Monday, March 31, 2008

Swing and a Miss

Former Twins' pitcher Jack Morris was interviewed by the Pioneer Press and they made the unfortunate choice to veer into politics. Conclusion, Twins' fans are lucky passing a civics exam isn't required before pitching a World Series Game 7.

The most important thing I would change in our current government is I would make the electoral system vanish and have every single vote count the same. If you're a little guy in Kentucky you should have the same vote as the big guy in New York. It should be a popular vote.

Why does Jack Morris hate little guys in Kentucky? Right now, thanks to the electoral college, they disproportionately influence the outcome of Presidential at the expense of the big guys in New York. And Jack Morris burns with a vengeance to even the score!

More details on the leveling aspect of the electoral college from the Cato Institute:

[James Madison] thought it embodied the "federal will" of the nation. By that he meant that the Electoral College included both the will of the nation as expressed in the popular vote and the will of the states in a federal system (every state large or small gets two electors). As Madison knew, this amalgamation gave small and medium-sized states more leverage in presidential elections than they would have in a popular vote. He found that fair given the influence of large states in other areas.

In our own time, we can see other advantages of the Electoral College. Under direct popular election of the president, the Democratic candidate would probably seek large majorities in major metropolitan areas on both coasts, ignoring the smaller states in between. The alienation of "Middle America" would increase. In contrast, the Electoral College forces all candidates to seek support throughout the nation. Thus our last election found Al Gore in Florida and George W. Bush in Michigan and Oregon. In this way, the Electoral College contributes to the unity of our fractious nation.

Taking the hatchet to this foundation of American democracy is typically the province of segments of the Left still seething over the electoral college loss of Al Gore to George W Bush in 2000. Until then, nobody much cared about the electoral college, let alone considered it "the most important thing they would change in the government," save for those few still holding a candle for Samuel Tilden.

If Jack Morris still dreams of the Gore-Lieberman utopia we could have had if it weren't for those meddling Founding Fathers, more power to him. But is it too much to ask our sports celebrities to review their Democrat party talking points before giving interviews on Constitutional reforms in the sports pages?

A lesson from a master of the form, Hillary Clinton:

"I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it's time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president."

The first lady also said that because of the closeness of this year's presidential election, "I hope no one is ever in doubt again about whether their vote counts."

See, she got the "let every vote count" paranoia out there and made a shameless appeal to the always popular "popular will." But she left out the "I'm for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers" boiler plate. Take note, that will be fine for future sports page interviews about the need for universal health care, cracking down on the oil companies, or raising taxes. But as far as the electoral college goes, the little guys are the enemy.

Lost Weekend

A few thoughts following this weekend's NCAA tourney action:

- As previously mentioned, it was a brutal weekend for prognostication. I went 6-6 and only have two of the Frozen Four teams. The good news is that I doubt if many people had a Frozen Four with BC, Notre Dame, North Dakota, and Michigan and I still could go 3-0 in Denver.

- The Gophers loss to BC on Saturday wasn't surprising. At one point in the second period with the score tied 1-1 it looked like they had the Eagles on the ropes. But following a season-long pattern, they couldn't get the big goal when they needed it. The critical sequence of the game came when Barriball, Wheeler, and Carmen (I think) came down on a three on two. It was a great chance for the Gophs to score and take the lead, but they couldn't make the play. BC then went the other way and scored on a nice two on one passing play to go up 2-1. That was pretty much all she wrote.

The good news is that the Gophers have found a goalie they can rely on and have developed a nice core of young defensemen. It forwards like White and Hoeffel can step up the scoring and the freshmen class delivers as expected, the Gophers should be back at the top of the heap next year.

- The WCHA had a record six teams in the tourney, yet only one reached the Frozen Four. Meanwhile, the CCHA has two teams going to Denver and two more that played in regional finals. Top to bottom, I still think the WCHA is a stronger conference, but I will say that the top half of the CCHA is better than the WCHA. Next year's tourney should be seven CCHA teams, seven WCHA teams, BC, and one of the ECAC teams drawn from a hat.

- The lack of television coverage is a disgrace. The opening weekend of the tourney used to be wall-to-wall college hockey. It was great to watch teams from around the country playing in venues that you don't normally get to see. This year--unless you had the Dish network--we had a total of TWO games available here in the Twin Cities. Not a good way to increase interest in the sport. Thanks NCAA.

- The fact that Wisconsin--a team that finished below .500, sixth in their conference, and lost their two WCHA playoff games--was able to play on home ice and came within an eyelash of reaching the Frozen Four is also a disgrace. I understand the Pairwise rankings and I understand the attendance needs, but it's really hard to defend the integrity of the NCAA hockey tournament when you have something like that go down. Wisconsin probably did deserve to be in the tournament, but they did not deserve home ice.

BK Pimpin'

Our cringe-worthy corporate concept of the week comes courtesy of Saturday's Wall Street Journal in a story called, Burger King Whopper To Be Feted (sub req):

MIAMI -- Burger King Holdings Inc. plans to start building a new version of its restaurants this year called the Whopper Bar that will sell a wider variety of its signature hamburger in a hipper setting.

The menu and size of the Whopper Bars will be smaller than a typical Burger King, but they will sell Whoppers not typically available at all times in the chain's traditional restaurants. Executives say they haven't finalized the menu, though it could include as many as 10 types of Whoppers, such as the Western Whopper, the Texas Double Whopper and the Angry Whopper, a version topped with spicy onions. One menu sketch has a section called "Pimp Your Whopper," where patrons can chose from additional toppings like jalapeno peppers, bacon and barbecue sauce.

"Hey dad, can we go to Burger King for lunch? They have SpongeBob toys!"

"Sure son, it's been a while since I've pimped my Whopper."

"What does 'pimped' mean, dad?"

"Well son, a pimp is someone who brokers the sexual favors of women for profits. Pimps are sort of underclass heroes. And since our society glorifies anything--no matter how crass, vulgar, demeaning, and damaging--that claims to be 'real,' pimps and the hoes they hustle have become an acceptable part of of our common cultural conversation. In this case, 'pimped' means to be way tight and decked out in expensive stuff as only someone living the pimp lifestyle would expect to be."

"Wow dad, that sounds cool. Can I be a pimp when I grow up?"

"You can be anything you want to be son. Now let's find your mother and sister and get us some lunch. I wonder where them hoes at anyway? Ha ha ha..."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Justice Is Served

Gameday final: UND 3, Wisconsin 2, OT.

It was a tough weekend for my picks and even tougher since I wasn't able to watch any of the action today. I only managed to get two of the Frozen Four right and North Dakota had to overcome a two-goal third period deficit to come back and beat Wisconsin. Hopefully, they will play better in Denver as my slim bracket hopes rest on UND winning it all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blogging Versus Bureaucracy

When it comes to bureaucracy, few can match the NCAA. And when it comes to stupid bureaucratic policies that do far more harm (to the games and the fans) than good, they're in a league all of their own.

Two recent examples from the NCAA hockey tourney.

Blog Police In The House:

Upon picking up credentials yesterday, the NCAA required all media members to sign a three-page document on blogging restrictions. Ridiculous, yes.

I'm allowed to update the blog three times per period and once at the end of the period.

At first, the NCAA wanted to limit blogging because they felt it was a live representation of the game -- one that TV networks already paid for. (Do you really think anyone with access to the game on television is going to turn it off and sit on the computer and repeatedly click refresh on a blog?)

Well, maybe Captain Ed...

Yesterday, I'm told that blogging limits include every NCAA tournament. That is correct -- no blogging the Division II wrestling tournament. They feel that bloggers are getting away with a live representation of the game without paying for it.

While the only people that would follow a Division II wrestling blog would probably be family of a competing wrestler, the NCAA would rather the family not be able to follow live coverage of their son since they are not going to make money off of it. So don't believe any garbage about the NCAA caring more about student-athletes than money.

The idea that live-blogging could ever compete with live television coverage is ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that for most of us there isn't even television coverage available for most of the NCAA hockey games this year.

More on Liveblogging, ESPN and the NCAA:

Like I said yesterday, the NCAA will eventually lose this one, or back down. It's completely absurd epecially when you consider that ESPN is monopolizing the NCAA games. We've gone back 10 years with this tournament as a result. ESPN has the TV rights to all NCAA events. It bought them as a package. But in the last few years, they didn't have a natural home for regionals, so it would offer them up to stations around the country. Now, with ESPN-U in existence, ESPN is hoarding the games there - which would be fine, if anyone could get ESPN-U. Mainly, it's only people with the DirecTV sports pack. If you have Comcast Cable, forget it.

Funny thing is, I've worked for both Comcast and ESPN in the past, and I have absolutely no love for Comcast or cable providers in general. In fact, they are pretty evil. But even if ESPN is "right" in its fight with Comcast, it doesn't make this situation right. Bottom line is, college hockey fans can't see the games. This is where the NCAA needs to jump in, but it hasn't. Instead, it invokes live blogging policies that has scared the be-jeezus from anyone wishing to live blog.

Instead of trying to deliver more games to more fans (and maybe, I don't know actually try to promote the sport), the NCAA is spending its time and energy cracking down on live blogging. Bureaucracy at its worst.

UPDATE: Bill e-mails with more:

Liked your post on this subject. Lord is the NCAA ridiculous. Shhh...don't tell them about the forum at where people provide scoring updates on college hockey games! Oh wait, it's probably okay to post about a game if you're watching on TV or on your computer - you just can't post about it if you're actually there.

Regionals weekend used to be the best - usually six to eight games this weekend ... two on Friday, three or four on Saturday, and another one or two on Sunday. Load up the fridge with beer and stock the snack bar! Now we get whatever FSN North decides to pick up, which this year was only two games featuring Minnesota and North Dakota - two teams I see all season long anyway. Yeah, nice way to promote the sport. Good job NCAA and ESPN.

Now that the Gophers are out, I'm wondering if we're even going to get to see the Sioux-undeserving Badger regional final today. No chance that we'd be lucky enough to see BC-Miami.

Scoops For Troops

Two mothers forge a friendship after meeting at the sons' military graves:

The women are also organizing a March 30 fundraiser-- Scoops for Troops -- for Tribute to the Troops, a group that organizes an annual benefit concert and a motorcycle ride to visit the families of fallen soldiers each year on the weekend after Labor Day.

Both say their support of the troops is unwavering.

Daniel went to Iraq to help innocent people and fight oppression, Olsen said. "He died trying, and I am in awe of him," she said.

"I do not have the wisdom to take a position on the war. What I do is to pray for our president, unity within our government, our nation's patriotism, and our military leaders, and, above all, God's sovereign hand in our involvement."

Said Masterson: "No matter what we think about our current efforts in Afghanistan or Iraq, our soldiers are there representing all of us. They're protecting our freedom, and I support all of them."

Scoops for Troops will be at Ring Mountain Creamery Cafe, the ice-cream parlor in Eagan where Olsen works. There will be celebrity scoopers and red, white and blue ice cream.

"I called Gwen and said, 'Are you doing anything to mark these days, because I need to do something,' " Masterson said. "It's given us something really positive to focus on. If I weren't doing Scoops for Troops, I'd just be a complete wreck by now."

Friends and acquaintances sometimes tell Masterson that they can't imagine what she is going through.

Masterson's reply never varies: "I tell them 'You can't imagine, and I don't want you to.'

"I wouldn't wish this upon anyone. It's a journey that you can't completely understand unless you've been there yourself, and Gwen and I understand it."

Scoops for Troops, a fundraiser for Tribute to the Troops, will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. March 30 at Ring Mountain Creamery Cafe in Eagan. Call 651-454-7464 for information.

Pay The Skipper Or The Crew?

An article by Darren Everson in yesterday's WSJ asks Is Joe Torre Worth the Money? (sub req):

Joe Torre, who makes his debut with the Dodgers on Monday, ranks eighth in all-time wins. He won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees during a 12-year career there, which ended last season after the team's third straight first-round playoff loss. He became renowned for his ability to handle star players' egos and navigate crises. But his actual, quantifiable skill as a skipper is debatable.

In close games, in which a manager's decisions in baserunning, pitching and substitutions tend to make the most difference, Mr. Torre's teams have struggled in recent years. Over the past three seasons, his record in games tied after the sixth inning is 23-31 -- a .426 winning percentage, compared with .588 in all games. Several of his peers, including Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins and Willie Randolph of the New York Mets, have performed better in close games.

It's interesting that the East Coast media starts asking questions about Torre's managerial abilities AFTER he leaves the Yankees for LA. Funny how it works that way.

The story went on to say that it's very difficult to objectively rate the performance of baseball managers. There was also an accompanying piece to this story that attempted to do just that (sub req):

To assess how Joe Torre compares to his peers, we used three criteria to measure the performance of baseball managers: how their teams perform in close games when the manager's strategic decisions have the most impact, how many games their teams win compared to how many runs they score and allow (a formula known as Pythagorean wins) and whether they get more out of players than other managers, measured by additional games won per season. (For more on our methodology, please see below). We ranked 20 current managers by all three criteria and averaged the results:

The top five?

1 Ron Gardenhire Twins
2 Bruce Bochy Giants
3 Ned Yost Brewers
4 Charlie Manuel Phillies
5 Bob Melvin Diamondbacks

And the bottom:

16 Terry Francona Red Sox
17 Joe Torre Dodgers
18 Eric Wedge Indians
19 Jim Leyland Tigers
20 Clint Hurdle Rockies

Obviously, there is not necessarily a correlation between a manager's rankings here and the team's success on the field as amply demonstrated by the Red Sox-Rockies World Series last year. One final word on that:

"I think managers are a bit overrated in terms of the impact that they have on their players," says J.C. Bradbury, an economist and associate professor at Kennesaw State University and author of "The Baseball Economist." To make a team better, he says, "get better players."

Better players make better teams? Funny how it works that way.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dog Day

Clarkson reaches East Region hockey final:

Shea Guthrie muscled his way through two defenders and backhanded a shot under the crossbar to break a tie and give Clarkson a 2-1 victory over St. Cloud State in a semifinal game of the NCAA East Hockey Regional at Times Union Center Friday.

Lousy no-good Huskies. Nice call Sisyphus.

UPDATE: Notre Dame 7 New Hampshire 3? This is not the start I expected. Lousy no-good Wildcats.

UPDATE II: Nailing the Michigan score (5-1) provides a little consolation.

UPDATE III: Spartans beat the Tigers 3-1. Sigh. A 1-3 day with one of my Frozen Four teams (CC) knocked out. A tough way to open for me. And for the WCHA which went 0-2. The CCHA meanwhile went three for three.

It has to get better tomorrow, right?

Hey Ho, Let's Go

Join us tomorrow on the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network at 11am as we make our triumphant return to the studio, prepped, ready and rested after our well-deserved Easter break. In the first hour, we'll bring you up to speed on the week that was and will surely be covering the Vets for Freedom controversy. In the second hour, we'll be joined in studio by local writer (and former Goldy) Ross Bernstein.

Ross is the author of nearly forty books on sports. His most recent works focus on the unwritten, but vitally important honor codes of conduct that govern hockey and baseball.

Unless you've played either game at the professional level, you probably don't understand these codes. I thought that I knew a lot about hockey and quite a bit about baseball, but I learned a great deal about a subject that doesn't get near the attention it deserves from these two books.

Ross interviewed scores of former and current players for both books and their stories and insights are fascinating. You will not watch either game quite the same way after reading them.

Tune in to the entire Northern Alliance Radio Network lineup from 11am-5pm tomorrow on AM1280 The Patriot on your dial or on the internet stream. You don't want to let the team down by not showing up.

Nebraska Neck Warmer

Here's your chance to vote for the best mullet and help a dude win a bitchin' Camaro.

We Regret The Ignorance

You know I'm a mere blogger, not a $1500 a month "reporter," but it doesn't seem too difficult to tell the difference between the two major universities in North Dakota. One is in Grand Forks, one is in Fargo. One has the nickname Fighting Sioux, while the other school's teams are known as the Bison. One has a DI hockey team, one doesn't. It's pretty easy for most people to understand.

But I guess such basic knowledge is too much to expect from Tom Elko at the Minnesota Monitor:

This latest incident comes the same week NDSU sorority Gamma Phi was put on "temporary social probation" for a party in November in which members and their guests donned red paint and mock Indian clothing.

NDSU has frequently been criticized for its "Fighting Sioux" nickname and its Native American logo. The school's administration has fought to retain the name and often cites support from the Native American community to soften accusations on insensitivity. Recent events may imperil that support and make defending the logo more difficult.

NDSU, UND they all look alike. Fifteen-hundred a month doesn't get you much these days, does it?

UPDATE: Call me cynical, but I had a hunch that despite their vaunted "journalist code of ethics," the folks at Minn Mon would correct the grievous factual errors in this story with nary an admission of error. And whadya know, so they have.

Fortunately, through the wonders of technology, I captured a screen shot of what the story looked like before it was cleaned up. Again, I'm not a "journalist" like the Minn Mon crew, but that sort of behavior doesn't strike me as being all that ethical.

UPDATE II Mitch has more on the slurring of the Bison. Personally, I find the Sioux more defamed by the confusion.

This is one of those media errors that actually knocks the legs out of the whole premise of the story once it is revealed. Elko's pitch was that this was just the latest example of racism at the University of North Dakota. The fact that this incident happened in a DIFFERENT school in the same state makes it far less relevant.

UPDATE III: Speaking of ethics, here's what the Poynter Institutes's guidelines for ethical journalism on the Web says about online corrections:

The obligation to correct mistakes and be transparent about the error is not diminished in the online environment.

UPDATE IV: Someone at Minn Mon finally pulled out their dusty ethics manual and issued the following correction:

In a prior version of this report NDSU was misidentified as the "Fighting Sioux" when they are in fact the "Bison." Subsequently, the Gamma Phi sorority was misidentified as part of NDSU, rather than UND. Minnesota Monitor regrets the error.

Actually, the sorority was misidentified first and then the UND nickname and logo. The correction is accurate as fars as it goes, but makes it seem as if the misidentification was simply a matter of screwing up a nickname when it fact it was about confusing and conflating events at the two schools that are not related or relevant. And it fails to address the fact that the underlying basis for the story itself--another incident of alleged racism at a school with a previous history of it--is no longer valid.

SP JUMPS IN WITH UPDATE V: The confusion between North Dakota and North Dakota State reminds me of this classic scene from Dumb and Dumber.

Lloyd: That's a lovely accent you have. New Jersey?

Lady at bus stop: Austria.

Lloyd: Austria! Well, then. G'day mate! Let's put another shrimp on the barbie!

I suspect it mirrors almost exactly the conversation between the Minnesota Monitor reporter and editors on this story.

Oh, Oh, Oh The Sweetest Thing

Another great weekend of hockey on the horizon. The Wild wind down their regular season by taking on Vancouver tonight and Colorado on Sunday. And the NCAA tournament (the much sweeter sixteen) kicks off today at 3pm central when the pucks drops at the East Regional in Albany.

Unlike Sisyphus, I've actually enjoyed some measure of success with my NCAA brackets. Last year, I won a nice Alexander Ovechin jersey for coming out on top in a local pool. This year, I'll be gunning for another fabulous prize and, more importantly, adding to my vast reservoir of hockey cred.

Once again, the St. Cloud Times Bracket Challenge is a great way to make your picks and follow your progress. And once again, a bunch of delusional Husky fans are picking SCSU to win the NCAA title (11% at last count).

The toughest first round pick for me was SCSU against Clarkson. Normally, I would ALWAYS take a WCHA team over an ECAC squad, but the Huskies have a history of choking like dogs (pun intended) in the NCAA tourney. In fact, they've NEVER won a single game in the tourney. Yet this year some fans think they'll win the whole thing? Not bloody likely. Against my better judgment, I did go with SCSU over Clarkson by a score of 4-3. However, I wouldn't be shocked to see them wearing the choke collar once again.

Since we started in the East, let's get on to the rest of that region's picks.

Michigan has no problem with Niagara 5-1.

Then they put down the Huskies 4-2 to reach the Frozen Four in Denver.

In the West, New Hampshire defeats the Golden Domers 3-2 while hometown CC staves off Michigan State 2-1.

CC then sends UNH packing and punches their ticket to Denver with a 3-2 win.

In the Midwest, the back-in Badgers--probably the least deserving team to ever reach the NCAA tourney and get home ice--will lose to Denver 3-1. And there will be much rejoicing throughout the college hockey world. Meanwhile, North Dakota will run down the pretty boys from Princeton 4-2 setting up an all-WCHA regional final the way God intended.

Denver looked great last weekend at the WCHA Final Five, but beating the talented Sioux twice in two weeks is a tough task. UND nips Denver 2-1 in OT to deny the Pioneers a chance to return home to the Frozen Four.

Finally, the Nordeast. High-flying Miami should have little trouble grounding Air Force 5-2. Then the heart vs head game. The Gophers have had a nice run and good goaltending can make all the difference in the world (ask last year's champion Michigan State Spartans), but I think the lack of firepower--especially on the power play--will catch up to Minnesota on Saturday. Let's say BC 3-2.

In the final, Miami will be too much for BC to handle and the Red Hawks will thrill the hockey fans of Ohio--all 63 of them--by reaching the Frozen Four.

Which sets up an all WCHA/CCHA field in Denver. Not exactly a shocking prediction. Both semi games should be close and an overtime or two is a distinct possibility. I like Michigan to beat CC 3-2 and North Dakota to clip Miami 4-3 giving us a Wolverine-Sioux national championship matchup.

This is the same final pairing that Sisyphus has, but unlike him I see North Dakota coming out on top 3-2. The Sioux have the most talented team in the country. If they can keep their heads and play smart, they should win it all. But they've shown a propensity for gooning it up this year. They got away with a lot of that in the WCHA. However, in the NCAA tourney the refs usually call a much tighter game and if the Sioux try to intimidate their way to a national title, they will fall short. If you spend too much in the box and give your opponent too many power plays, you will lose no matter how talented you are.

I'm betting that wiser, calmer heads will prevail during the tournament and North Dakota will come through. Based on the behavior of the Sioux during the regular season, betting on North Dakota's better angels may turn out to be a foolish wager.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"You Dick!"

Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson (born May 16, 1969) is a multi-named television pundit, a former bow-tie wearer, and a dick. His insufferability was inflicted on America--or at least that tiny fraction of America that watches MSNBC--for three hours every weekday on the eponymous show Tucker, which aired at 4pm, 6pm and 2am ET, until it was canceled on March 10, 2008.

See all the hilarious entries at

Other Than That, How Was The Play Mrs. Lincoln?

Ralphie points us to a Stephen Spruiell review of an Obama ad that doesn't seem like much of a change from the same old politics at National Review Online:

In the days leading up to the March 4 Ohio primary, Barack Obama's presidential campaign aired a TV ad that featured a man named Steven Schuyler standing in front of a Delphi Packard Electric plant in Warren, Ohio. In the ad, Schuyler says he worked for Delphi, an automotive supplier, for 13 years until NAFTA enabled the company to ship his job to Mexico. "Barack Obama was against NAFTA," Schuyler says, adding, "We need a president that will bring work into this country."

The Delphi ad might qualify as the most deceptive of the 2008 race. First, Delphi did not exist as an independent company when Congress passed NAFTA in 1993. It was part of General Motors until it was spun off as an independent supplier in 1999. Second, foreign competition did not drive the company to eliminate American jobs. It declared bankruptcy in 2005 because the legacy labor costs it inherited from GM made it impossible to compete against other U.S.-based suppliers. Third, workers at the Warren, Ohio plant were offered generous buyouts and early-retirement packages. Its employees were not just kicked to the street.

When Delphi became an independent company in 1999, it inherited GM's high-wage, high-benefit autoworkers' union contracts. Addressing reporters after Delphi declared bankruptcy in 2005, then-CEO Robert S. "Steve" Miller explained, "other U.S.-based suppliers, many of which were organized by the same unions...were paying less than half the automaker wages and benefits [that Delphi was paying]." Contrary to Obama's ad, domestic competition played a bigger role in Delphi's downfall than did competition from Mexico.

But other than that, the ad was an articulate, refreshing call for change.

Meanwhile, On The Home Front

It's been a busy couple of weeks on the home front. We accepted an offer, signed a purchase agreement, and...

...ended up nixing the deal after negotiations broke down following the inspection. It was not a fun experience, but it did teach us a few valuable lessons:

#1 Trust your gut instincts: We knew these buyers were trouble from the git go, but because we were tired of the showings, open-house, life-in-limbo rigmarole of having our house on the market, we ignored our better judgment and hoped that things would work out in the end. They didn't and we should have known they wouldn't.

#2 If you find out that the buyers are related to the agent representing them, run don't walk away from them. Trust me on this one.

I would hope that the first-time home buyers learned some lessons from this as well.

#1 While it may be a buyers market out there, there are limits to just how far the seller is willing to go. Try to recognize when you're pushing those limits and be willing to back off or risk losing the deal.

#2 Speaking of risk, another lesson for first-time homebuyers is that purchasing a house ALWAYS involves some risk. You can seek to mitigate that risk to a certain extent, but you cannot eliminate it. It you can't tolerate risk, don't buy a house.

#3 Just because all the homes you see on HGTV have updated bathrooms, kitchens, appliances, etc. don't expect that the house you buy will. There's a reason that these houses are in your price range. Be realistic and expect that you will have to do some work after you move in.

The good news is that no sooner did one deal fall apart than we were working another one. We're past the inspection stage and so far have had no issues. Now, we need to find a house, make an offer, negotiate a price, agree on a close, do an inspection, etc. The fun just never ends.

You Sir, Are No JB

Amateurs! Trying to hone in on my gig!

What gig? SABS. They're not as easy as they look folks (/Limbaugh voice). Some guy from Hopkins or something recently submitted one to the Elder.

The true SAB for Our Little Homegrown Terrorist is Lloyd Bentsen.


Corporate Retreat

Yesterday, I attended an all-day off-site strategic plan review meeting. Which meant another chance to take in a wave of business metaphors. In the first forty-five minutes alone, we were treated to military, fitness, and sailing metaphors designed to explain the current state of the business and what our future plans were. Some were apt, many were not.

But the one that really stood out was perhaps the least appropriate business metaphor I've ever heard. It was also the second time in two weeks that I caught it being employed, which somehow made it even more cringe worthy. While I understand the message that it attempts to convey, I just don't think that the admonition...

"Don't carry the wounded."

...really has a place in the corporate world, especially if you reflect on what it actually means. This is a business we're talking about here, not Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Better to stick to "treadmills," "trade winds," and "marathons" and leave the grisly military metaphors behind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who Controls Who?

One of the many downsides to working in a rather large building that runs various shifts 24-7 is that there are always people milling about by the microwaves and blocking my path to the better quality terlets.

I don't want to see what kind of garbage these people are heating up and stuffing into themselves all day long, but it's hard to miss as I walk by.

Today I noticed that some unfortunate soul had a left an entire box of Quaker Oats Cinnamon WEIGHT CONTROL oatmeal on one of the microwaves. WEIGHT CONTROL is written in huge letters to let the world (or in this case all of your co-workers) know that YES I HAVE A WEIGHT PROBLEM!

I'm thinking that Quaker didn't intend these boxes to be taken out of the house. It has to be hard enough reaching down and picking one off the shelf at the grocery store, hoping no one notices.

Do Taste Me Brau

The Fraters Beer Ratings Page has once again been updated. There are now over three-hundred-twenty-seven beers from around the world that have been tasted and scored accordingly.

The eight most recent additions are highlighted in red and for the most part are local brews. A trio from Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul, a pair from Brau Brothers Brewing in Lucan, Minnesota (population 220), and an incredible hoppy (and appropriately named) Hop Whore Imperial IPA from Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

The first Brau Brothers beer I tried didn't do much for me. Frame Straightener is described as a "level and plum" Belgian Pale Ale. It was decent, just not very exciting. But you should never judge a brewery by one beer and the second brew from Brau did not disappoint. Their Cream Stout is tasty and incredibly drinkable (especially for that style of beer). It has such a deft finish that before you know you're at the bottom of your glass and reaching for another. A damn fine beer indeed. Nice work bros.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

That Rabbit Gets Around

George Bush this past weekend at Easter festivities:

and ....

RT Rybak several years ago at what looks like some sort of pagan fertility rite:

Forget Obama, you want someone to unify us, find a guy in a rabbit suit.

Separated At Birth?

Mike from Savage e-mails to give us a very special Beer Glasses edition of SAB:

I'll admit this one's a stretch.

Our own little homemakin' terrorist and...

...Eighties video icon Terri Nunn?

You might want to lay off the hard stuff for a while Mike.

The Beard And The Toop

For whatever reason, the beard makes his toop look even more ridikkeruss.

The Elder Cuts In: What's the deal with Dems growing silly beards after failed campaigns anyway? Remember Gore's facial mess after 2000? There's even pics floating around of what Barack Obama might look like with a beard.

Meet the Vets, Meet the Vets

Step right up and greet the Vets tonight:


You are cordially invited to "Meet and Greet" Pete Hegseth, David Bellavia and other Veteran at:

934th Airlift Wing Officers Club
Post Road--just off Hwy 5 by MSP Airport

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
6:00--8:30 pm

More info on tonight's event at Families United for our Troops and Their Mission. More info on the national tour available at

Bring your kiddies, bring your wife, Guaranteed to have the time of your life.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Audacity of Pope

On Wednesday, Osama bin Laden released an audiotape in which he accused Pope Benedict XVI of leading an Anti-Islam Crusade and warned of new attacks in Europe:

CAIRO, Egypt (AP)--Osama bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of helping in a "new Crusade" against Islam and warned of a "severe" reaction to European publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that insulted many Muslims.

Bin Laden's audiotape message Wednesday raised concerns al-Qaida was plotting new attacks in Europe. Some experts said bin Laden, believed to be in hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border area, may be unable to organize an attack himself and instead is trying to fan anger and inspire his supporters to violence.

The Pope received Bin Laden's message and responded by baptizing a Muslim Journalist at Easter Vigil:

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 23, 2008--The day Magdi Allam became a Catholic was a beautiful one, according to the Muslim journalist who was baptized by Benedict XVI at Saturday's Easter Vigil Mass.

The baptism was obviously planned well in advance, but the fact that the Pope carried through with it in spite of the threats shows he is a leader of strong will and courage, qualities often lacking in the Western World these days, especially in Europe. No appeasing Archbishop of Canterbury he. Thank God.

No Stinkin' Badgers

What a great weekend for local sports on television. The Wild continued their quest for a Northwest Division title by taking on the Canucks on Friday night and the Flames on Saturday. A split of those two games along with their tie in San Jose gave them three of six points so far on a critical road trip.

Meanwhile, the Gophers--unlike the NIGP on his most recent job review--continued to exceed expectations by reaching the championship game of the WCHA Final Five. They fell to Denver 2-1 on Saturday night, but their two previous Final Five wins over SCSU (Thursday) and Colorado College (Friday) assured them a place in the NCAA tourney. All in all it was a great weekend for hockey. What, is there some basketball tournament going on or something?

The field of sixteen for the NCAA Division One hockey tournament was released on Sunday. It includes a record six teams from the WCHA. Throw in four from the CCHA and you can see how far west the balance of power in college hockey has moved in recent years.

The Gophers will face a tough challenge in their first game having to play Boston College in Worcester, MA (one of JB's favorite cities). But considering where they were at just a few weeks ago, everything is gravy at this point.

Notre Dame's inclusion means we won't have to hear any whining from the NIGP about how unfair the Pairwise Rankings are. Said whining will begin after the Irish lose their first round game to UNH.

According to all the analysis I've read, the selections did reflect the Pairwise Rankings and were pretty predictable. But the one obvious travesty is that the Wisconsin Badgers were invited. Yes, the 15-16-7 Badgers, who finished sixth in the WCHA, fresh of being swept by SCSU in the first round of the WCHA playoffs are in the NCAA tourney.

And even better, they get to play their opening game in MADISON. Some might have a problem with a Gopher fan complaining of unfair home ice advantage given the numerous NCAA Regionals at Mariucci over the years that have featured the Gophers, but at least those Minnesota teams had an above .500 record.

Having the Badgers in the tourney wouldn't be such am egregious affront to all that is good and holy if it was simply a matter of including them instead of one of those overrated Eastern schools. But the team whose bubble they popped was the Minnesota State Mavericks. The same Mavericks who finished fourth in the WCHA and lost a classic three game playoff series--with all the games decided in OT--to the Gophers. They don't get in and the Badgers do? Life is indeed not fair.

Here's how College Hockey News and one of the committee members explains it:

That leaves the final question--which those of us who follow the process know the answer to, but needs to be asked anyway: Why did a sub-.500 Wisconsin make it over Minnesota State. The answer, of course, is because Wisconsin had better Pairwise criteria--when all was said and done--than the Mavericks. But it does look funny to some. And should Wisconsin get in at under .500.

"In all honesty, that's a discussion for the summer and our AHCA coaches meeting," Maturi said. "But the reality is, these are the directions we've been given (to follow the numbers). It's something the college hockey coaches have always wanted. It really takes it out of the hands of the committee as to who makes the field. As a result, there was no extensive discussion about it.

"As challenging it might be to explain how they got there (to those unfamiliar with the process), how hard would it be to explain how they didn't get there when the numbers say they should....And I should mention, (Wisconsin) hosting had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Cough, bulls***, cough.

In the interests of justice, we can only hope that Denver destroys the Badgers in front of their besotted faithful on Saturday. In the meantime, there's plenty of time to work on your brackets. The road to Denver begins on Friday.

A Man Don't Walk Onto The Lot Unless He Wants To Buy

Easter mass (wait, that is the right word is it not, Don from Blaine?) was naturally packed. The C&E'ers were out in force, many sporting brightly colored outfits so that God could more easily see them through the clouds (there is the matter of the roof I suppose as well).

Being a weekly goer myself I felt some degree of disdain for the entire charade of getting all fussied up to go to one or two masses (*checks again with Don*) a year. One family behind us even left after about 30 minutes. Hard to decipher that one.

We learned yesterday that the brother of our young priest was killed in Iraq in 2005. He choked up as he told the story of getting the call from his mother in the middle of the night with the news.

Compelling story and it was a great way of personalizing the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

One thing I would like to hear in the future though is a call out to the C&E's to I don't know, maybe come to mass a little more often? You've got them right there and several may have even been listening. They know they are supposed to be going every week. They know they have no good reason for not going. Start working on what is written on their hearts.

What was sad is there was an announcement at the end of mass thanking all the "new faces" and "visitors". Let's see if we can pack that jernt every Sunday and not just when the Yankees play.

I Take It All Back!

I was one of the critical naysayers when the WILD! picked up Chris Simon from the Islanders.

But Saturday night he proved me wrong with a great bout.

Check it:

Count the lefts that hit paydirt.

The Elder Adds: I like Simon's fighting skills, but I can't believe how slow he is on his feet. When you watch him skate it's hard to tell if it's a live shot or a slow-mo replay. Lots of cement in them boots.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The Saturday night Easter Vigil Mass service is one of my favorite religious celebrations. The multitude of readings, the blessing of the water, the candles in the darkness, and the shared anticipation of the Easter Morning soon to come make for a very unique and meaningful liturgy.

When we were kids, we would often spend Easter weekend at our grandparent's house in a small town in Iowa. Since the church was less than a block away and we didn't like having to get up and dressed up on Easter morning, we would often attend the Easter Vigil Mass service. Sometimes it was tough to make it through the readings and overall length of the Mass service, but it was always worth it in the end. Even as a kid you knew that the evening was different from any other and you felt that you were part of something special.

Unfortunately, the things that make the Easter Vigil so special are not conducive to attendance by families with young children. The late evening start time and length--to say nothing of the open flames--make it all but impossible for us to take part at this stage of our lives. Hopefully, when the boys are a little older (and more patient and less destructive), we'll be able to hit the Vigil Mass service again. And I hope they'll find it as special as I did as a child (and still do today).

UPDATE: Steve from St.Paul e-mails with a clarification:

I enjoyed your post about the Easter Vigil, but I do have to point out a small error. You referred to the "Easter Vigil Mass" in your post. It actually is a service, not a mass. In the Catholic Church, there are no masses said between Holy Thursday and Easter. On both Good Friday and Holy Saturday, there are services, but the Eucharistic prayer isn't said. There is communion distributed, but the wafers that they use were consecrated at Holy Thursday mass.

It's a common confusion.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Could It Be?

Richard John Neuhaus reflects on Good Friday and the Easter Weekend at FIRST THINGS:

Let all the people say Amen. The church is dark now. The altar is stripped and bare. Some are getting up and leaving in silence. Others remain kneeling, looking into the darkness. Holy Saturday is ahead, the most quiet day of the year. The silence of that silent night, holy night, the night when God was born was broken by the sounds of a baby, a mother's words of comfort and angels in concert. Holy Saturday, by contrast, is the sound of prefect silence. Yesterday's mockery, the good thief's prayer, the cry of dereliction--all that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.

Some say that on Holy Saturday Jesus went to hell in triumph, to free the souls long imprisoned there. Others say he descended into a death deeper than death, to embrace in his love even the damned. We do not know. Scripture, tradition and pious writings provide hints and speculations, but about this most silent day it is perhaps best to observe the silence. One day I expect he will tell us all about it. When we are able to understand what we cannot now even understand why we cannot understand. Meanwhile, if we keep very still, there steals upon the silence a song of Easter that was always there. On the long mourners' bench of the eternal pity, we raise our heads, blink away our tears and exchange looks that dare to question, 'Could it be?' But of course. That is what it was about. That is what it is all about. O felix culpa!

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

To prodigal children lost in a distant land, to disciples who forsook him and fled, to a thief who believed or maybe took pity and pretended to believe, to those who did not know that what they did they did to God, to the whole bedraggled company of humankind he had abandoned heaven to join, he says: 'Come. Everything is ready now. In your fears and your laughter, in your friendships and farewells, in your loves and losses, in what you have been able to do and in what you know you will never get done, come, follow me. We are going home to the waiting Father.'

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Separation Of Church and State?

Section Sixteen of Article 1 of the Minnesota Constitution states:

Sec. 16. FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE; NO PREFERENCE TO BE GIVEN TO ANY RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT OR MODE OF WORSHIP. The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not deny or impair others retained by and inherent in the people. The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any man be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any religious or ecclesiastical ministry, against his consent; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state, nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious societies or religious or theological seminaries.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the word interdict means:

1 : a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical censure withdrawing most sacraments and Christian burial from a person or district

Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appeared on Hugh Hewitt's nationally syndicated talk radio show. According to Hugh:

And yes, the governor did extend the interdict against the FratersLibertas rogues for another five years...

Clearly this is a gross violation of the powers of the office of governor and an equally egregious violation of the Minnesota Constitution. Now if the Pope were to issue an interdict against us (as I believe he did against Atomizer some years ago), we would of course recognize and comply with it. But Governor Pawlenty? Never!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let Lileks Be Lileks

It is good to see James Lileks return to the print edition of the Star Tribune with a regular column. He's the best writer on staff and his work deserves to be disseminated beyond the Internet bucket he was relegated to last year.

The media liberals in town, who are accustomed to having a monopoly for their opinions appearing in the local press, are predictably getting the shakes over what this may mean. Lileks has always been a tough case for them to handle. He's clearly more talented than they are and he's an apostate to the dominant media culture. So a mix of condescension and grave foreboding usually accompanies reviews of his work. For example, this from MinnPost (excerpts):

Lileks — who plays a piquant right-winger on talk radio and a genial, impish cultural curator on the Strib's -- will make his first appearance on Friday's Metro cover in the now-vacant columnist slot.

According to [Managing Editor Rene Sanchez], "James will write a local column every Friday in the great spirit of what he does for Buzz. He will have the same wide latitude we give other columnists, but I expect it to be more rollicking than overtly political. It won't be the kind of column you'd see on editorial pages."

But if politics is part of the Friday portfolio, that would give the Strib two conservative columnists and one liberal.

Ooo, that does sound dangerous! Wouldn't want to upset that long standing tradition of completely fair and balanced editorial coverage by the Star Tribune. Better keep Lileks on a nice safe, tight chain.

I'm sure Rene Sanchez and the rest were comforted by Lileks' opening effort last week, especially his promotion of the "political blog" Minnesota Monitor as merely an information resource, without mentioning its a paid propaganda outlet of Democratic party activists.

For what its worth, Lileks seems to be fully on board with this approach, as quoted in MSP Magazine:

No, no politics. There's enough of that out there as it is. These will be basic stories, stories not precisely what I've been doing in this market. It'll be a metro column, maybe a little less domestic than what I've been doing."

There are three reasons for avoiding [politics]. One, I have my own blog. Two, I'm not really reliable on issues. I'm all over the map And three, we already have Nick and Katherine. There's really no place for me in that Manichean dichotomy."

Lileks is in a tough spot over there. I'm sure he's painfully aware of the need to avoid further spooking the liberal herd. Or maybe that's his real opinion. I don't know, we don't consult on these matters (or any matters). But, to me, none of the reasons he cites are sufficient to place the quirky, piquant, impish straight jacket on the guy for his new column. Newspapers should not have a maximum capacity for political content, quite the opposite really. The political material he includes in his blog is philosophically consistent, which is more important than an opinion on any given issue. Most importantly, he writes it in an insightful, highly entertaining, and persuasive manner.

As much as I enjoy the musings about domestic life, architecture, and 50s nostalgia, Lileks excels when writing about current events and politics. In his own fashion, his work in this realm is on the level of PJ O'Rourke, Mark Steyn, Dave Barry. Let him do this with free reign and without the restraints of fearful editors looking over his shoulder and he could be a national star, a recognized brand, an enduring institution for this town. That's the true value he represents for a newspaper interested in attracting readers. If that's too dangerous for them, find an insightful, entertaining, persuasive liberal to match him. (Note to Star Tribune, you do not currently have this person on staff.)

However, if the newspaper has other priorities than attracting readers, a nice, safe, more boring, and less widely read product is what they're going to get. In the long run, I doubt anybody is going to be happy with that. Except maybe the liberal media critics who will be baying in protest at the slightest hint Lileks is exhibiting undue conservatism in the future. Going forward, let's hope the ownership over there cares more about the bottom line than their status with these self appointed enforcers of the ideological status quo.

I've been fine with my whiskey, wine and gin

He's modern. He's a drunkard. He's the Modern Drunkard. If you missed our NARN interview with Frank Kelly Rich a.k.a. The Modern Drunkard last Saturday, you can now listen to it commercial free here.

Every time we talk with Frank we learn something new and interesting about him. This appearance was no different. I don't think any of were real suprised to learn that he spent three weeks in jail for trespassing during his college years. But we probably wouldn't have pegged him as a former Army Ranger. Life is indeed full of surprises.

Answer Me These Questions Three

Roy Spencer--principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville--has some questions for the IPCC:

As a climate scientist, I would like to see some answers to a few basic global warming science questions which I'm sure the U.N.'s Ministry of Global Warming Truth (also known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) can handle. After all, since they are 90% confident that recent global warming is manmade, they surely must have already addressed these issues.

Dr. Spencer goes on to lay out three challenges on global warming, none of which involve the IPCC's favorite color.

We'll be interviewing him on the NARN on Saturday, April 12th at noon to discuss his new book "Climate Confusion."

Dr. Spencer also has put together a good primer on the issue called Global Warming and Nature's Thermostat.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Sync

Heartwarming front-page story in yesterday's WSJ on a courageous young man trying to break down barriers of discrimination (sub req):

Kenyon Smith, a lithe and good-looking young man who just had his 18th birthday, is an Aquamaid.

He swims, in unison, with the Santa Clara Aquamaids, a club of synchronized swimmers. All the other Aquamaids are girls. They wear sparkly bathing suits, gobs of makeup and starlet smiles as they splash-dance around the pool. They show a lot of leg.

Comics think synchro is great material, and when the joke is on a person of the nonfemale sex, it's a sure winner. So let's all laugh at Kenyon Smith, the male synchronized swimmer.


Now here's the not-so-comical part: Young Mr. Smith isn't just any old male synchronized swimmer. He's a phenomenon. His twists and splits and head-down pirouettes are crisp and fast. His rocket thrusts him out of the water, pointy-toes first, all the way up to his armpits. He can swim almost 75 yards underwater without blacking out.

There are only two things this Aquamaid can't do: Go to a U.S. college on a sports scholarship. And go for gold at the Olympics.

All because he's a he. Women have broken into everything from wrestling to rodeo, but in synchronized swimming, the deep end is strictly roped off to men. Colleges striving for sexual parity, as civil-rights law requires, won't let men waltz-crawl with women. At the Olympic Summer Games, only boxing and baseball still exclude women; only softball, rhythmic gymnastics and synchro still exclude men.

No one will be cheering harder for Kenyon to overcome this disgusting gender bias and realize his Olympic dreams than a certain silver-haired talk radio shock jock from Southern California. Few people know this, but back in his days as a young lifeguard at a community pool in Warren, Ohio, Hugh Hewitt dreamed of being the first to shatter stereotypes and break the synchronized swimming gender barrier.

After his shift as a guard was over and the pool was closed, Hugh would slip into his sparkly suit and spend hours splitting, twisting, pirouetting, and splash-dancing in the water as the "Toreador Song" from the opera "Carmen" pierced the stillness of the air on those glorious Midwest summer nights. Hugh's goal was nothing less than to be the Jackie Robinson of the sport that he so loved.

Alas, small-minded prejudices and closed minds thwarted Hugh's dreams. Today, age and infirmity have taken a terrible toll on his once flexible lithe body and if he were to enter the water again, he would no doubt sink like a stone. But he still has the synchronized swimming fire burning in his now greatly expanded belly. And while in his head he knew his dreams had been crushed, they couldn't take away his passion for twisting in the pool from his heart.

So if one day Kenyon Smith is able to stand proudly on the Olympic podium and receive a synchronized swimming medal, he won't just be realizing his dream, but also the dream that's still alive and kicking in the soul of an aged talk radio host. When they does day comes, I expect that the pent-up emotions will finally spill over and the tears will stream--in a perfectly synchronized manner of course--down Hugh's well-weathered face. Don't ever let the dream die Kenyon.

Actions Speak Louder

While Obama's "pastor problems" have been dominating the news lately, some Democrats and left-wing bloggers (especially Joshua Micah Marshall) have been trying desperately to make an issue of John McCain receiving the endorsement of John Hagee, an evangelical pastor with a history of anti-Catholic bigotry. The comparison is not very apt to begin with given Obama's much closer association with Wright over a long period of years. More importantly, as the old cliché goes, elections are about choices.

And the choice between voting for a candidate who's supported by a fool who's said some nasty things about the Catholic Church and candidates who are supported by groups whose actions directly contravene the teachings of the Church seems like a fairly easy one for Catholics to make. Feddie delivers a perfect summation at Southern Appeal:

To be sure, I would rather McCain completely disassociate himself from Hagee, but his failure to do so (no doubt as a matter of political prudence) is not nearly enough for me to sit out an election that may, among other things, decide who gets to fill as many as three Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years. I mean, seriously, do the dems really believe that faithful Catholics are just going to sit on the sidelines this November because one of McCain's high-profile supporters is a bigoted twit? Do they honestly think that this sort of thing matters more than Senator Obama's unwillingness to support legislation designed to provide basic medical care to babies who survive botched abortions?

The bottom line is this: On the non-negotiable teachings of the Catholic Church, Senator McCain is the clear choice for faithful Catholics (even with his deeply troubling support of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research). And no amount of jeering by dems over Hagee's endorsement of McCain is going to change this fact. Besides, I would think Obama and Clinton supporters have plenty of other things to be concerned about.


Big Hitter, The Lama

When I saw this headline this morning, it gave me pause:

Dalai Lama threatens to step down

Step down? Can you really just quit being The Lama? I mean, this is something that's ordained, right? You can't just wake up one day and decide you're going to hang up your robes. "It's been a nice run as The Lama, but now I'm looking for something different. I've always thought about going to law school..."

Needless to say, a bit further into the story proper clarification was provided:

Later, one of his top aides clarified the Dalai Lama's comments.

"If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence," Tenzin Takhla said. "He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama."

So he's got that goin' for him, which is nice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ole, Ole, Ole

This weekend's best-of-three WCHA first round playoff series between Mankato State Minnesota State Mankato and the University of Minnesota was one of the most dramatic and entertaining multi-game college hockey playoff matchups in years. In most years, the WCHA's first round is just a perfunctory prelude to the WCHA Final Five and NCAA playoffs, but this series was something special.

The hockey itself was not great. The passing, stick-handling, skating, and shooting on display reflected the mediocre offensive skills of both teams. But those shortcoming were more than made up for by the grit, passion, and determination on display throughout the weekend. Did I mention the stellar goal tending from both keepers?

The two teams could not have been more closely matched and it made for a fun, but nerve-wracking weekend of hockey. It started on Friday night, when the squads battled to a scoreless tie in regulation. It wasn't for wont of scoring chances. It was the two goalies coming up big again and again. The game finally ended in the second OT when the Gophers went on the power play and...

...the Mavericks scored a short-handed goal at the ninety-seven minute thirty-six second mark. For the game, the Gopher power play was a pathetic oh for five (more on that later). Alex Kangas stopped 44 Maverick shots and Mike Zacharias turned away 34 as he prophesied his way to a shutout. A heck of a game all the way around.

Followed by Saturday's contest, where the Gophers drew even in the series with a goal by Mike Carman 7:33 into overtime giving them a 2-1 win. Another close game, another overtime, another goalie dual with Kangas stopping 27 of 28 Maverick shots and Zacharias 35 of 37 Gopher attempts.

So it all comes down to Sunday night. No way we could get another overtime, right?

[Dana Carvey doing his John McLaughlin voice]


[/Dana Carvey doing John McLaughlin voice]

Try another double overtime, which finally ended with 3:01 remaining when Tony Lucia (who I had been savaging pretty much all weekend) poked a loose puck past Zacharias. Three OT games in a row with progressing scores of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2. Great goaltending again, with Kangas stopping 44 shots and Zacharias 47.

I thought the first goal that Kangas gave up was a little soft, but it's hard to rip a guy who had the weekend he did. He faced 119 shots and allowed 4 goals. A .966 save percentage ain't too shabby. Zacharias meanwhile saw 121 shots and only let 5 past him for a .959 save percentage. Those performances are outstanding any way you look at them.

For a more Mav-centric look at the series, you can check out this blog, although I notice that it hasn't been updated since Sunday's game. Hmmm...

The Gophers now move on to face St. Cloud State in St. Paul in the opening game of the WCHA Final Five (you think the tourney organizers might have been celebrating a bit on Sunday night?). It looks like they're probably secured a place in the NCAA tourney with last night's win (currently sitting at #11 in the Pairwise), but you never know how these things will shake out. If they hope to ensure that they keep playing past Thursday, they'll need the following against SCSU:

- Kangas keeps playing great. He's been the bright light in what otherwise has been a pretty dismal season by Minnesota standards. No matter how the Gophers season ends this year, it looks like they've found a goalie for the future. If he stands on his head again, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Gophers trip up the Huskies.

- The big names need to step up. Big names? Yes, they haven't all left early. It was nice to see Jay Barriball roof one on Sunday night, but the Gophers still need more from him and Blake Wheeler. Wheeler had a lot of shots in the series against the Mavs. Mostly shots from far out that posed little danger. He needs to go stronger and harder to the net and use his size and speed to create space for better scoring chances.

- The power play against Minnesota State was about as potent as UN peacekeepers. I believe they were 0-13 during the series, gave up one shorthanded goal, and seemed to generate better scoring chances at even strength than with the man advantage. It was beyond anemic and reached the point where you almost wish they could decline the penalty like in football. I don't know what the exact answer is, but if they don't take advantage of power play opportunities (at least one!) against SCSU, it could be a long night on Thursday.

Finally, there was this bracing news from Sunday night:

Minnesota senior Tom Pohl is in intensive care following surgery resulting from an injury suffered in the Golden Gophers' double overtime victory over Minnesota State on Sunday in Mankato.

Pohl sustained a skull fracture when his head hit the boards in front of the team's bench at 6:09 of the second period. The injury resulted in bleeding on the brain and Pohl was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. Successful surgery was performed to stop the bleeding and stabilize the fracture. Pohl remains at the hospital for further observation.

Our wishes for a full and complete recovery go out to Tom Pohl.

Wear Green, Drink Well

Eric Felten offers up a drink for Saint Patrick's Day that won't make you green in the face (sub req):

Despairing of finding a worthy cocktail for St. Pat's, I resorted to creating one myself -- a modernistic version of Irish Coffee, one that deconstructs and reassembles the original's constituent parts -- coffee, sugar, whiskey and cream.

My idea isn't entirely original. In Spain and further south (the drink has turned up in Cairo), there is a variation on Irish Coffee that draws from the Pousse Café tradition of layering liqueurs. Irish whiskey goes into a goblet, and then one carefully pours black coffee into the bowl of a spoon, the tip of which is pressed against the inside of the goblet at the level of the whiskey. Do it right, and the coffee will sit on top of the whiskey instead of mixing with it. On top goes the cream to create a three-layered drink.

I too have separated the coffee from the whiskey, but in a different way, using coffee to flavor the drink's frothy top. To do that, I made a foam flavored with coffee liqueur, using one of the techniques favored by the molecular gastronomy crowd. Combine an egg white (fresh or pasteurized) with two ounces of coffee liqueur, and whisk them up a bit before putting them in a nitrous-oxide-chargeable whipped-cream dispenser. Charge it up (bartenders who use this technique generally double-charge the canister, though the manufacturers wouldn't approve) and then shake it vigorously. The result should be a foam as creamy as the heavy cream one uses for a traditional Irish Coffee.

What, you don't have a nitrous-oxide-chargeable whipped-cream dispenser?

If you lack such a dispenser, just keep whisking the egg white and liqueur until you've got a foam you're satisfied with. This is best done by swizzling the handle of the whisk between flattened palms.

Top a tumbler of Irish whiskey on the rocks with a thick head of this coffee foam and you get what I call a Reverse Irish Coffee. I think it's tasty; and though the drink is modern, it has a connection with authentic Irish tradition. And best of all, it isn't green.

There's nothing Irish about a green drink.

Pajama Marketing

Article in today's WSJ on small businesses who are reaching out to bloggers(sub req):

Businesses of all types and sizes are focusing on the power of bloggers as opinion shapers. But harnessing that power is particularly important for small-business owners who don't have the money to create name recognition with big marketing campaigns. By connecting with the right blogs, small businesses can generate buzz around their products and services and increase sales dramatically.

This was really the key graph in the piece:

Short of such a personalized approach, businesses should at least be sure to send their product to bloggers whenever possible, rather than simply sending a press release that describes the product, online-marketing experts say.

Can't stress that one enough people.

UPDATE: I almost forget another important tip from the article:

The first step for any business that wants to use the blogosphere as a marketing tool is to identify blogs read by members of its target market.

In order to make it easier for businesses (especially small ones) to determine if the readers of Fraters Libertas fall within the demographic sweet spot they're going after, our crack analytical staff has been pouring over reams of survey research data to come up with a composite profile of the typical Fraters reader. For purposes of simplicity, they've managed to convert this composite profile into a visual representation.

Start growing your business today.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Fiscal Bully In The Pulpit

In today's WSJ, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford calls on fiscal conservatives to get off the bench:

There is a yawning gulf between the viewpoints of Mr. McCain and those of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Nowhere is this more evident than on the critical issue of the steady collapse of our government's financial house.

Since 2000, the federal budget has increased 72%, to $3.1 trillion from $1.8 trillion. The national debt is now $9 trillion -- more than the combined GDP of China, Japan and Canada. Add in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security commitments, and as a nation we are staring at more than a $50 trillion hole -- an invisible mortgage of $450,000 for every American family.

Hope alone won't carry us through the valley of the shadow of debt. The fact that neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama has made cost-cutting a part of their political vocabulary is a clear indication that they would increase spending. In fact, Mrs. Clinton has already proven skillful at snagging pork. Over the past few years alone, she has attached some $2.2 billion in earmarks to federal spending bills. Mr. McCain has asked for exactly $0 in earmarks.

And while Mr. Obama's oratorical skills have been inspiring, his proposals would entail roughly the same $800 billion in new government spending that Mrs. Clinton proposes. To his credit, Mr. Obama admits that his spending proposals will take more than three clicks of his heels to fund. He would pay for his priorities with a bevy of tax increases which he hopes taxpayers won't notice.

But taxpayers will notice. Mr. Obama plans to raise taxes on capital gains, dividends and corporate profits. He wants to hike estate taxes by 50%. And he wants to eliminate the cap on payroll taxes. These tax hikes would increase the burden borne by individuals and decrease the competitiveness of our economy.

I was elected to Congress in 1994 as part of a Republican Revolution that captured control of both the House and Senate. A number of us tried to apply the brakes to the Washington spending train. We didn't succeed. Six years later, I left Washington convinced that only a chief executive willing to use the presidential bully pulpit could bring spending under control.

Now, in John McCain, the GOP has a standard-bearer who would be willing to turn the power of the presidency toward controlling federal spending. Mr. McCain has one of the best spending records in Congress, and has never shied away from criticizing government pork-barrel spending.

A good pitch for McCain and for Sanford in the VP slot.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Equilibrium On The Ice

The Opposite

Jerry : Yeah, I know; like yesterday I lost a job, and then I got another one, and then I missed a TV show, and later on they re-ran it. And then today I missed a train, went outside and caught a bus. It never fails! I always even out!

Sigh. Another night, another frustrating shootout loss for the Wild. I know that his shootout numbers aren't great, but it's beyond me why you wouldn't have Gaborik take a turn. Oh and Rolston, that slap shot bit is played. Very played. But hey, at least they got a point out of it, right?

Ever since the NHL adopted the shootout rules a few years ago, I've been of two minds on the matter. It's impossible to deny the excitement of the mano a mano showdown and the skills that you get to see displayed. And I like the idea of not having ties. But I've always been bothered by the fact that the "losing" team still gets a point. It just doesn't seem right. While mulling this over in more detail last night, I realized what really bothers me about it: the numbers don't add up.

Professional sports (unlike economics) is or at least should be a zero-sum game. Two teams begin the contest. One wins, one loses. In professional baseball, basketball, and football (usually) this is how it works. At the end of the season, if you add up all the teams wins and losses (and occasional tie in the NFL) they balance out. No matter how individual teams do, there will be X number of games, 1/2 X number of wins, and 1/2 X number of losses. You know this at the beginning of the season and it is not subject to change.

The NHL used to be this way (college hockey still is). There were two points available on the table at the beginning of each game. The winner would receive two. The loser zero. If the game ended in a tie, the teams split the points. But the total number of points available did not change.

Each year there are 1230 regular season NHL games (thirty teams in the NHL playing eighty-two games each). That meant that there would be 2460 points available. It didn't matter how many games ended in a tie, that overall number stayed the same. Which allowed you to compare year over year point totals in a meaningful way.

Now, consider what happens when a game goes into overtime. Suddenly, the skies open and another point is added to the pot. After battling for sixty minutes to win two points, the teams are now competing for five minutes (and maybe the shootout) to see how they split three. Now, every time a game goes into overtime, a point is added to the overall total available for the season. By my calculations, 234 such "extra" points have already been added this year. Next year, more may be added. Or less.

So Detroit is having a great year with 100 points based on 47 wins, 18 losses, and 6 overtime losses. But what does this mean historically? How many of their wins would have been ties in the old NHL? The points just don't mean the same thing they used to.

So what's the answer? Keep the OT and the shootout. But only award two points to the winner. If you lose in OT or the shootout, you get nada. If teams aren't good at shootouts, maybe this would lead them to take more risks in OT or the third period to win the game. This would also allow for more separation and meaningful games within the divisions. You want some intensity at the end of the season? Ensure that the games are two point swings instead of the one point advantage that we see too often today.

For the sake of numerical balance and symmetry, the NHL needs to even it out.

Age Appropriate

My wife sent me this link today under the heading "Imagine saying that this is a picture of my fifty-year old mom." There's no doubt that Madonna still has it goin' on, but at some point don't you have to quit pretending that you're twenty-one? There's nothing wrong with being sexy at fifty. It just would be nice if she'd throw a little more sophistication into the mix.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pot, Kettle And All That

For the record, unlike Hugh Hewitt I am not a fan of artificially-sweetened bakery goods like Ho Hos, Twinkies, or Snoballs (or the verb they inspired). I believe the proper term is "projection."

Enlightened Inebriation

We've just learned that we'll be joined by a very special guest this Saturday on the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. With Saint Patrick's Day just around the corner, we thought it would be appropriate to talk to expert on the subject.

And so at noon this Saturday we'll be joined by Frank Kelly Rich better known as the Modern Drunkard. Yes, there will also be corned beef and cabbage, parades (our own Saint Paul will be marching this year), and other celebrations of Irish "culture" on Monday, but when it comes to St. Patty's Day it's really more about the downing of the booze than the wearing o' the green.

You couldn't ask for a better drinking guide than Frank who edits the magazine, wrote the book, and--judging from our last interview with him--very much leads the lifestyle of the Modern Drunkard. Frank has promised to be relatively sober at noon this Saturday when he makes his second appearance on the NARN.

You can listen to it all in glorious AM sound locally on WWTC AM1280 or click on the internet stream on the AM 1280 The Patriot web site from anywhere in the world. Don't you dare miss it.

All Lucrative Offers Considered

Another shocking tale of corporate greed in America. A highly successful business, full of wealthy executives and staff, shaking down the local government of one of the poorest cities in America for millions in tax subsidies. The gory details from the Washington Post.

[The District of Columbia] has negotiated a $40 million deal .... to keep the company's headquarters in the city, granting tax abatements over the next two decades

You may think its only a matter of time before advocates for the poor are staging protest rallies and calling for Congressional investigations into this obvious misappropriation of the public treasury. Until, that is, I reveal what is behind the ellipsis in that quote above.

That rich corporation was (drumroll, please)

National Public Radio (ta-da!)

Just when you thought the billions of dollars in direct government subsidies, tax advantaged contributions, and free use of government owned facilities and equipment might be enough to keep afloat "public" broadcasting in this country, their grasping hand reaches out and grabs the government of DC by the throat. Give us more money or we're taking your beloved institution and leaving! When did Carl Pohlad buy NPR?

NPR could have gone "anywhere" the mayor said, adding that the 20-year tax abatements and planned street improvements in the neighborhood were necessary incentives.

Anywhere? Our National Radio Station can cover news from our National Capital from anywhere? Paducah, Kentucky? Jerkwater Flatts, ND? East Bumblefark, MD?

Close, on that last one:

Montgomery County officials presented a package that "caused us to take a second look" at a location near the Silver Spring Metro station, he said.

County officials spent months trying to lure the company, crafting scenarios including one that would have provided about $32 million in permanent property tax breaks because NPR is a nonprofit with an educational mission.

The county also offered to build a parking lot for the company that would have been worth about $18 million, said Diane Schwartz Jones, a top aide to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

It seems they could have gone "anywhere" as long as the bid was at least $40 million of government money. But loyalty won the day! As the distinguished gentlewoman from DC, Eleanor Holmes Norton, put it:

"I knew NPR would not do that to us," said Norton

Do what? In addition to the money, demand the City Council members get Garrison Keillor's face tattooed on their rear ends? (Don't get smug DC, I hear Paducah Kentucky is seriously considering upgrading their offer to include this.)

Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that NPR will not pay property taxes on the building for 20 years, saving $40 million. The city has agreed not to raise property taxes by more than 3 percent on the station's Massachusetts Avenue building for two decades, or until NPR sells it.

A pretty sweet deal there. But it's not like DC actually has a need for $40 million or anything. They've solved all their problems with crime, education, health, welfare, and high tax rates, right? They were just looking for a way to distribute their vast surpluses.

Actually, no. DC is like most urban, liberal enclaves, a vast, insatiable, sucking black hole of tax dollars. And the game of giving a tax free palace to NPR is not zero sum. If there are winners, there will also be losers, that money has got to come from somewhere. Believe it or not, that happens to be the ATM machine known as private business.

Nicholas Deoudes, who owns three buildings less than a mile from the future NPR location, said that his property taxes increased last year from $13,614 to $36,151. Deoudes, who has owned the buildings for 29 years, said the city needs to help longtime business owners who stayed when the area was a "ghost town."

"That's criminal," Deoudes said about the NPR deal. "My assessments went up . . . while somebody else got it for 20 years with no property taxes. They're handing out benefits to the big guys and leaving the small-time guys like myself and my tenant out of business. We're picking up the tab for somebody else."

Let's not forget, the "big guys" in this case are the biggest guys of all, the government.

Of course, the reason DC is giving NPR more money is to retain all those high price jobs within their borders. Those salaries all being dependent on other government handouts. A vicious little circle. But you can see why DC is happy to screw over private business. They have the unfortunate luck of having to produce something of value to stay in business. There's no guarantee they'll be around in 5, 10, 20 years. On the other hand, NPR, like most government programs, is forever.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

King For A Day

Bob e-mails to highlight an upcoming event:

On Thursday March 13, Dr. Alveda King will be speaking at the St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Mn. Dr. King is the niece of slain Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and she will be lecturing on the problems facing the Civil Rights Movement of today. Specifically how abortion is affecting the society, and taking a look at the how it is affecting the African American Community.

You can find out more about Alveda King here. More details on the event are available here:

Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will give a speech about the ongoing challenges of the Civil Rights Movement, titled "How Can the Dream Survive If We Murder the Children?" from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, in the Schulze Grand Atrium of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in downtown Minneapolis.

King's talk is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Thomas Mastroianni of the St. Thomas More Society, an organization for Catholic law students at the university, (518) 701-3362.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Premium Pricing

One of the first questions that I had when the Spitzer news came out yesterday was how any prostitute could command $5500 an hour. My wife was wondering the same thing when we discussed the matter last night: what are you getting for that price that's so much better?

Obviously, it's a step up from the soiled dove you pick up on the street corner, but what's the difference between $500 an hour, $1000 an hour, and $5500 an hour whores?
Discretion? Appearance? Certain "skills"? Or are you just paying a ridiculous luxury premium that's doesn't correlate to the actual service provided?

Seems like a subject that one of them dismal scientist guys would want to explore further.

UPDATE: My favorite headline on l'affaire de Spitzer so far is....

Spitzer scandal seen as setback for climate change reforms

That's a shame.

UPDATE II: Steve from Grand Forks--a man apparently wise in the ways of high-end call girls (although in Grand Forks "high-end" usually means "she has most of her teeth")--e-mails to clarify:

I thought I would let you in on the secrets of what makes a hooker worth $5,500 an hour, you naive, unlettered man not of the world.

It has, in Willie Nelson's words, something to do with the chrome on a trailer hitch.

Actually, of course, as Charlie Sheen famously said, quoting better men than he: "We don't pay 'em for the sex, we pay 'em to go away afterward." And men of wealth and taste, of course, have millions more reasons why they need them to go away with only a bang, not a whimper.

Or as one of my colleagues, a former sports goon, said quickly, as he does everything: "Hey, wonder if she would pro-rate that down to a minute and a half?"

Didja see Letterman last night? "Do you think it's too early to hit on Mrs. Spitzer?"

PS: Our own Gov. John Hoeven, you know, immediately released a statement, "I've never paid for it in my life!"

Monday, March 10, 2008


Saturday night, I attended the Gopher hockey game with the Nihilist In Golf Pants. It was the last home game of the season for the squad and the first game that I've been at all year. Fittingly, the Gophers played lazy, lackadaisical hockey and lost to the UMD Bulldogs 3-2. The outcome of the game didn't impact their standing in the WCHA (seventh place), but it was not the way they wanted to close out the regular season.

Other than a couple of decent scraps (much more of that in the WCHA this year), there wasn't a lot to get excited about. As a substitute for action on the ice, The Nihilist spent most of his time thinking and talking about food. What was and what was not available at the Mariucci Arena concessions (and how much it cost) became something of an obsession for him.

After he was unable to find potato chips early in the evening, he noticed the Old Dutch logo on the boards. That set him off on a flurry of denunciation, speculation, and promises of recrimination. The only thing that saved Joe Maturi from receiving an torrent of abusive e-mails, phone calls, and internet hit pieces was The Nihilist discovering--between the second and third periods--that the Famous Dave's stand did indeed carry potato chips. Old Dutch in fact.

My personal highlight of the evening came in the third period when the Subway giveaway was announced. During each game, everyone seated in a particular row in a particular section receives a free Subway sandwich. We were seated on the aisle in row eight of section eleven. Saturday's winners of the free Subways were in row eight of...

....section ten. When the people across from The Nihilist (no more than four feet away) realized that they were going to be the recipients of free Subway they began to celebrate and carry on. The Nihilist reacted as if his dog had just been run over by a car. Crestfallen doesn't even begin to describe the look on his face.

Of course, being a caring and sensitive type, I leaned over and sympathized, "Wow. You were that close to getting a free sub. That's a shame."

Private School Confidential

Trent from St. Paul writes in regarding the public school/private school debate we had last week regarding the state high school hockey tournament:

First off, I love you guys and check your site at least several times a day. You present the perfect mix of non-suspect politics, sports, and alcohol. especially appreciate the recent links to hockey fights -- keep 'em coming!

I just wanted to comment on your hockey tourney observations. I grew up in Woodbury, but attended Hill-Murray High School. As a youngster, I played hockey in the Woodbury Athletic Association (our teams always *ahem* sucked). When my big sister went to Hill-Murray (she is 8 years older than I), I knew where I wanted to play. Aside from being Catholic and wishing to attend Catholic schools, I was attracted to Hill-Murray -- and I know this is a revelation for some, so hold on -- because the hockey program was so successful. I know, I know, heady stuff for a kid who dreamed of playing in the NHL.

Was I recruited? Yes -- when I was in 8th grade playing for the Woodbury Athletic Association traveling bantam team, I was approached by a Woodbury coach at the time (who I will not name). He asked me to reconsider my decision to go to Hill-Murray and guaranteed me a spot on the Woodbury varsity team as a freshman, even dangling the promise of a letter jacket in front of my slightly zitty adolescent face.

My response? Why would I want to play varsity for a school with such a terrible hockey program where no college or NHL recruiters would take notice? I did go on to play for HM. Does Hill-Murray recruit? No. Why would they have to? When you build a successful program, there is no need to recruit.

Some of the reasons a school like HM would attract students away from the closest public school:

--Catholic faith-based education
--Hill-Murray's enrollment for grades 8-12: approx 1,000 students
--Student/Teacher ratio: 14:1
--Academics: Cited by ACT as one of 382 schools nationwide for rigorous coursework
--Athletics: State Hockey Champs (again)

How do you like me now?

Anyway, I'm rather ecstatic the Pioneers are State Champs again, and glad Woodbury's hockey program is flourishing. Thanks for listening.