Friday, February 29, 2008

Sinnin' & Grinnin'

Tomorrow on the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, we will be joined at noon by Robert Ferrigno, author of the novel Sins of the Assassin. Sins is a sequel to Prayers of the Assassin which was published a couple of years ago (read my review here) and is the second in a planned Assassin trilogy.

It picks up where Prayers left off in the Islamic States of America circa 2043 with the not-very-devout Muslim anti-hero Rakkim Epps again battling fundamentalist enemies, trying to protect his family, and possibly help reunite a divided country. A number of characters from Prayers are back again including the evil mastermind determined to bring about a new worldwide Caliphate. But the greatest danger to Rakkim comes not from without but within his own mind as he battles for control of his soul. In Prayers, he was touched by an angel. In Sins, he is stalked by a demon.

Ferrigno has again penned an action-packed thriller that keeps up the pace and more than holds your interest. And the details and references in his descriptions of America in 2043 are both interesting and entertaining: New Orleans completely under water, Mexico slowly but surely realizing its reconquistda dreams in the Southwest, "Nuevo Florida" as an independent country, and a mathematical theorem named after John Derbyshire are but a few examples. Ferrigno also weaves the war in Iraq, global warming, and the rise of China into his intricate vision of the future.

It is a dystopian novel and as such it does require some suspension of disbelief. But it's also a fascinating and dare I say fun read. In many ways--character development especially--I found Sins to be superior to Prayers.

Be warned that it's not a book for the fainthearted. The violence is pretty graphic, the language is salty, and the sex...well, the sex is best described as plentiful but awkward.

I expect that someday Prayers, Sins, and the next book in the trilogy will be made into movies and I would advise that most of the sex scenes end up on the cutting room floor. The plots are good enough to stand on their own without the gratuitous tawdriness. But don't wait for the cinematic version. The books are good enough to read now before they're turned into unrecognizable Hollywood films.

Listen as always on AM 1280 The Patriot (where you can also now find the internet stream) to the entire Northern Alliance Radio Network from 11am-5pm tomorrow. If you have a question or comment for Robert Ferrigno, give us a call at 651-289-4488. It would be a sin to miss it.

Enter Sandman

Shawn Otto is husband of the liberal State Auditor Rebecca Otto. He also is the screenwriter of the dreary, depressing and award winning movie "The House of Sand and Fog." True, I've not actually seen it. But I think its fair to say that any movie whose title you can't say aloud three times without falling asleep may not be the runaway thrill ride of the century.

Reviews like this, all from people claiming to have liked the movie, don't help either:

An engrossing drama about the downward mobility of a recovering alcoholic and the yearning for upward mobility of an Iranian immigrant.

A rewarding tale of desperation and lost dreams.

A brilliant treatise on people who do all the wrong things for all the right reasons.

Are these reviews of the House and Sand and Fog or of the DFL Platform? Is there a difference?

Big news, Otto is preparing his next dose of box office magic:

Stillwater-area screenwriter Shawn Otto ("House of Sand and Fog") was putting together the deal for his directorial debut, "Dreams of a Dying Heart"

Along with popcorn and Junior Mints, theater managers are being encouraged to add Maximum Strength No Doz to the concession stand for the run of this one.

Drink Before You Leap

As usual, the WSJ's Eric Felten has the perfect drink for the day (sub req):

One way to revive the date is to associate it with the drinking of a truly fine intercalary cocktail--the Leap Year, a drink invented by the great American barman Harry Craddock, who rode out Prohibition by plying his trade at London's Savoy Hotel. Broadway gossip-columnist Karl K. Kitchen caught up with Craddock in the summer of 1928 and praised the bartender as a "silver-haired genius." Anyone could knock out Martinis and double-Martinis, Kitchen wrote, but Craddock could be counted on for something out of the ordinary: "It has always been his idea to provide cocktails for, as he terms them, special occasions."

The occasion could be something grand, such as a coronation. And indeed, Craddock produced a pair of Coronation Cocktails--one with equal parts sherry and dry vermouth, together with dashes of maraschino liqueur and orange bitters; the other made with brandy and dashes of curaçao, peppermint liqueur and peach bitters. But he didn't need a big event to offer bespoke libations. "Just as couturiers match a woman's personality with a gown, Craddock supplies the cocktail to match your mood."

The bartender looked at Kitchen and sizing him up as a refugee from dry America presented him with a Prohibition Cocktail--gin and Lillet with dashes of orange juice and apricot brandy. Kitchen approved, and as he savored his drink he asked what the most popular cocktail had been that year at the bar. The Leap Year, Craddock responded, which he had invented months earlier for a Feb. 29 fête. The drink "was responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail of recent times."

Made of gin, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier and a dash of fresh lemon juice, the Leap Year is a subtle and perfectly balanced cocktail, one that I've added to my list of personal favorites.

2 oz gin
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz Grand Marnier
1 dash fresh lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. A twist of lemon peel on top.

It's a shame that it never really caught on in a big way (though as late as the 1960s, Schrafft's in New York was still serving the drink). But if the Leap Year cocktail is to see a revival, now's the time. And though it risks turning the delightfully occasional into the merely quotidian, I have to say that I like this drink enough that I'm not about to wait four years before I have another.

It's not just for Leap Year anymore.

Political Riff Raff

From some of the crew that brought you MST3K (the funnier, less politically correct host et al), free political riffs from Riff Trax.

Was It Something I Said?

I see Jessica Lange is in the news again for looking back with anger on the days when she walked among us:

Q: Do you still have a home in Stillwater, Minn.?

A: No, but we have a cabin near Duluth. When we first moved to Stillwater, it still felt like a real place. It had a downtown with a hardware store, a furniture store, a clothing store. Now it's all gift shops and these terrible condominiums. It was a little town with a great deal of character. Everything gets yuppified, I guess.

It is true that downtown Stillwater isn't "real " anymore, in the commercial sense of selling things people actually need. It has gift shops and bead stores and bars and restaurants. Basically things to entertain a prosperous society with a surplus of leisure time. It's the same as Grand Ave. in St. Paul. No one really needs to go there for any reason whatsoever. But people do, because they've got the time and resources to seek out novel ways to amuse themselves.

I'm not sure "real" Stillwater existed even in 1995 when Ms. Lange and company moved into their Victorian mansion on the bluff. By that time the vibrant commercial zone (of Target and Cub Foods and Ace Hardware and Herberger's) already existed along Highway 36. Many of the retail stalwarts of "real" Stillwater didn't disappear, they just moved out of downtown to where the action was. Probably because they could get more space, provide parking for their customers, and get cheaper rent. All to better serve that voracious, prosperous, expanding society surrounding them.

I suppose less economic vitality would have helped retain the quaint atmosphere the newly arrived mansion dwellers on the bluff preferred. Alas, the masses were just too damn productive and well compensated. Where was a recession and massive tax increases when you needed them? (Come back Jessica, things are turning your way!)

Maybe we shouldn't put too much credence on her most recent comments on why she left, as they do not exactly match up with her previous statements.

Lange says she realizes now that she returned to the state in 1995 so she could
spend more time with her mother, who died in 1997. Now, however, Lange told the magazine: "I'm ready to move back to New York," adding that she'll wait until her youngest child graduates from high school. "This is a nice place to raise children. But there's no reason for me to be here anymore."

The magazine also reported that: "Then comes a string of anecdotes about what it's like to tool around in rural Minnesota with a 'No War in Iraq' bumper sticker on her car. 'I had my tires slashed,' " the star told the magazine. " 'I'm being totally serious."

Not enough hardware options downtown, too many yuppies, absolutely no reason to stay, too many violent conservatives. I don't want to be presumptuous here, but I'm starting to get the feeling that her love for this state was something less than torrid.

I am haunted by the thought that I may have had something to do with it. And this may have been the moment it all started to turn sour, my real life encounter with Jessica Lange at a grocery store in Stillwater:

The experience was all too fleeting, but we did make eye contact (at least through her polarized lenses). Right before she left, for some reason she looked over her shoulder to scan the assembled rabble. And there I was right behind her. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump.

I'd like to say it was a magical moment, but I can't. Instead, it was a class conscious moment - as in she had it and I didn't. I've never felt the distinction between the rich and beautiful people vs. guys like me to a stronger degree as at that moment. She was Jessica Lange, looking like Jessica Lange. And there I was, glassy-eyed, slack jawed, wearing Dockers, holding a ham sandwich and bag of Funyons.

Which probably looked something like this from her perspective.

In other words, maybe she left because, as intrepid paleontologist Jack Prescott proclaimed in the 1976 classic King Kong: (sound file)

Knowing the way it all ended for Kong, perhaps its best for all of us that she left when she did.

The Elder Rings Twice:: Ahem..."glassy-eyed, slack jawed, wearing Dockers"...I think we can now clearly identify the tipping point in Stillwater's yuppification.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Change We Should All Get Behind

I officially take back my incendiary comment from earlier today about Minnesota Rep. Ron Erhardt (R Edina) being insane. He is, in fact, a complete and utter moron. Chris Baker interviewed Erhardt this morning on KTLK-FM (here's the link to the podcast) and he comes across not only as a babbling idiot but as an obnoxious and condescending jackass.

At first, he actually tries to defend his bill to add a sales tax to clothing as a way to, brace yourselves, reduce taxes. He trots out his "three legged stool" analogy about the need to equalize all the ways in which the government empties your pocketbook. Somehow, by adding a new tax and reducing another the taxpayers of Minnesota are supposed to be better off by paying less.

Earth to incredibly dense politician guy...the easiest way to reduce taxes is BY REDUCING OUR FREAKING TAXES!!!!

After trying really, really hard to decipher even more of Erhardt's incoherent babble Baker tries to have a bit of fun with him. In no time flat, Erhardt turns into an arrogant and condescending jerk who eventually hangs up on the host and, more importantly, the voting audience.

People of Minnesota, I beseech you. If you only do one thing this election year please make it be helping Keith Downey gain the Republican endorsement in District 41-A and thereby rid the world of future kooky and very costly bills authored by one Ronnie P. Airhead of Edina. Keith has been deep in this race for the past 8 months and, if elected, will finally bring sanity and reason to a House seat that has been held by a stool-metaphor addled and tax crazed chucklehead for far, far, far, far, far too long.

You can start off this noble quest by listening to Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey interview the candidate himself at 2:15 pm this coming Saturday on the Northern Alliance Radio Network broadcast locally here on AM 1280 The Patriot.

Now, go forth and de-Erhardt us.

SP NOTES: I haven't seen Atomizer this agitated and, well, lucid in years. Did he actually give up booze for Lent? It is the season of miracles.

The Elder Concurs: It's nice to see that the slumbering passed-out giant has finally awoken. I can't wait for Easter when JB--after having given up blogging for Lent--returns refreshed and full of vim and vigor.

When Heart & Head Collide

James from Folsom e-mails with a conundrum and asks what happens in a state...

Where hockey meets fiscal responsibility?

Curious about your view on this:

A Minnesota State Senate committee has approved a $1 billion public works bonding bill Tuesday which included funding for three Division I hockey arenas.

Most notably, $22 million in funding was approved for the Bemidji Regional Events Center, which would include a new hockey arena for the BSU Beavers. It was widely considered, including by the school itself, that a new arena was needed in order to maintain the viability of the men's hockey program.

Also approved was $40 million in funding for the renovation and expansion of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, home of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Built in 1966, the DECC currently holds approximately 5,300 for hockey. A new facility would hold 6,500.

St. Cloud State's National Hockey Center will get $10 million to remodel and expand. Also, $10 million was granted to fund a new arena for the Minnesota-Crookston Division III team.
My first reaction was as a hockey fan, which is probably in conflict with my fiscal conservatism.

They are not arenas for professional teams, but for public universities, so it is not arenas for billionaires. But does the State of Hockey really need to be spending this money now? On the other hand, the new arena for BSU might be critical to saving the program as their hockey conference is nearing collapse and they need the arena if they ever are gonna get into the WCHA. Ultimately good for hockey, but for the taxpayers?

These are definitely the issues that try fiscally conservative hockey fans' souls. As James mentions, since these are facilities for college and not professional teams, you can argue that the state has a legitimate role in funding them. However, with the economy slumping and the state of Minnesota facing a billion dollar deficit, you can also argue that the money might be better spent (not spent is apparently not an option) elsewhere.

In the spirit of compromise that seems to be sweeping the land these days, I'll spilt the difference. BSU needs a new rink and they should be encouraged to stay at D1. The DECC in Duluth is badly in need of a facelift and the 'Dogs deserve a decent facility.

But I think the good people of St. Cloud (and King Banaian) can live with their concrete mausoleum for a while longer. Check back with us after you've won A SINGLE NCAA playoff game. And spending $10M to build a rink for a DIII school is silly. Sorry Crookston, no sale.

James closes his e-mail with:

PS: Chris Simon? Chris F***ing Simon?

Yes James, Chris F***ing Simon. And no James, for Wild fans there is no Santa Claus. Just another lump of coal.

SP BRAVELY DISSENTS: There is no legitimate role for the government in building facilities for amusement or entertainment. If BSU or UMD or the Gophers feel they need multi-million dollar arenas to stage their precious little games, they need to find a way to pay for them without including the taxpayers. Student fees, ticket sales, endowments from proud alumni (does BSU or UMD have any of those?), bake sales, whatever voluntary means you can find. If that's not enough to cover the cost, that is sufficient reason to cancel the project due to lack of demand.

The Elder Draws A Retaliation Penalty: How patriotic of you SP. I recall you were singing a different tune a few years ago when you were calling for state financing of a new theater at the U to host the Riverdance tour.

I think this bumper sticker that I saw on Sisyphus' car nicely sums it up:

It will be a great day when our D1 schools get all the money they need for hockey rinks and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

But I Don't Want The Tax, I Just Want The Shirt!

The dust hasn't even settled from this week's disaster in the Minnesota House of Representatives and they're trying to dig their hands even deeper into my wallet. Ron Erhardt (R Edina), one of six RINOs voting to override Gov. Pawlenty's veto of a massive tax increase Monday, is now proposing a new sales tax on clothing:
"Monies from the sales tax are shrinking," State Representative Ron Erhardt, a Republican from Edina, told KARE 11.

"This would be a way to broaden the base we tax on and reduce the rate as a matter of fact."

Erhardt's bill would repeal the sales tax exemption clothing currently enjoys, and at the same time reduce the rate on all items from 6.5 percent to 5.96.

The money gained by taxing apparel would be offset by the revenue lost by lower the sales tax rates across the board.

"It has nothing to do with the deficit," explained Erhardt, "Just as a matter of tax policy it's something we should be talking about."

So why do it? Because when future legislatures raise sales taxes they'll be taxing a larger pool of items, getting more from that source.

Erhardt asserts that traditionally sales taxes, property taxes and income taxes were "three legs of the stool" all carrying one-third of the load for funding government. Because of sagging sales tax revenues, he says property taxes are now bearing a disproportionate share.

"We got to start talking about this because right now our property taxes have moved ahead of the sales tax on the monies they raise."
This man is simply out of control, and quite possibly insane. Here's a novel idea, Ron, if you want to keep the "three legs of the stool" equal how about proposing a bill that would CUT OUR FREAKING PROPERTY TAXES you stupid son of a bitch!!!

Seriously, I think this man has lost every part of his brain that is not obsessed with raising taxes. Ron Erhardt has been doing this to Minnesota taxpayers for 18 years and it must end.

Keith Downey is running for Republican endorsement in Erhardt's District 41-A. If you live there, you know what to do. If you don't, do everything else in your power to make Ronnie P. Airhead a distant memory. I know I will.

The Elder Sashays Down The Catwalk: As I've mentioned before, my wife is not a hardcore political wonk like Atomizer or JB Doubtless. But I can just about guarantee that when she hears about Erhardt's plan to impose a sales tax on clothing, she's going to want to do everything in her power to stop the tax-happy madman. I think we may even see the creation of a new PAC: Minnesota Shoppers For Downey.

Protecting The Flock

At the First Things blog, Anthony Sacramone looks at the case of a Catholic bishop who refused to let a Catholic scholar speak at a college in the diocese because of the scholar's disagreements with the Church's teachings and speculates as to why such "rebels" remain with the Church:

I love the complaint uttered by one of the parents: that the kids should be able to "hear all sides." What sides? There are no sides when it comes to magisterial teaching. If Johnson wanted to make the case for a liberal, mainline view of marriage, sexual morality, and doctrine, then he should be doing so either in debate with an orthodox Catholic or in a different venue altogether. Does he really not understand the millennium-old theological underpinnings of these matters, as understood by his own church? Again, if he wanted to make the case as an advocate for another church, fine--fight it out in an open forum. But he is doing to the Catholic Church's defined teaching of the sacramental nature of marriage, ordination, etc. what the Jesus Seminarians did to the historical Jesus: refashioning it to fit the comfort zone of neo-gnostic academics.

I have never understood why the dissenters within the Catholic Church--think Garry Wills, James Carroll, and members of Catholics for a Free Pass on Killing the Little Babies--remain within the church. It's a free country. Pick yourself up and walk over to a TEC or ELCA congregation: I promise, they would love to have you.

My guess is, and it's just a guess, is that it would be no fun knowing that the old Catholic Church was still there, teaching all that hoary stuff they simply can't abide. In effect, Rome would have won by simply remaining unmoved. As mainline Prots, these guys and gals would lose their cachet as dissenters. An Episcopalian questioning the Virgin Birth, a male-only priesthood? Yawn...

Time to grow the hell up...

The Era Of Personal Responsibility Is Officially Over

Family sues friends who partied with Jax as she got drunk, died:

The family of Amanda Jax, the woman who drank herself to death at a Mankato nightspot in celebration of her 21st birthday, is suing the bar and the friends who bought her a steady stream of drinks.

The lawsuit, being filed today in Blue Earth County District Court, says that Jax's college-age friends on Oct. 29 brought her one drink after another in less than two hours.

Jax, the suit contends, "was in the care" of the friends that night who gave alcohol to "an obviously intoxicated person." Their actions, the suit continues, "created an unreasonable risk of causing physical harm" to Jax, and the friends "failed to exercise reasonable care" in preventing harm to Jax.

"Regardless of the signs," the suit alleges, "Amanda's friends continued to purchase and provide Amanda with alcoholic beverages."

Exactly what part of "drank herself to death" is not clear here? Obviously this is a tragic situation and I can understand that the family is having a difficult time accepting what happened. But not everything bad in life can or should be blamed on someone or something.

Unless her friends held her down and poured drinks down her throat against her will (which they didn't), the responsibility for her unfortunate demise rests with Amanda Jax. She chose to get loaded in the first place. She chose to drink too much.

That won't provide any solace for the familty, but neither will trying to pin responsibility on her friends by taking them to court.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From Rags to Riches

According to legend, the career of Academy Award winning actress Lana Turner was dependent on her being "discovered" by a show business executive while she was sitting at the malt counter of a Hollywood drug store:

As a 16-year-old student at Hollywood High, Turner decided to skip a typing class and buy a Coke at the Top Hat Cafe located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and McCadden Place. There, she was spotted by William R. Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, and his wife Tichi. Wilkerson was struck by her beauty and physique, and referred her to the actor/comedian/talent agent Zeppo Marx. Marx's agency immediately signed her on and introduced her to film director Mervyn LeRoy, who cast her in her first film, 1937's They Won't Forget.

Flash forward 70 years and you realize that things haven't changed all that much. The charming tale of the discovery of 2008 Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody.

Cody, whose real name is Brook Busey, caught the eye of manager Mason Novick after he found her sexy blog while surfing for porn online several years ago.

Who says Hollywood's values are out of step with middle America?

BTW, that sound you hear is envious City Pages alumni all over town slapping their foreheads in dismay over their failed strategy of trying to get noticed by writing and publishing their precious, edgy prose while not dropping their pants for the camera.

This precedent also suggests the next local blogger to attract the attention of "talent" surfing Hollywood moguls will be someone from Anti-Strib (not safe for work, unless perhaps you're employed by the William Morris Agency.)

Let it be known that Fraters Libertas made the decision at its inception not to dabble in the flesh trade. Sure, we've got the abs for it. But ultimately we seek to be praised and adored for our talents rather than our beauty.

{crickets} {crickets}

.... while we wait for that to happen, we can also wait for the values of Hollywood to change. We'll never have a media mogul stumble onto us while he's surfing for porn. But we're in, if there's ever a fervent revival of interest in say .... Rudy Boschwitz.

Yes, still on the second page of his Google search after all these years (thanks to some Google bombing done before we even knew what that meant).

Note to Hollywood, my script for Ru-no (about a middle age man's brave refusal to not close his plywood business after his election to the Senate) is just about done.

A Great Man Passes

A man who was written numerous farewells will now require one of us own. From the editors of Naional Review:

Our revered founder, William F. Buckley Jr., died in his study this morning.

If ever an institution were the lengthened shadow of one man, this publication is his. So we hope it will not be thought immodest for us to say that Buckley has had more of an impact on the political life of this country--and a better one--than some of our presidents. He created modern conservatism as an intellectual and then a political movement. He kept it from drifting into the fever swamps. And he gave it a wit, style, and intelligence that earned the respect and friendship even of his adversaries. (To know Buckley was to be reminded that certain people have a talent for friendship.)

Passing in his study is an appropriate way for Buckley to go. We honor the life of one of the legends of modern conservatism. William F. Buckley Jr. R.I.P.

We Report And Decide That You're A Bunch Of Idiots

I rarely if ever watch the local television news. There's little actual news reported and the coverage they do provide on real issues is remarkably shallow and incomplete.

But last night, I happened to be surfing the dial and came across a piece on the transportation bill on KARE 11. Billed as an "Extra" it featured Rick Kupchella explaining where the money from the various taxes was going to go and why all those taxpayers who are outraged about an increase in their tax burdens are drooling, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, too stupid to think for themselves and blindly swallowing the misinformation being fed them.

It truly was one of the most offensive, condescending pieces of agenda journalism I've come across is some time. You can watch the video here or better yet read the "report" that Kupchella spewed last night here.

It begins with a common media conceit. Take a contentious issue, explain that there is a lot of discussion going on about it, and then claim that now an unbiased objective reporter is going to sift through the facts, cut away the clutter and partisanship, and give you the real story. You see this sort of "reporter as ultimate judge of the truth" crap all the time in the media. Last night's Extra was no different:

Clearly, we struck a nerve. Plowing through all the emails sent to us over the course of the last few months on this issue, we've come to a few basic conclusions:

First - people are still angry about the level of taxation in this state, if not the gas tax specifically, the tax burden overall.

Second - there's a tremendous amount of distrust in state leaders when it comes to managing state money.

Third - the public has a lot of bad information in terms of what's real, fueled largely by un-informed talk radio.

Ah yes, the real culprit of a misinformed public is always talk radio. Unlike Rick Kupchella, those un-informed talk radio devils are delivering bad information and not telling you what's real. Interesting to note that Kupchella didn't bother to site even ONE example of this "un-informed" talk radio last night.

Instead, he took a typical media approach to delivering the "real story."

First, cherry pick the people you want to present as being outraged and misinformed. No offense to the crew who appeared in the report last night, but they weren't exactly the most articulate defenders of their position. Portray them as "mad as hell" and slightly irrational by having them read some of their more outrageous statements on the air. Don't feel too bad fellows, I've been there and had that done myself and know how it feels to come off as the angry crank in the basement.

Second, frame the story in a way that allows you to present only the information you want. If you watched Kupchella's report last night, you would have assumed that the only way that bridges and roads could be funded in Minnesota was by raising the gas, license, and motor vehicle sales taxes. Read his entire report and see if you can find the words "bond" or "bonding." You can't. Create the illusion that you're presenting all the relevant context, while actually only discussing information that fits within your pre-conceived template.

Third, present public officials who support your positions as reasonable and well-informed to make sure that no one misses the contrast with the angry rubes (always men). And only present public officials who reinforce your views. If there was any doubt as to how much Kupchella was marching in lockstep with the DFL last night, it was quickly erased when he turned to this political leader for comment:

We took the stories of Mark and Rene, and others, to Margaret Anderson Kellerher, speaker of Minnesota's House of Representatives. We told her how so much of the frustration and anger in the public is based on a basic distrust of government.

She sees it as largely "par for the course."

"I think that is always a part of the relationship between the public and elected folks. And I think it goes back a few hundred years, to the way the country was founded," Anderson Kellerher said.

She was the only politician or pundit (other than a "lobbyist for homeowners") featured in the report. I guess Marty Seifert was busy. No one from the Governor's office was available. David Strom and Phil Krinkie didn't answer their phones.

My favorite part of the story was when Kupchella tried to help us ignorant peasants understand by providing some unbiased, objective perspective:

Finally, it helps to understand the scale of this whole thing. Roads and bridges are insanely expensive. Minnesota already spends $2 billion a year for roads and bridges.

Now, even the legislative auditor says we need $3 billion a year, just to cover the basics. Our whole state budget is less than $18 billion a year for everything!

Less than $18 billion! For "everything"? That's hardly anything! No wonder we can barely scrape by!

Kupchella didn't bother to explain what else besides roads and bridges this "everything" was and why a state government should have any reason to prioritize these other things over roads and bridges in the first place. But then again, that wasn't part of his agenda.

(Michael Mannske has more at True North in a post called Just Who Does KARE Care For Anyway?.)

Pumpin' Tax Cash With The Gas, Gas, Gas

From the New York Times via (emphasis mine):
Gasoline prices, which for months lagged the run-up in the price of oil, are suddenly rising quickly, with some experts saying they could hit $4 a gallon by spring. Diesel is hitting new records daily and oil closed at an all-time high on Tuesday of $100.88 a barrel.

The increases could not come at a worse time for the economy. With growth slowing, high energy prices that were once easily absorbed by consumers are now more likely to act as a drag on household budgets, leaving people with less money to spend elsewhere. These costs could worsen the nation's economic woes, piling a fresh energy shock on top of the turmoil in credit and housing.
And how do our state Representatives react immediately after voting to pile new taxes on top of these already high prices? That's Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston (House sponsor of the $6.6 billion transportation law) and Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, pictured below looking positively overjoyed at what they've just done to the taxpayers of Minnesota (actually, Bernie looks a little constipated but at his age it's hard to tell the difference).

(photo by Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune)
Passing economy crushing legislation can be so rewarding.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Ever Take Sides Against The Family

This breaking story is music to
6 GOP legislators stripped of leadership positions

Less than 24 hours after six rogue Republican House members voted to override a veto of a $6.6 billion transportation bill, they were stripped of leadership positions, a swift - and unusual - recrimination that was intended to "stitch together" a fractious House Republican caucus.
I guess there just might be hope for our Minnesota House Republicans after all.

The Elder Discusses Business At The Dinner Table: How long before these six brave dissenters become darlings of the local media? Ten, nine, eight...

Keep On The Sunny Side

While the Minnesota House's override of Governor Pawlenty's veto of the transportation bill is being greeted by local conservatives with a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, it does seem that there may be a silver lining after all:

That bill raises the gas tax, license tab fees, and other Metro area sales taxes. But in November, another sales tax increase will be on the ballot and Minnesota voters will decide whether it goes up even more.

The bill will ask voters for a three-eighths of a cent rise in taxes for outdoors and art programs.

Supporters of that amendment said the transportation bill would make it difficult to pass another tax increase.

"If we throw the largest tax increase in state history at the voters now I think we pretty much just torpedoed the heritage amendment," said Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee.

If only that were really true. Unfortunately, I'm sure the "heritage amendment" or "legacy act" or whatever historically important name they've given it now is still very much afloat. But it's not going to be easy sailing to passage:

According to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS' exclusive Survey USA Poll, it already faces a tough road to passage.

When asked about the constitutional amendment to raise the sales tax for the outdoors and the arts, 64 percent said it's a bad idea. Only 32 percent approved, with very few declaring themselves undecided.

Now, that really is some good news for a change. But now is not the time to celebrate, because November is a long ways off and those in favor of the Theater Birthright proposition are just gearing up their efforts to cram this legacy tax down our throats:

DFL leaders don't think the transportation taxes will impact the vote on the outdoors and arts bill.

"I don't think it puts a nail in the coffin at all. I think people have said they want to clean up our water, they want to make the investments in conservation and the cultural issues that are proposed in that ballot question," said House Speaker Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

A public relations campaign to win support for that amendment is already getting underway.

On behalf of the entire staff here at Fraters Libertas, I promise that when it comes to defeating this amendment, we shall fight on the blogs, we shall fight on the radio shows, we shall fight at the rallies and at the conventions, we shall fight at the polls; we shall never surrender.

More Than Words

A lot Republicans have begun comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, especially in foreign policy. In today's WSJ, Stephen Hayes warns that he may have more in common with another president:

Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."

Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a-simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.

One Reagan adviser had predicted such a win shortly after Reagan had become the de facto nominee the previous spring. In a memo about the coming general election contest with Jimmy Carter, Richard Whalen wrote Reagan's "secret weapon" was that "Democrats fail to take him very seriously."

Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?

Hayes goes on to caution Republicans against assuming that there is no substance behind Obama's words.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Edsel of Hockey

Hockey Fan, and Investor, Buys Bauer From Nike:

As a child in Montreal, W. Graeme Roustan regularly received hand-me-down Bauer hockey skates from his older brother, and he has continued to buy Bauer Supreme skates ever since.

But on Thursday, Mr. Roustan, now a private equity investor in Florida, made a bigger purchase, buying the Bauer operation from Nike for $200 million.

Mr. Roustan, whose holdings include companies that make ice rink equipment, spoke of his passion for the Bauer name on Thursday, but there was much less excitement for Nike shareholders. The price paid by Mr. Roustan and Kohlberg & Company, an investment firm based in Mount Kisco, N.Y., is well below the $395 million Nike paid for Bauer in 1994.

You buy an asset, hold it for fourteen years, and sell it for HALF the price you paid? That's almost as bad as McClatchy's "investment" in the Star Tribune.

When Nike acquired Bauer, inline skating was at its faddish peak in the United States. A critical component of the company's strategy was to transform that into a following for hockey played on concrete using inline skates.

But inline hockey did not develop as anticipated. More important, Nike learned that performance was more important than styling flair in hockey gear.

This ain't basketball people.

Eventually Nike corrected its product missteps and maintained Bauer's lead in the skate market. But its early products made the Nike brand the hockey industry's rough equivalent of the Edsel. Eventually Nike was killed as a stand-alone hockey brand; only its swoosh logo now appears next to Bauer's name on products.

As someone who once owned a pair of Nike hockey skates (hangs head in shame), I can testify to their lemony qualities. I didn't buy them because of their Nike "flair" though. I bought them because they were greatly discounted and I couldn't pass up the "bargain." It was yet another painful (literally) lesson in getting what you pay for.

It's nice to see the good name of Bauer back in the hands of someone who knows hockey.

Give The Captain Some Air

We want to extend our congratulations to our NARN colleague Captain Ed for landing a new gig:

Today brings exciting news and an end to a time in my life that has proven far more successful than I ever dreamed. Beginning on March 1, I will begin working for Michelle Malkin, a friend, mentor, and writer I have long admired. She has offered me a position as writer at Hot Air, and my blogging will appear exclusively there.

Isn't the mentor usually the older one? Just askin'.

With every new beginning comes some other beginning's end:

That means that I will close out Captain's Quarters sometime in March.

No more Captain's Quarters? This is like finding out that your neighborhood bar is closing and the owner will be working at Applebee's (or Krabby O Mondays). But I'm sure the tips are much better and Ed has made a wise move.

I am a little worried though that all the excitement may have caused him a moment or two of light-headedness. How else to explain this post on VP possibilities for McCain?

Pawlenty and Sanford both give gentle but firm opposition to McCain's efforts on both in this interview -- which normally would signal a presidential nominee to avoid them as running mates. However, in this instance both men could make excellent emissaries to the conservative wing of the party. They can lay out the thinking conservative's case for enthusiasm in McCain better than anyone else, and at the same time lay out their own cases for higher public office in the post-McCain phase. It promises a means to influence in the next administration and grooming more palatable conservatives for the future.

I read this sort of thing about Pawlenty being a good conservative in the national media all the time and I'm become accustomed to it. But Ed lives here in Minnesota and has for some time. He should know better than to traffic in the conventional (and very incorrect) wisdom on T-Paw.

Memo to national political pundits (and apparently Ed): Governor Pawlenty is not a rock-ribbed conservative by any means. In general, I like Pawlenty and think he's done a decent job holding the line against the excesses of the DFL. I can't even imagine what a nightmare it would be to have Mike Hatch leading the state right now. But make no mistake about it, Pawlenty is not the guy to warm the hearts of conservatives disaffected by having McCain on the top of the ticket. On many issues that most rile conservatives, Pawlenty shares the same views as McCain. Adding him to the ticket as VP will not bring any measure of ideological balance.

Now Sanford, well that's another story entirely.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar? I Don't Even Know Her

Looking through a list of Oscar contenders the other day, I realized that in the five major categories, I've seen all of ONE, yes ONE of the seventeen movies involved in said categories. That movie was Eastern Promises, which has Viggo Mortensen up for Best Actor. And I saw that movie not in a theater, but on an airplane somewhere over the Pacific.

I'm not as big a film buff as our own Saint Paul, but usually I would have viewed at least one of the five contenders for Best Picture. Usually in this case meaning in the time before children. Having two kids under the age of three really does change pretty much everything.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Stifling Debates

Last night, Clinton and Obama faced off in what I believe was the NINETEENTH Democratic debate so far this primary season. While having it narrowed down to two candidates made it far more watchable than the earlier circus act debates with multiple performers (including clowns), after I sat through a good part of it I had to ask myself what the point was. Did it or any of the many many debates that we've had so far for both parties really matter?

Looking back at the slew of debates, I can only come with two that were significant in any way. The first was Clinton's stumble on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants in late October. Looking back on it now, you can view it as the beginning of her Great Unraveling. But would that unraveling have happened anyway if the debate had never taken place? I would think so. Maybe not in the same manner or at the same pace, but it seems to have been inevitable.

The other debate that likely had an impact was the Saturday night showdown in New Hampshire (January 5th) where Obama appeared snarky when he made a jab at Clinton's likability be saying, "They like you well enough." That and Hillary's emotional breakdown a few days later were probably what sparked her comeback win in New Hampshire. Looking back at it now, that win seems pretty inconsequential in the bigger picture. It kept her alive to fight another day, but hasn't stopped Obama from the verge of winning the nomination.

Did any of the Republican debates matter a whit? Offhand, I can't think of one that did. Some people have attributed Huckabee's rise to his debate performances, but frankly I was never really all that impressed. I think he gathered support from his work on the ground and would have risen in the GOP ranks with or without the debates.

So what's the point of having them? As far as I can tell, in their current format there isn't one. The questions asked are usually irrelevant or meaningless. Very rarely do the candidates ever answer the question asked anyway. They come in to the debates with these canned answers (and joke lines) and wait for a question that's even remotely related to unleash them. And rarely do the moderators follow up and make them answer the question directly. It makes for a very frustrating experience for the viewer. You get 90% talking point fluff and 10% actual content. Couldn't the time, effort, and energy of everyone involved be spent in a better manner?

One final debate point; the Obama applause lines are getting ridiculous.

On my way to the debate tonight


I stopped by the store


and bought some milk,

(Rising applause)


(Thunderous applause)

and bread.

(Standing ovation--ear shattering, deafening applause)

You love him. We get it. Just try to be a little more judicious with your public adoration please.

UPDATE-- Jason e-mails to add:

Great post on the debates. But I think the bigger question is in regards to campaigning in general. Does any educated voter make a decision based on the fact that they saw someone in person or were able to shake their hand? The stump speeches are designed to be nothing more then a quick pep rally with no substantive information. I think Fred Thompson was probably on the right track with his campaign. People should base their voting decisions on a candidate's employment history, voting track record and stance on the issues none of which can be conveyed in a fifteen minute stump speech or 30 second debate clip.

I concur. But if you look at what happened to Fred, I don't know if that approach is workable either.

Cat, A Tonic?

Bill heps us to the latest news on cats vs dogs. When a dog just won't do:

A new study suggests cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people who, well, don't own cats.

And no, dogs don't do the same trick.

The study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that feline-less people were 30 to 40 percent likelier to die of cardiovascular disease than those with cats.

Yet dog owners had the same rate as non-owners. "No protective effect of dogs as domestic pets was observed," said the study, which was presented Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't Call Us...

If you were conducting a job interview and you asked a candidate this question:

We have time for just one final question, and we thought we would sort of end on a more philosophical question. You've both spent a lot of time talking about leadership, about who's ready and who has the right judgment to lead if elected president.

A leader's judgment is most tested at times of crisis. I'm wondering if both of you will describe what was the moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis.

And the answer you received was this:

OBAMA: Well, you know, I wouldn't point to a single moment. But what I look at is the trajectory of my life because, you know, I was raised by a single mom. My father left when I was two, and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents.

And, you know, there were rocky periods during my youth, when I made mistakes and was off course. And what was most important, in my life, was learning to take responsibility for my own actions, learning to take responsibility for not only my own actions but how I can bring people together to actually have an impact on the world.

And so, working as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago, with ordinary people, bringing them together and organizing them to provide jobs and health care, economic security to people who didn't have it, then working as a civil rights attorney and rejecting the jobs on Wall Street to fight for those who were being discriminated against on the job -- that cumulative experience, I think, is the judgment that I now bring.

It's the reason that I have the capacity to bring people together, and it's the reason why I am determined to make sure that the American people get a government that is worthy of their decency and their generosity.

What would you think? Just askin'.

And when Hillary Clinton said this in what sounded very much like her swan song at the end of the debate:

CLINTON: Whatever happens, we're going to be fine.

Was she talking about her and Obama or her and Bill? Again, just askin'.

I'm Dirty, Mean, And Mighty Unclean

A story in this week's City Pages on a local anti-fascist skinhead group known as the Baldies, contained some possibly disturbing revelations:

A group called the Minneapolis Oi! Boys (MOB) arose as a consortium of non-aligned skins and punk rockers. While generally apolitical, MOB adhered to a nationalistic, right-leaning philosophy. Unlike the East St. Paul-based White Knights before them, MOB was operating on the Baldies' turf.

Gulp. Could this group have been a precursor to today's Minnesota Organization of Bloggers? Maybe those local left-wing bloggers were right about the malevolent intentions of the MOB after all.

With that, the war intensified. Beat-downs became a daily occurrence. Members on both sides began brandishing weapons, usually baseball bats and ax handles.

"If I have one regret, it's that we didn't do more to reach out to MOB," says Ciaran. "Things got out of hand."

Other Baldies agree.

"Some of those MOB guys were cool," says Davey. "Our pride got in the way. It turned into a vicious cycle of needless violence."

By '92, the skin scene was dying. Part of it had to do with the MOB war, but the simple fact was that the crew was getting older. Some Baldies were fathers. Some, such as Hawkins, went off to college. Others, like Danny, had joined the military.

Hmmm....What would be the connection between the current MOB and a of group nationalistic, right-leaning, punk-loving, skinheads? Could it really be this man?

We all know what Mitch was doing twenty years ago, but what about seventeen or eighteen? And what about the "Mayor" of the MOB? Are we really expected to believe that this is all just a coincidence? Connect the dots people. Connect the dots.

Don't Feed The Media

Well, it looks like the honeymoon is over. The bloom is officially off the rose. While we started to see the signs of strains in the relationship in the last few years when John McCain stubbornly insisted on supporting the Iraq War, today's hit piece in the New York Times confirms that the long-time dalliance between Senator McCain and the media has come to an end. No more playing footsie, flirting openly, and exchanging knowing glances. This relationship can't (and shouldn't) be saved.

The best analogy I've heard on this so far came courtesy of Laura Ingraham this morning, when she compared McCain to Timothy Treadwell, who peacefully coexisted among bears in Alaska for years and thought he had reached an understanding with them that transcended nature. Then one day, a bear (or possibly two) attacked and tore him and his girlfriend limb for limb. He probably had the same look of surprise on his face that McCain had at the press conference denouncing the Times story. Gee, I never thought they would attack me like that.

This is a lesson that every Republican, even the mavericks, should have learned by now. No matter how much you make nice with the media, open up with them, joke around with them, and slap them on the back they will always revert to their true nature at some point. You may be a maverick Republican, but you're still a Republican and at the end of the day, when they have a chance to stick a shiv in your back to stop you or help a Democrat, you better believe they're not going to think twice about thrusting it deep and twisting it hard.

The fact that the Times would choose to attack McCain on conjured up ethics charges at this point is almost laughable. Hillary had to add another wing to their Chappaqua home to house a closet big enough for her ethical skeletons. The Times could have had front-page stories on a daily basis from January 1st until now on Hillary's ethics, yet I can't recall a single one. Obama cut his political teeth in the rough and tumble world of Chicago. No chance that there could any questionable ethics there now are there? I'm sure the Times has a team dedicated to thoroughly researching and checking Obama's background for any hint of wrongdoing. And bears use toilets to take care of their business.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hope, For A Change

With it looking more and more like we'll be seeing an Obama-McCain matchup come November, there's a lot of talk about the challenges that such a pairing poses for the GOP. Voters are ready for a change. It's a bad year for Republicans. All the enthusiasm is on the Democrats side. Obama's youthful image will be a stark contrast to the seventy-one year McCain. Blah, blah, blah.

Frankly, I've bought into this chatter as well and have thought for some time that the only chance any Republican had was to be facing Hillary in November.

However, while watching last night's primary coverage, I was thinking more about Obama versus McCain and realized that the matchup may not be as bad for Republicans as has been advertised. Before we start slitting our wrists and abandoning all hope, we should consider a couple of factors that have nothing to do with issues, but are emotionally based. Don't underestimate how important such factors can be in determining the outcome either.

#1 Age Before Beauty: Is being younger really such a guaranteed advantage for Obama? Boomers are just beginning to reach retirement age and more of them (and those older) will likely be able to relate more to McCain's career path and life story than Obama's. How many times have they seen an older, experienced colleague who deserved the job pushed aside in favor of a younger, smooth-talking up and comer?

We hear a lot of talk about gender and racial identity voting. But what about voters feeling sympathy for their age cohort? The power of the youth vote is oft toted and exaggerated. The reality is that older voters are much more likely to turn out on election day.

#2 Settling Versus Finding Your Dream Man: It seems highly unlikely that anything could happen between now and November that would cause Republican voters to think less of John McCain. The vast majority of Republicans who support him do so for pragmatic reasons. They've known him for a long time and have a good grasp of his personality, warts and all. They're not overly enamored with him, but now he's their man for better or for worse. I would imagine that between now and November as Republicans become more and more comfortable with McCain, their support and enthusiasm for him will only increase, especially when he really starts going after Obama (we saw a glimpse of that last night with the "eloquent but empty" tag).

Compare that with the mad crush that Dems now have on Obama. They think they fell in love at first site. They've been dating for a few months and now are ready to elope to Vegas and get married. But what happens when they wake up after the honeymoon and discover that they don't really know the person sleeping next to them after all? Young, swooning love can be a wonderful thing, but the passion can only burn for so long. And if there's not something more there to sustain it, the relationship can sour quickly.

Between now and November, it's almost a certainty that at least some Democrats will have the Obama scales fall from their eyes. The expectations that they currently have for him are completely unrealistic. And with great expectations often come great disappointments. How they will handle it when the perfect man of their dreams turns out to be all too real and flawed?

Winning the presidency in 2008 is going to be a monumental challenge for Republicans. But for these (and other) reasons, I don't believe it is an insurmontable one.

A New York Twist On A Midwest Icon

On occasion I like to plop down in front of my TV and watch game shows like Cash Cab just to reinforce my belief that there really are a lot of stupid people out there. It's actually a pretty good show (as game shows go) but it certainly doesn't hold a candle to quiz show king Jeopardy!.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cash Cab it is, simply put, a game show that takes place inside a cab on the streets of New York City. The host asks a series of increasingly harder questions to their startled fares and hilarity ensues. Along the way, if the contestants need help with an answer they can use a "Street Shout Out" whereupon they ask someone on the sidewalk for help.

The following is what took place on one of yesterday's Street Shout Outs:
Q: Named for the Senator who proposed it, what kind of savings plan results in tax-free income after retirement?

Person On The Sidewalk: God, who would it be? (long pause) Wellstone! The Wellstone savings plan. Paul Wellstone. He's dead...but he's a socialist.
I'm not even going to comment about the simplicity of the question asked, the stupidity of the answer given or even the incongruousness of associating something even remotely classified as "tax-free" with Paul Wellstone and/or socialists.

No, what I think is hilarious is the fact that for a random pedestrian on a sidewalk in New York the name Paul Wellstone is immediately associated with socialism. If only the folks around these parts could be so honest. In fact, I think I've just discovered a way to give some freshness to all of those old green Wellstone! bumper stickers we seem to find on every other car here in Minnesota.

Picture this on a bumper in front of you:
Wellstone! He's dead...but he's a socialist.
Personally, I'd find it very refreshing if I thought the guy ahead of me driving the rusted Volvo well below the posted speed limit with his back windshield covered with snow and his muffler dragging on the pavement fully realized that his bumper sticker honored a man who was not only five years removed from life on the oxygen rich side of our earth's surface but who also did not believe in capitalism, private property rights or individual freedom.

A Merciless Deconstruction

Anthony Sacramone reviews Vox Day's The Irrational Atheist at the First Things Blog and, for the most part, likes what he reads:

Nevertheless, whether you embrace Day's theology or toss it, there is no avoiding the cumulative force of the author's counterassaults or the sting of his wit when it comes to the true focus of the book-atheism's continuing love affair with nonsense. In short, The Irrational Atheist is a blast and will no doubt occasion many a late-night debate. And don't forget to thank your village atheist when you get the chance. Like heretics before them, atheists are inspiring a steady flow of truly inspired Christian polemic, which may prove to win the world for Christ in ways that must send shivers down the collective spine of that most "Unholy Trinity."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A New Beginning?

As we all know, the quality of work from local poop/boner blogger Learned Foot has been in decline for some time. The moribund, interminable Bacon for President gag struck me as the last gasp of a suffocating, desperate man and it would only be a matter of time before he joined such legends as Mr. Cream Jeans and Ranting Apple Valley Libertarian on the ash heap of local blogging history.

Then, just when I thought he couldn't get any lower, he does something new to TOTALLY REDEEM HIMSELF. I don't know if it was withering self assessment, third party critical review, or some psychological counseling. But his new material, entitled Hockey is Good, is a marked departure from the past and it has a decidedly fresh and exciting perspective on current events. If he keeps this up, with daily multiple posts of this quality, within a few years he may just get to be ranked number one on the Nihilist in Golf Pants Hot 11 Blogs list.

You Lost Me At Hello

JB has had his share of fun giving the egg-headed intellectual types at the Claremont Institute a hard time for their propensity to include wonkish writing in their quarterly review of books. It's not exactly what you would call approachable material for the Joe Six Packs out there.

Now, First Things is one of my favorite magazines and I greatly enjoy their articles on religion, politics, culture, and the arts. But, as I've mentioned in the past, from time to time they too are prone to publish pieces that beggar understanding for those who don't dwell in ivory towers.

Consider a couple of graphs from a review of Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion (no need for a link as no one who reads this blog would ever consider buying this book) by Thomas S. Hibbs that appeared in the magazine's most recent edition (sub req):

If the formal and universal intelligibility of the Kantian project invites abstract vacancy, Marion's recourse to incommunicable individuality would seem to court nihilism in an opposite direction. Once again, discernment on the basis of analogous reasoning or prudential negotiation between universal and singular seems doomed.


(Of course, ­Heidegger's famous lectures on ­Aristotle's Ethics and on phronesis were ­crucial for the development of twentieth-century phenomenology, but the problems raised in Marion's recent thought on ethics need less to retrace the path of Heidegger than to recover an authentically premodern understanding of phronesis, an ­under­standing untainted by Kantian dichotomies.)

You know Atomizer said almost exactly the same thing to me the other night over beers. Or maybe he was just talking about how phenomenology has influenced his deconstructionist approach to analyzing how Ron Gardenhire manages the Twins pitching staff.

When you read book reviews like this you have to wonder if the writer is really interested in enlightening his readers or merely impressing his academic colleagues.

Clear Space on the Blog Roll

It looks like Fidel Castro is hanging up the cigar and bailing out as the Cuban Supreme Leader after 49 short years as the head of the one-party socialist state. No doubt this will cause sadness in the faculty lounges, editorial board conference rooms, and government offices all across the USA. But fear not, true believers. Although El Jeffe's hobnail boot is being eased back from the throat of the Cuban people, he's not abandoning his fans in the free world. His wise counsel will continue to be available. Excerpt from his resignation letter:

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of "Reflections by comrade Fidel." It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.

From authoritarian despot to .... progressive blogger. Funny, most progressive bloggers I know aspire to the opposite career track. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the barbed wire fence.

I'm not sure about the name "Reflections by comrade Fidel" though. It sounds like a water garden landscaping firm in Maplewood. He needs something catchy, something fun, something that will capture the hearts and minds of the children of the revolution without scaring them off. Some possibilities:

The Big Cigar
Commie Dearest
The Daily Cas(tro)
Blog of the Moderate Left

Sisyphus has more ideas on what Fidel can do with his time off.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Think The Russians Love Their Hockey Fights Too

This is a doozy from the Russian Super League involving the same Traktor Chelyabinsk team that I saw in person a few months ago. No fights in that contest, but this bench-clearer more than makes up for it. Look for the nice sweater pull move and post-fight celebration.

A Real Political Party

Richard Brookhiser provides us with a glimpse of our political past to honor Presidents' Day at National Review Online:

George Washington's two elections to the presidency were nothing like the process, part-marathon, part-cage fight, we are seeing right now. All Washington had to do to get elected (unanimously) was not say that he would not serve. Washington's campaigns were the ultimate bare-bones operation--no pollsters, no fundraisers, no ad buys. Yet he was well-versed in the arts of politics even so.

Washington did have to campaign to win his first political office, a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the lower, elective chamber of the colonial legislature. Until early in the 19th century, voting in many parts of America was a festive occasion. You went to the county seat and announced your choice in public; rival candidates plied voters and onlookers with drink (which was illegal, but universal).

Washington ran for the House of Burgesses in 1758 while still serving as a colonel in the militia. He could not be at the polling place on Election Day, but he delegated a friend, Lt. Charles Smith, to tend bar in his absence. We know from their correspondence what the Washington campaign served: 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, two gallons of cider (probably hard), for a total of 160 gallons of booze. There were 397 voters. Washington won. If you’re not the candidate of Change, be the candidate of Have Another.

While those numbers sound impressive to begin with, they really catch your eye when your break them down. If each of the 397 voters drank an equal amount of all the booze offered they would have chugged:

* 9 oz of straight rum
* 16 oz of rum punch
* 11 oz of wine
* almost 15oz of beer
* a little less than an ounce of cider

That's for each and every voter too. I hope they voted first.

In our age of widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the political process, perhaps we could gin up more interest and participation if we gave voters a real incentive to show up. Kegs at the caucuses anyone? A little Pernod at the polling places? I can think of worse things than having a bump or two while filling out your ballot.

What's So Great About Dinesh D'Souza?

If you missed last Saturday's interview with Dinesh D'Souza on the First Team of the NARN, you can now listen to it in its entirety commercial-free here. D'Souza is a machine-gun guest: when you ask him a question he comes back with these rat-a-tat-tat answers. The rapid rate, caliber, and intellectual firepower of his responses ensure that he rarely misses the target. For a talk radio host, that makes life so much easier. Listen to the interview and read the book.

Seen Your Video

A few video selections for your enjoyment.

* Scotch tasting at Laphroaig (courtesy of Kevin)

* Spongebob Does The Classics (courtesy of a reader)

* Summary clip of the Gopher-Sioux hockey festivities from a few weeks back (courtesy of Sisyphus)

* AC-130 gunship going to work (courtesy of JB)

* Hillary for U & Me campaign song (courtesy of Sant Paul and heard on last week's NARN show)

If The Template Fits

In yesterday's New York Times, Charles McGrath looked down from high on his East Coast perch and declared the days of outdoor hockey over. For everyone:

In the New England of my youth, back when we still had winter, ice--the kind you skate on--was as reliable as the calendar. It usually turned up overnight, smooth and glistening, the week after Thanksgiving, and it lasted, with perhaps a minor thaw or two, until Washington's Birthday at least. What you did every day back then was skate--which is to say, play hockey. After school, your mom dropped you off at the pond, the lake, the frozen river, the flooded playground, and she picked you up when it was dark. On Saturdays she made you a baloney sandwich to take along, but by the time you remembered to eat it, it was it was frozen hard as a puck.

Almost no one skates outdoors in New England anymore. People seldom do it even in Canada or Minnesota. For hockey players the indoor area has long replaced the backyard rink or the frozen prairie slough as the incubator of future talent, and even in those northerly climes skatable outdoor ice has become an uncertain commodity. Around here it's like oil, so scarce that its value goes up every year. someone who A. lives in Minnesota and B. has more than a passing interest in outdoor hockey, I have to call Mr. McGrath on his ill-informed observations. This year has been the best year for outdoor hockey in Minnesota in at least TEN YEARS if not more. We had early ice and we've had consistently good ice all season long. In fact the City of Minneapolis has just extended their outdoor ice operations for another week because of the favorable weather.

I know a group of guys who've been getting together every Saturday morning in the winter to skate (and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon) for years and this is the first year in some time that lack of cold weather hasn't been a problem at all. The only week that they weren't able to play was because of snow, not warm weather.

If I look out the front window of our house, I can see the neighborhood rink. And it's been open longer and used more this year than any other time in the last eight years. I haven't been able to get out nearly as much as I would like, but when I drive past rinks and ponds in the Twin Cities this year, I nearly always see people skating or playing pick up hockey.

While McGrath's piece does capture some of the joys of playing outdoors, his conclusion is drearily predictable:

But it wasn't nearly as much fun as skating outdoors. Nothing is--or nothing you do in daylight, anyway--and it's sad to think that the practice could one day die out, another casualty of global warming.

Perhaps Mr. McGrath should have been in Minnesota in January, when over a thousand skaters braved FIFTEEN DEGREE BELOW ZERO weather to play in the US Pond Hockey Championships. The only talk of global warming I heard there was sarcastic suggestions that Al Gore should have come out and dropped the opening puck.

It's interesting to note that anecdotal evidence that supports global warming is nearly always mentioned in the media, while anecdotal evidence--like this year's winter in Minnesota--that may call it into question is usually ignored.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

And It Feels So Good

It will be a very special reunion show today on the First Team of the NARN as Brian, John, and I are back together in the studio. John will regale us with tales of hobknobing with the likes of Henry Kissinger, Norman Podhoretz, and Mark Steyn in New York while Brian will recount his experiences last weekend with Steve, Fred, and Schmidty (his favorite three bartenders in Madison).

At noon, we'l be joined by Dinesh D'Souza to discuss his book:

It's gonna be a really big show and you don't want to miss it. The First Team starts the six hour NARN Fest from 11am-1pm, Mitch and Ed continue the fun from 1pm-3pm, and it won't end until King and Michael have the Final Word from 3pm-5pm.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Tune in tomorrow for the Northern Alliance Radio Network. The First Team kicks things off at 11 AM with the triumphant return to the broadcast of myself and John Hinderaker from our important assignments abroad. I have not yet been able to listen to the podcast from last week, but Doug in Ohio writes in with this report of what the mice were up to last week while we were away:

I listen to your show on podcast here in Ohio every week. With John in NYC, and you AWOL, Chad went over the rails. Eric Burns made 3 NPR suggestions, proposed Bill Moyers for primetime, encouraged checking something in the New York Times - all unchallenged! He even agreed that Pat Buchanan was a reasonable, kind fellow! Really, Chad cannot be trusted alone anymore.

That is disturbing, but not altogether suprising. Chad has been assigned the Barack Obama beat for the show and I fear the countless hours spent the past few weeks reviewing video of this charismatic, inspiring, thrilling voice for change might have finally turned him. Chad told us he will be debuting his true feelings for Obama via an audio tribute montage this very week, so tune in to find out what that's all about.

The other highlight promises to be an interview with Dinesh D'Souza regarding his new book "What's So Great About Christianity?"

It all starts at 11AM Central locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Following us, as always, at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Capt. Ed Morrissey, then at 3PM, King Banaian and Mike Brodkorb. It's going to be one for the ages. Don't you dare miss it!

No Context Required

Last Friday, Susan Sataline penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal (sub req) that in my opinion grossly exaggerated the role of religious bigotry in Mitt Romney's failed bid to win the GOP nomination. It also grossly mischaracterized the position of Father Richard John Neuhaus on the possibility of a Mormon in the White House (that would make for a great book title, wouldn't it?) and lumped in him with people who truly were attacking Romney because of his faith:

On the Internet, the Romney bid prompted an outpouring of broadsides against Mormonism from both the secular and religious worlds. Evangelical Christian speakers who consider it their mission to criticize Mormon beliefs lectured to church congregations across the country. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the Catholic journal First Things, wrote that a Mormon presidency would threaten Christian faiths. Atheist author Christopher Hitchens called Mormonism "a mad cult" on, and Bill Keller, a former convict who runs an online ministry in Florida, told a national radio audience that a vote for Mr. Romney was a vote for Satan.

For the record, what Neuhaus said was that if Romney was elected President it would enhance the image and visibility of the LDS and likely lead to an increase in their numbers. And that it was something that could legitimately be considered by voters:

It is not an unreasonable prejudice for people who, unlike Alan Wolfe et al., care about true religion to take their concern about Mormonism into account in considering the candidacy of Mr. Romney. The question is not whether, as president, Mr. Romney would take orders from Salt Lake City. I doubt whether many people think he would. The questions are: Would a Mormon as president of the United States give greater credibility and prestige to Mormonism? The answer is almost certainly yes. Would it therefore help advance the missionary goals of what many view as a false religion? The answer is almost certainly yes. Is it legitimate for those Americans to take these questions into account in voting for a presidential nominee or candidate? The answer is certainly yes.

But he was also very clear from the beginning of the campaign that he didn't believe that Romney's religion was more important than his political views and those views would be what determined who he would vote for. He said as much when we interviewed him last March on the NARN.

To cherry-pick and mischaracterize his comment and include it in the same paragraph as remarks from Hitchens (an atheist) and Keller (an ex-con) was dishonest and disreputable. It was shoddy and sloppy journalism.

To its credit, the Journal did allow Neuhaus to respond in yesterday's Letters to the Editor:

I object to your characterization that I "wrote that a Mormon presidency would threaten Christian faiths." I do not believe that. What I did write on several occasions is that Gov. Romney is a very attractive candidate but we should not underestimate the number of people who would not vote for a Mormon for president. Nor, I wrote, should we arrogantly dismiss these people as bigots. My point was and is that for many of these people the religious factor trumps the political. I did not agree with them in the instance of the Romney candidacy, but theirs is a defensible position that should not be caricatured as an irrational prejudice, which is what, unfortunately, your story does.

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Movin' On Up

The folks at have apparently decided it's time to move pre-emptively to make sure Hillary can't ride the Democratic super delegates to the nomination. From an e-mail sent out today:

You've probably heard about the "superdelegates" who could end up deciding the Democratic nominee.

The superdelegates are under lots of pressure right now to come out for one candidate or the other. We urgently need to encourage them to let the voters decide between Clinton and Obama--and then to support the will of the people.

This is going to be very fun to watch.

Man Wasn't Meant To Fly

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article about eco-conscious travelers who, because of concerns over global warming, were opting for The Stay-at-Home Vacation (sub req). Although this piece is a bit dated, it's just too good to pass up.

Some travelers are deciding that saving the world is more important than seeing the world.

As concerns over global warming grow, some people think giving to a carbon-offset program or staying at a "green" hotel isn't enough to compensate for an airline flight. The most eco-conscious vacationers are forgoing long-distance trips, trading treks to Europe for walks around the neighborhood -- and sometimes angering family members in other cities.

Hmmm...this could come in handy. Yeah JB, I'd love to come down and help you install that new septic system, but what with global warming and all I better stay home.

Spurring the movement on are environmentalists who implore the public to stop burning unnecessary fuel and stay closer to home. It's the next step for commuters who have already swapped cars for bikes and attend out-of-town meetings by videoconferencing.

Sev and Nina Williams are swearing off flights and long drives in 2008 -- which will mean missing Ms. Williams's sister's September wedding in Spain. (Her sister is "disappointed," says Ms. Williams, a 33-year-old public-policy analyst.)

Her sister thinks she's a freakin' nut. And if her wedding "gift" is a certificate for carbon offsets, it will take years for them to get back on talking terms.

Last year, the Santa Barbara, Calif., couple took five airplane trips. This year, they plan to spend their 20-odd vacation days around town, at most driving their hybrid car the 120 miles to Disneyland with their 2-year-old son. "We just really looked at our whole life and said, what can we do to make an impact?" says Mr. Williams, 38, who owns a marketing company.

We just looked at our lives and said, what can we do to really feel smug and superior? The hybrid was a good start, but how can take it to the next level?

The Web site for Global Cool, a campaign to fight global warming, offers advice on how to "be cool," including, "Hey hotshot, do you really need to holiday abroad?"

Hey eco-freak, who asked you anyway?

Web site manager Richard Kilgarriff says visitors to the site have pledged so far to cut out enough air travel to reduce carbon emissions by a combined 2,205 tons -- the equivalent of about 1,770 round-trip New York-to-Los Angeles passenger flights. A member of AlterNet, an online community and news site, recently told readers, "Stop traveling. Don't fly in a plane. Just don't."

Yes! Don't fly at all. Don't drive. Stay home and feel good about yourself. More room for me on the plane and the roadways.

Although a single long-haul flight can generate more than half the emissions of an average annual commute -- a New York-to-Singapore flight on Virgin Airlines (stopping in London) results in about 8,600 pounds of carbon emissions per passenger -- some people figure skipping flights won't help. Michal Strahilevitz, a 43-year-old business administration professor in San Francisco, sold her car and cut back on leisure flying to reduce her carbon footprint, but she still flies for work. "Chances are you are just taking a seat, not adding flights to the schedule," she says.

Bingo. Logic rears its head. At least momentarily.

Because of cuts she has made, she says, "I feel nowhere nearly as bad about all the long showers I take."

Well bully for you. So is it really about saving the planet honey or just enjoying your long showers guilt free?

Peer pressure helped persuade Kim Teplitzky, a regional organizer for the Sierra Club's student coalition, to cancel a holiday trip to Guatemala and Belize that she'd been planning for months. During a visit to Venezuela a year and a half ago, a friend pointed out that the carbon footprint for each of their flights was close to some people's footprint for a whole year. "There's a stigma around flying so much when we're working so hard to get our lawmakers to reduce global-warming emissions," says Ms. Teplitzky, 23, who lives in Pittsburgh.

A stigma that I hope grows and spreads within her peer group.

Sharon Astyk, a 35-year-old mother of four who owns a farm in Knox, N.Y., says she used to travel a lot, especially internationally, but hasn't flown in two years. She says she became even more determined to avoid air travel after reading a 2007 book, "Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning," by Guardian columnist George Monbiot.

The world must reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 to avert an ecosystem collapse, the books says, and achieving the cut will mean "the end of foreign holidays -- the end of shopping trips to New York, parties in Ibiza, second homes in Tuscany." Ms. Astyk says painful as the decision may be, she won't send her father in Bellingham, Wash., plane tickets to visit his grandchildren anymore, although she might send a train ticket.

Dear Dad, thanks for raising me and devoting all those years and tears for my benefit. But I'm afraid that I have to say no to your request to come out and see the children. You see, the planet is burning...

Not everyone is buying in of course:

That's misguided, says Kelsey Timmerman, a 28-year-old Muncie, Ind., scuba-diving instructor and author. If he'd never been to the Great Barrier Reef, he wouldn't care as much that it is dying from rising ocean temperatures. Decisions he makes as a consumer and a voter offset emissions resulting from his travels, says Mr. Timmerman, who visited Bangladesh, Cambodia and China last year. "Travel helps us care more about our world."

You gotta love that justification. How does one determine if one's "decisions as a consumer and a voter" offset your emissions? How many pounds do you get for voting for Obama? Hillary? McCain? Or is it all just a bunch of crap that you make up to feel better about yourself?

One thread that runs through the story is that the people who are the most concerned about this aren't exactly what you call underprivileged:

Jamie Henn, 23, who graduated from college last spring, has promised himself he'll stop flying. He studied in northern India and has been to Africa and Europe several times. But after he moves to San Francisco this winter -- driving with friends in a hybrid car -- Mr. Henn says he plans to stay put. His parents in Boston are "begrudgingly" supporting his decision, although his mother says she plans to visit. "Maybe I'll find a friend to carpool out with my mom," he says.

So this precious little twenty-three year old twit is ready to give up flying, eh? After he's been to India and Africa and Europe several times? My what an inspiration his sacrifice is.

Of course, most Americans aren't willing to give up air travel. The number of passengers boarding domestic flights rose 14% in the 12 months that ended in October, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. John Heimlich, chief economist at the Air Transport Association, says more foreign tourists traveling within the U.S. and more discount fliers are behind the increases.

To retain eco-minded customers, Continental, Delta, Virgin and other airlines last year launched carbon-offset programs, which help counteract emissions somewhere else in the world. The Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group last year started offering discounted room rates and parking for guests who arrive in hybrid cars. Amtrak's Web site has a carbon calculator for comparing annual emissions from rail travel with air travel.

The programs don't go far enough for Steve Rypka, a 55-year-old Henderson, Nev., consultant. He has stopped flying to business meetings and contributes $90 a year to carbon-offset programs to compensate for his lifestyle. Now, he wants to limit his vacations to within a one- or two-day drive in his Toyota Prius. "Buying carbon offsets isn't a license to pollute," he says. "Plus, it's not exactly punishment to cut back on air travel, with all the security issues."

These are the kinds of people who scare me. You can laugh at the utter insanity of these folks, but you have to wonder how long they'll be willing to just do their own part to save the planet. Pretty soon they're going to look around and realize that just because they're selflessly making sacrifices in a noble effort to reverse global warming, the rest of us greedy fools are still flying, driving, and taking long showers to our heart's content. At that point, believing as they do that the very future of the planet is at stake, it wouldn't be hard to imagine them demanding that the government step in and impose limits on all such earth destroying activities.

Travel would restricted and rationed. You would need a permit to take trips. Or there might be a lottery to win the right to travel. Only the important people (like Al Gore) would be allowed to freely jet around the world. The rest of us proles would have to stay close to home, perhaps being allowed to take a trip every five years or so if we were fortunate. It would be for our own good of course. And more importantly, the planet's.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Take Off, You Hosers

Not sure if you've been following the Ezra Levant case up in Canada. In short, the government is persecuting a magazine publisher based on his speech and unapproved motivations (on behalf of an offended Muslim complainant). It is an outrageous abuse of fundamental human rights (as understood by the liberal Western tradition), ironically perpetrated by the provincial Human Rights Commission.

Good news, though, the target, Ezra Levant is an absolute lion. He understands what is at stake and is as articulate and passionate in his defense as any son of the Enlightenment could hope for. You almost feel sorry for the Alberta government and the imam who started this mess, the way Levant mercilessly exposes them for the frauds they are. Almost.

The most recent development is that the complainant is meekly trying to withdraw the charges. Since Levant already has $100,000 in sunk legal defense costs and the continuing threat of governmental censure, he's not ready to accept a conditinal surrender. His post today is an object lesson is how to respond to those going out of their way to "mess" with you. Excerpt:

For two years, this corrupt, radical imam has hunted me using the resources of the taxpayers of Alberta for the "thought crime" of publishing a cartoon he didn't like. I had a preliminary discussion with my lawyer today. My aim is to file an abuse of process claim in the Court of Queen's Bench within the month. Whether or not I sue the commission itself, and its inquisitor Shirlene McGovern, is something I haven't discussed yet with my lawyers.

When the chief complainant in a two-year censorship exercise admits the whole thing was improper, an abuse of process suit is not just about recouping my losses. It's about holding a little fascist, and the government agency he hijacked, to account, and having grown-ups -- that is, real judges in real courts -- tell them that what they've been doing is morally and legally wrong.

Levant is right to keep fighting, in hopes of denormalizing this process and ending it for all. Because even if he took the offer to just walk away, that doesn't help others who are in the same cross hairs. Next up is Mark Steyn.

Not surprisingly, once a leftist governmental censor is permitted, it also targets the Catholic Church. Excerpts from Zenit:

Catholic Insight, a Canadian magazine known for its fidelity to Church teachings, has been targeted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for publishing articles deemed offensive to homosexuals.

The commission has been investigating the Toronto-based publication since homosexual activist Rob Wells, a member of the Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Pride Center of Edmonton, filed a nine-point complaint last February with the government agency in which he accuses the magazine of promoting "extreme hatred and contempt" against homosexuals.

Father Alphonse de Valk, the founder and editor of Catholic Insight, disagrees the accusations. "Wells took three pages of quotes out of context," he told ZENIT.

The Basilian priest added that Catholic Insight "bases itself on the Church's teaching and applies it to various circumstances in our time." He noted that some of the statements that allegedly promoted hatred and contempt against homosexuals were taken from recent Vatican pronouncements.

This isn't the first time freedom of religion and conscience has been challenged, with less than inspiring results:

Christian groups have a losing record before Canada's human rights tribunals for alleged discrimination. In November 2005, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ordered a Knights of Columbus council to pay two lesbians $1,000 each in damages, plus legal costs, after the council declined to rent their hall to the couple for a same-sex marriage ceremony.

In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission fined Scott Brockie, a Protestant print-shop owner, $5,000 for declining to print, on moral grounds, homosexual-themed stationary. The same tribunal fined London, Ontario, $10,000, plus interest, in 1997when Mayor Diane Haskett declined to proclaim a gay pride day for the city.

Let's hope this time the Church can get a defender as effective as Ezra Levant.

BTW, you can donate to Levant's legal defense fund at his web site. Here are his further thoughts on how to help.