Sunday, November 30, 2008

Professing Ignorance

It was a bad week for journalism ethics professors.

First, one from Washington and Lee University crawled down for his ivory tower to boldly proclaim that those phony documents used by 60 Minutes in the infamous Bush-National Guard story four years ago STILL have yet to be proven as inauthentic.

As time goes on, the defenders of this 60 Minutes story appear more and more like the Japanese soldiers found still fighting WWII decades after their nation's surrender.

The chore of deprogramming the professor falls to Scott Johnson of Power Line and he is brutally efficient. Excerpt:
Wasserman cites the Thornburgh-Boccardi report in support of his argument here, but It is hard to believe that Wasserman has read it. If he has read it, this professor of journalism ethics needs to be reminded that it's not ethical to withhold from your readers relevant evidence directly contradicting your thesis.
A second journalism ethics professor, this time from some college in Canada, picked a fight with another rather hard target, Mark Steyn. It has to do with Steyn's continuing problems with the Human Rights Tribunals in the Great White North, a 3-year-old book review he published in Maclean's magazine, and the Ayatollah Khomenei's advice on what to do with the meat of an animal with which you may have copulated. Seriously.

It's all covered in this laugh out loud and devastating post by Steyn. Excerpt:
.... so why would a prissy PC drone like Prof Miller be so cavalier as to expose himself as entirely ignorant of the subject he's loftily pontificating on? Not for the first time you realise that, for the lazy white liberal, driving around with a "CELEBRATE DIVERSITY" sticker absolves one from having to take the slightest interest in other cultures.
Plus, there are about a dozen variations of euphemisms for unnatural relations with sheep. Amazingly, none are gratuitous, all are integral to the plot. Example:
In other words, anyone who had the most casual acquaintance with the Ayatollah's writings would be aware not only that it's not in the least bit surprising but entirely par for the course that the old boy had complex rules re using your embraceable ewe for the Friday night kebab special.
The pathetic positions advocated by the Professors in these two dust-ups do not reflect well on the state of journalism instruction in our institutions of higher learning.

I think the problem is they have too much time on their hands. Journalism in this day and age is just so ethical, the journalism ethics professoriate has nothing to study and they are relegated to grasping at straws.

I can only hope this level of sloppy teaching doesn't start to negatively affect the quality of our journalists in the future.

What We Believe

The December 1st issue of National Review had a host of articles on the future of the conservative movement in wake of this year's election. They authors are some of the best and brightest minds on the right and if you can get your hands on that issue, I would encourage you read the lot of them. One article that caught my attention was by Yuval Levin called Back to Basics, Ahead to Particulars. I found this passage in particular--on common beliefs shared by conservatives--to be especially insightful:

The common core of beliefs that unites conservatives lies deep, providing a foundation but not a whole political edifice. Just about everyone who calls himself a conservative, for instance, is more grateful for what works in our world than angry about what doesn't. And just about everyone who calls himself a conservative believes that the most significant human problems result from human failings, rather than from imperfect distributions of material resources--and so are permanent rather than transitory.

Because we are grateful and impressed that anything works at all, we value the social and political arrangements that make things work, and we seek to build on what is best about them rather than start over. Different institutions have evolved this way over time to address permanent human problems.

The family is our way of contending with permanent moral imperfection and the permanent challenge of rearing the young. The next generation begins where every human generation has always begun, not where the latest liberal education fad left off. It must be raised more or less as good men and women through the ages have always been raised, and must be offered an example of time-tested moral living. Future moral progress has to be continuous with past moral progress.

The market is our way of contending with permanent intellectual imperfection, and of channeling individual avarice toward common prosperity in a free society. Alternative ways of pursuing prosperity tend to fail because they fall back on two delusions: that we can know enough to govern the economy in every detail, and that a reallocation of resources can eradicate poverty.

A strong military and an attitude of watchful caution are our ways of contending with the permanent belligerence of mankind and the permanent danger of hostile nations with an interest in weakening or harming us. We do not think that the absence of perfect peace is the result of temporary misunderstandings, and we have learned from history that peace is best achieved through confidence, strength, and interest-driven alliances abroad--and through economic prosperity and moral constancy at home.

Levin goes on to say that rather than changing these foundational principals, conservatives need to do a better job of understanding the issues of the day and explaining how these principals apply to them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pursuiting the Happiness

In these dour and cynical times, it's encouraging to know that some children still understand and appreciate what makes America the last great hope. In today's WSJ, Melanie Kirkpatrick discovered What Newcomers Know About Thanksgiving:

Like the Pilgrims, most of the students at Newcomers say their families came here seeking better lives. The Pilgrims "were looking for something they didn't have in England," says a girl from Colombia. "When you come here it is the same. You have to face difficulties." An Ecuadorian girl sitting near her agrees, "When they [the Pilgrims] came here, they felt alone and didn't have friends. Me either."

Virtually every student I talk to has a similar story: "My dad came here to have a better life," says a girl from Ivory Coast. "He worked as a house boy. Now he works for the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority]." Or a boy from China: "My mother finished elementary school. Then there wasn't any money for middle school. . . . She wanted to come here to make a better life for her children." A Bangladeshi boy quotes the Declaration of Independence; his family came here for the purpose of "pursuiting the happiness."

Friday, November 28, 2008

But We're Okay

Last week, I was a call with a work colleague from Nanjing, China. He's a young man who's been with our company for almost six months. Shortly after starting he spent six weeks in the US for training and has traveled to Singapore for meetings as well.

A while ago, we decided that it would be good for him to visit an engineering center that we have in Mumbai, possibly in December. During our conversation last week I asked if he had a chance to firm up his plans for that trip yet.

He explained that he was quite busy on a project right now and probably wouldn't be able to travel until January. I told him that was fine as long as he got meet with the team in India at some point in the near future.

He paused and I could tell that something was on his mind. Slowly, with some hesitation he explained that he was worried about the security situation in Mumbai and wasn't sure if it was safe to travel there.

I assured him it was and checked off a long list of mutual acquaintances--both Chinese and American--who had traveled to Mumbai without incident (at least of the terrorist variety--gastrointestinal, perhaps...). "Sure, there have been some attacks, but it's not like going to Pakistan," I explained hoping to ease his worries. To provide additional reassurance, I promised to contact an Indian gentleman whom we both work with on a regular basis to confirm that there no reason he should be afraid of traveling to India.

I didn't have a chance to make that contact yet and after this week's attacks it's probably pointless anyway. If this guy was concerned about security and safety in Mumbai before, his fears have now only been heightened and validated. Maybe we can just have them do a web conference instead.

Called Out On The Matt

Riftimes e-mails on my post on a KSTP radio host named Matt:

I'm sad to say this, but a correction opportunity beckons!

I was also listening early Sunday evening, and share you're amazement at the host. It seemed that he was just saying anything that came to mind. I kept listening because it was so ludicrous. However, it was not Matt Thomas (who I'm not very fond of since he seems to take everything on his show way too seriously), but Matt McNeill. I remember because I made a mental note not to listen to him again! If you wish to confirm, a quick look at the KSTP web site shows that McNeill is on weekends, or you might check your inside 1500 sources. Thanks.

BTW - I enjoy your show on Saturday.

D'oh! Wrong Matt! I'm tempted to shift the blame for my error to KSTP for creating confusing by having two muddleheaded Matts on the radio in the first place, but I must take final responsibility. I regret the error.

However, since I did listen to some of the "best" of Matt Thomas on Thanksgiving evening I stand by my opinion that his show offers little in the way of insight or entertainment. The only thing he has going for him is there's another host at the station sharing his name who brings even less to the table.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day For Thanks

Amidst the swirl of family, football, food, and fine wines and spirits, we should take at least a moment and recall that the day is meant for giving thanks where it is most due:

Father, all of Creation rightly owes you thanks and praise.
Your justice, love and mercy abound.
We thank you this day for all that you have given us:

For the Passion and Death of your Divine Son, we thank you Father, through the Cross, He redeemed the world.

For the Church, we thank you Father,it is our beacon for salvation.

For the martyrs and saints who give testimony to your Son,
we thank you Father, their witness to your Son is our inheritance.

For our loved ones and friends who have died and gone before us,
we thank you Father, their love abides with us forever.

For loving spouses, we thank you Father, together we seek you.

For the gift of children, we thank you Father, they are your precious gifts to us and to the world.

For the gift of our families, loved ones and good friends,
we thank you Father, Through them we see the reflection of your Son.

For jobs, our homes and all that we have, we thank you Father, give us only that which we need, as we seek Your Kingdom.

For the bounty we are about to eat, we thank you through Christ Our Lord.


Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wake Me When It's Over

You may have noticed that we've had little to say about the ongoing drama of the Coleman-Franken recount proceedings. I can't speak for my fellow Fraters, but the reason for my lack of commentary is not lack of interest in the outcome. It's that trying to follow the in and outs, ups and down, and arcane rules and regulations of the recount process is not only exhausting, at the end of the day it's a fruitless exercise. For the reality is that no matter how much someone claims to know about what's happening and what the end result of all this be, no one really knows who's going to emerge the victor or whether the events of any particular day really matter or not. Therefore my approach on the recount is to try to step back and ignore the daily news as much as possible (not a bad thing to do with the economy either). We'll know who has won when it's over.

Until then, I would prefer to enjoy the coming holidays without worrying too much about politics. The cupboard is well stocked with wine, whisky, and beer (with the fridge currently swelling with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Rush River Unforgiven Amber, Bell's Christmas Ale, the newly released Leinenkugel's Nut Brown Ale, and a variety of Summit selections). We have food to feast on, sports to watch on television, family to spend time with, and God to thank for it all. Wake me when the recount over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maybe Toast

Tonight at 7pm central time ABC will air A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. That's it. One time. You catch it tonight or wait 'til next year (pipe down TIVO freaks). Consider yourself warned Saint Paul.

Removing All Doubt

[11/28/08 Editor's note: Post corrected to reflect the correct Matt]

Unlike Atomizer, I've never been a big fan of the Matt Thomas McNeill radio show on KSTP. To me, he offers little in the way of insights when it came to sports and when it came to politics he sounds woefully out of his element.

Sunday night, I happened to catch a couple of segments of the show which only reinforced my opinion. Firstly, Thomas McNeill was talking about the BCS rankings and decrying the fact that undefeated Utah and Boise State were ranked below teams that had lost games. He said that the it was silly to compare the strength of the various conferences and he wasn't buying that a team from the Big Twelve with one loss was better than an undefeated WAC team. Taking this to its logical conclusion, if he had his way the BCS championship game would almost always end up featuring one of these undefeated teams from a weak conference that had played a cake schedule. Yeah, that would be just great (although arguably more entertaining than watching Ohio State get waxed again).

Later, Thomas McNeill ventured in to the deep waters of politics and was quickly in over his head. He was talking about how much he liked Governor Pawlenty and how he thought Pawlenty would have been a better pick for VP for McCain than Palin. He added that he didn't think this would have been enough to tip the election to McCain, but it would have been closer. Fair enough. So far. Then he went over the edge by saying that if McCain had chosen Mitt Romney for VP, he would have won the election. For a moment I wasn't sure if I was listening to Matt Thomas McNeill or Hugh Hewitt. Yeah, if only McCain had Romney at his side he would have reversed the seven point popular vote and 192 electoral college margins and defeated Obama.

Atomizer may believe that Thomas' McNeill's voice is the voice of a new generation (his generation), but I find him to be a local hack with very little credibility (and I am something of an authority on the subject of local radio hacks with little cred).

Monday, November 24, 2008

We need this win. We've got a lot of losses...

If you missed last Saturday's NARN First Team interview with Minnesota's finest and least cynical sports chronicler Ross Bernstein (yes Saint Paul, less cynical than Barreiro) you can now listen to it in its entirely here. Once again, we had a lot of fun with Ross discussing his latest book (Sixty Years & Sixty Heroes: A Celebration of Minnesota Sports), the current state of Minnesota sports, what the heck happened to Gopher football (this was before Saturday night's fiasco), his knack for getting book forwards from the biggest of names, and what we watched on television as kids on Sunday mornings (wrestling) and Friday and Saturday nights (further research has since revealed that in fact "The Dukes of Hazzard" was on Friday nights while the "Love Boat"--"Fantasy Island" twofer was Saturdays).

It was nice to get away from the doom and gloom of politics and the economy to talk sports with a local guy who is an unabashed fan of the games and Minnesota's teams. His enthusiasm is infectious and you can't help but like and admire a man who has turned his love of sports and the state into a career. I can't think of a better Christmas gift for the Minnesota sports fan in your life than a copy of his new book.

Awake From Your Slumber

Richard John Neuhaus has a sobering look at the problem of Christianity Without Culture and the difficulties that may lie ahead as the Church struggles to maintain its place in the culture at FIRST THINGS:

Babylon cannot be transformed into the New Jerusalem. The latter is God's achievement in God's good time. To attempt to achieve it on our own is a delusion. Acting on the delusion leads to fevered fanaticism; the certainty of failure leads to bitter despair. But a Church that knows itself, and publicly asserts itself, as a distinct society in its place of exile seeks the peace of the city of man and in that seeking is, in this time short of the End Time, the prolepsis of the City of God.

The Church is not merely a voluntary association of the spiritually like-minded catering to the indulgence of private sensibilities in one of Babylon's many enclaves of choice. The Church is the Body of Christ through time proposing to the world the new creation inaugurated in his cross and resurrection and promised return. Whether against, above, in paradox, or transforming, she is always critically engaged—never surrendering to the cultural captivity that is the delusion of "Christ without culture."

Yes, the imminent Kulturkampf, if that is what is in the offing, will require legal talent, political strategizing, relentless persuasion, and all the other means compatible with our constitutional order. Most of all, however, it requires the courage born of faith that the Church really is the Body of Christ through time, a distinct and public community bearing public witness to public truths about the right ordering of life both public and personal. In Catholic history, the cry through the centuries is for libertas ecclesiae--the freedom of the Church to be the Church. For Catholics and others, that freedom now faces a time of severe testing. In the defense of that freedom there have been through the centuries martyrs beyond numbering. We do not know what will happen in the months and years ahead, except that now it may be our turn.

Will religion be able to maintain its place in the American public square (however boxed in it may be) or become nothing more than a "private matter" (as many secularists want)? The question may very well be put to the test soon.

UPDATE-- Writing along similar lines, George Wiegel argues for more robust adult catechesis:

Then we come to adult catechesis. This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness. This year, a gratifying number of bishops began to accept the responsibilities of their teaching office; so, now, must parish pastors.

Work Mates

Tom e-mails to comment on my post on the different cultural attitudes towards work, specifically how people in different countries regard after hour activities with co-workers:

Coincidentally, I'm just back from a two week tour of Australia. I noticed pretty much the same thing. Each night they feted the Yank (me) and most of the staff came out for dinner (not one Bloomin' Onion, and who knew grilled octopus could be so tasty?) and it appeared that they genuinely enjoyed being with each other. I didn't see any hidden agendas or one-ups-manship I have observed sometimes in North America. The staff that didn't attend offered up sincere apologies about not being able to make it.

Over the weekend, a director of our distributor and one of his sales managers gave up their weekend (they have families) to show me around Melbourne for a couple of days. In fact when I arrived on a Sunday morning, I changed my plans and did a self tour of Sydney (I had originally planned to crash after 24 hours of travel). When the director found I did this the next day, he apologized profusely for my having to walk about on my own and wondered why I didn't call him if I felt like going out.

When we plan to have a guest in here in MN and ask if anyone would like to go to dinner with them, the question is often, "Well am I getting paid for this or will there be some comp time?" Granted, by law Ozzies get 4-weeks of paid holiday each year plus nine federal holidays and get senior service awards that can build up lots of time towards a 3-month sabbatical or such, so may be they are taken care of in other ways that make them more amenable to the occasional night out or weekend showing a guest around. One issue though, the legal limit there is .05, so the fun valve gets shut off early.

Very similar to my experiences when traveling for work overseas. You have to fight to fend off offers to take you to dinner or show you about town. At times, I have struggled to convince my hosts that not only is it okay if I don't go out on a particular night, I'm actually happy to return to the hotel for an evening of room service and solitude.

Tom also notes that our impressions of other countries are often skewed by what we see in the media:

By the way, I was in many different restaurants, pubs, domestic airliners (where beer and wine are FREE - at least on Quantas - take a note Northwest Delta),and hotel bars that serve beer in five different states in Australia. These ranged from a swank, expensive water front Mobil 3 star restaurant to a dusty dirty pub where I thought Donk, Mad Max and Crocodile Dundee would walk in next. Not once, not one time in maybe 15-20 places visited where beer was served did I see a Fosters Lager. Not on tap, not in bottles, not even in the oil can sized empties I used to find on my front lawn when I lived near a university. When I brought up the ad slogan used in the US "Foster's is Australian for beer", it got a big laugh. In fact, only one person of all the folks I met even know someone who drank Foster's but then they thought the fellow was a little off. So - it sounds like there might be a false advertising suit in the works. Don't you know some law talking guys?

It's like going to Amsterdam and trying to find an Amstel Light or a Beck's in Berlin or a Corona in Chihuahua (you can, but it's far from the leading brand). The beers that get imported into the United States and are advertised as representing countries, are often not the most popular ones in the particular country and in some cases are bit players in the local market. They are also usually not the best brews that the countries have to offer either.

And the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies...

In Saturday's WSJ, Eric Felten had a piece on Thanksgiving cocktails that included a tale of a truly prodigious feast (sub req):

For a while, the cocktail did have its proper place in the progression of the Thanksgiving feast. In 1893, the New York Times ran a delightful piece about the challenge traveling vaudevillians had trying to get a decent Thanksgiving dinner out in the boondocks. The only place actors could find a full holiday meal -- and one served quickly enough to be eaten between shows -- was in the theater-district hotels of New York.

A reporter found one such performer, his face still made up from the matinee performance at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, gobbling his dinner at the nearby Coleman House. The man ate oysters, pompano, sweetbreads, turkey with cranberry sauce and gravy, beef tenderloin with spinach and potatoes, duck, a partridge and, finally, cheese, mince pie and ice cream. Along the way, this Everest of a meal was washed down with a succession of wines -- sauterne, Margaux, Mouton Burgundy and Champagne.

And yet the man had also found room in his capacious gullet for liquor, drinks that had their proper place in the meal. The first order of business, before a single oyster was slurped, was a Manhattan. And that cocktail, with its broad and deep flavors of rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, is still a fine way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving dinner. Having had his Manhattan, the actor didn't return to the hard stuff until after his coffee, when he called for brandy dashed with noyeaux and maraschino liqueurs. He may have been a glutton, but he had the proper form and timing of his drinks down.

Anyone who's ever shared Thanksgiving Day with JB Doubtless would draw the obvious comparisons. JB likewise always is able to save space for a cocktail or three between his ravenous vittle scarfing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The World That Works Together...

One of the fascinating aspects of working in an international business is seeing the different attitudes that people in various countries have toward work, the workplace, and their co-workers. The cultural distinctions are very evident and usually easy to observe.

This morning I was chatting with some folks from the Philippines. They explained how this weekend they would be going on a "team-building" trip. They would getting on a bus along with eighty to one-hundred coworkers and driving to a resort four hours outside of Manila. There they would spend the weekend "team-building," which in this case sounds more like an extended corporate-sponsored party.

No family members, no spouses, no significant others. And it wasn't mandatory either. Yet from the sound of it, attendance was expected to be very high.

Now, imagine a similar activity taking place in the United States. A non-mandatory, non-family weekend event like that would get what, 20% of your average American workforce to show up? We have a tough time getting people to commit to going to dinner for a night when we have visitors in town. A weekend would be out of the question.

Recently, at a facility in China a group of my fellow workers had a team building activity that involved going out to a "farm" and doing things like riding horses. This event occurred on a Friday and all employees were not only forced to attend, they had to use one of their VACATION days since they wouldn't actually be working that day. Now, try passing that one by a group of American workers and you'd have an instant mutiny on your hands.

Yes, the cultural attitudes towards work are often worlds apart. And the stereotypes about the different cultural norms are often not far off base.

Today, I went to lunch with a group in town from Latin America. We were supposed to meet people from another local facility at noon. We arrived at the restaurant at 12:25pm. And stayed until 2:15pm. A long lunch punctured with frequent conversation--maybe half actually concerning work--and then a departure process that required more public physical contact than a typical Minnesota family displays in years. Vive la difference.

The Nations That Trade Together...

We've been repeatedly told that one of the best things about President Obama will be how he will restore our image and rebuild relationships in the world community. Once that old meanie Bush leaves and Obama is in the White House, the nations of the world will hold hands and sing a secularized version of Kumbaya around the global camp fire. Looks like our friends in the East haven't gotten the message quite yet (WSJ sub req):

The heads of 21 Pacific Rim countries will gather in Peru this weekend for their annual summit, with many growing increasingly worried that U.S.-Asian economic ties are about to unravel.

A global recession, rising protectionist sentiment and Democrats' recent election successes are combining to raise concerns over a possible chill in trans-Pacific relations. Among the specific steps Asian leaders fear: increased U.S. pressure on China to raise the valuation of its currency; postponement of a long-sought U.S.-Korea free-trade agreement; congressional passage of antitrade legislation; and stronger U.S. efforts to hold Asian economies to strict greenhouse-gas limits that could choke their economic growth.

There are a whole host of policies that Obama could pursue that would damage the American economy. But perhaps the one that would have the greatest and most long lasting impact would be if he followed up on the anti-free trade rhetoric from the campaign. We can only hope that Obama will recognize the danger that going down such a path would bring and pull back from the protectionist impulses that many Democrats and the special interest groups that they are beholden to now seem to be feeling. When it comes to trade, we could use another Democratic president like Bill Clinton again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hitler Was Not An Evil Man

Breaking news this week from the British Sun has revealed that Adolph Hitler was not an evil man after all. Oh, he definitely was an evil SOB, but he was just a bit short of being a man:

AN extraordinary account from a German army medic has finally confirmed what
the world long suspected: Hitler only had one ball.

War veteran Johan Jambor made the revelation to a priest in the 1960s, who wrote it down.

The priest's document has now come to light - 23 years after Johan's death.

The war tyrant's medical condition has been mocked for years in a British song.

The lyrics are: "Hitler has only got one ball, the other is in the Albert
Hall. His mother, the dirty b****r, cut it off when he was small."

That certainly is a cheeky little song mocking the evil A-dog's unenviable condition, but I've always been more familiar with a slightly different version that includes a few of his closest friends (sung to the tune of The Colonel Bogey March):
Hitler, he only had one ball
Goring, had two but they were small
Himmler, had something similar
But Goebbels had no balls at all
I'm not entirely sure where these lyrics came from but I have the vague recollection it came from these guys.

Golden Memories

This Saturday on the First Team of the NARN we'll interview noted Minnesota sports author and former rodent mascot Ross Bernstein. The latest book to come out of Ross' publishing empire is called Sixty Years & Sixty Heroes: A Celebration of Minnesota Sports:

Here is how the book is laid out: Each chapter represents a year, going back 60 years, and featured in it is, arguably, the greatest moment from the world of Minnesota sports that year. That event is then tied into an interview and biography of a hometown or homegrown hero who played a key role in it.

The book is great fodder for arguments (and a great Christmas gift) as picking out the greatest moment from any given sports year is highly subjective. One thing that I want to discuss with Ross are the high and low points of the last sixty years in Minnesota sports. Not just great individual years (like '76, '87, and '91) but great periods. For my money, it would be hard to beat 1987-1991 as a five year period of success. Two World Series titles in '87 and '91, the North Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals in '91, the Vikings the NFC championship game in '87, Gopher hockey team plays in '89 national title game, and the Gopher basketball team reaches the elite eight in 1990. Yeah, yeah it's not exactly like the run that the New England area has had lately, but this is Minnesota after all and sports success cannot be taken for granted.

Tune to AM1280 The Patriot this Saturday at noon to catch our interview with Ross. If you want to join the discussion, give us a call at 651-289-4488. If you want to hear six eight hours of the finest in local political talk listen to The Patriot from 9am-5pm on Saturday as the David Strom Show gently eases you in to six full hours of rich NARNy goodness.

The Invisible Paintbrush

Regarding the arts funding post from yesterday, Dave writes in with some additional thoughts:
Couple of things about the Clean Water scam -

First, we didn't even get 44 percent to vote no. 5 percent left the question blank, which counts as a no vote but means it just wasn't important enough for joe voter to care.

Second, it's interesting how the 'arts' have been tack-on funding for every blue collar issue in the last few years. Want a new stadium? Throw in some money for the Guthrie. Want a state run casino? Dedicate some of the proceeds to the arts. Want dedicated funding for the outdoors? Give some money to the MN Orchestra.

And last, you're missing the point when you ask if there are any 'good' composers out there. Good musicians can get a job. It's the bad ones that need government subsidies.

Good points all. Especially about the persistance of arts funding getting tacked on to unrelated, and more popular, government expenditures. As a special interest group in Minnesota, the arts lobby seems to have more politicians in its back pocket than any other group, save perhaps for the teacher's union.

Who are these politicians primarily responsible for this irresponsible spending getting slipped by the voters so often? Anyone with some legislative expertise/inside knowledge know? Save me some research time, email me with the info.

Candy Everybody Wants

Thomas Frank (the Nick Coleman of the Wall Street Journal) thinks it's time to give voters the big government liberalism they want:

But it is also possible that, for once, the public weighed the big issues and gave a clear verdict on the great economic questions of the last few decades. It is likely that we really do want universal health care and some measure of wealth-spreading, and even would like to see it become easier to organize a union in the workplace, however misguided such ideas may seem to the nation's institutions of higher carping.

How did he arrive at this conclusion?

That was the sense I got when I met last week with officers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Their mood was optimistic -- as well it should be, since labor unions spent some $450 million during the 2008 races, orchestrated massive voter outreach, and saw their candidates triumph.

What is coming, they believe, is not triangulation redux. This was, SEIU President Andy Stern told me, "a clear election not on small things." Mr. Obama "talked about what people wanted to hear about," as opposed to the culture wars. "We've redefined the center," Mr. Stern said. "Universal health care is now centrist."

Let's hope that for the majority of Americans (and not the rather small number who are union members) the leftward shift of the "center" isn't that severe. If it truly is, I'm afraid what's going to happen to the country if people get what they supposedly want.

Obama Is The Economy's Number One Fan

The old adage says that in every crisis there is opportunity. For the new Obama administration this apparently means an opportunity for government intervention in the economy on an unprecedented scale (WSJ-sup. req.):

From autos to energy to banking, President-elect Barack Obama is promising to intervene in the economy in ways that Washington hasn't tried since the 1970s, favoring some industries and products while hobbling others.

Under his financial policies, banks seeking government assistance would be forced to lend and to halt foreclosures. Automobile companies would be pushed to change their product lines to more advanced, fuel-efficient vehicles. Billions of federal dollars would promote solar, wind and biomass energy, while dirty coal power could be priced out of business.

Mr. Obama, in a video for a climate-change summit Tuesday, pledged to pursue energy policies that would reduce greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050. Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking to a Wall Street Journal conclave of business leaders Tuesday, said the economic crisis facing the country is "an opportunity to do things you could not do before."

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Mr. Emanuel said.

Easily the most frightening words to yet come from the Obama administration to be. While some businesses are sure to welcome this new interventionist approach as they scheme to make sure it benefits them, overall it's likely to stifle innovation, risk taking, and growth. It all depends on just whose industry is being hobbled.

UPDATE--In another piece of economic interest from today's WSJ, Andy Kessler urges us to take a holiday from agonizing over the daily gyrations of the stock market:

So which is it now: an efficient mechanism or a manipulating liar? Should you listen to it warning of doom or anticipating renewal? I'd say stick wax in your ears and don't listen to the market until February.

Don't get me wrong. The freezing of the credit markets is wreaking havoc on the world economy. Corporate profits are dropping. Central banks are fighting off deflation and may not turn off the spigots fast enough -- which could ignite runaway inflation. But because of the credit mess, I am convinced the stock market is at its least efficient today. Don't read too much into any move. Here are the five biggest dislocations taking place:

-Tax-loss selling...

-Mutual-fund redemptions...

-Mutual fund cap-gain distributions...

-Hedge-fund redemptions...

-Margin calls...

If you want details on how each of these five factors are skewing the market's signals, read the whole piece. Me, I'm just going to try to make like an ostrich when it comes to the market for the next few months. Sometimes, ignorance is indeed bliss.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Nick Coleman of the Star Tribune:

I pity the fools who live in high-rises built before automatic sprinklers were required by building codes.


Mr. T of the A-Team:

There Are Too Many States Nowadays

Last Saturday's WSJ had an interesting article that featured people who had lived through the Great Depression who were now recalling their searing memories of the troubled time (sub req). It's good to read first person historical recollections such as these and amazing to think of the events and changes that these folks have witnessed through the years. And in the midst of our current economic downturn, hearing stories about the difficulties faced in the Great Depression helps keep matters in perspective.

However, my inner cynic couldn't but question the writer's attempt to credit a couple of these people with having foreseen our present financial crisis:

* Mr. Dickinson went on to work in Wall Street brokerage houses, he says, and retired as a manager of human resources. He says during the last five years, he annoyed his friends with repeated warnings that a day of reckoning was coming.

* Farmer Richard G. Hendrickson, 96, has been predicting another Great Depression for years, even decades. He warned family members and friends that America's profligate ways would bring back the hard times he had experienced in the 1930s when he watched his father almost lose the family farm.

He repeated the dire prediction so frequently, says his wife, Lillian, 90, his own children thought he was "getting old."

Now, perhaps these gentlemen did offer rational, logical, well-reasoned arguments to predict that a crash was a comin', but I have to wonder how much of it was that and how much was Grandpa Simpson style hysteria and baseless paranoia. Especially with the second guy who's been "predicting another Great Depression for years, even decades." Well yeah, if you predict a stage in the economic cycle for decades, the chances are that at some point we'll actually experience it again. Although, we're still a long ways off from being anywhere near that now. Sometimes there's a fine line between clairvoyant and crank.

UPDATE Jack e-mails with additional perspective:

My father was born in 1934 in Ukraine which, at the time, was the most God-forsaken shit-hole on the face of the earth. After Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians to death, Hitler came along and "liberated" them. Shortly after that, the Nazis started using local townspeople as human mine-detectors. Compared to them, I'm livin' in fat city.

Buyer's Remorse

Two weeks later and I'm still scratching my head about the passage of the so-called "Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Areas Amendment" here in Minnesota. Sales taxes to be raised by three-eighths of a percent for the next 25 years. An estimated extra burden of $276 million per year on the tax payers, with a total 25 year bill of $6.9 BILLION. This is above and beyond the billions and billions (/carl sagan) the government already extracts.

The absolute killer being nearly 20% of this extra taking dedicated to "the arts." That's an estimated $54 million per year and a total bill of $1.35 BILLION more than the millions (billions?) already given to the arts through legislative appropriation.

Extravagant, luxury spending for non essential items. In the context of a slumping economy, increasing unemployment, decreasing consumer confidence, and increasing taxation at every other level of government, this provision should have been a poison pill.

Anyone see any other spending priorities on the horizon that might be a tad more pressing than handing barrels of cash over to finger painters, toe dancers, and basket weavers? Anyone? Anyone?

Maybe 44% of the people did, but that's not enough in a "democracy."  This amendment passed, with 56% approval. A higher percentage than Al Franken achieved (at least pending the latest revisions from Mountain Iron and Beltrami County). A higher percentage than the once in a lifetime transformational profit of change received. No, not Laurie Skjerven Gildean. I'm talking about Barack Obama.

This makes no sense and I realize now that I do not understand my fellow Minnesotans as well as I thought I did.

True, the promotion of this amendment by its supporters and the compliant media largely ignored the arts funding and played up the clean water angle. And the ballot language was woefully deceptive on the substance and implications of this measure. Therefore, voter ignorance is a plausible explanation for this amendment passing. But I did not assume mass ignorance to this extent in Minnesota. I shall be revising my assessments of you people accordingly.

Now that it has passed, I believe we're stuck with it. It is in the State Constitution. By design, we've relieved the craven members of the legislature of any responsibility for this open spigot of excess and they can't touch it through ordinary means.

Can we repeal through another referendum? I don't know. But if so, I believe that would first require approval from that same craven legislature who will not doubt enjoy lavishing money on their favorite special interests without any possible electoral consequences. Then of course there's that previously identified mass ignorance thing among the voters which may be an impossible hurdle to clear

In other words, we're stuck with it. For the next quarter century. Artists yet to be born have government checks just waiting for them to hatch the idea of dunking a crucifix in their own urine.

One of the added indignities of this will be the annual announcement of the recipients of the tens of millions of tax dollars. Sure, all the supposed legitimate, safe, institutional suspects will be getting their cuts. The Guthrie, the Walker, the Minnesota Orchestra, The Minnesota Opera. The limousine liberals in their audiences will be gratified to hear their burdens are about to be eased. But even after all of that, there will be acres of tax money to give away. The recipients will be obscure and under appreciated. In other words, creating something no one would willingly pay for. Cue the government! Spending your money on things it believes you should have, rather than things you actually want.

Patrick Reusse, bitter that no tax money will be going to his preferred illegitimate expenditure (a Vikings stadium), speculates on how this could go:
Get a camera, a paintbrush, a mound of wet clay. Find an empty storefront, a makeshift stage, a few folding chairs and get some friends to learn to properly use "forsook." Do any of these things and then wait for the checks to start arriving in 2010.
If only it were true! This egalitarian method might be a chance for the average tax payer to get a little bit of his investment back.

Unfortunately, I'm sure "experts" on art will be consulted and put in charge of disbursement. Just what kind of public investments will that result in? Let's check in with an art expert, Chris Reimenschneider of the Star Tribune. Excerpts of some of his recommendations:

Musicians are hurting from the cost of gassing up a tour van and the slump in CD sales. Clubs are still trying to recover from revenue loss caused by the smoking bans, not to mention such sore spots as Minneapolis' 11 percent tax on tickets/cover charges (even for a $5 lineup of local bands!).

Because the government hurts business by its onerous restrictions and taxation, we need the government to subsidize them with money taken from other innocent bystanders.
Underage venues and shows. Fund more teen clubs statewide like the city-run Garage in Burnsville, which gives: a) young musicians a much-needed launching pad and b) all kids somewhere to go at night.
You've hard of universal day care for pre-schoolers? Consider this universal night care for high schoolers.
Grants, grants, grants Maybe just $2,000 to record a CD, or $500 in gas money to tour.
Because the gas used by Big Ditch Road and Brother Ali is far more important to society than the gas you use to get to your job.

It's going to be a long and expensive 25 years for us poor slobs lacking the ability to chant "Uncle Same God Damn" over some phat beats.

Speaking of which, one final concern about this windfall profit for the arts. Is there any protection whatsoever against political uses of this money? "Artists" taking general tax revenues in order to endorse, support, campaign for/against candidates or parties?

The notion that tax exempt organizations, like churches, might engage in this behavior is abhorrent to liberals out there. The government backs them up. The tax code expressly forbids it, with violators being subject to the forced taking of massive percentages of their revenues.

Shouldn't recipients of our tax dollars be subject to the same limitations? In fact, shouldn't the limitations be even more strict, since we're handing them public money, rather than just letting them keep their own, as is the case with the churches?

The answers to these questions are obvious. As are the juvenile, non-relevant objections from the arts community which will no doubt follow such a proposed restriction. (Censorship! Freedom of speech! My urine crucifix will not be silenced!)

I'll leave it to Thomas Jefferson to summarize the argument in favor:
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is," said Jefferson, "sinful and tyrannical".
In the event there are no political restrictions to the artistic use of this money, I'll need help putting the above to music. Any good composers out there?  I'll split the grant money with you 50-50.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If I'm to be your camera, then who will be your face?

Last night, I heard Hugh Hewitt interviewing Michael Medved on his new book The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation. They were discussing the fact that Medved had been named "Worst Person In The World" by Keith Olbermann last year for his comments about slavery and Hugh speculated that with the release of the new book, Medved could possibly win the award for many days to come. Medved said that he could only hope to be so lucky and then mentioned that when Olbermann's show had tabbed him as "Worst," they used a picture of Medved holding a Hugh Hewitt bobble-head doll with Robert E. Lee replacing Hewitt in the Photoshopped version.

A Hugh Hewitt bobble head doll? That can only mean one thing: Ralphie! And damned if it isn't true.

Check out the original picture of Michael Medved with Ralphie that I took at a Patriot Forum back in April of 2004.

Now, check out the image that appeared when Medved was named the "Worst" by Olbermann. Clearly the same picture. Funny I don't recall the Olbermann people asking for permission for that (I know, I know, free use and all that).

The Photoshopped version with Robert E. Lee that Medved mentions is available here. And this is another version of the same theme.

For the record, Ralphie does not endorse slavery or the return of the Confederacy. It's really a shame when an wide-eyed innocent bobble-head is used for such untoward purposes.

It's also interesting to see that another one of my pictures has been pilfered by the left for their own use. Up to this point, I was only aware of the strange obsession that so many left-wing bloggers seem to have with a shot I took of John Hinderaker eating at the Minnesota State Fair (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here and with probably thousands of other left-wing bloggers who are projecting er...something). Glad that I could be of help guys.

No More Ifs

Good piece in today's WSJ by Bret Stephens pointing out that with an Obama administration and control of Congress, there are no more Excuses for Liberals:

Now the long wait is over, and the liberal ship has come in. In Mr. Obama, liberals have a president who seems to have stepped out of the last episodes of the West Wing. He has the Congress in his left pocket, the news media in his right pocket (or is it the other way around?), and he floats on a tide of unprecedented international enthusiasm. The Republican Party has no obvious standard-bearer, as it did in Ronald Reagan after Gerald Ford's defeat in 1976. It could well spend the next four years, or eight, tearing itself to pieces.

Instead, the only things that stand in Mr. Obama's path are what Marxists like to call "objective factors": the financial crisis, the mess in Detroit, the disposing of Guantanamo detainees, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian hostility, Chinese assertiveness, maybe the disintegration of Pakistan.

Mr. Obama will get, and deserves, a period of political grace. Let's say a year. After that, it will become increasingly difficult to attribute whatever mistakes he makes to the legacy of his predecessor. American liberalism, such as it is, is finally being put to the test that fate has denied it these last many decades. Succeed or fail, this time there can be no excuses.

This of course is probably the most silver of linings in Obama's presidency. The left will no longer be able to wistfully wish for what might have been if only this or only that had or hadn't happened. As Stephens adroitly notes:

This liberal narrative of its own near-misses, bad luck and tragic interventions of fate is supplemented by a parallel liberal tale of unbridled conservative malevolence.

They can't blame fate, bad luck, or evil Republicans for what happens in the next four years. Along with the power that they've now achieved, comes the responsibility.

Running It Up The Flagpole

Own a local business? Looking for an innovative and effective outlet for accessing potential customers?

The First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network is happy to announce, for the first time in four years, sponsorship opportunities are now available.

Yes, your business can become a premier advertising partner with the best political commentary program in the Twin Cities. Our listeners are the intelligent, ambitious and successful demographic in the Twin Cities. And via the live Internet stream, podcasts, and affiliated blogs our reach is local, national, and world wide.

To discuss your future participation with the First Team, contact us today at:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Everyone's War Now?

Caught a decent chunk of Barack Obama's 60 Minutes interview and was for the most part impressed by what I heard. One thing that's clear with Obama is he goes into situations like this with a definite plan on the impression that he wants to leave and works hard to make sure that's how he comes across. It's a very calculated approach that takes a lot of discipline and control. Part of his appeal is that he manages to pull it off almost effortlessly.

One particular response that caught my attention was this:

Kroft: What have you been concentrating on this week?

Mr. Obama: Couple of things. Number one, I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack. We wanna make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible. Obviously the economy. Talking to top economic advisors about how we're gonna create jobs, how we get the economy back on track and what do we do in terms of some long-term issues like energy and healthcare. And how do we sequence those things in a way that we can actually get things through Congress?

Firstly, I was gratified to hear him mention national security first and the economy second. Everyone knows about the economic challenges, too many have forgotten about the threats to our national security.

Secondly, I wonder how the hard left is taking this. In the past, if Republicans ever talked about the possibility of terrorist attacks, the hard core left would accuse them of "scare-mongering" and indulging in the "politics of fear." Many of these same people refused to even to recognize that a threat existed, using quotes to refer to the so-called "War on Terror." Now, that President-elect Obama is talking about it, will they finally have to face up to reality?

I certainly hope so. One of the silver linings that I saw in Obama's victory is that it will no longer be possible to label the Global War on Terror, and the theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan as the "Bush war" or the "Republican war" or the "neo-con war." In reality, the war has always been America's no matter which party controlled the White House. Now that a Democrat has responsibility for successfully prosecuting it and protecting the country from attack, I hope that more Americans realize that it is our struggle, our war and support the measures necessary to see it through to victory. Just because George W. Bush will soon be gone, it doesn't mean our enemies will.

UPDATE: One other item to note from the interview is the coy little dance that Obama likes to do when the media tries to make historical comparsions between the challenges he faces and those faced by Lincoln and Roosevelt. On the one hand (to his credit), he seeks to downplay the comparisons by citing the differences in the circumstances:

Kroft: People are comparing this to 1932.

Mr. Obama: Right.

Kroft:Is that a valid comparison, do you think?

Mr. Obama: Well, keep in mind that 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25 percent, inching up to 30 percent. You had a third of the country that was ill housed, ill clothed, unemployed. We're not going through something comparable to that. But I would say that this is as bad as we've seen since then. And if we don't take some significant steps then it could get worse.

But on the other, he makes reference to them often to ensure that the potential comparisons are never far from peoples' minds:

Mr. Obama: Yeah. I've been spending a lot of time reading Lincoln. There is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.

Kroft: Put a lot of his political enemies in his cabinet.

Mr. Obama: He did.

Kroft: Is that something you're considering?

Mr. Obama: Well, I tell you what, I find him a very wise man.

He's not so audacious as to suggest that he should be compared to Lincoln or FDR, but he's going to keep their names front and center if you happen to be looking for parallels.

Home On The Range?

One of the problems facing disaffected conservatives who are depressed and despondent following the election of Barack Obama, is that unlike their liberal brethren who could reel off scores of places they were allegedly going to move to if Bush won, there aren't a lot of obvious relocation options for those on the right. However, Friday's WSJ offered up one possibility in a piece called Deep-Red Region Has Obama Blues:

PERRYTON, Texas -- In this thriving corner of the Panhandle, "change" is a political message residents don't much believe in.

Who needs change, voters here say, when the economy is booming, thanks to strong prices for oil and wheat? Unemployment is still under 3%. New businesses are still sprouting along the wide Main Street, where most storefronts are filled and parking is free.

Perryton and surrounding Ochiltree County last week handed John McCain 91.7% of 3,109 votes cast. The lopsided result reflects that "a lot of things that have been going on here we like, and we're not ready for a big change," says Barry Willis, managing director of Alpar Energy, an energy exploration company.

Now, apprehension is in the air in this high-plains town near the Oklahoma border, 120 miles from the nearest city, Amarillo, Texas. "We're very disappointed. Very skeptical," said Theresa Brillhart, chairman of the county Republican Party.

Some people here still can't quite believe that President-elect Barack Obama won the White House; they consider him inexperienced and too liberal. "I had one fellow ask me, 'Has the whole country gone slap dab crazy?," says Jim Hudson, publisher of the Perryton Herald.

You're not the only one asking that question Jim.

The next time you're feeling down about Obama's victory or the prospect of having Al Franken represent you in the US Senate, you might start to think that a place like Perrytown might not be a bad place to call home.

UPDATE-- Tim e-mails to throw a wet dry blanket on the idea:

Might want to think again about Perryton, TX‏.

From Wikipedia:

"Ochiltree County is one of 46 prohibition or entirely dry counties in the state of Texas."

Just sayin'...


Friday, November 14, 2008

Moving In

Just received an e-mail from called "Winning Back Wellstone's Seat":

You've probably heard the news: Al Franken is just 206 votes away from winning back progressive hero Paul Wellstone's Senate seat for Democrats. A recount of Minnesota's 3 million votes begins next week, and an initial canvass found hundreds of previously undercounted votes for Franken.

Franken has a great shot: political website (one of the most credible number-crunching sites) wrote this week, "Evidence points on balance toward Franken being a slight favorite to win the recount" and possibly "the prohibitive favorite" if all the votes are properly counted.

But Republican incumbent Norm Coleman has already gone to court once trying to block vote counting--and he announced that over 100 lawyers will help him mount legal challenges. Franken needs money to fight back.

The fun is just beginning...

Pretty Bitter About Paying More For The Same

Came home from work yesterday to find our proposed property tax for 2009 statement in the mail. Nothing warms my heart like seeing how much more I'll be paying and where my dollars will be going for a better Minnesota. Especially in these difficult economic times.

Let's take a closer look.

First off it's good to know the basis on which we're paying our property taxes on. Since we moved here in May, this the first statement we've received for this property.

Oh look, the county has bumped up the value of our home by $12K. That makes sense since we all know how robust the housing marketing is.

Hmmm....I wonder if there's any way to challenge that valuation.

The taxable market values for property taxes payable in 2009 was sent to you in the spring of 2008. The period to discuss changes has passed and changes can no longer be made to your property valuation. It is included for your information only.

In other words, "You're screwed."

Happy to pay more!

Hennepin County will be confiscating an additional $83.74

Happy to pay more!

The City of Golden Valley is dipping into my wallet for $131.90 more than last year

Happy to pay more!

School District 281 has two levies that increase my property taxes by $62.47

Huh. Actually that's not really that bad. We voted on two levies that passed on Election Day and I thought they would have more impact...

Your school district was scheduled to hold a referendum at the November general election. If this referendum was approved by voters, the school district's property tax for 2009 may be higher than the proposed amount shown on this notice.

D'oh! How much higher will that be again? Oh yeah, at LEAST $222 a year.

Happy to pay more!

My favorite unelected, unrepresentative arm of regional government the Metropolitan Council's Metro "Special" Taxing District is rolling me for an additional $4.10

Happy to pay more!

The vaguely named Other "Special" Taxing District is pilfering $14.64 more from my pocket than they did last year

Happy to pay more!

The Solid Waste Management Fee is increa....wait a second. What's that? The Solid Waste Management Fee is DECREASING by $11.22? There must be some mistake. I'll send them a check for $11.22 to make up the difference

Kinda feeling guilty about paying a tiny tiny bit less.

So how does that add up overall? My proposed 2009 property taxes are going to be 8.8% higher than in 2008. Even though that's more than double the rate of inflation, I guess it's just the price we pay for a better Minnesota.

Oh yeah, that's right. That 8.8% increase doesn't include the newly passed levies.

(Pause for a bit of cipherin')

With the newly passed levies included, we're now looking at a 16.14% year over year increase in property taxes. Isn't that great? I'm so damn happy that I feel like I'm going to explode.

That is happiness that's causing that, isn't it? 'Cause I really am bursting here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie


Stuttering John Melendez

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

To continue the grim drumbeat Chad has started earlier, this article by Peter Hitchens deserves notice. It's the most depressing, and accurate from a conservative perspective, detailing of the implications of the Obama/Democrat victory I've yet seen. Excerpt:

.... America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war. Forget the Cold War, or even the Iraq War. The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.

Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.

These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America's conservative party -- the Republicans -- to fight on the cultural and moral fronts.

They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?

Just think, the above was written even before the Mark Ritchie supervised recount hands the Minnesota Senate seat to Al Franken for the next six years.

As John Derbyshire has been ending his weekly podcasts of late: we're doomed, doomed, doomed.

Suggested short term remedy for tonight: dark room, fireplace, Glenlivet, Chaconne in G Minor.

Reality Bites

Just in case you weren't worried enough about the economy, Nouriel Roubini a.k.a Doctor Doom warns that The Worst Is Not Behind Us:

A reality check is needed to assess risks--and to take appropriate action. And reality tells us that we barely avoided, only a week ago, a total systemic financial meltdown; that the policy actions are now finally more aggressive and systematic, and more appropriate; that it will take a long while for interbank and credit markets to mend; that further important policy actions are needed to avoid the meltdown and an even more severe recession; that central banks, instead of being the lenders of last resort, will be, for now, the lenders of first and only resort; that even if we avoid a meltdown, we will experience a severe U.S., advanced economy and, most likely, global recession, the worst in decades; that we are in the middle of a severe global financial and banking crisis, the worst since the Great Depression; and that the flow of macro, earnings and financial news will significantly surprise (as during the last few weeks) on the downside with significant further risks to financial markets.

I'll stop now.

Please do.

From The Top Of The Ticket...

...the bottom of the barrel. Right Wing News asked bloggers to pick their least favorite people on the right. Interesting to see who holds down the top stop:

5) Arlen Specter (15)
4) Colin Powell (17)
3) Peggy Noonan (18)
2) Ted Stevens (19)
1) John McCain (25)

By the way, along with Powell I would question whether these people should be considered "on the right":

6. Chuck Hagel

13. Christopher Buckley

16. Andrew Sullivan

20. Olympia Snowe

21. Lincoln Chafee

24. Scott McCellan

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fear of Flying

Most people have probably experienced the school "stress" dream at one time or another in their lives. They can involve high school or college settings. You show up at class to discover that you have to take a test that you didn't know about. Or you're trying to find the classroom that you need to get to take a test and you're late and lost. Or you show up at a class to discover that for some reasons you missed all the previous classes that semester. Or you show up at registrar's office to drop a class that you attended once and find out it's past the deadline so you get an "F" (wait, that actually happened).

When your brain really wants to screw with you, it adds additional stress to these dream scenarios by stripping off your clothes. Not only are you late for the big test, but you're naked as well. Gee, thanks.

While I still have one of these school nightmares on occasion, I've found that most of my stressful dreams now involve travel. I'm late for the plane and trying to get to the gate. Or I can't find the right gate in an impossibly vast and complicated airport. Or I get on the plane for a long flight and find the space that I'm supposed to occupy incredibly claustrophobic (yes, even worse than real life). Or I get picked up from the airport in a tiny car crammed with other people for a long ride to wherever we're going knowing that we can't stop. And I have to go the bathroom.

Not all of my travel related dreams are nightmares. Sometimes I board an airplane to discover that it's roomy and comfortable beyond all expectations. In one particularly vivid dream, I can still recall the full-length bar available for passengers. My fellow travelers were attractive, entertaining and fun and the entire flight was more like a club scene than anything else. Unfortunately, those dreams are few and far between.

What's interesting is that for the most part, my real life travels haven't been all that bad. The travel nightmares are usually unlike anything that I've actually experienced, but they seem so real and so authentic that the stress and fear they induce is quite palpable. It's as if my subconscious knows to keep it close to the surface of reality so as to not allow my dreaming self to recognize it as a dream. It's also fascinating how it picks and chooses real life experiences to turn into dreams and how those experiences are different at various stages of your life. The mind is a mysterious and mischievous thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Sign the Fight FOCA Petition:

Barack Obama is now the incoming President.

And he made a promise to Planned Parenthood last year they expect him to keep.

"The first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing I'd do."

The first thing? The man has some strange priorities. Right off the bat, I'd be up for a ride in Air Force One. Then maybe ask to see the files on aliens, "break in" the master bedroom, see what kind of cable package you get, check out the White House wine cellar...

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate every restriction on abortion nationwide.

Barack Obama believes this legislation will "end the abortion wars." To him, "ending the abortion wars" means eradicating every state and federal law on abortion--laws that the majority of Americans support.

Like Obama's promises about "getting beyond partisan differences" his idea of "ending the abortion wars" isn't about compromise. It's about getting the other side to accept your terms and cease resistance. In the case of the FOCA, it's like a nuclear first strike designed to cripple the ability of the opposition to respond.

Americans United for Life (AUL) , a pro-life law and policy organization, has prepared an analysis of the "Freedom of Choice Act." Please click here to read AUL Vice President & Legal Director Denise Burke's analysis of this horrendous legislation.

The time to Fight FOCA is now. With Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in charge of Congress, we can expect a fight over FOCA to begin as soon as the next Congress begins.

Please add your name to the Fight FOCA petition and let your friends know about President-Elect Barack Obama's promise to expand abortion throughout the country.

The election is over, but the battles have just begun.

The Business of the Bishops

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly opened yesterday in Baltimore.

On Friday, Richard John Neuhaus reflected on the true mission of the bishops at FIRST THINGS:

After the election, some Catholics with itching ears who are manifestly embarrassed by the Church's being out of step with the new world of "the change we've been waiting for" have gleefully pointed out that the assertiveness of the bishops had little political effect. In the presidential and other races, Catholics voted for pro-abortion candidates. So what? It is not the business of bishops to win political races. It is the business of bishops to defend and teach the faith, including the Church's moral doctrine. One hopes they will keep that firmly in mind in their Baltimore meeting.

The reading for Mass on the day following the election was Philippians 2, in which St. Paul prays that the faithful "may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." That is as pertinent now as it was in the first century, and will be until our Lord returns in glory. It is the business of bishops to help equip the faithful to let the splendor of moral truth shine through their life and witness as lights in the world. If, on occasion, that coincides with political success, it is to be viewed as an unexpected, albeit welcome, bonus. It is a grievous degradation of their pastoral office, as well as a political delusion, for bishops to see themselves as managers of the Catholic voting bloc.

Earlier this year, the bishops issued "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." It was, as I wrote at the time, a fine statement in almost every respect. But its elaborate attention to nuance and painstaking distinctions made it a virtual invitation for the Catholic flaks of Obama to turn it upside down and inside out. The statement was regularly invoked to justify voting for the most extreme proponent of the unlimited abortion license in American presidential history.

That unintended invitation to distort, eagerly seized upon by those with a mind to do so, was especially evident in the statement's treatment of a "proportionate" reason to support pro-abortion candidates. The bishops must do better next time. To be sure, any statement must be carefully reasoned, as Catholic moral theology is carefully reasoned. Yet an episcopal statement is not an invitation to an academic seminar but, above all, a call to faithfulness. The task is to offer a firm, unambiguous, and, as much as possible, a persuasive case on the basis of revelation and clear reason.

Monday, November 10, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Usually it takes at least a few months for voters to realize that the promises they were made during the election will not be kept once the actual governing begins. In the case of pro-Obama Catholics, the illusion that he would somehow move beyond the "old politics" on issues of life has been shattered less than a week after his election (WSJ sub req):

President-elect Barack Obama will likely use his executive powers after taking office to block new drilling leases on environmentally sensitive land in Utah and to allow federal funding of stem-cell research, putting a quick mark on policy making.

"There's a lot the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action," John Podesta, head of Mr. Obama's transition team, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Mr. Podesta said Mr. Obama is "a transformational figure" and that the support he received among voters in some Republican states and conservative counties gives him a mandate to pursue his agenda aggressively.

Rolling back executive orders issued by the Bush administration could give Mr. Obama a fast way to put his mark on policy making after he takes office, as past presidents have. Other Bush-era executive orders that Mr. Obama could reverse include a ban on federal aid to family-planning organizations that counsel women on abortion, and a decision in December that restricts California in regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from cars.

The reaping has already began.

No One Mourns the Wicked

The Star Tribune's Rohan Preston reviews the musical Wicked, opening in Minneapolis this past week:

the darkly comic musical by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book) has overt references from our political discourse, including "regime change" in Oz. And good witch Glinda is Sarah Palin-like in her sense of herself and her mangling of the language.

Kind of a limp effort there. "Sense of herself" is vague, bordering on meaningless. Allegations of "mangling the language" are factually incorrect as a criticism of Palin. Even her most virulent critics did not claim that she was Bush-like in her rhetoric. She was a closed-minded scourge. She was Stalinesque. She was the Wicked Witch of Wasilla. (How did a liberal journalist reviewing "Wicked" miss that one?) Yet, the girl is a gifted speaker (a former TV journalist no less!) -- never a language mangler.

Of course, being a liberal journalist, Preston has to take smug shots at Republicans, even in a forum not dedicated to politics. That's the way he sees the world and he cannot control himself. The editors and publishers of this monopoly newspaper don't care, or don't know how to, create a product that doesn't go out of its way to alienate 44% of its potential audience.

Fine. This we are accustomed to. But this weak, perfunctory libel is a new development. And I think a positive result of the new Obama nation.

Liberals in the press, secure in their ability to have fellow travelers in power, will have less need to be vicious and hyperbolic when degrading the reputations of their political foes. Yes, they will still have the need to take shots at Republicans, even from the non-political beats. That's part of who they are. But, instead of desperately trying to scare people away from even considering voting for those demon Republicans, from a position of power they can be more pitying and condescending in nature and have a lighter touch in stamping out dissent.

I just have to say, for the expected four years of moderately less intense assaults on our character in the press, thank you Barrack Obama. This is change we can believe in.

They Also Serve

Today is the 233rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. We wish all Marines and their families a very happy birthday.

If you're looking for a way to celebrate, considering heading down to Keegan's Pub (love the retro 1998 web site look) and enjoying a pint with proprietor Terry Keegan, himself a jarhead of some renown.

You can also take advantage of Keegan's seventh annual Salute To The Military:

The Pub will be decorated with the flags from the various branches of the service and all active duty, retired and military veterans will receive their first drink free.

This is a great opportunity for military people and veterans to get together and swap stories over a drink or two. Get a group together and join the celebration.

If you are not military or a military veteran this is an opportunity for you to mingle and say "thank you"

The free drink offer is good anytime from Friday, November 7, through Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11.

Terry has a well-earned reputation as the Mr. Krabs of local bar owners and he doesn't pony up free drinks unless he believes you've really earned it.

Which makes his recently announced January promotion all the more special. To celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama, Keegan's will be unveiling their first annual Salute to Community Organizers. The pub will be decorated with protest signs from the various groups and all current and former community organizers will receive their first drink free (upon furnishing a pay stub from a foundation).

This is a great opportunity for community organizers to get together and agitate over a drink or two. Get your grievance group together and join the celebration.

If you are not a community organizer, this is an opportunity for you to mingle and say "thank you." It's sometimes easy for us to forget how disorganized our communities would be without the service and sacrifice of these folks.

The free drink offer is good anytime from Friday, January 16, through Inauguration Day, Tuesday, January 20.

Let's Get Ready To Rumble

Now that the elections are behind us, we can back to debate on the truly important matters in life:

On November 11th, 2008, the next AOTM forum, at St. Augustine church in South St. Paul, Fr. Echert (Pastor of St. Augustine and Holy Trinity in South St. Paul) and David Mathis (from Bethlehem Baptist church in Minneapolis) have agreed to a good old traditional apologetic debate. Father Echert has a licentiate in Sacred Scripture and has been heard on protestant talk radio defending the Catholic faith. David Mathis is the associate to the famous John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, a well know Baptist apologist from Minneapolis. They have not agreed on a specific topic as of yet, but rumor has it it will be on justification, the authority of the Bible or the sacraments.

Topics sue to stir passions and get the rhetorical fists flying.

As at all the AOTM forums, the price is right for a night of compelling talk with good food, drink, and company:

- 6:00pm Social Hour and Appetizers
- 7:00pm Dinner
- 7:30pm Main Presentation
- 8:15pm Dessert
- 8:30pm Q&A

For Just $12 at the door (The total cost for the night) you will get great appetizers (check menu) and beverages, hear a challenging debate while you listen and enjoy a fabulous "Manly Meal" (check menu). Prepare yourself to challenge or simply question the debators during the Q&A after dessert. Men of all creeds and ages are welcome to join in the good humor, food and fellowship. Priests and seminarians get in free, but will not be shown partiality in debate. Fathers are encouraged to bring their sons.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Reasonable Outcome

Ever since the election, I've been getting e-mails from people around the country who borrow a line from Thomas Franks and ask "What's the matter with Minnesota?" (usually using an expletive or two). They wonder how we could have allowed Al Franken to get anywhere near a US Senate seat to say nothing of the mere 235 234 (Mark Ritchie just found another one for Al) votes that now separate the two candidates pending a recount. And some Minnesotans are wondering the same thing.

The reality is that this election wasn't that bad or surprising for Republicans in Minnesota. Especially if Coleman can hang on.

Sure, Minnesota went for Obama by ten points, but anyone paying attention could have told you that was going to happen (as I did often over the last year plus). It's important to keep things in perspective and be realistic about what our chances were. Back in October of 2007, in a post called MN OB In '08 I wrote:

Republicans in this state and elsewhere need to wake up and smell the roses (Moses). Not only is Minnesota not "in play" in '08 as far as the presidency goes, it's possible--although probably not likely--that we could have an all-Democratic slate representing us in Washington after the 2008 elections.

You think an all-blue delegation is impossible? If you don't believe that Coleman is vulnerable, you just aren't paying attention. And if you don't think the Dems are going to throw everything they can at Michele Bachmann in the Sixth, you're dreaming. With Ramstad's retirement and John Kline apparently having to face a real candidate for a change (how real is still TBD), it's not outside the realm of possibility to imagine that the MN GOP could lose Coleman's Senate seat and all three House races.

Again, I don't think it's likely that Kline will be knocked out, but the Third District is very much up in the air and Bachmann is going to have to weather a ferocious media and money onslaught to hold on to her seat. Meanwhile, the prospects of picking off any of the current Democratic holds does not look good. Earlier, I would have thought that Tim Walz might be vulnerable, but unless something changes dramatically, he looks like he'll be returning to Washington.

And closed with:

The bottom line is that doesn't matter whether Pawlenty is on the ticket as VP, the convention is in the Twin Cities, or Romney is the candidate (hee, hee): Minnesota is going blue in aught eight and nothing the GOP can do is going to change that fact. The eventual Republican candidate would do well to avoid wasting precious time and resources here. Minnesota Republicans should focus their efforts on trying to save Norm Coleman, hold their three House seats, and maybe chip away at the DFL stranglehold in the State House of Representatives. Those are the boundaries that they should be playing within. Anything else should be considered out of bounds.

Other than being wrong about Kline having to face a real opponent, everything else looks pretty prophetic. Coleman was vulnerable, Bachmann was the target of the media and outside money (admittedly somewhat due to her own making), and even though Paulsen ended up winning the Third by a surprising margin, going into Election Day that race seemed like a toss up.

In that light, the results don't seem all that disappointing. We held the three House seats and have a far more conservative voice in the Third with Paulsen than we did in Ramstad. If Coleman survives the recount, we keep the Senate seat. We didn't make any progress in the Minnesota House, but the losses were slight and the DFL didn't get its veto-proof majority.

Yes, it is a shame that the Constitutional Amendment to tax us in perpetuity for the outdoors and the arts passed, but that's a bipartisan embarrassment. It should also be noted that although Minnesotans are usually a pretty common-sense, down to earth lot, when we step in the voting booth we tend to get a little goofy. Not only did we elect Jesse Ventura, we also have a reputation for ticket splitting that defies explanation. At hockey on Thursday morning, a guy told me that he voted for Barack Obama and Michele Bachmann. Good luck logically deconstructing that one.

So all in all, it wasn't a bad election for the Minnesota GOP. It may not be the beginning of the tide turning, but at least it looks like the bleeding has been stopped.

The one surprising and disappointing result was that Tim Walz picked up 62.5% of the vote in the First District. He just won the seat in '06 and I would have thought that he would have been a bit more vulnerable than that. The First still seems to the only District where the GOP would have any chance of taking a seat from the Dems in the near future. The other four are bastions of blue that appear likely to remain in Democratic control for some time. McCollum received over 68% of the vote in the Fourth, Peterson 72% in the Seventh, and Oberstar 68% in the Eighth.

And the next time someone tells you that the party needs to invest more time and resources in the Fifth, consider that Keith Ellison--in only his second race--tallied 71% of the vote against Barb Davis White, the best candidate the GOP has had in that district for years. Sending resources and money into the Fifth against the DFL machine is like sending the Polish cavalry against the German panzers. There may be a certain lost cause glory to it, but at the end of the day it's going to be a futile effort. This isn't being negative, just realistic.

The only way for the GOP to get back to parity in the state is to hold what we got and--where and when it makes sense--take what we can, race by race seat by seat.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Everyone Benefits

We all have heard plenty of talk of late of the pernicious impact that "Big Oil" and "Big Pharma" (among others) have on our political process. These "special interest" groups use their money to influence the outcome of elections and seek to have policies implemented that benefit their members materially. It's described as an outrage against the very principals on which our democracy was founded.

Strangely enough, rarely do you hear people talking about the role that "Big Education" plays in politics.

In Robbinsdale School District 281, we were faced with two school financing levy referendum questions on this year's ballot. Both passed:

Question One
Nonpartisan YES 30083 55.12
Nonpartisan NO 24490 44.88

Question Two
Nonpartisan YES 28552 52.42
Nonpartisan NO 25913 47.58

As a result, homeowners in the district will see a rather substantial increase in their property taxes:

The owner of a $245,000 home would pay an additional $18.50 in property tax per month ($15 for Question One and $3.50 for Question Two). The district would receive $632 in additional revenue for each student in the district.

Eighteen fitty a month doesn't sound that bad on the surface, but over a year that's $222. And in a tough economic time with people struggling to pay their bills, that's a bite that many will feel. That's $18.50 a month that won't go to paying the mortgage, buying groceries, or investing in your kid's college fund.

But as the Vote Yes for Robbinsdale Area Schools site reminds us, "Everyone Benefits." Not equally of course and as is usually the case when you're trying to figure who stands to gain the most, it helps to follow the money.

This week's New Hope-Golden Valley Sun reported on the campaign finance reports filed by District 281 referendum groups:

Campaign financial reports have been filed with Robbinsdale District 281 by the 281 C.A.R.E. Committee, which opposed the Nov. 4 referendum, and the Robbinsdale Area Schools "Vote Yes" committee, which supported it.

Ron Stoffel of Crystal, treasurer of the C.A.R.E. committee, reported $375 in contributions to that group between Jan. 1 and Oct. 26 this year.

The committee listed no donor names in its report.

It listed expenditures of $758 for advertising, $38 for postage and $10.69 for fundraising, for a total of about $806.

The group took in four hundo and spent eight. Truly a grassroots, shoe-string, citizen-lead operation.


The "Vote Yes" Committee's report, filed by John Heinrich of New Hope, reported total income of $22,613 between May 13 and Oct. 20 this year.

That's over SIXTY times as much as the group that opposed the referendum. And they put that money to good use:

The Vote Yes expenditures included $3,300 for database software setup and rental fees; $290 for banner, copies and post office box rental; $582 for T-shirts; $7,116 for lawn signs; $204 for phone bill; $75 for radio commercials; $500 for liability insurance; $57 for open house and phone bank expenses; and $3,622 for office rent in September and October.

But you say, if the citizens of the district supported the measure, shouldn't they be able to support it with their dollars? Of course the should. Let's see who those citizens are:

The largest contribution of $7,500 came from the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, the 1,800-member teachers' union in District 281.

I guess the teachers' union cares so much about the children of the district that they dug deep and ponied up some of the precious money collected by their members' union dues. Their noble effort on behalf of the children almost brings a tear to the eye.

How is this levy money going to be used to help the children anyway?

Levy Question One--Asks voters to increase the existing $12.6 million levy by $7.6 million for a total of $20.2 million annually.

Passage of question one would reduce class size by rehiring 30 teachers, partially restore after school activities and retain valuable programs, including band and orchestra at the elementary level and some art and athletic opportunities at the secondary level.

Levy Question Two--This question can only pass if Question One passes. Asks for an additional $1.8 million dollars, bringing the total to $22 million annually.

Passage of question two would further reduce class size by rehiring up to 10 more teachers and support accelerated implementation and staff training for the Strategic Plan goal to enrich academic achievement.

Now someone of a more cynical bent might look at that and conclude that the teachers' union contribution to the vote yes campaign was nothing more than a self-serving effort to increase the group's membership, its power, and the amount of money that it will be receiving in dues from the additional teachers. But we know that this is all about the children and only a narrow-minded, anti-education, child-hating monster could thing otherwise.

The teachers weren't the only ones looking after their vested interests:

A contribution of $1,350 was reported from the District 281 Principals Association, as well as $1,000 from the Sunny Hollow Elementary School PTSO.

Donations of $500 each were reported from Sonnesyn Elementary School PTSO, Pilgrim Lane Elementary School PTO and Sandburg Middle School PTSO, while a $250 contribution was listed from Noble Elementary School.

It really warms my heart to know that these parent-teacher-student organizations could come together and voluntarily raise money that could be used to conduct a campaign whose end result will be to confiscate money from everyone else in the district that will then be used for their benefit. They really must care about the kids.

Others happy to contribute to a cause so that their neighbors can be taxed more to support that cause include:

School Board Member Tom Walsh of Plymouth donated $110; Assistant Superintendent Gayle Walkowiak contributed $300; and Jeff Dehler, the district's community relations program director, donated $150.

Residents listed as donating money were John Appelen of Plymouth, $400; Stephen Hagstrom of New Hope, $350; Steve Lear of Plymouth, $500; and Mary McKoskey of Plymouth, $500.

The great thing is that even though Mary McKoskey could only contribute five hundred dollars, thanks to the awesome taxing power of the government she has helped the schools reap millions of additional dollars. Her gift just keeps on taking and taking and taking.

Funny that the people who talk about taking big money and special interests out of politics never seem to mention the eight-hundred pound education gorilla rampaging through neighborhoods throughout the country.