Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Problem With Populism

In the current dust up over the financial crisis and the proposed rescue plan, a number of conservative voices have been talking about how Congress needed to respect the "will of the people" and refuse to acquiesce to voting for the plan. This always disturbs me as there seems to be a select judgment on just when this "will of the people" should hold sway. In 2006, when the public favored immediate pullout from Iraq, you didn't see a lot of Republicans calling for such fealty to what the people wanted. Democrats play the same card too, invoking the "people's will" whenever it happens to be convenient.

The truth of the matter is that while the will of the people should also be considered by our elected representatives, it should not be paramount. We elect these folks to decide what they believe is best for their constituents and in the case of the Congress, for the United States of America. If we wanted automatons who would just push a button based on the latest polling data from their district on a particular issue, we could save a lot of grief and money by sending 535 monkeys to Washington instead (insert cheap joke here).

If members of the House voted against the rescue plan because they honestly believe that it is not in the best interests of the country and that it would not help avert much more serious economic problems, I have no problem with their vote and respect their decision. But if they voted against the plan because they're worried about how it might impact their chances in November even if they believe it was the right thing to do, then they are cravenly cowards who deserve nothing but contempt. In times of crisis, we need leaders willing to make tough decisions and lead the way. Following the voice the people is easy, but it isn't always right.

Making A Career Of It

You can't watch more than three minutes of television in the Twin Cities these days without coming across a political ad. Most of them are negative and most are either for the US Senate race or the House race in CD3. It's not unusual to see three or four such ads in a row. The back and forth must make life tough for undecided voters as they get whipsawed by a stream of adverts questioning the integrity of Coleman-Franken-Madia-Franken-Paulsen-Coleman-Franken-Coleman.

One recent anti-Paulsen ad caught my attention. It's not put out by the Madia campaign directly, but is the work of some national Congressional Democratic group. Like many such ads, it attacks Paulsen for a variety of supposed sins. The one that fI ound amusing is the charge that spending increased by so many billion dollars during Paulsen's time as Minnesota House Majority Leader.

In the past, the usual charge that Dems level against Minnesota Republicans and their leaders (like Paulsen ad Pawlenty) is that they've cut the state's budget to the bone and failed to make the necessary "investments" to sustain our quality of life. I found it rich that a Democratic ad would now try to fault Paulsen for spending too much money.

It brought to mind a television ad from the classic Simpson's episode Sideshow Bob Roberts:

[scene shows prisoners going in a revolving door and coming out immediately]

Voice: Mayor Quimby supports revolving door prisons. Mayor Quimby even released Sideshow Bob -- a man twice convicted of attempted murder.

[scene shows prisoners leaving on escalator and ski lift]

Can you trust a man like Mayor Quimby? Vote Sideshow Bob for mayor.

Start The Revolution Without Me

Last night while watching "Mad Men," I saw a trailer for Revolutionary Road:

April and Frank Wheeler are a young, thriving couple living with their two children in a Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. Their self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel fulfilled in their relationships or careers. Frank is mired in a well-paying but boring office job, and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. As their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfillment are thrown into jeopardy.

If that isn't enough of recipe for cliched suburban angst and alienation, consider that the movie was directed by Sam Mendes of "American Beauty" fame. Not one that's going to make my "must see" list.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Spoiling For A Fight?

Year not over as Detroit visits Chicago:

One would just have soon been done a day earlier. One is just trying to stretch the season by one more day. It's a fascinating contrast when the White Sox and Tigers play a makeup game at 2:05 p.m. ET on Monday.

Chicago has everything to play for. If the Sox win Monday's game, they force a one-game playoff for the American League Central Division championship, which would be at home on Tuesday against the Twins. Win that, and it's on to the AL Division Series against Tampa Bay. Detroit has nothing to play for in the standings, but there's always pride and the opportunity to spoil a rival's season.

Two words come to mind that I haven't said much in the past, "Go Tigers!"

UPDATE-- White Sox force one-game tiebreaker:

CHICAGO -- A full 162-game schedule will not be enough to decide the American League Central title.

The White Sox forced Tuesday's one-game tiebreaker on Monday by virtue of an 8-2 victory over the last-place Tigers following a three-hour, four-minute rain delay and then a contest that lasted even longer. The South Siders can thank Alexei Ramirez, Gavin Floyd and a shoddy Detroit bullpen for the chance to host the Twins on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS and MLB.TV with a playoff berth on the line.

D'oh! No-good, lousy Tigers. Thanks for nuthin'.

Oh well. The Twins will just have to take care of business for themselves. Who's taking the hill tomorrow anyway?

Blackburn? Yikes. Well, at least we have Bonser rested and ready in the 'pen. That ought to strike fear into the hearts of the Pale Hose.

Any chance for rain tomorrow?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You stole the love right out of my heart

Remember what I said the other day about baseball breaking your heart? No sooner did the Twins rally to complete a dramatic sweep of the White Sox--putting them in first place with a chance to do no worse than tie for division lead if they were able to win out--than their offense goes dormant and they drop their first two games of a three game season-ending set against the Royals. Today's loss was especially tough as the Twins--trailing by two in the bottom of the ninth--had runners at first and second with no out and Mauer and Morneau coming up. A double-play and fly-out later and the game was over. That one hurt.

The only thing keeping Twins fans from complete despair is that the White Sox have been gracious enough to choke like dogs too. They now have dropped the first two games of their home series against the Tribe meaning the Twins haven't lost any ground in the last two days. Now, it all comes down to tomorrow. If the Twins win and the Sox lose, the Twins win the division outright. If both teams win, the Sox will play a make-up game against Detroit on Monday. If they win that, the Twins and Sox will have a one game playoff on Tuesday at Chicago. If the Twins lose and the Sox win on Sunday, the Sox will still need to beat Detroit on Monday to avoid the Tuesday playoff. Got that?

All I know is that I'm glad that we're close to resolution. My ol' heart can't take much more of this.

A Beer Man Passes

BILL LEINENKUGEL (1921 - 2008):

While marching in the Chippewa Springs Memorial Day Parade, Mr. Leinenkugel fell ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He eschewed treatment and continued sipping his product until days before his death in Chippewa Falls on Sept. 22 at age 87. He liked to say his two favorite brews were Leinenkugel's and free beer.

I imagine that beer drinkers across the Midwest--and the country for that matter--will be raising a Leinie or two in Bill's memory. R.I.P.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Geeks

Back in my high school days, one of the most popular television shows was "Miami Vice." Of course, you didn't dare talk about it too much with your school mates lest you reveal that you had spent your most recent Friday night sitting in front of the TV from 9pm-10pm rather than out partaking in whatever it was that all the cool kids were supposedly doing.

Scheduling the first presidential debate of 2008 on a Friday night brought this to mind. As much as Americans are paying attention to the candidates this year (or at least so we've been told), the truth of the matter is that sitting at home and watching the debate is a sign that your social options may be limited. Well, I could have been out doing all kinds of fun stuff, but I elected to stay home and watch the debate because I think this election is so important. Yeah, sure you could have pal. I bet you had all sorts of offers that you had to turn down.

Having three young children and thus absolutely no social life to speak of, I had nothing better to do than catch the debate tonight (especially since the Twins were gacking all over themselves against the Royals) . In fact, I've been looking forward to this first one for some time. Which is why I was I little surprised that I found in so thoroughly uncompelling.

Perhaps it was all the drama of the financial crisis, the suspension of McCain's campaign, and the very real doubt whether the debate would actually take place. It really sucked all the life out of the race and made the debate seem more like a side show than the main event.

Maybe it was the candidates just trotting out the same talking points that we've heard for the last two years and circling back to them again and again. Did anyone say anything new and noteworthy? If so, I missed it. I'm also bored to death of the candidates coming in to the debates with these cute, canned lines that are intended to be humorous, but are usually anything but. There's nothing wrong with injecting a bit of humor from time to time, but it's got to be real or at least seem so. There's nothing funny when it's obvious that you're trying too hard.

Most of all I think it was the schedule. Friday night is usually the capstone to the workweek. You want to kick back, relax and chill. You want to watch a ball game or a movie, enjoy a drink or two, and take a break from the worries of the world. The last thing you want to do is think about serious matters. I can't imagine a time when people would be less interested in a political debate than a Friday night. I know that I certainly wasn't.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Great Game

No sport toys with your emotions quite like baseball. Over the course of a long season you can have your spirits lifted and your heart broken many times over. Not to go all Costas on you, but in a way the baseball season is like life in that things are probably never as bad or as good as they seem at the time. There's always another game (at least during the season) or another day tomorrow that offers a chance for redemption.

A week ago most Twins fans had probably given up hope after a number of recent gut-wrenching late-inning losses. Sure, they still had three games left with the White Sox at home this week, but what were the chances that they could pull off the needed sweep?

Even after the Twins took the first two games of series, it still looked bleak tonight when they trailed 6-1 in the fourth. But then the much-maligned bullpen stopped the bleeding and the offense chipped away until they were able to tie it at six with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Then a dramatic game-winning single in the tenth plated Nick Punto and the improbable had occurred. The Twins had swept the White Sox and are now in first place.

The division is by no means won. There's more drama to be played out and the Twins still need to take care of business this weekend against the Royals. But this series and especially tonight remind Twins fans once again why this is such a great game.

A World Without Hope

From a post at First Things, an excerpt from Pope Benedict's The Yes Of Jesus Christ:

Optimism is only the facade of a world without hope that is trying to hide from its own despair with this deceptive sham. This is the only explanation for the immoderate and irrational anxiety, this traumatic and violent fear that breaks out when some setback or accident in technological or economic development casts doubt on the dogma of progress.

Bumper Crop

When this latest spin in the election cycle is finally complete, I fervently hope that John McCain will have been elected our next President. However, being a prudent sort I am making contingency plans in the event that Barack Obama emerges victorious.

Knowing that conservatives will behave like petulant teenagers for the next four years if they lose an election, I plan on stocking up with a warehouse of bumper stickers that will allow disgruntled rightwingers to show the world how they feel. A couple of obvious examples:

- Don't Blame Me, I Voted For McCain

- Somewhere In Illinois Hawaii Kansas(?) A Village Is Missing Its Idiot

- Impeach Obama

I've also made an agreement to secure a number of bumper stickers currently in use that could be equally applicable:

- He's Not My President

- If You're Not Outraged You're Not Paying Attention

- Proud Of My Country--Ashamed Of My Government

And a couple of the clever "make you think" variety:

- Buck Ofama

- 1-20-13 (with a stark black background of course)

Yeah, I figure the discontent on the right with a president they didn't vote for is going to make me a rich man. Pretty much a sure thing the way I see it. No reason to suspect that this plan isn't guaranteed to result in pure gold. Is there?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Always Available, Never Memorable

It's become something of a joke among local media watchers to note that at times it seems like every story about Minnesota politics features an obligatory quote from the University of Minnesota's Larry Jacobs. Jacobs has not only worked his way into the rolodex of legions of local and national media types, he's always there when they call for a comment. You would think that for the amount of attention he receives, he must have some very important things to say about the Minnesota political scene.

The latest and greatest Jacobs utterance that I came across was in an article in Monday's WSJ on the impact of Dean Barkley on the Minnesota Senate Race (sub req):

Mr. Barkley draws voters from both parties, but many observers see his candidacy as more threatening to Mr. Franken, who has struggled to consolidate Democratic support. "He is competing with Franken for the angry voter who disapproves of Bush and sees the country as off on the wrong track," pollster Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said after early polling.

After reading, it I realized that in all the years and in all of the hundreds of times that Larry Jacobs has opined on a Minnesota political matter in the media, never once has he said something that I've found particularly insightful or thought provoking. Seriously, for all the pub this guy gets you would think he was the Michael Barone of Minnesota politics. But time after time, all he comes up with is obvious observations that almost anyone who pays any attention at all to the state's political environment could easily make. There's nothing original about his thoughts and he doesn't offer up the kind of key demographic tidbits that real uber wonks have at the tips of their fingers.

If you really wanted the inside scoop on the US Senate race in Minnesota or how the contest in the 3rd CD might play out, you'd be much better off bending the ear of Michael Barone than Larry Jacobs. All politics may be local, but that doesn't mean the best observers of the scene are.

Politics and Passion Are Always The Fashion


Cheer on the GOP ticket with fellow Patriots! AM1280 The Patriot will be hosting Debate Parties for the upcoming Vice Presidential and Presidential Debates. Join us at Trocaderos in Minneapolis on October 2nd as Sarah Palin takes on Joe Biden and again on October 15th for the final debate between McCain and Obama. The Debate Parties are free, but you need to RSVP so we can get a heads up on how many are coming ahead of time to plan accordingly.

Follow the above link to reserve your place now. More info on the location and directions to Trocaderos here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simple Simon

Stephanie Simon tries to employ a movie reference in a piece in today's WSJ called The United States of Mind (sub req):

And what of the unexpected finding that North Dakota is the most outgoing state in the union? Yes, North Dakota, the same state memorialized years ago in the movie "Fargo" as a frozen wasteland of taciturn souls. Turns out you can be a laconic extrovert, at least in the world of psychology. The trait is defined in part by strong social networks and tight community bonds, which are characteristic of small towns across the Great Plains. (Though not, apparently, small towns in New England, which ranks quite low on the extraversion scale.)

For the record, the frozen wasteland of taciturn souls depicted in "Fargo" was actually Minnesota (don't let the title confuse you). A common mistake for sure, but I expect more from the Journal.

These Are The Days

Over the last week and a half (almost), I've been hanging with the boys at home. During that time we've been fortunate to enjoy weather that has been truly magnificent. Sunny days with clear blue skies for the most part (until today really). Highs in the upper seventies to just over eighty. The air is crisp and clean with just a hint of the chill to come.

It reminds me again why September has become my favorite month of the year. It wasn't always. When you're a kid, September means the end of SUMMER, the start of school, and the inevitable agony of raking leaves (easily the most hated of my childhood chores).

Now, it means the most reliably enjoyable weather (at least in these parts) and the beginning of the transition from summer to fall. A transition that I look forward to and relish more with each passing year. Throw in that I was married and had a child born in September and the ninth month of the year is definitely a special one.

And yes, I will have to rake a rather substantial amount of leaves this year. But in a few years it won't be a task that I have to handle solo. The chores of the father will most assuredly be passed on to the sons.

Just The Fax, Ma'am

You may recall that at the end of May we had a bit of a hailstorm at the ol' homestead. Nothing serious, although we did have some cosmetic damage to the back of the house and the garage doors.

We had an insurance adjuster come out in late July, provide an estimate of the repair costs, and cut us a check. Unfortunately, the amount he allotted to repaint the back of the house and replace the garage doors fell short of what it actually will cost to have the work done here. He said he was using a formula based on national costs, but it seemed to based more on what said work would cost in Brownsville, Texas. In 1958.

Anyway, in order to get the insurance company to cough up some extra green, we had to get three bids from local contractors to show what the true market price was. One would expect that in our current calamitous economic conditions, there would no problem finding someone looking for an honest day's work.

More than a month, and at least fifteen different contractors contacted later, we finally were able to get a third painter to show up and give us a bid. Times may be tough, but apparently painters are still plenty busy.

Finally, with all my ducks now in a row, I called in the insurance company this morning to see how to proceed next. I explained the situation and was told that I would need to speak with an "expert" adjuster. Since they were all busy at the time, they took my number and said one of these "experts" would call at the soonest opportunity.

At 5:30pm, while out on a walk with the kids, I received a call back. Again I explained my circumstances and was told that it could be resolved relatively easily. All I had to do was fax the bids in to their office.

Fax? Who faxes anymore? I asked if I could e-mail the docs instead. No, we don't accept e-mails. Why? Because when we get a fax we scan the documents and they become part of the "file."

I smiled. Having previously scanned the bids in preparation for the call, I now saw an easy solution in the offing. "What kind of file format do you use when you scan the documents?", I asked confidently.

"I don't know, I'm not much of technical person," was the reply. Glad I'm talking to any expert. I explained that I already had the docs scanned and could easily send them in via e-mail.

Sorry, we don't accept e-mails. If you want, you can go to your agent's office and use their fax machine.

Go the my agent's office? Yeah, that's not much of a hassle. Why don't I just get on a plane and fly them down to Florida personally? Sigh. Who faxes anymore?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mullets For McCain

Gopher Hockey Coach Endorses McCain At Rally:

On the ice, Don Lucia's hockey teams have won two national championships. He is known as a coach who can motivate his players.

On Friday, Lucia was motivating once again, but this time the speech wasn't for his players -- it was for politicians.

"I want to extend a warm state of hockey welcome to John McCain and Sarah Palin," said Lucia while speaking at a McCain/Palin rally in Blaine, Minn.

At the McCain/Palin rally, Lucia, a native of Grand Rapids, made it no secret who he's voting for.

"From what I'm hearing this year, it sounds like John McCain and Sarah Palin have a power play going on in northern Minnesota," said Lucia.

That has the all the zip and zing of one of Lucia's television commercials. Oh well, he's not paid for his words.

This part of the story cracked me up:

The speech may have been a hit at Friday's rally, but with some hockey fans at the U of M campus, it landed the coach time in their penalty box.

Gopher fan Chelsey Kueffer thinks a coach at a publicly funded University should keep the politics to himself.

Yes, because there's such a precedent for employees of a publicly funded University--say professors for instance--to keep their politics to themselves. Thanks for the larf Chelsey.

You Got Us Into This Mess, Now You're Going To Get Us Out?

Excellent editorial in today's WSJ that should serve as a primer in the months and years ahead when we hear that the current financial mess is a result of not enough government regulation and intervention. A Mortgage Fable lays outs five ways that government directly contributed to the problems:

- The Federal Reserve: The original sin of this crisis was easy money. For too long this decade, especially from 2003 to 2005, the Fed held interest rates below the level of expected inflation, thus creating a vast subsidy for debt that both households and financial firms exploited. The housing bubble was a result, along with its financial counterparts, the subprime loan and the mortgage SIV.

- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Created by government, and able to borrow at rates lower than fully private corporations because of the implied backing from taxpayers, these firms turbocharged the credit mania. They channeled far more liquidity into the market than would have been the case otherwise, especially from the Chinese, who thought (rightly) that they were investing in mortgage securities that were as safe as Treasurys but with a higher yield.

- A credit-rating oligopoly: Thanks to federal and state regulation, a small handful of credit rating agencies pass judgment on the risk for all debt securities in our markets. Many of these judgments turned out to be wrong, and this goes to the root of the credit crisis: Assets officially deemed rock-solid by the government's favored risk experts have lately been recognized as nothing of the kind.

- Banking regulators: In the Beltway fable, bank supervision all but vanished in recent years. But the great irony is that the banks that made some of the worst mortgage investments are the most highly regulated. The Fed's regulators blessed, or overlooked, Citigroup's off-balance-sheet SIVs, while the SEC tolerated leverage of 30 or 40 to 1 by Lehman and Bear Stearns.

- The Community Reinvestment Act: This 1977 law compels banks to make loans to poor borrowers who often cannot repay them. Banks that failed to make enough of these loans were often held hostage by activists when they next sought some regulatory approval.

Obviously the companies who took on unreasonable risks and the individuals who took out loans they couldn't afford bear a large share of the blame as well. But when you hear that this crisis is a "failure of the free market" you should remember the significant role that government played in creating it. And you shouldn't believe that more government is automatically the solution.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's the lure of easy money, it's gotta very strong appeal

This was not a good week for John McCain. When it comes to matters economic, it's become clearer and clearer that his instincts are not well honed. When it comes to national security and foreign affairs, he's at his best when shooting from the hip and talking off the cuff. Letting McCain be McCain in those areas is smart and pays big dividends on the trail.

But when it comes to economics, we need McCain to be someone else. Someone with a firm grasp on the situation and a sound philosophical approach on how we should move ahead. Someone needs to be whispering in his ear and feeding him ideas. It's a real shame that Phil Gramm was let go for daring to speak too freely as he fit the bill quite nicely.

Because if the best McCain can come up with is finger pointing and populist demagoguery directed against Wall Street, it's going to cost him the election. In these areas--and others such as spending and regulation--the more the Republicans try to up the ante, the more they end up looking like pale imitations of their Democratic counterparts. Republicans will never be able to promise enough spending and regulation. The Democrats will always promise more. McCain can point fingers at the SEC chairman and attack Wall Street all he wants. But that will only serve to strengthen Obama's hand. Because in the minds of the voters, if those really are the problems, it's better to get the real deal solution rather than a watered down version of the same.

There is opportunity for McCain in this latest financial crisis. Kimberly A. Strassel lays out one possible approach in today's Wall Street Journal:

"I come today to speak on behalf of the forgotten man, and that includes some 50% of Americans that either own their home, or are renting . . . the 95% of homeowners that are making their payments on time . . . the 99% of Americans that did not behave irresponsibly . . . that ultimately will pay the price for this bill."

John McCain? Dream on. Those were the words of Florida Rep. Tom Feeney in May, as the House considered a housing bailout. If the flustered McCain campaign is looking for pointers on how a principled conservative can politically weather a financial storm, it might make a study of this Sunshine State Republican.

Especially given Sen. McCain's misguided response to this week's financial meltdown. Taking a cue from Hillary Clinton, he's gone populist, railing against "failed regulation, reckless management and a casino culture on Wall Street." He's offered no other explanation for how the U.S. got into this mess. He's signed on to pretty much every Washington bailout.

Mr. McCain has, in short, yielded to every temptation faced by a Republican in a financial crisis. Government largely created this mess, yet in a bid to look proactive he's calling for more government. Markets by necessity have winners and losers, yet he feels the need to offer aid to Americans who made bad bets. Voters are intelligent enough to have a serious financial story explained to them, yet Mr. McCain blames Wall Street.

The American people are not stupid. They know that what happened in the housing and financial markets in the last eight to ten years was that people got greedy on easy money. Sure there was greed on Wall Street. But there was plenty of greed on Main Street too. Plenty of people who bought houses they couldn't afford. Plenty of people who didn't want to know what the real risks they were entering into were.

Now it's the time of reckoning. It's time for everyone, the government, Wall Street, and Main Street to fess up and take responsibility. The government has been spending too much and for a long period of time was lending too freely. McCain should focus on this and run with it. He should promote fiscal responsibility and a sound monetary policy. He should talk freely about how the Fed's low interest rates contributed to our current mess and how the weakness of the dollar has hurt American consumers.

But he shouldn't promise any easy solutions. He should talk realistically about the pain that's necessary to get through this. Some people will lose their homes. Some people will lose their jobs. Some companies will go bankrupt. Some stocks will become all but worthless. The government can not and will not be able to prevent this. He should explain when he thinks it's appropriate for the government to act and when it isn't and why.

It would be a bracingly honest approach that would carry risks. But one of McCain's strengths is his heartfelt patriotism and dedication to national service. He could use this in the economic arena by rallying the country with a new economic message of responsibility and reform. We all need to take appropriate responsibility for the financial troubles we now face and push for reforms to try to avoid them in the future. Most of all his message should be that the days of easy money are over. For everyone.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

Front page story in today's WSJ on how Wall Street's Ills Are Seeping Into Everyday Lives has a couple of real gems:

Bob Conrad, a 59-year-old budget director at the U.S. District Court in Dallas, sees his chance for retirement next year slipping further away. After his nest egg lost 10% of its value, he moved his money a few months ago out of stocks. He thought he was set, but soaring food prices and seesawing energy prices already had him worried. And now, "this thing looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better," he said. "That's just my luck. Looks like I'll be working a while longer."

If you keep making boneheaded moves like keeping your nest egg in stocks when you want to retire in the next year, you might be working a lot longer.

On the other hand, Antonio D'Souza, a 28-year-old software engineer from San Francisco, sees today as the rainy day to spend his savings. As he watched his 401(k) retirement account lose half its value as of last month, he said, he soured on investing in the market and "decided I was just going to spend."

He bought a $350 juice extractor and a $700 bicycle, spent $600 on four pairs of pants, and then splurged on a trip to Japan. He celebrated, with "the most expensive meal I've ever had," he said, an eight-course Japanese feast.

This week's collapses at American International Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have reinforced his view that "the money is worth more if spent now," he said.

Especially when you spend it so wisely. Forty years from now Antonio may be eating dog food, but he'll always have the memories of the juicer and his fancy pants. Good times, good times.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Time Foe Heroes

Today, the new 35W bridge will open for traffic. It should be a day to recognize the achievement of replacing the vital causeway so rapidly and remembering those who tragically died in the collapse. Not surprisingly, we're going to get far more of the latter:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the 10-lane bridge will open to traffic at 5 a.m. Thursday, with a full complement of state troopers slowly leading the way when the barricades come down. He and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also unveiled the design for a memorial to the 13 people who died in the collapse.

The 35W Remembrance Garden will be built at a cost of $1 million in the northeast part of Gold Medal Park, which became an unofficial gathering spot after the collapse. "It shall now become a permanent spot," said Tom Oslund, who has designed a memorial that includes 13 I-beams arranged in a circle.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters was among the many speakers to note the mixed mood of the day.

"These lanes will forever be sacred because of the 13 people who lost their lives here," she said. She offered high praise for the collaboration that led to the bridge being built in 11 months.

Sacred? Isn't this going a bit far? Actually I've been saying that about the never-ending focus on the thirteen victims of the bridge collapse for some time now. If you think I'm out of line, ask yourself who you've heard more about; the victims of the bridge collapse or the69 Minnesotans who have died in Iraq? Sadly, when you compare the relative media attention it's not even close.

It says a lot about the state of our society where we can't get enough stories of victims, but seem to have little time for heroes.

UPDATE-- Tim from Kentucky e-mails:

I predict that in the future, people will exist and live in the rest of the world and that the United States will be set aside for memorials. Of course, it begs the question of where the memorial to the United States will be...

Trying To Pave The Way For The Third World Man?

Why is it that in countries like China, Mexico, and the Philippines, where you take your life into your hands every time you get in a motor vehicle and the rules of the road more often than not seem to be doing whatever the hell you feel like, one can enter a marked cross-walk feeling quite confident that oncoming traffic will indeed stop while in the good ol' United States of America--a country known for it adherence to the rule of law--every time one enters a cross-walk, even one marked with flashing lights so that even the most dull-headed motorist should notice, one takes one's life into one's hands? This questions stems from several personal experiences, the most recent two having occurred as recently as yesterday. And yes, I am a little bitter about it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

As we near the midpoint of September it's a good time to speculate what form the "October Surprise" (or surprises) in the form of a media hit against the Republican presidential candidate will take this year. In 2000, it was the last minute release of the old news of a DUI violation by Bush. In 2004, it was the double-whammy of the "60 Minutes" attempt to impugn Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard with forged documents (an early surprise which was launched in September) and the scandal of the missing muntions from the Al Qaqaa facility in Iraq. Thankfully, neither had their intended effect, but we can be sure that an attempt to torpedo McCain late in the campaign will be made.

The most promising avenue for attack in my opinion is to dredge up an instance of McCain using a racial epithat directed at African-Americans. Now, I don't know if there is such an incident out there and I'm not implying that there is any reason to suspect there is, but if there is bringing it to light would obviously be of immense aid to Obama. It would allow him to highlight the sharp contrast between the racist past (McCain) and the allegedly post-racial future. McCain did get some heat (and continues to) for using the "G" word back in 2000. But if the media could come up with any evidence (no matter how thin) of him using the "N" word--no matter how long ago--it would be political dynamite. And given his salty reputation, temperament, and era that he grew up in, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to imagine that McCain could (again could) have such a skeleton in his closet.

The problem is that no matter how you respond to such a charge, you seem guilty. It's kind of the old "when did you stop beating your wife?". If you say you don't have any recollection of the event, it implies that you used such language all the time. Unless you're absolutely certain that said event did not take place, an outright denial poses the risk that someone can actually prove it and then you're in even worse shape. Even if all the evidence that's presented is a witness who claims that you used improper language thirty or forty years ago, it's a tough accusation to take on (witness what happened to George Allen in 2006 post-macaca). Look what And in the case of the 2008 campaign, it would put all the focus on McCain in a negative light and race, a two-fer for Obama.

If such an incident from McCain's past does exist and the Obama camp knows of it, I would imagine they'll wait for the proper moment before passing it to a friendly media source (should be pretty easy for them to find one). This may not be the only last-minute attempt to derail McCain that we see, but I wouldn't be shocked if something like this pops up come October.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Missed It By That Much

You may recall a few weeks ago, the breathless report distributed by the Associated Press, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center about the plummeting of the crucial sea ice:

New satellite measurements show that crucial sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has plummeted to its second lowest level on record.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., announced Wednesday that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic is down to 2.03 million square miles. The lowest point on record is 1.65 million square miles set last September.

With about three weeks left in the melt season, the record may fall, scientists say.

At the time I pointed out that the increase over last year actually represents a positive trend. And, if the drama of their story depended on the level of crucial sea ice being lower than last year, maybe they ought to wait until it happens before hitting the panic button headlines. They would only have to wait a few short weeks.

Flash forward a few weeks, breaking news from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

The Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the second-lowest extent recorded since the dawn of the satellite era.

Second-lowest? Ouch. Sorry about that boys.

If you lean in close to your computer screen, you can almost hear their mournful sighs of dejection. I think that impression comes from the lack of emotional ACTION words like "crucial" and "plummet" in this statement. Something tells me there hearts weren't in it as much this time.

To put this increase over last year in perspective, there's this from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The total sea ice extent in the Arctic at this time was about 0.5 million square kilometers (0.2 mission square miles) larger than that at the same time last year. That difference in sea ice extent amounts to an area the size of Spain.

The size of Spain? That ain't exactly chopped chorizo.

Say what you will about the National Snow and Ice Center, they are chillingly tenacious. Despite this setback, they're prepared to keep up the fight:

While above the record minimum set on September 16, 2007, this year further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past thirty years. With the minimum behind us, we will continue to analyze ice conditions as we head into the crucial period of the ice growth season during the months to come.

All it takes is getting the focus back on global warming to bet the fire back in their bellies. The return of multiple emotionally charged terms, including our old friend "crucial." (Although I'm not sure if two uses of "crucial" -- the crucial growth period of the crucial sea ice -- cancel each other out or not).

To paraphrase my thoughts the first time they pulled this, when a text relies on emotionally charged terms, the intent is to persuade and motivate behavior rather than inform. On that I was right.

But I also assumed that if they failed to reach their goal in setting a record new low for crucial sea ice, they'd have to go away for at least another year. Incorrect! I did not foresee that for every crucial test passed, there's another crucial opportunity lying in wait in which to attempt to scare/motivate public opinion.

Steady On The Helm

Today's WSJ on how to Survive the Panic:

As for the larger economy, the last 13 months are a guide to what not to do. The Fed recklessly cut interest rates, while Congress and the White House dropped "rebate" checks from helicopters. The rate cuts ignited another oil and commodity spike that walloped middle-class consumers, while the rebates did nothing to change incentives or lift investment.

We hope the Fed heeds this lesson and holds firm on rates today. Yesterday it injected $70 billion in liquidity to stabilize the fed fund rate at its peg of 2%, as it should in a crisis. But that money can be withdrawn over time as the crisis eases. Meanwhile, a more cautious monetary policy overall will help the dollar, which in turn will mean lower oil prices and more capital flows to the U.S.

What the economy really needs is a big pro-growth tax cut, the kind that will restore confidence and risk-taking. This is an opportunity for both candidates, but especially for Mr. McCain. Instead of focusing on an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the Arizonan should offer his own tax cut to revive capital markets and prevent a recession. Democrats will claim he's helping "the rich," but our guess is that every American who owns a 401(k) will figure he's one of those "rich."

One great lesson of past panics is that they needn't become crashes, if policy makers make the right decisions. Thirteen months into this crisis, the best choices are the same as they were last August: energetic emergency plumbing to protect the financial system, steady monetary policy to defend the dollar, and a tax cut to spur growth. It's also the kind of agenda -- and leadership -- that could win an election.

Chances the government will follow these prudent steps? Slim to none. Fasten your seat belts.

McCain and Obama are blaming the financial fallout on "greed" and "not enough regulation" while ignoring the key fuel for the fire. Greed is a given of human nature and is not something you can legislate away. If you impose enough regulation to prevent any chance of another speculative bubble, you also strangle the initiative and incentive necessary to stimulate the economy. But one thing that government can do is end the days of easy money by pursuing a sound monetary policy. Not something that either candidate is talking about much these days.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sleep Restored

Related to my post on Saturday, Dave writes in with some background on Phil Hendrie

Glad to hear someone mention Phil. I've been hooked for a couple years now. Steyn, Lileks and Hendrie are the only three on the radio to make me laugh out loud.

Despite his willingness to EVISCERATE people regarding Iraq (which is hilarious!), AFAIK he's still firmly in Obama's camp. It's so frustrating. He and other 9/11 Dems speak so eloquently and passionately about Iraq, but are so wedded still to a few base lefty issues, they can't bring themselves to vote for 'the evil Republican'. Hopefully Omaba et al. keep stepping in it enough to sway enough of them.

And some good news:

Anyway, in case no one's forward this yet: his recent shows ARE available online without subscription:


(ED NOTE: Here is the September 12 show featuring the Jesse Ventura interview.)

See also www.newphilhendrieshow.com.

btw - i listen you you guys every Saturday. Thanks for making my yardwork palatable.

You're welcome Dave. That Is exactly why we got into the radio business, to improve lawn mowing productivity in the Twin Cities.

And thanks for the Phil Hendrie podcast links, my wee small hours are restored for their intended purpose.

The Elder Notes: I'm surprised that Saint Paul didn't connect these dots in Dave's e-mail:

* Steyn, Lileks and Hendrie are the only three on the radio to make me laugh out loud.


* i listen you you guys every Saturday.

Maybe we just have to tell the Pachyderm story on the air.

Still Stalin After All These Years

I'm proud to announce the debut of a new feature on Fraters Libertas: Last Week in Stalin Comparisons.

Yes, we have scoured the information superhighway to find instances of reporters, commentators, pundits, and George Soros employees comparing Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to other people, living or dead. It is our hope that through this exercise, we can learn more about Joseph Stalin and his modern day heirs in order to, if at all possible, avoid a 31 year reign of misery and tyranny in this country.

Let's go to the big board for this week - who was Joseph Stalin ....

Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin:

Putin, like Stalin, sees his country's "sphere of influence" being violated, with Russia being ringed by potentially hostile enemies, effectively controlled by the U.S. and other Western powers.

Russian Poet Vladimir Mayakovsky:

After he moved to Moscow, Mayakovsky like Stalin was expelled from school because he was more interested in revolution than study.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

Chavez is a dictator. As he just demonstrated, voting returns that he doesn't like are ignored. His party controls the legislature in Venezuela and they pretty much rubber stamp everything he wants much like Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini's legislatures gave them pretty much everything they wanted.

Italian First World War General Luigi Cadorna:

Cadorna's orders were meant to terrorise his troops into unflinching obedience - like Stalin, he further encouraged them to go over the top by mounting machine-guns behind his own lines to fire on stragglers.

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin:

We saw that in the book [banning effort]. That's essentially an authoritarian thing, especially if you look at the books she wanted to ban, one of which was called Pastor, I Am Gay, which was written by a local Christian conservative pastor who took a gentler approach to this. So there's another level to this. It's one thing to censor a book; that's frightening enough. It's an even more frightening thing to try and censor your neighbor, to try to put tape over the mouth of someone who lives right next to you and is a conservative Christian himself. That shows a real attention to detail that one finds in figures such as Stalin. I think there is a Stalinesque streak to her personality.

What have we learned from this week's contestants? You resemble Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin if you:

1) attempt to assert control of the states of the Caucuses region

2) are devoted to the principles of socialist revolution above all else

3) structure your country's legislative body in a way to automatically approve whatever you dictate

4) machine gun your own troops if they are not progressing to your satisfaction

5) attempt to remove "Pastor I Am Gay" from a municipal library*

Please avoid any and all of these behaviors if you wish to avoid being like Stalin. Or at least being called Stalin by drama queeen propaganda mills.

*incidentally, this allegation is actually false. It's use against an innocent person like Sarah Palin strikes me as Stalinesque in nature.

Good Things Come In Threes

Scoring for Clan Doughty at forty weeks and three days of the third trimester, my wife. With an assist (albeit a very small one) from me. With the birth of William we now have light the boy lamp three times, a natural hat trick if you will. Mom and baby are doing fine while dad is trying to decide if the new addition will fit in better on the left or right side of the line (the eldest is centering of course).

Those of you with a fondness for numbers might appreciate this. My lucky number is three (two is also fortunate). I was born on July 3rd. My oldest son was born on July 23rd. The next in line arrived on May 3rd. Now, we welcomed the newest addition yesterday, September 13th. All odd numbered months, all dates with a three in them.

The next challenge will be adapting to life with three lil' 'ens. We've been warned that instead of playing man to man, we'll have to go with a zone defense. Blogging may be light for the next eighteen years or so.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

360 Degree Coverage

Beef Queen. Check.

Milk Queen. Check.

Chad, please make note of this for next year's NARN State Fair broadcast scheduling:

Stephanie Cutter, Michelle Obama's chief of staff, told MSNBC on Tuesday: "The more we learn about [Sarah Palin], the more these facts don't add up. We now learn that she's the queen of pork in Alaska."

Up All Night

In other radio news, I accidently ran across the Phil Hendrie show late last night. Turns out his new syndicated show occupies the graveyard shift on KTLK. This is great news, and the biggest threat to good night's sleep since Art Bell went off the air on his latest semi-retirement.

For those who aren't familiar with Hendrie from his former syndicated show, or even his WCCO show back in the early 90's, he is a great comic talent and a radio original. Check out this web site for a podcast of his hilarious final WCCO show back in March of 1994. (Lots of other classic WCCO radio moments from the good old days there too -- assuming you consider lutefisk jokes from Charlie Boone to be good).

Hendrie does more than comedy. Last night featured a live interview with none other than our former Governor, Jesse Ventura. I guess it ended up as comedy, but it wasn't intentional. Jesse was there to promote his 9/11 Truther positions and to compare the modern America political environment to Nazi Germany. But Hendrie tripped him up at the outset by challenging some quote Jesse was attributing to Thomas Jefferson. Turns out it was an urban myth, some BS originating on the Internet. Jesse wasn't prepared to be challenged on this, didn't know how to respond, and the next 10 minutes degenerated into pouting and childish retorts of the "I know you are but what am I " variety. Hendrie then started pushing him on the comparisons to Nazi Germany, embarrassing Ventura to a level that he actually hung up the phone. I was stunned. Never thought I'd see the former brash bully of the local wrestling and political scenes run out the ring so easily.

Sadly, it looks like no podcasts of Hendrie are available for free download. His web site sells access via membership at $7/month. Charging for the content on the Internet? Who the hell does Hendrie think he is, Pajamas TV?

Hendrie is about as close as it gets for me to consider paying for Internet entertainment. But not close enough! Looks like he'll have to be enjoyed the old fashioned way, LIVE and ephemeral. The way radio was meant to be.

While I was Googling in vain for a place to find Hendrie podcasts, I did find a update on the latest activities of Gov. Ventura. For some reason he was in Arizona this week and added this contribution to their 9/11 memorial services:

It was a strange site for visitors at the Arizona 9/11 memorial today if they happened to see former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura try to debate a Valley firefighter about the World Trade Center fires.

Sun City West firefighter Bill Marshall was paying respects at the Arizona 9/11 memorial when former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura started questioning him about smoke color.

Ventura is skeptical about the World Trade Center fire. Marshall didn't want to hear it.

"I choose not to be involved in any kind of controversy over 9/11, sir" said Marshall. The firefighter also said he doesn't like it when people use 9/11 for political or commercial reasons. "I think it's quite disgusting actually."

"It should be a day of remembrance. Not politicking, not benefiting. Any of those things are quite appalling to me." He says he doesn't want to be involved in conspiracy theories.

Marshall says he was at the memorial to remember his fallen brothers and sisters - not to argue conspiracy theories.

Good to see Jesse taking the show on the road and not saving it just for us folks back home.

Somewhere My Love

Earlier this week, I heard Laura Ingraham advise that starting next week her show would be heard on different stations in some markets. Yesterday, I heard an ad on The Patriot talking about their lineup of hosts. A lineup that did not include Ingraham.

A quick look at the The Patriot schedule confirms that Ingraham is indeed gone. While I wasn't always her biggest fan, her show was usually an entertaining departure from the talk radio norm. I wonder where Twin Cities Ingraham fans will now be going for their daily fix.

Profile Of A Face Painter

Personalized license plate spotted yesterday on a truck with a large Vikings decal:


Now, that is a hardcore purple fan.

Friday, September 12, 2008

First To Fall Over When The Atmosphere Is Less Than Perfect

I'm watching the Fox News coverage of Hurricane Ike and cannot believe the absurdity that is Geraldo Rivera. This bonehead has been standing on the Galveston Seawall for the last five hours or so and hasn't uttered a single coherent sentence.

Rivera's out there in 120 mph winds shouting his typical nonsense and non sequiturs into a microphone that cuts out every ten seconds or so. In those awkward moments of audio silence the television viewer is treated to the embarrassingly hilarious image of Gerry doing a brilliant Marcel Marceau imitation as he struggles to stand upright while Ike tries to slap him down.

I've always wondered what the point of plopping some foolish reporter out in the middle of an impending disaster like Hurricane Ike was. I think I know why, in this case. It's the proverbial canary in a coalmine situation. When Ike finally picks Geraldo off the seawall and flings him into the Gulf of Mexico all of the other media folks will know it's time to quickly retreat into their hotel bunkers to wait the storm out.

Congratulations to Fox News for finally finding a legitimate use for Geraldo Rivera.

It Depends

I'm certainly no Sarah Palin (insert many, many jokes at my expense here), but for what's it worth, here's my take on the "Bush Doctrine" from February of 2003:

By focusing so much attention on the Iraq and Al Qaeda connection I think people are missing the bigger picture. This war on terrorism isn't just about Al Qaeda and it isn't just about Iraq and it isn't just about eliminating the threat that they both pose. After 9/11 Bush could have come out and said, "We have been attacked by Al Qaeda and will now wage war against them until they are wiped out."

But he didn't limit the war or the war's objectives to the destruction of Al Qaeda. He chose instead to embark on a wide ranging and long run course of action whose ultimate goal is a sweeping historical change of the world's political landscape. Terrorists and the countries that support them were served notice that they will no longer be able to carry on as they have for the last thirty years. The terrorists will be hunted down and eliminated and the countries they fund, support, and harbor will cease doing so or have their regimes toppled.

In some cases this will be the result of direct military action, in others through the use of economic and diplomatic levers, and finally in others through internal revolts. This program might seem impossibly grandiose and over reaching to some but I believe that this is what Bush has in mind. He got into trouble when he labeled it a "crusade" shortly after 9/11 but in many ways that is an apt description of it.


The Bush Doctrine if you would call it that seeks a world where nations are free to develop economically and politically without fear of terrorism or rogue regimes brandishing weapons of mass destruction. It is a remarkably ambitious and some would say unrealistic goal but I believe that the rewards of peace and stability are worth the sacrifices and costs that must be paid to achieve them. I don't know if most Americans would agree with my sentiments or if they really understand the nature of the war that we're now involved in but if you want to understand Bush's attitude towards Iraq you need to put it in the context of his larger perspective of the war on terror. It's much bigger than just Saddam and Osama.

This is just one deservedly obscure blogger's take, but I think it shows that when you say "Bush Doctrine" there is no easy, cut and dried defintion of exactly what the term means and to criticize Palin for not coming up with an answer that mirrors what Gibson interprets it to mean is not reasonable.

If At First You Don't Succeed .....

Steve Perry of the City Pages in 2004, on the perils of electing George Bush:

On November 2 we won't be voting for anything like the measure of change we deserve the chance to vote for. We will be casting our ballots in a referendum on whether we wish to pause and reconsider our march toward a homegrown American fascism.

Steve Perry of Minnesota Independent in 2008, on the perils of electing Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin emerges from the most militaristic strand of contemporary evangelicalism; her brand of incipient theocracy excites the Christian base like nothing in living memory.

Fascism, theocracy. OK, he's soon to be 0-for-2. Laugh at Steve Perry if you like, but if he keeps up with these dire predictions every election cycle, one of these times he's bound to be right!

I predict it will be the year 2856. Steve Perry, whose body will have long perished, but his brain will be kept alive in a jar in George Soros's basement, will release a statement on the Minnesota Absolutely Positively Non Partisan and Objective Journal of Reason and Science, saying:

If the carbon based life forms of the Greater Western Galactic Control Perimeter insist on achieving psychic consensus on the leadership of the Zytop Belinksgardarnde Contiuum, mark my words, it will be the beginning of a millennia of Fungal-Based Corporatist Anarchy. Hear me now!

If the murmurs I'm already picking up on my tin foil hat about the Stalinesque streak of Zytop Belinksgardarnde are accurate, I would not bet against this one.

No Wire Hangers, Ever!

U.S. panel approves final duties on China hangers:

WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. trade panel gave final approval on Thursday to steep anti-dumping duties on billions of steel wire hangers from China.

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted 6-0 that unfairly low priced imports from China had harmed steel hanger manufacturers in Texas and Alabama employing 139 workers.

It's about time those spineless D.C. bureaucrats do something to address the shameful wire hanger gap. Without a an American based wire hanger industry our national security and very way of life is at risk.

Just imagine what the Chinese could do if we were to allow them to corner the market on wire hangers.

"We are going to reunite Taiwain with the mainland by force. And if you dare to do anything to stop us, we'll cut off your wire hanger supplies at once. Just try to pick up your dry cleaning now foolish Americans! Bwah, bwah, bwah!"

The fact that scores of small independent American dry cleaners may well be forced out business because of increased costs and American dry cleaner consumers across the country will pay more is a small price to pay to protect the livlihood of those 139 workers who help keep American safe by manufacturing wire hangers.

Librarian Reached

Returning to yesterday's debunking of the Palin smears, specifically the alleged book banning. You may remember the Time magazine going to print after wrapping up its meticulous fact checking with:

That [librarian], Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment.

While Time was stonewalled, by some miracle, ABC News got the goods. Ellen The Librarian, was apparently run down in the remote Alaskan bush, hog-tied, and forced to give this statement:

The librarian at the center of a 1996 controversy with then-Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin says she can't recall any effort by Palin to ban specific books from the town library.

In her first public statement since Palin was named the GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mary Ellen Baker said today, "I simply do not recall a conversation with specific titles," Baker told ABCNews.com.

To put it in Washington DC investigation-speak: Er, ah, I have no recollection of that Senator.

The librarian's statement does corroborate the account that then Mayor Palin inquired about the theoretical possibility of removing obscene books. (Something Palin has already openly discussed). But that's as far as the "book banning scourge" goes. Please adjust your reality meters for future media coverage of this story.

The whack-a-mole exercise starts with this story from the local Democrat party activist funded website Minnesota Independent (rimshot). Excerpts of their Q&A with some author warning of the impending theocracy if McCain/Palin are elected:

MnIndy: She does seem to have a lot of inclinations that would be commonly termed theocratic. I'm thinking of the dust-up over her trying to fire the town librarian in Wasilla, Alaska, who would not cooperate in helping her ban books.

Sharlet: I think her instincts are theocratic. We saw that in the book [banning effort]. That's essentially an authoritarian thing, especially if you look at the books she wanted to ban, one of which was called Pastor, I Am Gay, which was written by a local Christian conservative pastor who took a gentler approach to this. So there's another level to this. It's one thing to censor a book; that's frightening enough. It's an even more frightening thing to try and censor your neighbor, to try to put tape over the mouth of someone who lives right next to you and is a conservative Christian himself. That shows a real attention to detail that one finds in figures such as Stalin. I think there is a Stalinesque streak to her personality.

Yep, she's got a Stalinesque streak. Meaning multiple instances. There is the well known and outrageous attempt at denying the citizens tax dollar funded access to the deep well of wisdom that is Pastor I Am Gay. And, of course, her earlier attempt at starving out the Little Ukraine section of Wasilla back during the Wonder Bread shortage of aught-two. She's Stalin, I'm telling you!

Except .... she never tried to censor Pastor I Am Gay. True, she did not require that it be read aloud by all citizens in the town square every hour on the hour. (That's usually enough to get you called a Stalinist by Democrat activists.) But, according to the primary actors in the drama, she never, ever tried to censor it from the library.

The allegation that she did comes from a man named Howard Bess. He's a pastor in Wasilla, a political rival of Palin, and the author of such best selling and heart-warming classics as Pastor I Am Gay.

Again, from ABC News:

Palin's church at the time, the Assembly of God, had been pushing for the removal a book called "Pastor I Am Gay" from local bookstores, according to the book's author Pastor Howard Bess, of the Church of the Covenant in nearby Palmer, Alaska.

"And she was one of them," said Bess, "this whole thing of controlling information, censorship, that's part of the scene," said Bess.

To me, that man sounds bitter. I imagine he's clinging to his guns and religion too. Maybe Obama will fly up there soon and get his mind right. But you get the sense that a lot of small town gossip, rivalries, and back biting is being blown up to epic proportions, in the service of an agenda here. Putting this situation in the national spotlight as a primary qualification of Sarah Palin's fitness is equivalent of Dave Thune getting nominated for VP and the national press devoting all of its resources to publicizing Mike Costello's opinion of him.

Back to the specific allegation being promulgated by Minnesota Independent (rimshot), the latest facts on the case of banning Pastor I Am Gay:

The local newspaper reporter who covered the controversy, Paul Stuart, claims he was later told by the librarian that Palin wanted three specific books removed from the library.

In her statement to ABC News, the librarian said, "I am unable to dispute or substantiate the information Paul Stuart provided to you."

Well, that's odd. Are you telling me that, just maybe, the original reporting in the Wasilla Frontiersman was flawed? Don't they have editors and fact checkers up there? Time magazine can empathize, they've dealt with librarian Mary Ellen "Stonewall" Baker too.

Another possibility, maybe the witness here was willing to say one thing when only the locals were paying attention, but now that the white hot glare of the national spotlight and accountability is on her, she's correcting the record.

Another possibility, Karl Rove is using an orbiting Halliburton satellite to beam down evil mind rays thus warping her memory and creating confusion about the very real book bans of Wasilla, Alaska.

Watch for Time Magazine and/or the Minnesota Independent (rim shot) to be following up on the latter charge soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Was That Wrong?

Gotta love this bit from a front page WSJ story on Federal oil officials being accused In sex and drugs scandal (sub req):

WASHINGTON -- Employees of the federal agency that last year collected more than $11 billion in royalties from oil and gas companies broke government rules and created a "culture of ethical failure" by allegedly accepting gifts from and having sex with industry representatives, the Interior Department's top watchdog said Wednesday.

A report by the Interior Department's inspector general, Earl Devaney, described a party atmosphere at the Denver office of the Minerals Management Service, a bureau of the department. Some employees of the office, which houses the department's royalty-in-kind program, "frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relations with oil and gas company representatives," the report said, adding that "sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length."

No, they really can't can they. Kind of hard to get intimate at that distance.

Beginning To See The Light?

Brad at the Think Progress Wonk Room (a favorite hangout for Atomizer) is disturbed to report that Tim Pawlenty is chilling on the impact of man-made global warming:

Appearing on the Glenn Beck radio show yesterday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) denigrated the science of climate change, saying the human impact on global warming was only "half a percent." He implied mandatory programs to reduce global warming emissions--like the cap-and-trade programs he has previously called for--would "wreck the economy." And he said that it's "understandable" that plans to fix global warming have "faded into the background" because of the "energy crisis":

But, you know, in my view is this: you can argue that the world, the globe is warming as it always has for natural reasons. But I think the weight of the science indicates that at least some of it--you could argue it's half a percent or something more substantial--is caused by human behavior... But, in the wake of this energy crisis, where people are struggling to pay the bills, that debate on cap and trade has fallen to the background for understandable reasons.

Last week, he was "lashing out" at RNC protesters. This week, he's "denigrating the science of climate change." Now this is the T-Paw that I could get used to having around. Welcome back.

You have to wonder if Pawlenty's evolving views on global warming are a sign that other prominent GOP backers of cap and trade may also be moving toward a more reasoned view on the matter. If T-Paw can turn toward the light, there's still hope for J-Mac.

Must See TV

As seen on Conan last night, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog mixing it up with the protestors and street characters in St. Paul during the RNC. Video here.

Highlight is the guy hawking a movie about Islamic extremism next to the F. Scott Fitzgerald statue in Rice Park. Quoting Triumph: "If you liked The Great Gatsby, you'll love Home Grown Jihaad!"

He also meets up with a hipster looking guy promoting the movie Obsession, another one about Islamic radicalism. (Triumph punch line: I didn't know a member of the Strokes was a Republican.) For some reason, I find myself getting emails from that guy, promoting a screening of the movie in Dearborn, Michigan this week. Turns out I've got to pumice my bunions that night, so I can't fly out. But if you all are available and interested in seeing a celebrity who appeared on the Conan O'Brien show, here is that web site.

A Day To Remember

If you're looking for a well-conducted local 9/11 memorial event to attend, I would urge you to head down to Lake Harriet and take in the Linden Hills 911 Tribute:

The 7th Annual 9-11 Tribute will again take place on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lake Harriet Band Shell. Join us for another evening of music and remembrance of the events that took place on 9-11-2001. We will again have a march for the young people. All that participate will receive an American Flag to wave.

A complete list of the top notch musical performers and concert program is available here. It features a bevy of American songs and composers such as Copland, Barber, Randall Thompson, Sousa, and Irving Berlin.

Although we will likely not be able to make it this year, my wife and I have attended this event a number of times in the past and found it somber, moving, and stirring. It's both a remembrance of the sorrow of that terrible day and a tribute to America. It's also refreshingly non-partisan on a day when the focus should be on what unites us as Americans.

Cooking with Gas

I'm officially tired of reading and writing about Andrew Zimmern. However, I'm dragged back in by his latest melt down which deserves one final notice. Up until now, he's kind of tip-toed around and avoided bearing his true partisan colors. Today, the mask drops and the pot boils over. His comments on Sarah Palin have got to be read to be believed:

I have been in a major funk ever since the book-banning scourge of Wasilla, Alaska, was nominated for the Veep seat on the GOP ticket. She is a Bush clone of the highest order, and her selection shows that her running mate is no maverick, just a brain-dead moron for selecting her as his potential second in command--or maybe he is the smartest man alive based on her resonance with some of the voting public. Are Americans that easily swayed from what has gone on for the last eight years?

Sadly, the one quote of hers that I just couldn't shake, the one that dominated the dinner conversation at Heidi's all night long on Friday, proved to be the one that was purely Internet mythology. Bigger than the secessionist sympathizing, the 'drill at all costs' theories, the pork issues, and bigger than Palin's assertions that the Iraq war is a mission from God and that community organizers are a bunch of do-nothings compared to small-time mayors, the one that really got to me was the Wannabe Veep's belief that "dinosaurs are 4,000-year-old Satan lizards."

It’s a funny one and seems to fit Palin like a glove. How can a major party, check that, even a minor one, put forth this lunatic as a candidate for office? Aren't you amazed? And the scariest thought is that statistically, McCain, due to his age and ill health will probably guarantee that Palin gets to be POTUS at some point, should they win the election. At this rate, Michele Bachmann will be touted as a potential Secretary of State nominee! You can see why I am upset.

Wow! With that level of seething and name calling, did Zimmern ever consider becoming a member of the Star Tribune editorial board?

First, the easy debunking of the foundations of Zimmern's rage:

1. Book banning - no, never happened. No legitimate source has claimed she has ever done anything of the sort. Even in a hit piece published in Time Magazine, the best they could come up with was a second hand claim from a political opponent that she inquired, on behalf of constituents, on the possibility of removing books with obscene language from the municipal library.

Please note, Time published this allegation even though its fact-checking, with the person who supposedly took Palin's inquiry, ended with:

That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment.

Couldn't be reached? What, she wasn't listed in the Wasilla White Pages when the reporter took a look? She was out field dressing a moose when the reporter stopped by? You're Time Magazine, find a way to reach her!

Reminds me of that great line from All The Presidents Men. Editor Ben Bradlee chiding his reporters to get proper sourcing on an explosive charge: we're about to accuse Haldeman, who only happens to be the second most important man in this country, of conducting a criminal conspiracy from inside the White House. It would be nice if we were right.

That interaction is probably apocryphal. Nevertheless, Time could use a man like the fake Ben Bradlee today.

2. Secessionist sympathizing - not true, not true. This claim is based on the front page New York Times report that Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence party for 2 years. Upon belatedly finding out the truth, the Times retracted the claim. I guess Zimmern isn't a Power Line reader. Maybe he should be.

3. The Iraq war is a mission from God - as characterized by Zimmern, not true. From the AP, her full quote, delivered while asking school kids to pray for the troops in Iraq:

"Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she said. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

Sounds to me like she had some uncertainty there. Struggling with the unknown (God's will), while having faith that our national leaders are acting in a conscientious and moral fashion. I think that would describe just about every Republican, and a lot of non-Republicans who still love the country, value its institutions, and have a mature respect for the leaders our democratic process selects.

BTW, her words also echo another Republican from a rural area who had very little experience in matters like warfare, diplomacy, etc.

To a minister who said he hoped the Lord was on our side, he replied that it gave him no concern whether the Lord was on our side or not, for, he added, "I know the Lord is always on the side of right," and with deep feeling added, "But God is my witness that it is my constant anxiety and prayer that both myself and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Abraham Lincoln. In Zimmern's mind, another lunatic, no doubt.

4. her belief that "dinosaurs are 4,000-year-old Satan lizards" - Hee haw! But not true. It was an entirely made up quote, an intentional hoax by an Internet prankster. Apparently its making the rounds on the email networks of liberals. And now its infested the thinking of great minds on the Left like Matt Damon and Andrew Zimmern.

Granted, Zimmern says he now understands it's fake. Then he resorts to the 60 Minutes defense - it's fake, but accurate! (It's a funny one and seems to fit Palin like a glove.)

But he admits that this specific allegation "dominated" the dinner conversation between he and his smirking band of gourmands, supping at some posh Minneapolis bistro. Copping to this level of idiocy and superficiality should be kind of embarrassing for him. They actually believed for a time that a woman of Palin's education, experience, and accomplishment could believe this or would use these terms. I'm not sure there is sane person in this country, even the most ardent Creationist or Bible literalist, who would characterize their beliefs as such. Given how easily they were taken in, I get the sense that Zimmern and company believe that most Republicans/religious people/rural denizens have beliefs of this nature.

Maybe Zimmern should spend less time tracking down Chicken Testicle Soup Recipes in the back alleys of Timbuktu and more time getting to know the exotic ways of, say, Wasilla, Alaska. Or even the Twin Cities (outside of Uptown/Grand Ave.). He's a complete stranger to the real America.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's The Spending Stupid

One of the funniest claims (they make hilarious clams as well) made by Democrats is that instead of investing (a nice euphemism for spending) in education, infrastructure, and social programs, President Bush has given away tax cuts to his rich cronies and squandered a good chunk of the federal budget on unnecessary wars. And then, he hasn't even had the decency to take care of the veterans whose lives he has destroyed!

An editorial in today's WSJ called The Spending Explosion lays out the real numbers.

The real news in yesterday's Congressional Budget Office semiannual report is that federal expenditures on everything from roads to homeland security to health care will on present trends reach 21.5% of GDP next year. That's a larger share of national output than at anytime since 1992. If the cost of the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prove to be large and are taken into account, next year federal outlays could be higher as a share of the economy than at anytime since World War II. In this decade alone, federal spending has increased by almost $1.2 trillion, or 57%.

Well sure, say the Dems, that's because of all the money wasted on the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Another myth is that the war on terror has busted the budget. While operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are expensive, defense spending is $605 billion this year, or about 4.5% of GDP. That only seems large by comparison to the holiday from history of the 1990s, when defense fell to 3% of GDP. As recently as 1986, defense spending was 6.2% of GDP.

But the deficit, the real problem is the deficit.

The federal deficit is expected to hit $407 billion for fiscal 2008 (which ends at the end of this month) and $438 billion next year. Still, the deficit is expected to be only 3% of GDP, which is in line with the average of the last 30 years.

But the tax cuts for the rich...

The Bush tax cuts also aren't the budget problem. Until this year federal tax collections have been surging. In the four years after the 2003 tax cuts become law, tax receipts exploded by $785 billion. This year revenues have declined by 0.8%, but a major reason is the $150 billion bipartisan tax rebate that has hit the Treasury without spurring the economy.

So what's the problem then?

The real runaway train is what CBO calls a "substantial increase in spending" that is "on an unsustainable path." That's for sure. The nearby chart shows how much some federal accounts have expanded since 2001, and in inflation-adjusted dollars. This year alone, federal agencies have lifted their spending by 8.1%, with another 7% raise expected for 2009. There's certainly no recession in Washington. The CBO says that, merely in the two years that Democrats have run Congress, federal expenditures are up $429 billion -- to $3.158 trillion.

Before we get to the chart, let's take a look at some of the specific areas. Again, these increases are in INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS from 2001-2008.

We all know that:

The only way to improve education is to finally start investing in our schools and teachers.

* Education spending increased 57%

The anti-science Bush administration outsourced research to private industry.

* Health research increased 55%

The Bush administration has shamefully turned their back on our veterans.

* Veterans benefits increased 58%

The Bush administration doesn't want the government to help pay for anyone's health care.

* Medicare spending up 51%

The Bush administration doesn't care about America's hard hit communities.

* Community development spending up 91%

Now, I have no idea what "community development" spending even is. I assume that community organizers have a hand in there somewhere.

Yes, defense spending has increased 64%. But considering the cuts made in the Nineties and the threats we now face today, that seems like a reasonable increase.

The areas where the Bush administration really held the line on spending are:

* Highways and mass transit up 22%

* Social security up 17%

* Energy up 16%

Of course those increases only seem small compared with the ridiculous increases in all the other areas of federal spending.

So when Democrats falsely claim that President Bush hasn't "invested" in these areas, what they're really saying is that if you think federal spending in the Bush administration was bloated, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Sofia's Choice

Slovakia routs Bulgaria 82-0 in women's hockey:

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP)--With more goals than minutes in the game, Slovakia's women's ice hockey team claimed an amazing 82-0 victory over Bulgaria in Olympic qualifying.

Slovakia outshot the Bulgarians 139-0 during the 60-minute game, played in Latvia. The margin of victory is a record for a women's International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned event.

Geez. Giving up eighty-two goals is bad enough, but the Bulgarian keeper only faced 139 shots. That's a pathetic .410 save percentage. Even the most sieve-like of goalies should be able to stop half the shots that come their way just by standing in the crease.

Our Condemnations to the Chef

My post on the petty partisan sniping by Andrew Zimmern provoked a few responses. Most succinctly, Dale in Annapolis:

"Chef Andrew Zimmern, a guy famous for putting disgusting things in his mouth ... " Is this yet more proof that you are what you eat?

Jordan from parts unknown is a long time Zimmern reader and has this analysis of his past work:

Your post on Monday regarding our local chef, economist, humanitarian Andrew Zimmern prompted me to respond.

I have been reading Zimmern for a little over a year. I'm a foodie so I can't help it. If there is something new out there I want to know about it. Therefore I have had to simply hold back my gag reflex at times. As you can see from some of the material I have pulled off his blog (some of which you even cited) he tends to find free markets and America repulsive. I have no problems with this. We are all allowed to be as partisan as we want but I must admit it's rather odd to wrap your head around the oysters were outstanding and by the way George Bush sucks.

Zimmern from September 3:

I can also tell you that I cannot wait for the RNC to be over. First off, it means I can walk into a restaurant without having to deal with the inevitable CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE PARTY sign that seems to be hanging in every business I stroll into. Secondly, it means I don’t have to wait in line for three hours to get a sausage sandwich at Cossetta.

Having been someone that used to live Uptown I can somewhat relate as the yearly art festival always me want to pack my bags and stay somewhere else for a few days. But I would not doubt it if Andrew would have been giddy as a school girl had this been the DNC in town.

SP NOTES: Incidentally, Zimmern's claim about the intolerably long lines at Cossetta's have been widely disputed elsewhere. For example, this from the Pioneer Press:

Cossetta's Italian Market and Pizzeria manager Ray Vanyo was mad that it was outside a security perimeter around the Xcel and not easily accessible to delegates. Vanyo described business as "dismal."

In fact, Brian Lambert, writing in the same publication as Zimmern had this to say:

As I walked back to my car last night a guy in an apron was out on the sidewalk waving RNC evacuees into the huge tented garden Cossetta's had set up for all that windfall business we heard so much about in the months leading up to the invasion of "rich, white oligarchs" as "The Daily Show" puts it. Like every night of the RNC, Cossetta's giant tent was one-tenth full.

It was a forlorn scene. But I needed a slice for the road. There was no one in line.

Don't they have any editors over there at MSP? Maybe get the boys together, work out one lie for publication between them?

Back to Jordan's email:

More from Zimmern:

Speaking of web reads, I am now officially addicted to Brian Lambert's blog on this site; his piece last week about the Stribune predicament was informative and laugh-out-loud funny.

He adores Lambert, need I say more?

Why doesn't the United States stand up tomorrow and announce a global hunger initiative aimed at getting food into the hands of the world's hungriest? Why don't we single-handedly take care of the UN World Food Programme's money crunch? Why not stand up and show the rest of the world that in our country, we stand alongside the least fortunate in time of need? Well, probably because we can't even do that in our own country.

Yes, more typical bashing of America. I wonder if Andrew has ever looked at the amount of money we send around the world to help others. I'm just so sick of this line of thinking from the left. What I find even more revolting is many on the left sure talk the talk about helping the needy but you know who they want to help the needy? The taxpayer, not themselves. Many on the left make millions and millions and then the press showers praise on them for donating a small fraction to a charity. Wake up folks there are some in Hollywood that make 20 million for 1 picture. They're not exactly hurting their bottom line yet they have no problem doing it to others.
According to a WCCO piece I caught online by John Lauritsen, it is a weak economy to blame for Temple having to close its doors, rising food costs, a sluggish economy (let me tell you, this is a full-blown recession and could approach depression standards very shortly)..

"let me tell you, this is a full-blown recession and could approach depression standards very shortly" ....... It's just a hunch I have but I doubt Zimmern has ever had even an Econ 101 class.

SP NOTE: Doubts on his economic forecast psychic ability also persist.

Now, I have seen angry mobs of thousands protesting food shortages in Morocco, Bolivia, and the Philippines in the last year, and it is scary. There is real anger out there, and it is not just directed at us but at all the "haves" in the world regardless of citizenship. I have been pelted with rocks, chicken soup, peach pits, bottle caps, and rotten fruit—and that was just in Bolivia. I have walked in neighborhoods affected in part by our President's ill-fated foreign policies (or lack thereof), and it is upsetting, to say the least. But what I really want to know is which of the candidates for Dubya's job has a realistic solution for dealing with this issue, curbing our misguided ethanol policy, remaking the absurd subsidy regulations in the USA, ending our insane reliance on foreign oil, and helping our nation regain its status as the country most likely to show up with food (not guns) when another nation needs help?

Here we go again, Bush is responsible for all situations in the world and in Zimmern's head probably all the way back to the Garden of Den. Yes, Bush made Eve eat the apple. I'll agree with him that the push for ethanol has come from both sides and it has been the worst policy to come around for the past decade at least. But he ends it with America needing to be the nation to show up with food, not guns? Yes, Andrew there are bad people in the world and there has been ever since George W made Eve eat that apple. Ever hear of Idi Amin, Sadam Hussein, Mugabe, Hitler, Stalin, Che? (Oh, wait..I know the left holds Che near and dear). Had the world known that we could have stopped the Nazi's with food instead of guns, I am sure WWII could have ended quickly.

For all those who feel that the government needs to stay out of our food choices, here is some bad news: The UK is making cooking classes mandatory in schools, and I think this is AWESOME. Here is a great chat on Just Hungry and an editorial about it on Culinate. Is the UK going to lead an uber -conscious eating trend?

It really is hard for the left to figure out what the government should and shouldn't ban and regulate or perhaps better stated they really have no sound principles or criteria so it's just willy nilly in the wind...kind of like their minds.

SP EPILOGUE: There is no purpose for Zimmern to be bashing Republicans in the middle of his restaurant reviews and food criticism. Other than perhaps the intentional alienation and insulting of 50% of the potential audience for his work. Granted, that was the business model for most American newspapers, like the Star Tribune, at least until recently. As he may or may not have noticed, that only works when you've got a monopoly. Until you achieve that, best take Laura Ingram's advice. Shut up and cook.

Church On The Hill

One of the Twin Cities real gems is the Cathedral of Saint Paul. It's a place that locals often take for granted (I know I did for years), but never fails to awe and impress out of town visitors (at least it hasn't in my experiences).

Maintaining such a wonder doesn't come cheap which is why the Cathedral Heritage Foundation was established and why special collections will be held this coming weekend to help raise money to retire the remaining debt:

Our beautiful Cathedral of Saint Paul requires everyone's help! We urgently need to finish paying for the $30 million replacement of the copper dome and roof. Please consider a sacrificial gift for this collection to assist with the remaining $13 million debt. The Cathedral Heritage Foundation has been established to address our Cathedral's pressing restoration needs--none of the funds from this collection will go to the Cathedral parish nor Archdiocese. Checks should be made out to the Cathedral Heritage Foundation. Archbishop John Ireland relied on every Catholic's support to build this great monument of faith and so we need everyone's support now to preserve it for future generations.

If you get a chance, drop a couple of bucks into the basket this weekend or find out how else you can contribute here. The Cathedral is a special place in the Twin Cities well-worth preserving.