Friday, May 30, 2008

Beer Geeks

Stopped by The Four Firkins yesterday. It's a bit cozy and the selection wasn't quite as vast as I excpected, but it's still a beer geek's dream. And from the conversation I overheard while picking up a couple of premo beer selections, the level of said geekery was off the charts. Even though I have a fair amount of experience with and knowledge of beer, I felt like something of novice compared with the other beerheads milling about. If you're a local beer afficinado, it's def worth a visit.

Connect The Dots

Smashing editorial in today's WSJ on General McClellan's War:

By now you know the news, if that's the word for it: Mr. McClellan dutifully supported the war as presidential spokesman from 2003-2006, but he has since "become genuinely convinced" it was wrong. He has also had a revelation that the Administration used "propaganda" to sell the war, though this means he himself was chief propaganda minister for three years during which he expressed no similar qualms. Mr. McClellan settles various personal scores, and in particular seems bitter about former deputy chief of staff Karl Rove. White House aides can defend themselves, and we'll let others speculate about Mr. McClellan's motives for turning on his friends.

We'd merely note that the book's publisher is PublicAffairs, an imprint founded by left-wing editor Peter Osnos and which has published six books by George Soros. PublicAffairs is owned by Perseus Books, which is owned by Perseus LLC, a merchant bank whose board includes Democrats Richard Holbrooke and Jim Johnson, who is now doing Barack Obama's vice presidential vetting. One of Perseus's investment funds, Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical, is co-managed with Mr. Soros.

Mr. Osnos, who is "editor-at-large" at PublicAffairs, told liberal blogger Rachel Sklar that he "worked very closely" with Mr. McClellan and his editor, Lisa Kaufman. Readers can guess what advice Mr. Osnos gave them about how to make headlines and sell a book six months before a presidential election in which Iraq will be a major issue.


The editorial goes on to show that McClellan's claims are for the most part nothing more than personal opinions rather than new revelations backed by evidence. It also helpfully explains the rather obvious difference between being wrong and lying. In closes by whacking McClellan upside the head thusly:

Mr. Bush also tolerated too many mediocrities for too long, either out of loyalty or Texas ties. On that point at least, Mr. McClellan is persuasive.

The Right to Be Offended

More fall out from the mocking of Hillary. This from the cleric who preceded the Rev. Pfleger on the stage at Trinity United:

As a woman, I was offended by Pfleger's mocking of Senator Clinton for showing emotion.

Oh, boo hoo. Leave it to a woman to get all emotional over the mocking of someone else's emotions.

All right, cheap shot there. But the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite leaves herself open to that kind of criticism by shoving her gender in our faces. If it is an intolerable offense to stereotype one's behavior based on gender, why is she brandishing her gender as a special qualification to be offended? If you can produce the evidence that emotional response does not vary by gender, it doesn't matter who is delivering the message. Your gender confers no special status on assertions of the truth or the permission to be offended.

I take Thistethwaite's words as a variation of the logical fallacy known as Appeal to Authority:

the type of argument in logic consisting on basing the truth value of an assertion on the authority, knowledge, expertise, or position of the person asserting it. It is also known as argument from authority, argumentum ad verecundiam (Latin: argument to respect) or ipse dixit (Latin: he himself said it). It is one method of obtaining propositional knowledge, but a fallacy in regard to logic, because the validity of a claim does not follow from the credibility of the source.

Democrats in particular are fond of this tactic. It can be used to elevate identity politics, or a perceived victim status, as the absolute moral authority on any issue and it can be used to silence rational debate in favor of emotionalism (see usage of "shut up you Chickenhawk").

My understanding of the rules of logic cannot confirm whether you can properly use yourself, or the presence of your two X chromosomes, as an appeal to authority. Perhaps Thistlethwaite's "as a woman" qualification can more properly be defined as an Appeal to Gynecology.

Coincidentally, this particular logical fallacy is being used right here in Minnesota on another burning issue for the 2008 election. This from Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-St. Paul):

As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said of Franken's piece, published in 2000 under the headline "Porn-O-Rama!"

Wow, a quadruple play of special offense qualifications! It's the rare Appeal to Gynecology, Maternity, Pedagogy, and Democracy.

I take her remarks to mean that since I'm not a women, mother, teacher or elected official, I have no right to be offended at Porn-O-Rama! Duly noted. We bow down before her well earned offense and make a note to review Chad the Elder's archives of old Playboy's for a guilt free reading of that article. (He assures me he only reads Playboy Magazine for the Al Franken articles).

Breaking news, Rep. McCollum released another statement on this issue:

"As a parent and an aunt, and talking to other parents, people are very concerned about the type of Internet use that's out there, and how it has a potentially harmful effect on children"

As an aunt? Yes, it's the Appeal to Sibling Fertility! I qualify for that one! And I look forward to proudly standing next to Betty McCollum in the upcoming March of the Righteously Offended to Condemn Al Franken.

Hold The Mayo

Spending the day in Rochester at the GOP state convention in my dual role as delegate and member of the media. Trust me, the media area is much more comfortable than being seated on the floor. The day got off to bit of a rocky start as trying to find a parking spot in downtown Rochester proved to be a serious challenge.

King is providing excellent blow by blow coverage of the convention happenings so far. Mostly pretty arcane stuff (surprise, surprise) with a bit of heated debate on proposed amendments to the party's constitution. A familiar voice from the world of talk radio--Quentin from Zimmerman--rose to speak no fewer than four times, dropping a Zimbabwe reference (drink!) about thirty seconds into his first appearance at the mike.

The voting for delegates and alternates to the national convention is about to begin and it could get interesting. Check back early and often with King for regular updates. I'll try to post something more if and when time allows. So far we haven't even had a lunch break, so hunger may take precedence over further posting.

King, Michael, and I will be taking to the air at 5pm on AM1280 The Patriot for a complete run down of today's events and interviews with a number of guests. We hope to have Senator Coleman on and--if the current snail-like pace of the convention continues--we may air his endorsement acceptance speech live.

Wrath of the All Powerful One Feared

Theological separated at birth.

Galatians 6:7:

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows


Associated Press headline 5/30:

Obama distances himself from priest who mocked Clinton

As sins go in the Democrat party, that's a pretty big meatball. It's going to require substantial penance and sacrifice. I suggest forcing him to read this in its entirety.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stereotype Reinforced

Case study on the career evolution of the modern American journalist:

Sally Williams, books editor since 2003, is leaving the Star Tribune. She has accepted a position as director of public relations for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. Her last day at the newspaper will be June 3.

In 25 years here (interrupted by three years at the Seattle Post Intelligencer), Sally has been books editor, Pol/Gov team leader, World/Nation team leader/reporter, Social Issues team leader, assistant city editor and copy editor.


I feel sorry for the other applicants for this position. For a public relations position at a liberal advocacy organization, nothing on a resume screams "QUALIFIED" more than experience as an editor at the Star Tribune.

Mister Obama's Neighborhood

At NRO, Robert Ferrigno imagines a post-election meeting between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Lance:

Ahmadinejad held up a fist. "We currently have eight thousand centrifuges producing weapons-grade plutonium, and that's not counting the ones I can't tell you about." He raised one finger. "We train Hezbollah, which has killed thousands of Americans and Israelis." He raised another finger. "We supply upgraded IEDs to Iraqi freedom fighters to kill your countrymen." He raised a third finger. "We've promised to wipe Israel off the map." A fourth finger. "And Obama considers us no threat? How dare he?"

"I never thought of it that way. He's totally disrespecting you, dude."

"You understand, Lance. Try telling that to the Grand Ayatollah, see where that gets you."

"Someplace bad I bet, right?"

"Your new president is a creation of the CIA," said Ahmadinejad, expansive now. He stretched out his slippered feet, tugged at his wispy beard. "Obama pretends to be the naïf with the glittering smile, the schoolmarm asking children not to run in the hall: Let's talk things over. Let's turn the thermostat down. Let's share your toys. Let's be friends."

"Won't you be my neighbor?" sing-songed Lance.


Def worth reading the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quo?

Ron Paul to visit before state GOP convention

The Republican presidential race is on the verge of heating back up in Minnesota.

More than three months after the state's precinct caucuses, a showdown is in the offing at the state GOP convention in Rochester this weekend.

Long-shot insurgent candidate Ron Paul plans to speak to his supporters Friday morning, just before the convention begins. Then, those supporters hope to nab as many of the 14 national convention delegate spots that remain up for grabs as they can.


Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail from something called "Friends of the Minnesota Conservative Delegate Team" (or FMinnConDelT for short). It was a warning of the dangers poised by Ron Paul supporters attempting to "thwart the will of the majority" at this week's GOP State Convention in Rochester by electing pro-Paul delegates to the national convention. It asked people to do three things to prevent this:

1. Show up at the convention. The location of this year's convention and the fact that there are no endorsement battles has created something of a perfect storm for Paul supporters to attempt a floor putsch. Rochester ain't exactly a visitor hotbed and delegates from Northern & Western Minnesota and the Twin Cities may decide that it's not really worth the drive, especially with our current gas prices. Politics is all about showing up and if more mainstream Republicans don't, the door will be open for Paul's people.

2. Vote for the MinnConDelT slate of candidates for the national delegate and alternate positions. Most of the names on this list are familiar to party wonks like JB Doubtless. Pawlenty, Coleman, Seifert, Pat Anderson, Emmer, etc. One name that I was little surprised to see was that of Michael Brodkorb, our NARN colleague and proprietor of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. It's great to see Michael getting recognition for all his hard work and he's definitely got my vote. If my seat doesn't get snatched by a Paulite that is.

3. Reject the attempts of Paul supporters to change convention rules and procedures. I've been more open and willing to engage with Ron Paul supporters than many within the GOP. I admire their energy and enthusiasm and respect their viewpoints on most issues even if I disagree with many of their policy prescriptions. I liked having Ron Paul at the Republican primary debates and believe that including dissent from the right will only serve to make the party stronger in the long run.

However, the votes have now been cast and the reality is that while Paul raised an impressive amount of money, he was able to attract only minimal support among Republicans. His voice and his views were heard and a majority of the GOP decided that they weren't the ones they wanted their standard bearer to promote. It was a nice run, but it's over.

Paul's supporters should show up at the convention and should continue to raise awareness of the issues that matter most to them. But to try to get delegates and alternates elected to the national convention through a back door process by jamming the convention is only going to serve to further divide the party.

Sometimes Democrats go too far with their rhetoric about the "voice of the people" being heard and people being "disenfranchised," but when the vast majority of Republican voters and caucus goers across the nation have rejected Ron Paul, it would be a travesty for a minority of activists (no matter how vocal) to impose their will at the convention. That doesn't mean they won't try and that should make for a much more "interesting" convention than had been expected.

The Northern Alliance Radio Network will be covering the goings on beginning Thursday night on AM1280 The Patriot when King and Michael kick things with a two-hour broadcast from 5pm-7pm. I'll be joining the Final Word duo on Friday night from 5pm-7pm and on Saturday we'll have our full slate of shows from 11am-5pm (although I believe that Mitch and Ed will be in studio rather than on the convention floor).

Look To The Cookie

Hydrox Redux (WSJ sub req):

Hydrox, the defunct chocolate-sandwich wafer, is returning for one more rematch with its nemesis, the Oreo.

Bowing to more than 1,300 phone inquiries, an online petition with more than 1,000 signatures and Internet chat sites lamenting the demise of the snack, Kellogg Co. has decided to temporarily relaunch Hydrox, the left-for-dead cookie.

"These loyalists can be proud to know they've been heard," says Brad Davidson, head of Kellogg's snack division.

Kellogg quietly killed off Hydrox in 2003, ceding victory to its longtime rival, Oreo, made by Kraft Foods Inc.'s Nabisco unit. Many Hydrox eaters initially thought their cookie had just become more difficult to find, learning only much later that the cookie had been discontinued. The online mourning and efforts to bring it back were the subject of a page-one article in January in The Wall Street Journal.


Freaks. Everyone who grew up in the Hydrox-Oreo battle days knows that Hydrox was a pale substitute for a real cookie. When your mom came home with a box of Hydrox from the grocery store, it was always a bitter disappointment. If you had friends over and your mom broke out the soggy Hydrox for a snack, you were forced to hide your shame. No one ever traded a prize Oreo for a pathetic Hydrox during lunch at school.

The market (and legions of kids) have spoken. Let the lesser of the two cookie brands at long last die.

UPDATE: Rod from Dallas e-mails to fan the flames of cookie (and class) warfare:

In our small Western MN town in the '60s, Oreos were the cookie of the wimpy snot-nose rich kids. We also figured that Oreos were what the prissy kids in the Cities ate. We true children of the earth ate only Hydrox. It was like a Lutheran-Catholic (or Ford-Chevy) split, at least in intensity.

Of course, looking back, I'm sure it was a price thing.


It definitely was a price thing. But when you're a kid such distincts aren't apparent. And anyway when you look back on it now you have to wonder if it would have really killed your mom to spend an extra forty cents to get the good stuff.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All for Nothing, Nothing for All

A few weeks ago, there was much behind the scenes discussion among contributors to this site about attending the Minnesota Twins "All You Can Eat" promotion. Inexhaustible quantities of hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos and non-alcoholic beverages for one low, low price. Needless to say, there are those among us for whom the siren call of something for nothing is irresistible.

As a long time aficionado of Dollar Hot Dog Night, I admit I was intrigued. But my experience with that discount wiener promotion has taught me some valuable lessons. Primarily, that the notion of inexhaustible supply is an illusion. The dynamics of security and market demand constrict how much you can actually eat.

First, the Twins dictate that you can only get two hot dogs per trip through the concession line. (A prudent decision, based on Sadr City-like civil insurrection when distribution was unlimited).

Second, demand is so great that the lines to get the dollar hot dogs are very, very long. In practical terms, this limits those who actually want to watch the game to maybe two trips through the line and four hot dogs. True, that should be enough for anyone. In fact, they should change the name of the promotion to "All the Hot Dogs You Should Eat" Night. But even during the most acute suffering and regret after finishing that fourth dog, in the back of your mind you're feeling a little hacked off that you couldn't get more even if you wanted to.

These were my concerns with the Twin "All You Can Eat Night." What would be the per trip quantity limitations imposed by management? What would be the demand/capacity ratio for food distribution? Based on past Metrodome experience, I figured these would place unacceptable restrictions on by ability to acquire All I Could Eat, the Fraters Field Trip was scuttled.

We now receive a report from Mike, at Mooshka's Mind, who believed in the dream and attended this promotion. Excerpts:

The first thing we noticed when we hit the concourse was the all-you-can-eat food line. It was insane. We walked approximately 6 or 7 sections in the direction that food line was forming and it was still going. Absolutely nuts. This is still half and hour before the game and the line is that long. And my favorite part is that they still had only the one "Field Fare" location open, serving all of these people. Brilliant. *******

After a couple of innings, the guys next to us decided to go for another round of food. Rather than go down and find out how long the line was, we instead decided to time these guys and see how long it took them to come back. Half an hour later, a couple of the guys come back. Half an hour! That's at least an inning and a half, and might have been two full innings. Crazy talk!


Mike notes that this was the Twins first attempt at this promotion and they may improve conditions as time goes on. We will be monitoring this situation and alert you with all breaking news on this story.

His reference to leaving the game for food and coming back a half an hour later actually brought back memories for me of the other baseball option we have in town. I was a regular attendee of St. Paul Saints games in their first few years of existence. The promise of outdoor baseball and Mike Veeck inspired fun was enough to draw capacity crowds from the beginning. Ask anyone what their primary memory of those days were and I'd bet they'd answer the same thing: the lines for the bathroom.

The little municipal stadium the Saints play at on Energy Park Drive was not built the notion of 6,000+ beer swilling fans in attendance. In-house plumbing could at best accommodate the typical crowd for a Minnesota Vixen game.

So they compensated by putting a couple of outhouses behind the bleachers, down the base lines. Even then the lines were huge, a trip to relieve yourself would cost you at least an inning or two of the game. Luckily, there was a beer stand flanking the outhouse, so you were not actually deprived access to the primary reason you were at a Saints game. Although fueling up in line also increased the urgency of the moment for all involved. Any dawdlers in the Satellite were subject to a chorus of cat calls and derision. I recall one drunken agitator suggesting the best way to start a riot would be, when you got to the front of the line, pull out a copy of the Sunday New York Times for all to see, sit down, and slam the door.

In recent years, the Saints have upgraded their facilities and the gargantuan bathroom lines are a now a part of history. I see this past Sunday the Saints had a promotion that was officially a reference to Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom antics. From the looks of it, I take it as a tribute to all those brave outhouse line denizens in days gone by.

UPDATE: Speaking of Northern League baseball, idea for the next MOB get together. Road trip to Wichita.

It's Not About You

Yesterday, we attended a Memorial Day service at the Veterans Amphitheater in St. Louis Park as we have for the past few years. Each year a couple of local politicians take the stage and share their thoughts on the day, without a hint of partisanship or evidence of them seeking to gain an advantage from their appearance.

This year Congressman Keith Ellison (MN 5th CD) spoke. Now my wife isn't a hardcore political wonk like Atomizer and she doesn't take things in through any particular political lens as the most hyper-partisan among us tend to do. But she was quite put off by the way that Ellison's words appeared to cross the line between honoring veterans and self-promotion during a campaign season.

Had Ellison merely said that we need to remember the sacrifices that veterans make and ensure that they and their families are taken care of on the home front, he would have been fine. Instead, he went through a laundry list of veterans programs that he supported and talked about veterans having their homes foreclosed and becoming homeless.

What struck a nerve with me was his repeated use of the word "I" as in "I want you to know that I support this bill..." At a time when the focus is supposed to be on honoring the sacrifice of others, a speech sprinkled with said personal pronoun came off as unseemly.

To his credit, the man who followed Ellison, state DFL Representative Ryan Winkler, offered remarks that were short and to the point. He essentially said that the last thing people wanted to hear on Memorial Day was a politician, so he simply thanked the veterans and sat down. His discretion was warmly received by those in attendance.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Defrost the Freezer

As we eagerly await tomorrow's world premiere of Shark Swarm! on the Hallmark Channel, word reaches us from Canada that enviro-horror films may be the next big thing coming out of Hollywood:

Anagram Pictures will be shooting The Thaw, which features super-celebrity Val Kilmer, from Batman Forever, the Salton Sea, Top Gun and many other motion pictures.

The Thaw is about a young woman who heads to the Arctic with a group of students on a research mission, headed by Dr. Kruipen (Kilmer). The students discover that a melting polar ice-cap has released a deadly prehistoric parasite on the world after the remains of a wooly mammoth are released from the ice and thawed. The students must then find a way to save the rest of the world from the deadly parasite before it reaches the rest of civilization and causes a potentially global epidemic catastrophe.

"It's a wooly mammoth that's been preserved in a polar ice-cap. Global warming is causing the polar ice-cap to melt," says co-producer Mary Anne Waterhouse.

A polar bear then starts eating the mammoth's remains, becoming infected with the deadly parasite.


If only the US Department of the Interior wouldn't have barged in to prevent us from exterminating those white devils once and for all, we'd be safe from the prehistoric parasite menace! Thanks a lot, Al Gore.

(Via Tim Blair, at his new location.)

UPDATE: Chad P. finds a potentially fatal plot flaw in The Thaw:

Observation:

What stood out was the idea of a wooly mammoth frozen in the "polar" ice cap.

"The students discover that a melting polar ice-cap has released a deadly prehistoric parasite on the world after the remains of a wooly mammoth are released from the ice and thawed."


How and why did a warm blooded "plant" eating mammal end up at the polar ice cap? pretty strange, don't ya think? Did it pack a vegan lunch on it's detour to the wilds of .... pure ice!


I cannot answer that. I'm hoping this issue will be addressed in the sequel: The Thaw II: Flash Freeze.

Green Is The New Red

Naomi Shaefer Riley on what "sustainability" at college campuses really means (WSJ-sub req):

The sustainability folks have a much bigger agenda. As Mr. Bodner explains: "Sustainability, broadly speaking, is creating the ability for people to live on a planet that can support the population in an environmental way but also ultimately a way that promotes the good life for everyone, for social justice." And Kathleen Kerr, the head of residence life at the University of Delaware, told a gathering of college administrators last fall that the idea that "sustainability is mostly about the environment" is a "myth." In fact, she and a colleague offered a PowerPoint presentation listing other items that administrators might consider in this category. They included "Fair Trade," "Gender Equity," "Affirmative Action," "Multicultural Competence," "Worker's Rights" and "Domestic Partnerships."

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Don't Need a Media Critic to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

October 22, 2007 - Media critic Brian Lambert, on the importance of TV weathermen speaking their minds on global warming:

Not that I look to TV weather people for any great depth of science, much less a political point of view. But the perhaps sad fact is that for a lot of folks the TV weather anchor is their most frequent interface with meteorological science. With that in mind, and with climate change as profound an issue to everyone as it is (with or without Al Gore, although Gore's knee-jerk adversaries seem incapable of separating the two), it seems valid to me that those charming, glib people clicking through the weather maps offer a clue to their, uh, educated opinion on climate change.

I've mentioned this before, but here in the Twin Cities, WCCO's Paul Douglas is, for all intents and purposes, alone in his unconditional view that climate change is upon us, it is serious and human activity is a key component. This is to Douglas's eternal credit and, to my mind anyway, greatly enhances his credibility.


May 20, 2008, media critic Brian Lambert condemning a TV weatherman for speaking his mind on global warming:

The fundamental issue in this "debate" is, of course, politics, not science. Fringe groups such as the OISM, to which Mike Fairbourne lent his name, are invariably politically conservative --deeply conservative-- and attack "consensus science" of actual experts, as opposed to TV weathermen, bio-chemists, and whatever from a partisan political perspective much more than one based in science. (Their "science" is usually laughably mangled.)

Before you email Lambert recommendations for a good whiplash specialist, he does have a thread of consistency to his work. It's OK for local news personalities get out front of controversial issues, as long as they agree with the stridently liberal perspective. If not, prepare to be slimed.

I suppose this kind of standard makes for an effective liberal media watchdog and groupthink enforcement column. I just wish his would have been promoted as such in the Twin Cities for the past several decades, instead of as objective media criticism.

More from Lambert on why it's OK for Douglas to insert his global warming beliefs into the 5-day weather forecast, but not OK for Fairborne to sign a document testifying to his beliefs as a private citizen:

the critical difference here is between reputable climatologists -- professionals who have submitted their work to other professionals for review and independent study -- and those who aren't, like this Oregon Institute bunch, who are all too typical of what passes for "science" on the other end of this dispute. Yes, Paul Douglas lent credibility to the former, while Fairbourne has to the latter. It's the flat out difference between credible and ... bullsh*t.

Failure to recognize that some of the foremost experts in climate related science are skeptical of the agenda people like Lambert and Douglas are peddling is evidence that you're dealing with a fool or a con man. Generously assuming the former, here's a place the uninformed can start educating themselves on the science of the opposition:

Scientists Opposing the Mainstream Scientific Assessment of Global Warming

Beginning To See The Light

Gary Bettman finally realizes that his true goal should be To Make Fans Love Hockey (WSJ-sub req):

As the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings face off in the Stanley Cup finals, which start Saturday, Mr. Bettman, 55 years old, is that rare top executive who was behind the wheel when his business went over a cliff and now has the opportunity to put it back together. He is doing so by making a classic management choice: Instead of obsessing over growth, he is concentrating on keeping the league's existing customers happy.

What a novel concept! I await Bettman's forthcoming apology for the years that he did spend obsessing over growth and damn near completely ruining the game.

Mr. Bettman moves quickly, whether he is striding across his office to pull a book off a shelf or fetching a cookie for his wife on the other side of a Madison Square Garden luxury suite. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., and even in one-on-one conversation, he often speaks as though he is yelling on a street corner.

Mr. Bettman made his name as the bulldog general counsel for the National Basketball Association.


This is the root cause of the troubles with the Bettman administration. He was a basketball guy brought in to "fix" the NHL.

The problem was (and is) that what works for the NBA does not necessarily work for the NHL. Basketball is a simple sport: put the ball in the hoop.

I would imagine that the vast majority of all Americans across the country have at one time or another shot a ball at a hoop be it in a gym, on a playground, or in a driveway. By contrast, only a small fraction have ever laced up skates to hit the ice and even a smaller fraction have ever thrown a stick and puck into the mix.

If an average American happens across an NBA playoff game on TV, they will have a basic understanding of what's going on. They won't appreciate all the nuances obviously, but they'll know that this team is trying to put the ball in this basket and that team is trying to stop them without committing a foul.

Again contrast that to the NHL. Those of us who grew up with the sport fail to appreciate how complicated the game can seem to a newcomer. The most common question I hear from novice hockey fans is, "Why did they blow the whistle?" Offsides, icing, goalies freezing the puck, and especially penalties are often difficult to explain.

This is why Bettman's plan to grow the sport by attracting legions of new fans in non-hockey areas was doomed to failure. In the United States, hockey will always be a sport with limited appeal. Rather than trying to appeal to the masses, the NHL would be much better served by working within its limits and better serving those that already appreciate the game.

If I was running the NHL, I would be pursing expansion of a sort. Expansion back into Canadian cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City that once hosted NHL franchises. After that, I might look at smaller cities in American markets where hockey is known. Instead of trying to duplicate the other major pro sports leagues in the US, the NHL should try to come up with a scaled down model that allows them to put teams into towns that will support them rather than pushing into new areas in a futile attempt to build national appeal.

The truth of the matter is that hockey is and always will be a niche sport. There's nothing wrong with that as long as those managing the sport understand and accept that. It took a long time (too long), but it looks like that reality has finally dawned on Gary Bettman.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Moley, moley, moley, moley, moley!

This week's City Pages has a story on how the FBI is recruiting for a local undercover op:

Carroll, who requested that his real name not be used, showed up early and waited anxiously for Swanson's arrival. Ten minutes later, he says, a casually dressed Swanson showed up, flanked by a woman whom he introduced as FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola.

For the next 20 minutes, Mazzola would do most of the talking.


"She told me that I had the perfect 'look,'" recalls Carroll. "And that I had the perfect personality--they kept saying I was friendly and personable--for what they were looking for."

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant--someone to show up at "vegan potlucks" throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort's primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division's website, is to "investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines."


The perfect look and personality, eh? I wonder if any local bloggers would qualify.

Learned Foot from The Kool Aid Report? They're trying to infiltrate the looney left, not the Mafia.

Our own JB Doubtless? While the outrage is definitely there, the facial hair just doesn't quite work.

The Nihilist in Golf Pants? While the reward would certainly tempt him:

Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

He oozes corporate boardroom, not anarchist commune. But if the FBI ever needs help with a back-dated stock option sting, he's their man.

How about the bane of local liberals Michael Brodkorb? Sorry, needed to inject a little humor there. Michael's a good guy, but I don't think he could infiltrate a Whole Foods store--to say nothing of a vegan potluck--without arousing suspicion.

No, there clearly is only one person uniquely qualified for the mole role. Friendly and personable? Check. Dietary requirements? Check. Works in an environment known for radicals? Check. Appropriate facial hair to recall the "good old days" of the Sixties protest movement? He's definitely got "the look." Best of all, I understand he makes an Armenian vegetable hot dish that's simply to die for.

Mugged By Reality (literally)

On Tuesday night, local talk radio host Bob Davis was mugged:

Bob talked about being mugged last night. He's ok, but lost his iPod and $13. Lots of people called in with thoughts on crime in the city and what is wrong with Minneapolis.

I only caught a small part of the first hour of the show yesterday when he discussed it. It sounds like he's okay, but obviously a little ticked off. Bob's political views are pretty liberatarian/conservative already and I think it's fair to say that this recent experience is not going to lead to a Ed Schultzesque change of heart.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blood In The Water

We had a really big radio show planned last Saturday. First, we were going to be joined by noted French intellectual Guy Sorman to discuss his book Empire of Lies: The Truth About China in the Twenty-First Century. I know what you're thinking, "A French intellectual? Quell' horreur!" but fear not good friends for Mr. Sorman is definitely not a man of the gauche. President Ronald Reagan once noted:

"In political philosophy, a whole generation of French thinkers like Revel, Jean-Marie Benoit, and Guy Sorman are rejecting the old clichés about state power and rediscovering the danger such power poses to personal freedom."

Mr. Sorman has traveled to China many times over the years and recently spent a good part of a year there. His personal observations and discussions with a variety of Chinese dissidents provide an insightful look behind the go-go capitalist facade that the Communist Party presents to the West. He also lays out a number of possible future scenarios for China and advises the West on how to realistically approach the challenge that China presents.

And we were also going to be joined by the producer of Shark Swarm. Yes, that Shark Swarm. If you're not already breathlessly anticipating Sunday's premier, you really need to watch the trailer clips here, especially the interview with John Schneider where he explains why heroism underwater is so much more...heroic.

Anyway, you know the saying about best laid plans. Unforeseen events interceded and forced us to both reschedule the interview with Guy Sorman and broadcast a "best of" show last Saturday (believe it or not we get paid the same for best ofs as for live shows).

We are still trying to set up a new date with Mr. Sorman, but we have been able to confirm that we will have the "Shark Swarm" producer on this Saturday at noon. If you have any questions about the making of the soon-to-be epic, give us a call at 651-289-4488. It should be an entertaining show.

Hoopstown

David e-mails to take exception with my post from last week on the demise of Hockeytown:

A couple of points. Large blocks of tickets at all professional sports events, including Wild games, are bought by businesses. Business is terrible in Detroit, so ticket sales are down. Unemployment is at least 10% and climbing fast, so individuals can't afford tickets. So "Hockeytown" started in the marketing dept. "State of Hockey" didn't? Red Wing fans follow every game of the season and not just the playoff games. Don't be so smug. I'd hate to see 10% unemployment here in MN but if it happened, I'd bet there'd be a few empty seats at Xcel.

In theory, that sounds like a good explanation and the state of Detroit's economy was cited in the WSJ story. However, it doesn't jive with the reality that the Detroit Pistons Topped the NBA in Attendance:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.--In 41 home games this season, the Detroit Pistons were absolutely perfect. Sure, their record on the court was 34-7, but in the stands the Pistons were 41-0.

For the fifth time in six seasons, the Detroit Pistons are the attendance champs in the NBA. With 41 straight sell-outs and an average of 22,076 per game, the Pistons hosted 905,116 fans during the 2007-08 regular season.

"Our sell-out streak and leading the league in attendance are two things that we take a great deal of pride in," said Pistons CEO Tom Wilson. "They are an indication of the quality of the fan experience we provide, the excellence of our team, and, most importantly, they demonstrate the strong commitment and fierce loyalty of Detroit Pistons fans."


While economic conditions in Detroit are less than ideal, it's pretty clear that the fans and corporations are still willing to pay the price to support the Pistons. Therefore, it would be perfectly legitimate for the city to claim the title "Hoopstown." Hockeytown however is no longer an appropriate moniker.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Anyone with children knows just how silly the modern feminist delusion that there are no inherent differences between men and women is. The notion that gender differences are programmed into children by society is proved absurd early in your child's life and proof of that absurdity is reinforced on almost a daily basis thereafter.

The most recent example of this for my wife came about the other day when she was out in the yard with the kids. Having just moved into our new home, lawn care has not yet been much of a priority for us so far and portions of the yard are fairly thick with the hated and oh so pesky dandelion. Now while adults full well recognize a dandelion for the infernal weed that it is, children look at a dandelion and see a yellow flower.

My wife was counting on this when she pointed out the dandelions to our eldest son, "Look Nathaniel, some flowers." Now, being of the female persuasion herself and perhaps remembering her own experiences with dandelions as a child, my wife expected him to then pick the dandelions. After all, if

dandelions are flowers

and

you pick flowers

then

you pick dandelions

Perfectly sound logic. For the feminine mind. So what did Nathaniel do?

He ran over to the dandelions/flowers and began joyously stomping them into the ground. For a male, stomping is much more fun than picking. I mean, what are you going do with the dandelions/flowers after you pick them? Look at them? Smell them? Seems pretty pointless when there's a good stomping to be had instead.

It reminded me of the first time that Nathaniel saw a bug (at least I think it was the first time). I found an unusual type of beetle on our patio and called Nathaniel over to take a look at it. He took one glance and immediately squashed it under his foot. I don't think he thought about it either. It was just a natural reaction. You see a bug and you stomp it. No programming required.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The State Fair That Never Ends

A few observations from a weekend spent in Wisconsin (funeral in Green Bay and visit to relatives in Eau Claire):

- The I-29 bypass around Chippewa Falls definitely helps, but anyway you slice it the drive from the Twin Cities to Green Bay is a long one. Especially with a couple of youngins in the back.

- My wife claims that people from Wisconsin look different. Not everyone mind you, but she thinks that a majority of the state residents have a definite look that distinguishes them.

- She was also shocked by the fact that fried cheese curds are pretty much available anywhere and everywhere you go in Wisconsin. From family restaurants, supper clubs, sports bars, hole in the wall sandwich shops, to the church festival that we attended on Sunday, cheese curds were always on the menu. She's presently working on her unified cheese head theory to tie this in with her thesis on the Wisconsin look.

- There's nothing like a funeral in the Midwest to bring out the desserts. After the service on Saturday, everyone gathered for the traditional sandwiches, coffee, and cake. There were no fewer than seventeen cakes baked for this funeral and probably twenty other dessert items laid out. Bars, brownies, cookies, etc., there were enough desserts on hand to feed half the town of Green Bay. My only disappointment was that there was no tomato/hamburger hot dish and no fruit/vegetable jellos on had. It's just wasn't the same Lutheran funeral experience without them.

Finding The Time

Three interesting recent arrivals on the door step of the domicile:

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein

The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness by Lyle H. Rossiter

10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help by Benjamin Wiker

Cheaper Than Franking

Michele Bachmann has launched a blog. And it allows comments.

For a representative often criticized by her more extreme opponents as being unwilling to engage with the public (meaning she won't meet with obsessive stalkers), this is a big move into the new media. As far as I know, she is the first of Minnesota's Congressional reps to actually have a real blog. I know for a fact that my representative does not.

Mutual

Story in today's WSJ on how Omaha is Divided Over Plan For Pricey New Ballpark:

For nearly 60 years, the College World Series has helped define this midsize former railroad town on the west bank of the Missouri River, mythologizing it as a special home for baseball at its purest.

But now a plan to build history's most-expensive minor-league ballpark has strained relations here, dividing those loyal to the event's traditions--and who think the new stadium is a waste of money--from folks who want to see Omaha turn the event into another glitzy sports stop. It also has alienated the city's longtime minor-league franchise.

The proposed stadium plan turned town meetings into shouting matches. Opponents even launched an effort to recall the mayor. Now, though, Omaha is on the verge of approving $100 million in city spending for a $140 million, 24,000-seat downtown stadium that would serve as the home for the College World Series for the next 25 years, and possibly for the Omaha Royals, Kansas City's top minor-league franchise.


Of course, this leads to the inevitable question: if Omaha fails to build a new stadium will the city become nothing more than a warm Minneapolis?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chicken Fried Chicken

Let me begin by saying that it's been years since I went to McDonald's for lunch. Ronald's menu doesn't have much appeal for me and when you combine my disinterest in Super Sizing it with the fact that the "store" nearest my workplace is typically an absolute madhouse over the lunch hour, it means that I can always find a much better alternative.

But yesterday I did hit the drive through under the Golden Arches. The reason? A coupon for a free Southern Style Chicken Sandwich that I received in the box with a recent Amazon shipment. My general distaste for McDonald's was overcome by my deeply ingrained inability to refuse anything offered for free.

You can only imagine my delight when I pulled up to the order board and saw a sign advertising Free Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches with the purchase of a medium or large beverage. Free sandwiches for one day only. May 15th. Which meant that my coupon could live to save another day and I could still score a free chicken sandwich. Does it get any better I ask?

The verdict on the sandwich itself? Meh. The chicken piece was small and for the most part tasteless. I have no idea what part of its "style" could in any way be billed as "Southern." Overall it paled in comparison with similar chicken offerings at other fast food venues such as Wendy's.

But I will definitely be going back one day soon for another. Why? Still got that coupon burnin' a hole in my pocket. It's free ya know.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Compassion and Love

Liz from A Blonde moment e-mails to point out a post at Frere Williams called What Suffering People Really Need that nicely summarizes what I was trying to get at yesterday:

As wonderful as my Reformed theology is suffering people do not need a Reformed or any other kind of systematic theological discourse from anyone...what suffering people need is a vision of who God is, and for someone to get in the darkness and cry with them. We are not called to answer the "whys?", we are called to help others bear their crosses as St. Simon of Cyrene helped our Lord bear His cross. I have five words to say to those whose only response to suffering people is cold, wooden literal, systematic theological statements...PLEASE SHUT THE HECK UP, please just stop talking and trying to answer questions you can not answer, and silently bear the pains of the other person in compassion and love.

What I was attempting to say is that this isn't the time to be asking questions or trying to answer them. For the family, there is nothing you can say or no answer that you can provide that will make things better. You just need to be there with them to help them through their time of suffering.

It seems that our society has to try to always provide an instant answer or rationale for everything. My wife was looking for a card yesterday and couldn't find anything appropriate. She said she wanted something that just said (paraphrasing a bit) "This is awful and I wish I could do something to make it better." Unfortunately, Hallmark isn't into such simple straight talk.

You're Doing A Great Job, Hanie

Two articles in yesterday's WSJ (both sub req) on the earthquake in China make similiar comparisons:

China Earthquake Exposes A Widening Wealth Gap:

Natural disasters often wreak their worst havoc on the disadvantaged, people who tend to live in subpar housing. This was the case with Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.

Poverty in China and Poverty in the United States? Sure, seems like a valid comparison.

Xinhua Goes Beyond Propaganda :

The political stakes in reporting on Monday's quake and its aftermath--or on other natural disasters, such as the snowstorms earlier this year that brought transportation in much of the country to a standstill--are high. Protests and demonstrations are still considered taboo for the Chinese news media, which are all ultimately under the government's control. Yet natural disasters can be politically sensitive as well. Even a minor lapse in Beijing's response could erode the government's mandate with the masses, harming it as 2005's Hurricane Katrina did the Bush administration in the U.S.

Comparing the Bush adminstration with the Chinese Communist dictarship? Again, seems like a very apt comparison.

Well, expect for the fact that if the Chinese government's response to the earthquake erodes its "mandate with the masses" the result is likely to be some sort of violent revolution not a drop in their approval ratings or a defeat for the party in mid-term elections.

Geting serious about China for a second, if you're looking for a way to lend a hand to the survivors of Monday's quake, I would recommend dropping some dough into World Vision's Emergency Aid jar. They are one of the most effective and efficient relief agencies and they already have resources on the ground in China.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Words

Yesterday, my wife and I received the sad news that a dear friend had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Well, it seemed like a long battle, although after talking it over we realized that it had only been about nine months from the time she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her funeral is on Saturday and we'll be leaving town on Friday in order to attend it.

Her death is a true tragedy and any words offered as condolences seem like trite platitudes at this point. For there are no words that can ease the pain. What do you say to a husband who's just lost his wife and the mother of his children? What do you say to two young daughters whose memories of their wonderful mother will grow increasingly vague as they grow older? What do you say to a mother, who suddenly lost her husband a few years ago and now must cope with a parent's worst nightmare; the death of one of your children?

There are also no answers to the inevitable question of why? Why did it happen to her? Why did a young woman in the prime years of her life face such a horrible affliction? Why her, a caring woman who lived a good life and wanted nothing more than to raise her children and grow old with her husband? Why? Why? Why? There are no answers to offer.

It's a time when the clichés about "putting things in perspective" "making you realize how lucky you are" and "not taking anything for granted" don't seem so worn after all. It's a time to mourn what you have lost, but also cherish what you have and recognize how fleeting it all can be.

I don't want to turn this into some maudlin, "Cats In The Cradle" like heart-tugging reflection, but it does serves as a cautionary reminder. Even though at some level you know it's not true, you assume that your friends and family will always be there. So if you're too busy today, you can always call or visit them tomorrow. Or the next tomorrow. Or the tomorrow after that. It shouldn't be, but it always comes as a shock when one day you hear the news and realize that there is no tomorrow.

It's also a time to wonder where God figures in all this. It's disquieting to consider a world with God where such awful things happen. But it's even more disquieting to consider such a world without God. For with God there is hope. And at a time like this when words will not suffice and no answers are to be had, hope is about all we have to go on.

Gina Johnson R.I.P.

They Say These Fans Are Going Boys And They Ain't Comin' Back

For years, I've wondered what the origin of Detroit's claim to the title "Hockeytown" was. I assumed it had something to do with the glory days of the Red Wings when the likes of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel skated in the Motor City. In a piece in today's WSJ called What Happened to Hockeytown? (sub req), we learn the cold truth:

After a dozen years of serving as the signature of the Motor City's sports fever, Hockeytown appears to have caught a cold.

First conceived in 1996 as a marketing slogan aimed at revving up Detroit Red Wings fans starving for a Stanley Cup, Hockeytown evolved into part of the hardscrabble city's identity. Along the way, the team collected three championships. But after a generation of sellouts, the franchise is struggling to re-establish itself.


So the whole "Hockeytown" mystique was nothing more than a marketing gimmick? For some reason I'm not surprised. I can recall the apathy of Detroit toward the Wings during the late Seventies and early Eighties when the team was struggling. The problem with such marketing gimmicks of course is that over time their appeal tends to fade even if the team continues to do well.

So far the Wings have played nine home games in the post season, and Mr. Catallo hasn't bought tickets to a single one. He's not alone, either. With conference finals tickets starting at $75, the Wings have struggled to sell out Joe Louis Arena. At their last home game--a riveting 2-1 win Saturday over the Dallas Stars--swaths of red seats remained empty throughout the arena. Blocks of four tickets could be purchased online three hours before Game 2; blocks of 10 could be had before Game 1. Outside the arena, scalpers peddled tickets below face value.

The whole concept of "Hockeytown" isn't about how good your team is on the ice. It's about how the city and fans embrace and support the game.

The Red Wings also saw regular-season attendance drop nearly 6%, to an average of 18,912 fans, according to ESPN.com. That ranked them seventh in the NHL; they ranked second in 2006-07.

I think it's safe to say that the "Hockeytown" title can officially be stripped from Detroit. It's time to move on from cheap marketing gimmicks and embrace a more authentic and genuine moniker that truly captures an area's passion for hockey. Something like "The State of Hockey*" perhaps.

*Trademark Minnesota Wild 2000--Any reproduction or other use of "The State of Hockey" without the express written consent of the Minnesota Wild is strictly prohibited.

You Know It's Only Begun

A couple of e-mails on yesterday's post on the new TSA "Black Diamond" security lines both notice the same problem with the program: no consequences for non-experts going where they should fear to tread.

Tim from Colorado is skeptical:

Regarding the TSA's new "Black Diamond" program, color me dubious at best. I don't think it will work for very long.

At a ski area, if you are less than an expert and go down an expert run, you'll probably get yourself killed. The inexperienced can see the dangers from the top (sometimes the bottom) and will wisely back off.

At the airport, once the inexperienced see how much faster the "experts" move through security, they will deem themselves experts, too. It's kind of like skiing or golf; there are a lot of people out there who think they're better than they really are.

At the airport, their will be no consequences if somebody gets in the wrong line and ends up delaying everybody behind them.


Tom has the same concern, but thinks he has the answer:

As a person who goes through airport security at least twice a week and sometimes four roughly 3 of every 4 weeks, I would welcome this program at MSP or any of the airports I fly from. The upside to "Black Diamond" lines on the ski hill is that the penalty for choosing this over the bunny hill is a probability of broken limbs and as the excerpt suggests people self selectively opt out. With travel, many people will want to go through the fast moving line. At MSP, in the Land of 10,000 Entitlements, I would hate to be the poor TSA schlep having to explain to some fairness expert and resident of our open minded capitol city that because she and her partner and their two children only travel once per year she has to go through the bunny line while the "corporate" "suits" get to go through the fast lane. Before leaving the fast line the aggrieved traveler will have to blog about it, file suit and arrange for a full protest and boycott. The fast line will be just as slow as ever.

Maybe if the TSA had a bone crushing enforcer at the end of the Black Diamond line if you held up the line for longer than a specified amount of time, it would work. I'm sure there are some former hockey goons looking for good government jobs. JB, get the tapes out.


WARNING: Failure to navigate through the Black Diamond security line in a forthright manner will result in an extensive passenger debriefing with Agent Probert. Proceed at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Pale Imitation of Life

The WSJ editorializes on McCain's climate change plan (in the print version it was titled "Obama-lite"):

The latest stop on John McCain's policy tour came at an Oregon wind-turbine manufacturer, where the topic was--what else?--the Senator's plan to address climate change. This is one of those issues where Mr. McCain indulges his "maverick" tendencies, which usually means taking the liberal line. That was the case yesterday, no matter how frequently he claimed his approach was "market based."

In fact, if "the market" is your favored mechanism, Mr. McCain's endorsement of a "cap and trade" system is the worst choice for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The Bush Administration has pursued one option, which combines voluntary measures with subsidies for "clean" alternatives. Since 2001 under this approach, U.S. net carbon emissions have fallen by 3%--that is, by more than all but four countries in cap-and-trade-bound Europe.

At the other end of the market spectrum is a straight carbon tax, which would at least distribute costs more efficiently. It would also force politicians to be honest about--and take responsibility for--the true price of their global-warming posturing.

Then there's cap and trade, which Mr. McCain has backed for years and would, as he put it with some understatement, "change the dynamic of our energy economy." He noted that Americans have a genius for problem-solving but continued, "The federal government can't just summon these talents by command--only the free market can draw them out." To translate: His plan is "market based" insofar as it requires an expensive, invasive government bureaucracy to interfere with the market.


That much pretty sums up that feelings that I had yesterday when reading about McCain's plan. The Journal editorial closes by questioning McCain's understanding of the economics of climate change and reminding Republicans for the 7,834th time that--no matter what the issue is--they can't out-Dem the Dems:

Given the distance between Mr. McCain's rhetoric and the policy reality, we wonder if he even knows what he's proposing. This is of a piece with his approach to many domestic issues, where the policy contradictions and cul-de-sacs overwhelm his professed political convictions. The McCain campaign believes his global-warming plan will appeal to independents and young people, as well as separate the Senator from President Bush.

But he will never be green enough for the climate-change fundamentalists. The Obama campaign and Democrats were already dinging Mr. McCain yesterday for half-measures. His concessions won't help him much in November, but they will make his governing decisions in 2009 that much more difficult if by some chance he does win.


When will they ever learn?

The Most Over-Rated Movies Of All Time

In no particular order.

The one thing that most of these movies share is the collective agreement that these are all important, smart movies that people who want to be viewed as being important and smart are supposed to like.

The truth is, these movies are either boring as hell, never as good as they are hailed, or simply played out and no longer entertaining in any way, whatsoever.

Chinatown--snooze fest dee-luxe! I have actually seen it in a movie theatre and it added nothing. Water? Who controls the water? Who cares? Nicholson looks ridikkeruss with that bandaid on his nose throughout the five hour epic (seems like it, anyhow). Plus, it looks so 1975 and not 1946 or whatever it was supposed to be.

The Last Waltz--little insight here folks: most of the recordings were re-done in the studio, so the great harmonies you think you're hearing live were fixed later. Lame. And what the hell is up with the interviews? Robbie Robertson and "Marty" Scorsese are so wacked out of their self-important gourds on coke that they are incoherent. Notice the white nostril artwork in the background? Hilarious. *rolls eyes*

Spinal Tap--plaaaaayyyed out. Way out. Yes, we all get the gags. They're 25 years old. I thought this was really funny when I was 17--"They're making fun of heavy metal? Hah, that is so funny!" The next person I hear say "Hello Cleveland" or "This one goes to 11" is going to be assaulted with a Telecaster. Enough already.

Raging Bull--more boring than Chinatown. Yes, I know, hard to imagine. I watched this again recently for about 40 minutes and not a damn thing happened. They went to a nightclub and there was some talking. Then they talked some more. Then Deniro was walking around in a wife beater and acting all angry. I fell asleep.

Dr. Strangelove--zzzzzzzzz...I watched about 20 minutes of this one recently too and I felt like I was being beaten about the head and back by the movie. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! They pummel the audience with cloying irony, my least favorite literary device. This is another movie where I want to yell out "YES! WE GET IT! THE MILITARY ARE STUPID! IT'S HILARIOUS! NOW STFU!"

That's all I can think of for now.

The Elder Takes A Whack: I imagine that this post will generate some discussion (with reaction from Saint Paul and Atomizer forthcoming) as JB processes several sacred movie cows through his abattoir. My only real disagreement is with "Tap" which I believe still retains its timeless appeal.

Out On the Street For a Living

Scott McCartney reports from The Middle Seat (WSJ-sub req) that even an organization as nightmarishly bureaucratic as the TSA can come up with a good idea at times:

The government is introducing segregation into airport security lines. And many travelers seem to like it.

In an effort to ease traveler anxiety and maybe even improve airport security, the Transportation Security Administration is rolling out a new setup where fliers are asked to self-segregate into different screening lanes depending on their security prowess. There are lanes for "Expert Travelers," who know the drill cold; "Casual Travelers," who run the airport gauntlet infrequently; and people with small children or special needs who move slowly through screening.


Hal-a-freakin-luyah. Many is the time I've wished for just such a system to separate those wise in the ways of security checkpoint procedures from those who react as if someone has just asked them to fill out the complete New York Times Sunday crossword. In Aramaic. The nameless, faceless TSA bureaucrat who proposed this system deserves a heartfelt thank you from all frequent travelers.

The idea, akin to how ski resorts divide skiers by ability, was suggested to TSA by focus groups of fliers. The agency didn't think it would work, says TSA chief Kip Hawley, but a test showed travelers liked the idea, and it had some benefits for security screening. So TSA has now rolled it out in 12 airports, from Seattle to Boston, dubbing the program "Black Diamond," the name it uses for expert lanes, borrowed from the ski-resort term for expert trails. More "Black Diamond" setups are coming.

"You have to see it to believe it," Mr. Hawley said. "It has improved the flow and calm at the checkpoints."


Sigh. Okay, we should thank the nameless, faceless TSA bureaucrat who had the common sense to at least try something different. Improving the flow and increasing the sense of calm at security checkpoints are both huge factors in reducing the stress and needless anxiety that usually accompany any trip to the airport.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Runnin' On Empty

On last Saturday's First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, one of the topics that we covered was our wish for Republican candidates to offer clear and distinct energy policy alternatives to those espoused by the Democrats. Unfortunately that wish appears increasingly fanciful as evidenced by John McCain's remarks on global warming and energy today:

Republican John McCain, reaching out to both independents and green-minded social conservatives, argues that global warming is undeniable and the country must take steps to bring it under control while adhering to free-market principles.

In remarks prepared for delivery Monday at a Portland, Ore., wind turbine manufacturer, the presidential contender says expanded nuclear power must be considered to reduce carbon-fuel emissions. He also sets a goal that by 2050, the country will reduce carbon emissions to a level 60 percent below that emitted in 1990.

"For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction--toward machines, methods and industries that used oil and gas," said McCain. "Enormous good came from that industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren't counting, and often hardly noticed. And these terrible costs have added up now, in the atmosphere, in the oceans and all across the natural world."


Two problems with this. The first is that achieving McCain's goal--while less drastic than others proposed--is completely unrealistic without major impacts to the economy. The second is that while he claims his approach adheres to free market principles, it's just a less drastic form of government intervention.

McCain's major solution is to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon-fuel emissions, like a similar program in the Clean Air Act that was used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that triggered acid rain.

Industries would be given emission targets, and those coming in under their limit could sell their surplus polluting capacity to companies unable to meet their target.

McCain wants the country to return to 2005 emission levels by 2012; 1990 levels by 2020; and to a level sixty percent below that by 2050.

"As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy," he said. "More likely, however, there will be some companies that need extra emissions rights, and they will be able to buy them. The system to meet these targets and timetables will give these companies extra time to adapt--and that is good economic policy."


No, it isn't. It's trying to solve a problem that we may very well have little or no ability to impact while taking on costs that are likely far in excessive of any realistic potential consequences from said problem. The benefits of this are dubious at best, while the costs are very real (and almost always understated).

McCain is not the only Republican proposing Democrat-lite energy polices:

The Brookings Institution held a discussion on energy challenges for the next president of the United States, where Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) spoke about his Seven "Grand Challenges" for the next five years. The 5-year proposal, which he calls "A New Manhattan Project," includes integration of plug-in electric cars and trucks, carbon capture for coal-burning power plants, cost-competitive solar power, nuclear waste management, advanced biofuels made from inedible crops, green building construction, and fusion energy.

I always cringe when I hear about the need for "A New Manhattan Project" or "A New Apollo Program" to address the country's energy needs. It's clear that when the government has a concentrated, focused effort on a specific goal, it can use its power to accomplish remarkable feats in relatively short periods of time. In addition to the examples cited above, you could include the Hoover Dam or more recently the building of the new I-35W bridge:

The bridge was expected to open on December 24, 2008, but Sanderson said they are about three months ahead of schedule.

There's a financial incentive to finish early, too: $200,000 for each day before December 24, with a limit of 100 days. The contractors will receive an extra $20 million if they finish by September 15. Sanderson said that's the date his crews are shooting for.


Pretty impressive considering the bridge collapsed on August 1st, 2007. Now that's what you call adhering to free market principals.

The one thing that all these projects have in common are clear and concrete goals to achieve. Building a useable atomic bomb. Landing the first man on the moon. Building a damn. Building a bridge. Of course, there were thousands of actions that went into each goal being realized, but at the end each could easily be demonstrated as having been reached.

So what is the goal of our "New Manhattan Project" for energy? Lower carbon emissions? More "alternative" fuel sources? Less reliance on foreign energy supplies? Or simply more energy for the US?

All laudable goals no doubt, but not exactly the specific, easily measured ones mentioned early. Having the government try to drive such an energy effort across a broad spectrum of industries, geographies, regulatory groups,research specialties, etc. with no clear goals seems like a prescription for inefficiency, waste, and poor results. Like the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs" before it, a centralized government energy program will likely become another vast and endless sinkhole where billions (if not trillions)of dollars are invested in efforts that pay few dividends.

You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three

A couple of e-mails regarding my post on "bottlenomics."

Todd from Pennsylvania reminds us of the seasonality of Scotch:

Scotch is certainly a 'staple' in my house, even being assigned a cabinet top in the dining room, but I don't plan on buying any more anytime soon. Not because of the economy, we're doing fine--it's the the seasonal switch to gin. I'm off to the store later this AM to start stocking up on the staple of spring, summer and early fall, half gallons of Booths. I bet the scotch economy barometer will start to spike in late Sept., early October at the latest.

I too make somewhat of a seasonal transition from brown liquors to clear, but I also believe that two things that are always in season are good Scotch and a dry Martini.

Dan from Minnetonka waxes philosophically:

Read your post on scotch and the economy. The thought comes to mind. Drinking, while a necessity, does not have to be done to the level one would most enjoy. Both in quantity, and more importantly as we mature quality.

While there is some truth there, I would disagree on the quality angle. As you get older (and hopefully wiser) you naturally tend to drink less than in your days of misspent youth. But you should be drinking better. Much better.

Of course, when your drink of choice in college was a five-dollar liter of gut-rot vodka diluted with Sunny Delight, the bar has been set pretty low.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Holding Down The Bar

A couple of points from a quick perusal of Michelle Obama's May 2nd stump speech.

I know that she's a very intelligent woman, but I'm not sure if she really gets irony.

They move the bar. They raise it up. They shift it to the left and to the right. It's always just quite out of reach. And that's a little bit of what Barack has been experiencing. The bar is constantly changing for this man. Raise the money? Not enough. Build an organization? Not enough. Win a whole bunch of states? Not the right states. You got to win certain states. So the bar has been shifting and moving in this race, but the irony is, the sad irony is that that's exactly what's happening to most Americans in this country. The bar is shifting and moving on people all the time. And folks are struggling like never before, working harder than ever, believing that their hard work will lead to some reward, some payoff. But what they find is that they get there and the bar has changed, things are different, wasn't enough. So you have to work even harder.

Even if what she says about all that confounded bar moving is true, is it in any way ironic?

And see what happens when you live in a nation where the vast majority of Americans are struggling every day to reach an ever-shifting and moving bar, then what happens in that nation is that people do become isolated.

I have to agree with her here. It's been my experience that when you're struggling to reach an ever-shifting and moving bar, you do become isolated. Once the bar starts moving, you usually find yourself cut off and booted out on the street in no time. If you're lucky, one of your friends will come out and pick you up from the sidewalk, but you're often on your own.

By the way, she uses the word "bar" no less than thirty-one times in the speech. Unfortunately, it's never in the right context.

Learning The Right Lessons

There was much talk this week about the special election in Louisiana's Sixth District, where Republican Woody Jenkins was knocked off by Don Cazayoux. The district had been in Republican hands for thirty-four years and many pundits divined that this election's outcome was a preview of a coming Republican debacle in the fall. In today's WSJ, Kimberly Strassel says that while there is a lesson for Republicans in Jenkins' defeat, it's not that all hope is lost:

Yet Mr. Jenkins was also a divisive firebrand. He was infamous for carrying around plastic fetuses, to demonstrate his opposition to abortion. He'd previously landed in a weird entanglement with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. This history made even conservatives fidgety, and crowded out anything Mr. Jenkins had to say on issues.

More debilitating to the Jenkins campaign was a strong whiff of the ethical problems that have plagued Republicans. A labor union ran ads noting Mr. Jenkins's had seen 19 tax liens filed against him and his broadcasting company since 1990. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pointed out that a murky Jenkins charity had paid him consulting fees, paid rent to his company, and paid more than a half-a-million dollars to his wife. He'd been in hot water over campaign contributions, and voted against financial disclosure.

Democrats, meanwhile, have realized it's more important to win than to impose liberal litmus tests on candidates. Mr. Jenkins's opponent, Don Cazayoux, was pro-life and pro-gun. He had nice things to say about John McCain, and rarely mentioned Mr. Obama or Hillary Clinton. A self-styled "John Breaux Democrat," he focused on education and health care.

As the polls deteriorated, the National Republican Congressional Committee ran desperate ads attempting to link Mr. Cazayoux to Mr. Obama. The comparison was ludicrous, and Louisiana voters knew it (even if the national press corps didn't). It failed to save Mr. Jenkins from a three percentage-point loss.


Clearly in Jenkins case, there were problems with both the message and the messenger. In contrast to another GOP candidate in Louisiana:

He might have also directed those listening to another Louisiana election this weekend, one that didn't get nearly the attention. The district is also conservative; Mr. Bush won 71% in 2004. The real difference was the campaign.
The 43-year-old Republican, Steve Scalise, had pinpointed today's GOP vulnerabilities, and ran an anti-status-quo campaign. His focal point was wasteful spending, and he touted his legislation to reform Louisiana's earmark process.
Another hallmark was ethics reform and his fight against public corruption. He talked up competitive private health care, lower taxes and school choice.

Republicans looking for an Obama doppelganger would have been better served by his Democratic competitor, Gilda Reed. She campaigned on immediate withdrawal from Iraq and "universal" health care. Trade came in for a bashing, as did secret ballots in union-organizing elections. Ms. Reed explained she was personally pro-life, but felt abortion needed to remain legal. Her cause became that of the liberal left, with the Daily Kos hosting an online fund-raiser on her behalf. Mr. Scalise won 75% of the vote.


Strassel summarizes what the real lessons of both campaigns should be for the GOP:

With Democrats actively recruiting conservative candidates, it's no longer good enough for the GOP names to fall back on cultural credentials, to demagogue immigration, or to simply promise lower taxes. Voters care about the size of government, but they are equally worried about the cost of doctor visits and gas prices. The winners will be those who explain the merits of a private health-care reform, who talk about vouchers, who push for energy production. And given its reputation on ethics, it's clear the GOP has to recruit Mr. Cleans, who also make voters believe they are more interested in solving problems than bringing home pork.

It's almost a cliché these days to say that politicians can't just be against something, they have to be for something, but Republican candidates need to beaten over the head with that simple message every day between now and November 4th.

Now Where Did We Leave Those Illegals Again?

Canada has lost track of 41,000 illegals:

Auditor General Sheila Fraser is reporting that Canada's border agency has lost track of 41,000 people who have been ordered out of the country.

In a report tabled Tuesday, Fraser said that the numbers of people in Canada illegally may be growing because the Canada Border Services Agency is failing to monitor its detention and removal decisions properly.


I'm sure there's nothing to worry about here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Look To The Bottle

Bert e-mails to hep us to a story on what sales of Scotch may tell us about the economy:

For those trying to see through the current global economic fog and work out how bad things may get, enlightenment can come in many forms.

Sales of scotch whisky are regarded by some as a fair, if unusual, barometer of economic prospects and how confident people feel about the present and the future.

"I tend to believe there is a correlation between the two," says Paul Hughes, director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University.

The reason for this is fairly simple.

Scotch is a truly global product sold in more than 200 countries.

Though it may not be a staple item


Well maybe not in your house.

or a commodity, like oil, which is traded by the second and whose price is tracked in minute detail, it is enjoyed in most corners of the world and therefore a decent indicator of broader buying patterns.

Historically, scotch sales have tended to follow the global economic curve.

In the last 30 years, the value of sales has only fallen three times: in 1983, 1998 and 2004.


This makes sense. If you are going to cut back, one of the areas that would likely be impacted would be booze. Not that you would quit drinking, but instead of a fifty dollar bottle of single malt Scotch, you might opt for a fifteen dollar domestic whiskey instead.

I used to think that the liquor industry was fairly recession proof, but a friend who owns a store here reports that rising gas prices and the softening economy have directly impacted his sales. Again, it's not that people aren't drinking anymore. They're just drinking more frugally.

Disenfranchised

Dave Golokhov provides his list of the Top 10: Worst franchises in pro sports:

Every fan wants to cheer for a team that has the championship history of the New England Patriots, New York Yankees or Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, many get stuck with a long string of bad luck, like the Chicago Cubs; thrifty ownership, like the now-defunct Montreal Expos; or a dim-witted front office that is unable to make logical personnel decisions, like the current New York Knicks.

Here is a list of the top 10 worst sports franchises currently in operation.

10. Los Angeles Clippers
9. Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies
8. Atlanta Hawks


Three eternally crappy NBA teams. So far so good.

7. Minnesota Twins

"Moneyball" is to baseball what frugal is to cheap; it's a creative way of saying, "we're not going to pay for our stars or reward our veterans who have earned their keep." Sabermetrics and scientific stats are used to evaluate players and give a better indication of their worth, but teams like the Minnesota Twins use this strategy to kiss their superstars goodbye at the trade deadline or the first day of free agency. The Twins constantly sell proven veterans for prospects and draft picks, but when those youngsters finally develop, they get shipped away to start the cycle again. The Twins incessantly look to the future and winning now is not a priority. Translation: the Twins care more about the dollars than about winning.


Are you kidding? Sure, the Twins have made some questionable moves of late. Letting Hunter go. Trading Santana. Allowing a guy like Atomizer to help design their new stadium. But you can't seriously claim that they're the seventh worst franchise in all of pro sports. They're only the third worst franchise in Minnesota. Has Golokhov missed the clown show that plays at Target Center or the NFL team that's letting its Super Bowl dreams ride on the arm of Tavaris Jackson?

How about the Brewers? The Cubs? The Florida Panthers? The Phoenix Coyotes? When's the last time any team from Cleveland's won anything?

Worst list ever. Yes, that IS saying a lot.

Crimes Against Humanity

The news that Robert Beale had been found guilty of tax evasion last week was cause for celebration among lefty bloggers. Robert is the father of Theodore Beale, better known as Vox Day and no doubt many were happy to use the sins of the father against the son, especially those who had oft felt the sting of the back of Vox's virtual hand in the past. The fact that Robert Beale was an outspoken Christian also contributed to the joy they felt as his downfall.

But I also believe part of the reason for their exuberant reaction and the level of opprobrium they directed at the elder Beale was that in their eyes he committed the ultimate crime against the state by refusing to pay his taxes. In no way am I defending Robert Beale's actions--it's pretty clear that he broke the law and should pay an appropriate penalty for it--but when it comes to heinous crimes against society, not paying your taxes isn't high on my list. If instead of refusing to pay his taxes because of fervently held beliefs, Beale had been a leftist radical whose revolutionary ideals lead him to try to blow up the Pentagon or plant bombs under police cars, he would have received a much more sympathetic ear in the media and among the left.

You Are Where You Work?

From an article in yesterday's WSJ on China's softball team's attempt to Recapture Olympic Glory (sub req):

In December 2005, with the Beijing Olympics on the horizon, the Sports Administration's Small Balls Department abruptly replaced Ms. Lihong with an American, Michael Bastian.

Hey Bill, congrats on the new job. Where you working again?

Um...(lowers voice) the Small Balls Department.

What?

(coughs) The Small Balls Department.

Still can't understand you man.

(Much louder) I work in the Small Balls Department, okay? And it's a great place to work too.

(snickers) Yeah, sounds perfect for you dude.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A lot of hard work and a little bit of luck

There's been some concern expressed about the welfare of Atomizer after he participated in last Sunday's National MS Society Walk. For most people, such a walk would not push them to their physical limits, but considering that Atomizer's body has been in a state of advanced atrophy for some time now, that fact that we haven't heard from him since does give us reason to worry.

Third Round's The Charm?

The second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs proved to be a bit of a dud. Other than the four-overtime thriller that sent the Stars past the Sharks in six, the other series lacked excitement. Detroit throttled the Avs in four, proving just how pathetic it was that the Wild lost to the Avs in the first round. The Pens handled the Rangers without too much trouble in five games. While the Flyers taking out Montreal in five was an upset, it wasn't all that interesting of series. In summary, of the four second round series one was done in four games, two in five, and one in six.

Compare this to the first round where three series went the full seven games, three went six, and one each finished in five and four games respectively. Long series make for more drama, more intensity, and more interest. There's nothing better than a Game Seven, especially if it goes into overtime. Plus short series lead to ridiculous gaps in the NHL playoff schedule, as we're suffering through now with Sunday's Sharks-Stars game being followed by THREE DAYS of no hockey. Yeah, that helps create and hold interest.

Let's hope that the third round matchups bring back the level of excitement that playoff hockey should have. I hate to say it, but I find myself in the uncomfortable position of pulling for Detroit in the Western Conference Finals. Two reasons:

#1 The last three Stanley Cups have been won by Anaheim, Carolina, and Tampa Bay. If that doesn't make the hockey purist in you wince, I don't know what will. Thankfully, the only non-traditional hockey team still left in this year's Cup chase is Dallas.

#2 From the perspective of purely entertaining hockey, the best Finals matchup would be Detroit and Pittsburgh. That would be a lot of fun to watch.

Of course, I'd then be pulling for the Pens to knock off the Red Wings and win the Cup. In no less than seven games.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Inside The Cabal

If you missed our interview with Douglas Feith (the man who helped put the neo in neo-con) you can now listen to it in its entirety commercial-free here. John ended up asking most of the questions about Feith's new book "War and Decision," while Brian and I were able to sit back and listen to his account of what really happened in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Feith also has created a website with the same name that includes links to many of the official documents referenced in the book. The site has a section listing some of common misconceptions about the war and the real facts behind them. The entire "Bush lied" narrative that is so widely accepted these days does not hold up under the scrutiny of the evidence that Feith presents.

Weenie Hut Junior's!

This year's Minnesota GOP state convention will be held on May 29th-31st at the Mayo Civic Center in downtown Rochester. Once again, the Northern Alliance Radio Network will be broadcasting live from the convention floor (or perhaps vertigo-inducingly high above it as in 2006). The current schedule calls for us be on the air from 5pm-7pm on Thursday and Friday (pre-empting some obscure national host) and doing our regular full slate of Saturday shows from 11am-5pm.

Taking the show on the road also provides an opportunity to organize a little gathering of hosts, bloggers, groupies, and other assorted hangers-on who congregate at such events. Since our own JB Doubtless is a proud Rochester resident, I asked him to come up with the manliest joint in town for us to get together at. Something along the lines of the Salty Spittoon.

JB's suggestion? Whistle Binkies on the Lake. Hmmm...The name left me a little skeptical, but after checking out their selection of tap beers, it appears okay to trust JB's recommendation. This time.

By the way, if any of the campaigns are looking to have a swinging good time at their convention hospitality suites, they should consider booking these good old boys. Contact Chad The Elder Colonel if you're interested.

Synchronizied Riffin'

If you haven't checked it out lately, you may have missed the expansion of the RiffTrax Catalogue. There are now a score of movies to enjoy, including a number of recent releases such as "I Am Legend," "Cloverfield," and "Beowulf." You may also notice that one James Lileks has been added to roster of guest riffers. His profile includes a picture of him doing his best impersonation of Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" (nice try James):

James Lileks was born in Fargo North Dakota, the son of Norman Rockwell and Betty Crocker. He attended the University of Minnesota for seven years, attending class for five; at the Minnesota Daily he started writing a column that has continued in the Twin Cities market for thirty years.

After college he used his English Major to find employment as a convenience store clerk, but soon left the world of actual labor for a series of jobs spent typing fiction in small, cloth-covered cubicles. He has been a columnist for City Pages, the Pioneer Press, Newhouse News Service and is presently a columnist for the Star-Tribune, where he also runs the buzz.mn blog.


They've also come up with a RiffTrax player to make the entire synchronization process almost idiot proof. So idiot proof that I'm going to finally try it myself on the next bidness trip I take.