Monday, November 30, 2009

Requiem For A Fat Ass

In 2004 the University of Notre Dame fired failed head football coach Tyrone Willingham. The Willingham firing was controversial, as politically correct commentators ignored Willingham's incompetence in their zeal to find a Catholic institution engaged in alleged discrimination against a black man. Ultimately, the media storm stung Notre Dame's leadership so badly that they sacrificed some of the University's Catholic character to honor the staunchly pro-abortion President Barack Obama with a JD degree in a nasty little quid pro quo. We'll give you cover for your culture of death if you'll drop your trumped up charge of racism. As a post-script, Willingham amassed a 11-37 record as head coach of the University of Washington in his final NCAA head coaching job.

The firing was followed by a botched hiring of then-Utah coach Urban Meyer, who chose the University of Florida, publicly humiliating the University that once offered his "dream job." The media, still in a feeding frenzy, began to circulate stories that no one wanted the Notre Dame coaching job. This led to Notre Dame turning to Charlie Weis, who was a successful NFL coordinator, winning 3 Super Bowls with the New England patriots. However, he had never been a head coach at a level above high school. The initial signs were favorable. Notre Dame followed Willingham's 6-5 record (6-6 including a bowl loss under an interim coach for Willingham) with a 9-3 record in 2005 and a 10-3 record in 2006.

With most of the starters graduating, Notre Dame expected a down year in 2007. What they got was arguably their worst season ever, a 3-9 effort that looked more like a Three Stooges film than a Notre Dame football season. Lows included Navy ending Notre Dame's 43 game winning streak. 2008 featured a 7-6 mark and inexplicable losses and near losses to some of the worst teams in college football. The 2009 team was no better, finishing the regular season at 6-6, despite having arguably the best quarterback in Notre Dames legendary history, Jimmy Clausen.

Weis never grasped the concept of defense. He loved tinkering with the offense, but eschewed a power running game. That may work in the NFL, but power running wins games in college football. While Weis amassed offensive talent, it didn't translate to wins. Weis was fired today, deservedly so. The fact is, he was a terrible coach. If he had any experience, people would have seen this. Notre Dame's mistake was giving him a chance. Being a good coordinator doesn't translate into being a good head coach.

There will be press stories that Notre Dame can't win anymore. That Notre Dame's holier than thou attitude doesn't fit in this day and age. Who makes their players attend class, much less graduate? Notre Dame leads all NCAA Bowl Subdivision teams in this statistic. The naysayers are full of BS. Notre Dame can win and graduate its players. If Notre Dame gets a proven coach, the team will win. Let's hope the leaders at Notre Dame understand this.

The Truth Isn't Popular

The December issue of First Things includes Joseph Bottum's piece calling Christians to more forcibly (and effectively) defend their religious freedoms called A Demand for Freedom (sub req):

Still, America's religious believers are not wrong to feel ringed in, somehow--teased and ragged and bullied and pressed in on. And they have responded, generally, like the bewildered boy surrounded by bullies. Take Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, for example. This is not a stupid man. At the very least, he's one of those sharp, get-ahead people with an ability to tell which way the wind is blowing. And there's no gainsaying the fact that, with healthcare reform, changes in the tax code, and homosexual rights routinely posed against religion, the wind is blowing hard against Notre Dame and all the other limicole institutions--hospitals, schools, and charities--that stand between the Catholic Church and the state. But somehow, despite his cleverness, Jenkins has chosen the big, tormented, clumsy boy's solution: stupidly hoping that the cool kids will like him if he tries to do the same things they do. They won't, and in the meantime he succeeds mostly at kindling anger in all the pro-life people who ought to wish Notre Dame well.

The clumsy boy trying to appease the cool kids seems like a perfectly apt analogy for Fr. Jenkins and his actions. Bottum closes with a clarion call to action:

As Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants of many denominations, Christian believers do not hold all the same beliefs. But all believers must stand up now and make a declaration. We must demand from the powers of the world genuine freedom for believers: the freedom to earn their livings, the freedom to educate their children, the freedom to practice their charities, and the freedom to speak the truth--all without compulsion to violate, along the way, the conscience formed by faith in Jesus Christ.

We must demand, as well, genuine freedom for the churches: the freedom to proclaim the gospel, the freedom to persuade conversions, the freedom to make the case for Christianity by participating in public discourse, the freedom to operate charitable and educational organizations, and the freedom to decry sin wherever it is found.

Finally, we must call the churches of every Christian denomination to cast off their torpor and compliance--to shed their fear of scorn and disapproval. The churches must take up their first and greatest duty: the proclamation of the Gospel of Life in a time increasingly enticed by death--the proclamation of the Gospel of Light in a world increasingly stumbling in darkness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Statistical Separated At Birth

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer was named the American League MVP earlier this week. It is now almost impossible to find someone who doesn't acknowledge Joe Mauer's greatness, but as recently as this spring I've found myself having to defend Mauer and his credentials as a number three hitter.

My case was based on the uncanny statistical similarity between Mauer and another great number three hitter for the Twins, Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Both Mauer and Carew broke into the majors at age 21. Through their first 5 seasons (that is, up to but not including Mauer's MVP season) they produced the following numbers:

Mauer 561 2059 653 128 14 44 325 301 30 .317 .856

Carew 585 2201 675 107 26 23 306 225 46 .307 .764

Mauer and Carew have similar numbers with Mauer showing more power and Carew more speed. (Carew's stolen base numbers increased considerably after his first five seasons and Mauer's home run power looks to be doing the same.)

Rod Carew won the AL MVP award in 1977, his eleventh season. Joe Mauer won the award this year, his sixth season. Once again, their MVP season numbers are similar with a power edge to Mauer and a speed edge to Carew:

Mauer 26 138 523 191 30_ 1 28_ 94_ 96_ 4 .365 1.031

Carew 31 155 616 239 38 16 14 128 100 23 .388 1.019

At this point in their careers, an edge would have to be given to Mauer. His power is more valuable than Carew's speed. Mauer also gets a big edge defensively. But, it should be remembered that after his fifth season, Carew continued to improve -- winning the batting title in six of the next seven seasons.

One area where I hope their careers differ: Carew left the Twins for greener pastures a year after winning the MVP award.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Quick thought for Thanksgiving from a song that our four-year-old son recently learned and has been spontaneously breaking into of late:

Thank you God for giving me
All these people I can love
People in my family
Thank you God in heaven above

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do you ever...

Do you ever look at people born after 1973 and just think "Man, you are lucky to even be here."

"Stup"ing to Conquer

You ever wonder why certain memories suddenly pop into your head? The other day, I was walking out to my car after work when out of the blue my subconscious dredges up a childhood memory that hadn't crossed my mind years.

The year was 1977 or thereabouts. The place was a movie theater. Possibly the Dock in Excelsior, but I'm not so sure anymore. The cast was me, JB, and two of our neighborhood friends, the Swanson brothers. One was a year older than one me. One a year older than JB. This age grouping lead us to spend quite a bit of time together as kids. We played a lot of sports and also got together for other activities as we were on this day.

We were watching the movie For the Love of Benji. Why? It was probably the only release that our parents deemed suitable viewing at the time. This was pre-cable, pre-DVD, heck it was pre-VCR for most of us and when it came to movies we pretty took whatever we could get.

Anyway, I remember nothing about the movie until the end. For some reason a basket was opened by Benji to reveal a liter of puppies. It was a surprise to the audience and one of those impossibly cute moments that elicits a smiling "Awwww...." from just about anyone. Except for my brother.

His immediate, visceral, and unrestrained response was to yell "Stoop!" about as loud as he could. At the time, we used it the word as a slang, shorter version of "stupid." So technically, it's "Stup!" pronounced "Stoop!" I don't recall how the other movie goers reacted to JB's little outburst, but it obviously made an impression on me as I still recall it more than thirty years on. In hindsight, as movie criticism goes it was some of most cogent and concise I've ever come across. Simple, to the point, and spot on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You Like-a da Juice, ah?

If I may intervene in Chad's home life for a minute, the following approach may also prove effective in the juice request department:


With three small children underfoot, my wife and I are constantly fielding requests for food and beverages. The most common of the latter is for "juice." Kids do love their juice. We try to somewhat limit the amount of juice consumed every day by cutting it heavily with water. This dilution makes the juice a little less sugary for the kids and saves us a few bucks, although we still go through a significant volume of it every week.

We expect the children to frame their juice requests properly and politely. That usually ends up with a deliberate and staccato-like, "Can...I...have...juice...please...___ (mom or dad)?"

But kids being kids, sometimes the desperate need for juice overwhelms their training and instead we get the demand, "I want juice!"

To which I've developed a couple of responses.

The first it to reply in my best Jack Nicholson voice (which is in fact really bad), "You want juice? You can't handle the juice!"

The second is to break into song (again quite badly) with a revised version of the Beatles I want you (she's so heavy):

I want juice
I want juice so bad
I want juice,
I want juice so bad
It's driving me mad, it's driving me mad.

Both responses usually result in a blank stare from the kids and a weary headshake from my wife if she's within earshot. Hey, if you can't humor yourself, what's the point?

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Takes a Nation of Cowards to Hold Us Back

Last week Eric Holder gave testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, addressing his decision to take the 911 terrorists out of the military justice system and bring them to New York City to participate in a civilian trial. His remarks about those who criticized his decision were of note. After initially stating that reasonable people could disagree on this matter, he proceeded to denigrate the motives of those who would do just that:

"I have every confidence the nation and the world will see [Khalid Sheik mohammed] for the coward he is," Holder says in a written version of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "I'm not scared of what (Mohammed) will have to say at trial -- and no one else needs to be either."

Holder's gratuitous testament to his own bravery reminds me of a scene from the movie "The Paper Chase". Harvard Law, contracts class, Professor Kingsfield grinding down his charges via the Socratic Method. A student explaining "force majeure" uses an example of an apartment that burns down before the lessee takes residence thus freeing him from the contract. He adds "that actually happened to me," causing the class to laugh. Kingsfield silences the room, icily interrupting with: "personal commentary is not necessary".

The judiciary committee could have used a man like that last week. (Kingsfield for Senate in 2010!)

In contrast to his own bravery, Holder also makes the implication that those who oppose civilian trials for these terrorist are driven by fear. He reiterates this later in his testimony:

Holder vowed that the U.S. would not surrender to fear or politics in seeking justice in federal court for the alleged Sept. 11 plotters.

"We need not cower in the face of this enemy," Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a packed hearing. "Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm and our people are ready."
Those opposing civilian trials are "cowering". This follows his previous characterization of KSM as a "coward". Holder seems to have a thing for using this slur. You may recall within his first few weeks in office as Attorney General, virtually his first public pronouncement was to call out the American people:

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.
This may explain a lot. A civilian trial requires judgment by a jury of one's peers. Holder may believe a coward like KSM can only get a fair trial if the jury is picked from the pool of cowards that is the American people.

Of course, the American people aren't cowards. The accusation that "fear" is the driving force of an idea, policy, or a criticism has become a common debating tactic of liberals and Democrat party activists. Name the issue, any issue, and you will be able to easily find a chorus of hectoring voices from the Left attempting to shame opposition or silence dissent by saying it's "fear mongering," as opposed to their rational, intellectual, and dispassionate analysis of the issues.

It is disheartening to see the Attorney General of the United States adopting the tactics of Keith Olberman, the Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground. Decorum alone should prevent those at the highest levels of government from publicly denigrating the motives of the opposition. More to the point, someone in Holder's position ought to be doing more than paying lip service to dissenting views. He should be legitimately trying to understand them and perhaps letting the more persuasive arguments influence his decisions.

If he's not aware of any non-fearful critics of his decision to bring the 911 terrorists to New York for a media sensation, here's one:

An attorney for one of the five men to be put on trial says all five will use their time in court to speak out against U.S. foreign policy.

That news did not sit will with the father of Minnesota 9-11 victim Tom Burnett Jr. His son died trying to take control of Flight 93, and Tom Burnett Sr. says his son,
and thousands of others, never got a chance to speak.

"It's a slap in my face, and all of the people who lost someone that day to have these vermin put on trial in New York City and get away with what I think they'll get away with," said Burnett Sr.

Succinctly and eloquently put. It is not "cowering" to want to prevent handing the murderers of September 11 a stage and megaphone in which to shout that their victims got what they deserved. Justice can be fairly meted out by other means which would deny them this privilege.

A few years ago, when the President was a Republican, parents of war time casualties dissenting against administration policy were said by liberals to have "absolute moral authority". Do the parents of Tom Burnett deserve the same consideration? Or are they cowards who should be ignored?

The measure of the Burnetts' bravery is best exemplified in the final words of their son in a phone call to his wife, on September 11, 2001:

Tom: We're waiting until we're over a rural area. We're going to take back the airplane.

Deena: No! Sit down, be still, be quiet, and don't draw attention to yourself! (The exact words taught to me by Delta Airlines Flight Attendant Training).

Tom: Deena! If they're going to crash this plane into the ground, we're going to have do something!

Deena: What about the authorities?

Tom: We can't wait for the authorities. I don't know what they could do anyway. It's up to us. I think we can do it.

Deena: What do you want me to do?

Tom: Pray, Deena, just pray.

Deena: (after a long pause) I love you.

Tom: Don't worry, we're going to do something.

A lesson in bravery even Eric Holder can learn something from.

Mass Casualties

A few thoughts/questions on mass.

1. When it did become acceptable to break out into applause during the service? I don't remember it ever happening in the 70's or 80's. 90's perhaps? I find it grating, to say the least. During Sunday's service there was not one, not two, but three outbursts of applause.

That is three too many.

One was after a visiting Indian priest gave his homily, which had me zoning due to his over-use of cliches and general bromides, which have nothing to do with Truth (you know, the reason we're there!). I remember thinking during the homily that people had better not start clapping when he got done. Then he finished and there was no clapping. I took the opportunity to make sure my boy was behaving himself in Sunday school and I was walking back into church I hear the clapping start.

The second was because some altar boy had just done his first mass. Whippty-doo.

The third was after the choir and congregation finished singing the song "Soon and Very Soon". For whatever reason during the song some saps decided to start some rhythmic clapping. There were maybe 30 people clapping--some on the back beat, some on the beat, others somewhere in between. It was a mess. Plus the song is Soon and Very Soon, a song about when we will die:

"Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king"

I don't know about others, but I am not necessarily looking forward to my day of reckoning with the Lord, so I wasn't happily singing along with ersatz joy.

And while I'm at it, perhaps someone could tell me when the priests decided to start singing practically the entire mass?

The Lord with you
And also with you
We lift up our hearts
We lift them up to the lord, etc.

Was something wrong with simply saying the words? And is it up to the priest if he wants to sing? What if he can't carry a tune in a bucket?

Besides the modern sappy feeling I get from hearing the singing, it also makes the mass last a lot longer.

The good news is that this H1N1 scare has put the kibosh on the ridiculous announcements at the beginning of mass like: "So that there be no strangers among us, please take a moment to greet those around you." So I was at least happy to avoid that bit of forced happy-sappy nonsense.

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

It wasn't like I tried to do it. I was just sitting in my seat trying to keep tabs on the two kids next to me on the flight to Miami. So when the flight attendant caught my shoe as she tried to make her way past, took a header, and uttered a "GD" as she sprawled out in the aisle, it wasn't the result of some elaborate plan of sabatoge on my part. It was simply an accident. A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and all of that. But, as I thought about all the times I've had my elbows, knees, or feet rammed by a beverage cart guided by flight attendants, I had to wonder if there wasn't at least a little karma at play.


I'm not big into superstition and certainly not numerology, but I still find the following rather interesting to consider.

If I was asked to choose a lucky number, I would have to go with three. The other contender would be two and therefore combinations of them--23, 32--would also be lucky for me. Not sure why I settled on those particular numbers as being fortunate for me, but at some point in my youth I determined that they were.

Three could possibly be explained because I was born on the third of July. I also happen to now have three sons. The first was born on July 23rd. The second on May 3rd. The last entered this world on September 13th. All born in odd numbered months and all born on a date with a three in it. Just like their father. Odd, isn't it?

SISYPHUS DOES THE MATH: The probability of a person being born in an odd-numbered month on a day ending in three is 18/365.25 or about 4.9%. To find the probability for 4 out of 4 people, raise (18/365.25) to the fourth power. Therefore, the odds of the Elder and his three sons all being born in an odd month on a day ending in three is about 1 in 169,539. (If you allow any date with a three in it -- meaning you include 30 and 31 -- the odds drop to 1 in 28,955.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE for another exciting and provocative broadcast day.

It all starts at 11AM central with me and John Hinderaker. We'll likely talk about the Eric Holder testimony this week, Sarah Palin's book and other literary masterpieces by politicians, and about illegaly hacked emails about global warming scheming.

The highlight is likely to be our guest at noon, John J. Miller. He's the national political reporter for National Review and also host of their literary podcast, Between the Covers.

We'll be talking about his terrific new book, The First Assassin. It's a novel, an historical thriller, set in tumultuous days around the first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. A brief plot description:

Washington, D.C., 1861: A new president takes office, a nation begins to break apart—and Colonel Charles Rook must risk insubordination to stop a mysterious assassin who prowls a nervous city. He will need the help of an ally he does not even know he has: Portia, a beautiful slave who holds a vital clue, hundreds of miles away.

Here's what others are saying:

"An excellent book--it's like The Day of the Jackal set in 1861 Washington."
-- Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pursuit of Honor

"Packed with fascinating information, superb characters, and sublime plot twists,The First Assassin is one of the most exciting thrillers I have read in a long, long time. This is historical fiction at its best and John J. Miller is the hot new author everyone will be talking about."
--Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Apostle

We're looking forward to talking to John at noon. Plus, Loon of the Week, This Week in Gatekeeping, and much, much more.

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. Also, don't forget at 9 AM King Banaian over at KYRC (Business 1570) and David Strom on the Patriot.

Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXXI)

This week's edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the festive folk at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. They've got everything you need for holiday cheer whether you've been naughty or nice.

Many of our current Christmas traditions and customs have come to us from our British cousins. Included among them is a focus on making merry, eating, and of course drinking:

The word "wassail" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon phrase waes hael, which means "good health." Originally, wassail was a beverage made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs, and spices. It was served for the purpose of enhancing the general merriment of the season. Like many of the ancient customs, "wassailing" has a legend to explain its origin. It seems that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words "Waes hael." Over the centuries a great deal of ceremony had developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl is carried into a room with great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink is sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage is served.

While the recipe for wassail has undergone some changes over the years (and thankfully so), the British continue with the tradition of brewing up special drinks for the season. Such as our featured beer this week: Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. Like some other brewers, Samuel Smith's creates a slightly different version of their winter warmer every year. Let's see how the 2009/2010 edition holds up.

Brown 12oz bottle with the brewer's name engraved on the neck. Gold foil wrapped bottle cap. A label that can only be described as busy features a vintage motorcycle parked in front of the "Taddy Cafe." Lots of various verbiage, chief among them the quote "Blessing of your heart you brew good ale" from one W. Shakespeare.

Beer Style: Winter warmer

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

COLOR (0-2): Clear light brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Mostly malty. A little faint. 1

HEAD (0-2): Full white and foamy. Decent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Sweet malt flavors with some hoppiness. Creamy mouth feel with a little heat. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth, but rather light. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A good not great winter beer that features the distinct Samuel Smith flavor. Not as heavy-bodied as many winter offerings. Very drinkable yet tasty too. Given the price for a four-pack, I don't think it quite lives up to expectations. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Glee In Mudville

There's no reason that I should like Fox's television series Glee. It's a musical comedy set in a high school. While I enjoy plays and movies, I generally can't stand musical versions of either. Way back in junior high I remember going on a class field trip to see a musical movie version of "Oliver Twist." Back at school, I was discussing the movie with a kid one grade below me and mentioned that I hated the musical bits. "Really?" he replied, "Those were my favorite parts." He ended up turning out to be gay. Seriously.

And shows about life in high school? Please. It's one of the last things I want to see portrayed again on television for the umpteenth time.

But with all that going against it, I still found myself drawn to "Glee." I don't know if it's the strange collection of characters, the unusual running plot lines, the wryly amusing writing or a combo of all that. Something about it works and for me it has sort of a "Arrested Development" vibe and appeal to it.

Well, at least until last night's episode. The other day JB and I were talking about television tropes and saying that there should be a list of leftist versions of them. For example, the evil businessman, the smart minority or woman, the stupid husband, etc. Last night on "Glee" another was on display: The Intolerant Christian Father (which is sort of but not really captured by the Holier Than Thou trope). You know exactly what I'm talking about. The dad who's an avowed Christian man of God--talking openly about his faith, wearing a cross, etc.--but ends up being an unloving bastard to his family.

On "Glee" it was the father of Quinn. She's a cheerleader and President of the "Christ Crusaders" which is a club that celebrates celibacy. In what could be yet another trope--good Christian goes bad--she gets knocked up. When her boyfriend Finn (who's not really the father) reveals this to her parents in last night's episode, her father reacts by throwing her out of the house. And just in case we weren't sure that he's a bad guy, he's domineering and verbally abusive to the mother. See, he says he's a Christian, but he really doesn't practice what he preaches toward his own family so he's a horrible hypocrite. Get it?

Yes, we get it. And we got it the first nine-hundred-and-ninety-two times we saw it on television as well. No more "Glee" for me.

UPDATE-- Tom e-mails with more details:

Did you note the foreshadowing when the subject hypocrite Christian Father came into the room (large rocks glass with 'brown goods' in hand) and said to his wife, "honey, you are missing Glenn Beck"? I like the show too, I hope it doesn't--in it first season--devolve into a "Law & Order" like show with evil ex-Bush Administration types up to no good (spiking McKinley's chances at sectionals perhaps?).

I did notice the rather hefty tumbler the dad was hoisting, but missed the Beck ref.

All the Wrong Reasons

I see some merit to Chad's comments from the other day about the perils of providing unconditional support to Sarah Palin based on reasons other than her individual merit.

Then I saw that MinnPost approvingly commented and linked to the sentiment.

This is good.
If the Democrats, feminists, media elites, and Beltway insiders like Chad's ideas, then they must deserve our full-fledged opposition.

Doing That Crazy Hand Jive

Irish lodge protest after cheat shuts them out:

Ireland appealed to France and soccer authorities Thursday to replay their World Cup playoff in Paris after an obvious handball by Henry produced the winning goal.

Ireland's government and opposition leaders united in demands for Wednesday's 1-1 draw in France to be replayed, and the country's soccer federation said it is considering a protest.

In extra time, Henry twice handled the ball to prevent it going out of play, then passed to William Gallas in the Irish box for the deciding goal.


The Football Association of Ireland said it was still mulling whether to protest. But Irish assistant manager Liam Brady and several players appealed to France's sense of honor.

Good luck with that.

Hit the Lights

Fraters resident energy guy (what, you don't have a guy?) Tim from Colorado e-mails on the approach of a new dark age:

So this is how it will all begin.

Xcel Energy is launching a state wide program on December 11th "to promote energy efficiency and the purchase of compact fluorescent bulbs."

"The Lights Out Lunch program was developed to raise awareness among consumers and businesses about small, easy actions they can take that collectively can have a large impact."

Participants will receive discount coupons at participating restaurants for lunch that day.

Do you see what they're doing?

What they're really doing is conditioning us for the day when we will have rolling blackouts every day for several hours because cap-and-trade and renewable energy portfolio standards forced the closing of base-loaded nuclear and coal-fired plants, forcing us to do without lights, heat, AC, and many other conveniences we take for granted today. No lights today again at lunch? That's ok; candlelight actually helps the appearance of my Soylent Green.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for conservation; we should not waste resources of any kind. But the best conservation efforts cannot save enough energy to reduce demand enough to allow a 1000 MW power plant to not be built, especially when you consider the average home today versus the average home of thirty or forty years ago when you grew up (and when many of today's nuclear and coal-fired plants were put into service).

Today's average home is running one, and probably two, home computers; two televisions, maybe three; a cable or satellite TV box for each TV; a home theater system for at least one TV; and an AC system for home comfort. Changing your home over to a few CFLs cannot possibly offset that additional demand. I'm not saying don't put CFLs in your house if that's what you want to do, but you're kidding yourself if you think replacing a 100 watt incandescent with a 100 watt CFL completely offsets the power used by your desktop PC.

Across our country there are many coal-fired, and to some extent a few nuclear plants, that are well beyond their design lives and must be replaced in kind with another power plant. Solar panels and wind farms cannot replace these plants because these are base-load plants that provide power we need without fail 24-7-365.

The problem is that nobody want to say the difficult things, they would rather come up with the silly idea. This Lights Out Lunch program may make some "feel" good, but it really isn't addressing the core issue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brown Out

NFL fans everywhere are eagerly anticipating this Sunday's showdown between the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Not since the epic Browns-Bills shootout in Week Five, when Cleveland clawed out a 6-3 win, has a game attracted this kind of excitement. Many intriguing questions are already emerging as the pre-game buzz builds:

Will the Browns score an offensive touchdown?

Will Brady Quinn attempt to throw the ball more than ten yards downfield?

Have the Browns defensive coaches figured out how to count to eleven yet?

How many false starts, illegal formations, and delay of game penalties will the two teams combine to get?

How many Lions starters will be injured before halftime?

What creative new ways will the Lions find to shoot themselves in the foot and give away points to the other team?

Will they even be able to give away points to a team as offensively inept as the Browns?

These questions and many more will finally be answered when the two teams face off on the hallowed grounds of Ford Field on Sunday. It's a surprise and a shame that this isn't a nationally televised game because it promises to be one you don't want to miss.

One thing that we all can be thankful for is that this little turkey bowl is scheduled for this Sunday and not on Thanksgiving Day when the Lions will face the Packers.

UPDATE-- Tom e-mails with another point to ponder:

If you are the TV broadcast team covering this game, do you switch looking for a new gig into high priority mode? Because, other than covering the unveiling of the salt pile at the D.O.T. as the snowflakes begin to fly, could there be a worse job to be had in TV broadcasting other than covering this game?

Hammer Time

The most recent edition of National Review features Charles Krauthammer on its cover and has a good piece on the indispensible intellectual/pundit by Jay Nordlinger called Critic-in-Chief (sub req):

So, Charles Krauthammer has not exactly been a wallflower or nonentity. But since January 20, 2009, his fame, reach, and popularity has burgeoned. That is because he has been a brilliant critic of President Obama: a persistent, fearless, profound critic of Obama. Indeed, many conservatives, and some liberals as well, consider him the critic-in-chief. He has been on Obama's case constantly, for his errors and follies in policy both foreign and domestic. In a column last month, he said that the "commander-in-chief, young Hamlet, frets, demurs, agonizes." Krauthammer was speaking of the Afghan War. Only in August, Obama had declared Afghanistan to be "a war of necessity." Now the president seemed very much unsure. Krauthammer concluded his column, "Does anything he says remain operative beyond the fading of the audience applause?"

Krauthammer also has a big television presence, a tremendous platform: appearing almost every night on Fox News, specifically Special Report with Bret Baier, where he gives commentary. Fox has rattled the president and his administration, as they have not bothered disguising. Krauthammer is a key part of what you may call the Fox resistance to Obama. There is precedent for the intellectual as television star: Malcolm Muggeridge in Britain, William F. Buckley Jr. in America. But the precedents are few.

There are few precedents indeed for the role that Krauthammer is now playing. His columns are must-reads and I find myself tuning in to Special Report whenever I have the chance chiefly in the hope of catching a few minutes of Krauthammer's expounding on the issues of the day. His language is precise and analytical and, like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, he uses words to cut to the heart of the manner with an almost clinical style. Most importantly, he was one of the first critics to be able to articulate what President Obama is really all about. He's now got Obama down cold which makes his analysis so insightful and convincing.

It might seem unlikely that a man who was born (correction) raised in Quebec, trained as a psychiatrist, once a speechwriter for Walter Mondale, and a writer for the New Republic would become one of the foremost conservative critics of the Age of Obama. But fate has worked in favor of conservatives in the case of Krauthammer and we're fortunate to have his voice leading the resistance. It isn't always an easy role either.

Every columnist writes a "soft" column now and then--a column about sports, or fashion, or maybe a beloved former teacher. All summer long, Krauthammer was wanting to write a column about the Washington Nationals, the baseball team. But he never had the opportunity, because "Obama keeps coming at me like a fire hose."

And it doesn't look like the deluge is going to let up anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All The Right Reasons

Caught a good bit of Rush's interview with Sarah Palin today over the lunch hour. I thought her performance was decent if a little uneven. She displayed the same down-home folksy Palin charm that we saw on the campaign trail last year. And there's no denying that there's a certain appeal to that. But she was also very vague (perhaps intentionally so) on most of the issues they discussed. She must have used the words "common sense" a dozen times, although exactly what that meant as far as policy solutions go was not clear. Northing in the interview really changed my existing impression of her.

While I'm far from Palin's biggest fan, I am willing to listen to what she has to say (as I did today) and I remain open to the possibility that she has a significant role to play in the conservative movement (did I really just use the "m" word?). However, I am going to judge her on the merits of her words and actions. Just because liberals and the media exhibit open disdain for Palin does not automatically mean that conservatives should embrace her.

That's one of the painful lessons that conservatives (myself included) should have learned after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. Too often we were willing to give Bush a pass in areas where he deserved criticism for fear of doing anything to aid and abet the left (and the media) in their relentless quest to destroy his presidency. When we witnessed the incessant and often unfair attacks on Bush on almost a daily basis, our reaction was to circle the wagons around him and close ranks.

There's nothing wrong with defending a politician whom you generally agree with when they're under assault, especially when that assault is being mounted by forces that you adamantly oppose. But that defense should not extend to a blanket of support of all the actions that a politician undertakes or policies they espouse.

Again, I think that on too many occasions conservatives fell into that trap with President Bush. And I think that some degree of the conservative backing that Palin enjoys is similarly founded. If the Democrats, feminists, media elites, and Beltway insiders despise her so, then she must deserve our full-fledged support. While that sentiment is understandable, it's one that conservatives should resist this time around. Let Sarah Palin earn our support. And let her earn it for all the right reasons.

It All Depends On Whose Baby Is Being Gored

This following story caught my eye for a number of reasons.

Man Gets Life In Punching Death Of Fetus:

A Hopkins man accused of having a friend punch his pregnant girlfriend to kill the fetus has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Twenty-five-year-old Dameon Gatson was charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault. A jury found him guilty on all charges.

Hennepin County prosecutors say Gatson was sentenced Thursday.

Prosecutors say he arranged the events that led to his daughter's premature birth in 2007 and her death 10 days later.

Police say Gatson paid the man $40 after he hit Shyloe Linde twice in the stomach. She was six months pregnant.

Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly has said Gatson will seek a new trial on the grounds that he wasn't allowed to confront his accuser.

First you have to love the incongruity of the title. After all, if a fetus is nothing more than an unviable tissue mass, can it really be punched to death? If the fetus is nothing more than part of the woman's body--like an arm or leg--than isn't punching a fetus nothing more than punching the woman herself? And in that case, wouldn't the charges against the man who did the punching and Gatson be nothing more than assault?

Now, you could argue that since Linde was six months pregnant the fetus was past the "viability" stage and therefore deserving of protections not otherwise accorded (although in some states it would still be legal to have a late-term abortion), but then you're saying that the right to not have your life snuffed out is entirely dependent on how "viable" you are. The other angle that could be taken is that since this wasn't Linde's decision, it somehow becomes murder rather than "reproductive choice." Then you're arguing that one being's right to life is entirely dependent on the whims of another. Neither argument passes muster here.

If a Martian landed on earth and inquired about these matters, the most ardent and informed pro-choicer would not be able to explain the logic of our current abortion regime and how it fits with other legal protections that fetuses (none dare call them babies) apparently enjoy in the womb. So it's okay to kill them then? Yes. What about then? No. How about then? Well, that's not such an easy answer.

The final striking note in this horrible story is that the man was willing to punch Shyloe Linde in the stomach in order to kill her baby in return for forty dollars (another story said he expected to get another $200 after the deed). When your culture embraces death, life becomes cheap.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You've Come A Long Way Ralphie

In Friday's WSJ, Eric Felten writes on the marginalization of Thanksgiving:

Given half a chance, retailers would probably try to get their plastic garlands hung just after Labor Day. (Ho-ho-ho, it's back to school!) But we've been spared that particular encroachment, thanks to a holiday that has proved capable of standing athwart the relentless forces of Christmas-creep--Halloween. Once a quaint bit of Americana built around the simple pleasures of costumes, candy-grabbing and petty vandalism, Halloween has become a marketable and profitable holiday, putting many official holidays to shame. If only Presidents Day had some sort of free-candy angle.

In contrast to Halloween's stalwart ability to keep Christmas from jumping the queue, Thanksgiving has lost its cultural muscle. The early advent of the Santa season may have less to do with the red-and-green imperative than with the weakness of Turkey Day. What happened to this quintessential American holiday?

The Thanksgiving squeeze is something that we can definitely relate to this year. Since we'll be out of town for ten days on and around Thanksgiving, our house decorations have transitioned from Halloween to Christmas with scarcely a pause in between. It's a shame too because Thanksgiving is a holiday that merits more attention. As Felten notes, it's a quintessentially American experience and one that I look forward to every year. If your travels aren't too arduous and you're not the one responsible for assembling the feast, it's a day to revel in the finest traditions of eating, drinking, and being merry. Throw in a little football and it's really a hard day to beat.

Felten ends his piece with a plea to embrace the autumn season, Thanksgiving in particular. It also includes an interesting nugget on the state of American Christmas culture:

There will be plenty of time next month for all the secular manifestations of Christmas: shopping, trimming the tree, shopping, mugs of frothing Tom & Jerry, shopping, and watching Ralphie get his Red Ryder BB-gun and Clarence get his wings. Oh, and yes, shopping. But before we break out the ornaments and dust off the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack, let's make the most of autumn and its particular pleasures. Jump in a pile of leaves. Savor the waning daylight. And go ahead. Week after next, eat that second slice of pumpkin pie--just be thankful for it.

Amazing. "A Christmas Story" is now so widely recognized within the culture that it's cited along with shopping, tree trimming, Tom and Jerrys, and that other grossly overrated Christmas movie as being emblematic of secular Christmas in America. Our little boy is all growed up.

If You Build It, They Won't Fumble

After yesterday's victory over the Lions, Vikings head coach Brad Childress made what has to be the worst excuse for a player's performance and the worst pitch for a new stadium for the team that we've heard to date:

We asked Brad Childress if Adrian Peterson could have done anything to prevent the fumble on his breakaway run, and he said that if this were a new stadium with a huge Jumbotron in each end zone, Adrian would have been able to see the defender coming up behind him.

I asked Brad if he was blaming the taxpayers of Minnesota for Peterson's fumble. He said, "Whoever is responsible for us not having a Jumbotron."

Damn you David Strom! You and your like-minded skin flints who refused to hand over a blank check from the State of Minnesota to a wealthy owner of a professional sports team are responsible for Adrian Peterson's fumble. You're just lucky that we were playing a team as hapless as the Lions or else YOU could have cost the Vikings the game. If this team doesn't live up to its now vastly inflated expectations and win the Super Bowl this year at least we'll know who's really at fault.

What A Country!

French intellectual Guy Sorman speaking with Russian economic advisor Arkady Dvorkovitch on global warming (from Sorman's book Economics Does Not Lie:

The growth potential of China and India has convinced them that oil prices can only further rise, to Russia's great benefit. When I raise the specter of global warming and the policy response to it, which could result in lower oil and gas consumption, my Russian interlocutors laugh. This is a debate fabricated in the United States, they explain, and is not taken very seriously by the Indians and Chinese--and in any case, Russian climatologists do not subscribe to the global warming theory. "Hasn't Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol on the limiting of greenhouse gases?" I ask. Dvorkovitch is dismissive: It was merely a political gesture.

We can expect more such empty gestures from countries like Russia when the next round of talks on climate change agreements kick off in Copenhagen. The problem is that for the Obama Administration such agreements aren't merely political gestures, they're commitments that they're going to enforce upon America to our economic detriment. No wonder the Russians are laughing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fraters Stimulus A Success

For some months now, there has been a severe blog post recession. Among Minnesota conservative blogs especially, there has been a significant decrease in the number of posts.

In an effort to put an end to this recession, at least at Fraters Libertas, Chad the Elder put together a Blog Post Stimulus Package. He added the Nihilist in Golf Pants,the Crazy Uke, and myself to the Fraters Libertas contributors list. His hope was that we would each contribute about two posts a week.

We can now declare that the stimulus has been a success! While uninformed cynics may note that we seem to have fallen slightly shy of two posts a week, a study commissioned by the Nihilist, Uke, and myself proves that we have been a great success. The study finds that we have created or saved 759 Fraters Libertas posts since August! Congratulations to us all!

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Word is finally leaking out to the wider world about a certain Saturday radio program being hosted by bloggers. And reviews so far are less than raving:

Oh, great. Just what we needed: Four hours of radio consisting of bloggers no one knows about yapping about blogs no one cares about.

Turning over four hours of peak radio time on a 50,000-watt powerhouse to this menagerie of free-lancers and hobbyists strikes me as a colossal waste of time.

I cry foul! You lie! Someone needs to get some gatekeepers on this guy. The Patriot isn't anywhere near 50K watts and 11AM - 3PM ain't exactly peak radio time, unless your core demographic is people in orange jumpsuits cleaning up garbage on the side of the highway. Plus they forgot to mention we're wearing our underwear and broadcasting from our mother's basements. Other than that ...

Actually, that's not a review of the award winning Northern Alliance Radio Network. It's an advance review of a new Saturday morning blogger-hosted show, starting this week on WGN in Chicago. According to reports, it will be hosted by a guy who used to work full time in radio and he'll be joined by a rotating cast of local bloggers. Their aim, to create "a crazy collision of experiences and perspectives.".

That all sounds suspiciously familiar. Even down to the number of bloggers who will be contributing - 126. That was the exact number of people we had in studio during our first show over five years ago.

I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We accept this and we wish them well in Chicago. However, they don't have a half decade of hard lessons learned and experience to wring the mistakes and inefficiencies from the program. For example, I understand for their first show they are flying in the Atomizer to discuss the effect of marginal tax rate increases on long-term municipal bond yields and JB Doubtless and Scott Johnson to debate the significance of the 34th Anniversary of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. That was our second show in 2004! Been there, done that, won't be doing that again.

If you want to hear free lancers and hobbyists yapping about blogs nobody cares about in its highest form, there is only one place to go: The Northern Alliance Radio Network. It all starts at 11AM central today with John Hinderaker and me talking all of today's hot news topics. Working on a high profile guest, but no confirmation yet, stay tuned. Guaranteed however are Loon of the Week, This Week in Gatekeeping, and much, much more.

Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. Also, don't forget at 9 AM, King Banaian over at KYRC (Business 1570) and David Strom on the Patriot.

Check it out locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. And you can always join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it!

UPDATE: Joining us at 12 noon, Andy McCarthy of National Review Online. He's a former federal prosecutor of terrorism suspects and he'll be bringing his impressive expertise to the case of KSM and his cohorts coming to NYC for trial.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Same Cat With Different Stripes?

Matthew Continetti has an interesting piece in today's WSJ that asks Can Sarah Palin Make a Comeback?:

Could Ms. Palin follow Reagan's example? Maybe. She'd need to return to her 2006 playbook.

In Alaska, Ms. Palin didn't run as a culture warrior. She focused on issues with overwhelming public support: ethics reform, a revised oil tax, and more competition and transparency in the effort to build a natural gas pipeline. She took the conservative vote for granted and focused on winning independents and even some Democrats.

The 2006 Palin model looks a lot like the approach that Virginia's next governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, used to win his election last week. It means applying conservative principles to problems like the economy, health care, and out-of-control federal spending. It means addressing voter concern that big government and big business are in cahoots, heaping expensive burdens on small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.

During her book tour, Ms. Palin is sure to mention that the Obama administration's opposition to offshore drilling and domestic nuclear power, and its support for an onerous cap-and-trade scheme, will raise energy prices across the board. But she also might spend less time discussing campaign intrigue and Alaska trivia, and more time outlining how to spur job creation through tax reform.

Continetti obviously believes she can come back if she follows his advice to win over independents. A more intriguing question might be: would a Sarah Palin comeback be good for Republicans? The answer is not quite as obvious to me.

Consider what we learned about Palin so far. She's physically attractive and has the energy and personal magnetism that give her a certain star quality. She carries with her some of the hopes and dreams of a demographic group that hasn't been represented in the presidency before. When delivering prepared remarks, she's a gifted speaker who can inspire and motivate. However, when off the teleprompter she has a tendency to make gaffes and ramble. She has little experience in foreign policy and it's difficult to discern her underlying political philosophy.

Is that really what America is going to be looking for in 2012?

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXX)

Another Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the right jolly fellows at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. Why bother with the agonies of shopping at the mall when everything you need to spread holiday cheer is available at their store?

The coming of winter is not a welcome prospect for many. With winter comes cold, snow, and ice. Long nights and short days make the sun seem like an infrequent visitor instead of an everyday friend. Shorts are exchanged for snow pants, t-shirts for thermal underwear, and sandals for Sorrels. Winter can be a brutal and uncompromising season.

But it can also be a wonderful time of year. When I think of the coming of winter I think of three things: Christmas, hockey, and winter beer (not necessarily in that order). While I love summer and the refreshing beers that come with it, winter has become my favorite time of year for beer. Many of my favorite seasonal are winter beers. There's so much variety and so much flavor in the winter offerings that I never tire of them. In fact, I usually greet the end of the winter beer season with a sense of dread sometimes accompanied by panicked buying of the remaining stocks to try extend my supply just a little bit longer. Note to brewers: In Minnesota, winter starts in November and ends in mid-April (if we're lucky). Please plan your winter beer deliveries to our state accordingly.

It seems like with every passing winter, there are more and more winter beers available to choose from. And I plan to get through as many as possible in the coming months.

The winter beer season officially begins today with 2° Below from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Standard brown New Belgium bottle. Label has typical New Belgium artwork with hops framing an outdoor winter scene. Snow on the roof, icicles dangling from the gutter, frozen pipes, and a thermometer reflecting the beer's name set against a harsh bluish-gray sky. Brrrrrr...

Beer Style: Extra special bitter

Alcohol by Volume: 6.6%

COLOR (0-2): Light brown and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Hoppy with sweetness. 2

HEAD (0-2): Full and white. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Interesting flavor profile. Malty with well-defined hoppiness and a little citrus and spice. Medium-bodied. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Alcohol follow through is a little sharp. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Not your typical winter offering. It took me a few attempts (four bottles to be exact) to get a handle on this beer. It's a tasty and hearty winter beer that not's too heavy. You can definitely enjoy more than one in a sitting and it's a fine beer to pass the long winter nights with. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Radio Free America

I noticed the look of the AM1280 the Patriot web site has been updated. Most prominently, the podcast links for the various programs have been removed from the front page. They're now accessible only via the tiny "podcasts" button near the top of the page.

This move was no doubt caused by the migration of the national hosts toward the "premium," member subscription model for hearing their old shows. All of the Patriot Big Four went this way. Bennett, Prager, Medved, and Hewitt. One by one, they fell like dominoes over the past few months. Now, if you want to hear one of their old shows in their entirety, you have to cough up and pay the piper.

An iron curtain has descended across the talk radio universe. Behind that line lie all the stars of the ancient shows of conservative talk. The Hughniverse, Pragertopia, MedHead, Bill Bennett's Round Table, all these famous hosts and their guests lie in what I must call the membership sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to the influence of money, but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Karl Rove.

Slight exaggeration there. But I ain't happy. Getting to catch up on missed radio shows for FREE was a major value added feature of the Internets for me. I suppose you can't blame Hugh and the boys for starting to charge for content. They are talented and entertaining communicators. There is a demand for their broadcasts. The business model of giving content away on the Internet has proven to be unsustainable for other information providers like newspapers and magazines. Maybe it's time to give this a try.

Assuming they get people to pay for their old shows and the model becomes ubiquitous, we may look back at the recent past as the Golden Age of Internet Radio. (Tell us grandpa, what was it like getting to hear day old commentary from Erwin Chemerinsky for free?) Ah, I'm getting misty-eyed already.

I should mention there is at least one place where the Golden Age lives on. A magical land where you can get full broadcast hours, commercial free, and all available for the low, low monthly price of zero dollars and zero cents. That's right, it's the Northern Alliance Radio Network. You have to dig to find the podcast now, but here's a helpful link for you to bookmark:

NARN Podcasts

And it's not just us babbling. Recent broadcasts from the First Team include interviews with the likes of Michael Barone, John Derbyshire, Peter Schweizer, John Ondrasik, Michele Bachmann, and Pat Anderson.

I know that ain't exactly the level of quality that the local competition is offering up on Saturdays, with the likes of Ron Rosenbaum interviewing Pat Kessler. But give us a break, we're volunteers. We do it for love, not money.

Remember, NARN broadcasts LIVE on Saturdays starting at 11AM, podcasts usually up by Monday afternoon. Now, as ever, 100% premium membership fee free.

Can't Hardly Wait

I've never been very good at waiting. Actually, that should be amended slightly: I've never been very good at unplanned waiting. If I know that I'm going to have to wait in advance--for a plane, during an auto repair, etc.--I can prepare for it by having a book or my laptop along to pass the time. It's the unforeseen, unexpected waits that really try my patience.

This can drive my wife crazy at times. When we're shopping and I see a long line to checkout, I'm inclined to say forget it no matter how good the deal is. I'd rather pay more at a later time when I don't have to wait.

My real pet peeve though is waiting at restaurants. If I'm told that we're going to have to wait more than twenty minutes to be seated, my immediate instinct is to turn and bolt. This also causes some consternation for my wife, who quite logically will argue that by the time we leave one place and get to another it will have taken longer than waiting where we are. And there's no guarantee that we won't face a wait at the next place either.

While both of those points are valid, I don't care. Even if it takes longer to go elsewhere and we may have to wait there as well, I'd rather act than passively sit and wait. Now, if there's a bar available where the two of us can lounge and knock back a pre-dinner drink I can handle a wait. But since we're usually dining with our childrens these days, it's not a situation that we run into a lot.

Which brings me to Sunday night. I spent most of Sunday afternoon splitting logs with my dad. This task was made easier (and a hell of a lot more fun) by virtue of him renting a motorized splitter, but it was still a lot of work lugging, lifting, and stacking. By the time we (my parents, my wife and three kids) headed out to grab a bite, I was hungry and tired.

We decided to patronize Famous Dave's, a barbeque joint with a chain of locations in the Upper Midwest that we've enjoyed often in the past (both dine in and take out). It's not exactly fine dining, but the food's good, the prices are reasonable, and it has an atmosphere conducive for young children (noisy and casual). Plus there's a huge moose head on the wall at the one we usually hit. What more could you want?

When we walked in the door a bit after 5:30pm, we could see it was busy. I inquired about a table for four adults and three kids and was told that the wait would be 35-40 minutes. My first thought was to leave immediately, but I was convinced that our best bet would be waiting it out. My dad even volunteered "A lot of times the wait isn't as long as they say." My personal experience has been that the opposite is more often the case, but what the heck, a little waiting is not going to kill us, right?

So we waited in a small area off the entrance. With three boys who were intent on getting their paws on every piece of northwoods cabin memorabilia hanging on the walls within reach. The phrase "Don't touch that" was used early and often. And we waited.

Half-hour and still waiting. Forty minutes and still waiting. Parties who had come in after us were being seated. Even parties with five adults. Fifty minutes and still waiting. We approached the host a couple of times and were told that we would be seated soon. An hour and we were still waiting. By this time the boys were becoming more and more difficult to control. And I wasn't as interested in stopping their attempts to pry snow shoes and fishing rods off the wall.

Finally, after an hour and fifteen minutes (or approximately TWICE as long as had been promised) we were seated. A manager came over and apologized for the wait. He had a couple of appetizers brought out on the house. It was a nice gesture, but since the kids aren't big on catfish tenders and buffalo chicken wings, it didn't do that much to ease the pain. A round of free drinks would have been better appreciated. At least by me.

The waitress did take our order right away and the food arrived much faster than usual. And it was good as it normally is. But the damage had been done and I couldn't really enjoy the dining experience, especially since I kept seeing parties who had arrived well after us leaving the restaurant before we even had our food. I couldn't wait to get done and get home.

The next day, I was still stewing about the incident. Rather than letting it fester, I decided that I would feel much better if I aired my feelings. So I surfed up Famous Dave's web page and submitted a feedback form detailing my frustration. The focus of my frustration centered on the lack of communications from the staff while we were waiting and the apparent unwillingness of the staff to undertake additional thought or action to solve our problem. You can't tell me that they couldn't have figured out how to push a couple of tables together to seat four adults and three kids instead of making us wait until one of the few larger tables was available.

To their credit, Famous Dave's made this process easy and efficient. Some people might rather make a phone call to register a complaint. I much prefer using e-mail. Having both options readily available and easy to use is smart customer service.

Within hours of submitting my complaint, I received a form e-mail noting that it had been received and was being reviewed. So far, so good. Within a day, I received a personal e-mail from the manager of the particular restaurant. She offered no excuses and no equivocations. She expressed empathy and understanding. Even though she was not in the restaurant that night, she personally apologized. She assured me that what happened was an anomaly that we would not experience at Famous Dave's again. And she offered to send us a gift card in hopes that we would give her restaurant another chance in the future. Now that's customer service.

Turning a potential disaster into an opportunity to increase customer loyalty is not always easy, but her prompt and personal response did just that in this case. We will definitely be giving Famous Dave's another chance and I expect us to visit regularly in the future. Just as long as there's not much of a wait.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not Giving As Taking

David Harsanyi has a killer piece on the delicious irony of pro-choice Democrats being concerned about the health care bill restricting abortion rights and freedom called Freedom to Confuse:

Take the torrent of hypocrisy that spilled from the jilted pro-choice wing of the Democratic Party after a House amendment to the health care reform bill tightened a ban on federal funds for abortions by a vote of 240-194--a more substantial mandate against abortion funding, incidentally, than for health-care reform.

Denver's Democratic congresswoman, Diana DeGette, immediately began collecting signatures to oppose what she called "an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled."

Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., went further, adding that the amendment "attempts an unprecedented overreach into women's basic rights and freedoms in this country."

Overreach? Unprecedented? Basic rights? Freedoms?

Right words, wrong issue.

I have no doubt that the progressive wing of Congress--folks who generally support a single-payer plan that would eradicate choice and freedom in health care--believe government failing to give you something is indistinguishable from government taking something away from you.

Yet, while no one will be stripped of their right to have an abortion under this legislation, the vast majority of citizens will have to deal with a cluster of new mandates and more than 100 new government bureaucracies to enforce them.

Harsanyi goes on to note that the ultimate irony would be if pro-choice Democrats' concern over protecting "reproductive health services" leads to the eventual scuttling of the entire health care bill. We can only hope.

Inviting Them Over Here So They Can Fight Over There?

Alleged Somali recruiter arrested, linked to Minnesota:

A 43-year-old Somali man from Minneapolis was arrested this week in the Netherlands for allegedly financing the recruitment of up to 20 young Somali men from Minnesota to train and fight with terrorists in their homeland.

The arrest appears to be the most significant development yet in one of the most far-reaching counterterrorism investigations since 9/11.

Something tells me the whole American assimilation and melting pot thing ain't working like it used to.

The Eleventh Hour

UPDATE: Bumped to today.

A trio of offers and activities to commemorate Veteran's Day today.

First up, John (himself a vet) e-mails to make us aware of a very special offer from Applebee's:

On Veterans Day all active duty military and vets can eat free at Applebee's. All they have to do is show proof of service.

Next up is Keegan's Irish Pub which continues its Salute to the Military tradition:

Keegan's Pub is celebrating our 8th annual Salute to the Military. From Friday, November 6th through Veteran's Day, November 11, all military men and women and all vets get their first drink free. S.O.S. is on the menu all day each day for just $4.95.

Finally, the Eleven-Eleven campaign is a simple, but powerful way for you to demonstrate your gratitude and support for America's veterans:

The objective of the Eleven Eleven Campaign is simple: to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to support America's Veterans.

To reach that objective, we've made it easy to give back to our Veterans. Americans can text the word "VETS" to 85944 to donate $10 to America’s Veterans--your $10 donation will be matched with $1 from Beyond Tribute. Or you can give online here.

Contributions make a profound difference in the lives of America's Veterans. Contributions are distributed directly to Beyond Tribute's coalition partners, who specialize in providing direct services and advocacy for America's Veterans.

Even in these tough times, I think just about everyone could find a way to chip in eleven bucks for the vets. It doesn't sound like much and individually it's not. But when you take eleven bucks eleven million times over you get a significant number that can make a real difference.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free To Go

All of the recent commentary and remembrances of the fall of the Berlin Wall remind us again of how the Wall became a stark symbol of the divide and differences between the Communist block and the West. It brought clarity to the Cold War struggle and made efforts to claim moral relativism between the two sides more difficult (although certainty not impossible as proven by many on the left). Building it turned out to be an enormous public relations blunder for the Communists. It was hard to argue that your system was better when you had to build a wall to keep your own people from escaping to the other side.

One of the difficulties in the current struggle against radical Islam is that aren't such concrete examples readily available to highlight the differences between the combatants. Yes, we see the evil in suicide bombers, terrorizing civilians, oppressing women, etc. but there isn't that one symbol that really clarifies matters as the Wall did. If the Islamists had their way they probably would like to erect their own version of a wall around their fantasy "caliphate" to keep their own people in and keep the forces of modernity out.

Thoughts of the Wall also lead to the observation that you can still judge a country by how difficult they make it to enter and exit. For example, coming into the United States--even for a US citizen--isn't always a breeze. The immigration folks are going to check your passport and almost always ask you some questions about where you've been and where you're going. But there are almost no controls on leaving. If you fly out, the airlines will make sure you have a valid passport, but that's about it. Pretty much the same for an EU country. Show your passport when you arrive, leave with ease.

Other countries that I've traveled to--Mexico, Russia, China, the Philippines--control your coming and going. For Russia and China you need a visa to enter and are expected to have your passport on hand at all times. In Mexico and China you fill out an entry card upon arrival and are expected to turn it in when you leave (someday I'll recount my tale of evading that requirement once in Mexico--after the statue of limitations expires). In all of these countries you have to go through some form of emigration control before you leave and in Manila you even get to pay an "airport users charge" for the privilege of departing. None of these examples are anything like the Wall of course, but the degree of a country's freedom and prosperity can still be related to how easy or difficult it is to leave.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dazed and Confused

Sen. John Kerry on how he came to the conclusion that we need to dial back it back a few notches in Afghanistan.

Last month I was traveling down a dirt road in Afghanistan's Helmand province in a heavily armored vehicle. Through thick, bullet-proof windows, I could see Afghans staring as we rumbled past. Their numb looks of confusion took me back 40 years to my days as a young Navy officer in Vietnam.

He served in Vietnam? I hadn't heard that before, that's interesting. Anyway ...

Yes, amateur psychoanalysis of the looks on the faces of rural tribesman whipping by at 60 MPH might yield important conclusions about the course we should pursue in Afghanistan. Then again, let's not jump to conclusions. That's the exact same look most Americans had after seeing this picture back in 2004. Maybe there's just something about John Kerry that inspires numb confusion.

Welcome To Our Crib

Every day, the media is filled with stories about the difficult economic times we're facing. With unemployment and foreclosures rising there's no doubt that a lot of Americans are hurting out there. With some many people in so much need, it's a time when Americans look to their charities to help ease the suffering. Those of us who can look for extra ways we can help these organizations by donating our time, money, and goods.

Which is why it's frustrating to discover just how difficult it can be to give stuff away. Case in point is a baby crib that we have. It's a crib in very good condition that was passed on to us by my wife's sister. I believe it was originally produced in Italy and when it came out was among the top of the crib line. It's well-designed and made and is perfectly safe. It served our needs well and now that we no longer need it, want to pass it on to a charity.

So far, I think my wife has contacted four or five different organizations and been told "thanks but no thanks" by each and every one. Including a "Crisis Nursery" that informed her that they only accept new items. Now, I understand that there are a lot of good reasons for not taking used children's items, but when you include the word "Crisis" in your group name I would assume that the urgency of the need would cause you to take a more prudent approach to what you would accept.

This experience brings three things to mind:

#1 A piece JB scribbled back when he was living in Boston before Fraters Libertas was even a blog:

To put it in perspective, you are the beggar and you are trying to choose how, where, when and what I am donating. Had I known it would be this big of a pain I would have dumped it all in Boston harbor with the rest of my garbage.

#2 The Seinfeld episode called The Muffin Tops:

Rebecca: Excuse me, I'm Rebecca DeMornay from the homeless shelter.

Elaine: Oh, hi.

Rebecca: Are you the ones leaving the muffing pieces behind our shelter?

Elaine: You been enjoying them?

Rebecca: They're just stumps.

Elaine: Well they're perfectly edible.

Rebecca: Oh, so you just assume that the homeless will eat them, they'll eat anything?

Mr. Lippman: No no, we just thought...

Rebecca: I know what you thought. They don't have homes, they don't have jobs, what do they need the top of a muffin for? They're lucky to get the stumps.

Elaine: If the homeless don't like them the homeless don't have to eat them.

Rebecca: The homeless don't like them.

#3 The Seinfeld episode called The Bookstore:

REBECCA: (Gesturing toward the book) So, you want to donate this to charity?

GEORGE: Well, I assume there's some sort of write-off.

REBECCA: What's the value of the book?

GEORGE: Uh, about two hundred dollars, Miss DeMooney.

REBECCA: (Correcting. Stern) It's DeMornay. Rebecca DeMornay.


REBECCA: (Opens the cover of the book) Oh, wait a second. (Certain) This book has been in the bathroom.

GEORGE: (Nervous) Wh-what are you talking about? That--that's ridiculous.

REBECCA: It's been flagged. I know. I used to work in a Brentano's. Mister, we're trying to help the homeless here--it's bad enough that we have some nut out there trying to strap 'em to a rickshaw!

GEORGE: (Desperate to get rid of the book) Alright, I, I'll just take fifty. Do--do we have a deal?

REBECCA: Yeah, and here it is: You get your toilet book out of here, and I won't jump over this counter and punch you in the brain!

GEORGE: I could take it in merchandise...

Just to be clear, our crib has not been flagged. If you need a crib, know someone who needs a crib, or knows of a group that will accept a perfectly good crib, please drop me a line. It would be a shame if we have to end up using it for kindling.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE for another exciting and highly significant broadcast day. The full First Team should be assembled, as John Hinderaker is reportedly recovered from the pig flu, tanned, rested and ready for a dramatic return.

It all starts at 11AM central. Highlight is likely to be our guest at 11:3o, Michael Barone. You've seen his work at the Washington Examiner and Fox News, where he particularly distinguishes himself with election results analysis. He's also the author of my favorite book, the Almanac of American Politics, of which the 2010 edition has just been released. He'll bring his keen eye and wisdom to the elections of last Tuesday and what it may portend in 2010, especially in Minnesota.

Plus, Loon of the Week, This Week in Gatekeeping, and much, much more.

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at their web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. Also, don't forget at 9 AM King Banaian over at KYRC (Business 1570) and David Strom on the Patriot.

Don't you dare miss it!

The Nature of the Regime

In Thursday's Star Tribune Gail Rosenblum had a column about an Iranian exile living in the US. Tajadod Pritschet was from a wealthy, prominent family in pre- Revolution Iran. Upon the violent takeover by the mullahs, things turned ugly for her and all of those living non-Islamic fundamentalist compliant lifestyles. For example:

After the shah's fall in 1979, the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini took notice of Tajadod Pritschet, then principal dancer with the National Ballet. To them, dancing was "prostitution" that must be punished.

Her knees were crushed, her feet severed to the bone, leaving her permanently disabled. She was arrested and dragged into prison countless times. Once, the police covered her head and placed her in front of a firing squad next to a close friend who was a professor. Instead, the police shot her friend dead, uncovering Tajadod Pritschet's head in time to see the body dragged away.

When Americans think of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, little is considered beyond the hostage taking at our embassy in Tehran. Unfortunately, in our PC-obsessed, self-abasing culture, the primary focus is usually on what we did to deserve it.

Not well understood, apparently not relevant, is the nature of the regime that seized control in Iran Their motivations, their tactics, their vision for the world. The story of Tajadod Pritschet is a testament to these things and just a small sample of similar fates suffered by many thousands of others in Iran and by extension of their support for terrorism, around the world.

The names have changed to some degree, but that same regime, the same group of militants and thugs, is still in charge in Iran. And they haven't exactly reconciled with their past, gone on an apology tour, paid reparations, etc. On the contrary, they revere their past actions as glorious episodes in the continuing Islamic Revolution.

Those who ignore this either don't know or don't care about history or present realities.

Which brings us to a White House press release from earlier this week, the words of President Barack Obama:

I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran's internal affairs.

The kidnapping and torture of our diplomats and soldiers at the embassy, not to mention the crushed knees and severed feet of a ballet dancer (and thousands others) due to religious intolerance? Water under the bridge! Besides, that's your business Iran, internal matters. Who are we to judge? Time to turn the page. Press the reset button. Now, about those mutual interests we have.

I don't blame Obama for engaging with Iran. I wish we could ignore them, but these people are hell bent on acquiring nukes. They have to be dealt with. The problem is the naïveté and/or arrogance of assuming nothing in the past matters, we can ignore history. We can start fresh, all because of the presence of Obama, who will be able to charm the Iranians with shiny beads and shallow flattery like they were voters in an Iowa caucus.

It's clear Obama does not understand the nature of the Iranian government as well as Tajadod Pritschet does. Let's hope one doesn't have to metaphorically get their knees crushed and feet chopped off before wisdom is achieved

Speaking of Iranian exiles in the Twin Cities, the Stillwater Gazette had an article about another one, this time addressing a local junior high school classroom:

[Daryoush Allaei] is a Minnesota businessman who fled the Iranian Revolution when he was 21.

This Tuesday he's visiting Bob Manning's ninth-grade social studies class to explain the importance of respect for other cultures and humility with their own culture. It's a question of accepting nuance and complexity.

So how does this mutual respect, humility, nuance and complexity manifest itself?

"What's the Iranian government like?" The Stillwater Junior High student's question to Daryoush Allaei is frank, blunt even, and the Iranian speaker answers just as unequivocally.

"Ugly," he says. "If you want to know what (the Iranian) government is like, go study eight years of Bush and Cheney. They have no goodwill for others."

What is it about public schools and the spreading of Democrat party talking points? Even the Iranian exiles get caught up in it!

If there were any justice, the teacher would have walked over, inspected the dude's knees and feet for crushing and amputation by Bush and Cheney and upon finding no evidence, escorted this partisan hack off the premises. Sadly, there ain't no justice, at least in Stillwater:

Back in Stillwater, the students start gathering their books as the clock ticks down to the next period. Manning holds them still the final few seconds so Allaei can wrap up his speech.

As the next class starts in on a worksheet, Manning explains the subtleties that he hopes his students heard in Allaei's message: Learn about the world. Respect other cultures. Understand that there's more than one way to see something. This is what's needed to succeed.

It's true, there's more than one way to see something. Some believe Bush and Cheney are like Khomeini. On the other hand, some believe they are like Hitler. Class dismissed!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Damn Liberal Yankees

If you need another reason to hate the Democrats, here it is. Union workers, welfare queens and and illegal aliens thrive under Democratic administrations, but not as much as the New York Yankees.

In this, the first year of the Obama Administration, the Yankees won their first World Series since . . . the last year of the Clinton Administration. You can blame George W. Bush for a lot, but you can't blame him for a Yankee World Championship. While Clinton was having relations with Monica Lewinski, Derek Jeter was adding four rings and an untold number of venereal diseases.

Under GHW Bush and Reagan, the Yankees won no world titles and only one American League Pennant, in 1981 as America was still suffering from Jimmy Carter malaise. In Carter's four years, inflation, unemployment, and Reggie Jackson's # of rings rose exponentially (2 titles in four years).

During the Ford/Nixon era, the Yankees added no World Championships and no pennants. The Yanks must have thought LBJ was a war mongering Republican; during his term they added two pennants but no championships.

JFK saw 2 Yankee World Championships in his two years as President, until a Red Sox fan named Lee Harvey Oswald could stand it no more.

You have to go back to Ike in 1958 to find the last Republican President to see a Yankee world title. Ike saw six pennants and three world titles. Then he waxed on about the military/industrial complex and gave birth to the modern left.

Truman and FDR held the White House for two decades. During that time the Yankees won eleven titles and and twelve pennants.

The first four Yankee titles took place under two Republicans. 1932 under Hoover, 1923, 1927 and 1928 under Coolidge. They won seven pennants in that time. However, that's ancient history.

Cross-posted at Nihilist In Golf Pants

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXIX)

After a two week hiatus, baby we're back with another Beer of the Week brought to you by the good Americans at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. Having spent the last few weeks in Asia, I'm glad to be back in the good ol' U.S. of A., home to the widest variety of beer anywhere on earth. When it comes to beer, America truly is a melting pot of many styles and flavors.

Even in places like Montana. You may have heard that the only thing that comes out of Montana is steers and queers, but make no mistake about it, the state produces some pretty fair beers as well.

Including this week's featured selection Big Sky Brewing's Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout, a limited release beer from the noted Missoula brewer.

Brown bottle. The label has traditional font featuring a scene with the moon rising over the mountains, a windmill, and of course a Slow Elk, which must be a sub-species of the traditional elk family. Wait a second. That's not an elk. It's a...cow with antlers tied on its head. Oh, the bovanity!

Beer Style: Oatmeal Stout

Alcohol by Volume: 5.4

COLOR (0-2): Dark ruby black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Roasted malt and coffee. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan with good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Rich tastes with flavors of chocolate, coffee, and malt. Some light hops. Medium bodied and drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Very smooth and a little creamy. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Oatmeal stout is one of my favorite beers and, although it's usually a style best enjoyed on tap, the bottles of Slow Elk I tried were quite good. It's a good transitional beer from the Oktoberfests of fall to the more hearty ales (usually) of winter. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Next week: the ales of November come calling.

Go-Go Gone

Twins trade Gomez to Brewers for shortstop Hardy:

With one swift move, the Twins addressed two important needs today, trading center fielder Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy.

The move gives the Twins a shortstop to replace free agent Orlando Cabrera and clears up an outfield logjam.

Don't know how much of player Hardy is these days, but I'm relieved that we won't have to watch (and wince) through another year of Gomez's futility as a hitter.

Sisyphus Adds:
Here are the numbers:

J.J. Hardy (age 27)
2007 151 592 89 30 1 26 80 2 .277 .463
2008 146 569 78 31 4 24 74 2 .283 .478
2009 115 414 53 16 2 11 47 0 .229 .357

Carlos Gomez (age 24)
2008 153 577 79 24 7 7 59 33 .258 .360
2009 137 315 51 15 5 3 28 14 .229 .337

J.J Hardy is also one of the better defensive shortstops based on this scientific study (note that it has Derek Jeter rated dead last defensively and Orlando Cabrera in the middle of the pack).

I endorse the trade. Even if Hardy plays more like he did last year than he did in 2007-2008, he will still be an improvement. With the emergence of Span, Gomez is expendable. The Twins now have six players with 20+ home run potential, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Mauer, Young (I said potential) and Hardy.

UPDATE-- Brewers fan Learned Foot e-mails to add:

Write it down now: if the Twins bat JJ Hardy before Mauer or Morneau in the lineup (ideally, #2 before Mauer rather than #3 after him) and he stays healthy, he will have a .290 / 20-25 HR season.