Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh Hi Oh Oh

Chester E Finn Jr. on the state of Ohio in Saturday's WSJ:

But the distance to be covered is vast. Ohio ranks 41st in the percentage of adults with bachelor's degrees. Though it has many fine colleges, their young graduates don't stick around. They head for the coasts or for "happening places" in between, none of which (with the partial exception of Columbus) happens to be in the Buckeye State.

Bright Ohio kids aren't even enrolling in nearby colleges. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported that almost half the top seniors in local high schools were headed for out-of-state campuses. As jobs and young people exit, the remaining population ages. The Census Bureau projects that Ohioans over 65 will rise to 20% by 2030, up from 13% in 2000.

Even some well-established cultural institutions are faltering. The 57-year-old Columbus Symphony is broke and canceled its summer season. There is not a single downtown in Ohio that could be described as "lively" in the evening.

Looks the RNC made the right call after all when choosing the location for the 2008 convention.

Shut 'Er Down

In the interests of our national sanity and mental health, I propose the following to all candidates, campaigns, consultants, cable teleivison talking heads, community organizers, staffers, pundits, pollsters, political talk radio hosts, policy wonks, political action committees, party hacks, bloggers, big-buck donors, and billionaire puppet-masters:

Let's give the country a much-needed break and take the month of July off from politicking and politics of any sort. No commercials, no speeches, no debates, no ridiculous rhetoric, no rubber chicken fundrasiers, no instant analysis, no mindless speculation, no gotcha journalism, no accusations of flip-flopping, no 24/7 coverage of the most inane of politcal matters, and no bumper-stickers.

Let's spend the heart of the summer talking about barbecue, beer, baseball, beaches, and bombpops. Let's listen to music. Let's go to movies purely for fun. Let's read books (fiction) for pleasure. Let's all sit back and relax and not worry about the latest polls and who's up and who's down.

For a month, let's all simply be Americans rather than Democrats or Republicans or progressives or conservatives or libertarians. Let's go about our daily lives without having to think, eat, drink, and breath politics and worry about whether your neighbor is a godless commie or a warmongering neocon.

This month long moritorium will still allow plenty of time before November for us to debate to death each and every minute detail of difference between the candidates and explain again and again why this is the most important election in our lifetimes (just like the last one).

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's Alive!

The problem with local school board referendums is that while you can occasionally band together with your fellow peasants to beat the beast back to its lair, you know that it's only a matter of time before it returns to terrorize your pocketbook. This is exactly what's now unfolding in
Robbinsdale District 281:

Voters defeated a $9.7 million District 281 referendum in November 2007. Since then, the district has cut its 2008-09 budget by $5.4 million and is looking at another $6 million in cuts for 2009-10.

The board made a preliminary decision to seek voter approval this fall at a work session June 9, following a presentation by Unite 281, a committee of parents who have collected 1,000 signatures from people supporting another chance to vote on a school referendum.

This is a particularly revolting development (especially since I now live in District 281). The voters in the district rejected the referendum less than a year ago and now it's going to be back on the ballot again.

One of the few good ideas that Jesse Ventura proposed was to not allow such referendums in "off" election years. This would have resulted in a better turnout from the citizens impacted by the referendum and also ensured that at least two years would pass between attempts.

Meanwhile, residents of District 281 should get their pitchforks and torches ready. The beast is back.

Friday, June 27, 2008

...All You Need Is John Deere Action

Farmers Enjoy Smashing Success With New Style of Demolition Derby (WSJ-sub req):

MILROY, Minn. -- Larry Lanoue climbed into his two-story-high, 13.5-ton combine, revved up the engine and rammed the harvesting machine straight into another one. Then he backed up, swung to his right and lunged forward, tearing into the rear axle of a third.

The crowd of 1,200 at this tiny town's Race and Crash Day went wild.

Forget monster trucks and funny cars. Across the Farm Belt, the new star of the demolition derby is the combine, a hulking harvester with a top speed of about 15 miles an hour and a sticker price that can top $300,000. At county fairs and local fund-raisers, farmers slam them into each other until only one remains mobile.

Now that's a must-see event. You might ask what would possess someone to want to participate in such a spectacle:

Milroy, population 271, had its first derby in 2004. The town, surrounded by corn and soybean fields in southwestern Minnesota, is home to a bar named Oasis, a Catholic church and no stoplights. Tim Zwach, a volunteer firefighter, organized the contest to raise money for the town fire department after hearing about a combine derby in another Minnesota town.

The first Milroy derby attracted 13 combines, drew about 2,200 spectators and hauled in about $18,000, he says.

"Every farmer in the world at one point or another would like to drive their combine into a brick wall," said Mr. Zwach, a jovial 38-year-old who farms 2,600 corn and soybean acres and pilots a fire-department-themed combine in the derbies.

You gotta love that. And this. What a country.

Not Much Of A Fight

National political pundits, the McCain campaign, and panglossian local Republicans should note this article in today's WSJ (sub req) that confirms something that I've been trying to pound through people's heads for some time now; Minnesota is NOT A battleground state in this year's presidential election:

The McCain camp also apparently sees some opportunities in Minnesota, where it has run ads and where the senator has recently campaigned. Sen. McCain's best showing in the seven battleground states polled by Quinnipiac is in Florida, where he trails by four percentage points.

In the new surveys of likely voters, Sen. Obama leads Sen. McCain by 52% to 39% in Wisconsin, by 54% to 37% in Minnesota, by 49% to 44% in Colorado and by 48% to 42% in Michigan. Quinnipiac polled 1,400 to 1,600 likely voters in each state. The polls have a margin of error of from 2.5% to 2.7%.

That's a seventeen point margin people. Obama leads McCain among independents in Minnesota by twenty-one points and among whites by twelve. He's also ahead of McCain among Catholics here. This "battle" is over before it began and the McCain camp would be wise to employ their precious resources elsewhere.

And for the last time, having Pawlenty on the ticket will NOT bring Minnesota into McCain. It would perhaps be a two-point swing at tops. However, from the same poll data there is a ray of light breaking through the Gopher State gloom:

In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is leading his Democratic challenger, comedian Al Franken, by 51% to 41%.

The same respondents who favor Obama by seventeen have Franken down by ten? Now, that's something to smile about.

At Least I'll Get My Washing Done

The people have spoken and not surprisingly you have said that Laura Ingraham has the worst guest hosts. This was actually the outcome I had in mind when I posted the poll, having spent the last several days suffering through Monica Crowley trying to fill in for Ingraham.

No offense to the ladies out there, but there is a reason there aren't many successful female political talk radio hosts (or hostesses) in the land (Ingraham is the obvious exception). There's something about the tonal quality of their voices and tendency to chatter excitedly that usually has me reaching for the dial post haste. Hugh Hewitt finished second to Ingraham in the poll and had he decided to have Carol Platt Liebau fill in for him this week, it might have been enough to vault him into the top spot. Like nails on a chalkboard her voice is.

Once in a Lifetime

The disturbing news is just trickling in that the Minnesota Timberwolves have traded their much heralded first round pick OJ Mayo for someone named Kevin Love .

Headlines from the Pioneer Press:

Wolves draft Mayo, deal him

Headlines from the Star Tribune:

Wolves pick Mayo, swap him for Love in 8-player deal

I'm stunned, saddened, and sickened.

Not because I think it was a bad trade. I don't know enough about either player to judge this transaction properly. Rather, I'm aghast that newspaper headline writers in this town are given this opportunity and neither went with what needed to be cried out from the rooftops:

Wolves: Hold the Mayo

This is how you don't win a Pulitzer people.

The Elder Adds: Or they could have gone with:

Wolves Cherish Love

Wolves Have Love For Mayo

Wolves Give Up Mayo For Love (something I believe that JB recently did when his wife asked him to drop a few pounds)

SP UPDATE:: It looks like some real journalism is actually being practiced elsewhere in the country.

Headlines, The Associated Press:

Hold the Mayo! Timberwolves send O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Love in 8-player deal

Headlines, AOL Fanhouse:

Hold the Mayo -- Kevin Love and OJ Are on the Move as Griz and TWolves Go Blockbuster

Headlines, Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal:

Hold the Mayo: Grizzlies get O.J. in deal with Wolves

Headlines, The Sporting News:

Hold the Mayo, and give me some Love

Headlines, City Pages classifieds:

Desperate for Love, Mayo Added to 8 Player Action

SP UPDATE:: Correction, turns out that last one has nothing to do with basketball. Fraters Libertas regrets the error.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Wheels On The Bus

Last Wednesday, I had another chance to visit the Casa de Hogar Misericordia Orphanage outside of Chihuahua, Mexico. It's been over a year since my last visit and it was heartening to see that the grounds were looking good. They've planted some trees to help bring a bit of greenery to the dusty, desert environment.

And the children were taking obvious pride in their care and upkeep.

It was also good to see that the clinic was well stocked with medicine and other supplies.

Apparently a group of doctors from a nearby town now visit the orphanage once a week to care for checkups and care.

There are currently eighty-seven children living there. That is down slightly from years past when over a hundred kids were sharing the small facility. One of the challenges now facing them is that thirty-six of the children are boys between the ages of twelve and seventeen. And you thought you had some behavior issues with your kids.

For obvious reasons, these older boys are segregated in their own area. They do have a wood shop with some pretty nice tools that were donated by a church in the US. They also are working on setting up a building where they could make their own tortillas to sell. They have the machines ready and just got the electricity hooked up. They hope that the older boys will get a chance to pick up some skills that will help them in later life by participating in these endeavors. And it gives them something to do.

Because of the last minute nature of the effort, we didn't have a chance to raise as much money as we have in the past. But we were able to donate $600 for them to use for their most urgent needs. We asked them for the top three requirements.

1. Food

2. Cleaning supplies

3. A bus that works

Currently, there are two buses, a van, and a old SUV (a Suburban I think) on the premises. These vehicles are used to transport the kids to school every day. Because of the various ages of the children and the reluctance of local schools to take too many at one location, they are forced to take the kids to five or six different schools in the region, some of them many miles away.

The only vehicle that's in running condition right now is the Suburban. It doesn't take a logistics whiz to figure out that getting eighty-seven kids to multiple locations with one Suburban every day is not an optimal situation. When I asked if there any goods that someone in the US could provide that would really make a difference, the response was, "A bus." A bus that runs obviously.

So if anyone has a bus that could be donated for such a purpose, drop me a line. This one for example hasn't served a useful purpose for some time. It would just need a little paint job to be perfect for the need.

Stranger things have happened. As the founder of the orphanage Fidel Rubio said about the people who arrive from time to time to help out, "God brings them. I never ask them to help, they just show up."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Those Colors Do Run

Chad's blog about the "new patriotism" reminds me that there was an all-star group of local, liberal bloggers who formed the web site "New Patriot" a few years ago. We covered it here. They promoted themselves at the time, among other ways, as "our answer to the Fraters dicks."

As the Fraters dicks still have questions demanding answers, let's check in on them and see how things are going: New Patriot.

Doh! Gone with the wind they are. I guess we'll have to stand by for the New New Patriotism.

The Elder Swings Away: Silly kids. They shouldn't have underestimated the staying power of the Fraters dicks.

Never Out Of Fashion

Front-page story in today's WSJ on how Democrats are trying make the national convention in Denver The Greenest Show on Earth (sub req):

Much of the hand-wringing can be blamed on Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper, who challenged his party and his city to "make this the greenest convention in the history of the planet."

Convention organizers hired the first-ever Director of Greening, longtime environmental activist Andrea Robinson. Her response to the mayor's challenge: "That terrifies me."


To police the four-day event Aug. 25-28, she's assembling (via paperless online signup) a trash brigade. Decked out in green shirts, 900 volunteers will hover at waste-disposal stations to make sure delegates put each scrap of trash in the proper bin. Lest a fork slip into the wrong container unnoticed, volunteers will paw through every bag before it is hauled away.


Democrats say the point is to build habits that will endure long after the convention. To that end, the city has staged "greening workshops" attended by hundreds of caterers, restaurant owners and hotel managers. "It's the new patriotism," Mayor Hickenlooper says.

Neighbors Jim and Seth are outside their homes on a beautiful summer morning. Seth is preparing his recycling while Jim is unfurling an American flag.

"Hey Jim, whadya doin'?," Seth bellows.

"Just putting Old Glory up," Jim replies.

"Dude, that jingoistic flag stuff is soooooo 2002," Seth chides, "This...

Seth begins pawing through his garbage like some starving raccoon.

" the new patriotism."

You're In The Army Now

(Warning: the following is merely an anecdotal story and in no way is it trying to imply any broader claims or draw any general conclusions. I just found it interesting.)

Yesterday, I was talking with a woman whose son had recently graduated from high school and joined the Army. He went off to basic training last week and his departure was rather abrupt and unplanned due to a foul up with the military bureaucracy (imagine that). I asked her what he was going to do after basic when he went to advanced training.

She explained that his initial choice was infantry, which obviously wasn't her preference. But he was unable to get in, because the infantry allotments were already full. Apparently--at least in this training cycle--our volunteer Army has no lack of soldiers who are choosing to be ground-pounders. As I said, interesting.

Her son's second choice was to be a tanker, but since he wears glasses he was not eligible to do that. Again, more relief for mom. Since he had done quite well on a test of his knowledge of electronics, he was offered an opportunity to train to be a technician on a Patriot missile battery. This means that he will spend six months in school after basic before being assigned to duty in Germany. And he was able to double his signing bonus. Mom couldn't have been more pleased.

Care Drop

History-Making Push for U.S. Troops:

Move America Forward invites you to support our drive to send the largest number of care packages to U.S. troops in history!

Simply sponsor care packs to our troops - pick from the packages listed below - and we'll send the care pack to U.S. troops serving in Iraq & Afghanistan. The items will be personally labeled, indicating who the sponsor of the package was and how you can be reached, and will include a special personalized message to our troops that you can choose to include.

The good people at Move America Forward are hoping to collect $500,000 in contributions for care packages by the end of the day on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scandal: Catholics Being Catholics, Again

Breaking news! Catholics promoting the beliefs of Catholicism in a Catholic Church!

A rash of these types of stories broke out in the local media last fall. Now a press release from a gay activist group has the media crowding its front pages with more examples of this disturbing trend.

According to the Pioneer Press:

Officials with the Minneapolis-based Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, a grass-roots coalition promoting acceptance of gays in the Catholic Church, see the action as an attack by Archbishop John Nienstedt, who took the helm of the archdiocese in May.

In an e-mail to supporters, committee co-founder David McCaffrey called the move "yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at LGBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt's reign of
homophobic hatred."

Ah, yeah. I suspect McCaffrey is also the founder of Catholic Pastoral Committee on Hyperbole and Hyperventilating.

BTW, this "spiritual violence" and "homophobic hatred" comes in the form of our fine new Archbishop affirming millennia old Catholic teaching on what constitutes mortal sin. That is, the behavior that can lead to separation from God. The avoidance of which is kind of the business the Catholic Church is in.

So, instead of allowing a Catholic Church to host a "pride" event in the name of that behavior, the Church leadership went with what they actually profess to believe, as summarized by Nienstedt:

"Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin," he wrote in a November article in the archdiocese's paper, the Catholic Spirit.

This belief system is not news to anyone paying attention for the past several centuries. Which is why it's always surprising to me to see the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, all the TV and radio news shows obediently cover these types of stories whenever the gay activist groups yank their chains.

To put it in terms a journalism school graduate might appreciate, the Catholic Church not hosting a Gay Pride event is dog bites man. It happens every day.

Now, a Catholic parish hosting these events, as apparently St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis has been doing so for the past several years, is man bites dog (i.e., an unusual, infrequent event more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence).

Reasonably speaking, that is what should have been covered the past few years. Maybe some shock headlines, "Catholic Parish Hosting Gay Pride Event" followed by quotes from founders of obscure pressure groups for traditional values accusing the organizers of spiritual violence and Christophobic hatred. I submit to you this would be closer to reality for the overwhelming number of citizens these media outlets claim to serve than what we are getting now.

The papers and the radio stations vary in the fairness of their coverage this year. At best, they present both sides of the argument on how to interpret age old doctrine really not up for debate. But the most thoroughly dishonest portrayal comes from the new media. Here are excerpts from Doug Grow at the website MinnPost.

Remember when it was OK for Catholics to pray with gays and lesbians?

Be careful whom you pray for.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told staff members of St. Joan of Arc Church they could not hold their annual gay pride prayer service, according to PiPress reporter Tad Vezner.

Apparently with a straight face, McGrath said that this isn't some new crackdown because Archbishop John Nienstedt is now in charge. Recently retired Archibishop Harry Flynn would have cracked down on this, too, had he known of it, McGrath said. Maybe. But the service was not exactly an underground deal. In the past, it was advertised on St. Joan's website and in its bulletin. Many are saddened and angry — but probably not surprised.

There's got to be an award for reporting this awful. (A Pulitzer maybe?) Of course, this dispute has absolutely nothing to do with who you pray with or who you pray for. The Church encourages gay activists to attend Mass (sans sacraments, as with anyone in a state of mortal sin) and practically requires Catholics to pray for all those in mortal sin. At his age and experience, Grow should know this. In fact, comments testifying to these facts were in the article he linked to. But he ignores that, misrepresents the issue entirely, questions the integrity of the Church spokesman, and casts his favored actors as oppressed victims. Not bad for a couple of paragraph's work.

Grow is a former columnist for the Star Tribune. The only silver lining here is realizing he's now at an online liberal ghetto like MinnPost, instead of working the monopoly newspaper in town. His ability to confuse the issue and demonize his political enemies in the public's imagination is now severely limited. Let's be thankful for small favors.

Haven't They Suffered Enough?

Children From Tornado-Damaged Hugo, MN Attend Tuesday Night Lynx Game

Nearly a month after the May 25th tornado which hit Hugo Minnesota, forty children from Oneka Elementary School will be attending the Lynx game versus New York on Tuesday, June 24th. Oneka Elementary is less than a mile from the neighborhood that was the most severely damaged in last month's storm.

JB Can't Help It

I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead and everything....

But George Carlin was an asshole.

Sorry, you know it's true!


Down Mexico Way

The WSJ reports that Californians are gassing up on more than beans in Mexico these days (sub req):

As gasoline prices rise ever higher, some drivers have discovered an alternative to runaway fuel inflation in the U.S.: subsidized gas just minutes away in Mexico.

Gasoline is selling for six pesos per liter across the border in Tijuana, which works out to about $2.50 a gallon, way cheaper than gas prices approaching $5 a gallon in San Diego County. Diesel fuel is cheaper still -- $2.19 a gallon.

All of this is a boon for James Blue's auto shop, located in a strip mall in the arid hills east of downtown San Diego. His business, Express Performance Center, installs extra-large fuel tanks in pickups and other work vehicles used for runs to fill up with cheap gas in Mexico.

Already this month, Mr. Blue's shop has installed 12 tanks, more than he sold in all of last year. He expects demand to grow throughout the summer. Bulk fuel users, including farmers and construction contractors, are his best customers, he says. Many drive to Mexico several times a week, often looking to bring enough fuel back to sell to neighbors and co-workers.

This is an interesting turnabout brought about by the rapid rise in gas prices in the US. It wasn't that long ago that people from Chihuahua (and other places in Mexico I imagine) would drive to the US to fill up on gas. For while the Mexican government may have sought to maintain parity in fuel prices between towns on both sides of the border, for many years in cities like Chihuahua the price per gallon was almost always higher than in the US.

I was surprised when I first heard about this disparity because Mexico is an oil exporting country. The problem is that its not a gasoline exporting country. In fact, most of the gasoline they use is refined in the US. And the oil and gas markets in Mexico are completely controlled by state run PeMex (Petróleos Mexicanos), which really had no incentive in the past to offer lower prices.

Now with oil prices surging, Pemex is struggling to keep gas prices in check to control inflation. The article states that the cost to subsidize lower prices was close to $2 billion in the first quarter of the year. So while in the US gas prices have followed the oil markets, in Mexico they have been kept low through this government subsidy.

In case anyone is seriously considering the proposal by some Democrats to nationalize the US oil and gas industry, they should take a good hard look south of the border. There is growing frustration among the Mexican people with the realization that despite record high oil prices, Pemex is failing to take advantage of the golden (black) opportunity. A colleague explained to me that a study had recently shown that Pemex has been operating with a 62% efficiency rating over the last twenty or so years. "Can you imagine what would happen in a private firm with such performance?," he exasperatedly asked.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Time, you needed time out of the mainstream

Front page article in today's WSJ (sub req) on an organization that's in the process of "rebranding" in hopes of appealing to more upscale female customers to grow the business. This makeover includes the facilities:

They feature touches such as muted lighting, hardwood floors and airy waiting rooms in colors selected by marketing experts...

...updating to a "contemporary, fun and lively look" with a new color palette that includes pink, orange and teal, said Mr. Greenberg, the regional executive.

And expanding their ability to reach customers:

...has also opened more than two dozen quick-service "express centers," many in suburban shopping malls. Some sell jewelry, candles, books and T-shirts...

Officials also aim to rally support with upbeat marketing: TV ads with perky voice-overs about love; a crass-and-sassy Web campaign aimed at teens...

Management seems to be on board:

"It is indeed a new look...a new branding, if you will," said Leslie Durgin, a senior vice president...

"It is high time we follow the population," said Sarah Stoesz, who heads XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX operations in three Midwest states. She recently opened three express centers in wealthy Minnesota suburbs, "in shopping centers and malls, places where women are already doing their grocery shopping, picking up their Starbucks, living their daily lives," Ms. Stoesz said.

However, it turns out that not everyone is happy with the new approach:

"This is not the XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX we all grew up with... they now have more of a business approach, much more aggressive," said Amy Hagstrom Miller...

"They're not unlike other big national chains," Ms. Hagstrom Miller said. "They put local independent businesses in a tough situation."

Another case of big business coming in and sucking the life out of mom and pop shops? Sounds like another Wal-mart. There also may be a class component at play:

"They've made a decision to go after the young and the hip and the affluent, and they're leaving poor women behind," said Claire Keyes...

Leaving poor women behind? I'm surprised our progressive brethren aren't up in arms over this.

Oh, that's right, the organization profiled in the article is Planned Parenthood. Nothing for a progressive to get upset about there.

Most people associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, Ms. Luby said, so "we're trying to reposition ourselves as caring about their health, about prevention, about a sustainable planet." Or, as she later put it: "So much more mainstream."

For all the fancy talk of airy waiting rooms, perky voice-overs about love, crassy-and-sassy Web campaigns, a "contemporary, fun and lively look" (pun intended?), and new branding, the bottom line is that no matter how you market it, the business of Planned Parenthood is abortion. A business that is already far too much a part of the American mainstream as it is.

We Enjoy The Error

There was a classic moment during yesterday's Twins radio broadcast (a 5-3 win over the D-Backs--completing a three-game sweep). John Gordon, Dan Gladden, and Jack Morris were filling time between pitches by talking about an upcoming open tryout the Twins are having. They mentioned some familiar names who have gone through said tryouts in years past. One of those named was Charley Walters, long-time sports columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press who used a similar tryout as a springboard for a seven-year professional baseball career as a pitcher, including some time up in the bigs with the Twins.

Since all three of them were familiar with Walters, they began speculating on what his baseball career might have been like. Gordon informed the others that Walters played for the Twins during the 1983 season. They brought a surprised reaction from Morris and Gladden, especially Morris who was in his prime with the Tigers during that time. Gladden was needling Morris that maybe Walters had beaten him at some point during that season.

Unlike all three of these gentlemen, I have never met Charley Walters and know next to nothing about him. But listening in yesterday, I was quite certain that given his age, there was no way in hell that Walters had played for the Twins as recently as 1983.

When the next inning began, a somewhat chastened though still upbeat Gordon informed the audience that indeed he had the wrong Walters. It was MIKE Walters who pitched for the Twins in 1983. Charley Walters had his cup of coffee with the Twins back in 1969. Gordon only got the first name wrong and was off by a mere fourteen years. We enjoyed the error.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I realized that this is also a classic example of the "code" of the broadcasting booth: Thou shall not contradict your cohost no matter how inane, ignorant, or ill-informed their remarks may be (a credo by the way that is carved in stone in the marble-walled studios of AM-1280 The Patriot). Gladden and Morris had to know that Gordon was wrong and yet they went right on along with him.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stuck In The Middle With You?

Norm Coleman a little too close to the Bush administration for your liking, but Al Franken too much of a hard left liberal for you to pull the lever for him? How about a nice Minnesota moderate instead? A man with experience in government and history of playing it right down the middle? How about Arne Carlson for US Senate? On the DFL ticket???

Sounds a bit crazy, but I just got done responding to a rather lengthy (almost nineteen minutes) phone survey on the Minnesota Senate race that raised just that possibility. Most of the questions involved Franken and Coleman, but Carlson's name was mentioned at various places and twice I was asked who I would vote for between Republican Norm Coleman and DFLer Arne Carlson.

I wasn't aware that Carlson had formally switched parties, but if he does jump in on the DFL side it will make an already interesting race a pure political barn burner. Of course, there's also the rumor that Jesse Ventura might get back into the political ring by entering the Senate race as an independent. In that case, it would be a cage match of epic proportions.

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

A work colleague from China has been in the US for training for about four weeks. He also accompanied me to Mexico last week.

In order to try to give him a bit of flavor of the Twin Cities, I took him to a few well-known spots a couple of weeks ago. Our itinerary including Minnehaha Falls, the Cathedral in St. Paul, the State Capitol, downtown St. Paul, and the U of M campus. While at Minnehaha Falls, I explained that the creek that we were looking at flowed into the Mississippi River.

"The Mississippi?," he asked. Yes, the Mississippi, I confirmed. "So that's where 'one Mississippi, two Mississippi' comes from," he said with a satisfied smile. I asked how the heck knew about one of the staples--along with ghost runners--of American childhood sports rules. The movies, he explained. Of course, the movies.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi. Now, that brings back memories of many a pick up football game. Four on four. Three on three. You could even play two on two as long as you employed the proper Mississippi count. Yes, good times indeed.

I recall that we used to often play such football with a group of kids in the Iowa town where our grandparents lived. On one occasion, JB was so determined to play quarterback and so disappointed when he wasn't allowed to, that he threw a red-faced tantrum, wailing "I wanna be quarterback!" "I wanna be quarterback!" at the top of his lungs. It was quite a scene.

Or that could have been the freckle-faced, developmentally disabled older brother of the kids we used to play with. Over time such fine distinctions of memory tend to get blurred.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Northern Alliance Radio Network

In the midst of this beautiful June day, don't forget to spend sometime quality time indoors (ideally in your basement, in your undershorts) listening Northern Alliance Radio Network, at AM1280 The Patriot. It all begins at 11 AM and runs all the way 5PM.

Or come out and see us broadcasting LIVE from the MSRA Back to the 50's Weekend at the Fairgrounds (but put some pants on man, I beg you).

The highlights of The First Team's broadcast includes interviews with Rep. Michele Bachmann regarding her sponsorship of the No More Excuses Energy Act; Gary Willis, the director of the Brainerd International Raceway's Performance Driving School; and the Nihilist in Golf Pants bemoaning how much he had to spend in gas money to get out to the Fairgrounds today,

If you're not able to catch it on the radio, listen to the live streaming at the Patriot web site. It all starts at 11AM. Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Joseph Rago looks at "The Happening" as the latest example of the desire for A Planet Without People in today's WSJ (sub req):

The "happening" is millions of men, women and children killing themselves, usually in creative ways, as when a zookeeper invites lions to chew off his limbs and a lady offs herself by French-kissing the toaster. The deaths, first believed to be terrorism, are actually acts of nature. Trees are releasing an airborne neurotoxin, as revenge against mankind for global warming, pollution and nuclear power. The genocide, we are told, is condign punishment for our ecological crimes.

The conceit extends a metaphor Al Gore proposed in his 2007 Nobel lecture: If "we have begun to wage war on the Earth itself," why wouldn't the Earth fight back? By the end of the film, the dwindling band of survivors -- whose more sensible response would have been to blanket the world's forests with Agent Orange -- repents, and is thus spared hideous death. In a recent interview, Mr. Shyamalan, best known for "The Sixth Sense" (1999), said that "The Happening" is intended to "wake everybody up" and "get back to the correct relationship with nature."

Obviously it isn't Hollywood's first environmental disaster flick. Think of 2004's "The Day After Tomorrow," where all it takes is the CO2-induced obliteration of the East Coast for Dennis Quaid to learn how to be a better dad. But catastrophic climate change in that movie was a simple plot device that could be replaced easily enough with, say, space aliens. "The Happening" is honest-to-Gaia green agitprop: Like the Lorax, Mr. Shyamalan is speaking for the trees.

SAINT PAUL NOTES: Roger Ebert is the only movie critic I've seen who has praise for The Happening. Mostly because he considered the premise of the Earth striking back against the sins of humanity as entirely plausbile:

For some time the thought has been gathering at the back of my mind that we are in the final act. We have finally insulted the planet so much that it can no longer sustain us. It is exhausted.

Hey planet, relax. Last week when I napalmed the ant mound in my back yard - it was nothing personal.

More Ebert:

It never occurred to me that vegetation might exterminate us. In fact, the form of the planet's revenge remains undefined in my thoughts, although I have read of rising sea levels and the ends of species.

Uh oh, the rising sea levels. That sounds familiar. From another recently released horror show, the Obama Speech a few weeks ago:

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal

I'm guessing Ebert was giving two thumbs up (at least) to this one.

Get to Know 'Em

The distinguished representative from New York's 22nd Congressional District, Maurice Hinchey, recently seized the microphone to unveil his latest brainstorm:

"So if there's any seriousness about what some of our Republican colleagues are saying here in the House and elsewhere about improving the number of refineries, then maybe they'd be willing to have these refineries owned publicly, owned by the people of the United States, so that the people of the United States can determine how much of the product is refined and put out on the market. To me, that sounds like a very good idea."

A government official suggesting that the power of government be used to arbitrarily seize private property, to say nothing of the call for socializing a significant segment of the economy, should be grounds for recall and/or impeachment. His statement runs contrary to American values, economic history, and common sense. This man should be run out of Washington DC on a rail and live the rest of his life in pitiful, humiliating exile, as the chairman of a public university economics department or something.

Even Hinchey seems capable of having a moment of clarity on this matter. Put down those Molotov cocktails comrades, for the moment at least, the revolution is on hold:

But on Thursday, Hinchey avoided questions over his support for U.S. ownership of refineries in an interview with FOX News. He conceded, however, that the idea was unlikely.

Asked if he advocated the government taking over the oil business, he said: "Let's be serious. The government is not going to be taking over these refineries. ... But I do think we need to be putting national pressure on these oil companies ... to let them know that we're prepared to do whatever is in the national interest of the people of this country. That's our job — do what is in the public interest."

Actually, no. There is no requirement for doing the "public interest" especially when it comes to applying extra Constitutional force on members of the public you don't like. If the Congressional oath is to be taken seriously, that's actually in opposition to doing your job:

"I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

You get the sense Rep. Hinchey's mind is on something else when speaks those words every two years.

I have never heard of Hinchey before. But any time one of these obscure Congressmen makes national news by crawling out from under their rock to expose their beliefs to an audience beyond their gerrymandered safe seats, I turn to the definitive source for information: The Almanac of American Politics, by Michael Barone.

Some fun facts on Hinchey:

Catholic, married, Navy 1956-58

OK, good so far.

In his 8th term in Congress (16 years), preceded by 18 years in the New York Legislature.

A turn for the worse! But it's starting to make sense. Only a man with 34 years in "public service" would think it's a good idea to hold a press conference about nationalizing the oil refineries.

Sadly, it seems this could have all been nipped in the bud in 1992:

When he first ran for Congress (in 1992) [Hinchey] called for national health insurance, a repeal of the Reagan-Bush tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and a "reindustrialization" of America. His opponent, Bob Moppert, ,a Binghampton moving company owner, called for less government spending and bureaucracy. In a context that was not only partisan, but geographic, Hinchey beat Moppert, 50% - 47%.

The voters of upstate New York were given that choice and they still went for Hinchey? They clearly deserve whatever suffering befalls them. But why do the rest of us have to get dragged down with them?!

With his 3% mandate, Hinchey proceeded to change the face of America as we know it. Highlights from the Almanac:

He has one of the most liberal voting records for a non-Urban member of the House.

In 2007 he stirred controversy in Utah when he sought to limit the sale of oil and gas leases in wilderness areas.

He advocates a return of the Fairness Doctrine. In March 2007 he criticized the TV networks contending they continue to give disproportionate air time to conservatives on their Sunday morning talk shows. "When network news shows favor one political point of view over others, the American people are cheated out of an open, honest, and fair discussion."

Hinchey has been a frequent traveler: it was revealed that between 2000 and 2006 Hinchey took more than 20 privately-funded foreign trips to many exotic places, ranking him among the top members of Congress who received travel gifts and leading the New York Post to call him a "junket junkie." When the Ithaca Journal suggested his trips were a conflict of interest, Hinchey responded that it was "a result of the paper falling victim to Republican spin."

Lest you think any of this might get the old folks at home restless about the guy they have been sending to Washington for almost two decades, in the 2006 election, Hinchey ran unopposed. In the last contested election (2004), he beat his Republican rival 67% - 33%.

Where have you gone Bob Moppert? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Actually, it sound like it wouldn't matter if they resurrected old Bob or not According to Barone:

Early in his house tenure Hinchey was a Republican target, but since the mid-1990's he has won reelection easily; his district became more secure after redistricting with the help of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a friend of Hinchey from their time in the Assembly. In 2006 he ran unopposed.

It looks like we're going to have to get used to having Maurice Hinchey at the reigns of power for as long as he wants to be there.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some Like It Caliente

Here's a depressing observation to start your day. While there are signs here in the United States that those of us who remain skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming religion appear to have made some progress in slowing the runaway train toward panicked action, whenever I travel to other parts of the world or speak to people from other countries on the topic, I find that they have bought in to Al Gore's "consensus" hook line and sinker. Whether it's in Russia, the Philippines, China, the Netherlands, or Mexico, as far as global warming is concerned the debate is over (if it had ever even begun). Any change in or unusual occurrence of weather is instantly and unquestionably attributed to man-made climate change.

The latest such incident occurred yesterday when one of my Mexican coworkers informed us that he had recently watched "An Inconvenient Truth" with his family and was now trying to figure out ways to conserve energy to prevent global warming. He was so earnest and serious that I just didn't have the heart to raise any objection or perhaps point out that his middle-class Mexican family was probably responsible for as much CO2 emissions in a year as Al Gore was in a day jet-setting around the globe. It's going to take a lot of work and many a year to turn back this global tide.

UPDATE-- Nathan e-mails to add:

A century ago, any weather event would have been a sign from Jesus, the One True God.

A few centuries ago, any weather event would have been a sign from The Gods.

In this century, any weather event is a sign of Global Warming.

So...Global Warming is the new name for God? No wonder unbelievers are treated like heretics.

When people lose their faith, they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's One Of A Kind, All In Their Minds

An article in last Friday's Pioneer Press (I know, I know...I'm a little behind) informs us that the University of Minnesota regents are expected to approve construction of the new Central Corridor light rail line that pierces through the Twin Cities campus along Washington Avenue despite their long held desire for a different route to the north.

My reason for mentioning this article is not to re-express my feelings toward throwing money at a shiny new choo-choo train while our roads are literally crumbling beneath us. And I'm not going to throw a fit over the fact that the approved route will require that Washington Avenue, perhaps the main automobile corridor through campus, be closed to...yeah, you got it...automobiles. And no, I'm not going to blow my top about how bad the Minnesota Twins are this year because, you know, this is a piece about light rail.

No, what I'd like to point out is a quote located deep in the article from Frank Cerra, the University's senior vice president for health sciences, who is described by the writer as "...a man whose approval was seen as key for the regents to get on board."

According to the article, Mr. Cerra "heaped praise on the Washington Avenue route" and said "the car-free stretch would improve the quality of life on campus, which suffers from an abundance of concrete and a dearth of grass." Then comes the offending quote which reads as follows:
Nothing would please me more than to grab a cup of cappuccino, grab a Viennese hot dog and play a game of bocce on the way to work.
What a enormously Euro-pretentious thing to say. How about grabbing a cup of coffee, a Chicago dog and tossing a Frisbee around on the way to work you Europe worshipping little toad. For that matter, who eats any kind of tube meat other than link sausage in the morning and who in the hell has the time to play ANY kind of game on their way to work, let alone a game of bocce? Furthermore, how does one even make the mental leap from light rail and no cars to coffee, weiners and early morning ball games? It just doesn't add up.

This chucklehead's attitude is precisely why ridiculous ideas like our ill-conceived light rail plans, contrived suburban downtowns and soccer will never go away. Our decision makers and the people who influence them are completely obsessed with turning this country into Europe West, high gas prices and all. It seems that any idea that is floated out there, no matter how impractical and, in the case of light rail, downright disruptive it is, just has to be painted with the brush of Europeanness to win the approval of city council members, legislators and the unwashed hippie types who smoke clove cigarettes and, unfortunately, vote.

I'm getting tired of having my country's urban design ideas coming from a continent that can't even comfortably accommodate the simple task of using the restroom.

Punching His Big Ticket

It's a complete cliche to say that no one deserved to win an NBA championship more than Kevin Garnett, but that's exactly what I felt as I watched last night's game in a restaurant with a couple of Mexican friends and their families and a work colleague from China (all NBA fans). I can't recall ever wishing for a ex-Minnesota sports star to succeed elsewhere or feeling as good about it as with KG. For all his years of hard work and frustration with the Wolves, it was gratifying to see him finally achieve the ultimate goal. It was also a bit dismaying to think about what might have been had the Wolves given Garnett the right compliment of players during his stint here. Sigh.

SP NOTES: For those who haven't seen it, KG's post-game interview was very emotional, especially his tribute to his mother.

And then he got completely out of hand.

Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!

UPDATE V Going Pubic Public (what a difference a L makes) Broadcasting: We've raised close to $500 so far. Can you help push us over the top? If you enjoy reading the fine commentary here at Fraters Libertas, this is your chance to say thanks. We need five more donations by 11am to meet our quota. We'd really like to stop annoying you with our cloying begging, but if we don't reach our goal Atomizer is going to lose a finger. Seriously, it's on the chopping block right now and Guido is waiting for the word to bring down the cleaver. So please give and give generously. A man's finger is in your hands.

UPDATE IV: Still time to lend a helping hand.

UPDATE III: We're planning to go out to the orphanage on Wednesday afternoon so there is still time to drop a donation in the bucket. Gracias.

UPDATE II: Bumped again.

UPDATE: Bumped to the front.

This Sunday, I will be heading down to Chihuahua, Mexico for a brief business trip and I plan to make a visit to the Casa Hogar Misercordia Orphanage at some point during my stay there. This is very last minute notice, but if you would like to make a contribution to the orphanage, you can do so via Pay Pal:

Or you can drop me a line at about arranging an alternative method of donation.

Every single dime raised goes directly to the orphanage. With the rising energy and food prices, their needs are great and every little bit helps. Thanks for your support

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Truly Paralytic

London mayor Boris Johnson on bike helmets:

Here, then, is the political position. In my efforts to do the right thing, I have ended up giving offence to both opposing factions. As soon as I started to wear a helmet, I was denounced as a wimp, a milquetoast, a sell-out to the elf and safety lobby, a man so cravenly attached to his own survival that he was willing to wear this undignified plastic hat.

As soon as I was pictured not wearing a helmet, I was attacked for "sending out the wrong signal" and generally poisoning the minds of the young with my own reckless behaviour.

The situation, my friends, is a mess. I have been convicted beyond all reasonable doubt of complete incoherence on the question of cycle helmets--and complete incoherence, therefore, is what I propose to defend.

When I was recently in The Netherlands, I was again reminded of the vast numbers of Dutch who use bikes for regular transportation. In several visits to the country, I don't recall ever seeing a single Dutch man, woman, or child wear a bicycle helmet.

A online comment on Johnson's piece at the Telegraph identifies the real problem with bike helmets:

But after all's said and done there's a most compulsive reason for not wearing a cycle helmet:


A helmet wouldn't have helped in the least in my last cycling accident: I cycled into a cow coming back from the pub whilst truly paralytic. No, really. A Cow. I think it was in the road.

The British reputation for subtle wit lives on.

Mime Is Money

If you missed last Saturday's ground-breaking, soon-to-be-award-winning NARN First Team interview with Michael the Mime, you now can listen to all eleven minutes of pure, unscripted radio gold here. For posterity's sake, the original broadcast reels have been sent to the Pavek Museum so that future generations will one day be able to appreciate this singular achievement.

Happy Father's Day

Just after noon Sunday--Leave home for airport.

12:30pm--Pick up work colleague at his hotel.

1pm--Park and proceed to self-service check-in.

1:15pm--Put on first class upgrade wait list. D'oh!

2:20pm--Check boarding pass while waiting at gate and notice that I'm in seat E8. E? Hmmm, that sounds like a middle...

2:30pm--Board aircraft and confirm that E is indeed the MIDDLE seat.

2:32pm--Sit down and pray that flight is not full. Know in heart how vain that hope is.

2:35pm--Am now sitting between two fairly large gentlemen, silently cursing Continental Airlines with gusto knowing that there is no way in hell that I selected a middle seat.

2:37pm--Begin to feel like Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" as "gentleman" on left completely hogs arm rest and gentleman on right removes shoes and leans head against my shoulder to better sleep.

2:39pm--Begin deep breathing exercises to calm mind and prevent complete meltdown knowing that I'll be spending the next three plus hours in this small circle of hell.

3 something pm--Plane FINALLY takes off bringing some relief as I know that miserable current state of affairs will eventually come to end.

3:45pm--Pull out IPod and noise reduction headphones. Turn headphones on and discover that battery is dead.

3:47pm--Pull out 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help by Benjamin Wiker (a very fine read by the way) from seat pocket in attempt to escape present reality. Discover that some F***wad has stashed his previously-chewed, powerfully-flavored mango gum in said seat pocket and said gum is now all over back jacket cover of book. Resist urge to unleash a torrent of profanities. Spend rest of flight reading and sleeping unfitfully, fruitlessly hoping to not wake until we land and the nightmare is over.

5:30 something pm--At last we land in Houston. Don't really feel the urge to thank flight attendant as I exit aircraft.

From there, everything was a piece a cake. The almost three-hour layover in Houston? Spent the time with pleasure. The flight to Chihuahua? A veritable two-hour paradise compared to the Minneapolis to Houston anxiety inducer. When I finally put head to pillow in the hotel in Chihuahua around midnight, one of the last thoughts rattling around the noggin before nodding off was, "Happy Father's Day."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Raising Men

Kevin Hellicker looked at his father's tough love in Friday's WSJ (sub req):

Yet between my childhood and my father's death, something larger than either of us happened: A style of fathering fell out of fashion. It was a style that placed Dad at a certain distance, that required him to scoff at scraped knees and hurt feelings, that often cast him in the role of bad guy.

It's a style that parenting experts in growing numbers believe had some virtues. Nostalgia is deepening for the old-fashioned law-and-order father, and not only among Christian family organizations. A coalition of scholars and psychoanalysts are publishing a book this fall called "The Dead Father: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry," based in part on the premise that society has suffered as dads have become more maternal and less authoritarian.

"The whole culture needs the father back," says Lila Kalinich, a Columbia University psychiatrist who served as senior editor for the book. "Fathers substantiate law and order. Fathers can create a sense of womanliness in daughters and bring the male children into manhood."

His father was definitely from the old school:

Forty hours a week, Dad stood behind a meat counter in a blood-splattered white apron, swinging a cleaver. He devoted just as many hours to newspaper delivery, having bought for $28,000 the franchise to deliver the morning and afternoon editions of the Kansas City Star to more than a thousand readers. His daily schedule: newspaper delivery from one until four in the morning, meat cutting from eight until early afternoon, newspaper delivery during an extended lunch hour, then back behind the counter for an evening of cutting meat. At Sunday Mass -- which he never once missed -- he relied on Mom's elbow to keep him awake.

His double duty paid off. We moved into a nice house on a gorgeous street in an otherwise distressed section of Kansas City, Kan. And Dad was able to send my brothers and me to expensive Catholic schools.

But his work schedule made him remote. When we were little, we envied boys who delivered papers for Dad: They seemed closer to him than we did.

Yet when our own turn came, around age 10, to join his delivery crew, he treated us harshly, in part to show the other boys that his sons got no special treatment, but mostly because of his belief in the benefits of withstanding hardship. Even when sleet pelted us through the open windows of the delivery truck, Dad sat behind the wheel (his own window open) and refused to crank up the heat. His philosophy of raising boys -- make them tough -- was articulated by his favorite song, Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." To settle disputes between his sons Dad bought a couple of pairs of boxing gloves.

His recollection is a familiar one to the large cohort of us raised by hard-working but emotionally remote fathers. My father was born during the Great Depression and grew up during a time when people were more concerned about surviving than thriving. He told us the story of working all day on some form of break-backing labor to receive all of one quarter for his efforts. Then he dropped the precious quarter in a hay field and spent additional hours of effort (including watering down the hay) in a fruitless attempt to recover it. Life was hard.

When he was older, he did what he had to do to provide for his family--starting his own company building and remodeling homes and at times renting out property for income. I worked for him on various occasions through the years and, although looking back now I value the time spent with him and what he taught me, being "the boss' son" was not a position of privilege or comfort.

He genuinely worried that we -- with our nice house and private education -- might turn out soft.

This was definitely a concern shared by my father (and mother too for that matter). He had grown up on a rural farm environment where nothing was easy and nothing was taken for granted. He then had to raise us in a new home (which he built) in a leafy western Minneapolis suburb.

Our neighborhood was a mostly middle-class enclave that bordered on much more affluent areas. Both my brother and I had friends growing up whose family homes, incomes, and net worth dwarfed ours. I can still recall that after a friend had described the various stocks his father had invested in, I came home and asked my Dad what stocks he owned. He simply chuckled at the premise of the question. Guys like him and families like ours were not "in the market."

Yet in seeking to prevent that, he didn't know when or how to ease up.

My father liked to remind us that Saturday was "chore day." To us, after a week of school, Saturday should have been "fun day." He had to constantly battle to cajole us to join him in various work projects in the yard and garage, no doubt at least partially driven by the worry that we weren't learning to work. Again, looking back on it now I can appreciate the long hours we spent with him and the values he was trying to instill in us. But at the time it was no picnic to deal with his gruff manner and tough expectations, especially in the garage. The learning was often lessened by the very palpable tension and fear that was always lurking in the background. To this day if you ask JB for a 9/16th box end, he'll likely greet you with a puzzled look.

You usually don't notice the values and qualities that have been molded in you by your father yourself. Instead, another usually points them: a friend, a spouse, an employer, etc. It often takes years for you to really appreciate what your father has done for you and understand why he did what he did.

The difficulty for those of us raised by such fathers who now have our own sons is to attempt to strike a balance between the tough love necessary to raise men and being more emotionally open to our children. We want to be fathers not friends to our sons and we want to pass on the values of hard-work, discipline, and respect. But we want to take an approach that's a bit softer than that of our own fathers. An approach that was not really even an option for them at the time they were raising their sons. Their love at times was tough, but it was still love and expressed in the only way they knew how to.

One of the other challenges of fatherhood is letting your sons be their own people. Our dad never really liked sports, reading, or music much, but to his credit he allowed us to pursue our interests in these (and other) subjects and didn't force his pursuits on us. That's not an easy thing for any dad to do. And for that, and for his help in making me the man and father than I am today, I say thanks Dad.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Faith Of Our Fathers

In Friday's WSJ, W. Bradford Wilcox showed that regularly attending church not only makes men better husbands, but better fathers as well:

Religion continues to have a significant influence, even in today's culture, as I explain in a report on faith, fatherhood and marriage published by the Institute for American Values earlier this week. Religious faith is linked to happier marriages, fewer divorces and births outside of marriage, and a more involved style of fatherhood.

Take marital happiness. About 65% of married Americans who attend church regularly are "very happy" in their marriages, compared with 58% of married Americans who rarely or never attend. Note that the marital happiness premium is larger for couples who attend church together. Indeed, wives get a boost in marital happiness from attendance only when they worship with their husbands.

Religious Americans are also less likely to divorce. Specifically, Americans who attend religious services regularly are about 35% less likely to divorce than are their married peers who rarely or never attend services. Once again, couples who attend together are especially unlikely to split.

Religion is also linked to lower rates of nonmarital childbearing. Only 25% of mothers who attended church weekly had a child outside of wedlock, compared with 34% of mothers who attended monthly or less. Moreover, unmarried couples who attend religious services together are significantly less likely to have a child outside of marriage than are couples who don't attend together or don't attend at all.

The report also reveals that religious fathers are more likely to devote time, attention and affection to their children than their secular peers. For example, compared with dads who indicate no religious affiliation, fathers who attend religious services regularly devote at least two more hours per week to youth-related activities, such as coaching soccer or leading a Boy Scout troop. Churchgoing fathers are also significantly more likely to keep tabs on their children, monitoring their activities and friends. Finally, religious fathers are about 65% more likely than unaffiliated fathers to report praising and hugging their school-age children "very often."

So religion tends to make you a better man? It's interesting that today we need reports and studies to tell us what people have known in their hearts for thousands of years.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local SAB Makes Good

It was August 13, 2003, a between jobs JB Doubtless, temporarily staying at my posh Mac-Groveland loft, is startled by the profile of an obscure, young, up-and-coming Air Force Lt. General giving late night Pentagon briefings on C-SPAN. He puts down beer, runs to the computer, and immortalizes him with with this award-winning double separated at birth.

Five years later, that man becomes one of the most powerful people in Washington. (Schwarz not Doubtless.)

Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Talk Too Much

Three recent NARN interviews now available as MP3s:

May 24th Stephen Niver, co-producer of "Shark Swarm"

May 31st Marty Seifert, Minnesota House Republican Minority Leader

June 7th Peter Schweizer author of Makers and Takers


Although I've never been a fan of Budweiser or the Anheuser Busch family of beers (I did enjoy a Michelob or two back in high school and a couple of kegs of Busch in college--from the next day's hangover you always knew [from head to toe] that you'd been drinking Busch the previous evening) and in general I'm a big proponent of international trade, the news that InBev Wants To Make Bud a Global Brand doesn't sit well with me. The notion that the rich traditions of the company that Adolphus Busch founded--the Clydesdales, the connection with the Cardinals, and yes even the commercials that have become part of American cultural lore--would fall into the hands of a group of cost-cutting Brazilians and Belgiums just doesn't seem right.

Yes, their beer tastes like swill. But damnit, it's our swill and I hope to see control of the company stay in American hands.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Wish That Mime Would Shut Up

Maybe there is a good reason mimes traditionally don't talk very much. When they open up their traps, the following spills out.

From Mikael the Mime, on impeaching the President:

"This is not the time for politics as usual," he says. "It is time to take an extreme stand against the extreme evil that has taken over our nation."

If only George Bush had been satisfied with merely being evil, he would have been OK. But he had to go and be extremely evil and now he's got the mimes calling for his head.

I think he can still hold out though, as long as he doesn't lose the support of the carnival geeks.

UPDATE: Oops, too late!

Her mama say one day she's gonna live in America

Another case of the heavy hand of government using its full force to crush the free speech and religious freedom rights of Christians.

Must be in some despotic state like North Korea, right? Cuba? China? Saudi Arabia?

Sadly enough, as David Warren reports this affront to liberty is happening much closer to home:

As free speech disappears in Canada, one looks for instance not at the more celebrated cases of Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, but at the much less publicized fate of e.g. Rev. Stephen Boisson, convicted by an Alberta kangaroo court ("human rights tribunal") last November for publicly expressing the Christian and Biblical view of homosexuality, on the say-so of an anti-Christian activist from his home town.

Rev. Boisson has now been ordered to desist from communicating his views on this subject "in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet" so long as he should live. He has been ordered to pay compensation to Darren Lund, the anti-Christian activist in question, and further to make a public recantation of beliefs he still holds.

Meanwhile, Fr Alphonse de Valk, editor of the magazine Catholic Insight, is being prosecuted by a gay rights activist in Edmonton, for having upheld both sides of the Catholic teaching on homosexuality in the pages of his magazine over more than a decade: that homosexual behaviour is sinful, but that we are nevertheless to love the sinner.

That case, in which, as ever, all of the expenses of the complainant are met by the taxpayer, will drag on for some time before the inevitable guilty verdict is delivered, and the punishments to Fr de Valk and his colleagues are meted out. While the case drags on, the small magazine, which exists without state subsidies or significant advertising, on the dime of its several thousand loyal Catholic readers, is being driven towards bankruptcy by the cost of maintaining its own legal defence. These are costs they would not be eligible to recover, even if they won at tribunal.

Warren goes on to note that it's only a matter of time before such Canadian dissidents face a choice of surrendering their precious freedoms or seeking refuge elsewhere. America has long been home to refugees from war torn lands of strife and oppression. As Saint Paul remarked on earlier in the week, people have streamed to America from Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa in search of political and economic freedom. Now add Canada to the list of places that people flee to be free.

It Just Doesn't Matter


TO: Republican operatives, pundits, bloggers, and the like

RE: Obama's VP search team head resigns

Just so you know, normal Americans--those who don't obsess about the meaningless inanities of politics 24/7--do not, I repeat DO NOT give a crap about whether one of the members of Barack Obama's VP search team received a couple of sweetheart loans from Countrywide. Trying to make hay of this "issue" and now trying to go after other members of Obama's VP search team is a waste of time and resources and is a perfect example of what normal people hate most about political campaigns. That is all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We Got Nowhere Else to Go

I see Susan Sarandon recently vowed to join the Hollywood diaspora if a Republican is elected President. Other members of this wandering tribe include Alec Baldwin, Robert Redford, and Eddie Vedder, all who vowed to leave if George W. Bush was elected. If John McCain wins in November, I expect Sarandon to follow in their footsteps - which have been firmly cemented in US soil since Bush's second inaugural.

I don't know if these people are liars, cowards, or were just playing the role of brave, principled dissenters against tyranny. (If the latter, bravo. It's the most convincing performance from any of them in decades.) Whether they stay or go, frankly, all of them are still wimps when it comes to Republican election threats, at least compared to Muriel Kennedy. May she rest in peace.

The threat to move to somewhere better if things don't go your way politically does bring up an interesting point. These liberals have somewhere better to go. If the drive toward socialism isn't going fast enough for them in the US, they have 192 flavors of socialism they can run to elsewhere in the world. From the Canadian Maple Nut Ripple all the way to the North Korean Rocky Road. Pick your favorite level of state control, check some freedom at the border, and go nuts.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have no other country to run to. Nowhere that incorporates economic freedom and individual liberty anywhere close to the USA. At least not since they closed down Hong Kong. This is our only chance.

In other words, as a tall guy with a funny hat once wrote:

We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.

See, Lincoln knew it. It was the last hope 150 years ago, and it still is. The rest of the world knows this. I should say those in the rest of the world that recognize the value of economic freedom and individual liberty. (The Alec Baldwins of say, Yemen, are still outraged and self-righteous and are threatening to leave for Libya unless the Yemeni government does more to make sure wealth is more evenly distributed).

That's why we have the teeming masses yearning to breath free waiting at the gate (at least until dark, at which point they climb over it). They want freedom, not the opportunity to obey the city of Minneapolis's latest dictate on how long you can idle your car.

The last, best hope sounds like the place to be. Why does Susan Sarandon and Barack Obama want to make us like the rest of the world?

Final thought on having no where to go. Maybe alleged movie "super villains" Hugo Drax and Dr. Evil had good reasons for their move to orbiting satellites of death. Since there was nowhere for an under appreciated capitalist to go on Earth, they had to invent their own societies in space. Of course, I condemn them for their various plans to terrorize, extort and dominate the planet. (These are not the Drax and Evil I came to know). But you have to admire their initiative.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes

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And Gallantly He Chickened Out

What do Sam Harris, Michelle Malkin, and PZ Meyers have in common?

No JB, it's not a perky smile and a nice set of gams. Rather all three have been challenged to a debate with Vox Day on the airwaves of the First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network and all three have declined to take up the gauntlet.

You can read PZ's rationale for skonkering off and avoiding a debate on the existence of God here. Based on this comment alone, I don't think he really knows much about his potential opponent or the proposed forum:

The fact that the Northern Alliance radio show actually thinks Vox Day is a credible voice for conservative thought tells me right away that there is something wrong with them, and no, I'm not going to trust them at all.

Vox is by no means a conservative. And the topic for this debate doesn't necessarily have anything to do with one's political beliefs. There are atheists and believers alike among libertarians, conservatives, and liberals.

The fact of the matter is that we would have been open to whatever terms of debate that Meyers was agreeable to. Some commenters at his blog have suggested that he would have been at a disadvantage because we could cut off his mike right in the middle of him making a devastating argument that would caused our thousands hundreds at least a dozen listeners to instantly renounce their faith.

The reality is that Meyers could have chosen to be in studio with us during the debate while Vox would be on the phone from an undisclosed European location. That definitely would be to Meyers advantage. Besides Brian and I barely know how to turn our own mikes on to say nothing of being technically savvy or devious enough to cut off a guest's.

You would think that a refined man of science like Meyers would jump at the opportunity to use his vast powers of reason and critical thinking to publicly destroy a pathetic little twerp with delusions of grandeur like Vox Day.

Oh well, now we'll just have to go to plan B: a live radio broadcast of a no holds barred extreme fighting cage match between Vox and Atomizer. If you listen closely, you'll be able to hear the bones breaking.

I Want My PPT

It's become common practice to deride the use (and overuse)of PowerPoint slides as a presentation tool. "Death by PowerPoint" has become a well-recognized phrase in the office place. Everyone can agree that PowerPoint is the root of all evil, right?

Well, you can until you sit through a PowerPoint-free presentation as I did yesterday. When the gentleman came up to the front of the room and announced that he didn't have any slides for his section because he was committed to sticking to the ten-minute time limit, he was met with smiles and vigorous nodding of heads.

But after only a few minutes of his verbal only delivery, you could sense that the audience was getting anxious and a bit agitated. Sure, what he was saying was important, but without our visual cues we were struggling to stay focussed on his message.

It's a sad but important truth: we may not like to admit it, but after years of being conditioned to it the reality is that we need our PowerPoint to get by. Just a couple of slides man and then I'm off the stuff for good.

I Bet On A Horse Called Da' Tara And My Horse Won

A lot of horse racing devotees were mighty disappointed this past Saturday afternoon as yet another thoroughbred phenom failed to bring home the final jewel in the Triple Crown. Scanning the room at Canterbury Park immediately after Big Brown strolled across the finish line in last place you'd have thought the assembled throng had just witnessed a horrific traffic accident involving their best friend.

In stark contrast to that somber crowd was me just a-hootin' and a-hollerin' and pumping my fist in the air with all the vigor I could muster. In a rare moment of prescience two hours previous to this scene I had placed a $5 win bet on every horse in the race that was not named Big Brown. Considering the extremely short odds on the favorite and the very long odds on the rest of the field I felt I just couldn't lose. Well, unless Big Brown had won, that is. Or, unless his closest competitor Denis of Cork running at 6-1 had won. Most fortunately for me, events unfolded perfectly as the 1-1/2 mile race ended with 38-1 longshot Da' Tara in the front of the pack putting the tidy sum of $157.50 into my pocket.

The truth is that I made a couple phone calls prior to the race to some friends of mine who have a much better track record when it comes to betting on the ponies to see if my betting plan was more horse hockey than horse sense. Turns out they both would have advised me against such a bet but, seeing as how I received one of those callbacks while standing in line to cash my winning ticket, I took no small amount of pleasure in rendering the caveat moot.

Saturday's race reinforced my belief that the Triple Crown is the most difficult accomplishment in all of sports. Big Brown's jockey Kent Desormeaux agrees saying after the race:
"...I can't fathom what kind of freaks those 11 Triple Crown winners were."
I, for one, thank God that Big Brown's freak flag has yet to be unfurled.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nous Sommes Tous Democrats

A story in today's WSJ details the love that Europeans are feeling for Obama (sub req):

While the race between Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain remains close among U.S. voters, Europeans have given their hearts to the likely Democratic nominee.

A poll in late May of five major countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia -- showed Sen. Obama getting 52% support, compared with 15% for Sen. McCain. In France, 65% favor Sen. Obama, compared with 8% for Sen. McCain, according to the poll for the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Another poll published online Saturday in Belgium's Le Soir newspaper showed Belgians prefer Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain 74% to 12%.

When I spent the last week in The Netherlands I had a chance to watch a good bit of Dutch, German, French and BBC news coverage of the US election campaign. And the fact that Obama has won the hearts of Europeans is hardly surprising given the amount of and positive nature of the coverage he received. It was pretty much all Obama all the time when it came time for reporting on the United States. Hillary made an occasional brief appearance, but I don't think I saw John McCain's face or heard his name all week.

Obviously it was a big week for Obama and he was the story. But the extent of the focus on him was overwhelming. Casual observers in Europe might be forgiven for believing that he had already won the White House given the presumptive manner in which he was feted in the news.

In the unlikely event that John McCain pulls an upset and defeats Obama in the general election, I can imagine a lot of Europeans waking up on November 5th and scratching their heads in amazement as they did in 2004 after Bush beat Kerry. Why did these crazy Americans not vote for the man that EVERYONE knew was going to be President?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ain't That A Kick In The Head

Having spent the last week in The Netherlands, I can testify that Dutch soccer fans are pumped up for the start of the 2008 European Championship as evidenced by prominent displays of orange throughout the country and betting pools floating around the office. But, as a story in today's WSJ notes, this enthusiasm may be sorely tested if the national team finds itself relying on penalty kicks (sub req) to move on:

The Dutch have long been a powerhouse of international soccer, striking fear in the hearts of their opponents with a beautiful free-flowing attacking style dubbed "Total Football."

But the Oranje men, as the team is known for its distinctive shade, have an Achilles' heel that's doomed them to being the eternal losers of major soccer championships. They are terrible at penalty shots, the mechanism used to decide soccer games when the score is tied.

The penalty kick looks easy -- a shot at a target the size of a barn door from 12 yards away. But even the greatest strikers in the world often crumble when their nation's honor is on the line.

Statistically, the Dutch national side is the second-worst team in the world at winning penalty shootouts, after England. In the 1990s the Dutch exited from four major tournaments by botching this most basic of skills. The nadir came in the semifinal of the 2000 European Championships against Italy, when the Dutch missed two penalties awarded for fouls during the game and then flubbed three out of four in the shootout. Alexander Beuker, a 24-year-old fan in Amsterdam, recalls the horror of watching the team's collapse: "I just thought, 'How hard is it to kick a bloody ball?'"

After the game angry fans rampaged through Amsterdam, and Coach Frank Rijkaard wept on the team bus. "It was a national trauma," says Geir Jordet, a sports psychologist at the Norwegian School for Sports Sciences who's worked with the Dutch national teams in recent years to improve penalty performance. "Penalty kicks had just become this huge mountain that the players were incapable of scaling."

The Dutch are good at many things but scaling mountains and penalty kicks are not among them. Here's hoping that the Oranje men find a way to get it done this year, preferably in regular time. Hup, hup Holland.

SP ADDS: Deadspin provides a few more reasons to watch Euro 08. The chance to hear announcers pronounce the names of some of these actual players:

Andreas Ivanschitz (Austria); Jerko Leko (Croatia); Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany); Demy de Zeeuw (Netherlands); Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Netherlands); Cosmin Contra (Romania); Razvan Rat (Romania) and finally, Russia's Yuri Zhirkov (say it aloud for full effect).

Ha ha! See, multiculturalism can be fun.

Bubble Boy

Adam Platt is the Senior Editor of the local lifestyle publication Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. No less an authority than Lileks calls him:

an eminently smart and reasonable fellow with whom I enjoy vivacious conversations over steaks at Mortons once a year


In his most recent column, Platt mans the battlements in defense of Al Franken from those who would question the propriety of sending a comedian who moonlights as pornographer to the US Senate. For, if we Minnesotans don't elect him ....

It will be because we can't discern that cravenly rubber stamping the agenda of a President who has gone a long way to destroying our country's security and economic vitality is actually more offensive than a joke about sex with robots.

Bush has destroyed our security and economic vitality? And I'm supposed to trust this man in the future for his eminently smart and reasonable insights on the lifestyle magazine issues of the day?

We haven't seen this type of seething rage leading to silly hyperbole in print since they broke up the gang at the Star Tribune editorial board. Given that business model's recent success, you have to admire MSP Mag for staying true to the cause, the readership numbers be damned!

Actually, Platt is able to go where no Star Tribune editorialist had gone before. He gets to slime the lone voice of dissent at the Star Tribune:

Now, Katherine Kersten, in her bubble, is predictably bothered (What do we say to the children, Ward?).

Noted: People who are bothered by their potential Senator creating pornography are living in a bubble; people who believe Bush has "destroyed" our country's security and economic vitality, on the other had, are living in the real world.

Maybe I need to have a regular appointment for steaks with him at Morton's in order to understand this. I've never been there. Are the booths actually surrounded by a thin plastic membrane?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sweet Surrender

Having your two day business meetings held at an off-site location?


Having your two day business meetings held at a historic hotel?

Very cool.

Having your two day business meetings in the very room where the Germans signed the capitulation papers to the end their occupation of The Netherlands in World War II?

Extremely cool.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And now you're under their thumb

Tom e-mails to recount his recent Black Diamond run:

This morning I had an opportunity to use the "Black Diamond" expert lane at MSP. Observations:

1. There wasn't any choice or self-selection. A TSA agent sized me up and instructed me to "step this way" into the expert line. By the way, I don't wear a "suit" so I'm not sure how she knew - a special school somewhere perhaps?

2. I'm not certain if the expert line was any faster. I stepped into line at the same time a fellow with a Vikings cap stepped into the casual traveler line. The guy with the Vikings cap and I arrived at the ID checkpoint at the same time. I'm not certain the number of people in either line so maybe more people went through one line or the other in the same amount of time.

3. The guy three ahead of me in the expert line put his keys, shoes, laptop, etc into the holder bins that are screwed down to the cart (the holder cart bins have six inch letters in red magic marker with the words "DO NOT USE THIS BIN!"). The barback (or whatever they call the non-TSA person who brings the cart replenished with more empty bins) was standing behind him silently while he tried to pick up the screwed down bins (oh the bonuses of a low paying job) until the guy next in line pointed out that he couldn't use those bins. The guy turned red realizing his mistake and over-apologized to the next three people he made eye contact with while he removed and reloaded his items into non-screwed down bins. This of course caused a delay.

4. I said a prayer that Agent Probert was on duty to review the expert line hold up with the fellow in observation number 3.

5. My prayer went unanswered. Given that I was departing for Philthydelphia, there is always hope that upon my return, Dave Schultz or Dave Brown or some other Broad Street Bully passed the TSA exam and will be the agent in charge over the expert line if they have one.

So Close They Could Taste It

If the Wings fall in OT after being on the verge of winning the Cup and I'm unable to watch the game, is it still a classic? Most definitely. Now, we just need the Pens to come through in Game Six and force a Game Seven on Saturday. For once in my life, I'm happy about the unnatural schedule delay dictated by television.

Monday, June 02, 2008

We Regret Their Error

The City Pages published an article on the 10 Most Powerful Minnesota Republicans. I've only even heard of five of them and am well informed on none of them. Perhaps not surprising, as I am one of the 10 Least Powerful Minnesota Republicans.

I do have fleeting familiarity with one name on the list, one Mr. Robert Cummins. Just enough familiarity to notice one glaring error in his City Pages provided bio:

He is a strict conservative, an evangelical Christian, and as CEO of Primera Technology, a very wealthy man.

Umm, no. As someone who used to sit a few rows behind Mr Cummins at a local church for several years, I think I can safely say he is not considered an evangelical Christian.

Unless of course I was actually a member of an evangelical Christian church all of those years and was not aware of it. Which would be embarrassing. But it might qualify me to be added the upcoming City Pages article on the Ten Most Clueless Minnesota Evangelicals.

More likely, the City Pages reporting and fact checking is in error. In addition, that grotesque caricature they use as an illustration looks nothing like him. As these are the only facts I am in a position to independently corroborate, their total success ratio calculates to a perfect .000. I will apply this ratio in analyzing the rest of the facts in this article.

Instead of Republicans, maybe the City Pages should stick with subjects it knows more about.