Saturday, June 30, 2007

Take Us Out to the Ballgame, Part II

Mark Yost and son George have moved on from Milwaukee to Detroit and he brings us the next installment in his basebal blogging odyssey from Comerica Park, the scene of last nights Twins-Tigers game:


Well ... I know the Fraters have been anxious to get this installment of the Baseball Blog. Earlier in the day on Friday, I had predicted a 10-run victory in the Tigers-Twins tilt Friday night. I just picked the wrong team. The Twinkies pounded the AL Central-leading Tigers at Comerica Park, 11-1.

The game was all-but-decided with Joe Mauer's grand slam in the top of the fifth. The Tigers added a run in the sixth, but the Twins added five more before it was all over. It was nothing short of a dominant victory for the Twins, a decisive win for Johan Santana, who improved his record to 9-6, gave up only five hits over six innings, and dropped his ERA to 2.76.

Learned Foot, who was a bit annoyed by my Miller Park post, will be happy to learn that Comerica Park finishes a distant second to his hometown field. Parking was $15 in Detroit, compared with $8 at Miller Park. In Detroit, you park in abandoned lots abutting drug-infested neighborhoods, while outside Miller Park the only danger was getting between the portly fans and the Klement's Sausage Haus.

One thing that Detroit's exterior does have over Milwaukee is gypsy peanut vendors. I hate paying ballpark prices for peanuts (usually about $3.50). Outside Miller Park, there were no peanut vendors to be found. In Detroit, they were everywhere, selling bags of tasty peanuts for $1. Detroit, which opened in 2000, does have wider, more open concourses. In fact, I would advise anyone tasked with overseeing the architectural plans for the concourse area of a new baseball stadium to visit Detroit. There's a lot worth copying here.

Like a lot of new ballparks, Comerica (which is a Detroit bank) has traditional concessions, as well as local restaurant outlets. For men of Sisyphinian proportions, there's a Bob's Big Boy, as well as a pretty good BBQ joint. There's also a Leo's Coney Island. One of the oddities of Detroit is that nearly every diner is called "a Coney." Their signature dish is a chili dog, which Detroiters call "Coneys." My friend Angelo Kalogiannis from Astoria used to love to visit me in Detroit, go into a Coney for breakfast, and ask the hostess and the wait staff if they knew where Coney Island was. Invariably, most of them said, "No." "Amazing!!!!" he'd say.

The food at Comerica was far inferior to that in Miller Park, and more expensive. The Hebrew National kosher hot dogs, brats and Italian sausage were all priced at $5. The standard Ballpark franks were $3.50. I had the Italian sausage with peppers and onions and was mildly disappointed. It was OK, but nowhere near as good as the brats with red sauce at Miller Park. The beer was a bigger ripoff. While you could get a good microbrew at Miller Park for $4.50, drafts of swill like Bud Light and the mildly better Labatt's were $8.50. And the "gourment popcorn" was $6. George did get a fairly decent fresh lemonade that was $4, about standard for ballpark prices. And his Little Caesar's pizza was only $2.75 vs. the slightly larger dreck that was served at Miller Park for $6.

I also noticed that no one on the concourse paid attention to the National Anthem. At Miller Park, all activity stopped and the countermen took off their hats. At Comerica, people continued to buy beers and brats, put mustard on their hot dogs, and walk toward their seats. Only when they emerged from the concourse did they pay tribute to the Star Spangled Banner,
but most didn't take their hats off. Disappointing.

On the upside, the tickets were a bargain. The series is almost a sell out. There were 42,361 there on Friday, but we were able to get $15 SRO tickets. We stood out on the centerfield concourse and by the third inning found unoccupied seats. Again, it was a bargain that would make the Nihilist blush

The fans were a little more into the game, too, than the ones we saw at Miller Park. The Detroit fans seemed genuinely concerned when the Twins scored two quick runs in the first off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. And they arose to the importance of 3-2 counts without having to be prompted by the PA system, organist, or some interactive scoreboard encouraging them to "Get Loud." In short, they seemed like a much more sophisticated, baseball-savvy crowd.

In general, Detroit was a good experience, but fell short of Miller Park on a number of fronts. I rated Miller Park an 8; I'd rate Comerica a 6.

Up next: PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Sunday for a 1:05 game against the Washington Nationals.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Barnes & Bendover

Usually I do all my book shopping through Amazon or better yet get books for free as part of promotional efforts. I can't remember the last time I went to a bricks and mortar store and bought a book.

Today, I remembered why I've avoided them. I strolled over to the local branch of a large national book chain during lunch and picked up a couple of books to give as gifts. The jackals fed well as I paid full price for both. Full frickin' price.

I almost forget how painful that is. The idea of paying 33% more for a book just because I was picking it up at the store today rather than ordering it online was not easy to swallow. Sure, I'm paying for the convenience, but a FULL THIRD MORE seems to be approaching any reasonable definition of gouging. When are the politicians in Washington going to wake up and do something about Big Books?

Old Dogs Not Learning New Tricks

Front page article in today's Wall Street Journal on the divisions within the leadership ranks of the Army--often following generational lines--over strategies and tactics in Iraq (sub req):

Last December, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling attended a Purple Heart ceremony for soldiers injured in Iraq. As he watched the wounded troops collect their medals, the 41-year-old officer reflected on his two combat tours in Iraq.

He was frustrated at how slowly the Army had adjusted to the demands of guerrilla war, and ashamed he hadn't done more to push for change. By the end of the ceremony, he says, he could barely look the wounded troops in the eyes. Col. Yingling just had been chosen to lead a 540-soldier battalion. "I can't command like this," he recalls thinking.

He poured his thoughts into a blistering critique of the Army brass, A Failure In Generalship, published last month in Armed Forces Journal, a nongovernment publication. "America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand," his piece argued.

The essay rocketed around the Army via email. The director of the Army's elite school for war planners scrapped his lesson plan for a day to discuss it. The commanding general at Fort Hood assembled about 200 captains in the chapel of that Texas base and delivered a speech intended to rebut it.

"I think [Col. Yingling] was speaking some truths that most of us talk about over beers," says Col. Matthew Moten, a history professor at West Point who also served in Iraq. "Very few of us have the courage or foolhardiness to put them in print."

We linked to Col. Yingling's piece when it appeared and I find it heartening to hear that it incited such a response among his fellow soldiers.

The controversy over Col. Yingling's essay is part of a broader debate within the military over why the Army has struggled in Iraq, what it should look like going forward, and how it should be led. It's a fight being hashed out in the form of what one Pentagon official calls "failure narratives." Some of these explanations for the military's struggles in Iraq come through official channels. Others, like Col. Yingling's, are unofficial and show up in military journals and books.

The conflicting theories on Iraq reflect growing divisions within the military along generational lines, pitting young officers, exhausted by multiple Iraq tours and eager for change, against more conservative generals. Army and Air Force officers are also developing their own divergent explanations for Iraq. The Air Force narratives typically suggest the military should in the future avoid manpower-intensive guerrilla wars. Army officers counter that such fights are inevitable.

Unfortunately, you don't always get to choose the type of war that you fight. Part of the reason that the Army has struggled in Iraq is that their leaders decided that the lesson of Vietnam was not to get involved in wars like it again rather than learning how to fight and win a counterinsurgency struggle.

The generational divide is fueling a fight over how the Army should use the extra troops it is getting. The Army wants to build five more brigades, which consist of 5,000 to 7,000 soldiers each. But some young officers, such as Lt. Col. John Nagl, an Iraq veteran who helped write the new counterinsurgency doctrine, want more radical change. He contends the extra troops should be used to build a new, 20,000-man advisory corps focused on training foreign forces.

"The most important military component of the Long War [on terrorism] will not be the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our allies to fight with us," he wrote in an essay published by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

Although senior Army officials don't like Col. Nagl's idea, it has some support among Pentagon civilians in Defense Secretary Robert Gates's office. "A big question right now in the Pentagon is: How do you get the Army to begin this debate about itself and what it should look like after Iraq?" says Andrew Hoehn, a former Pentagon strategist and senior analyst at the Rand Corp., a government-funded think tank. Frustration among junior officers could drive bottom-up change, he says.

We've had Lt. Col Nagl come on as a guest on the Northern Alliance Radio Network a couple of times. He's one of the new generation of Army leaders who are trying to get the military to adapt to the reality of the type of war that we are currently facing in Iraq (and will likely face elsewhere in the future). The success or failure of their efforts at reforming the military from within will have a lot to say about America's prospects for success in the Long War.

Take Us Out to the Ballgame, Part I

You've seen him in the pages of some of the finest publications in the country: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the J. Peterman catalog. He also used to write for the Pioneer Press. Now he's finally made the big leagues, published right here on Fraters Libertas. Mark Yost is heading back to his ancestral homeland of Brooklyn for July 4, and on the way is hitting some big league ballparks, along with his trusty sidekick, George. And we're happy to post his exclusive reports right here. First stop, Miller Park in Milwaukee. Take it away Mark:


The National League-leading Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros, 6-3, in 11 innings at Miller Park Wednesday afternoon to complete the three-game sweep. It made for an exciting first stop for my son, George, and me as we drive from St. Paul to Brooklyn for Fourth of July. With time to spare, we decided to squeeze in some baseball along the way. The Fraters had enough extra electrons that we'll be reporting on our trip here over the next week.

Mostly, this guest blog will be a review of the ballparks, the fans, and the food. Miller Park was a good place to start because it's one of a slew of new ballparks with a nod to the architectural past; it has a winning team (for the first time in eons); and, it has pretty good food. Unfortunately, it also has baseball fans.

I'm pretty contemptuous of most baseball fans today. In general, they don't know much about the game, they're more interested in tracking down the sushi concession than keeping track of the pitch count. The only time they really get involved is when they're prompted by the Jumbotron. (Don't get me started on The Wave, Beach Balls and other unnecessary distractions.)

George and I arrived at Miller Park about 45 minutes before the 1:05 first pitch. It was easy to get into from I-94 and general parking was $8. We quickly found a guy selling Loge tickets, the second deck, for $4 off face value and made our way toward Section 209, about halfway between first base and the foul pole.

It had been raining in the morning, so the retractable roof was closed. That, combined with the 80-degree temperatures outside, made the place a real hothouse. The humidity was palpable at about 90%.

I've been here before and like Miller Park. The fans like to show up early and grill in the parking lots. Inside, the brats are good, too. I took Learned Foot's suggestion and got one with the red sauce and grilled onions. Delicious, and reasonably priced at $4. Catering to the many beer-bellied cheeseheads, Miller Park has a pretty good selection of beer, too.

On the downside, they have a coffee bar, something that has no business being in any major league park. The bottled water was outrageous at $3.50. While I inhaled my brat, George forced down the nasty Palermo's pizza. Six bucks for some gooey dough with ketchup and barely melted cheese. If my barber from New York, Tony Palermo, had been with us, he would have slapped the counterman. And the service was pretty poor. The guy who waited on us clearly hadn't mastered the cash register yet.

Once in our seats, we found ourselves literally wedged between the drunks and the retards. Behind us were two rows of developmentally challenged adults. Many just sat there, staring blankly at the field. Unfortunately, we got the seat in front of the hyperactive one. Throughout the game, he loudly yelled cheers and encouragement that had nothing to do with the action on the field. But he's obviously a regular, because he responded appropriately to all the prompts from the sound system. He also knew the lyrics to every Heavy Metal song they played (his last name must be "Nugent.")

In front of us were the aforementioned fans who were here for anything but the baseball. As best I could figure, it was the yearly outing for one of the local tire shops. They had absolutely no interest in what was happening on the field. All they cared about was the location of the beer man and taking close up photos of the thong straps of the cute 20 something in their group who was all too willing to show evermore as the game went on. When they weren't throwing things at each other -- popcorn, peanuts, Twizzlers -- they were standing up, blocking our view, loudly asking "Who wants another?"

They did take notice of the sausage mascot race at the end of the sixth inning. The Polish sausage won, although the brat holds the season-long lead, having won 28% of the races. During the 7th inning stretch, our neighbors behind us sang enthusiastically during "Take Me Out to the Ballpark." The drunks cleared their pipes for the "Beer Barrel Polka" sing-along that followed.

For those who were paying attention, it was a pretty good game, knotted up at 3. At the end of the 7th inning stretch, sweaty from just sitting there, I said to George, "Just two-and-a-half more innings. You can do that standing on your head."

He looked at me, soaked in sweat, and said, "Dad, I can't even stand on my head."

In the 8th inning, the retards got into a heated argument about the score. Most understood that it was tied up, 3-3. Our boisterous neighbor argued that the score was 7-6, which was actually the total number of hits, not runs.

"It's the second set of numbers," he yelled, loud enough for Brewers right fielder Corey Hart to hear. He did, to his credit, follow the shuffling baseball caps game on the Jumbotron and guess correctly that the ball was under cap number three.

At the end of nine innings, the only sober guy with the drunks decided to leave. He was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Star Wars Celebration IV." A half inning later most of the drunks left, too, "to be closer to the beer," giggled the girl showing off her thong straps all night. I doubt they knew it was a tie game.

In the bottom of the 10th, the retard cheered for a grand slam, even though no one was on base. Then he sang along -- a little too knowingly for my comfort -- to AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." George and I moved over a few sections closer to home plate.

To their credit, most of the Brewers fans stuck it out through the extra innings. When Damian Miller stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th with two men on base, a couple in front of us stood and started cheering. A couple of old guys behind us politely asked them to sit down. The man turned around and gestured for them to stand up and then ignored their pleas. While one of the old guys went to get an usher, Miller sent the game-winning three-run homer into the Brewers' centerfield bullpen. A fitting end to our Miller Park experience.

I don't want you to leave this extensive first post thinking Miller Park is a horrible place to see a game. Quite the contrary. It has good sight lines, good food, and, for the most part, good atmosphere. Furthermore, this is not meant to be a rant against Brewers fans (Learned Foot). I'm sure they're no less boorish than the fans we'll find on the rest of our trip. Sad, but true.

Fans aside, I'd rate Miller Park an 8.

George and I will have an off day from baseball on Thursday. We're going to the Great America amusement park just across the Illinois border. But we'll be back at it Friday night, in Detroit for Tigers-Twins.

UPDATE: Learned Foot responds.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bigger Than City Pages Right Wing Blog of the Year

Now THIS is an honor. I didn't even know the Pope read blogs. I owe it all to clean living.

Minnesota Incumbents Exposed

The US House of Representatives approved a salary increase for themselves yesterday, a healthy $4,400 per person. This raises their salary to an appalling 170K per year . Not bad for a group of people getting a 24% job approval rating from their alleged bosses. Stink at your job, make huge dough, and get regular raises. Good work if you can get it. Which is probably why it's so difficult to get any of these people to ever leave Washington and return to living the life of an ordinary citizen. In the real world, the compensation to performance ratio isn't nearly as good.

It is interesting to note this was a reasonably bi-partisan vote. 64% of voting Democrats supported it, as well as 50% of voting Republicans. Although the GOP is slightly less culpable, neither party can legitimately claim their hands are clean on this one.

Minnesota's gang of eight representatives show a similar tendency of bi-partisan support for giving themselves a raise. 60% of our Democrats and 33% of our Republicans jumped on the automatic cost of living increase expressway. Individually, there were some surprises.

Voting hell yes, I'm here to bleed taxpayers for every nickel I can get:
John Kline (R)
Betty McCollum (D)
James Oberstar (D)
Collin Peterson (D)

Voting, no, we're not worthy:
Michele Bachmann (R)
Keith Ellison (D)
Jim Ramstad (R)
Tim Walz (D)

It's too bad Kline went wobbly on this one. A united front for fiscal accountability among our GOP contingent might have been a powerful symbol come election time. As for the DFL'ers, I would have guessed they'd all be up for a little more government cheese, at any time. That two of them rejected it seems like a sell out of their principles.

There is another variable at work that appears to be more powerful than party affiliation in predicting willingness to give yourself a raise. The same list, presented with the number of terms they have served in Congress.

Voting hell yes, I'm here to bleed taxpayers for every nickel I can get:
John Klein (R) - 3rd term
Betty McCollum (D) - 4th term
James Oberstar (D) - 17th term
Collin Peterson (D) - 9th term

Voting, no, we're not worthy:
Michele Bachmann (R) 1st term
Keith Ellison (D) - 1st term
Jim Ramstad (R) - 9th term
Tim Walz (D) - 1st term

Only the Rammer throws a hammer into this perfect correlation of incumbency and the mindset that at 165K, you're underpaid. But, as our Congressmen would I'm sure agree, that's close enough for government work.

I'm willing to accept this as another piece of powerful evidence in favor of term limits. How many of these people would have voted for the increase if they knew they'd never personally benefit from it? And with the further knowledge that they'd be back home in their districts scratching out an existence, having to pay more for some other, less qualified stooge to do the job? Under these conditions, I predict a vote somewhere in the range of 0 yea to 435 nay.

Solution, all Congressmen are limited to a maximum of ONE term.

If they must have multiple terms, no Congressman can ever personally benefit from a salary increase passed while they are in office. That is, your pay is FROZEN at the amount you received in your first year. For 34 year incumbent Jim Oberstar, I think that was about $2,587. Any chance he's still be doing his "public service" for us at that rate of pay? Highly unlikely. But if he was, at least we'd be paying him about what he was worth.

Speaking Out & Removing All Doubt

Overheard at a local coffee shop at lunch today:

"Michael Moore says we should have the government run health care just like they do the police instead of having these insurance companies making profits on it. You wouldn't want to call a private police department would you?"

Lessons Learned

The people who are now pointing at Norm Coleman and screaming "Hypocrite!" because he used to smoke weed in college and now opposes the legalization of marijuana are the same idiots who ask how they can tell their children not to do drugs when they inhaled in their own days of misspent youth. Apparently concepts such as learning the hard way, older and wiser, and maturity escape them.

Most of us did things during our days as teenagers and young adults that we now regard as reckless, unfulfilling, and yes downright stupid. Why? Because we were immature, inexperienced, and thought we knew a lot more than it turned out we really did.

There's no shame in admitting that and no hypocrisy in telling your children not to make the same mistakes that you did. In fact, not passing on the lessons that you've learned or standing by and refusing to steer your children away from the pitfalls that you know all too well because of some misguided notion about integrity is a disservice bordering on negligence. Isn't it the wish of every parent that your children have a better life?

No Place To Swim

On Tuesday, Instapundit (and a variety of other sites) linked to a great post by David Kilcullen on how to understand the current operations in Iraq at Small Wars Journal:

On June 15th we kicked off a major series of division-sized operations in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces. As General Odierno said, we have finished the build-up phase and are now beginning the actual "surge of operations". I have often said that we need to give this time. That is still true. But this is the end of the beginning: we are now starting to put things onto a viable long-term footing.

These operations are qualitatively different from what we have done before. Our concept is to knock over several insurgent safe havens simultaneously, in order to prevent terrorists relocating their infrastructure from one to another, and to create an operational synergy between what we're doing in Baghdad and what's happening outside. Unlike on previous occasions, we don't plan to leave these areas once they're secured. These ops will run over months, and the key activity is to stand up viable local security forces in partnership with Iraqi Army and Police, as well as political and economic programs, to permanently secure them. The really decisive activity will be police work, registration of the population and counterintelligence in these areas, to comb out the insurgent sleeper cells and political cells that have "gone quiet" as we moved in, but which will try to survive through the op and emerge later. This will take operational patience, and it will be intelligence-led, and Iraqi government-led. It will probably not make the news (the really important stuff rarely does) but it will be the truly decisive action.

Not that you would learn any of this if your primary resource for information from Iraq is the mainstream media. Most of the reports that I've read, seen, or heard about recent operations concentrate on "rising US casualities" or write off the efforts as futile because those wily Al Qaeda chaps have "slipped away once again." Kilcullen provides a much needed corrective:

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain--as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa'ida, Shi'a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that "80% of AQ leadership have fled" don't overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Almost sounds like classic counterinsurgency, don't it?

Is there a strategic risk involved in this series of operations? Absolutely. Nothing in war is risk-free. We have chosen to accept and manage this risk, primarily because a low-risk option simply will not get us the operational effects that the strategic situation demands. We have to play the hand we have been dealt as intelligently as possible, so we're doing what has to be done. It still might not work, but "it is what it is" at this point.

So much for theory. The practice, as always, has been mixed. Personally, I think we are doing reasonably well and casualties have been lower so far than I feared. Every single loss is a tragedy. But so far, thank God, the loss rate has not been too terrible: casualties are up in absolute terms, but down as a proportion of troops deployed (in the fourth quarter of 2006 we had about 100,000 troops in country and casualties averaged 90 deaths a month; now we have almost 160,000 troops in country but deaths are under 120 per month, much less than a proportionate increase, which would have been around 150 a month). And last year we patrolled rarely, mainly in vehicles, and got hit almost every time we went out. Now we patrol all the time, on foot, by day and night with Iraqi units normally present as partners, and the chances of getting hit are much lower on each patrol. We are finally coming out of the "defensive crouch" with which we used to approach the environment, and it is starting to pay off.

It will be a long, hard summer, with much pain and loss to come, and things could still go either way. But the population-centric approach is the beginning of a process that aims to put the overall campaign onto a sustainable long-term footing. The politics of the matter then can be decisive, provided the Iraqis use the time we have bought for them to reach the essential accommodation. The Embassy and MNF-I continue to work on these issues at the highest levels but fundamentally, this is something that only Iraqis can resolve: our role is to provide an environment in which it becomes possible

This last point is a rebuke to the critics who harp "A military solution isn't possible." Of course, there isn't a purely military solution for Iraq. Military leaders, from General Petraeus on down, have acknowldged this over and over. But any potential political solution must have a military component--namely security--to have any chance at all.

Real Diversity

In a piece on whether journalists should make political contributions, the Strib's Neil Justin sounds a common-sense call for greater diversity in the newsroom:

But instead of curtailing journalists' freedoms, we'd be better off increasing diversity in the newsroom. That means encouraging more young conservatives to join the profession, to be active members in the newsroom, to have their voices heard when important decisions are made. If as many journalists attended an antiabortion rally as an abortion-rights one, it'd be harder to accuse the media of bias.

Bingo. Instead of trying pretend that journalists aren't partisan, why not work toward correcting the roughly 9 to 1 imbalance that currently exists in the media?

On the subject of the pretense of objectivity, Justin includes this knee-slapper from straight-down-the-middle Don Shelby:

"Under no circumstances is it ever right for a journalist to make a contribution to any politician, ever. As soon as you do, you have taken a side and you begin pulling for that person. You're going to try to do whatever for your party to win. For the longest time, I argued that we shouldn't vote, but I changed my mind in recent years after getting mad at the fact that not enough people were voting."

Obeying Your Inner Dandy

Flipping around the crable channels last night I came upon Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey prattling on about whatever. I say whatever because I was momentarily stupified by his outrageous rug!

Check this thing out:

Are there ANY politicans with the stones to run for office a fresco?

Labels: Insecure Baby Boomers who refuse to grow up


What IS IT with out neighbors to the East? Here's another Congressman from WI with an equally bad piece, Dr. Steve Kagen:

Gentlemen, I implore you. Men go bald. It's part of the deal. Accept it and get on with your life of trying to force other people to do stuff.
My first order of business as a Congressman would be banning toops and plugs in my district.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

More From Catholic Matters by Neuhaus:

Early on, Benedict took up the theme of evangelization in a way reminiscent of John Paul's statement in Redemptoris Missio (The Mission of the Redeemer) that the Church imposes nothing, she only proposes.

There are those, Benedict observed, who say non-Christians should be "left in peace" out of respect for their own "authentic" beliefs, whatever they may be. "But how can this be the case," asked Benedict "If the true authenticity of every person is found in communion with Christ and not without him? Isn't it our duty to offer them this essential reality?"

As Joseph Ratzinger did in his many writings, so Benedict has emphatically underscored in the unbreakable connection between freedom and truth. The truth of Christ does not restrict, never mind abolish freedom, it is the foundation of freedom.

He said "If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us?" He then answered "No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great...Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation."

Labels: Truth, freedom--some of that stuff

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nobody Here But Us Progressive Non-Partisans

I see Minnesota is soon to be graced with the intellectual byproducts of a new think tank, Minnesota 2020. It's run by by one of the most liberal politicians in the state, former DFL State Congressman Matt Enteza. But fear not, fellow citizens, when they start advocating for higher taxes and more regulation, politics will have nothing to do with it.

From their mission statement:

Minnesota 2020 is a progressive, non-partisan think tank. We are focused on what really matters for the future of our state. We are tired of a state that focuses on divisive side issues while our schools, healthcare, transportation, and economic development suffer.

This is the equivalent of Fred Smoot renting a party boat on Lake Minnetonka and assuring us it will be a non-hooker affair.

It remains to be seen whether or not the media outlets in this town will start finding ways to work Minnesota 2020's findings and talking points into their non-partisan news accounts. But MN2020 certainly has their foot in the door already. I see one of their "Fellows" is Conrad deFiebre, a member of the brotherhood, a Star tribune reporter/editor for 30+ years. Yes, believe it or not, a Star Tribune political reporter leaves his job and steps right into a position with the former DFL House majority leader. How does that happen?

Here's one possibility. From the Fraters Libertas archives, check out this post for an example of deFiebre's prior experience at keeping partisanship out of a reporting of the facts. Now that's the perfect candidate for a job working for Matt Entenza at a non-partisan think tank.

Afflicting the Factual

On Sunday, Syl Jones was afforded his normal position on the prime real estate of the Star Tribune editorial page, this time to address the implications of the Duke non-rape case.

The pre-eminent information resource on this case, KC Johnson at Durham in Wonderland, took notice. As usual, when Syl's opinions meet with the facts, something has to give. Conclusion:

And even if Nifong, Jones concludes:

"deserves to be punished, he was right about one thing: Something did happen at that frat boy party at Duke University ... Too bad Nifong didn't do his job and home in on exactly what that something was."
Too bad Jones didn't do the job of an op-ed columnist and explain precisely what the "something" that happened was.

It's also too bad a blogger in North Carolina is forced to do the job Star Tribune editors refuse to.

More freelance editing here, from a Duke student.

Nice Leagues Finish Last

King heps me to The Sports Guy on the NHL draft:

4:22: Here's a cool wrinkle for the first round: Before every pick, each GM walks up to the stage flanked by four cronies, then stands in front of the podium and announces his pick. Imagine if the NBA did this and we could see the likes of Elgin Baylor and Kevin McHale announcing their own picks? Can we make this happen?

Anyway, Chicago GM Dale Tallon is "proud" to introduce tiny Patrick Kane as his No. 1 pick. This kid looks like an altar boy. I'm not kidding -- he actually looks like an altar boy. I hope his tremendous upside potential involves puberty. More importantly, what the hell happened to the NHL? As if things weren't already bad enough, the league's No. 1 overall pick is an undersized American who looks like the third singer in a boy band? Can we start sending them FEMA money or something?

It's just too bad that the best the NHL could come up with is a clean-cut youngster as their number one pick. I'm sure Simmons would have been much happier if a multi-tatted bad boy sporting shades, bling, and 'tude had strode up on the stage. Maybe we'll get lucky and learn that Kane has failed the league's drug tests or been arrested for beating up a stripper.

In a time where the sports pages are filled with news of drug-enhanced home run kings, the latest perp walk of the NFL's Most Wanted, and 'roided up wrestlers committing triple murder/suicides, the NHL's #1 draft choice looking like an altar boy seems to present the league with an opportunity to differentiate itself rather than a cause for concern.

At least Simmons recognizes a sweet sweater when he sees one:

5:57: Minnesota takes centre Colton Gillies at No. 16. I'm digging some of these names. Colton Gillies. Keaton Ellerby. Logan Couture. I swear, Steven Seagal played a character with one of those names.

(Wait, that's a sweet Minnesota Wild jersey Colton's putting on! What a beauty! It's a blood-red sweater with green patches on the arms, a green bottom and a circular green and white logo in the middle. Very handsome. Have you seen those? That's the first NHL jersey I've liked since the Original Six.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Best Things in Life Were Free

Interesting video links copped from Bill Simmons' highly entertaining online chat this afternoon at ESPN.

Ulf Samuelsson knocks out Wayne Gretzky's wife, with Swedish narration.

Wendel Clark knocks out half the NHL, set to the music of Metallica. The savage beating of an old North Star at about 3:10 is particularly noteworthy.

Howard Cosell calling an obstacle course race on Battle of the Network Stars, a competition sadly marred by a Cathy Lee Crosby groin injury.

As I sit here flipping between MASH reruns and the BET '07 awards, I painfully remember all of that stuff was on the tube before the advent of triple digit cable bills.

Thanks for the Amnesty

According to reports, Norm Coleman was among the Senate Republicans voting to allow the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform to continue to an almost certain passage.

National Review had earlier identified Coleman as one of the key players who could have stopped this bill before its future fell under the control of a simple majority vote, in a body controlled by Democrats, 51 - 49.

They are Sens. Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Richard Burr, Thad Cochran, Norm Coleman, John Ensign, and Jim Webb. If any of these senators votes to revive the bill, his professions of opposition to amnesty should no longer be taken seriously. He will have done his crucial bit, when the amnesty bill was most vulnerable, to help shepherd it to passage.

The vote just occurred and Coleman hasn't been asked to comment yet. Let's just see how much his explanation for this vote matches the NR prediction:

We know how senators who claim to oppose amnesty will try to explain away a vote to revive the bill. They will rely on procedural obfuscation: They didn't want to obstruct the process, they wanted to get a vote on an amendment, etc. But amnesty is staying in the bill -- no amendment to strike the bill's central features has any chance of passage -- and it deserves to be obstructed.

Knowing Coleman's history of getting on both sides of an issue, a vote allowing the bill to progress, then voting against the specific bill's passage would be in character. Come election season next year, depending on his audience, he can then point to his various votes to prove he's on your side. But ultimately, today's vote was the big one and he's acted contrary to the preferences of most conservatives.

This vote is going to be a bitter pill to swallow for many who fought so hard for the man in 2002. He's turning out to be no Rod Grams or Mark Kennedy, something most already knew. But he's also no Walter Mondale or Al Franken. Elections are choices not referenda.

It should be noted that Coleman will have to face an election before a Democrat can officially challenge him in 2008. And there is a potential candidate out there who seems a little more reliable than Norm. Whether Joe Repya can capitalize on this issue will be an indicator of how much Minnesota Republicans really care about illegal immigration. I think Coleman is banking that the answer is 'not that much'.

It's also interesting to note the timing of the Minnesota GOP releasing one of its SCREAM email press releases today, entitled:

Why I Oppose Misleadingly Named 'Employee Free Choice Act'

Hard for Republicans to argue with Norm about that. Now ignore that undocumented worker in the corner.

UPDATE: According to sources, today's "cloture" vote was only a preliminary one. The final "cloture" vote is on Thursday. (Maybe by this time, they'll figure out they're spelling "closure" incorrectly.) This measure also needs 60 votes to pass, so the tyranny of the bare majority still has one more impediment in its way. A chance for Coleman to redeem himself? Or maybe a chance for him to stake out a third position on the issue. An abstention, a vote of "present," a cry of "yea, but," it will be interesting to watch.

UPDATE: Press release from Norm Coleman's office, 'splaining his actions. According to this, he wants to give the bill one last chance to "significantly improve" before voting against it.

Senator Coleman intends to vote for cloture in order to allow one last effort to significantly improve the enforcement measures in the immigration reform bill. He fully believes that the current immigration system in this country is totally broken. It remains to be seen whether this bill will be the answer to this serious problem, which is why he is reserving judgment on how he will vote on final passage.

Hoping people like John McCain, Ted Kennedy, and Harry Reid are going to get it right with one more chance to fiddle with it. Now that's faith based politics, bordering on fanaticism.

You're Scheming On A Thing - That's Sabotage

Web chatter vows GOP convention protests:

Anarchists and antiwar organizations preparing for the Republican National Convention are planning dozens of traffic blockades, are targeting perceived vulnerable spots in the Twin Cities metro area and are readying to spring from Internet promises to real-world action.

An online posting by a group called Unconventional Action notes "the narrow on and off ramps" of Interstate Hwy. 94 and that Minneapolis and St. Paul are "12 miles apart, separated by a wide river spanned by 5 bridges and connected primarily" by I-94.

"For these and other reasons, many believe that the RNC presents strategic vulnerabilities unique to any trade summit or party convention of recent years," the posting said.

It also urges anarchists from across the country to gather in Minneapolis over Labor Day weekend this year to learn about the Twin Cities and prepare for protests at the 2008 convention.

When you start planning to cripple the transportation infrastructure of a major metropolitan area you've moved from speech to sedition and I hope the organizers behind this effort are treated accordingly.

Horse A Piece? Here Comes Everybody?

Richard Jon Neuhaus writing in the book Catholic Matters:

There is much in what is called the religious culture of America that runs counter to the Catholic way of being Christian. America continues to be in important ways a very Protestant society. American Individualism, which is no doubt a source of economic and other strengths, turns religion, too, into a matter of consumer choice and spiritual marketing.

As a result, the church (lower case) is understood in terms that are organizational rather than organic. One's church is an association of the like-minded rather than the Mystical Body of Christ gathered in wondrously catholic diversity by the Real Presence.

For the Catholic, the "pilgrim Church on earth" is a distinct society of primary allegiance. For the Protestant, one's church is an associational choice based on preferences in morality, teaching, leadership style, or aesthetic taste.

For the Protestant, one's church is chosen; the Catholic belongs to the Church because he is among the chosen.

Some People Just Need Killin' (Twice)

From the book "Murder in Minnesota" by Walter N. Trenerry:

In 1891, after being convicted of killing his neighbor Moses Lufkin, Redwood Falls, MN resident William Rose ate a hearty breakfast of eggs and oysters, mounted the scaffold imperturbably, said "Goodbye all," and hurtled through the drop.

To the scandal of Minnesota, the rope broke.

But Rose was hanged on the double gallows which served the Barrett brothers in 1889 and another noose dangled at the ready.

Rose, unconscious, was rapidly resuspended by the other rope, which did the job.

Labels: Killin', 19th century executions, oysters

People Judge You By The Words You Use

Yesterday, I heard a NPR news announcer somberly intone on the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform laws in these terms (roughly):

"The decision marked a change in direction for the court from support for campaign finance reform to deregulation."

Deregulation? I suppose you could call it that, but we're not talking about airlines or telecommunications here. We're talking about a little something called the First Amendment and the rather well-regarded principle of "freedom of speech."

Cause, Effect And All That

The headline for an article in today's Wall Street Journal reads Climate Changes Are Making Poison Ivy More Potent (sub req).

But when you actually read the story you learn:

New research shows the rash-inducing plant appears to be growing faster and producing more potent oil compared with earlier decades. The reason? Rising ambient carbon-dioxide levels create ideal conditions for the plant, producing bigger leaves, faster growth, hardier plants and oil that's even more irritating.

Although the data on poison ivy come from controlled studies, they suggest the vexing plant is more ubiquitous than ever. And the more-potent oil produced by the plants may result in itchier rashes. "If it's producing a more virulent form of the oil, then even a small or more casual contact will result in a rash," says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md.

The latest research, led by Dr. Ziska, studied poison ivy plants in Maryland under different levels of carbon-dioxide exposure. One group of plants was exposed to about 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide -- about the same level found in the atmosphere in the 1950s. Another group was exposed to 400 parts per million of CO2 -- about the same level in the atmosphere today.

The commonly accepted climate change narrative is that increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere--primarily created by human activity--have caused global temperatures to rise. There is some historical evidence that raises questions about whether higher C02 levels result in higher temperatures or whether higher temps lead to increased C02 (the data suggests that rising CO2 levels lag rising temps).

But in this case, I'm sure the headline writer was operating under the conventional wisdom of the day. Which means the headline was at best misleading, at worst grossly inaccurate.

The increased prevalence and potency of poison ivy appears to be the result of higher C02 levels. However, it likely has nothing to do with climate change per se. Higher C02 level could very well be impacting both poison ivy and the climate. But there are not dependencies between the two effects.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Be the Change

Today's Supreme Court decision curtailing the ability of the Federal government to abridge the freedom of speech is a welcome development. According to the legal eagles at Power Line, it is a narrow holding which does not entirely blow up the provision that bars non-profits from naming a candidate in a broadcast ad within 60 days of an election. But hopefully the fuse has been lit for future challenges. Until then, organized groups of citizens will have to continue to watch what they say very closely, lest the politicians and bureaucrats disapprove of how they are interfering with the government's elections and drop the hammer.

The namesakes of this campaign finance legislation, McCain and Feingold, rightly get most of the discredit for imposing these laws on us. But we should note the lost Minnesota history behind this particular feature of McCain-Feingold now under scrutiny. Yes, it was sponsored by one of us. Hint, this person was short, angry, rode in a green bus, and is considered a minor prophet in certain sections of Kenwood and Mac-Grove. No, not Kathleen Soliah. It's Paul Wellstone. The facts, from March 27, 2001:

By a 51-46 vote, the Senate approved Monday an amendment offered by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, to expand McCain-Feingold's restrictions on union and corporate advertising to also include non-profit groups like the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association -- groups with "501c4" status.

Supporters of campaign finance reform say the amendment is unconstitutional and fear the amendment could result in President Bush vetoing the legislation.
(Ed note - ha!)

But Wellstone said the amendment was needed to prevent a proliferation of non-profit organizations from "carpet-bomb(ing) our states with all of these sham issue ads."

"This is a loophole that must be plugged," said Wellstone.

Senator Wellstone referring to the First Amendment as a loophole. I guess when the only tool you have is a suffocating straight-jacket, every problem looks like a loophole.

BTW, I see on sale now at Wellstone Action, a new book:

Politics the Wellstone Way offers a comprehensive set of strategies to help progressives channel that energy into winning issue-based and electoral campaigns.

Chapter One: Making your opponents' criticism of you illegal.

Flaunt The Fruits of Noble Birth

The next official gathering of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers is scheduled for Saturday July 14th--Bastille Day--at Keegan's Irish Pub in Minneapolis. The fun starts at 6pm and ends when Mitch Berg and David Strom start a barroom brawl over who really is Minnesota's biggest feminist.

By the way, if you want to track all the action in the local 'sphere, now has a Minnesota page with recent posts from various Minnesota blogs. They also have a special section for MOB blogs, although it doesn't seem to be as updated as the main Minnesota page.

Peace Out

Richard John Neuhaus in the June/July edition of FIRST THINGS:

Vatican Council II called for the "full, active, and fruitful" participation of the laity, and Benedict emphasizes, as he has before, that this does not mean all busyness all the time. One is fully, actively, and fruitfully participating also when engaged in silent contemplation. The sharing of the Sign of Peace is often a time of distracting busyness, and Benedict urges that it be done solemnly, as a liturgical act, with one or two people close at hand, rather than as a boisterous greeting of one and all as though the Eucharist is old home week. Moreover, he says in a footnote that he has authorized a study of moving the Sign of Peace to the point in the liturgy before the presentation of gifts, "taking into account ancient and venerable customs and the wishes expressed by the synod fathers." That would, I believe, be a distinct improvement. Among its benefits is that it would, as he writes, "serve as a significant reminder of the Lord's insistence that we be reconciled with others before offering our gifts to God."

Amen. I've noticed how distracting the Sign of Peace can be as well. You finish the solemn "Our Father" and are preparing to receive the most holy body and blood of Christ when suddenly people start glad-handing, back-slapping, and carrying on as if we're no longer celebrating Mass but gathered around the water cooler at work. "Hey Bob, good to see you again. How about them Twins?"

At times, you get the impression that the Priest would like nothing more than to clear his throat and ask, "Ahem, ahem. Are we through with the small talk yet? We'd like to move to that whole transubstantiation thing if you don't mind."

There is no doubt that the Sign of Peace has a place at Mass. That place however could be at a much more appropriate place in the liturgy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

To The Eldest Go The Spoils

Are senior siblings smarter? Study says so:

The oldest children in families tend to develop higher IQs than their younger siblings, researchers report in a large study that could settle more than 50 years of scientific debate about the relationship between IQ and birth order.

Was there really ever any doubt? You could also add better looking and more athletic.

[Via The KAR]

The Odyssey

'Simpsons' fans steal Homer:

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - Two college students believed to be over-exuberant fans of "The Simpsons" stole a life-sized figurine of Homer Simpson from a cinema, but police tracked them down and forced them to return it Thursday.

The fiberglass replica of Homer holding a TV remote control was part of a promotional display for the upcoming big-screen version of the U.S. TV cartoon series. The exhibit also had the rest of the Simpson family -- Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

What's with these crazy college kids today? Why in my day, we'd never even consider stealing a life-sized fiberglass Homer Simpson. A Ronald McDonald perhaps...


Yesterday, I received an e-mail promoting the release of a new book (and trying to score an interview request for the NARN) that purports to "expose one of the best-kept secrets in political history." Daniel Estulin's The True Story of the Bilderberg Group is also described as:

This explosive publication offers readers an unblinking investigation into an elitist conclave once shrouded in total mystery and impenetrable security. Expect a fascinating account of the annual meetings of the world's most powerful people--the Bilderberg Group.

Not being much of a conspiracy guy (unless you count the far-ranging plot to keep the Vikings from winning the Super Bowl), I haven't taken much of an interest in the Bilderberg Group in the past. I had heard the name bandied about and knew that it was alleged to be some sort of supra-national organization that was really running the world. The name itself probably contributed to my disinterest. It's hard to get riled about something as innocuous as the Bilderberg Group when you've got the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Free Masons, and Skull and Bones plotting to fluoridate your drinking water.

In fact, I wasn't even aware of where the name came from:

Since its inception in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in the small Dutch town of Oosterbeek, the Bilderberg Group has been comprised of European prime ministers, American presidents, and the wealthiest CEOs of the world, coming together to discuss the economic and political future of humanity, far beyond the range of democratic expectations.

Oosterbeek? I was in Oosterbeek a few years ago. Had I known that the Bilderberg Hotel was there, I would have made an effort to find it to see if I could spot any puppet masters lurking about. As it was, I had a different hotel as my destination.

The Hartenstein Hotel, now home to the Airborne Museum, which honors the British, American, and Polish paratroopers who fought in the region during WWII as part of Operation Market Garden. Not as secretive as the Bilderberg Group, but much more interesting to one concerned more with history than conspiracy.

In case you were curious, we will not be having Daniel Estulin on our Northern Alliance Radio Network show. Brian and I were all for it, but for some reason Mr. Hinderaker was adamant that he not be allowed on the air. It was all very unusual.

You don't suppose that John is...nah.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Paint It, Black

After being employed for over 30 years by the Star Tribune, reporter Eric Black recently accepted a buyout to finally leave. He's taken a job with a liberal advocacy web site called the Minnesota Monitor and has been acclaimed for bringing some journalistic integrity and credibility to the blogosphere. In his own words:

My quest for the next period of my writing life is to seek the sweet spot between traditional journalism and blogging that gets the best combination of the reporting and verification discipline of the old with the energy, immediacy, honesty and candor of the new.

And how does he kick off his "quest" for the sweet spot of journalism? With a hard-hitting report, based on anonymous sources, that US Attorney for Minnesota Rachel Paulose was treated rudely at an office retirement party:

When it was his turn to address the group, Sekus deflected the compliments that had been sent his way and said that those who deserved the praise were the former supervisors who had resigned their posts, because their actions had required courage.

At that, the room erupted with loud, sustained applause that could not be taken as anything other than solidarity with Paulose's internal critics and appreciation for the sacrifice they had made to protest against her -- clearly a spontaneous release of the tensions within the office. According to a witness, the ovation was so loud that it had to represent the applause of 90 percent or more of those in the room.

The awkwardness was further intensified by the presence of at least five federal judges, since those judges preside over the trials handled by the U.S. attorney's office.

Paulose was present throughout and could not have left without calling attention to herself. One of the eyewitnesses said she had a glazed look during the ovation.

Ohhh snap! Or, in the style guidelines of the Minnesota Monitor, she's been p3wnd!

Breathless accounts of anonymous sources rumor mongering in order to tarnish the reputation of someone they have a personal grudge against? That's Eric Black's quest? No wonder the Star Tribune let him go, they already have that sweet spot covered.

UPDATE: Mitch Berg has more:

I have an anonymous witness that says that Black's anonymous witness had a glazed look on her face.

Down Home Chrome

Did anyone else notice Burt Blyleven's plugs when Santana shaved his head?

My finely-tuned FBM (Funny Business Meter) in regards to hair tells me that both Blyleven AND Dick Bremer are sporting Chuck Schumerian plugs.

You could see them on Blyleven because he is bald behind the planted rows of hair on the front of his scalp. This is very unusual unless there is Funny Business afoot. In most cases, the hairline recedes--starting at the front of the scalp and working backwards.

But Burt has hair, then no hair, then hair again. The last hair is what's left of his original mane, the first part is the surgically-enhanced pluggos and the middle is where the surgery stopped and shows his true baldness.

We normally wouldn't see that middle area of no-man's land because the plugs and the existing hair work in concert to cover that small area. But after being shaved bald you could clearly see what was up.

Separated At Birth?

The Nihilist In Golf Pants as a yoot (above)....


...Howdy Doody?

The Vietnamization Of Iraq

One thing that most reasonable folk can agree on when it comes to Iraq is that it would be desirable to reduce the number of US troops in Iraq, but such a reduction could very well lead to a power vacuum which could plunge the entire region into a much wider conflict. In order to avoid such a prospect a number of alternatives have been proposed from sending UN troops (heh, heh--why not ask the Pope for a couple of divisions while you're at it?) to having local Arab countries provide a security force.

Thomas P.M. Barnett has previously suggested that China and India should both pony up troops to help secure Iraq since both countries have a vested interest in stability in the region (read: keeping the oil flowing). However, the idea of opening the door for the Chicoms to come marching in is a an unsettling one and India has its own Muslim issues to deal with. India is also a democracy, which makes sending and keeping troops in Iraq for any length of time extremely complicated and unlikely.

So where to turn? How about a country with the 10th largest active military (2nd largest if you include reserves and paramilitary), a desire to be more accepted into the world community, and none of that pesky democracy nonsense to deal with? Throw in that fact that they understand the concept of the long war, know what an insurgency is all about, and have a history that proves their resiliency in military affairs and the answer is obvious: Vietnam.

I hatched this wild-arsed notion last night while reading an excellent book on the air war over Vietnam:

It's a loaner from JB and is a small step forward in reducing his book trade deficit with me.

Some of the stories of what the Vietnamese were willing and able to do to keep the Ho Chi Minh Trail open despite a concentrated American effort to shut it down (at least from the air) made me realize that if they had the ingenuity, guts, and willpower to outlast the United States, then dealing with the insurgency in Iraq should be child's play. And no worries about the domestic front in Hanoi either. Consider it the next frontier in outsourcing.

They provide 100,000 troops or so. We take care of any supply, equipment, or transportation issues they may have. And foot the bill. We also sign a far-reaching free preferred nation trade agreement with Vietnam (much better than any we have now), give American companies tax breaks to invest there (better Vietnam than China), dramatically increase our aid efforts, work out energy agreements, provide them security guarantees, and do whatever else the Vietnamese feel they need to be warmly welcomed and better integrated into the international economic community. They essentially become one of our key allies in the world.

Some may balk because the Vietnamese government is still a Communist run tyranny. But we're talking big-picture, geo-strategic realpolitik here. If getting us out of Iraq without plunging the Mideast into complete chaos means playing a little footsie with the Politburo in Hanoi, I think most Americans would say lets start the flirting.

Of course it's a crazy and completely unrealistic proposition. But you gotta admit its got a certain wacky logic and appeal.

SP ADDS: This is the best idea I've heard since Vox Day suggested solving our country's two biggest problems by colonizing Iraq with 12 million illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Separated At Birth?

Aborter, Marxist and general human goof Dorothy Day...

...and ape goof Cornelius?

Christmas In June

I'm not much of a Mitt Romney guy, but I appreciate the insight in this entry in The Encyclopedia Mittanica.

UPDATE-- JB calls for attribution:

I was the first one to compare Hugh to Ralphie was I not?

Now people are doing it willy-nilly and pell-mell with nary a word of recognition.

At least he's not calling for retribution as is his wont.

Acting On The Basis Of Actual Evidence

Dan Akman chats with baseball stats legend (and former NARN guest) Bill James at OpinionJournal (free for all!):

Now age 57, Mr. James says he does better working in an organization than he suspected. Still, even after moving to Boston two years ago, he spends a lot of time alone. "A lot of my friends think that I don't like people. The reality is I do like people--I just need time to myself to work. So I tend to turn off my cellphone," he says.

With the success of the Athletics and of "Moneyball," baseball analysts like Mr. James were given more credit for helping teams draft and trade players more intelligently. In 2006, Time magazine named Mr. James one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Inexplicably, Time dropped him from this year's list even as the Red Sox moved from third place to first. Go figure.

Mr. James is known for claiming that some statistics (such as runs batted in) are less important than was commonly believed, while others (like on-base percentage) are more important. Both are now conventional wisdom. Is there some wrongheadedness still in vogue? "I do have an answer, but I can't tell you what it is...I do think we know at least some small things that not everybody in the world knows."

Even if the analytical tools he helped create are now widely employed, Mr. James says that just as some teams stay richer, others can stay smarter. "In reality, knowledge is a very dynamic universe--and what is most valuable is not the body of knowledge, but the leading edge of it."

UPDATE-- King on how Bill James made him a stat geek:

I went back to Claremont a couple of days later. I found a copy of the Abstract, and bought it that year and every year thereafter. I still have nearly all of them (a second set, as my first set was water-damaged in storage years ago. I'm still missing a couple of issues.)

At that moment, my understanding of baseball changed. A shift in how one looked at the world of baseball. And in passing, a realization that the statistics we focus on sometimes in other areas, like economics, do not say what we think they say. It's motivated much of my work, including some writing I'm doing this summer. (As they say, watch this space.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Instead of salmon, he went with bass!

Am I the only one in the world who didn't know that Sir Salman Rushdie was married to the hostess from Bravo's Top Chef? Not bad for a guy with a fatwa on his head. Guess she digs the bad boy.

Oh, and that scar on her right arm? Apparently it's from a childhood car accident. She regards it as a good luck charm and when you're married to Sir Salman, you can never have enough luck.

Layman's Terms

I have mentioned many times how much I enjoy reading First Things. It's an incomparable journal of religion, culture, and politics and its contributors include many of the best and brightest thinkers from those realms. However, every once in a while the magazine has a way of losing you in the deep theological weeds. Here's an example from the May 2007 issue (sub req):

Whether or not they are interested in Karl Barth, students of Catholic theology should read "The Theology of Karl Barth" to gain a more complete understanding of the relentlessly soteriological structure and latent Christocentrism of the post-Reformation Catholic tradition that we ignore today.

It's funny because just the other day JB was recommending almost exactly the same thing.

Homeward Bound

State expects Guard homecoming soon:

The first wave of Minnesota National Guard members whose tour of duty in Iraq was extended by several months is expected to return home within the next several weeks.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, Minnesota's adjutant general, are expected to announce details of the return at a briefing at 3:45 p.m. today at the State Capitol.

The 2,600 Minnesota Guard members, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division, were mobilized for training in October 2005 and left for Iraq in March 2006. They were scheduled to return home beginning this spring.

And even though she's recently had a sad event to deal with, Liz is ready to celebrate.

UPDATE: Rumor has it that the homecoming will begin Saturday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Into The Heart Of A Child

Sally Thomas looks at whether Christians really have an obligation to send their kids to public school in a piece at FIRST THINGS:

The idea of sending a child daily into a hostile environment--if not actively hostile, as in bullying, then certainly philosophically hostile--expecting him not only to withstand assaults on everything his parents have told him is true but also to transform the entire system by his presence, seems sadly misguided to me. There may be many valid arguments for sending a child to school, but that one doesn't wash.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in addition to the salt-and-light business, Jesus also tells the multitude, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." A child's greatest treasure, to my mind, is his childhood itself. He has only one, and it's over quickly enough. If we as parents invest that treasure in sex education that makes us cringe, history we know to be a lie, and busy work we recognize as meaningless, we should perhaps not be too surprised if at the end of the day these things, and not the things which are above, have claimed our children's hearts.

She goes on goes to point out how children can be just as much "in the world" at home as they supposedly are at school.

Separated At Birth?

A vat of thousand island salad dressing and...

...a bowl of soup?

Maybe not for 99.997% of humanity, but apparently they bear a striking resemblance in the eyes of United States Senator Amy Klobuchar. If you missed the Loon of the Week clip from last Saturday's NARN show, you can now listen to Senator Klobuchar--recently voted "funniest" in the class of freshman Senators--regale us with amusing tales of embarrassment and humiliation here. The recap of her "salad days" in the Senate comes after a side-splitting story about her eunuch's husband's new role in Washington.

This is Senator Klobuchar's second Loon Of The Week award in the past three months, making her an early contender for the coveted Loon of The Year honor. It's also interesting to note that despite criticism that we haven't done enough to promote feminist causes, a full 55% of our 2007 Loon of The Week winners have been women. And without an intrusive government quota system either. The sisters truly are doing it for themselves.

UPDATE: Nihilist In Golf Pants: Top 11 Reasons Amy Klobuchar Was Voted Funniest Freshman Senator

Bob Costas Is A Pompous, Effete, East Coast WASP

Goes without saying right?

During yesterday's Open, they played a piece on Arnold Palmer who never won at Oakmont and how big of a deal it was to him never to have won in his backyard.

So they come back and Costas says "One would surmise that never having won at Oakmont is one of the biggest disappointments of the man's career."

Surmise? The piece had an interview with Palmer and he JUST SAID THE EXACT WORDS!

Costas is un-watchable. And we have the baseball playoffs to look forward to when he can regale us with his showy knowledge of who the second baseman was for the 1926 Black Sox.

Can't wait. Hardly.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hot Buttons

J. Ewing e-mails on global warming:

You don't allow comments, but I must comment on global warming. Here's what I want: I want all of these folks who are going to "do something" about global warming (at the expense of my freedoms) to tell me EXACTLY how many degrees they are going to reduce the planet's temperature, before they mandate anything. They could refer to the UN's IPCC report, which says that full implementation of Kyoto would reduce global temperatures by 0.04 degrees in a hundred years, but of course that is if we follow it world-wide, not just statewide. Or they could just look up the scientific fact that greenhouse gasses are only 3% of the atmosphere, that CO2 is only 5% of that, and that manmade CO2 is only 4% of that, and that Minnesota's contribution is less than 1% of that. So, an 80% reduction would solve 80% of 1% of 4% of 5%, or 0.0016 PERCENT of the problem! I have to ask if anybody's really going to notice. I mean, can the weatherman really predict tomorrow's temperature out to 6 decimal places? How about the local temperature 50 years from now? It's silly.

We should all know by now that when it comes to global warming, it's not the result, but the thought that counts. If you can do something (or better yet force someone else to do something) that makes you FEEL better about the issue, then you can proudly pat yourself on the back because you've done your part.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM central for another episode of the award winning Northern Alliance Radio Network. Since we've actually never won an award, we're compelled by the National False Advertising Council to feature at least someone who has. And today that is the de facto film critic of NARN, Stephen Hunter. Apparenlty he's got some other side employment as well, something called the Washington Post where a few years back he won something called the Pulitzer Prize for Film Criticism. Stephen joins us at 12 noon.

Plus Loon of the Week, this Week in Gatekeeping, sophisticated and urban commentary on politics (belch!), 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, June 15, 2007


Toddler gets sick after getting margarita in his sippy cup:

Kim Mayorga was confused when her 2-year-old started making funny faces and pushing away the apple juice he had ordered at Applebee's. The explanation came when she opened the lid of the sippy cup and was hit by the smell of tequila and Triple Sec.

The restaurant staff accidentally gave Julian Mayorga a margarita Monday. He grew drowsy and started vomiting a few hours later and was rushed to the hospital.

"I wasn't going to make a big deal about it," the mother told the Contra Costa Times on Thursday, "but then he got sick."

The apple juice and margarita mix were stored in identical plastic bottles, and the manager mistakenly grabbed the margarita container to pour the boy's drink, said Randy Tei, vice president for Apple Bay East Inc., which owns the franchise restaurant and nine other Applebee's in the San Francisco Bay area.

Confusing apple juice and margarita mix? Sure, could happen to anyone.

JB Adds:

Well, the kid was 2. It's not like he was an infant or anything. Kind of like the way they used to throw kids in the water to teach 'em how to swim. Aren't people always telling us that we have to teach kids about reality as soon as possible?

Bart (singing): Can I be a booze hound?

Homer (singing) Not 'til you're 15

Happy To Pay More For A Cooler Minnesota

Panel leading charge against a warmer state:

Calling global warming "a huge and defining issue of our time," Gov. Tim Pawlenty kicked off Thursday's meeting of a group that will help establish climate-protection strategies that could reshape daily life in Minnesota for the next several decades.

The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group, made up of more than 50 leaders from the state's major businesses, utilities, environmental groups and churches, will assemble a salad of strategies designed to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

At its meeting in St. Paul on Thursday, the group discussed ways to get there, including ideas as broad as setting up a carbon trading market, reducing speed limits and increasing grassland and forest.

They also talked about specific measures such as streamlining trash pickup in St. Paul to reduce the number of garbage trucks in city alleys.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This notion that states should be leading the charge on fighting global warming is absurd. Why not just build a huge dome over the entire state so that we have our own climate which we can control and effect at our own discretion?

And what the heck do churches have to do with this? Please God, reduce our CO2 emissions? Amen? More later if time and temperament (mine, not the planet's) allows.

Better Fred Than Dead

The recent backlash against the Fred Thompson boomlet has often consisted of gross simplification and misreading of Republican voters' intentions and political sophistication. Supposedly, the people who support Thompson are projecting all their hopes and desires for a perfect president onto Thompson. They're not looking realistically at Thompson's strengths and weaknesses. They want another Reagan and so they're suspending their disbelief and wishfully seeing Reagan in Thompson.

This "When it's almost closing time your beer goggles make Amy Klobuchar look like Amy Acker" theory to explain Fred Thompson's support doesn't hold water with me. Most Republicans are sober enough to know that Thompson is not the next Reagan. But what he is isn't as important as what he isn't.

He's not Mitt Romney and he's not Rudy Giuliani. I think a lot of Republicans voters have come to the realization that Romney and Giuliani are the only viable options at this point and they're looking for a third choice.

A couple of troubling numbers for the Romney people to chew on:

- According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll American voters say they favor a generic Democrat over a generic Republican for president by a 52% to 31% margin. That's a significant gap to overcome in and of itself.

- Couple that with another poll that shows that 43% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon for president.

No matter how hard you might try to do the math, there is no way that those numbers don't equal a crushing defeat for the GOP if Romney is the candidate in 2008. It doesn't matter whether you think that his religion matters or not. The poll numbers show that it does and with winning the presidency already shaping up to be a difficult if not impossible task for any Republican, it means that he simply can't win.

And even though he's leading the field right now, when the rubber meets the road I can't imagine pro-life conservatives are actually willing to give Giuliani a pass on abortion.

So the choice comes down to losing the election with Romney or losing our souls (figuratively) with Giuliani. Is it any wonder that a Thompson candidacy holds promise?

That's Entertainment: I Cried When I Wrote This Song

Dinosaur Junior has reunited! You can almost hear the rock critics hearts just a-flutterin' way down here. The genius of Mascis/Barlow, together again like Peaches 'n Herb!

This here AP story explains just how important this band is and how they Weren't Appreciated In Their Time (eyes rolling to back of noggin).

Dinosaur Jr. Reunites After 20 Years

Dinosaur Jr.'s first performances in the early 1980s were played in obscurity, the crowds numbering in the dozens, the spotlight so far away it cast no light in the tiny clubs and converted industrial spaces they rocked.

Perhaps there was a reason?

Yet, they were so talented. Together they inspired a legion of bands who went on the to sell millions of albums, even if they never did.

These were artists, they would never sully themselves with such bourgeois conceits as worrying about actually selling records.

The original lineup - together for most of three powerful, yet melodic, albums - reintroduced ideas to underground rock 'n' roll that had been torn down by punk rock and purposely forgotten. After listening to Dinosaur, the next wave of disaffected young bands were emboldened...

Emboldened to gnash their teeth in song about their parent's divorce and how the jocks picked on them in high school. That indeed was an important influence. I don't know where music would be without the angry disaffected genius template they helped establish.

There could be beauty in all that noise.

Could be, but wasn't.

Mascis' ear-ravaging guitar work...

I don't want my ears ravaged thank you very much.

"You're Living All Over Me," Dinosaur's quivering slab of alienation, angst and awkwardness released in 1987...

The three A's that any good music has.

Scene: JB has just bought a new CD. He is in his basement bar sipping a rye on the rocks and listening to the new music. His wife is upstairs cooking his dinner and tending to the child.

Wife: (calling down stairs) How's the new aquisition?

JB: I really like it!

Wife: Oh that's good

JB: Yeah, it's really AWKWARD!

Wife: Ummm....what?

While Mascis, 41, continued down the path to guitar glory, Barlow found his own success. His solo home recordings and later bands Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion are credited with starting the lo-fi and emo movements, and continue to influence hipsters of the day.

So these are the precious, artsy little dweebs that I have to thank for having to listen to Hinter and all this emo-crap they pipe in when I'm at the mall?

Thanks guys. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest every inch of your hipster frames!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Disillusionment and Triumph

We are still recovering from the revelation of Ben Stein's going native and throwing his money at Al Franken for Senate. Professor Bainbridge and Brian Maloney add their thoughts as well, including evidence that Ben Stein's conservatism really isn't all that it was cracked up to be.

Dismay also registered by Squotty at Kowabunga. As one would expect from the official MOB representative to the Klingon Empire, his problem isn't with Stein, it's with the 4 grand going to Franken from Leonard Nimoy:

I always figured that Spock was Democrat, but I didn't realized that he was a far-left leftie who would support Al Frank-N-Furter. Egads Mr. Spock, how could you?

One more Franken supporter was in the news this week. Robert Smigel donned his dog puppet and prowled the red carpet at the Tony Awards for targets, with hilarious consequences (video here). For example:

I understand the ratings are going to be so low, Osama Bin Laden will be hiding on stage.

I once saw Rosie O'Donnell in Grease. Not the musical, she was trying to wedge herself through a door way.

A lesson Franken should learn. It's much easier to forgive people for their political sins when they happen to be actually funny.

UPDATE: Better link to the Triumph video here.

We Got You Covered

DFL negotiates with Rochester for state convention:

For the second election cycle in a row, the city of Rochester appears to be in line to play host to one, if not two, state political conventions.

On Sunday, the state DFL executive committee authorized party leaders to negotiate a contract with the city as the host site of the 2008 Minnesota DFL Convention, which will run from June 6 to 8. The state DFL held its convention in Rochester last year.

Local officials say the city's selection reaffirms its status as a political bellwether. While the Rochester area moved firmly in the Democratic column in last year's state elections after decades of Republican dominion, leaders from both state parties see the area as having the potential to swing in either a Democratic or Republican direction in 2008.

The state Republican party has yet to name its site for the state GOP convention, but a party spokesman said Rochester was in the running.

"It's kind of a hotbed for politics right now," said Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Both parties see that they can win here, if they pay a little attention to us. Politically, it makes sense."

Fortunately, we're perfectly positioned to cover all the action with our in-house political uber-wonk JB Doubtless already strategically situated in Rochester.

Morning Has Broken

It was a glorious morning. The first rays of dawn just starting to peek through hazy clouds. The sky streaked with color. Birds singing.

No better way to greet it then with a little pre-work hockey. A slight fog still hovered over the ice when we started skating and although it was quickly dissipated, the air was a good bit heavier than normal. Nothing like a little sweat to get the day started. Throw in some skatin', shootin', scorin' and even a nice little scrap (not involving me) that drew blood and it really don't get any better.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

JB's Weekend Assignment

The Elder: JB, I need you to get to Elgin ASAP.

JB: But it's Father's Day!

Rock, Paper, Scissors

I've always found the rock, paper, scissors game that guilt-ridden white liberals engage in when it comes to dealing with other races to be quite interesting.

There is definitely a pecking order, a way of ranking which race must be treated with the most condescending piety. It usually works like this: blacks beat just about any other group when the two are head-to-head. For example if a woman and a black are at odds, the left will usually side with the black. Clarence Thomas being an obvious exception to the rule.

Women are a close second, followed by hispanics, then Native Americans and finally (when they are desperate to cling to something) Asians.

Which is why the current situation at the MLK/Drew Hospital in LA is so interesting. Here is a situation where a majority black-staffed hospital is engaged in widespread incompetence, killing off hispanic community members.

Makes for a dicey situation when you are a guilt-ridden liberal. Do you speak out against the hospital since they are in the position of power, letting poor hispanics die in misery in the waiting room of the ER? But, at the same time this argument empowers conservatives who warned what affirmative action would bring. Tough one.,0,4679488.story?coll=la-home-center

From the piece:

Forty-seven percent of 285 licensed vocational nurses failed to pass detailed skills tests on the first try, he reported. After several attempts, most passed, he wrote. Those who did not pass "were removed from patient assignment." More than 40% of certified nurse assistants did not pass their first skills test, though "virtually all" passed after additional training, he said.Competency tests of King-Harbor's registered nurses, who are more highly trained and perform more advanced medical procedures, are continuing, Chernof wrote.

Now the talk is around whether to close the facility down for good, chalking it up to a failed experiment in affirmative action that ended up costing the lives of some people. The price of progress I suppose.

Not that this will stop the next experiment aimed at boosting the self-esteem of a downtrodden community who could probably care less what color the person adminstering health care to them is as long as they are competent. This hospital was opened in 1972 through the work of guilty whites who thought that the lack of hospitals was somehow one of the reasons for the Watts Riots of the late sixties.

Another story of a guy who almost died at the hands of the hospital is here:

UPDATE: The LA Times did a pretty good in-depth piece a few years ago here. But there is no mention of the verboten subject matter affirmative action.,1,503967,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines&ctrack=1&cset=true

UPDATE II: Here's part I of the series. Some of these pathetic community activists have some explaining to do.

When King/Drew is threatened, it is often Lillian Mobley--long the hospital's most visible defender--who takes the microphone. Last January, she stood facing about 200 people in an auditorium at Grant AME Church in Watts. As cheers of adoration washed over her, Mobley, a thin woman of regal bearing, thrust her chin forward in a characteristically defiant pose. Moments passed. When the last voice had been stilled, when every head turned her way, only then did she speak. "The hospital," she said gravely, leaning on a cane, "is being closed piece by piece." There were murmurs, shouts of dismay. "We have to stand together to fight this battle," said Mobley, her voice rising. "We have to rise every morning under God's save Martin Luther King." That meeting, held to protest planned cutbacks at King/Drew, was one of many such gatherings she has addressed over the years.

Strong-willed and fiercely protective, Mobley, 74, is at the forefront of a coterie of African American leaders, most now in their 70s and 80s, who defend King/Drew with the same intensity that they once devoted to the civil rights movement. To them, it is part of the same struggle.


On Monday, I concluded a post with advice to Nick Jr. writers to "unpack your adjectives."

On Tuesday, James Taranto leads off Best of the Web Today with a post on the New York Times titled "Unpack Your Adjectives."

(Tip of the hat to Rick for the catch.)

Opening Another Front?

Word on the street (and The Hill) is that retired Lt. Col. Joe Repya--fresh off a failed bid to oust Ron Carey as the Chairman of the Minnesota GOP--is seriously considering challenging Senator Norm Coleman in next year's primary. Not sure if this is really the battle that Joe should be fighting.

I Bless The Rains Down In Africa

As people around the world prepare to party with Al Gore on July 7th to raise awareness of global warming as part of "The Live Earth" concert series, pesky little things called facts keep emerging that could be a major buzz kill for party goers. How inconvenient.

ScienceDaily: The Woes Of Kilimanjaro: Don't Blame Global Warming:

The "snows" of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro inspired the title of an iconic American short story, but now its dwindling icecap is being cited as proof for human-induced global warming.

However, two researchers writing in the July-August edition of American Scientist magazine say global warming has nothing to do with the decline of Kilimanjaro's ice, and using the mountain in northern Tanzania as a "poster child" for climate change is simply inaccurate.

"There are dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of midlatitude glaciers you could show where there is absolutely no question that they are declining in response to the warming atmosphere," said climatologist Philip Mote, a University of Washington research scientist.

But in the tropics -- particularly on Kilimanjaro -- processes are at work that are far different from those that have diminished glacial ice in temperate regions closer to the poles, he said.

Mote and Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, write in American Scientist that the decline in Kilimanjaro's ice has been going on for more than a century and that most of it occurred before 1953, while evidence of atmospheric warming there before 1970 is inconclusive.

They attribute the ice decline primarily to complex interacting factors, including the vertical shape of the ice's edge, which allows it to shrink but not expand. They also cite decreased snowfall, which reduces ice buildup and determines how much energy the ice absorbs -- because the whiteness of new snow reflects more sunlight, the lack of new snow allows the ice to absorb more of the sun's energy.

But it's science! You can't argue with science! Unless, you know, it really isn't science at all.