater is not dead after all.

In the same MPR piece, they made highlighted the fact that of the 99 districts asking for more money, something like ten or twelve faced organized opposition to the levies as if that were note worthy. What should be note worthy (and sad) is that the vast majority of districts once again faced no organized opposition at all.

Of course, those districts whose taxpayers have the gall to get together, stand up, and cry "No mas!" whine that it's not fair. From the same Strib story:

The Robbinsdale school district faced another challenge.

Iowa-based anti-tax consultant Paul Dorr, who has built a reputation by helping to defeat levy and bond requests in five Midwestern states, had been enlisted by levy opponents to help defeat the district's request. Dorr, who circulated anti-levy fliers to district residents, apparently turned the tide.

With results all in, voters rejected the district's proposal to extend the current $13.1 million-a-year levy and add $9.7 million in levy funds a year over the next decade. District Superintendent Stan Mack attributed the loss to the "Dorr factor," which included blizzarding district residents with mailings and phone calls on the last days before the vote.

Blizzarding district residents with mailings and phone calls? Sounds pretty much like what nearly every district does to push its residents to vote yes to levies. Throw in notes sent home with children, yard signs, and using local media at every opportunity to get their message across and groups that oppose levies pretty much have to bring in people like Dorr just to compete on an equal playing field.

UPDATE-- Paul e-mails to really pile on:

I awoke this morning to a beautiful day in the Robbinsdale school district. The birds were singing and the sun was shining and my wallet was safe, at least until they call a special election in February when the seniors are down south.

I enjoyed your comments on the levy (it was much easier to enjoy when the massive increase is not in my district). However, I would have liked it if you included the paragraph of the Strib story where the Robbinsdale superintendant called me and fellow "no" voters racists.

I'd also like to inform you that I never received a phone call, flyer or mailing from anyone advocating a "no" vote. I know they had that chili dinner rally, but that was funded at less than $20 per person, so any activity by consultants on the anti-levy side must have been minimal, unlike the glossy mailing that I got from the school district. Oh wait, I guess that was neutral since it just laid out the "facts," at least as our race-baiting superintendant sees them.

Finally, I knew it was a good sign when I saw a dozen blue-hairs at my polling place yesterday. As far as school levys go, I'm in favor of high voter turnout.

UPDATE II-- Derek has more on the vote in Robbinsdale at Freedom Dogs. (Be sure to read the comments.)

SP CONSOLES HIMSELF: Sisyphus reminds us in Stillwater why we should be glad to pay more for our government schools.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Paul Kuettel, Rest in Peace

Mitch informs us of the untimely passing of Paul Kuettel. He was the author of Wog's Blog, a MOB member in good standing, and based on the few times I met him, a smart, funny guy of good cheer and one hell of a good writer. Beyond that a husband, father of three, and a friend to many across St. Paul. Words for all to remember, from his final post.

Suffice it to say that nowadays I am very inactive, sleep a lot and my mind is consumed with worry that this is close to the end.

I'm not ready, but I guess I never will be.

Board In Edina

Dave from Edina e-mails for information:

What's the line on Edina elections? I have no way of knowing which school board candidates are on "our" side. I tried to look for clues in their ads and local newspaper articles, but its hard to tell. Any advice?

Our Edina connection answers the call:

I personally am voting for the 3 male candidates (other 3 are women). Peyton Robb is a man and Bert Ledder is a woman so it's tricky.

1- Andrew Cialla (or something similar) is advocating more trade classes to prepare kids for the workforce.

2- Peyton Robb man mentions "fiscal responsibility". And a super-liberal friend of mine does not like him. 'Nuff said.

3- And I will vote for Cory Whalen even though he is not actively campaigning just to send a message that I don't want the others (his name remains on the ballot).

The women are all about the same thing....early childhood education mandated by the state, and more money for the chilrun. With no end in sight.

Unfortunately no candidate is talking about tackling the "open enrollment" issue! I think we are up to 15% of the kids being from outside the district. And my understanding is although the money follows them from their district, it does not cover the cost fully.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Vote Locally

Time once again for the Fraters Libertas editorial board to offer our official endorsements for Tuesday's election.

- The three school levies in Stillwater: Vote no on all three. In fact, vote no on any school levy wherever you happen to live. No additional money should be dumped into the seemingly bottomless pit until we see more accountabilty and visibility in school spending.

- Hopkins School Board: Jamie Wellik

- Golden Valley City Council: John Giese

That is all.

Change Is Good?

Next week, the Argument of the Month Club will debate the legacy of the Second Vatican Council:

Vatican II: The Greatest council Since Nicea?
Dr. Pence Intense vs. Fr. Johnny Crash (Echert)
Our in-house liberal will duke it out with our conservative traditionalist as they debate the issues surrounding Vatican II.

Tuesday, November 13th
Church of St. Augustine, South St. Paul, MN
Social at 6:30pm (beverages and appetizers)
Dinner at 7:00pm
Total cost for the evening is $12 at the door

There will be time for you to agree or disagree with our speaker during the Q&A, which starts immediately following dessert. But you are all encouraged to enjoy the good humor, food and fellowship. We enjoy the company of men from all different creeds and ages. Priests and seminarians get in for free but are not shown any partiality in debate. Fathers may bring their sons as long as they accompany them.