Sunday, September 30, 2007

Offensive Language

It took all of my parental self-control to watch the entire Vikings-Packers game today with my eldest son and not direct a single expletive (at least audibly) at the Viking's statuesque (as in the way he moves in the pocket not his physique) quarterback, Kelly Holcomb. My wife is a casual football fan, but the one thing that drives her nuts is an immobile QB. She hated gunslinging Jeff George during his short stint with the Vikings and she now has the same loathing for Holcomb. Granted, the line protecting him has been offensive of late, but he has feet of clay and little presence of mind once the pocket collapses. The less the ball is in his hands, the better off the Vikings are. How about a few direct snaps to Peterson?

Nice work by the announcing crew today too. They didn't leave many cliches unsaid, especially when speaking of Favre. It was particularly enlightening when they mentioned that when they spoke to him before the game, Favre wasn't as interested in talking about setting the touchdown record as winning the game. Really? Wow, that's shocking. Because sports history is simply chock full of athletes who come right out and say that winning isn't important compared to their personal records.

Sigh. On the positive side, the Vikings have a bye next week and the Wild open the NHL season on Thursday.

UPDATE- A few more random thoughts from yesterday's game:

- The Vikings "throwback" jerseys that they wore yesterday look so much better than the current version. Even if Kelly Holcomb didn't do much to remind fans of Fran Tarkenton, it was nice to see the Vikes sporting the classic purple.

- The fake punt run by the Packers featured the most athletic moves I've ever seen a punter make. Given the current state of their running game, maybe the Green and Gold should consider putting Ryan in the backfield.

- Packer fans intoxicated by their squad's 4-0 start should consider this somewhat sobering fact: the four teams that they have defeated so far now have a combined record of 4-12. The hangover is coming.

Feel The Power

Although the people were disempowered yesterday by Laura Ingraham's last minute cancellation of her appearance on NARN (not sure what excuse her excuse was, something about having to meet with a bunch of elites instead), you can catch some of what she might have talked about on CSPAN tonight at 9 PM central. It's a replay of her appearance at the College of St. Catherine (sponsored by AM1280 the Patriot) from a couple weeks back, promoting her book "Power to the People."

Bonus feature, our own Mitch Berg doing the MC duties and handing the Q & A. I watched some of it during it's original broacast at 8 AM this morning and it is entetaining, at least by early Sunday morning CSPAN standards.

The Real Wealth Of Nations

Why are some countries rich and others poor? In the past we've heard a litany of rationalizations for the divide such as natural resources, advantageous geography, legacy of colonialism, etc. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Ronald Bailey notes a new report from the World Bank that shows the real keys are the laws and institutions that allow for the creation of intangible wealth (sub req):

Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.

But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.

The rest is the result of "intangible" factors -- such as the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. All this intangible capital also boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."


For more on the absolute importance of property rights in development, read Hernando De Soto's  The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else.

Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."

Some of the richest countries in the world have little "natural" wealth to speak while some of the poorest are flush with it. This raises questions about the best ways to help poor countries cross the divide. Without the foundations of stable and efficient institutions and the rule of law, no amount of external aid is going to lead to long-term improvements.

The World Bank study bolsters the deep insights of the late development economist Peter Bauer. In his brilliant 1972 book "Dissent on Development," Bauer wrote: "If all conditions for development other than capital are present, capital will soon be generated locally or will be available . . . from abroad. . . . If, however, the conditions for development are not present, then aid . . . will be necessarily unproductive and therefore ineffective. Thus, if the mainsprings of development are present, material progress will occur even without foreign aid. If they are absent, it will not occur even with aid."

What A Rush

One of the best red ales I've yet to encounter is Rush River Brewing's The Unforgiven Amber Ale. I've had it a few times on tap at Figlio's in Uptown and a couple of other places, but haven't been able to find it in liquor stores. Now, after a little research, I know the reason why. The brewery recently has relocated to River Falls, Wisconsin and is just starting to bottle their beer. I hope to be able to pick up a six-pack at a liquor store near me soon and sample their other offerings.

If you enjoy a tasty, full-bodied red, look for The Unforgiven in your neighborhood. You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Way They Were

Steven writes in to comment on the changes in the local editorial pages and wakes up some ghosts of contributors past:

Excellent post regarding Susan Albright leaving as Editorial Page Poohbah at the Strib. The interview that Jim Boyd gave after he left as Vice Poohbah confirmed my assumptions about how that page is run. The fact that they had to be FORCED to run a conservative columnist each day is unbelievable. And, how interesting and worthwhile is a conservative column going to be that is selected by a lefty, who is bitter about having to run one in the first place? Anyway, the internet has superseded the newspaper editorial pages. There are so many fantastic writers and thinkers out there.

When I think back to my younger days, unfurling the Pioneer Press (I grew up in St.
Paul), and seeing day after day of Anthony Lewis, Ellen Goodman, Cal Thomas,
Alexander Cockburn, David Morris, etc., I wonder why I cared. Ellen Goodman is still getting run in newspapers, and if she has EVER made an interesting, witty or insightful point in her too-long career, I've missed it.

One person that I would like to see dumped in the Strib shakeup is cartoonist Kirk Anderson. He completely sucked when he was with the Pioneer Press, and his Thursday 'toons are a waste of time. Although I did have a kind of fascination last year when week after week he would portray Iraqi prisoners with their eyes being gouged out. Every single week. The man had a weird fascination with eyes being removed.


He also has a fascination for calling his fellow Americans Nazis. Match that up with their seething insult editorials and there you have our local newspaper on a daily basis. In context, I imagine ownership has been pleasantly surprised at the only moderate advertising revenue losses and circulation decline.

People Power

Today, the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network will be joined by Laura Ingraham. Laura is an extremely popular nationally-syndicated talk radio hostess as well as author of "Power To The People," which has been skyrocketing up the best seller lists.

Previous committments prevent me from participating in today's show, but I look forward to listening to Saint Paul ask the Dartmouth educated Ingraham--who clerked for Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court--what it's like to represent the Joe Six Packs and Sally Housecoats of America in the struggle against the elites.

Tune in locally on AM1280 WWTC or listen live on the internet stream from anywhere and everywhere. After listening to the First Team from 11am to 1pm, be sure to stick around for Mitch and Ed from 1pm-3pm and the Final Word with Michael and King from 3pm-5pm.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Brazil Nuts

Word on the street is that Hugh Hewitt's annual listener cruise (Hugh 5.0 To The Extreme!) will include a journey on the Amazon River and stops at other sites in Brazil. This raises a number of thorny questions:

1. Isn't the rain forest already threatened enough without having Hugh rumblin', bumblin', and stumblin' through its fragile ecosystem?

2. What color of Dockers will Hugh wear as he treks into the heart of the deep, dark Amazon wilderness?

3. Is it true that authorities in Rio have already banned Hugh from making any appearances on the city's famous beaches?

4. Will Hugh be able to stay up past 9pm when he celebrates Carnival in Rio?

5. Has the fetching Mrs. Hewitt doubled down on her hubby's life insurance policies? I'd make sure those premiums were paid.

And Wiser?

Earlier today, I was reminiscing on some of my misspent days at college. You appreciate just how far past those days really are when realize that when you think about having a depth charge these days it has nothing to do with beer.

Rush to Judgment

Earlier this week I was listening to Rush during lunch and heard him discussing the case of Jesse Macbeth, the "phony soldier" who's tales of atrocities commited by US troops in Iraq were trumpeted by elements in the left and alternative media, until he was exposed as a charlatan.

Apparently later in the show, during a caller segment, Rush sardonically queried about this "phony soldier" phenomenon in regards to media reports on the status of American efforts in Iraq.

It turns out the Media Matters monitor assigned to listen to Limbaugh flagged this as offensive and they reported on the comment, out of context, as equivalent to Republican accusations of the liberal tendancy to denegrate US troops. To anyone who heard any part of that broadcast, or cared enough to review it after the fact, the accusation is laughably disingenuous.

But in today's media climate, laughably disengenuous and taken at face value in an attempt to destroy, are not mutually exclusive concepts. From Media Matters Democrat funded portal, to their local facsimilies, to US Congressmen, to a MSM reporter using it as a premise for a question during today's White House press conference, it's the cold hard fact of the moment for eager Democrats looking to smash a conservative icon.

Fair-minded fellow citizens, please correct your future judgment on the credibility of those information outlets trumpeting this false controversy appropriately.

A Form Of Linguistic Terrorism

Nice to see the Democrats finally getting serious about national security:

As Gay City News went to press, a vote was expected on September 27 on a cloture motion to bring the federal hate crimes bill, the Matthew Shepherd Act, to the floor of the US Senate. People for the American Way called the 60 votes needed "attainable." The measure would include sexual orientation and gender identity among numerous protected categories.

The act is attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill, but President George W. Bush has said he will veto it if it includes the hate crimes legislation.

The House passed its version of the bill in May by a vote of 237-180, not enough of a margin to override a veto.

The bill is a top priority of the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Senator Ted Kennedy, liberal Democratic warhorse from Massachusetts and the co-lead sponsor of the measure, called hate crimes "a form of domestic terrorism."


Sigh. Leaving aside the issue of whether we should even have "hate crime" laws (we shouldn't), the trend to conflate terrorism with just abut any domestic issue that you can imagine is disturbing. It minimizes the threat of REAL terrorism and diminishes the meaning and impact of the word.

It's also disturbing to see Democrats attaching bills that pay off one of their pet special interest groups to legislation with broader national interest and importance. This expansion of "hate crimes" should sink or swim on its own.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Somewhere Over the Elbow

It appears the era of the insult ediorial may be over at the Star Tribune. The interim publisher has announced that the editorial page editor is leaving after 15 years. The former deputy editor has previously stated that the new owners "demanded that editorials in the Star Tribune demonstrate "no sharp elbows."

This is a logical and long over due step by our local newspaper monopoly. Over the past few years I've been astonished at the shrill tone and the vindictive nature present in the "institutional voice" of the Star Tribune. Not astonished that a bunch of comfortable, establishment liberals would produce such copy. But astonished that a business enterprise would allow one of its most valuable properties to be turned into an instrument used to purposely alienate vast swaths of its potential customer base.

To be clear, the unremitting leftist content of their work wasn't the problem. A forum for even that perspective, presented in an intelligent, persuasive, engaging fashion would be an asset to the community. It would draw interested readers from all sides, engender debate and good will, and educate us unwashed masses about the important issues of the day.

But, that's not what we were served up. Instead, the Star Tribune unsigned editorials used their megaphone to go out of their way to do nothing more than rant and insult people voting for Republicans or holding conservative beliefs. It reached a level where only a fool or a masochist in this targeted audience could continue to hand over money to them in order to get more of the same. Thank you sir, may I have another!

A few examples of their work include the teeth gnashing, hair pulling, garment rending commentaries surrounding the 2004 presidential election, documented here. In their rousing endorsement of Sen. Kerry before the election:

Kerry recognizes that to prevail in the struggle against terrorism, America must return to the moral high ground rather than unilaterally pursue a perverted, narrow vision of its national interest. He would reverse Bush's devious dismantling of environmental protections, and he would preserve the safety net that protects America's most vulnerable citizens.

[Bush] has proved to be the most divisive, insular and partisan president since Richard Nixon. He ran as a moderate, but has pursued radical goals that have plunged the nation into debt and injected the government into the most personal of family matters. He promised to conduct foreign policy humbly, yet he repeatedly spurned allies, culminating in his arrogant and misguided rush to war on Iraq.


In their post-mortem, a profile in losing with grace:

Looking ahead, Bush faces an enormous, uphill struggle to keep Iraq from turning into a disaster. Should he fail, and should the right insist on trying to force-feed America its radical social agenda, the 2006 midterm elections could bring real congressional grief to the Republicans. This is still a centrist, tolerant society, and any effort to remake it into a conservative theocracy will bring swift, decisive repudiation.

Recall, they are addressing an audience where nearly half the electorate voted for that perverted, narrow, devious, insular, partisan, radical, arrogant, misguided theocrat.

Then there was this classic from the 2006 election cycle:

You've gotta hand it to Keith Ellison, Minneapolis' congressman-elect: He's not even in the House yet, and he's got wingnuts falling out of the trees on their empty heads.

One other egregious example I recall (citation lost to the firewall they put their archived work behind) concerned the University of Minnesota staging of a play called "The Pope and the Witch," a juvenile slam fest of the Catholic Church. It was a typically sophomoric production by a bunch of naïve college kids. Yet the Star Tribune chose to endorse the production from the lofty perch of the editorial page, dismissing any objections by saying they would "laugh along with it" and characterizing the Church as nothing more than a wealthy corporation. For no obvious purpose, they chose to go out of their way to kick the Church and its members in the teeth and laugh in their face about it.

Given appropriate access to their locked up electronic archives, one could go on and on with these examples. Conclusion being, these people were entrusted with a precious asset. Monopoly access to hundreds of thousands of interested citizens. People looking for, and willing to pay for, vital information of the day. And they threw it all away in order to vent their spleens and score petty, vindictive political points. Correspondingly, a generation of Minnesotans has lost all trust in them as a good-faith provider of information. It is a shameful legacy.

The fact that the Star Tribune editorial writers apparently won national awards for their work is evidence that this legacy isn't localized and how out of touch and narcissistic the profession has become. This doesn't give much hope that the next crew the Star Tribune brings in will be any better. But I'm just crazy enough to believe that somewhere in this country they can find a handful of smart, persuasive, engaging, good-natured, and likeable writers to fill the position. One unsolicited piece of advice, not limiting the potential pool of candidates to liberals alone would improve the odds of success significantly.

UPDATE: Another tip, this guy here, not a good candidate. Poor kid, it looks like he based his career preparation on the Star Tribune editorial model, and now he's entering the job market just as it's collapsing.

Dome 'Dogs?

With the notable exceptions of college hockey and elections, my previous dabbling in prognostication has not been especially noteworthy. Nostradamus I am not. But as the lottery suckers like to say, "You can't win if you don't play." Besides life becomes a bore if you don't step out on a limb now and again.

In this case, the limb is a particularly lengthy and tenuous one. For I am now going on record as predicting that this very Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will shock the world (and the States) by defeating the hated Green and Gold interlopers from the East.

Have I been drinking you ask? No, I'll leave pre-pre-pre-game imbibing to the hard-livered Packer fans (only sixty-eight hours 'til kickoff!).

But the Packers are 3-0, while the Vikings are 1-2. The Packers are quarterbacked by the legendary Bret Favre, while the Vikings pin their hopes on the three-headed Jacklinomb beast. The Packers high-powered passing attack has been lighting up the scoreboard, while the Vikings offense packs about as much punch as a Chris Dodd stump speech.

I know that it doesn't make sense. I know that it's not rational. But I have a hunch about this one.

Packer Nation is feeling pretty darn good about their squad (and therefore themselves) right now. Too good. They're strutting around with their heads held high and their beer bellies out (and that's just the gals). They're feeling that sense of invincibility that usually doesn't kick in until after their eighth Milwaukee's Best. But that's also when they're at their most vulnerable.

At this point of the season, I still haven't bought in to the notion that, with no running game to speak of and an average group of receivers, you can rely on an aging quarterback (no matter how legendary) to pass you to victory on a regular basis. This is the week when the law of averages catch up to the Packers and they come down to earth.

The Vikings passing defense has been their Achilles heel of late, but this is the week that it will make all the difference. To be sure, Favre will get his yards through the air and likely set a new NFL record for career passing touchdowns. But he'll make mistakes and may also set the all-time career interception record the same day. Funny how Packer fans never seem to mention that one.

The opportunistic Vikings will parlay an interception return for touchdown, a fumble return for touchdown, a special teams touchdown, and a safety into an improbable 23-20 victory. You heard it here first. And more than likely last.

Now Hear This

Last Saturday, we once again had the pleasure of interviewing Lt. Col. John A. Nagl. He's the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and played a major role in putting together the The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

He's also an articulate, thoughtful, and extremely intelligent man who exemplifies the best that the US military (and our country) has to offer. Like General Petraeus, he's very well-educated, having received a doctorate from Oxford. Throughout the interview he mentions other military officers with similar educational backgrounds.

My colleague John Hinderaker noted other rare qualities that these men seem to share. Besides the intellectual horsepower, there's an abundance of courage and a thirst for action. In this brief snippet (nine seconds) from the interview, Lt. Col. Nagl talks about how driving tanks around Iraq and Afghanistan is fun. How many other holders of an Oxford doctorate would say that?

The other common thread is a dedication to physical fitness. Lt. Col. Nagl is probably in better shape than 99% of Americans, but in this clip (thirty seconds) he talks about how General Petraeus--who's taken a bullet in a lung and broken a hip sky-diving--can run him into the ground despite being twenty years older than him. And impressive and select group of men indeed.

The entire interview is about forty minutes long and you can listen to it commercial free here. If you're interested in learning about counterinsurgency strategy and how it's being applied in Iraq from one of the true experts in the field, you'll want to hear this.

A Mosque By Any Other Name...

Peter e-mails to clear up some potential confusion with terminology:

I noticed that Muslims in the USA are switching from using the English word mosque to the English word masjid as the name of the Muslim place of worship.

In India Masjid is the word used for what we call mosque. I lived in India for two years and there are 150+ million Muslims in India.

I suspect that Muslims in the USA are switching from mosque to masjid to be less noticed, such as the Power Line story about the university provided religious rooms with the label masjid.

The use of the word masjid is likely to provide little or no reaction from non-Muslims, where the word mosque for the would such as with the university or airport provided room.

For a few years this will fool non-Muslims.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rereformation

I found this interesting, about the controversy in the Anglican Church about their getting involved in gay marriage and consecrating gay bishops:

"If conservatives continue to press for the exclusion of the Episcopal Church, transgress provincial boundaries and decide not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008, they will take responsibility for provoking a tear in the Anglican Communion and will have withdrawn from the our fellowship," Coward said.

Tearing the Anglican Communion? Reminds me of what John Derbyshire once said about the trauma of losing one's religion. Paraphrasing, it may be significant in some religious traditions, but the fall from Anglicanism is like stumbling out of a first floor window.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on the Angies, but can you really tell me these children of the "Reformation" seriously concern themselves with busting up any Communion. Isn't that their reason for existing? Disagree with the Godly authority, ignore it and make your own up. If one reformation is good, a second must be even better.

The Rammer Falls

Late comment on the pending departure of Rep. Jim Ramstad from a life of "public service," after a lucrative 18 years. I mentioned a few months back his incongruous vote against a fat raise for himself and his colleagues. He was the only multi-term incumbent from Minnesota to do so.

At the time I thought it was a profile in humility that he would reject profiteering during a time when he and his colleagues are collectively at record low approval rates for their performance. But now I'm not so sure. Might his leaving have already been on his mind during this vote and he was simply denying his successor an extra $4,400 of undeserved gravy? As I said in my original post in June:

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?

Not Jim Ramstad. It appears he's back to thinking like a taxpayer, instead of a tax consumer. Welcome back to the real world Jim.

If Pigman Had A Car, He'd Give You A Ride

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...

...Pigman! A new superhero for the times. More on Pigman comics here.

The Road To China...

...will now go through Detroit:

In what's being called a much-needed victory for metro Detroit's economy, Northwest Airlines Corp. said Tuesday that it won preliminary approval to fly nonstop to Shanghai, China, from Metro Airport.

"It's very much overdue," said Detroit Regional Chamber President Dick Blouse, one of the most vocal proponents of Northwest getting the coveted route. "China is a significant player and we need to be there."

Northwest applied for the route in July after failing to get approval earlier this year. By flying nonstop to Shanghai from Detroit, the carrier has said that it will create a direct entrance to China and provide better access to the nation's booming auto industry. Northwest will offer the 14-hour daily flight to Shanghai starting March 25, 2009, said company spokesman Dean Breest. The airline plans to use a Boeing 787 on the route, which boasts better fuel efficiency, larger windows and a more comfortable cabin.


This is also good news for Minneapolis to Shanghai travellers, who now have another alternative to the twelve hours to Narita (Japan) and then three to Shanghai. Going through Detroit might be a little longer overall flight time, but it's preferable to make the long leg the last. At least on the hop over. On the way back, there are some advantages to being "home" after you pass through immigration and customs, but it's always better to have more options.

Plus you get to fly on the Dreamliner. Mmmm....Dreamliner....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You Down With OPP

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal looks at other people's politics (free for all):

DailyKos holds forth regularly that "our democracy is in danger" from money in politics and loudly supports McCain-Feingold and other campaign and media restrictions. The New York Times position on campaign finance reform is that it "has not gone far enough," and that more should be done to control donors and prevent changes that would "open the spigots to corporate and special-interest money."

Of course, it's always other people's influence that's a threat to democracy. DailyKos's misadventure was resolved with a Federal Election Commission ruling that allowed it (quite properly) to escape the rules it wants foisted on everybody else. And we certainly defend the Times's right to sign advertising contracts at whatever price it wants to charge--without the FEC combing through its books in search of rate discrepancies.

Unfortunately, the Times's passion for regulating everyone else's speech has now boomeranged, with politicians calling for an investigation into its favor to MoveOn. This is getting to be a bad Times habit: Recall its campaign for a special counsel to investigate media leaks that turned into a probe of its own sources and led to judicial rulings that limited press freedom.

House Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Tom Davis (R., Va.) wants hearings on whether the MoveOn discount represented a contribution in violation of campaign finance laws, and whether those laws are actually enforceable. Mr. Davis is indulging in some partisan opportunism here, and we wish instead that he was explaining that the problem is not that these organizations slipped through some campaign finance net. The problem is the net.


The answer to bad campaign fincance law is not more regulation. It's less.

Dancing To A Loonie Tune

Tom e-mails with more on the Loonie:

Last week I was in Alberta on (as you might say) bidness when parity occurred. (I was going to call in to speak with John and you Saturday, but I was on two kid, two sport transport duty and I'm not capable of both reminding the kids for the fifth time to change uniforms as we drove between events while also attempting to make the salient and succinct points each caller to the NARN is required to make.) Although I was in Edmonton the evening the Oil Kings made their return to the Western Hockey League after a twenty some year absence, I was not able to secure tickets to the event (didn't care enough to try either).

From my view, the reason their economy is doing so well has nothing to do with any Canadian government policy and has a lot to to do with U.S. government policy. The provinces most beholden to Ottawa/big government policy - i.e. the provinces to the East of Manitoba - are doing poorly with the Maritimes experiencing 25% and greater unemployment and a population that is heading for the exit (Western Canada). The Western provinces - which are more conservative politically - are carrying the nation with low unemployment (unemployment is around 2.5% in Alberta). The Liberals even lost a couple of seats in Quebec last week, an event so extrordinary that the CBC made it sound like a situation where the DFL lost a seat in the Star Tribune building if the Star Tribune building were its own congressional district.

Here is why I think it is U.S. government policy pumping their economy up: Where we won't drill in ANWR or exploit other energy opportunities, their government encourages and if you believe the recent Alberta Government's Report of Oil & Gas Royalties is gouging, er, taxing their energy industry less than they could because they realize - even the CBC pointed this out - that energy is the goose laying the golden eggs that are leading to large surpluses; and Western Canada's farmers are harvesting wheat at record prices given the shortage of that commodity due to U.S. farmers planting corn from fence line to fence line to score all of that fine ethanol subsidy cash. The CBC also blames U.S. deficits and tax cuts where I would blame out of control spending leading to deficits.

There wasn't much crowing about parity other than on a "Daily Show" type program where the host claimed that the last time the two currencies were at parity the U.S. was in an un-winnable war and had an unpopular president. The last time the currencies were at parity was 1976; the U.S. wasn't at war and Ford wasn't unpopular he just wasn't as popular as Jimmah. So I don't know wtf that guy was talking about.

Other than that, most of the commentary I heard was that it wouldn't last--commodity prices go up and go down; that the exchange rate was wrecking their tourist industry with tourism in general off nearly 35% and manufacturing would suffer as everything exported to the South would be more expensive.

On the plus side, all NHL contracts are renumerated in U.S. dollars, so with the exchange rate windfall the Canadian teams might have some left over money to pay for better facilities. The Edmonton paper ran a feature on the Oilers new locker room with its up-to-date facilities complete with a trophy case large enough to hold their five Stanley Cup replicas with room for a sixth. No mention of extra outlets for all of the additional "hot combs" the players will surely be buying. It's not too late to jump on the Flames (or Canucks or Oilers or whoevers) bandwagon, just be prepared to pay through the exchange rate nose if you ever want to attend a home game.

Teaching The Kid The Ropes

We had our first good brawl of the NHL pre-season last night when the Rangers faced off again' the Islanders.

Skip to the 4:00 mark to see the goalies duke it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWU4dNgikZE

The AP described the tussle thusly:

"When [Simon] is trying to fight two guys at once, then I had to step in," DiPietro said. "All you're thinking is to help your teammates. It was a crazy game. A lot of crazy stuff happened. One good thing is that we're fighting for each other."

DiPietro squared off in a position ready to fight, removing his gloves and mask and pulling up his sleeves.

Montoya, who hasn't played in a regular-season NHL game, skated past DiPietro and seemed to not be interested in fighting or unsure of what to do. He had one fight last season in the AHL.

DiPietro, who fought former Islanders teammate Arron Asham in practice last season, signaled to Montoya to take off his gloves and mask as if to teach him the tricks of the trade. With a wide grin on his face, DiPietro grabbed Montoya and punches flew.

"You've got to defend your teammates," Montoya said. "The second you cross the blue line, that's what is going to happen. He's a tough guy, but at the same time he was going out of his way to try and start something. So I just had to do my part."

As Montoya lost his balance, DiPietro pulled him and the two fell with Montoya on top. DiPietro quickly jumped up and landed on top as punches continued.


It's kind of touching the way DiPietro would take a kid like that under his wing and show him how things are done in the bigs.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Would Emily Post Post if Emily Post Could Post Posts?

She would probably post something like this, from her 1957 handbook "Etiquette":

Business Women

The president of a great manufacturing concern supported his objection to women employees by the following criticism: "A man comes into the office at nine sharp, hangs his hat on a peg and sits down at his desk seconds after coming in the front door. A woman comes in just as conscientiously at a minute to nine, goes into the dressing-room, and it is anywhere from ten to twenty minutes before she has finished brushing her dress, and fixing her hair, and powdering her nose--and heaven alone knows what!"

Another important shortcoming of many business women is an inability to be impersonal--for instance being unable to take a criticism of their work without feeling it is a personal affront.

Tell it sister.

And what of secretaries?

The perfect secretary, figuratively speaking, should not even admit knowingly that she is a human being and thus be the most completely efficient aid at all times.

She should respond to his requirements exactly as a machine responds to the touch of a lever or accelerator. If he says "Good morning," she answers "Good morning" with a smile and cheerfully. She does not volunteer a remark, unless she has messages of importance to give him.

Very prudent advice by Ms. Post here. What office couldn't benefit from such professionalism?

You Are What Your Drink?

Far be it for me to question the masculinity of Vox Day. I leave such waving a red flag at a bull type matters to Atomizer. However, I will say that this post does raise some troubling questions.

As the Modern Drunkard reminds us:

20. Drink one girly drink in public and you will forever be known as the guy who drinks girly drinks.

Do you really want to be that guy?

Atomizer Waves The Red Flag:

I installed two way mirrors in Vox Day's pad in Brentwood, and he'd come to the door in a dress.

I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying...

Greet Googly Moogly!

The last time I watched the Vikings play the Chiefs at Arrowhead on television was back in September of 1990. I was with my friend Henry at The Speedway in Grand Forks, nursing one of my Top Five Worst Hangovers Of All-Time (sometime I'll have to post the details of the other four), the result of consuming somewhere around twenty highly potent gin and tonics mixed up by a generous bartender (a friend of a friend) named Stu at The Antique the previous evening. It was one of those hangovers where--during its worst moments of agony--you actually think you may just die and the prospect of passing this veilvale of tears doesn't seem all that unwelcome.

Obviously, I managed to survive that particular day after. The Vikings lost the game by three on a fourth quarter Chiefs touchdown.

Fast forward seventeen years and I'm once again watching the Vikings lose a game at Arrowhead by three after a fourth quarter Chiefs touchdown. But this time around wasn't quite as enjoyable. Yes, watching yesterday's game was that bad.

It's one thing to lose games. It's another to be so utterly boring while doing so. As a fan, you want "your" team to win and that's one of the reasons that you watch a game. But more importantly, you want to be entertained. Right now, I can't think of too many things less entertaining than watching the Vikings on offense. To call Coach Childress' "kick ass" offense vanilla is an insult to the flavoring. Because however bland it may taste, at least vanilla has some flavor.

To borrow a bit from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, "How can you stand it?" I'd say, "'Cause I've been watching the Vikings on offense. I can take ANYTHING." You know what they'd say? They'd say, "I know what you mean. That Brad Childress West Coast crap. Woah."

The most pathetic part of the game was the realization that when the Chiefs went ahead 13-10 with nine minutes and twenty-three seconds left, the outcome was all but determined. There was no chance that Kelly "Once A Brown, Always A Brown" Holcomb was going to "lead" the offense anywhere. Just for good measure, Coach Childress pulled the one legitimate offensive weapon (remember the good ol' days when the announcers would spout the cliché about "all the weapons" the Vikings offense had?) off the field on the last drive of the game. We wouldn't want to have someone out there who could actually make a play now would we? No, that might actually cause some excitement for the fans. Wouldn't be prudent.

The members of the Viking defense must be biting their tongues right now. Through three games, they've given up three touchdowns and five field goals (their 12 points a game given up average is currently 5th in the NFL) while scoring three defensive touchdowns. And yet the team sits at 1-2 having now lost two of the three road games that they realistically had a chance of winning this year (they still get the Giants on November 25th). It's going to be a long and boring year. Again.

UPDATE-- Steve e-mails to correct and inform:

Hey, it's vale of tears, not veil. Not the same vale where you find the little brown church, probably, unless you were left there at the altar.

And the Speedway is up for auction Oct. 5; you could now buy that place of your tender memories. Current owner is selling it lock/stock and vale of tears.

Hosehead here just sort of rides on my coattails

Among the thirty-seven topics we covered in the first hour of Saturday's NARN First Team show was the surprising news--at least to us non-dismal science talking guys--that the Canadian dollar had reached parity with the US greenback. A story in Saturday's Wall Street Journal explains why the Loonie is no longer the object of ridicule and scorn it once was. Canada Is Giddy About the Loonie And Twitting U.S. (sub req):

The Canadian dollar's rise to parity with the U.S. dollar has several causes: high commodity prices globally, the overall weakness of the U.S. dollar, the strength of the Canadian economy and the Canadian government's enviable fiscal surplus.

The article also looks at some of the implications of said parity in various areas.

Shopping:

The rise is a boon for Canadians looking to buy American real estate, stocks or just about anything for sale at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., which has seen a 15% uptick in the number of Canadian customers this year.

Oh good, more Canadians. I can only imagine the deluge of Canuck shoppers in places like Grand Forks.

Imports:

But it isn't good news for Canadian hotels or tourist destinations, or exporters of everything from beer and maple syrup to lumber and wheat.

Hockey:

In hockey, the six Canadian-based NHL teams haven't brought a Stanley cup back home since 1993, but Ian Clarke, executive vice president of business development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, said even though the team would stay under the league's salary cap, the strength of the loonie has enabled the organization to invest in facilities: better locker rooms, better weight rooms, nicer coaches' offices.

Another Stanley Cup? "It's going to help all the Canadian teams," Mr. Clarke says.


And last, but not least, strip clubs:

With the Canadian dollar surging against the U.S. greenback, Robert Katzman is dealing with situations they don't teach in Economics 101.

The owner of five strip clubs in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, says American dancers are heading to Canada to earn the strengthened Canadian currency, and Canadian customers are heading to Detroit because their dollars go further there. He's fighting back by advertising more in the U.S. and offering free limo service to get Detroit men to visit his Windsor clubs.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Families United

Families United which stands United for a Strong America beside the men and women of our Military will be having a gathering of its Minnesota members at the WWII Memorial on the State Capitol Grounds at 12:00 noon on Sunday, September 23, 2007.

We invite all members, veterans, and organizations who support the Troops and the completion of their mission - winning the War on Terror to join us. We are responding in opposition to a rally call by National Unions for its members to demand we pull our troops out of Iraq. We are opposed to that call as 1) We need to complete the mission and our Troops want to complete the mission and 2) the Unions are not speaking for its members many of which support our troops!

Our gathering will be patriotic, please no signs--bring the symbol of our unity--your American flag!

Location: WWII Memorial which is just to the North of the Veterans’ Administration building, 20 W 12th Street, St. Paul, MN.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Gaudier The Patter

Eric Felten looks at cognac-based cocktails and the relationship between the suggestive nature of the name of a drink and its quality in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req):

I think a better prospect for reviving cognac's fortunes is the sort of drink made when brandy was in its cocktail prime, of which one of the best is the Between the Sheets. A variation on the Sidecar, the drink combines cognac, rum, Cointreau and lemon juice, together with a suggestive title.

One might be inclined to pass up the Between the Sheets cocktail on basic principle. As a rule, the naughtier the name, the worse the cocktail. Happily, for the sake of taste (in both senses of the word) we are past the heyday of such embarrassments as the Sex on the Beach, Slippery Nipple and Screaming Orgasm. Such drinks are almost always cloyingly sweet, reflecting a certain lack of maturity in the taste buds that matches a sensibility amused by cartoon sexuality. Sex on the Beach is made with vodka, peach schnapps and Chambord, together with cranberry-juice cocktail and pineapple juice -- in other words, one sugary ingredient after another, spiked with bland vodka, and without anything sour, astringent, or bitter to balance the sweetness.

The most obnoxious of these drinks all seem to involve Baileys Irish Cream. Loaded with sugar and dairy, Baileys is a favorite of neophyte drinkers eager to ingest alcohol without tasting it. In particular, the drinks with naughty names tend to be what are called shooters -- shot-glass-sized concoctions meant to be tossed back in a gulp. Thus the Slippery Nipple is Baileys and Sambuca in a shot glass; the Screaming Orgasm is Baileys, Kahlúa, Amaretto and vodka. And that's just the drinks that can actually be named (if just barely) in a respectable newspaper. Popular in Australia, it seems, is a shooter made of Baileys and butterscotch liqueur. The drink's elaborate and unprintable title vividly describes a "cowboy" engaged in an activity the Supreme Court adjudicated in Bowers v. Hardwick. Frankly, I can't decide which is more distasteful -- the lewd logo, or a drink of Baileys and butterscotch liqueur.

And that drink is hardly the worst of the nadir-scraping lot. I suspect that the vulgar and scatological names serve a dual purpose. There is the supposed humor -- yucking it up, if you will. But they also provide a cheap and easy way to indulge in an action-movie aesthetic: Belly up to the bar and call out a string of pseudo-tough expletives, and you get rewarded with a sweet, creamy trifle. One could say of cocktails what Humphrey Bogart says of Elisha Cook Jr.'s gunsel in "The Maltese Falcon": "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."


While I have been known to enjoy a Baileys or two in my day (or even better, creme Tequila), I share Felten's general distrust of any drink that's overly sweet, especially when there's any hint of sexual innuendo in the name. Truly good cocktails don't require a gimmicky title to make the sale.

Friday, September 21, 2007

COIN Of The Realm

Tomorrow at noon on the NARN First Team broadcast (11am-1pm) we will once again be joined by Lt. Col. John A. Nagl. Lt. Col, Nagl has literally written the book on counterinsurgency strategies, his latest contribution being part of the team that produced the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual.



This will be the third time that Lt. Col. Nagl has appeared on the show and if past experience is any indication, it should be another great discussion. If you want to really know what the US military is hoping to accomplish in Iraq and how, you won't want to miss this interview. If you want to join the conversation, give us a ring at 651-289-4488.

Tune in locally on AM1280 WWTC or listen live on the internet stream from anywhere and everywhere. After listening to the First Team, be sure to stick around for Mitch and Ed from 1pm-3pm and the Final Word with Michael and King from 3pm-5pm.

Once again, Saint Paul is not going to be around to enjoy the fun. A week in Tijuana would be more than enough for most people, but Saint Paul and his bride are having such a good time there that they've decided to extend the honeymoon for a couple of more days south of the border at the Happiest Place on Earth.

It only took my little fingers to blow you away

Gary Larson has been watching the detectives on PBS at Intellectual Conservative:

"Detective" C. Wesley (Wes) Cowan used his brief commentary in a July episode to rip the war. Spewing the usual defeatist jeers ("a mistake," etc.), Cowan delivers lines in the style of CBS-TV's Andy Rooney: Cheap shots, drive-by editorializing, strictly partisan; no mature analysis. Hubris reigns; anyone who disagrees can go jump in the lake.

(Producers call such brief commentaries "interstitials." This was a new term to me. It means "an intervening space between parts.")

At the end of his piece, Wes Cowan (in real life, not a forensic historian, rather a Cincinnati-based "auctioneer and appraiser") launches into his partisan jabs. In spirit he is Bill Moyers all over again, skewing facts to suit a partisan purpose. Can bona fide historians appreciate such tawdry remaking of the past? Reshaping history to fit a bias?

Cowan offers that if only his hero, Sen. John F. Kerry, had won the election, oh, what a wonderful world it would be. Fair enough. Give him that. But what stopped us was his smug, fallacious take-down of the Swift Boat Vets and POWS for Truth--except Cowan did not mention the POWs.

If you did not catch Cowan's sour-faced invective in Episode #503, you never will. His commentary has been snuffed out by his producers, something of a reverse Orwellian memory hole.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Lot Fewer Fish To Swim Among

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Eberstadt looked at the coming consequences of China's One-Child Mistake (sub req):

This "success," however, comes with immense inadvertent costs and unintended consequences. Thanks to a decade and a half of sub-replacement fertility, China's working-age population is poised to peak in size, and then start to decline, more or less indefinitely, within less than a decade. A generation from now, China's potential labor force (ages 15-64) will be no larger than it is today, perhaps smaller. This presages a radical change in China's growth environment from the generation just completed, during which time (1980-2005) the country's working-age population expanded by over 55%.

"Composition effects" only make the picture worse. Until now, young people have been the life force raising the overall level of education and technical attainment in China's work force. But between 2005 and 2030, China's 15-24 age group is slated to slump in absolute size, with a projected decline of over 20% in store. In fact, the only part of the working-age population that stands to increase in size between now and 2030 is the over-50 cohort. Will they bring the dynamism we have come to expect from China in recent decades?

On current trajectories, China's total population will start to decline around 2030. Even so, China must expect a "population explosion" between then and now -- one entirely comprised of senior citizens. Between 2005 and 2030, China's 65-plus age cohort will likely more than double in size, to 235 million or more, from about 100 million now. And because of the fall-off in young people, China's age profile will "gray" in the decades ahead at a pace almost never before witnessed in human history. China is still a fairly youthful society today -- but by 2030, by such metrics as median population age, the country will be "grayer" than the United States -- "grayer," that is, than the U.S. of 2030, not the U.S. of today.


It's difficult to see how the 21st is going to be "China's Century" if these population trends hold true. Another aspect of the one-child policy that I've noticed on my visits to Shanghai is the disproportionate number of young boys you see when walking about:

One final consequence of China's population-control program requires comment: the eerie, unnatural and increasingly extreme imbalance between baby boys and baby girls. Under normal circumstances, about 103 to 105 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls. Shortly after the advent of the one-child policy, however, China began reporting biologically impossible disparities between boys and girls -- and the imbalance has only continued to rise. Today China reports 123 baby boys for every 100 girls.

Over the coming generation, those same little boys and girls will grow up to be prospective brides and grooms. One need not be a demographer to see from these numbers the massive imbalance in the "marriage market" in a generation, or less. How will China cope with the sudden and very rapid emergence of tens of millions of essentially unmarriageable young men?


To paraphrase Mark Steyn, "There haven't been a lot of gay superpowers in world history."

Elevator Stories

Later today, I will be embarking on a three-day strategic planning meeting in Northern Minnesota ("up North"). I'll be joined by work colleagues from Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Russia, Britain, China, India, and Singapore. As JB pointed out some time ago, you never realize just how insidious American's penchant for corporate speak is until you hear some poor sap from another country (whose first language is not English) try to spout some of our meaningless business jargon. It's really quite pitifully and demonstrates how silly it is for America's corporate leaders to insist on using the latest buzzwords, acronyms, and inside-baseball babble rather than just speaking clear, simple English.

If I come across any new and particularly galling abuses of the language in the next few days, I shall report them accordingly.

You'll Know It's True That You Are Blessed And Lucky

The scene near the Lake Harriet band shell on Sunday afternoon was so perfect it was almost absurd. The skies were blue. There was a slight breeze giving just a hint of brisk autumn air. In the playground, children romped joyously on the slides and swings under the watchful eye of their parents. On the grassy hill, people sat in their portable chairs or laid on blankets reading, eating, talking, and drinking, many with dogs by their side. A continuous stream of joggers, walkers, and bikers filed past on their path around the lake, some stopping for a snack, a drink, or just a pause. In the In the distance, the sun brilliantly shimmered off the deep blue waters of Lake Harriet as sailboats whisked by. From the band shell itself, sounds of classical music--occasionally interrupted by the clackety-clack of the old trolley shuffling past--filled the surroundings as the internationally renowned Minnesota Orchestra belted out a series of familiar favorites.

I told my wife afterward that if someone were shooting the scene as a commercial touting the quality of life in the Twin Cities, no one would have believed it was wasn't all being staged for that purpose. It was that perfect a picture. These are the days.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's All About Being Hated By The Right People

An e-mail from MoveOn.Org reveals that they're planning to go after Rudy Giuliani:

This weekend, Rudy Giuliani launched a series of attacks on us for exposing the White House spin on the "surge."

Giuliani is hoping to scare war critics into staying silent. But that isn't going to happen. We've put together a rapid-response ad which demonstrates that Giuliani doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to leadership on Iraq: He was booted from the Iraq Study Group after missing meeting after meeting so he could make millions of dollars giving speeches.

We want voters to know that Giuliani can't be trusted on Iraq. Can you help with $25 to get this ad on the air in Iowa? Click here to see the ad and contribute.


I imagine the booze will be flowing fast and free at Giuliani Campaign HQ tonight. Being attacked by MoveOn.org is a mark of honor for any Republican candidate and I expect this will only serve to cement the rapidly developing impression that he is pulling away as the front-runner for the GOP nod. Now, if he could just get Michael Moore to say something bad about him...

Rammer? I Hardly Even Know Her

Ramstad announces retirement:

Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) will announce Monday that he will not run for a 10th term in Congress, according to a GOP source familiar with the situation.

The lawmaker becomes the sixth Republican House member to retire this cycle and creates an open seat in a bona fide swing district. Ramstad’s retirement ranks as one of the bigger surprises of the six. Despite his 17 years in Congress, Ramstad is just 61.

He was forced to cede the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee when the Democrats took power after the 2006 election.

Ramstad, who has built a centrist voting record during his tenure, has spent much of the new Congress voting with Democrats on key issues. He was one of only 17 Republicans to vote against the troop increase in Iraq and one of 24 to vote to allow the government to negotiate prices with prescription drug companies.


I wish I could say that I would miss Jim Ramstad in the House. But I can't, so I won't.

His announcement does open up the field on both sides in the Third District. I imagine a number of prominent Republicans will consider jumping in and I would expect the Dems to be able to field a much better candidate than Wendy Wilde. I know, I know. Low bar and all that.

And A Jigger Of Tetanus

In Saturday's Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten wrote on a cocktail with selective appeal (sub req):

The Rusty Nail was a favorite of swingers -- that last gasp of finger-poppin' decadence before hippies displaced hipsters. The drink has never fully escaped that dubious association in America.

And yet, the cocktail doesn't have nearly the same connotations in Britain, where the Rusty Nail survived well past the '60s, maintaining a currency in the green-wellie and Range Rover set. In 1981, the folks who publish 'Debrett's Peerage' -- essential reading for those who care to know who will succeed Lord Thingummy -- put out a guide to U and non-U behavior, 'Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners.'

Along with advice on how to avoid embarrassment at palace get-togethers was guidance on proper comportment when blasting grouse. The first rule is to 'decline the invitation' to go out shooting if one doesn't know how to handle a gun. Very sound indeed. Less sound was the notion that one should combine cocktails with the gunplay. Debrett's said that the proper rig for shooting includes a hip flask filled with 'aiming juices.' And on what does a shooter get aiming-juiced? 'A concoction known as 'Rusty Nail' (Scotch and Drambuie in equal quantities).'


I've never been much of a Drambuie man and don't believe that I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying a Rusty Nail. Why would you ever want to add anything other than water to Scotch? My main association with the cocktail is from my wedding reception.

As the best man, JB Doubtless was required to deliver a toast at said affair. He consulted with Saint Paul (who eventually ended up bartending the event) to add some humor to his address and their collaboration resulted in a joke that revolved around a Rusty Nail. I don't recall the specifics of it, but I do remember the reaction. Most of the crowd looked as if they had personally just stepped on a rusty nail. Yes, it was that painful.

Felten goes on to talk about how some Scotch makers are trying to broaden their appeal with kindler, gentler offering and also passes on some sad news:

As you might guess from the names of these offerings, the new whisky liqueurs have a target audience, and it isn't men. There are marketers of Scotch who think that women can be wooed away from vodka-based candy-tinis only by being given Wonka-fied whisky. With its Amber liqueur, Macallan is trying to win over distaff custom not only with sweetness but with female-friendly packaging. The undulate bottle is more appropriate to the shelves of Sephora than any liquor store.

Michael Jackson, the great whisky and beer scribbler who died last month, was not a fan of the Amber concept. "Madness," he called it. "It is like putting go-faster stripes down the side of a Rolls-Royce." But let's say this much about Amber: It is very good -- a very good maple syrup and pecan liqueur. My wife -- whose tolerance for Scotch is tentative, but whose taste for maple syrup was honed when her family moved to Vermont -- gives it her enthusiastic endorsement. But where's the whisky? Whatever Macallan single malt might be in the mix is utterly drowned.


Talk about madness. What kind of world is it when this Michael Jackson dies while the other flourishes? R.I.P.

Award for Outstanding Achievement In the Field of Excellence

In case you missed it (as I did), Al Gore won an Emmy last night:

Former Vice President Al Gore took home an Emmy on Sunday night for creative achievement in interactive television for Current TV, his youth-oriented television channel.

"We are trying to open up the television medium so that viewers can help them make television and join the conversation of democracy and reclaim American democracy by talking about the choices we have to make," Gore said as he accepted the award.


Read that sentence again. Slowly. Banal, meaningless, with false aspirations to importance. Vintage Al Gore.

Tim from Colorado is not impressed either:

What's up with the Emmys? Apparently, the committee ordered too many awards, so the Emmy committee created a category called "Creative Achievement in Interactive Television" and gave Al an Emmy for Al's website Current TV, which allows kids to download their videos to the website for others to view. I know, I know, you are probably awestruck at the man's depth, but this was a non-competitive category, i.e., there were no other nominees, kind of like an election under Saddam.

Hmmm, I think there's already a popular website like that, but its name escapes me; it's on the tip of my tongue. Oh yeah, it's called YouTube!!

Not only did Big Al invent the Internet, but now he's copying developing new websites for his baby, too. I think that at some point in the future, Al will figure a way for us to buy stuff from the Internet. Shopping in our pajamas, wouldn't that be great?


What will he think of next?

The E-Mailman Wears A Bucket

For months I have had a hate/hate relationship with my two free email accounts. While I can begrudgingly justify the need for both of them, I vigorously curse their existence every time I find 25 or more newsletters, political action updates, helpful reminders to donate money, pathetic pleas from blog link-whores and other pernicious little pieces of spam waiting for me after just one single day of neglecting to log in.

Last night I finally decided that enough is enough. My first step was to deal with the things I thought I could easily control: all of the newsletter subscriptions that I don't remember ever signing up for and can't remember ever reading.

I opened up every single one of those buggers, scrolled to the bottom of each where the little "unsubscribe" button resides and, with a great sense of liberation and empowerment, clicked like I've never clicked before. For a few of these irritating intruders that was enough. For the majority, however, my enthusiastic clicking opened up a brand new web page where I was told that in order to take me off their list they would need my email address so they could send me a notification that I had been unsubscribed.

The incredible incongruity of these requests with the original goal of my evening's endeavor led me to abandon all hope of ever regaining control. So I'm out, permanently. From today forward I'm eschewing all forms of digital communication. (I mean, of course, the ones and zeroes type of digital communication, not the finger type. I MUST be able to communicate with my fingers...or, one of them, at least.)

Nope. No more e-mail for me. I'll use snail mail, telephones, fax machines, Fedex, telex, telegrams, holograms...just keep your filthy e-mail messages away from me because I don't need them anymore. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Nigerian government official who needs my help to move your assets into America. I love helping those guys.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Curb Your Exuberance

Alan Greenspan has a new book out and most of the attention on it has focused on his criticism of President Bush and the GOP Congress for their profligate spending. I found this nugget from a story in today's Wall Street Journal (sub req) to be far more interesting:

From serving under so many presidents, Mr. Greenspan concludes that there's something abnormal about anyone willing to do what it takes to get the job. Mr. Ford, he writes, "was as close to normal as you get in a president, but he was never elected." The Watergate tapes, he says, show Richard Nixon as "an extremely smart man who is sadly paranoid, misanthropic and cynical." He recalls telling someone who had accused Nixon of anti-Semitism that he "wasn't exclusively anti-Semitic. He was anti-Semitic, anti-Italian, anti-Greek, anti-Slovak. I don't know anybody he was pro."

Ronald Reagan's ability to instantly tap one-liners and anecdotes in support of a particular policy represented an "odd form of intelligence." He describes Bill Clinton as "a fellow information hound" with "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth" whose relationship with Monica Lewinsky "made me feel disappointed and sad."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nous Sommes Tous Les Garde-Portes

Over the years, we've taken a lot of pride in the quality of interviews (or "gets" as they're referred to by us media industry insiders) that we've been able to land on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Victor Davis Hanson, Michael Barone, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Burleigh, Vox Day, Sewer Man...the list goes on and on.

But we can't hold candle to Alexis Debat. Over the years the former ABC news consultant has written up interviews with an impressive list of names including Former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Sen. Barack Obama. Those are some tough gets.

In fact, maybe they were a little too tough. Much easier to just make it all up:

Former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have added their names to the list of people who say they were the subjects of fake interviews published in a French foreign affairs journal under the name of Alexis Debat, a former ABC News consultant.

"This guy is just sick," said Patrick Wajsman, the editor of the magazine, Politique Internationale, a prestigious publication that has been in business for 29 years. Wajsman said he was removing all articles with Debat's byline from the magazine's Web site.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said a supposed interview with Debat, published in the June 2007 edition of Politique Internationale, never occurred and was a fabrication.


They should have known that the picture of Obama wearing a beret personalized with his name was a Photoshop job.

This incident raises some familiar questions about just what happened to those fact-checkers, gatekeepers, and editors.

In fact, Stephane Dujarric, the deputy communications director for the U.N. secretary-general, said he called the fabricated interview to the attention of the editor of the magazine, Patrick Wajsman, in June 2005.

"I told him that if he went ahead with it, we would denounce the interview as a fake," the U.N. official said. "This was not some obscure guy. This was the sitting secretary-general of the U.N., and the magazine was told it was a fake," he said.

Despite that, Debat continued for the next two years to be cited as the author of interviews with a range of prominent U.S. public officials in Politique Internationale.

The U.N. official said a second supposed interview of Annan by Debat, posted earlier this year by Politique Internationale, was actually portions of a speech the secretary-general had given at Princeton University.

The magazine editor, Wajsman, told ABCNews.com he thought the problem with the Annan interview, one of the first he submitted, was "maybe a technical one" or a misunderstanding.


Yeah, the technical misunderstanding was the he DIDN'T ACTUALLY INTERVIEW ANNAN! Nice to see the Sergeant Schultz defense ("I know nothing!")--a favorite of US editors--is also popular across the pond. That and pointing the blame elsewhere:

Asked why he continued to use Debat after the warning from the U.N., Wajsman said, "Everybody can be trusted once. He seemed to be well-connected in Washington, working for ABC and the Nixon center."

Eetz all zee Americans fault.

I have a hunch that we'll be discussing this story further on tomorrow's NARN First Team broadcast from 11am-1pm. Tune in locally on AM1280 WWTC or listen live on the internet stream from anywhere and everywhere.

Saint Paul is not going to joining the radio festivities as he and his new bride are departing on their honeymoon tomorrow. Not every guy is classy enough to take his true love on a romantic getaway to Tijuana, but our Saint Paul is sparing no expense. Lucky gal.

No Play For Hollywood

From the September 24th National Review's The Week (sub req):

Hollywood is about to release a batch of Terror War movies. What are they like? You'll know when you see them, but here are thumbnail advance sketches from mainstream media.

Lions for Lambs: Robert Redford is an anti-war professor whose students end up fighting in Afghanistan. Grace Is Gone: John Cusack must tell his children that their mother died in Iraq. Charlie Wilson's War: Tom Hanks aids anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan (who become the Taliban). Stop-Loss: A soldier refuses to return to Iraq. The Fall of the Warrior King: Soldiers drown an Iraqi civilian. Redacted: Soldiers rape an Iraqi girl and murder her family.

The director of the last is Brian De Palma, who says, "The pictures are what will stop the war." No. The pictures would stop only one side from fighting. The other will just keep going. De Palma et al. certainly behave as if they want that side to win. But saying that would be McCarthyite, and then they'd just make movies about that for 40 years...


With the possible exception of "Charlie Wilson's War" (which is a great story and could be a great movie if the partisan axe grinding is kept to a minimum), these films all sound like absolute crap. What the hell is wrong with Hollywood anyway? It's not as if there aren't fascinating stories to tell from the war.

Marcus Luttrell's for instance:



Or Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec's? We need movies that tell stories like The Lion of Fallujah not more lies and distortion.

UPDATE-- More on the motivations of Hollywood from Friday'sWSJ (sub req):

Director Paul Haggis, whose new film "In the Valley of Elah," stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon in a classic murder mystery set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, makes no bones about his political stance. "I'm very political and was very much against this war and the Afghanistan war before we invaded," he says. He describes the film as a political "Trojan horse" disguised as a murder mystery.

Mr. Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director of 2004's "Crash," launched the project during the early phase of the war, when public sentiment was largely behind the conflict. He says the current public mood will make it much easier to market the film, which opens today. "It would have been impossible if the war had gone as well as the president predicted or had there been another major terrorist attack," Mr. Haggis says.


Yeah, it would have been a shame if US military success in Iraq had dampened Mr. Haggis' hopes for a boffo box office.

Walking Tall

It's not unexpected to find an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal defending the pay packages that top-tier CEOs receive. However, it is not every day that you see such a piece penned by President Clinton's Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

There's an economic case for the stratospheric level of CEO pay which suggests shareholders -- even if they had full say -- would not reduce it. In fact, they're likely to let CEO pay continue to soar. That's because of a fundamental shift in the structure of the economy over the last four decades, from oligopolistic capitalism to super-competitive capitalism. CEO pay has risen astronomically over the interval, but so have investor returns.

The CEO of a big corporation 40 years ago was mostly a bureaucrat in charge of a large, high-volume production system whose rules were standardized and whose competitors were docile. It was the era of stable oligopolies, big unions, predictable markets and lackluster share performance. The CEO of a modern company is in a different situation. Oligopolies are mostly gone and entry barriers are low. Rivals are impinging all the time -- threatening to lure away consumers all too willing to be lured away, and threatening to hijack investors eager to jump ship at the slightest hint of an upturn in a rival's share price.

Worse yet, any given company's rivals can plug into similar global supply and distribution chains. They have access to low-cost suppliers from all over the world and can outsource jobs abroad as readily as their competitors. They can streamline their operations with equally efficient software culled from many of the same vendors. They can get capital for new investment on much the same terms. And they can gain access to distribution channels that are no less efficient, some of them even identical.

So how does the modern corporation attract and keep consumers and investors (who also have better and better comparative information)? How does it distinguish itself? More and more, that depends on its CEO -- who has to be sufficiently clever, ruthless and driven to find and pull the levers that will deliver competitive advantage.


Reich does go on to say thet just because high CEO pay makes sense economically, it does not mean that it's justified socially or morally. Bit it's still a good sign to see someone like Reich ackowledge that there are fundamental economic reasons for it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zapped!

When I heard that William F. Buckley had a new political novel coming out, I thought that it would nice to have.



When the read the book review in the latest issue of National Review (sub req):

The Rake tells the story of Reuben Hardwick Castle, a North Dakotan who rises from obscurity to the U.S. Senate and nearly wins the Democratic nomination in 1992. He has no real-life analogue (this is not a book about William Jefferson Clinton), yet his character is familiar to us all.

He begins as a charming, even likable person. But his is the fast charm of a restless man, more an involuntary emotional tic than evidence of underlying warmth. We see Castle in 1967 as a freshman at the University of North Dakota, where he is vying for a position on the college newspaper. Buckley writes, "He was by nature competitive but also adroit about the expenditure of energy....He reasoned that by a shrewd application of practical and psychological intelligence he could increase the prospects of success, while diminishing the pains of achieving it." Castle reasons correctly, and rises through the ranks of college life: editor-in-chief of the newspaper, class president, leading protester of the Vietnam War, and all-around man about campus.


I knew that I had to have it. How can you not read Buckley writing about North Dakota?

Despite the heavy passions at play, the book is full of light-heartedness. For example, Buckley pokes fun at the signature vices of the late-'60s generation--false spontaneity, selfish indulgence in loose morals--with "Zip to Zap Day," one of Castle's college schemes. Thousands of students descend on the farming town of Zap, N.D. (population: 450), to manifest their youth through beer and rock music. When after a few days food runs low and the weather turns cold, the organizers urge everyone to leave. But no one budges, and the National Guard is called in to calm "the first 'riot' ever officially recorded in North Dakota."

The Zip to Zap was a real event. When I was in college at UND, people described it to me as "North Dakota's Woodstock." Not exactly:

Students began arriving in Zap on Friday, May 9, 1969. They quickly filled the town's two taverns. The demand for beer was such that the tavern owners decided to double the price. This action upset the students, but in the long run it did not matter since all the beer was rapidly consumed. Drunken students took the streets of the small town. Vomiting and urinating on the streets by the students caused great concern among the locals, who quickly began to fear for their safety.

The temperatures fell below freezing and the drunken college students started a bonfire in the center of town, using wood that was left over from a recent demolition project. The townspeople, led by Mayor Fuchs, asked the students to leave: some complied and some did not. What had started out as a spring break get-together quickly turned into the only riot in North Dakota's history. Local security forces were overwhelmed and the cafe and one of the bars were completely destroyed.

Governor William Guy called in 500 troops from the North Dakota National Guard to quell the riot. Over 1,000 partiers were still in Zap when the guard arrived on the scene at 6:30 am, although just 200 of them were still awake. The guardsmen with fixed bayonets roused the hungover students. There was little resistance to the dispersal. This all took place in front of national media outlets that had gathered at Zap to document the occasion.

In fact, the Zip to Zap was the lead item on the CBS Evening News that day. It was also covered by Pravda, the news outlet of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the Stars and Stripes of the United State Armed Forces. Damage from the riot was estimated to be greater than $25,000. These bills were ultimately paid by the student governments of North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.


I look forward to enjoying Buckley's treatment of the Zip To Zap. It should be a riot.

We Need New Dreams Tonight

At NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Reverend Robert W. Cook on his efforts to start a real Catholic college in Wyoming:

Lopez: Aren't there enough schools? Why start another?

Rev. Cook: There are never enough good schools and certainly not in the categories of the liberal arts, or Catholic education, or in coming to know and understand reality through immersion in nature. As Dr. Bill Bennett put it, "I would say out of all the hundreds of institutions of higher learning in our country, there are maybe a dozen like Wyoming Catholic College where you can get a traditional liberal arts education."

Other institutions might teach their students how to get a job, but very few are prepared to teach them to be a "whole" person, as God intended. WCC has also made Ex Corde Ecclesiae an integral part of its constitution. Few schools calling themselves "Catholic," can truly claim to be followers of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution.

Finally, WCC takes seriously its claim to educate the whole person, body, soul, and spirit. And so, its outdoor adventures and equestrian programs fulfill the third dimension necessary for the education of the whole person: an aspect often unaddressed in our country's institutions of higher learning.

Lopez: What makes you distinct?

Rev. Cook: We provide an environment of true education in authentic freedom, a "freedom" that liberate through the pursuit and discovery of the Truth and does not deteriorate into "license." Parents who send their children to WCC can be assured that at they have been entrusted to a community of faculty and staff that will help those children become better people; a community where they will be encouraged and guided to become a more thoughtful, deeper person, and one where they will be equipped to meet any future challenges they may face in the world. Many colleges speak of educating the "whole person" but we are one of a very few that truly believes we can deliver on that promise.


No mention of the football team, internship opportunities, or the alumni network. Don't they understand what's really important?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perspective

Last night, I dragged the family out to the Linden Hills 911 Tribute. The weather was a bit on the brisk side, but that didn't seem to dampen the turnout. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to see a sizable crowd already gathered at the band shell when we drove by at around 6:30pm. At least we were pleased until we realized how far away that meant that we would have to park. Small sacrifice.

We managed to make it about halfway through the event before our littlest one ran out of patience. Apparently he was cold, hungry, and tired. Four-month-olds can be such babies sometimes.

The portion that we were able to catch was for the most part well-worth the trouble. That the music was solidly inspiring was not surprising given that someone like Manny Laureano was running the show. The unabashedly patriotic nature of the event was also refreshing. From the singing of the Star Spangled banner to the reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to having a mini-parade of kids waving American flags, it was an all-American affair. And the speakers weren't shy about invoking God either (more than just in the official invocation) which is always good to hear at community events.

Given all that, I almost don't want to even mention a complaint which some may regard as petty. Almost.

The official name of the event is "Our 9/11 Tribute." It has been held for the last five years on the anniversary of that terrible day in 2001. Therefore one expects to hear a lot about the events of 9/11 and how they are now remembered as Patriot Day.

What one doesn't expect to hear--at least I didn't--was a lot of talk about the 35W bridge collapse. Minneapolis Mayor RT "Float Diver" Rybak spent almost the entirety of his mercifully short speech talking about the bridge collapse and then bragging on how Minnesotans responded to it. Some of the emergency rescue workers who were involved in operations at the bridge were honored last night and some of the kids who were rescued from the school bus on the bridge were also prominently in attendance. Enough already.

The bridge collapse was a tragedy. The victims should be remembered. The heroes honored. And we should do all that we can to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

But can we get a little perspective please? To compare 9/11 with the 35W bridge collapse is ludicrous. The scope and scale are completely different. Nearly three thousand Americans died on 9/11 in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Thirteen people died in Minneapolis when the bridge collapsed.

Even more importantly, the bridge collapse was a tragedy not unlike a natural disaster. No one intentionally caused the bridge to collapse. No one wanted those thirteen people to die.

9/11 was a carefully planned attack against the United States of America by an international terrorist organization that essentially wishes to destroy Western Civilization. The Twin Towers didn't come down because of a structural engineering deficiency. They came down because a group of very evil men wanted to kill as many Americans as possible. This simple fact should never be forgotten and when you conflate events like the 35W bridge collapse with 9/11, you water down the significance of what should be a searing memory on the soul of every American old enough to recall the horror of that day.

(King had some similar thoughts on inapt 9/11 comparisons.)

Free To Lose

Kay Hymowitz on how libertarianism breaks down when it come to the family in a piece at OpinionJournal (free for all):

A libertarian, according to Brian Doherty, "has to believe" that "the instincts and abilities for liberty . . . are innate," that we possess "an ability to fend for ourselves in the Randian sense and to form spontaneous orders of fellowship and cooperation in the Hayekian sense." But this view of the relationship between the individual and society is profoundly and demonstrably false, especially when applied to the family.

Children do not come into the world respecting private property. They do not emerge from the womb ready to navigate the economic and moral complexities of an "age of abundance." The only way they learn such things is through a long process of intensive socialization--a process that we now know, thanks to the failed experiments begun by the Aquarians and implicitly supported by libertarians, usually requires intact families and decent schools.

Libertarianism did not have to take this unfortunate turn. Ludwig von Mises himself warned that the attempt (of socialists) to undermine the family was a ploy to strengthen the state. Hayek, too, grasped the family's role in upholding the free market. Coming of age in Europe around the time of World War I, he stressed the state's inefficiency but also warned, more generally, of the limits of human reason. "Hayek's economics was rooted in man's ignorance," Mr. Doherty writes; so were his political views, which included both an enthusiasm for freedom and a Burkean respect for customs and institutions.

It is difficult to say why this aspect of libertarianism has faded away, but the sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset once provided a partial answer. In Europe and elsewhere, he observed, modern radicals have tended to be of a Marxist, collectivist bent; in America, with its peculiar Lockean legacy and Jeffersonian ideals, radicals have gone to the other extreme, searching for absolute freedom. It is a quest that has left little room for the confining demands of family and other unchosen social bonds.


This is one of the reasons that I am not now nor have ever been a libertarian. While certain aspects of libertarian political philosophy have an undeniable appeal, when you try to anchor your foundational principles upon it, you find yourself drifting in too many critical areas.

Cherry Picking

The other day, as I was perusing the Air America Minnesota web site, I happened upon their Book Club for progressive readers. Along with expected fare from the likes of Franken, Rich, Brock, Alterman, Conason, Gore, and Wallis, I was surprised to find The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. I was especially surprised to find it under the heading:

The Bush Administration's Failure To Get Tough On Al-Qaeda:

While Wright's book is generally non-partisan in tone, he doesn't shy away from exposing the failures of our political leaders to take the threat of Al-Qaeda seriously enough and act forcefully against it prior to 9/11. If you're going to recommend the book as a source for information on the Bush Administration's eight months of failure pre-9/11, you should recognize that it also is a damning indictment of the EIGHT YEARS of similiar failures under President Clinton.

However, it is encouraging to see Air America recommend "The Looming Tower" (the only book that also appears on our reading recommendations) to its listeners. If they actually read it, they might realize the true nature of the threat we still face and that the war that we are currently engaged in is indeed much more than a bumper-sticker slogan.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You Still Here?

In an ideal world, yesterday's announcement from Senator Chuck Hagel that he was resigning from the US Senate would have been effective immediately. That way we wouldn't have had to listen to his long-winded, blustering, rambling, self-serving question statement to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker this morning. To their credit, they did a nice job rebutting most of his salient points while maintaining their composure and dignity, more than can be said for the lame duck Senator from Nebraska.

By the way, why do Senators constantly have to remind us--as Hagel did this morning--that "It's my job to represent the people and ask the tough questions, blah, blah, blah..."? Yes, we know it is Chuckie. What the people would really like you to do is quit talking and ask a freakin' question.

I look forward to the day when we won't have Chuck Hagel kicking around the Senate anymore.

By the way, if you're not able to watch or listen to the Senate testimony live (consider yourself lucky), you can follow every self-aggrandizing moment at the Power Line Forum.

Social Glue

Kurt e-mails:

Barbara Holland would be a great guest in your radio show.

Indeed.

She'll Drink to That

She's a wisp of a woman with short white hair and a face that's weather-beaten enough to be called craggy. She has just published her 15th book. It's called "The Joy of Drinking" and, as the title suggests, it's a lighthearted history of humanity's long romance with strong liquids.
.....................

Booze, she writes, is "the social glue of the human race." As soon as humans stopped wandering around looking for berries and settled down to raise crops, they started creating wine and beer and, not coincidently, civilization.

"Probably in the beginning, we could explain ourselves to our close family members with grunts, muttered syllables, gestures, slaps and punches," she writes. "Then, when the neighbors started dropping in to help harvest, stomp, stir and drink the bounty of the land, after we'd softened our natural suspicious hostility with a few stiff ones, we had to think up some more nuanced communication, like words. From there, it was a short step to grammar, civil law, religion, history and 'The Whiffenpoof Song.'"