Monday, April 30, 2007

To The Victor Goes The Spoils

Another stake in the decomposing corpse of the "conservative big business" canard comes courtesy of today's Wall Street Journal (free for all!):

Overall, corporate PACs gave 56.6% of their $6.2 million in contributions to Democrats in the first quarter of 2007, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, another nonpartisan tracker of political funds. During the whole of the previous campaign cycle -- the two years that ended with the 2006 elections -- Democrats got just 34.1% of the $140.6 million that corporate PACs gave to congressional candidates.

Big companies that have shifted their funding in Democrats' favor so far this year include General Dynamics Corp., whose PAC gave 62% of its $210,500 in contributions to Democrats in early 2007, compared with 64% to Republicans in the previous election cycle. PACs for Honeywell International Inc., Home Depot Inc. and insurer Aflac Inc. have also greatly increased the proportion of their giving to Democrats.

Corporations care not for ideology, only power as in who yields it. If doesn't matter if there is a D or an R behind a poltician's name as long as they can either help or not hinder the firm's bottom line.

This also demonstrates again why elections are so important. The shift in corporate ching only makes it that much more likely that the Dems will stay in control in 2008 and beyond.

In Defense of the Attorney General

It's hard to know who to root for in the clash between MN Attorney General Laurie Swanson and AFSCME. On the one hand, you have a DFL politician accused of incompetence and mismanagement, leading to an exodus of valuable state employees. On the other hand, you have a labor union trying to bust in and make the cost of government even higher, for absolutely no benefit provided to tax payers.

If only they could both lose! Jeff Johnson, where are you when we need you?

If forced to pick someone to win, I guess I'd have to go with the Swanson. Her incompetence is the will of the voters. And there will be a referendum on her performance just around the corner, in 2010. Whereas a majority of Minnesotans would certainly reject unionizing public employees. And once they get their clutches into the public treasury, it is forever.

Plus, according to this public service announcement, it just doesn't seem like AFSCME's heart is 100% dedicated to public service.

Just An Art School Drop-out With A Tilty Desk

If you haven't figured out from his not-so-subtle hints yet (I just design the ballparks, I don't play in them), our own Atomizer is part of the team that is designing the new Minnesota Twins Ballpark. His new duties require him to work out of town for an extended period of time. Bad news for his family and friends, good news for the gin joints in Kansas City.

This is a bit of a dream job for Atomizer and we want to help him find his true calling within it. And we're going to ask you to help.

We're running a poll asking for input on the area he is most likely to succeed at. Given his experience and background, what portion of the stadium design should Atomizer be in charge of?

Vote early, vote often. With a little guidance, Atomzier is going to be everything he claims to be, only for real. That's our dream.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Put Out To Pasture

The best thing about today's Sabres-Rangers playoff classic going to two overtimes before being decided? It forced NBC to cancel showing a silly tribute to "America's Horse."

The Clash Of Religion & Politics

If you missed our April 21st interview with Michael Burleigh, author of "Sacred Causes,"

you can now listen to it here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Book By Its Cover

Dropped off by the Fedex dude today:

You can often determine the approach a book takes towards its subject by the cover photo and this one of Hillary is a doozy.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM today for another award winning episode of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Never fear, the beautiful weather in the Twin Cities will not sideline more than 1 or 2 or your regular hosts and somehow, some way the show will go on.

The highlight of today's broadcast promises to be our guest in the noon hour when investigative journalist Steven Emerson joins us. He is the foremost expert in the fields of national security, terrorism, and Islamic extremism. His work has appeared in such outlets as The New Republic Magazine, US News and World Report, CNN, PBS, and the Counter Terrorism Blog.

Mr. Emerson has been consulted by the White House, National Security Council, FBI, Justice Department, Congress and intelligence agencies. No less an authority than Richard Clarke said of him: "I think of Steve as the Paul Revere of terrorism ... We'd always learn things [from him] we weren’t hearing from the FBI or CIA, things which almost always proved to be true."

Steven Emerson is currently the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a data-gathering center on Islamist groups. And he's the author of six books, including his latest Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US. We'll be talking about this book and focusing on the many Minneapolis connections identified.

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!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wait For It...

I predict here and now that well before the 2008 elections the term "global warming" will completely disappear from common parlance. In response to us right wing nutters who refuse to swallow the pablum we're constantly being fed, Al Gore and crew will soon be painting the ominous picture of "global change".

I just heard this term used on a NASA podcast and, I must admit, it is brilliant. "Global change" pretty much encompasses any temperature variation, any dramatic weather event, any melting, any freezing and any drought, tsunami or hurricane that comes along without having to explain why baseball games had to be cancelled all over the country due to snow this past April.

See, it's not about warming, stupid. It's about humans changing the global climate with their evil and wasteful ways of...well... simply existing. If the temperature is too high, human driven "global change" is to blame. If the temperature is too low, human driven "global change" is to blame.

It's the perfect way for the global warming crowd to cover all of their bases and, as a result, have to think about what they are saying even less...though I'm not sure that's even possible.

Global change. You heard it here first.

Look For Low And Away...But Watch Out For In Your Ear

Despite being in Kansas City yesterday I was unable to hear the broadcast of the Twins/Royals matchup at the Dome due to the inadequacies of AM radios compatibility with concrete office buildings. The second inning apparently featured Royals pitcher Zack Greinke nailing Twins star Torii Hunter in the face, presumably as payback for Hunter's gift of expensive champagne to the KC club as a reward for defeating the Detroit Tigers on the last day of the year which secured the Central Division title for the Twins.

I can understand the Royals wanting to send Torii a message but locating a beanball anywhere near a players face is absolutely indefensible. So, while reading about the incident in this morning's paper I expected to come across the paragraph that detailed the Twins retaliation for Greinke's reprehensible offense. Finding no such paragraph I perused the box score only to discover that Twins starting pitcher Boof Bonser (as in "Watch your step...somebody left a Boof on the mound") not only didn't bother to hit even one Royals batter but he served up an astonishing total of seven walks in five innings.

Now, I don't pretend to know what goes through these guys heads during a game (I just design the ballparks, I don't play in them) but don't you think that if your star centerfielder had just been knocked out of the game with a dangerously placed beanball you could find it in yourself to locate one of those seven 3-ball count pitches right where it hurts? I mean, chances are that they're heading to first base gotta make them pay for it.

I'll be watching the Twins infielders next time the Boofster is on the mound just to see if they bother diving for those tough grounders he's inevitably going to give up. Perhaps that's a message he'll actually understand.

He's A Joke Maker

The other night, I happened upon "The Daily Show" whilst surfing the TV waves and stuck around long enough to catch a couple minutes. Now, I'm not normally a big fan of the program and don't make a habit of watching it. Jon Stewart is perfectly serviceable comedian, but the notion that "The Daily Show" is good for anything more than the occasional chuckle or bemused grin has always struck me as silly.

Bill Moyers recently referred to Stewart as "the Mark Twain of our day."

Just last Saturday, I heard Bob Costas pontificating insufferably (as only he can) on how "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" were so superior to the likes of Don Imus, talk radio, and (gasp!) bloggers because they raised REAL issues and delivered SERIOUS messages through their humorous medium. Thank God we have Costas around to determine what media REALLY matters.

Anyway, on the show I saw Stewart was doing this bit where he played clips of Bush prior to the war in Iraq talking about how time was running out versus Bush asking for patience in waiting for victory now. It was set up as a "Bush vs Bush" debate.

Beyond the fact that the comparison was rather inapt (apples to oranges and whatnot), it had such a juvenile, sophomoric feel that it reminded me of nothing so much as a teenager who thinks himself oh so clever because he catches his parents in what he sees as a rhetorical paradox. "Well, once you said this and now you say this. So there." This is what passes for witty political commentary?

The man may be funny but he ain't no Mark Twain. Or Will Rogers. Or Ambrose Bierce. Or...

UPDATE-- Henry e-mails to concur:

Good blog 'boot Jon Stewart. Every time I surf over his show, I count. One,
two, three, four... It never gets beyond 20 before he openly mocks
Christianity. 20. Try it, it's kinda fun. Sophomoric? Gimme a break, 7th
grade tops.

General Failures

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling writes on failure in generalship in Vietnam and Iraq in the May 2007 Armed Forces Journal (via Mr. Day):

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

Sobering stuff. Yingling also describes the qualities that good generals possess and, from everything that we've heard so far, it seems that General Petraeus has them in spades. His new approach to counterinsurgency in Iraq also seems to be the one with the best chance for success. The questions of course is whether it's now too late in the game.

I'm also not optimistic about Yingling's call for Congress to take the lead in turning the tide:

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Expertise on military matters and courage are not qualities that one finds in abundance in Congress these days.

Parenting Tips Of The Day

#1 Never feed your toddler Garden Salsa flavored Sun Chips. They're messy and slightly more addicting than crack. Despite our attempted intervention last night, our son still won't admit he has a problem. The first step is always the hardest.

#2 Comes courtesy of Vox Day:

I assume that anyone who is tremendously enthusiastic about spending lots of time with kids has something wrong with them, especially if it's a man with no children of his own.

Words of wisdom.

Union Busting...


The state's largest public employees union and the Minnesota attorney general are locked in a dispute over the firing of one of its lawyers who said she had tried to organize a union during a flurry of staff departures in the past three months.

Kari Ferguson, an assistant attorney general, was fired last week after handing out union solicitation cards, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Solicitor General Al Gilbert said the dismissal "was not based on any union activities." He declined to say why Ferguson was dismissed, citing employee privacy laws.

The dispute exposes an unusual rift between Attorney General Lori Swanson, a top DFL officer holder, and a large labor union that Democrats rely on for political support. AFSCME endorsed Swanson in her run for attorney general last year.

In theory, the DFL is all in favor of unions. Unless of course they get in the way of running their little political fiefdoms. Unions for thee, but not for me.

Word on the street is that there is a lot of discontent within the attorney general's staff, some of it no doubt exacerbated by the presence of the elephant in the corner office: Lori Swanson's old boss and former AG Mike Hatch. Makes you wonder who's really running the show?

UPDATE-- The word on problems within Swanson's office isn't only on the street, it's in the Pioneer Press as well:

"I've never seen morale lower," said one employee who asked not to be named. "The place feels like a morgue."

And you thought you had a tough work environment.

The fun continues:

Speculation and concern in recent weeks about the escalator out of the attorney general's office led Mark Cohen, editor in chief of the weekly Minnesota Lawyer, to comment on the matter in a blog Saturday. More than 40 commenters rapidly piled on before Cohen ended the string Thursday morning, saying it was becoming unproductive.

Among the comments were several laudatory posts praising Swanson and signed by staff members. One former employee accused Hatch of pressuring staff to post positive comments on the blog, in one case even writing a comment for the staffer.

Hatch denied doing so. "I haven't written any blogs," he said. "In fact, I don't even have an e-mail address."

What is this new fangled "com-pew-ter" thing that you speak of?

Glad to see that our former AG, who came within a whisker of becoming governor last fall, is right there on the cutting edge of technology. Proud to be a Luddite he is.

However, I find it hard to believe that Hatch, who is still working in the AG's office in some capacity, doesn't have an e-mail address of some sort. Seems like the kind of thing an enterprising reporter could easily check up on.

Past and current employees told the Pioneer Press the stream of resigning assistant attorneys general reflects how demoralized Swanson's staff has become.

"People are being micromanaged and fired for any reason at the drop of a hat," a former staff member who left in recent months said.

A current staffer said some of the office's best lawyers have been driven out or fired, "and they are having a hard time hiring people other than kids straight out of law school."

Others said they were shocked at the departures of Eiden, a longtime Hatch loyalist, and Vanselow, a highly regarded lawyer.

"They stuck around after the election because they thought it would be easier to work under Lori than under Hatch," said an insider familiar with both supervisors. "But they never imagined that Lori would hire Mike to come back. That just came out of the blue."

Mike Hatch is hard to work for? Imagine that.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Separated at Birth, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul):

And some well-known, devout Muslim woman:

Actually, that's Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). She's not a devout Muslim woman. She only plays one on TV. I can't think of any actual well-known, devout Muslim women. I wonder why that is?

To be fair, I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with visitors to a foreign country being respectful of the local customs. An occasional Republican has done the same. But there is something amusing about feminists like Pelosi and McCollum merrily donning the hijab, which has the primary purpose of hiding one's femaleness, lest you enflame the attentions of men. If that's what they want to do, fine. When in a patriarchy, do as the patriarchs tell you, I guess.

Save The Planet, Screw The People

Especially the poor ones. Emissions Cuts Costlier to the

Instituting a carbon "cap-and-trade" system to help address climate change would drive up energy costs and result in higher prices for consumers, with the poorest households bearing the brunt, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The federal government "would face higher prices for energy and other carbon-intensive goods and services" under a cap-and-trade program, the report said.

Doesn't sound very "progressive" to me.

Play That Funky Movie, White Boy

John Derbyshire proves himself to be a true Renaissance man with this paean to "Saturday Night Fever" at National Review Online:

For proponents of the theory that everything in the world exists for some good reason, disco music must present a conundrum. What higher purpose could possibly be served by this vapid, thrumping, affectless sound, dragging in its wake a subculture of narcissism, pill-popping, promiscuity both straight and gay, cheesy light shows, and the worst male clothing styles since slashed doublets and neck ruffs went out? Disco was so mockable it had barely got started before it was mocking itself--remember "Disco Duck"?

The answer to the first of those questions will readily be given by any of us Seventies survivors. Disco came into the world so that producer Robert Stigwood and director John Badham could create Saturday Night Fever, one of the dozen or so best movies of all time.

After reading this piece, I now look forward to seeing Mr. Derbyshire cut a rug at one the 2008 National Review convention parties in town.

Does It Really Matter?

The other day, I was struck with the depressing thought that, given the current mood of the country, it seems all but inevitable that a Democrat will become President in 2008, regardless of the candidates that each party fields.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll seems to confirm my pessimism:

Views on the war are shaping early opinion about next year's general election as well. At a time when three-fourths of Americans say they are following the 2008 race at least "somewhat closely," Americans by 49% to 31% say they want Democrats to win the White House next year.

I know it's early and that a lot can happen between now and November 2008 and that the question concerns a generic Democrat versus a generic Republican (insert your own appropriate clichés here), but those numbers are pretty stark. It makes one question whether the Republican primary process is really about choosing the next President or merely a sacrificial lamb. (Cue the "Meatballs" chant.)

Common Ground

In these hyper-sensitive, bitterly divided times, it's refreshing to find matters that you and those on the other side of the ideological fence can agree on. City Pages "BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS":

Winner: Highway 100

City Pages praising the highway? That prairie-destroying, Hummer-enabling, anti-neighborhood expanse of sameness leading only to more sameness? Yes, this year we've dropped to one knee for a ribbon of asphalt: the newly rehabbed Highway 100. It's resurfaced--so smooth and flat we've entertained irresponsible thoughts of midnight Rollerblading. But it's also been given a spine-realigning shake by some cosmic transit chiropractor, and baby, does traffic flow. So seamless are exits and entries, we can glide from downtown to Southdale in 12 minutes--without connecting foot to brake. If we'd known driving could be like this, we would have examined our prejudices years ago. Which raises a good question: Exactly when is the Crosstown realignment scheduled to begin?

Amen on both counts. The recent improvements to Highway 100 have made a dramatic difference and when it comes to Crosstown, I'll borrow a line from Michael Ledeen and plead, "Faster please."

We would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate MOB member Faithmouse on winning the City Pages coveted BEST LOCALLY GENERATED BLOG (RIGHT-WING). It certainly is more deserving of wearing the crown than the mushy moderates--who seemed all too willing to sell their souls for a little media attention--who were awarded the title last year.

Of course, since one of the contributors to Fraters Libertas is not a local yokel, we were not eligible for consideration ourselves.

The Devil Is In The Details

Memo to Democrats, especially those running for President in '08:

When you present your bold new ideas for an alternative approach to foreign policy (as Mr. Obama most recently did), it would be helpful if you could tell us exactly WHO you want to talk and WHAT you want to talk about. I keep hearing over and over again that we "need to reach out" and "bring more people to the table" and "hold regional conferences" to solve the pressing issues of the day, yet rarely do I hear specifics on who we're supposed to be reaching out to or what it is that we're going to be talking about. Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bluer Shade of Lileks

If Lileks ever committed himself to bathroom humor, his next book might look something like this.

Not Fit To Wash Your Feet

If you missed last week's Northern Alliance Radio Network Volume One, you can now listen to the first hour in its entirety, commercial-free here. My special guest co-host (who really is the John Hinderaker of NIGP) and I discussed the slippery slope towards Sharia that the Twin Cities seems to sliding down and picked a Loon of the Week from a very crowded field.

Do Yourself a Favor

Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse on Monday, alerting us to a PR stunt being promoted as a story and warning us away from any lazy media outlets who try to pass it off as news:

The Wild dispatched an alarm Monday to local media outlets, inviting coverage of a "unique photo story": dismantling the boards and removing the ice at Xcel Energy Center. If you see a tape of this on a local TV station today, do yourself a favor and never watch that station again.

The lead for Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman's column on Wednesday:

The ice was tougher than the team. Tuesday was "ice-out" day in the State of Hockey Rinks, with workers at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul removing the ice surface that was laid down last September and that, with luck, could have lasted until June.

Yes, it's a column about removing the ice at Xcel Energy Center.

Looks like Star Tribune columnists don't read each other. And neither do any editors. Maybe they've already taken Reusse's advice themselves.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

That's Entertainment

Star Tribune music critic and translucent white guy Chris Riemenschneider reports from a show at the Myth in Maplewood:

Nas showed the precision and know-how of a surgeon at Sunday's lively show -- easily one of the Twin Cities' most fulfilling hip-hop concerts of the past few years.

Most fulfilling hip hop concert in the Twin Cities? I'm guessing there's not a lot of competition for that recognition. It's kind of like a show getting reviewed as the most technically proficient Mahler Symphony currently being played in Hopkins.

I do like Riemenschneider's use of the language. though. Kind of a cluelessly pompous Frasier Crane quality to it:

I was listening to a rock 'n' roll station on my way over here, you know to put me in the mood. There was a passage in one of those trifle songs, that I feel, well, is the keynote of this evening: "Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.

I can see him at the show, bobbing his head to the bass, waving his hands in the air like he just don't care, then leaning over to the guy standing next to him and saying 'Pardon me old sport, I dare say this is the most fulfilling hip hop concert I've seen in the Twin Cities in the past few years.' As there were no reports of shootings in Maplewood last night, it looks like he kept his observations to himself.

So what was at this concert to fill him up so much?

[Nas] updated "If I Ruled the World" with a line about getting "George Bush's head on a silver platter

Yes, there's nothing like a reference to killing the President to perk a reporter up. Then there was this highlight:

The standout among the new tunes was "Black Republican," with the crowd filling in the duet parts by Jay-Z

For those of you yet to be fulfilled by this song, a sampling of the lyrics:

I feel like a black republican, money keep comin' in
Can't turn my back on the hood, I got love for them
Can't clean my act up for good, too much thug in 'em
Probably in the back in the hood, I f*ck it then

Trust me, that's one of the cleaner excerpts I could grab. It's all there in the song though, obscenity, glorification of the criminal life, AND political partisanship. Other hip hop acts seeking approval take note, you can't utilize only the first two dimensions and be fulfilling to Star Tribune music reviewers. It takes all three.

The Era Of The Saints

Great piece at FIRST THINGS from a speech by the archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput:

As Bernanos explains it, big ideological systems "mechanize" history with high-sounding language like progress and dialectics. But in doing so, they wipe out the importance of both the past--which they describe as primitive, unenlightened, or counterrevolutionary--and the present, which is not yet the paradise of tomorrow. The future is where salvation is to be found for every ideology that tries to eliminate God, whether it's explicitly atheistic or pays lip service to religious values. Of course, this future never arrives, because progress never stops and the dialectic never ends.

Christianity and Judaism see life very differently. For both of them, history is a place of human decision. At every moment of our lives, we're asked to choose for good or for evil. Therefore, time has weight. It has meaning. The present is vitally important as the instant that will never come again; the moment where we are not determined by outside forces but self-determined by our free will. Our past actions make us who we are today. But each "today" also offers us another chance to change our developing history. The future is the fruit of our past and present choices, but it's always unknown, because each successive moment presents us with a new possibility.

It's a bit lengthy, but well-worth reading the entire thing.

Can China Spare A Square?

China Seems Poised to Pass U.S. As Top Greenhouse-Gas Emitter (WSJ-sub req):

China is set to surpass the U.S. as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases this year -- much earlier than forecast -- because of its rapid economic growth, according to the International Energy Agency.

Moreover, Beijing's refusal to put limits on China's greenhouse-gas emissions will allow them to increase nearly unchecked and erase gains made elsewhere in the world, the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, said in an interview. That could seriously weaken efforts to design a global greenhouse-gas treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The IEA, which advises developed countries on energy policy, previously had predicted China's emissions of greenhouse gases would surpass those of the U.S. by 2010. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are released by burning fossil fuels and are believed by most climate scientists to cause or at least contribute to global warming.


Mr. Birol said China's increasing carbon-dioxide emissions, which stem from its near-total reliance on domestic coal to power its economy, are expected to dwarf reductions in emissions from Europe, the U.S. and Japan.

Unchecked, over the next 25 years, the growth of China's greenhouse-gas emissions is forecast to double that of all the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes, Europe, the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Japan.

Will Sheryl Crow and Laurie David now be travelling to Beijing to point fingers at Chinese authorities? What's the range on those private jets anyway?

Monday, April 23, 2007

If Only It Were True

Group plans to spend millions on anti-tax message:

ST. PAUL--The Taxpayers League of Minnesota plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to tell Minnesotans that Democrats want to raise taxes.

While I would be thrilled at the prospect of the The Taxpayers League flooding the local media with a multi-million dollar anti-tax ad campaign, something tells that Don Davis--the Minn. Captial Bureau Chief for Forum Communications who reported this story--is adding at least one, probably two zeros to the actual campaign figures.

In the unlikely event that it's true that David Strom's organization has coffers overflowing with millions and millions of dollars, I'm going to have to start being a lot nicer to him on Saturday mornings at the studio.

Funny 'Cause It's True

The Onion nails the details in a piece called This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence:

Producers of the long-running Chicago Public Radio program This American Life announced Monday that they have completed their comprehensive 12-year survey of life as a modern upper-middle-class American.

In what cultural anthropologists are calling a "colossal achievement" in the study of white-collar professionals, the popular radio show has successfully isolated all 7,442 known characteristics of college graduates who earn between $62,500 and $125,000 per year and feel strongly that something should be done about global warming.

"We've done it," said senior producer Julie Snyder, who was personally interviewed for a 2003 This American Life episode, "Going Eclectic," in which she described what it's like to be a bilingual member of the ACLU trained in kite-making by a Japanese stepfather. "There is not a single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic that we have not exhaustively documented and grouped by theme."

Added Snyder, "We here at public radio couldn't be more pleased with ourselves."

Read the whole hilarious thing.

Suppose They Showed A Movie...

...and nobody came. This past Saturday marked the second (and hopefully last) government sponsored showing of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Westwood Hills nature Center in my city of St. Louis Park. (Previously blathered about here, here, here, here, and here.)

While I was not able to attend the event, Jerry from St. Paul--who has put together his own slide show presenting an alternative viewpoint on climate change--was and he reports that there are reasons for optimism:

I attended the showing last Saturday and participated in the discussion afterwards. There wasn't time for the slide show, but I think I made my points and one person asked for a copy of the slide show. The program coordinator said they will show "The Great Global Warming Swindle" in the Fall. They will advertise it in their bulletin first. There were only about 18 people there so this would be slow work changing minds.

#1 I'm pleased to hear that the City still plans on showing "The Great Global Warming Swindle" in the Fall. Although it would have been nice to have it presented closer to the showings of "An Inconvenient Truth," the fact that the City is willing to provide an alternative viewpoint is encouraging. However, it will be a while before the leaves start changing colors and we'll need to keep a close eye on this so that it doesn't conveniently happen to fall off the event calendar.

#2 A whopping eighteen people showed up to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" on the same weekend as Earth Day? Not exactly an overwhelming turnout. Maybe people have had enough hectoring for a while.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Great Moments In Playoff Hockey

Near the tail end of last night's Canucks-Stars Game Six, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow injured his knee when he got tangled up in front of the Vancouver net. It was difficult to tell what happened from the replay, but apparently Morrow thought he had been done wrong.

He hopped on one leg over to the Canucks bench and appeared ready to go into it if necessary to achieve justice. Meanwhile, one of the Canucks on the bench was yapping at him the entire time, no doubt him with names which called his manhood into question. Morrow took a jab at the bench, before deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. From the Hockey News:

Morrow hopped and skated off--putting no pressure on his left foot--with 2:20 left in the game. Before getting off the ice, Morrow stopped in front of the Vancouver bench and threw a punch at Alexandre Burrows, who appeared to slash the Stars captain's left leg only seconds earlier.

"It took every part of me to hold back," said Morrow, who plans to play in Game 7. "I went over there for a reason and talked myself out of it."

Morrow, who was done in the game anyway, was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty. So was Jeff Cowan after the Vancouver left wing got involved in the fracas with Burrows.

Game Seven is tomorrrow night in Vancouver and it should be a fiesty affair. Will the Canucks choke away another 3-1 series lead? I certainly hope so.

Friday, April 20, 2007

We Doethn't Protest Too Much

Tim from Colorado e-mails to report that there are no equivaliant plans in place to spend millions of dollars dealing with protesters when the Democrats descend upon Denver in aught-eight:

I just finished your post about the money that is being set aside to handle the protestors that are more than likely to show up at the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis. We here in Colorado get to host the 2008 Democratic Convention (I'm not bragging). As I read your piece I was trying to recall similar coverage here in Colorado about the convention we get to host, but I cannot recall any mention of a publicly-funded protestor hostel.

I think there is a comparison to be made here, and it is not about Minnesota residents versus Colorado residents, but I will leave it to you to figure it out.

Meanwhile, Mitch Berg tries to explain the difference at Shot In The Dark.

Dimed And Quartered

Q: Is there anything that the DFL won't find a way to tax?

A: Of course not!

Puck stops here; DFL'er proposes hockey ticket surcharge:

The House floor turned into a game as rough as hockey during debate on providing money to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Rep. Tom Rukavina included a provision in his economic development bill to add a 25-cent surcharge on every Division I college hockey ticket sold in the state. That did not set well with many Republicans.

"It is a bad idea for the 'state of hockey,'" added Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.

Before we continue with the story, how do you think Rukavina will try to defend his proposal? By following the longstanding DFL tradition of minimizing the impact down to the micro level of course:

Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the Iron Range has done a lot for the state and Republicans should not begrudge it a relatively little money.

"I don't think a quarter is going to break anybody," he added.

A dime on my drinks, a quarter on my hockey tickets, pretty soon you're talking about some real money here.

UPDATE-- Tim from Colorado e-mails:

Once again a subject has come up in which the State of Minnesota Hockey Commissioner should step up. Where is he? Is he waiting for some sort of official request? Does he need some sort of Bat Signal in the night sky (maybe the old standard of a pair of crossed hockey sticks with a puck between)? You know he'd be all over this if we were talking about some sort of pants tax on Dockers.

You know, if he's not going to step up and do his job you should have his appointment rescinded.

Not only that, but the Wild recently played three playoff games right in his backyard and he didn't so much as lift a finger to help their cause. Dangerously incompetent is a charitable way to describe his job performance of late.

Meanwhile, Cathy from Wyoming gets the last word in on the debate between the states by rubbing salt in our open tax wounds:

I hate to rub it in BUT--I live in a three bedroom, two bathroom house on two and a half acres, overlooking a rimrock canyon on the edge of the Black Hills (think million dollar views). My property taxes for this year are $203....

There is no state income tax (personal or corporate) and the sales tax is 5% (food is exempt). Energy (coal and oil) royalties fund the state. (And we would like to thank all of you end users.) I think we have had billion dollar plus surpluses for the last four or five years.

We like it here?

A Friend In Need...

I notice that our good friend Hugh Hewitt hasn't been providing updates on his beloved Tribe lately. Hmmm...He must just have too many other things on his plate. Let it never be said that we won't help a friend who needs a hand.

Indians drop heartbreaker to Yanks:

Alas, what the Yankees did to Borowski with two outs in the ninth Thursday was the real thing. And it resulted in the shell-shocked Indians walking out of Yankee Stadium with an 8-6 loss, the victims of a three-game sweep.

Borowski, you see, was sent into this ballgame with a 6-2 lead. This wasn't even a save situation.

Blowing a 6-2 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth? That's gotta hurt. As I'm sure does does the Indians 6-6 record and third place standing in the AL Central.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Filling Up the Well

The Wall Street Journal article Chad linked to earlier today sums up the difficulty in feeling emotion toward an event like the Virginia Tech shooting that seems so abstract, and paradoxically, so commonplace today.

A couple of pieces of journalism out in the past day had the ability to break through the wall. First, the harrowing, tragic summary by David Mariniss in the Washington Post of the killing timeline and its intersection with some of the victims. It's a masterful piece of reporting. Unfortunately, knowing what we know about newspaper reporters, any time you see such perfect writing of real world events, you have to wonder about the author's ability/willingness to separate his artistic urges from the truth. But this isn't some lazy, political hit piece by a metro columnist. It is a riveting, horrifying, ultimately elevating summary of what happened and any flights from gospel can be ignored. It should be appreciated as it is and its hard remain emotionless while reading it.

The New York Times provides an equally emotional and excellent tribute with its pictoral gallery and bios of the victims.

Sharing A Foxhole With Atheists?

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting page one article on the rise of aggressive atheism in Europe (sub req):

Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades.

Religion is re-emerging as a big issue in part because of anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy. That is all adding up to a growing momentum for a combative brand of atheism, one that confronts rather than merely ignores religion.

Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and prominent British author on religion, calls the trend "missionary secularism." She says it mimics the ardor of Christianity, Islam and Marxism, all of which have at their core an urge to convert nonbelievers to their worldview.

Mr. Onfray argues that atheism faces a "final battle" against "theological hocus-pocus" and must rally its troops. "We can no longer tolerate neutrality and benevolence," he writes in "Traité d'athéologie," or Atheist Manifesto, a best seller in France, Italy and Spain. "The turbulent time we live in suggests that change is at hand and the time has come for a new order."

Talk that it's "time for a new order" in Europe has to make more than a few squirm in their seats.

With 40 minutes to go before show time, the 500-seat Alexis de Tocqueville auditorium was already packed. A fan set up a video camera in the front row. A sound engineer checked the microphones.

The star: Michel Onfray, celebrity philosopher and France's high priest of militant atheism. Dressed entirely in black, he strode onto the stage and looked out at the reverential audience for his weekly two-hour lecture series, "Hedonist Philosophy," which is broadcast on a state radio station. "I could found a religion," he said.

Mr. Onfray, 48 years old and author of 32 books, stands in the vanguard of a curious and increasingly potent phenomenon in Europe: zealous disbelief in God.

Mr. Onfray seems to be filling the need for secular Euros to have their own personal Jesus:

Mr. Onfray's popularity shows no sign of flagging. At a recent lecture, the 100th so far, an adoring audience held aloft lit candles and cigarette lighters in tribute. A middle-aged man took the floor to praise Mr. Onfray for providing "the key to life."

Pierre Andrieu, a 63-year-old former executive with BNP-Paribas, a French bank, travels up to Caen each week from Paris for the lecture show. He makes the trip, he says, because he shares Mr. Onfray's take on faith -- and fears that religion is making a comeback. "It is far more present than before," he says. "This need for religion is very, very strong. Religion is like magic. It is all about tricks."

The main reason for this resurgence in militant atheism (more on that in a moment) is not of course a response to militant Christianity poised to overrun Europe. In fact, it seems that most Europeans would rather just put that whole Christian past well behind them:

Christianity, once the bedrock of Europe's identity, has been losing worshipers on the Continent for at least half a century, though some opinion polls suggest the downward trend has bottomed out. Around three-quarters of Europeans still describe themselves as Christians. But only a small minority go to church. In Western Europe, according to polls, fewer than 20% do.

The number of atheists is hard to pin down. Some surveys put the figure at under 3%, but others say it is much higher.

When the European Union asked citizens to rank values representing Europe, religion came last--far behind "human rights," "democracy," "peace," "individual freedom" and other choices. Only 3% chose religion.

Really bad dance music came in with 5%.

So what's with all the hubbub godless bub?

Alarm over Islam has acted as the prime catalyst for much of the polemic. Europe's Muslim populace, estimated at between 15 million and 20 million people, is growing more numerous, more vocal and, in some cases, more religious. The clash also feeds on a deeper confrontation that dates back to Europe's Enlightenment, the 18th-century intellectual movement that asserted the primacy of reason over superstition.

"The battle over religion is restarting. It is going to be a difficult one," says Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society, an organization that was founded in the 19th century but has now gained a new vibrancy. Membership has doubled in the past four years, to around 7,000, says Mr. Sanderson. For converts from Christianity, the society provides a certificate of "de-baptism." "Make it official!" urges the society's Web site,

Purchase your ticket on the express train to hell today!

The atheist cause won a big-name endorsement late last year when pop star Elton John, in an interview, said organized religion turned people into "hateful lemmings" and should be banned.

You know I wasn't sure about this whole "no God" thing until I heard a man of Elton John's wisdom weigh in. Now, I am convinced.

Somehow, I'm just not convinced that Europe's answer to militant Islam is going to be militant atheism:

The backlash against religiosity has even seeped into Europe's Muslim community. In February, Mina Ahadi, an Iranian-born woman in Cologne, Germany, set up the Continent's first Muslim atheist group: the National Council of Ex-Muslims. She immediately started getting death threats and was put under police protection.

"Our main message is: 'We don't believe,' " says Ms. Ahadi, talking in a coffee shop next to Cologne Cathedral, a towering tribute to faith that took 600 years to complete. A police guard hovered nearby.

It's been proven time and again that trying fight something with nothing is a hopeless cause.

For much more on the past and future of religion and politics in Europe, I highly recommend you read Michael Burleigh's Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror.

Among the many fascinating subjects covered in "Sacred Causes" is the ways that Soviet Communism sought to destroy religion after the Revolution in Russia and after World War II in Eastern Europe. Secularizing the schools, discrediting the clergy, and publicly mocking religious traditions were some of the milder activities undertaken by such groups as the NKVD/KGB and "The League of the Militant Godless." Militant atheism is hardly new to Europe.

Burleigh is a renowned British historian and he will be joining us this Saturday to discuss "Sacred Causes" on the Northern Alliance Radio Network at noon. If you want to join the discussion with him, feel free to give us a call at 651-289-4488. As always, the Northern Alliance Radio Network Volume One can be heard from 11am-1pm on Saturdays on AM1280 WWTC or live on the internet stream. Don't you dare miss it!

The Emotional Well Is Dry

Daniel Henniger looks at the reason behind the "Numbing Down of America" at OpinionJournal (free for all):

There is no more powerful reason for this downward pressure on public sensibilities than the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq is the most persistently violent event of our time. More precisely, the suicide bombers are. The suicide bomber is the most emotionally corrosive phenomenon since World War II.

The bombings around Baghdad began about April 2003. At first the bombings were mainly directed at Iraqi military and police installations. Then in August, with the Canal Hotel bombing, they killed 22, including the popular U.N. human rights commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Ten days later, on Aug. 29, the suicide bombers arrived in the neighborhoods of the Shia to murder noncombatants, killing perhaps 125 people. It was just the beginning.

Attacks of this design against defenseless civilians are hardly new. Israelis live with them. Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers have committed similar barbarities for more than 30 years. But if you have followed the war in Iraq, you have had a remarkable encounter with the blood-drenched world of suicide bombers. The way the American people have absorbed these bombings in faraway Iraq is unique in the annals of war and in journalism.

A very great number of the suicide bombings--there have been more than 700 since 2003, occurring weekly and often several times a week--have been reported in detail to the American people. The stories routinely include body counts and vivid details and color photography of shattered bodies and street scenes. These suicide bombings are often the first news story one sees on such Web sites as Yahoo and MSN, and they have been displayed prominently in newspaper coverage. If one were at all interested in the U.S. role in Iraq, this has been one's primary experience of the war for three years.

As an extension of its determination to be even-handed, contemporary journalism has attempted to impart not only the politics of war but also its human cost. It will be interesting, years hence, when histories of this war's journalism are written, as with Vietnam, to discover the basis of the news judgment that placed the suicide bombers' work at the top of the news pyramid. Almost any normal reader who consumed these accounts as often as the suicide bombers staged them would eventually pull back emotionally from the bombings, and from the war itself.

This has had the expectable result of producing what one might call the numbing down of America. Setting aside support for or opposition to the war, the muting of the emotional pathways of the American people is a neutral event, a normal defense against the killings of the suicide bombers, or the crude murders of Cho Seung-Hui.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

King heps us to an outrageous DFL proposal to Put A 10 Cent Tax On Every Drink At Bars:

A bill moving through the legislature would add a 10 cent tax to every drink at bars in Minnesota. A dime a drink would raise tens of millions of dollars that would pump money into law enforcement including catching drunk drivers.

Supporters of the drink tax say it is not really a tax, it's more of a user fee. Chemical dependency experts say only 10 percent of drinkers are responsible for 60 percent of alcohol-related problems.

The author of the bill says most drinkers won't even notice the tax.

"The impact here is very, very small. On the individual drink. Very, very small. Probably a stick of gum. You can't even buy a piece of candy for what we are talking about here," said Rep. Karen Clark, a Democrat from Minneapolis.

Talk about death by a thousand cuts.

If the tougher DWI laws and smoking bans haven't already driven enough small bar owners out business, this should be yet another nail in the coffin. Nice to see the DFL looking out for the little guy yet again.

I also thought the Dems were in favor of a progressive tax code. It doesn't get much more regressive than this. If this nonsense passes, Joe Six Pack will take another direct hit in the pocketbook.

By the way, this once highlights the incalculable harm brought about by T-Paw's little semantic stunt of calling the 75 cent per pack tax on smokes a fee. Republicans should know by now that Democrats will always see and raise them in these matters and that any proposal to add revenue or increase spending to address a specific situation will be cited by Dems for years to come as an excuse to tax and spend at will.


Sometimes, coming up with scribblin' material would be a lot easier if I were a snarky lefty. Take last night's Freedom Club dinner for instance.

The event took place at a bucolic country club in a toney suburb known for its wealth (though hardly a bastion of conservatism these days). You could hardly dream up a more elite, exclusive setting.

The attendees were for the most part middle-aged monied white people in business attire. Drawing broad caricatures about the crowd's privilege, status, and class would be child's play. The fact that the Freedom Club is a rather mysterious organization only adds to the image of the group as a powerful conservative cabal.

The evening's program began with a singing of the National Anthem while the crowd faced a HUGE American flag. It was followed up by with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by a Marine Corps Colonel. Jingoism, nationalism, lazy comparisons to fascist iconography? A lefty would be soaking in it. Or soaking it in.

Then an invocation by a Christian pastor. No equivalent prayer from a imam, rabbi, Buddhist monk, or Wiccan priestess. Theocracy and Christianism are a couple of words that come easily to mind.

Finally, the main event, a hateful fear-mongering diatribe delivered by yet another pasty-faced white bloke. Your average lefty blogger would probably have wet his pants over having so many rich targets of opportunity to snark on.

Of course, since I swing from the right side of the political plate, all I saw was a group of successful, happy, God-fearing, patriotic people getting together to hear one of the wittiest, most clear-headed pundits on the planet deliver an oft-humorous, yet deadly serious address on the possible end of the world as we know it. Since it's quite impossible to relate the genius of Mark Steyn, I'll just advise that if you ever get a chance to hear the man speak in person, don't miss it.

Others in attendance included a number of pols, prominent business leaders, a local humorist of some note (and his charming wife, whom I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to at dinner), Scott Johnson and his sidekick from Power Line, the power couple of the local posse comitatus, and even an unleashed canine.

Here's a picture of the man of the evening and yours truly (a little Soviet style revisionist cropping was necessary to remove Saint Paul's eyes wide shut mug from the frame). Notice that I once again sport a full mouth of choppers. My new toof was only implanted a few hours before yesterday's event and for a while I feared that I might have a Krameresque AMCA experience when I met Mr. Steyn, but fortunately the 'caine wore off just in time. I am proud to say that I am no longer a toothless, slaw-jacked yokel. [insert joke at my expense here]

What Color Is Your Jumpsuit?

Convention plan includes preparing for 3,000 arrests:

About $550,000 for a possible open-air, fenced detention facility to hold protesters next to the Ramsey County Workhouse; $1.7 million for overtime, and $62,000 for biohazard decontamination equipment.

These are among the items included in a $4.4 million budget proposal by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who was told by St. Paul police to plan for 3,000 arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

If you build it, they will come. Actually they'll come either way, but it's better to be on the safe side.

It turns out that the protesters freedom of speech comes at a pretty steep price:

Also included in the projected expenses is $350,000 in riot equipment and Tasers to control protesters engaged in civil disobedience.

Fletcher said the budget includes $3.9 million for protester-related costs, including $3 million for prisoner processing and detention and $900,000 for training personnel and controlling civil disobedience.

Four mil? How much would it cost simply to pay these folks to stay away? Put me down for twenty.

Despite promises by local authorites to deal with this criminal element in as humane a manner as possible, news of the plans elicited the usual overheated reactions:

While it has not been decided, the Sheriff's Office is considering transporting arrested protesters to a fenced field with tents and temporary cooling units next to the workhouse. He said he expected most protesters would be released in two to four hours.

Told about the possible open-air detention facility, Mary Beaudoin, director of Women Against Military Madness, a local protest group, said, "It's hideous, it's terrifying. Are they going to have us wear orange jumpsuits and hoods, too? It sounds like Guantanamo Bay."

Yeah Mary, spending two hours in a fenced-in field for breaking the law is exactly like Gitmo. What size jumpsuit do you wear?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Standing on the Corner of Twelfth Street and Vine

I'm actually closer to the corner of 43rd Street and Main right now but Kansas City is the place I've been calling home for the past couple nights. I started a new job yesterday and the immediacy of the task at hand combined with the lack of a physical office in Minneapolis has sent me down here for the better part of the next two months.

This a brand new experience for me. In the past twelve years I have worked at two firms. The first had six employees and the one I just left had close to thirty. I'm going to work these days in an office with hundreds of co-workers. I have to learn "standard practices". I have to deal with people from Human Resources. I need a passcard to take the elevator up to the third floor and it appears that I have about 17 bosses...two of whom I actually know by name.

On the lighter side, there are complimentary nachos and cheese all day long in the third floor break room (unless of course I forget my passcard), all office refrigerators are stocked with an endless supply of Coca-Cola products and, best of all, I have a $50 a day per diem and there is a liquor store a few blocks from my hotel (somehow I have to convince the accounting department that a bottle of Jameson absolutely qualifies as an "entertainment" expense).

I'm not quite used to living out of my suitcase yet but I imagine it will come as second nature after a couple more weeks of this. I'm also not quite used to my new surroundings. It took almost an entire hour for me to navigate the unfamiliar streets to the office yesterday; quite a feat considering it's only about five miles away as the crow flies. current situation is hardly ideal. I am feeling a bit like a cog in a gigantic unfamiliar machine. All of the comforts of home, including my very accommodating wife, are hundreds of miles away during the work week. But, despite all of this, I'm more excited about my job than I have been in years. Hell, if you could play a part in creating this you'd be excited too (unless your name is John Hinderaker, that is).

Come for the Liberty, Stay for the Sharia

Speaking of Sharia Central, to the litany of cab rides, pork sales, feet washing, and terror free airline travel, let's add one more item to the accommodations needed by one of our immigrant communities.

The City of Minneapolis and the African Development Center (ADC) have partnered to offer a new alternative financing program targeted at small businesses in the city. The program addresses Islam's prohibition on paying interest on loans.

At a press conference in Minneapolis to announce the program, Mayor R.T. Rybak impressed by the business zeal of the Somali and larger African community in the city had no doubt that this new financing program would benefit the city, "The city (Minneapolis) has built equity thanks to African small business owners. This city is the Statue of Liberty for Somalis even in Mogadishu."

Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses .... isn't that already the slogan for the light rail line?

Beyond depressing is the thought that RT Rybak is out there promoting Minneapolis as a beacon of liberty while running a government whose designs are the exact opposite. Ever increasing taxes and regulatory fees, smoking bans, traffic tickets by camera, etc. etc. If this is liberty, who needs government control?

Then again, Minneapolis is no Mogadishu. That probably is enough to get some good word of mouth going over there on the Horn of Africa about making a move.

Won't they be surprised upon their arrival to find out that Minneapolis has already brought a little of Mogadishu over for them. About those Islamic friendly loans:

Islam prohibits the collection and payment of interest. It is with this in mind that two years ago that Samatar through ADC began working with the City of Minneapolis in establishing a financing program that would allow the growing population of Muslim entrepreneurs whose religion restricts them from receiving traditional interest-based financing.

How the Loan Works

* A private lender provides half the financing at their rate of return
* The City provides the rest of the financing, up to $50,000, at a 2% rate of return
* The term of the loan (up to 10yrs) is set by the lender

I'm not sure how "rate of return" differs from paying interest. Sound like accounting gimmicks and semantics. Is that all you need to get around Sharia Law provisions? Maybe. We all know how tolerant Muslims can be.

A few more details on the Minneapolis program provided here:

Under the plan, investment repayment is based on a profit model rather than interest. "This type of financing opens doors for the city's growing number of Muslim business owners whose religious beliefs restrict them from receiving traditional interest-based financing," said Hussein Samater, Executive Director of African Development Center.

Wikipedia provides a list of Islamic banking techniques. The outline above best matches this concept:

Mudarabah (Profit Loss Sharing) - Mudarabah is an arrangement or agreement between a capital provider and an entrepreneur, whereby the entrepreneur can mobilize funds for its business activity. The entrepreneur provides expertise and management and is referred to as the Mudarib. Any profits made will be shared between the capital provider and the entrepreneur according to an agreed ratio, where both parties share in profits and only capital provider bears all the losses if occurred.

That sounds about right for a public investment in Minneapolis. Although I must admit, this one seems even more like RT Rybak's management style:

Qard Hassan - This is a loan extended on a goodwill basis, and the debtor is only required to repay the amount borrowed. However, the debtor may, at his or her discretion, pay an extra amount beyond the principal amount of the loan (without promising it) as a token of appreciation to the creditor.

Now that's a variable interest rate loan I can get behind. I'll have to request this option from my Ukrainian mortgage broker next time I'm in the market. After laughing in my face, I suspect he'll tell me this is a reason he's not planning on opening a branch office in Mogadishu anytime soon.

What I find interesting about this whole program is that the City of Minneapolis has such a vast reservoir of money to give away, they're looking for innovative, new ways to distribute it. There are no cultural barriers that can't be overcome when it comes to spending tax dollars.

The larger logic of this is curious as well. Investing public money in businesses that are unable or unwilling to participate in the broader economic system of the country. What does that say for their ability to be successful after the start up funds are gone? Is that taken into account before we start dumping public money into them?

Furthermore, I think its fair to say that countries which have adopted Sharia law typically have stagnant, moribund economies. Is that mere coincidence, or is there some relationship between the two conditions? If there is a relationship, is that the kind of system we want to be importing into Minneapolis?

I plead some level of ignorance on this and send a request to that 800 lb. silver back gorilla of economic knowledge in St. Cloud for answers. Access to credit and liquidity of capital are generally good things for an economy, right? Assurances of a market rate of return encourages investment of capital, right? This is what we want, right?

I end with another expert in the field, Victor Davis Hanson. He detailed his "dream" about how the West could be responding to the challenges that face it. This excerpt seems relevant right here in Minnesota:

Europeans would advise their own Muslim immigrants, from London to Berlin, that the West, founded on principles of the Hellenic and European Enlightenments, and enriched by the Sermon on the Mount, had nothing to apologize for, now or in the future. Newcomers would either accept this revered culture of tolerance, assimilation, and equality of religions and the sexes -- or return home to live under its antithesis of seventh-century Sharia law.

We Like It Here?

Announcement from Mark Steyn's website:

MARK IN MINNEAPOLIS: Steyn comes to America's Sharia Central today for a speech at 12 noon at the University of St Thomas and another this evening to the Minnesota Freedom Club.

Saint Paul and I will be attending said Freedom Club affair tonight and providing a complete rundown of the infidel Steyn's apostasy.

Where's Dad?

Joe Carter writes from painful personal experience on the foundation of fatherhood:

I want to start with a basic premise: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. If you disagree, then you can stop reading now. The rest of what I say will only make sense to those who understand that this is the foundation of fatherhood.

The problem, of course, is not with your kids but with your wife. You may be having a tough time in your marriage. You may be thinking that you no longer love or can live with your wife. You may believe that divorce is the only remaining option. I don't know your situation. I won't pretend to be able to understand what you are going through. I only know this: your children need you at home. Your sons and your daughters need your presence. Real fathers don't leave their children

I'm fully aware of how unpopular such a claim will be. Our society tells us that you shouldn't "stay together just for the kids." Our culture tells us that progress has made fatherhood a vestigial artifact. Our hearts tell us that we deserve to pursue our own bliss.

Such an unpopular sentiment bears repeating: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. They need you at home. If you're a man and aspire to being a dad, that is all you need to know.

If your wife is physically abusive to you and the children then you need to get out--and take them with you. Otherwise you stick it out. If you have to stay in your marriage for one year or for eighteen, you stick it out.

What do you do if your wife wants a divorce? You beg her to stay. You change what you have to change. You use guilt if necessary to get her to "think about what is best for the kids." If nothing else works, then you ask her to commit to six months of marital counseling before she files for divorce. If at the end of the six months she's still resolved to end the marriage you ask for another six months. You keep asking for as long as it takes. You may lose the fight eventually but if you're a man you will not give up on your family until you are bloodied and broken.

Don't kid yourself that your divorce will be different because you have a good relationship with your children's mother. My ex-wife has become a dear friend and a superb partner in parenting. Despite the peculiar circumstance which ended our marriage, I couldn't ask for a more thoughtful, accommodating woman to be my former spouse. But as hard as we work to make it easier on our daughter, everything we can do is not enough. At the end of the day, my child lives in a house where one of her parents is missing. Divorce doesn't just end a marriage, it ends a family.

You may disagree with Joe's premise, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the destructive consequences that this "fathers as an option" model has had on the family and society as a whole.

Eyes Off The Prize

Spring is here. A time when a newspaper man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Pulitzer Prizes. Yes folks, the Zodiac has once again come around and once again it's time to look to Jim, our vaunted Pulitzer Prize reporter, for his report on how the Minneapolis Star Tribune fared when the Pulitzer hardware was being passed out. (You can also read Jim's previous Pulitzer pieces from 2006, 2005, and 2004).

For the last couple of years we've had a bit of fun at the Star Tribune's expense when the Pulitzer Prizes have been announced, pointing out how many years it has been since their one (1) prize in 1990. I guess we all knew that the trend couldn't last forever. A large and politically correct newspaper like the Strib was bound to stumble upon a Pulitzer eventually. Although they've ruined our fun, we are big enough to extend our congratulations to the Star Tribune on their Pulitzer win this year. We are also forced to admit that their in-depth investigation into the "flying Imam" story is indeed worthy of the many accolades it has received.

Ha, ha, no. Had you going there for a second, I bet (at least until the "flying Imam" part anyway). No, of course the Star Tribune hasn't won a Pulitzer, and certainly not for their coverage of the flying Imams. For the seventeenth consecutive year, the Star Tribune has been found lacking by their peers (not even a single finalist this year). There is good news for former Strib editor Anders Gyllenhaal. His new paper, the Miami Herald, won the local reporting Pulitzer (for a series published several months before Gyllenhaal became editor). I hope the Herald savors that win.

Here is the list of newspapers with less circulation than the Star Tribune, but with more than the Strib's one Pulitzer. Congratulations to the Birmingham (Alabama) News for winning their second Pulitzer and moving past the Star Tribune.

Newsday (19)
Boston Globe (19)
Miami Herald (18)
Baltimore Sun (13)
Portland Oregonian (7)
Seattle Times (7)
Louisville Courier Journal (7)
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times (6)
Christian Science Monitor (6)
Kansas City Star (6)
Sacramento Bee (5)
Des Moines Register (5)
New Orleans Times-Picayune (4)
Atlanta Journal and Constitution (4)
Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader (3)
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal (3)
St. Paul Pioneer Press (3)
Village Voice (3)
Birmingham (Ala.) News (2)
Hartford (Conn.) Courant (2)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (2)
Newark Star-Ledger (2)
Albuquerque Journal (2)
Arizona Republic (2)
Cleveland Plain Dealer (2)
Dayton (Ohio) Daily News (2)
Indianapolis Star (2)
Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune (2)
Memphis Commercial Appeal (2)
Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer (2)
Orange County Register (2)
Philadelphia Daily News (2)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2)
Providence Journal-Bulletin (2)

Here is an updated list of the Star-Tribune's Pulitzer Peers. (However, all of these newspapers have won their Pulitzer more recently).

Ames (Ia.) Daily Tribune
Asbury Park Press, Neptune NJ
Biloxi (Ala.) Sun Herald
Boston Phoenix
Cincinnati Enquirer
Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald
Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune
* LA Weekly
Riverdale (N.Y.) Press
Rutland (Vt.) Herald
San Diego Union-Tribune
Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat
Toledo Blade
Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas)
White Plains (N.Y.) Journal News
Willamette Week (Portland Oregon)

* New StarTribune Pulitzer Peer

Skunked again? If only there were some interesting stories around these parts...

Mao's Club?

Derek notices strikingly similarites between a Sam's Club advert and Maoist propaganda at

No, I'm not making this up. Reader's of this blog know I have a way of making things happen graphics-wise. I assure you, the blue postcard above is an untouched piece scanned as it came in the mail.

But when you combine a vigorous attractive young Asian family in high contrast with Stalinesque fonts and the poses we are all too familiar with...well, you know.Then, there's the headline choice, "FOR ALL", C'mon if that ain't a poke at the Great Leap I don't know what is.

Compare the original postcard with a few samples from the glory days of Maoist propaganda posters. Wonderful illustration . Horrible goals, but they sure knew how to sell ideas.

Be sure to check out the visual evidence for yourself.

Mass Casualties

Scott writes in regarding Mass Confusion:


Enjoyed your post about all the singing at Mass. I don't like it either. I'd much prefer to keep my hands to myself when praying, as well. Do you refuse others' grasps? It feel like a hippie thing to me.What about other Vatican II changes such as sharing the wine chalice andextending peace with a handshake to your neighbors? My mother dislikes thatstuff, as well, but I don't mind so much.

I don't mind the standard sign of peace, but it has gotten way out of...err...hand now with all these flesh exchanges. Last mass, I counted THREE! such exchanges. First of all, our parish often employs a WalMart-ian Greeter and people actually form a line behind this individual as they shake each and every parishioner's hand as they enter church. This is madness. Not only does it cause a bottleneck at the doors, it's just plain silly. The latest way around this I have come up with is to wave my boy's hand as I'm carrying him--seems to work.

Next, as I have to barge my way into a pew as someone pretends not to see me standing 6 inches from their nose, they get on the microphone to announce "As a sign of community, let us all greet those around us." Noooo! Okay? It's early, I'm hung-over and more importantly, I'm a Minnesotan. We don't like talking to strangers. We don't like pasting on fake smiles to make it seem like we care who is sitting in the pew behind us and engaging in that insipid head shaking to acknowledge the presence of others. Next time this comes up I plan on remaining stoic.

And third is the classic sign of peace. Fine. There. Shake. I don't mind this one per se, but after two other exchanges it feels gratuitous.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hanging With Her Peeps

Check out Mary Katharine Ham's The Week In Peeps. Eat your heart out Sisyphus.

Safety Last

From the Roanoke Times 1/31/2006:

A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.

Good thing. Wouldn't want someone to have a gun on a campus.

Ducks Unlimited?

For a Wild fan, watching the first three games of their series against the Ducks has been an exercise in frustration. But, as a long-time hockey observer, I have to admire the game the Ducks are playing (despite the fact that they have perhaps the gayest name in all of sport). The Stanley Cup playoffs are a grueling marathon that have only just begun. However, if the Ducks can avoid serious injuries and continue to play their disciplined, almost flawlessly executed system, I would not be surprised to see them sipping from Lord Stanley's Cup come June.

There's been a lot of angst among the Wild faithful about their pitiful performance on the power play. And while some of criticism directed at the team's power play efforts are deserved---memo to Wild players: the back door ain't open despite your continued attempts to force it--a lot of credit has to go to the Ducks penalty kill. They stay home, shut down the passing lanes, don't panic with the puck, and almost always wait for the good clearing opportunity. It's textbook penalty killing.

Overall the Anaheim approach is simple: keep the other team high and outside in your defensive zone, pound their D with your big, physical forwards in their zone, play smart on special teams, throw the puck at the net whenever you can (something the Wild could learn), and take advantage of your opponent's miscues. It's a solid game plan, which the Ducks are executing to perfection. Against such a machine, the Wild's Stanley Cup dreams are nearly extinct

Mass Confusion

Would someone tell me at what point priests started singing dang near the entire mass? Not only does it violate tradition and take much longer to get through, but most priests can't carry a tune in a bucket and listening to them trying to crow these contrived melodies is just painful. The blessing of the bread and wine is but one example where this bizarre Broadway sensibility seems to have taken hold. "Doooo this in memooooooreeeeee of meeeeee" acapella is just goofy. Stop it now.

And while I'm at it, I don't want to sing the Our Father neither. The melody is trite and lumbering and I refuse to play along. I'm also not raising my hands up as is the new custom in our parish during this prayer. Thankfully, the whole holding hands during the OF thing is gone but it's now replaced with the outstretched palms. It's dumb and Protestant, stop it now. Speaking of the holding hands nonsense, have you ever had someone reach for your hand when it's obvious you want no part of this Kumbaya BS? It has yet to happen to me, but I'm always ready to say "Sorry" and make a sheepish face if it ever comes up.

And another thing my fellow parishioners--don't act like you don't see me when I genuflect at your row and want in. Oh I know, you want to sit on the end of the pew for a quick getaway at the end of Mass but you're hogging enough room for an extended Hmong family there and it's just you and your wife so move it on over.

I've found that having a one year old in attendance is ample excuse-material to pretty much leave Mass at any time and just walk him around in the lobby. It is quite handy when a couple of do-gooders are given mic time to tell us about how great it is that they are spearheading an effort to haul more immigrants over here from Third World countries and install them in the community at the expense of the parish. Or any time the seemingly-endless pleading begins about the need for more funds for any of the hundreds of ways parishes waste my precious lucre. Whenever I see this unpleasantness start, I just grab him, give him a little pinch to get the waterworks going--thus assuring the necessity of the trip--and cruise to the lobby (singing in Burn's voice: "Let's all go to the lobby!". ED NOTE: Okay, I made the part about pinching him up. He's usually the one pinching me and I have never once gotten him back for it.

The Elder Amens: For the most part, I agree with JB. The singing of communal prayers has gotten out of hand. Rather than joining with you fellow church-goers in one voice and one mind to a familiar cadence, you're trying to figure out not to sound completely awful while noticing that 99% of the others singing, including the priest, do.

The cry room in our church--where we spend most of our time these days--is rather small, but it does have a couple of speakers that seems to be directly wired to the mic that the priest is wearing. So when he's singing a prayer, we get to clearly hear every flat and off-pitch note that he hits.

Who's Picking Up The Tab?

Every year when tax day rolls around, we're always treated to depressing stats about how the tax burden is distributed. Ari Fleischer provides this year's dose of downbeat data in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

If the tax forms you're filing this year show Uncle Sam entitled to any income tax, you increasingly stand alone. The income tax system is so bad, and increasingly reliant on a shrinking number of Americans to pay the nation's bills, that 40% of the country's households -- more than 44 million adults -- pay no income taxes at all. Not a penny.

Think of it this way. After dropping off your tax forms at the Post Office, you find 100 people standing on the sidewalk. Forty of them will be excused from paying income taxes thanks to Congress. Twenty of them, the middle class, will pay barely a thing. The 40 people who remain, the upper middle class and the wealthy, will pay nearly all of the income taxes.

Look at that crowd again and find the richest person there. That individual will pay 37% of all the income taxes owed by those 100 people. The 10 richest people in the crowd will pay 71% of the income-tax bill. The 40 most successful people will pay 99% of everyone's income taxes. Yet for some lawmakers in Washington, these taxpayers aren't paying enough. Our tax system comes up short in a lot of areas. It doesn't foster economic growth. It isn't very simple. And it certainly isn't fair. The one place where it does excel is at redistributing income.

According to a recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, those who make more than $43,200 (the top 40%) pay 99.1% of all income taxes, the taxes that support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, for example, fund the federal portion of transportation, education, environmental and welfare spending.

How's that for a morning pick-me-up? Fleischer goes on to note one of the consequences of such a skewed tax system:

If Republicans, including their presidential candidates, wonder why their calls for tax relief don't resonate like they used to, it's because there aren't that many income taxpayers left. They've been taken off the rolls.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Neil Duncan Benefit

Neil Duncan Benefit:

Army Sgt. Neil Duncan, from Maple Grove, MN, was severely injured in Afghanistan on December 5, 2005 when an improvised explosive device (IED) ripped through his Humvee. Neil was seriously wounded as a result of the explosion. He lost both of his legs, shattered his jaw, broke his elbow and hand, and sustained multiple shrapnel wounds. Within a week of the attack, Neil was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC where he began the long road of recovery.

Neil went through more than 20 surgeries, rigorous physical and occupational therapy along with dental reconstruction over the last 14 months at Walter Reed. However, through his mental/physical strength and determination, Neil has overcome this huge hurdle as he is now able to do things he was once able to enjoy.

Neil led a very independent and active lifestyle prior to being wounded so his goal is to regain that lifestyle--just in a new way! Learning to walk using his prosthetic legs, Neil took his first steps on February 6, 2006, just two months after the explosion. He participated in Soldier Ride where he hand cycled from Long Island to Washington, DC (over 500 miles!). Neil has even re-learned to do the things he loves--running and skiing. He has been a huge inspiration to those who love him as well as other wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He motivates them and shows them that they can do whatever they want to do if they just put their mind into it.

Neil enlisted in the U.S. Army in the fall of 2002 and was assigned to the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in Vicenza, Italy. During Neil's service with the Army, he was deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq (8/03-6/04) and Afghanistan (4/05-12/05). Neil's goal is to resume his education as a full-time student upon completing his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center later this spring.

As Neil will be coming home to Minnesota, his friends and family want to give him a proper welcome home and help him financially as he starts his new life as an independent person. A homecoming benefit to honor Neil and to express our sincere appreciation for his sacrifice and commitment to our country will be held. This benefit will include a silent auction, raffle, and cash donations as well as a chance for people to meet our hero. All proceeds will be used to help Neil build an independent life adapted to his specific needs--a handicap accessible house, a vehicle with adaptive equipment, etc.

The benefit is scheduled for Saturday, April 21, 2007 from 2-6 p.m. at the American Legion in Osseo, Minnesota. It will be open to the public and seeks to raise money to help Neil make the difficult adjustments that lie ahead, such as buying a house and adapting it to his specific needs. The event is being organized primarily by Neil's parents, sister, and brother-in-law who are actively seeking contributions from the public as well as from private organizations who want to be a part of this noble cause.

All donations are welcomed. Both cash donations as well as donations for the silent auction are being requested. All contributions -big or small- will be gratefully appreciated. “We know that people live very busy and active lives. Anything ranging from a gift card to a coffee shop, to a round of golf at a golf course, even tickets to a special event will be a hit!” Minnesotans are saddened that Neil's life has taken such a dramatic turn as a result of the explosion, yet Neil's family is confident that Minnesotans' heartfelt compassion will be reflected in their generosity.

Thank you for your attention and support in honor of Sgt Neil Duncan-a real hero!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Charting In The UK

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - TV & radio: This week's top 10 web picks:

1. Fraters Libertas
Well worth visiting, not only for a selection of excellent and funny interviews, but also for the Brothers (Fraters) insights into the recent abduction of the 15 British sailors. By the way, on that subject you might also care to take a look at this.

2. Smosh
Wonderfully, inspiringly inane site devoted to the lives of two deliberately cretinous mop-topped American indie kids (they look like they should support the Dandy Warhols). This week, one of them gets a haircut - in order to get a girl. It's the painful amateur dramatics that make it so watchable.

3. Fox News April Fools
To counter the sometimes scary right-wing stuff you will have heard on Fraters Libertas, I thought I should include this, yet another example of the breathtaking pro-Bush bias on Fox News. Thus, when Fox viewers are asked to vote for the most foolish American of the year, and duly vote for their president, Fox, clearly aghast, award the title to Britney Spears. Even as the actual results are appearing on screen. Amazing stuff.

Coal For Art?

Cathy e-mails to let us know that there's more than cowboys and sheep in Wyoming, there's actually women too (mostly imports I'm sure):

I moved from Minneapolis to Wyoming several years ago.

As always, there is more to any story. The Bucking Horse & Rider has been in use in Wyoming since 1918 when it became the official symbol of the Wyoming National Guard. It was adopted by the University of Wyoming and copywrited in 1936. The State of Wyoming didn't work to protect it until 1994 when a company in California tried to take the copywrite claiming the State had abandoned it. If we lost the copywrite, our university and military units would no longer be able to use it. Now, because of lawsuits, the State has to protect its use. It is unfortunate but necessary.

As to the boycott, I believe out biggest export to Minnesota is coal to fire your power plants so I suggest you immediately start boycotting electricity. Heating oil may be a close second. Have fun!

Happy resident of the great state of Wyoming!

Pretty proud of your fossil fuels that are destroying the planet there, aren't you Cathy? Now we now why Ole and Lena had to take their ice house off the lake early last year and why that little girl in Roseville was crying because the penguins are drowning. It's all Wyoming's fault!

Anyway, I don't know how any state can claim greatness when it has to outsource for such basics as egg decorating. Peter e-mails with this story from the Casper Star Tribune that The yolk's on us:

Out of more than half a million people in Wyoming, apparently nobody here can decorate an Easter egg.

A press release this week from the White House Office of the First Lady states that Philip M. LeDonne of Elmhurst, Ill., decorated the "Wyoming" egg unveiled this week at the annual State Egg Display at the White House Visitor Center.

Peter goes on to say:

Wyoming couldn't find an artist in their state to design an Easter Egg.

But they have lawyers standing by to sue a Minnesota High School for using a generic cowboy logo.

I'm speechless.

Since we're actually overflowing with artistic types here in Minnesota, maybe we could send a few hundred back out to Wyoming when the next coal train comes in.