Sunday, August 31, 2008

There is just one moon and one golden sun

While enjoying a few Fair refreshments after the radio show yesterday, a woman tapped me on the arm, pointed to my "National Review" t-shirt, and asked if I was a subscriber. I told her that indeed I was and she said that her husband wrote for said mag. I asked who he was and she informed me that she was Barbara Ledeen, wife of Michael.

We exchanged pleasantries and discovered that she's in town for the RNC and had dropped by the Fair to get a taste of Minnesota "culture." We told her that we were radio partners with one John Hinderaker, whose house she will be visiting today for a Pajamas Media gathering. It is a small world after all.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Good Idea, Poorly Executed

The spectacle of the DNC presentation last night in the football field reminded me, in a way, of the Wellstone memorial at Williams Arena from almost six (SIX!?) years ago. The aspect of bringing together the stars of the party to rev up the troops with a message of inspiration and unity. I thought it was effective political theater then and it was again last night.

Through the mystic chords of memory, oberservations from 2002:

Even though I didn't respect most of the politicians in attendance, it was exciting to see that many nationally prominent and historical political figures congregating in one place. The way they marched in one by one, Gore, Daschle, Clinton, Rodham-Clinton, Bird, Mondale, it incrementally swelled the excitement of the crowd and led to heightened and soaring expectations of who would be next. This kind of presentation, combined with the crowd's rock star-like adoration for these individuals, was gripping, particularly to the television audience. It reasonably should spread a positive opinion of the Democratic party to any of the undecided or so-called independent minded voters who watched. This should be true not just in Minnesota, but across the country too. To these swing voters, the dismal records of individuals like Clinton or Mondale can fade away to irrelevance when confronted with the sight of a crowd enthusiastically roaring their approval of them. This impression is cemented by the supposedly nonpartisan nature of the event and of the attendees.

I think this type of event has potential to become an annual pre-election night tradition, for one or both parties. If they could broadcast it nationwide, it's impact could be substantial. The problem is achieving the impression that the crowd is simply made up of citizens rather than of hard core party activists. Short of the untimely, yet regularly scheduled, death of a candidate every year, I'm not sure how that could be accomplished.

The answer to that conundrum turned out to be qualifying your candidate by their charisma and celebrity quotient, rather than more traditional means (experience, great ideas, proven judgment).

Ah, if only I would have stopped that post in 2002 right there, I'd be considered a political prophet and probably blogging at a class joint, like MinnPost or Minnesota Monitor.

But I had to keep running my mouth running and came up with these gems .....

Most certainly, a Republican-leaning crowd would have responded in the same way if they were brought together under similar circumstances. It would have been exciting, maybe thrilling, to be in an auditorium as the stars of the Right were slowly brought out to take their well earned bows. To see the likes of say Newt Gingrich, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush Sr., Trent Lott, Bob Dole, Nancy Reagan, Tom DeLay, Alan Keyes, Dennis Hastert, Jack Kemp, Vin Weber, and Arne Carlson march down the stairs (or to see Gerald Ford fall down the stairs). The crowd would have gone wild and those who "vote the man not the party" would have seen these men and women cast in the light of heroes and winners instead of as ambitious politicians merely trying to get votes.

Pffffffffft. Was I really stupid then or did some of those GOP "stars" not mature all that gracefully? I'm just glad Larry Craig and Mark Foley barely missed my cut.

OK, time to take another stab at it. For the time capsule, to be opened in 2014. The GOP stars circa 2008 who, through the power of their ideas and rhetoric, would electrify an audience, create unity in the party, expand its influence among the undecided, and stand the test of time are:

--Gov. Sarah Palin (just watched her acceptance speech, a thrill .... it went up my leg)

--Newt Gingrich

--Karl Rove

--Donald Rumsfeld

--Sen. Tom Coburn

--Rep. Steve King (a wild card, seen him on some late night C-SPANs, not leg-thrillingly good, but good)

--some blood and guts General to be named later

I also realize you need some non-pols to really get things jumping. Sprinkling in the following would blow the lid off the joint:

Rush Limbaugh
Mark Steyn
Walter Williams
a short film by David Zucker (our Speilberg/Lucas/Burns)

Open for other suggestions from you, dear readers .......

The Elder Notes: While Saint Paul's list of thrilling Republicans may have come up short, I was struck by this paragraph near the end of the same 2002 post:

From my observations, no one really likes the one perfect family on the block. Instead they're resented for their happiness and for the fun house mirrors their chronic smiles hold up in front of the faces of their common place and quietly desperate neighbors. Therefore, it follows that nobody would really want to vote for people like this. Yes we (I mean they) come to accept the fact these individuals will make more money, will acquire greater influence, will love more deeply and be loved more often, but that's just how the cards were dealt. But when we have a choice in the matter, do we really want to self select these people as our political superiors too? It's like being in high school and voting for the guy who's the starting quarterback and class president for Homecoming King. Sure he's already dating the hottest cheerleaders in school and he's on his way to an Ivy League education and fame and fortune, but yes, by all means, let's choose to also put a crown on his head and metaphorically throw ourselves prostrate before his regal gaze.

Beautiful wife? Check. Ivy League education? Check. Fame and fortune? Check. Crowning, prostration, and regal gazes? Oh yeah.

Two Kids On A Playground

Obama's attempts to "get tough" with McCain last night reminded me of that annoying kid in school who thought he was a bad ass as long as the rules were stacked in his favor and he never really had to follow through on his false bravado.

Like the kid who never shows up at the appointed location for the after school showdown, he's been dodging debates with McCain all summer. Yet last night he was talking as if he was ready to throw down anyplace, anytime:

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

McCain should have followed up today by politely asking, "Okay, how does next Friday work for you? Not good? The following Monday, Tuesday...."

And after chucking a bunch of stones at McCain in the speech he tried to change the rules: "I call no more no rock throwing."

Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

When Obama attacks McCain it's just two people disagreeing. When McCain attacks Obama that's challenging his character and patriotism.

Fate usually caught up to those annoying kids in school and eventually they got their comeuppance. Let's hope Obama gets his, sooner rather than later.

Answer Me These Questions Three

Three questions went through my mind during the domestic laundry list section of Barack Obama's speech last night:

- How?

- How much is it going to cost?

- No, how much is it really going to cost?

For example:

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost?

In fairness, Obama did provide a bit more detail in this area:

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

Is tap a euphemism for drill? Aren't most environmental groups opposed to that as well as clean coal technology? And don't we already know how to safely harness nuclear power, but have stopped building new nuclear plants because of unfounded fears perpetuated by environmentalists? We're back to the "how?" again.

I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.

How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost?

I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost?

On to the next promise:

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

Again I ask; How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost?

And again we have some details:

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

And again we see that even when it take down a level, the basic fundamental questions remain unanswered.

On health care the promises are even grander and the details even vaguer:

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Again I ask; How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost? He's promising better coverage of apparently everything to everyone at lower costs. No mentions of trade-offs at all.

One final promise that needs questioning:

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

You know the drill; How? How much is it going to cost? No, how much is it really going to cost? The FMLA isn't enough? We need another round of government mandates on employers? If I owned a business in the U.S., Obama's speech would have me considering relocation.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.

Corporate "loopholes" and "tax havens" that companies currently use to try to avoid one the highest corporate tax rates in the world. The pathetic irony is that while Obama's economic plans call for creating and keeping more jobs in America, his ideas for economic change would likely have exactly the opposite effect. How is that going to be good for anyone?

And Now For Something Completely Different

Palin eh? Great pick. Besides his wry understated sense of humor he's also a world traveler well-versed in the cultures and histories of many countries. His age may be a bit of an issue, but his winning personality, ability to deal with peril, and unflappable nature are going to prove a big asset on the campaign trail and especially in the debate with Joe Biden. A brilliant bit of strategry by the McCain camp.

What? Oh, that Palin...

Sorry about that. Carry on as you were.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talk About The Passion

A few quick thoughts on Obama's oratory tonight:

- He started slow and seemed a bit flat (for him) in the first half. His list of domestic policy prescriptions were long on the what but short on the how.

- His attacks on McCain were effective, but went on a bit too long. Not really a good example of the "new politics."

- Interestingly enough, the best parts of the speech and the areas where he showed the most passion were in foreign policy, hardly considered Obama's strength. He was forceful and clear about what he would do and how it would be different from the Republicans. It was a little odd to see the crowd lapping up his promise to unilaterally go after Bin Laden in Pakistan (at least that's the way I read it).

- I would love for someone to go through the entire speech and fact check the claims he made (especially on the economy). There were more than a few that were recitations of tired liberal tropes that have long been disproved.

- You gotta love listening to Brit Hume describe the action. Great quote from tonight, "The stage is now clear of politicians and their attractive families."

Don't Tell Him

Advance excerpts of tonight's Barack O'bama speech have been released to the press.

I hate to say it, but on the whole, it's a real snoozer. Some doom and gloom about what a lousy country this is right now. All blame to George Bush (may he be condemned). Warning that John McCain is George Bush and Barack O'bama is not. Reminder that if you want change, don't vote for the guy who is George Bush.

Substance-wise, pretty light, full of BS, and typical of what we've come to expect of the junior Senator from Illinois.

Of course, the reception of this speech by the crowd in the football stadium in Denver will depend on the substance as much as the reception of the crowd at a 1965 Beatles concert depended on the substance of the lyrics to I Want to Hold Your Hand. That is, it will look something like this.

The excerpts released did not include any references to the various suffering victims of America visited by Barack on the campaign trail. I fear that all the good victims have already been used up by previous speakers at the DNC. But this rhetoric is Democrat party template. So I'm keeping hope alive they dug up a few more and are just saving the good stuff for a live unveiling by the man himself tonight. This Nihilist post may yet prove prescient.

The rhetoric standing out most was this segment:

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.

What the support of Rosie Grier and Ted Kennedy has to do with national defense is beyond me. But the most fascinating part will be his delivery of that whole tough guy "don't tell me" section. What word does he emphasize? What emotion does he evoke?

DON'T tell me ..... (pure, visceral rage)

don't TELL me ..... (withering sarcasm)

don't tell ME .... (defensive arrogance)

His prior use of this phrase indicates he may emphasize them all.


Then again, odds are every word of the speech will be equally and forcefully emphasized. That's what soaring rhetoric is made of.

Standing by, T minus one hour. Unless I forget it's on while watching Twins-A's. Odds are 50-50.

Stooping To Conquer

David Harsanyi reports from Denver on the the End of Capitalism:

Democratic keynoters spoke of the economy as if it were a static pie that can be divided fairly. Profit, competition, growth, international trade and self-reliance are treated as corrupt thoughts. Financial success, well, it is a moral failing.

Take, if you will, Michelle Obama's speech. In relaying her life story, Obama conveniently failed to mention, in any detail, that she graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She also failed to mention her six-figure salary.

To do so would have undermined the contrived and condescending "Hey, we're losers, too!" mythology that's been cooked up in Denver. (I don't know about you, but I want someone far more successful than I am, or my neighbors are, running the country.)

Candidates, you see, are just like you. And with their munificent assistance, "we" -- whether you want to be a part of "we" or not is irrelevant -- can save the world. We can create jobs. Create new energy. We can guarantee fair wages. Health care. Child care.

Well, we can. But we could do it a lot better without Washington.

High above the rides, you, me and the sky

This Saturday promises to be another gorgeous late-Summer day in Minnesota. What better way to spend it than to head out to the State Fair? And if you do hit the Fair on Saturday be sure to stop by the AM1280 The Patriot in its strategic new location near the corner of Dan Patch and Cosgrove.

This Saturday's NARN First Team broadcast promises to be another history making show. Last year, we introduced fairgoers to the inaugural NARN Butter Carving Contest where contestants did their best to capture Jay Larson's likeness in butter. This year, we will have our second butter carving contest at around 11:15am with a special surprise guest subject. We will also conduct the forty-third annual NARN Scotch Egg eating contest. No Atomizer, for the last time there isn't any Scotch in the egg.

Winners in both contests will receive special prizes. All contestants in both contests with receive t-shirts compliments of Chachi, Inc. The Obama shirts were very popular last week and they are a great way to stand out in a crowd and send a message.

We're also working on a very special guest appearance. Until we have official confirmation, we can't divulge any details. Let's just say that when it comes to hypnotizes crowds, Obama's got nuthin' on this gal.

If you can't make it out to the Fair, you can listen to all the frivolity on AM 1280 The Patriot over the airwaves or via the internet stream. The Margaret Marten & Sidekick show kicks things off at 9am. The First Team follows at 11am. Then, it's Ed & Mitch in the middle from 1pm-3pm. Finally, King & Michael fight over who gets to have the Final Word from 3pm-5pm. A day at the State Fair with The Patriot holds a lot of promise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Better Early Than Never

Something crucial is plummeting and the press is panicking!

Barack Obama's poll numbers? Well, yes.

But, something else is plummeting and the press is panicking!

Via CNN, an AP article (also picked up in the Star Tribune and around the country) on the latest developments in the Arctic:

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

If you lean in close to your computer screen, you can almost hear the panting and whimpering from the reporters who wrote this.

I humbly submit to you that when the opening sentence of any text contains two emotionally charged terms, the intent is to persuade and motivate behavior rather than inform. (Or you happen to be reading the Weekly World News.)

Call me old-fashioned, but when I'm reading the news, I like my information the old fashioned way, informational. Leave the high pressure sales job to the circulation department telemarketers.

More from the Plummeting Crucialness Crisis Center:

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

Hmmm. The lowest ever recorded was just last year. And we have more crucial sea ice this year than we did last year. More than just a few ice cube trays full. According to my calculations, 380,000 square miles of it. To put that in perspective for the layman, that's enough ice to chill the Atomizer's Gin Rickies for about 3 months. Stunning, isn't it?

In light of this positive trend, the opening of this article could instead, quite factually, be written as:

"New satellite measurements show that CRUCIAL sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has EXPLODED by 23% over the last year."

Side bar stories about how this cooling is bound to kill off rare pink flamingo flocks in Bolivia and the spike in sales of Ice Age Home Insurance would be perfect.

I know, I know (/ty coughlin), the summer ain't over yet. The plummeting of the crucial sea ice could continue to unprecedented depths. In the AP's words:

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

Hope springs eternal! Good luck with that AP.

However, if a new record low for crucial sea ice is indeed news, shouldn't you wait until that record is achieved before writing about it? Why do we need the scream headline preview of what might happen in just a few weeks?

Whatever the reason, it seems to be a press standard. Harkening way back to June of 2005, when American resolve to win the Iraq war was something the press could still erode, the Pioneer Press printed an article speculating that the month could be among the deadliest so far, based on mid-month totals.

My reaction then, as now:

If reporting the month end casualties for June as a barometer of the success for our efforts in Iraq is so damned important, why not wait until the facts actually present themselves before guessing about them in print?

My conclusion on motive, it's best to get the story out now, in case the hoped for scenario doesn't actually occur. It can be harder to scare/motivate people with the news if you wait for the facts.

We'll Create the Cure; We Made the Disease

In general, the reaction to Hillary Clinton's speech at the DNC seems to be very positive. Most of the usual suspects among the talking head TV crowd were raving about it last night and even today the consensus seems to be that she delivered the goods.

Personally, I found it appalling. Sure, her delivery was sound, but don't the words matter? She tried to throw in a few uplifting remarks, but overall the tone of her rhetoric was relentlessly negative.

These days Democrats seems incapable of saying more than four sentences without extolling the latest example of victimhood, but Hillary's pity parade was truly pathetic:

I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism. She didn't have any health insurance, and she discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head, painted with my name on it, and asked me to fight for health care for her and her children.


I will always remember the young man in a Marine Corps T-shirt who waited months for medical care. And he said to me, "Take care of my buddies. A lot of them are still over there. And then will you please take care of me?"

And I will always remember the young boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage, that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn't know what his family was going to do.

This sort of emotional pandering is simply beyond parody. Biden and Obama are really going to have to dig deep to find more depressing anecdotes than these whoppers that Hillary trotted out last night.

It's like a high stakes game of pity poker. I'll see your single mom with two adopted kids with autism who has no health care and gets cancer and raise you an African-American lesbian from New Orleans who because of Katrina and high gas prices can't afford to travel to Walter Reed to visit her disabled partner who was wounded in Iraq because of lack of body armor.

Where does this end? And are these seemingly endless tales of "woe is us" really what the American people want to hear from their would-be presidents? Do Democrats really enjoy wallowing in misery like this? They certainly seemed to last night.

And what about the assumption--implicit throughout these pity parties--that the only way that these people, the only way that any of us can be helped is by the government? Are voters really buying that? When Hillary said this:

Most of all, I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight long years.

She intended it as an indictment of the Bush administration. Besides being demagogic BS, it's a frightening look into the way that people like Hillary view the role of the government. Like a watchful mother duck looking after her ducklings, the government must keep all of us in its sight at all times. If we stray off the path or try to go our own way, it needs to nudge us (gently) back on course. We depend on it for nurture and nourishment and will be safe as long as we stay within its fold. Frankly, I want my visibility to the government to be as limited as possible and visa versa.

So after telling us how awful things were and how only Democrats (read government) could make it better, certain sections of the speech came off as discordant:

We need leaders once again who can tap into that special blend of American confidence and optimism that has enabled generations before us to meet our toughest challenges, leaders who can help us show ourselves and the world that with our ingenuity, creativity, and innovative spirit, there are no limits to what is possible in America.

Wait a second. Where was that confidence and optimism in meeting our toughest challenges earlier in the speech? Are Americans supposed to be confident that Democrats will take care of them and optimistic that they'll win in November? Is this how generations before us met those challenges? I don't recall that the leaders of generations before us led off every speech with a laundry list of misery.

This was a shining example of her demagoguery:

We need a president who understands we can't solve the problems of global warming by giving windfall profits to the oil companies while ignoring opportunities to invest in the new technologies that will build a green economy.

Only a Democrat can define "giving" as not taking away.

There was one line in the speech that seemed designed to elicit both applause and laughter:

Now, with an agenda like that, it makes perfect sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities, because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart.

That line was so lame that Al Franken didn't even think it was funny.

Maybe I'm just not judging the speech properly. It did succeed it making everyone who heard it feel miserable, so by Democratic standards it was a smashing success. Misery really does love company after all.

Grin And Beer It

On Thursday night, seventy-five thousand people will listen to Barack Obama deliver his acceptance speech in Denver. Here in the Twin Cities, thousands hundreds at least a couple of dozen frenzied MoveOn.orgers will get together to listen to the speech and "share" ice cream (yes, really).

Instead of sitting at home alone in your underwear watching the speech while eating a block of cheese, why not get out and make the most of it by downing a couple of pints while you take it in at Keegan's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Minneapolis? I don't know what the makeup of the crowd will be at Keegan's on Thursday, but the speech will be televised and the reaction in the pub should be interesting.

Keegan's is also your official blogger oasis outside the zone of frenzy during the RNC. Downtown St. Paul? Don't even think about it. Downtown Minneapolis? It'll be a zoo. But over nordeast Keegan's will be close enough to get to, but far enough away to not be a total traffic nightmare.

They always offer free WiFi and for the RNC they'll have traditional Irish music everyday at 4:30pm starting this Thursday and running through Thursday, September 4th.

Brew It Yourself

Saturday's First Team broadcast at the State Fair covered three of the B's that make life great: bacon, beef, and beer (baseball, booze, and broads will be the theme for another show). Our beer guest was Sean Hewitt (no relation to Ralphie) from the 2008 Minnesota State Fair Home Brewed Beer, Mead and Cider Competition.

Sean shared his extensive knowledge of home brewing with us. After he explained how cheap and how strong you could make your own beer at home, he had Saint Paul's undivided attention. And Sean agreed in principle to the idea of brewing up a special batch of Northern Alliance beer for a future event. The only downside of Sean's appearance was that he was unable to bring any samples with him. Next time.

You can listen to the entire interview (about twenty minutes) with Sean here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oh The Humanity

At NRO, novelist Robert Ferrigno imagines an alternative reality DNC and how it would be covered on MSNBC World:

"Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea, this is Keith Olbermann reporting from the sixth day Democratic convention. Overtime. Extra innings. Sudden death." Olbermann hunched over, the studio lights glaring off the sheen of sweat across his forehead. "It's 3 A.M. in Denver, the witching hour, and after 134 ballots, the convention is still deadlocked between the presumed nominee, Barak Obama, and the insurgent forces of Hillary Rodham Clinton. At this moment, three holdouts for John Edwards, three deadenders who evidently previously served on an Edwards's jury and remain hypnotized, hold the key to the nomination and the presidency." He held up a blank sheaf of papers, jiggled them. "Our latest MSNBC-NBC intelligence reports indicate that anything can happen, so please, stay tuned."

No Comment

Even though Vox Day allows comments on his site, he harbors no illusions about what they're really worth:

What people often forget is that the commenters on a blog make up a small fraction of the readers of that same blog. A few people may read blogs for their comments, but the vast majority do not, the self-inflated fantasies of some blog commenters notwithstanding. Moreoever, a blog's commenters tend to be the most outspoken, fractious, and emotionally troubled portion of its readership. They inevitably cause problems; the notorious trolls are actually much less irritating than the revenant-stalkers who are so socially inept that they cannot refrain from showing up where they know they are not wanted. Add to this the emotionally incontinent fanboys who respond inappropriately to everything from criticism of the blogger to criticism from the blogger and you've basically got a worthless morass of wasted time in the making. It doesn't help when people feed the trolls and revenants by responding to them either.

A Horrible Seed

One of the highlights of every Minnesota State Fair is a walk through the crop art gallery. Every year there's at least one piece of "tribute" crop art to those who have passed in the last year.

This must have been a last minute entry:

The artist nailed the eyes and smile, but at first glance there's a lot of similarity to Shirley from "What's Happening!!".

This is a work of higher quality.

And was honored thusly as among the best in class.

Every year there are always at least a few political entries. Always very liberal and always rather unoriginal. However, this year took the cake for complete lack of creativity among the crop "artists."

That's right. Three separate crop art pieces all essentially following the exact same theme, one quite explicitly. "See, the Republican elephants are crapping and we have to clean it up? Get it? Har, har." My you're a clever little artist, aren't you?

Another piece that I assume is RNC related:

Don't kill me bro!

Finally, a rare voice of sanity among the crop art crowd produced my favorite work:

Faith always sees you through in the end.

Renewing An Old Debate

Today, the theme at the DNC is Renewing America's Promise:

DENVER--With millions of Americans struggling to get by, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) and the Obama for America Campaign announced today that some of America's strongest leaders on the economy and energy will speak about how to renew America's promise on Tuesday night of the Convention. America's top Governors, Senators and a former Secretary of Energy and Transportation will echo Barack Obama's call for a new economy with new energy.

We discussed this a few week's ago on the radio show and when Saint Paul mentioned this theme, it seemed very familiar to me. It took me a few minutes to realize how close it was to the title of a book of policy prescriptions as well as theme of the convention acceptance speech by a recent presidential candidate.

GOP Convention: Gov. George W. Bush -- August 3, 2000

Mr. Chairman, delegates, and my fellow citizens ... I accept your nomination. Thank you for this honor. Together, we will renew America's purpose.

Our founders first defined that purpose here in Philadelphia ... Ben Franklin was here. Thomas Jefferson. And, of course, George Washington -- or, as his friends called him, "George W."

Gotta love the humor, don't ya? Yes friends, it was only eight short years ago that George W. Bush ran on the theme "Renewing America's Purpose." I have a copy of the book by that name that was distributed at the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia.

As similar as the themes sound, there are differentiated by a key word. And as Saint Paul also noted a few weeks ago on the radio, there is world of difference between "purpose" and "promise."

definition of purpose by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

pur·pose (pûrps)
1. The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal: "And ever those, who would enjoyment gain/Must find it in the purpose they pursue" Sarah Josepha Hale.
2. A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention. See Synonyms at intention.
3. Determination; resolution: He was a man of purpose.
4. The matter at hand; the point at issue.
tr.v. pur·posed, pur·pos·ing, pur·pos·es
To intend or resolve to perform or accomplish.

Note the words used. Strong, clear words of action. When used with America, the word purpose focuses on the why. This is why we do what we do. While there is an aim or goal toward which we strive, their isn't an expectation of what that will mean. There is also a sense of duty in this why. The scope of purpose is defined and therefore limited.

And then you have the definition of promise by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

prom·ise (prms)
a. A declaration assuring that one will or will not do something; a vow.
b. Something promised.
2. Indication of something favorable to come; expectation: a promise of spring in the air.
3. Indication of future excellence or success: a player of great promise.
v. prom·ised, prom·is·ing, prom·is·es
1. To commit oneself by a promise to do or give; pledge: left but promised to return.
2. To afford a basis for expecting: thunderclouds that promise rain.
1. To make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done.
2. To afford a basis for expectation: an enterprise that promises well.

While there are some strong words with promise, there's also more passivity. An expectation, an indication of something. The focus with America now isn't on the why but on the what. What is our expectation of America? What have we been promised? There's a connotation of being owed. But what this is can be vague and open to interpretation. It can almost be unlimited.

At times, one word can make all the difference.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Pig Lickin' Good Time

The hottest food at the State Fair this is year is the Pig Licker. Which isn't surprising when you consider the combination of bacon, chocolate, and salt pretty much covers all the key taste sensations. The only way to make it better is to wash it down with a beer.

We interviewed Charlie Torgerson from Famous Dave's on Saturday. He gave us the back story on Pig Lickers, talked about their phenomenal success thus far at the Fair, and provided us with samples. You can listen to that interview here.

After downing a couple, we could all understand why people were lining up for the chance to shell out five bucks for a cup o' Lickers. They really are worthy of the hype.

The Fish Ain't Biting

The people who want engrain their right to raise your taxes to help pay for their hobbies into the state constitution were well-represented at the State Fair.

But at this point, their bobber isn't seeing much action:

The poll also found 72 percent of voters oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot to dedicate funding for water quality, wildlife habitat, trails and cultural programs, while 22 percent support the measure. The proposed funding would come from an increase in the state sales tax of 3/8 of 1 percent.

This is the best news that I've heard since Saturday when the Pig Licker guy said he was bringing samples to the radio booth. Alas, I fear it's far too good to be true and support for the arts and craft tax is much higher than that. Still, it's nice to see that some people in the state haven't bought into the need to "preserve our way of life" by raising taxes hook, line, and sinker. Beware the hooks.

Grilling The Beef Queen

We kicked off our NARN First Team radio broadcast from the State Fair last Saturday by interviewing the 2008 Minnesota Beef Queen, Britta Engen. She was engaging and spunky and more than held her own, especially when Saint Paul tried to change topics before she was ready.

She is a fine representative for the Minnesota Beef Council and for beef lovers across the state. You can listen to the entire interview (about 13 minutes) here.

One World, One Yawn

At long last, the Olympics have officially ended (and there was much rejoicing). Now everyone can get back to ignoring the sports that that get sucked into pretending to care passionately about every four years.

And no, depsite all the overwrought hype that we've heard the last few weeks, not one of these second tier sports is going to see a sudden surge of interest because of the Olympics. It's back to obscurity where they rightfully belong.

Summer Reading Four

In general, I consider myself fairly well-versed in American history, especially when it comes to the post-World War II era and especially when it comes to politics. Therefore, I was surprised (pleasantly) when I read Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America to discover just how much I didn't know about what transpired politically in the United States from 1965 to 1972. I also never fully realized just how messed up the country was at the time and the extent of the riots, protests, crime, and moral decay.

In "Nixonland," Perlstein provides an exhaustive (748 pages of material) and well-researched (746 noted references) look at why American voters went from delivering LBJ to the White House in a landslide victory in 1964 to re-electing Richard Nixon by an even larger margin in 1972. This tectonic shift in the political landscape is documented by Perlstein in an informative and usually interesting manner.

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is the number of names that you come across from that time who would later play larger roles in American cultural and political life. Just a quick perusing of the index brings forth:

Roger Ailes
Julian Bond
George W. Bush
Johnnie Cohcran
Bill Clinton
Mike Gravel
Al Gore Jr.
Gary Hart
John Kerry
Richard John Neuhaus
Leon Panetta
Charlie Rangel
Karl Rove
Donald Rumsfeld
Richard Mellon Scafie (buh-wah, buh-wah, buh-wah)
Caspar Weinberger

A lot of them cut their political teeth during this period and the tumultuous environment of the time influenced their later decisions in life.

Perlstein is a man of the Left and his partisan perspective on events is not hard to detect. His views reflect the Left's obsessions about the Sixties (and today to a certain extent): race, Vietnam, and Nixon. There's a racial context to almost everything, either overt or covert. He accepts the standard narrative on Vietnam; that it was an unwinnable war that highlighted America at its worst. And he views Nixon as a sort of contemptible but at the same time pathetic evil genius, giving him far too much credit for orchestrating, manipulating, and influencing the course of events (similar to the way that many lefties view Bush today).

A lot of the political dirty tricks (a.k.a. rat f***ing) employed by Nixon and his cast of cronies were juvenile, stupid, and for most part ineffectual. Perlstein exaggerates their impact if not their intent. He also is obsessed with the language Nixon used and likes to decode the words to reveal the "real" message being sent. This is an extremely subjective area of course and a lot of the secret meanings that Perlstein finds seem to be more a product of the writer's slightly paranoid imagination than the politician's subliminal messaging.

All that being said, "Nixonland" is still a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand the politics of the period and how we're fighting many of the same battles today. Perlstein believes that we're still living in "Nixonland" and the level of antagonism between the two sides of the political spectrum isn't much better. Personally, I'm more optimistic and glad to live in a time when we're attacking each other verbally in books and blogs rather than physically with bullets and bombs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Make It Pronto

For the best in State Fair blogging, myprontopup is the place to go. Check back early and often for daily updates.

What's Next, Speaking in Tongues?

Very interesting photo from TPT today, Governor Pawlenty at the MN State Fair during his radio show:

Ah, shamelessly courting the Evangelical Christian vote. That's perhaps the clearest sign yet that he's going to be McCain's choice for VP.

The Elder Crawls Out From Under A Rock: Could it be that Saint Paul is just jealous that T-Paw is shamelessly stealing his Snakes On Radio bit from a few years back?

Newton, Einstein, Hawking . . . . . Morons

I see my good friend and valued colleague John Hinderaker was profiled at the prestigious Norm Blog.

The Q & A provides some fascinating insights into the mind of the man, the legend, behind Power Line. In particular, I thought this was an insightful observation:

Who are your intellectual heroes?

Aristotle, St. Paul, Hume, Locke, Washington, Madison, Lincoln, Coolidge, Chambers, Reagan, Sowell, and my partners Scott and Paul.

Wow, that's some heady company there. Me, alongside the likes of Brit Hume, Rita Coolidge, and Scott and Paul of Power Line (and some others I'm not familiar with). I am honored beyond the ability to express myself.

I think it was this post that finally established my intellectual qualifications for John. I'll continue to do my best to live up to this standard.

The Elder Casts A White Shadow: I'm a bit surprised that John mentions Coolidge as one of his intellectual heroes. I would have pegged him more as being a follower of the Salami school.

Far From Universal

In today's WSJ, Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell write that universal pre-school is not all that it's cracked up to be:

In the last half-century, U.S. preschool attendance has gone up to nearly 70% from 16%. But fourth-grade reading, science, and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -- the nation's report card -- have remained virtually stagnant since the early 1970s.

Preschool activists at the Pew Charitable Trust and Pre-K Now -- two major organizations pushing universal preschool -- refuse to take this evidence seriously. The private preschool market, they insist, is just glorified day care. Not so with quality, government-funded preschools with credentialed teachers and standardized curriculum. But the results from Oklahoma and Georgia -- both of which implemented universal preschool a decade or more ago -- paint an equally dismal picture.

A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia's universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee's preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade.

What about Head Start, the 40-year-old, federal preschool program for low-income kids? Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly found that although Head Start kids post initial gains on IQ and other cognitive measures, in later years they become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids.

Why don't preschool gains stick? Possibly because the K-12 system is too dysfunctional to maintain them. More likely, because early education in general is not so crucial to the long-term intellectual growth of children. Finland offers strong evidence for this view. Its kids consistently outperform their global peers in reading, math and science on international assessments even though they don't begin formal education until they are 7. Subsidized preschool is available for parents who opt for it, but only when their kids turn 6.

More on the Finnish approach to education and its results is available here.

Dalmia and Snell also note that there is some evidence that preschool may actually be bad for kids:

If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children. A 2005 analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Likewise, Canada's C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after universal preschool.

Of course, there are selected groups of children who do benefit:

The only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are very intense interventions targeted toward severely disadvantaged kids. A 1960s program in Ypsilanti, Mich., a 1970s program in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a 1980s program in Chicago, Ill., all report a net positive effect on adult crime, earnings, wealth and welfare dependence for participants. But the kids in the Michigan program had low IQs and all came from very poor families, often with parents who were drug addicts and neglectful.

The problem is thinking that since preschool helps these kids, it will help all children. The reality is that for most children the results of preschool are mixed at best.

In far too many aspects of life today, children are pushed to grow up far too fast. Why should school be another one? Let kids just be kids for a while. There will be plenty of time for formal education later.

Back to the Bubble

MSP Magazine editor Adam Platt on the Bush administration and the Republicans who support it:

I despise this Bush administration as much as anyone. And I recognize that among the delegates to the RNC are the truest of its true believers. But c'mon--don't these Republicans know the country hates their war, their abrogation of the Constitution, their manipulation of science, their attempts to politicize every once-sober function of government, and their attempts to label anyone who would disagree with them as unpatriotic?

Adam Platt on his own political orientation:

A year later, I seem to be one of the few moderate lefties who still wants to see Al Franken elected.

{Rim shot!}

Jeff Fecke, call your lawyer, somebody is stealing your act.

Of course, it is a long tradition in this town for the most partisan voices on the Left to call themselves moderates or centrists. They may even believe this to be true, which is a sobering comment on the nature of their social and professional circles. The fact that many of these people are in the media illustrates the uphill battle conservatives have in getting a fair hearing for their ideas and candidates.

This over-the-top, teeth grinding, garment rending language engaged in by these "moderates" also illustrates the mental state necessary for supposedly intellectual and sophisticated people to believe empty suit candidates like Al Franken and Barack Obama are OBVIOUSLY superior to their more qualified and moderate Republican rivals.

If you allow yourself to accept the worst possible slanders about one candidate (or party), you can turn your brain off and support the other guy, no matter what his flaws or fitness for the job.

Who wouldn't automatically vote against candidates responsible for abrogating the Constitution, manipulating science, politicizing EVERY once sober function of government, etc. etc. And who wouldn't despise the voters who support these candidates. I know I would.

The problem is, none of these assumptions are true about the GOP. These are wildly hyperbolic distortions and outright falsehoods about George Bush and Republican voters. They are products of the most strident and partisan elements of the Left, engaged in a propaganda effort to demonize and assassinate the character of those standing in their way to power.

I don't take Platt to be a member of this particular cohort. He doesn't produce these notions. He's just happy to accept them, allegedly base is voting behavior on them, and pass this info along to all his readers as his own wise judgment.

If only he would take the time to critically analyze these irresponsible accusations! If he would make a point of truly understanding what the responses of the accused are to these charges! If he would read the best and brightest of Conservative observers on these issues before jumping to conclusions! I'm sure he'd see the light and he'd be much more fair in his commentary about Republicans. Maybe even realize people like George Bush, Norm Coleman and John McCain are honorable men working with difficult, complex jobs. And perhaps acknowledged they were/are the superior choice in an election, given the alternative.

{Rim shot!}

Uh no, I don't believe that's possible. Because I don't believe the incidence of George Bush abrogating the Constitution has anything to do with the votes of people like Platt. He'll vote against Bush whether he abrogates his brains out or not. It really doesn't matter. Platt is a man of the Left. He's going to vote for his fellow travelers, always. You just can't say that publicly when you're trying to come off as a moderate in order to persuade people to vote against Republicans.

Instead we get more demonization and the politics of personal destruction. Victor Davis Hanson noted this phenomenon recently and had these thoughts on what is bound to happen if Obama wins in November:

After destroying the protocols of good taste and decorum, an infantile 60s generation in their age and sobriety will now understand that they themselves (see Thucydides on Corcyra) are likewise in need of some shared standards of public expression, rightly fathoming that such easy venom weakens a free society.

Yes, the Left will suddenly adopt a new maturity about a President Obama, and responsibly demand of us all to excise from our vocabulary over the top hate speech, such as comparing an elected administration to Nazis or fantasies about killing American presidents. (Ed. note - like this?)

And this, once again, will be as it should be-albeit eight years too late.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

High Above The Midway Lights

It seems hard to believe but today marks the beginning of the 2008 Minnesota State Fair. While a lot of attention has been focused on the RNC coming to town in a couple of weeks, the State Fair opening has fair greater impact and frankly much more meaning to your average Minnesotan.

For the next two weeks we'll be buried in an avalanche of stories about this or that on a stick, jokes about overeating (they never get old), and overrun by a herd of super-sized, corn-fed farm beasts (and the animals they bring to the Fair). I used to be a bit curmudgeonly when it came to the Fair, but over the years my views have mellowed and I've learned to accept and enjoy the sticky, smelly, mess of life that it is.

Once again, the Northern Alliance Radio Network will be broadcasting several shows live from the Fair. AM 1280 The Patriot has a new location on the corner of Dan Patch and Cosgrove which should bring a little more foot traffic and perhaps a little more attention given our proximity to the DFL booth.

Mitch and Ed will kick things off tonight from 5pm-7pm (preempting some deservedly obscure nationally syndicated host). Then it will be some randomly selected version of Mitch and Ed or King and Michael live from the Fair each weeknight from 5pm-7pm through August 29th.

Like watching an NFL pre-season game, you'll have to listen to the NARN at just the right time to catch the First Team. That time would be this Saturday and next Saturday from 11am-1pm, which coincidentally enough happen to be our regular show times.

We have a coupla of really big shows planned as usual. This Saturday's show will be a beefy brew of Fair goodness and promises to be a pig lickin' good time. Speaking of porcine matters, mark August 30th on your calendars now for the tradition (and cholesterol) rich Scarfin' O' The Eggs. That's right, the annual NARN Scotch Egg Eating Contest will take place at high noon that day.

We've invited several of the our past Scotch Egg eating champions to return for a gala reunion event and, as long as the fire department can extract them from their homes safely, we should have quite a special gathering. The veterans are scheduled to perform a heartfelt rendition of The Ballad of the Scotch Egg which will bring a tear to even the most jaded eye.

Also scheduled to appear on the 30th and perform live during the breaks is NashVegas. No, that's not the name of Don Johnson's new series on CBS. It's the hottest band to come out of Rochester since the G Monkeys. Their alt-neo-rockabilly stylings belie the important underlying message of their music. This band could save your life. Especially if you're choking on a Scotch Egg and need to have the Heimlich maneuver performed.

That show, like all the other NARN State Fair appearances, is not one that you want to miss. Stop by and say hi at the Fair or catch all on the action on AM1280 The Patriot.

Don't Tax Me Bro

Yesterday's WSJ had a story on tax revolts that are quietly brewing across the country:

Oregon voters, for example, will decide whether to allow taxpayers to deduct an unlimited amount of their federal income taxes on their state returns.

Nevada is expected to vote on a constitutional amendment that would restrict property-tax increases.

North Dakota voters may vote on whether to chop the state's personal income tax in half.

Most shocking of all?

On Election Day, Massachusetts will vote on whether to eliminate its state income tax. Advocates hope victory in a place long thought of as a free-spending liberal bastion will pave the way for similar initiatives in other states over the next few years. Critics insist a yes vote would lead to fiscal disaster.

Meanwhile, here in Minnesota we're going to make higher taxes part of our Constitution:

And Minnesota will vote on a proposed amendment to its state constitution to raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percentage point, with the money going to protect the environment and to benefit the arts.

Sigh. This new tax increase won't be permanent. It'll only be constitutionally mandated for the next TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.

The supporters of reaching deeper into your and your children's wallets so they can enjoy their hobbies have a snazzy Vote YES Minnesota web site. They have a blog, an online community, and a list of friends.

If you only looked at the site you'd probably have the impression that this whole campaign was about clean water for Minnesota since that's what pretty much every picture is of. The emphasis is on water, land, and nature with the arts and culture piece buried under the heading "This amendment is about PRESERVING OUR WAY OF LIFE."

This is no doubt intentional as voters are probably more likely to be willing to approve a tax increase for nature than they are theater. But taking a closer look at the "friends" list shows just how invested the arts and culture community is in this effort. Here is just a small sample of some of the groups who are bellying up to the trough in the hopes of feeding off the public largesse:

American Association of Woodturners
Children's Book Illustrators Guild of Minnesota
Embodied Arts
FUEGO Flamenco
Hendricks Norwegian Heritage Committee
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre
Loft Literary Center
Minnesota Art Therapy Association
The Burning House Group Theatre Company
Wicked Sister Dance Theatre

All are undoubtedly fine organizations who make their own unique contribution to the state. But is supporting them and the countless other arts and culture groups who are angling for their own piece of the taxpayer's pie really about "preserving OUR way of life" or is about preserving selected cultural niches that particular members of society happen to enjoy?

Thankfully, although the forces of Big Art are going to be lobbying hard and heavy, there is a band of scrappy individuals willing to stand athwart one of the biggest tax increases in Minnesota history and yell STOP!:

No Constitutional Tax Increase Campaign Kickoff Press Conference

ST. PAUL--Sen. Rod Grams, Chairman of the "No Constitutional Tax Increase" campaign, will be discussing the effort to defeat the $11 billion constitutional tax increase. Joining the Senator will be President of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota Phil Krinkie and others who oppose the initiative.

When: Thursday, Aug 21, 1:00 PM

Where: Room 181,State Office Building

Now more than ever, the only group on the ground manning the thin line against the latest tax juggernaut is the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. Now more than ever, they deserve your support. Drop a dime in their jar or stop by their booth at the State Fair. Just do something to make sure they know you're standing with them the way they've stood for you.

UPDATE-- A couple of e-mails on the matter. First a local business owner weighs in:

The WSJ tax article you blog of was read aloud at the breakfast table yesterday morning. Should this tax go through it will be the third time in a few years I will reprogram my cash registers to gouge my customers. As I think I have explained to you it hurts us unpaid tax collectors every time it goes up because we have to pay the credit card companies a percentage fee to collect the tax.

Most people think this is a small amount it is not. At the current 9.65%, I already have some big time customers paying more in sales tax than I make in gross profit. I guess I got into the wrong business. Oh well, think of all the nice art we'll get to enjoy.

Meanwhile, Nathan seeks the root causes by asking the 5 Whys:

Why do we need this?

To fund local arts and the environment.

I thought pulltabs did that?

We're not selling enough tickets

Why not?

Nobody buys them in bars anymore

Why not?

Nobody goes to bars anymore.

Why not?

Because drinkers can't smoke there and if they can't have a butt with a beer at the local watering hole, they'll just go home and relax in peace--except there's no pulltab booth at home so pulltab sales are down so revenues are down.

Why not repeal the smoking ban in bars, which will bring the smokers back and with them, the drinkers who idle away their time buying pulltabs, which will increase sales and generate more revenue for arts and the environment?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things I'm Learning About You Day By Day

There's often an implicit assumption among the leftist elite in this country that European anti-Americanism is based on a rational understanding of the facts. Unlike the largely ignorant, ill-informed American public, our European betters are much more educated on what's really going (and has gone) on and it's no surprise that this superior knowledge leads them to hold the United States in such low regard.

Anyone who has any experience interacting with average Europeans knows just how silly this notion is. Now, a new poll confirms that at least in Britain, anti-Americanism is often based on misconceptions not facts:

A poll of nearly 2,000 Britons by YouGov/PHI found that 70 per cent of respondents incorrectly said it was true that the US had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000.

The poll was commissioned by America In The World , an independent pressure group that launches on Monday and aims to improve understanding and appreciation of the US in Britain and around the world.

Tim Montgomerie, its director, said factual inaccuracies and mistaken assumptions have contributed to Britons and Europeans taking a hostile stance towards their most powerful ally, which often acted against national interests.

"We wanted to find out how British people understood America and found that there was an unbalanced view. Maybe there are good reasons but if we cleared a lot of that factual ignorance we would have a better understanding of what America really is," said Mr Montgomerie, who also founded the influential ConservativeHome website three years ago.

Among the poll's other findings:

* The survey showed that a majority agreed with the false statement that since the Second World War the US had more often sided with non-Muslims when they had come into conflict with Muslims. In fact in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the US has sided with the former group.

* Asked if it was true that "from 1973 to 1990 the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons," 80 per cent of British respondents said yes. However the US sold just 0.46 per cent of Saddam's arsenal to him, compared to Russia's 57 per cent, France's 13 per cent and China's 12 per cent.

This is one of the oldest and hardest to kill tropes that the left still uses today despite it having been thoroughly discredited. Get into an argument with a lefty about whether it was right to topple Saddam and they'll trot out this falsehood within the first ten minutes.

* Almost a third of Britons believe that "Americans who have not paid their hospitals fees or insurance premiums are not entitled to emergency medical care"; by law such treatment must be provided.

* More than half the respondents believed that polygamy is legal in some US states, while it is illegal in all US states.

Who's to blame for these widespread misconceptions about America? According to Mr. Montgomerie:

"Hollywood and all its violence has something to do with it, and the awful Bush diplomacy," he added.

Geez, even the guy running a group trying to improve appreciation of America has to slip in some Bush bashing. He is right about the influence of Hollywood though.

Last month when I was in Manila, one of my Filipino co-workers--who spent three months in the US for training last year--was telling me how that he was surprised about how different his experience in America from what he expected. The high regard for the environment--catching and releasing fish is an unknown concept in the Philippines--and the low levels of crime that he witnessed were two of the examples he cited. I think he thought that America was a land of fast drivin', gun totin', corporate cowboys who ran roughshod over nature. Sort of a modern day Wild West meets Wall Street. Considering that his views were formed from watching television and movies, I guess you can hardly blame him.

Personally, I think there's another factor influencing these misconceptions and anti-Americanism abroad:

CNN International. As I have oft-mentioned before, if that was the primary lens through which I viewed the US, I'd probably be tempted to chuck a brick through a window at McDonalds too.

El Lobo A La Puerta

It's not just US and European companies in Venezuela that are being devoured by Chavez's predatory state. There is a piece in today's WSJ on Cemex's fight against Venezuela's nationalization effort (sub req):

Hundreds of Venezuelan oil workers descended on cement factories around the country late Monday night after Mexico's Cemex SAB rejected a government bid and remained the lone holdout in Venezuela's latest wave of nationalizations.

Cemex, the world's third-largest cement maker, rejected a bid of $500 million for the company's Venezuelan assets, which the company said it valued at $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion, people close to the negotiations said. Venezuelan Vice President Ramón Carrizales said the assets were worth around $800 million.

You gotta love the brazenness. The VP comes right out and admits they're not going to pay a fair price. But why worry about such niceties at all when force is an option.

At Cemex facilities at Anzoateguí state late Monday, Mr. Ramírez and a local governor led workers from state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA in singing the Venezuelan national anthem and ticking off the seconds until midnight. When the clock struck 12, workers took over the facilities. Petróleos de Venezuela workers and Venezuelan soldiers occupied other Cemex facilities around the country.

Cemex is learning the painful lesson that while you may be able to keep the wolves at bay for a while:

Mr. Chávez announced the cement nationalizations in April. Until then, Cemex had been among the most aggressive of Venezuela's foreign-owned firms in supporting the Chávez regime's socialist agenda by promoting housing subsidies for poor Venezuelans through three foundations.

Eventually they will come for you too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nothing To See Here

Actually is well worth a look. Anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of an e-mail from the group being spoofed will enjoy this:

101% Income Tax Making Ground is working hard to get language added to an upcoming bill that will force all taxpayers making more than $50,000/year to pay 101 percent of their earnings to the U.S.government.

So far, MooveAlong hasn't been able to get a Member of Congress to sponsor the language, but our lobbying firm assures us that we're days away from getting a Legislative Assistant to return our call.

Room For One More

To be posted on Craigslist shortly:

Are you a family values Republican still looking for a place to stay in the Twin Cities for the Republican National Convention? Do you want all the comforts of home without having to miss out on any of the daily family interactions?

Then, we have the place for you. A family setting only ten minutes from downtown Minneapolis and twenty from downtown Saint Paul.

You'll stay in our cozy guest room downstairs complete with cable and wireless internet access. A television is also available on the main floor if you enjoy watching SpongeBob and construction videos (over and over and over...)

You will also have your own private bathroom although you'll be lucky if you're allowed more than five minutes alone in there at any one time.

You won't need an alarm clock since you'll never be allowed to sleep past 7am. You won't need a gym because you'll get all the exercise you need chasing two toddler boys around*. If you have some extra energy and time, the lawnmower in the shed out back is available for your exclusive use. There's also a sprinkler available for recreational water use.

Dirty diapers, temper tantrums, picky eating, bloody noses, screaming, sobbing, and the stampede of little feet will all be available around the clock so you need never miss the joys of home.

Shuttle service is available to Target (the store not the center) at least four days a week.

Fresh coffee is brewed every morning and available if you get to the pot fast enough. Bread and bagels are available for toasting. Beer and whisky will also be available for medicinal purposes at the end of the day.

Book now as an offer like this won't last long.

* Guests are solely responsible for injuries sustained in said pursuit or from stepping on toys, being hit in the groin, gashed on the cheek, poked in the eye, etc.

UPDATE-- Paul e-mails to provide a mile high view on the matter:

Hey Chad, I loved Room For One More. Three year old twins down here. Oh how I can relate. There is no way I would rent our house out to the Liberal freaks down here at the Denver DNC.

I was wondering if you guys have had special forces mock takedowns of the Target Center like we had at Mile High last month? Some of my wife's ultra liberal coworkers are getting out of town because in their own words "The Democrats are coming..." and all of their nut job freaks. All of the hospitals including my Wife's will be on alert all week.

A musical theme for the week down here I would like for the DNC is Black Sabbath's The Mob Rules. The local media coverage has been beyond orgasmic and we can't wait until it ends.

I think the whole city will feel like a freshman honey asked to the local frat keg party. Sure it's a great time until you wake up in the morning rode hard and put away wet. I hope then the Denver metro area can take a long hot shower and maybe take a trip to the free clinic.

Is Somethin' Happenin' Here?

You can still color me skeptical about McCain's chances of taking Minnesota in November (with or without T-Paw by his side), but when you look at the RealClearPolitics breakdown of the survey trend, you can't help but come to the conclusion that the race is tightening up. When the Quinnipiac University/Wall Street Journal/ Washingtonpost.Com poll came out in July showing McCain only two points back, I thought it was an outlier since the same poll had Obama up by seventeen only a month earlier. But now with recent polls from Rasmussen and Survey USA showing the gap at four and two points respectively, it looks like it was a valid indicator.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Be A Part Of The Counter Culture

Coming to theaters on October 3rd, the right-thinking comedy An American Carol.

The Elder's Dictionary


n 1: (obscene) insulting terms of address for Obama supporters who are condescending or obnoxious or stupid or irritating or ridiculous: that guy's a total o-hole

2: the opening made by interlacing your hands in a circle to form an "O" as a symbol of support for Obama

Profound Wrestling

A few quick notes on Saturday's Saddlewood sit-down:

- Obama has been getting a lot of heat--and rightly so--for his response when asked when a baby's human rights begin. "Above my pay grade" is a tricky way for people to appear clever (at least in their minds) while dodging a question. It's a pretty lame excuse when someone employs it the business world. It's inexcusable that a candidate who wants to be President of the United States would try to get away with it.

But I thought the more interesting part of Obama's response was the logic he used to explain why he supported Roe v. Wade. Here's more of his response from the transcript:


I really don't think abortion is that complicated. If you believe that it ends a human life, you oppose it (unless you're from the Singer school and think taking human life is fine as long as it serves utilitarian purposes). If you don't believe that abortion ends a human life, you support allowing women to have a right to it (although some part of your conscience often calls on you to say that you "personally oppose" it or that it should be rare). This is the primary division between those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life.

But Obama rationalizes his pro-choice position based on the degree of difficulty involved in arriving at the decision to have an abortion. Can you imagine applying this sort of standard to other areas of morality? Well, I really struggled with the decision whether to embezzle money from my employer. Let me tells you, the decision to whack dat guy was not arrived at easily.

Whether an act is right or wrong is based on the action itself and the consequences of it not how hard it was for someone to come to the decision to act. Besides, doesn't all this profound wrestling about whether to have an abortion or not argue for the idea that when in doubt you come down on the side of life? After all, no one struggles with the decision whether to brush their teeth in the morning.

- No matter how they really feel about John McCain or how hard they're going to have to hold their noses to vote for him come November, Republicans should realize how fortunate they are to have a candidate whose upside at appearing at a forum like Saddlewood is far greater than his downside.

Even the biggest backers of George W. Bush would have to admit that they would cringe at the thought of him appearing in a similar setting. The potential for disaster would be high and the best you could hope for was that he made it through without committing any major rhetorical blunders.

I can still recall that sinking feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach watching Bush in the 2004 debates. You were holding your breath and praying that he could just muddle his way through. You had no expectations of anything more.

Now with McCain, the feeling is different. You feel confident that he has a command of his thoughts and the ability to put them into words. His answers are usually clear and crisp and he avoids the rambling that often leads to trouble. I look forward to the presidential debates this fall and only wish there were more of them. I'm not sure if Obama supporters can say the same.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Shape Of Things To Come?

British sailors bawling like babies after spending a week in Iranian captivity.

British troops now bugging out of Basra after begging out of battle by remaining bunkered down on base for the last year or so.

And now, in an article in Friday's WSJ on the attempts by brewers in the UK to market beer to women, we learn of the latest blow to British manhood (sub req):

And overall, beer sales fell about 4.5% in the second quarter to 7.85 million barrels from 8.22 million barrels in the second quarter a year earlier, according to the British Beer & Pub Association. That's the least beer consumed on a daily basis since the Great Depression, the association said.

The Brits not drinking beer does not bode well for the future of their land. Britain is just not Britain without pints and pubs.

Beer sales are suffering because of a decline in the popularity of pubs, analysts say. Factors making this year particularly bad include a ban on smoking in pubs, the weakening economy and a cold start to the summer.

Well, at least they can't blame it on global warming.

The decline is also big compared with consumption elsewhere. In the U.S., sales of beer rose 1.9% in the first half compared with a year ago, according to the Beer Institute, a trade group in Washington.

Even with the decline in consumption, the British government is concerned about alcohol-related illness and binge drinking -- and brewers don't want to run afoul of the government's health emphasis in any new marketing campaigns. The Department of Health recently said it is considering tough new restrictions on the drinks industry. One option under consideration is requiring pubs to offer drinks in small glasses.

Let's hope this latest imposition of the Nanny State doesn't make it across the pond.

Friday, August 15, 2008

99.9% Pure

At Wizbang, Jay Tea analyzes the breathless reports that deployed troops are donating to Obama six times more often than McCain and provides much needed (especially for lefty bloggers who seem to struggle with understanding statistical relevance) perspective:

Let's take those numbers and play with them a little.

Minimum donation to be counted by Open Secrets: $200

Average donation to Obama: $455 and change.
Average donation to McCain: $410 and change

Total donations to Democrats: $63,882
Total donations to Republicans: $76,027

Average donation to Democrats: $456 and change
Average donation to Republicans: $500 and change

Total donations: 292
Total donations to Democrats: 140
Total donations to Republicans: 152
Total number of deployed troops donating to Obama and McCain: 160

Total number of Americn troops deployed abroad: about 370,000
Total number of deployed troops in Iraq: about 170,000
Total number of troops deployed in Afghanistan: about 20,000

Percentage of US troops deployed overseas donating at least $200 to presidential campaigns this year: 0.079%. Or, in simpler terms, less than one in ten thousand. Or, roughly, one in 12,500.

So yeah, Obama has outraised McCain from US troops stationed overseas, by overwhelming ratios in both number and amount. But the actual numbers are so damned small as to be statistically irrelevant.

And I think I kinda like that 99.9% of our troops aren't spending at least $200 on presidential campaigns.

The only credible conclusion that one can draw from the data is that among a tiny, tiny subset of US troops serving overseas (probably made up of those with a highly paritsan political bent), Obama has raised more money than McCain at this point of the election cycle. As our own Saint Paul (who knows a thing or two about such statistical matters) put it in an e-mail:

"That story is funny for a lot reasons. One being that the population of soldiers overseas who have donated to political campaign cannot in anyway be generalized to all soldiers or even all soldiers overseas. Those willing to give their money are almost certainly a small subset more inclined to be caught up in emotionalism and who probably would exhibit past voting behavior for Democrats. That small population size is supporting evidence of this (ain't that many soldiers who are prone to emotionalism or to be Democratic voters)."

A Tough Audience

Kathy Shaidle joins the growing list of national pundits who are now taking an interest in Minnesota's Senate race. Her piece at FrontPage Magazine is called Al Franken: Party of One:

What if a politician held a campaign event and nobody came?

That's what almost happened to comedian-turned-Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken last week. In what sounds like a sketch he might have written for Saturday Night Live, only one voter showed up for Franken's roundtable on veterans issues in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

It marked a particular low point in Franken's quixotic, controversial 18-month campaign to unseat unpopular Republican Senator Norm Coleman. The race should have been the Democrats' to lose, but a recent poll gives Colman a 15-point lead. Some party members are now questioning the wisdom of choosing Al Franken as their candidate.

She also includes comments from a couple of local yokels who weigh in on Franken's chances.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


At long last, the Beer Ratings Page has been updated with eleven new entries (pushing the total up to 338 beers). Most of the new batch are summer brews (naturally).

One notable and tasty exception is Tyranena's Dirty Old Man Rye Porter. That's right, porter aged in rye barrels and yes, it is as good as it sounds. It's part of their "Brewers Gone Wild" series which means it was only available for a limited time.

A couple of foreign entries are also in the mix with Kokanee from Canada and Harbin from China. Both are light, easy drinking beers that for the most part meet their relatively low expectations.

In the meets medium expectations category we have Boulevard's Zon and Breckenridge's Agave Wheat. Decent craft summer beers, but nothing special.

A little bit better is a Surly's Bitter Brewer. And a notch above that are New Belgium Brewing's Springboard Ale and Fort Collin's Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat. Although I rated them equally, I have to give an edge to Major Tom's. The fabulous label is not just fancy window dressing. Although I was initially a little skeptical of the use of pomegranate, the beer has a very unique and refreshing taste that combined drinkability with real flavor. Exactly what you want in a summer offering.

Finally, we have the return of Schlitz. Love the ads, love the look, love the fact that they went back to the recipe they used in the Sixties. But the beer itself? It's still Schlitz. I do prefer it to the mass produced American lagers of today and in general I would describe its taste as adequate. Enjoy it for what it is (nothing more) and you won't be disappointed.

The Girls Smile And People Forget

Jonathan Kay nails one of the main reasons why the Olympics hold no interest for me in a piece at the National Post:

Oh, and it turns out the lip-sync wasn't the only fraudulent thing about the opening ceremonies. The purportedly spectacular fireworks broadcast for the world's benefit were cobbled together with digital video effects --a cheap Hollywood trick that's as phony as Lin Miaoke's rendition of Ode to the Motherland.

In fact, Beijing itself has been turned into a sort of giant shrine to phoniness.

Three-metre high "culture walls" have been erected in front of shabby neighbourhoods, to block tourists' view of the undesirables. In other cases, crumbling buildings have been hastily covered with phony facades. All of Beijing's female meeters and greeters are pretty things in their 20s. In China's Potemkin world, surrounding tourists with women who are young and hot -- oops, sorry, I mean "flawless in image, internal feeling and expression" -- is very much "in the national interest."

This year's Olympics in Beijing truly are a show about nothing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lee Harvey, You Are a Mad Man

I see Mitchell Berg calling out the "Minnesota Independent" (Orwellian rim shot) for giggling at vandalism directed at Republicans. Another example of this phenomenon exists at that Democrat activist funded propaganda mill's brother-in-arms, MinnPost. Check out this post promoting the concerts taking place in town during the Republican National Convention, by their music critic Jim Walsh:

Making plans for the first week in September. Let's check the gig docket and see what's going on. Why, over at O'Gara's on Aug. 31, it's an all-day and -night peace concert ("Provention") with the New Standards, the Honeydogs, Martin Devaney, the Wilson brothers, and more; on Labor Day on the Capitol steps it's Spearhead (of "Yell Fire!" fame); at the Target Center on Sept. 2 it's Rage Against the Machine ("F*** you, I won't do what you tell me" ); Sept. 2 it's Ike Reilly ("who says you can't take a shot at a president?") and Billy Bragg ("Help Save The Youth Of America," "The Price Of Oil" ) at the Parkway Theater; and — what's this? — Earle, Bragg, Mos Def, Atmosphere and more at Harriet Island on Labor Day. Huh. Must be some sort of music festival or convention or something coming to town.

Nothing really interesting there, for those not lingering in the adolescent angst demographic. Except perhaps for that one casual reference to ….. assassination:

For those that missed it, let's go to the replay:

it's Ike Reilly ("who says you can't take a shot at a president?")

This isn't the first time Walsh has given an affectionate shout out to Ike Reilly's shooting presidents/assassination anthems (yes, there are two of them). Right before the election in 2006 we got this from his work at City Pages:

I'm here to say that Ike Reilly stood on a stage at an amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota last night, in front of 200 or so hardy souls in f*cking hats and gloves and down coats, fending off winter and celebrating Halloween and Friday the 13th, and sang "Who says you can't take a shot at a president?" and "We're drinking to your assassination" three weeks before Election Day. And those might not have even been the best moments

I know, I know, officially these songs aren't about any president or politician in particular. They're only the wistful, abstract, First Amendment-protected musings of a tortured artist. Certainly, he'd be as likely to write these during a Carter or Obama administration. Pure coincidence that, at the present moment, a man the liberals despise happens to be occupying the Oval Office.

But I find it noteworthy that a supposedly respected publication in town would print smirking references to taking a shot at the president (theoretically, of course), in conjunction with an event in town to be attended by the current, and perhaps future, President of the United States. Now that's a rule set change! Welcome to the future of media.

We at this Web site, of course, would never write/publish such a despicable thing about any President, ever . Our ethical and editorial standards just happen to be higher. And we didn't even go to journalism school!

BUT, according to MinnPost, it's now A-OK, if you want to. All irresponsible, childish, vicious, practitioners of the journalistic arts take note, if you're dumb enough to do so yourself, MinnPost will have your back. Heck, they may even have a job for you.

How's The Water?

The Beer Examiner's Charlie Papazian reports that Flat Earth is not the only local brewer to come up with a specialty beer for the Republican National Convention:

Meanwhile at Great Water Brewing (Saint Peter St., Saint Paul), brewer Bob DuVemois is making "G.O.P." It's a "Golden Oat Pale." They promise to have a few more beers brewed up for after the convention, appropriate for the run up to the election in November.

The name could use some work, but if the beer is anything like what we've come to expect from Great Waters in the past, thirsty convention goers will not be disappointed.

Send In The Clowns

Liberty Parade promises liberty, Missile Dick Chicks:

What does liberty look and sound like? Does it come in the form of a grass-covered bike or an enormous phallic symbol? Is it a giant puppet polar bear puppet that serves as a reminder to global warming? An 11-person bike made from cannibalized cars? Or since it's State Fair time, maybe it's Dick Cheney's head on a stick?

Quit nodding Atomizer.

At the Liberty Parade along Nicollet Mall on August 31, liberty can be anything you want it to be.

As can morality, gender, race, sexual orientation, the color of the sky...

A part of The UnConvention, which includes art-inspired and thought-provoking events throughout the Twin Cities during the RNC, the organizers of the Liberty Parade shelled out $11,000 to get a permit for the parade (which begins at 1:00 pm on August 31) and subsequent rock show in Loring Park, featuring bands such as STNNNG and Dillinger Four.

Scheduled to appear in the parade are the Missile Dick Chicks, who hilariously mock sexism, consumerism, and opiates for the masses and wear, well, missile dicks,...

Stop it, the hillarity is killing me.

...and the Backbone Campaign's Procession for the Future, which is filled with awesome puppetry, pageantry, music, and spectacle to express what liberty can look like during what Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus calls the "the 21st century's lunch counter moment."

Bring the whole family.

Reality Bites

George Friedman provides an astute and hyperbole free analysis of the Russo-Georgian War and Balance of Power:

Therefore, the United States has a problem--it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran--and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow's interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).

In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn't all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia's public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened--it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.

It's time for the West--especially the United States--to recognize the reality of Russia's ambitions and come up with a coherent approach to deal with it. We're not dealing with the Soviet Union anymore, but we're also not dealing with the same Russia we were in 1993 either.