Saturday, January 31, 2004

Let's Do Lunch - That was what the Elder from Fraters said to the Northern Alliance of Blogs, on the occasion of Hugh Hewitt's visit to the Twin Cities.

So we did:

From left to right: Hindrocket from Powerline, Elder from Fraters, Warrior Monk from Spitbull, me, St. Paul and Atomizer from Fraters, Captain Ed from Captain's Quarters (way in the back), Duane from the Hewitt Show, Big Trunk from Powerline, King Banaian from the SCSU Scholars, Hewitt, and JB Doubtless from Fraters.

This past two weeks have been an embarassment of social riches. Except for last week's confab with St. Paul and the King (sounds like a UPN series, no?), the only Northern Alliance member I'd ever met was Lileks, and that mostly fifteen years ago. And now, I've pretty much met them all.

When in the Long Lake area, by the way, check out Billy's Lighthouse. Great food, excellent room, fabulous scenery, top-notch waitstaff.

More later.

UPDATE: The Fraters Elder discusses the event at length.

"Sausage Party" allegations are greatly exaggerated.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/31/2004 07:23:03 PM

Friday, January 30, 2004

Pixar Splits - Computer animation wizzes Pixar have split from Disney Studios.
"After 10 months of trying to strike a deal with Disney, we're moving on," said Pixar chief executive Steve Jobs.

"We've had a great run together - one of the most successful in Hollywood history - and it's a shame that Disney won't be participating in Pixar's future successes," he said.
Uh oh.

Steve Jobs is making business decisions again. The guy who:
  • Invented and then nearly killed the Macintosh
  • Invented and then oversaw the death of NeXT, the coolest computers ever made (yes, vastly better than the Macs of the day)
  • Oversaw the founding of ITunes - and the jury's still out on whether he'll screw the pooch there
So - if you have Pixar stock, I recommend "Sell".

(Note: I am not a qualified market analyst. Merely someone who's been awed by Jobs' capacity for managerial blundering, easily equal to his ingenuity at innovation).

posted by Mitch Berg 1/30/2004 08:07:40 AM

The Nightmare Continues - So the guy that was the target of the bullet that killed Tyesha Edwards last year was, himself, shot.:
"More than a year after 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework in her dining room, police say the gang member who the bullet was intended for has been shot and killed.
Timothy Oliver, 18, was shot several times early Wednesday as he stood alone on a street in south Minneapolis. His death is the city's first homicide of the year.
'This wasn't a random act,' Minneapolis Police Lt. Mike Carlson said."
These gangland shootings never are - and still are, always.

It was five years ago that someone shot my house - three times. There was a punk kid living two doors down the street that was dealing drugs, and he'd apparently run afoul of a couple of other worthless scum. Late one night - about 2:30 AM, as the neighbor kid was walking past my house toward his place, the other punks drove by, and one of the other vermin, firing (one of my neighbors noted) from a primer-colored Toyota wagon, fired eight shots, then reloaded and fired eight more. None of them hit the neighbor punk.

Back in the eighties, a Minneapolis cop told me - mostly jokingly - that the safest thing to be when gang-bangers started shooting was their target. It was true enough that night. Of sixteen shots fired, one hit my porch, another dug into a window frame - in the attic - and one broke a window in my library, fifteen feet from where my son was sleeping, and bounced off a wall, coming to rest under my computer.

The police did the usual perfunctory "investigation". The only fallout - a bunch of neighbors saw the car, it was linked with another shooting in the neighborhood, and a few weeks later I saw it myself, driving in front of the kid's house down the street. Driving a pickup, I ostentatiously drove up behind it, weaving and swearing. They accelerated, and I chased them - the sight of a 36-year-old guy swearing and honking the horn must have scared them worse than the thought of chasing a couple of punks with guns scared me. Nobody saw them in the neighborhood again.

"OK, Mitch. So...?"

Right. Three points:
  • These gang-banger scum need to be rooted out and jailed. Or killed.
  • The thing that gives these vermin their reason to organize - the "War On Drugs" that gives them their main reason to kill - is a bigger mistake than Vietnam.
  • I haven't seen Citizens For a Supine "Safer" Minnesota commenting on this yet. Apparently, none of the killers held legal concealed carry permits. So, C"S"M - who are the dangerous ones? Any time you'd care to answer that, I'll be waiting
As a parent, I can't help but think that there are two families mourning children now; Tyesha Edwards' father's statement yesterday was a gut shot.

As a parent to my own kids, though, I want one thing; for the people, the police, and the idiots at Citizens For a Supine "Safer" Minnesota to focus on the real enemy here.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/30/2004 07:25:05 AM

Those Who Live in Glass Buildings - The Strib doesn't know when to shut up, in its current editorial about the Kay and Hutton reports:
"Hutton investigated thoroughly the accusation that Blair and his colleagues manipulated British intelligence to make a stronger case for war. His conclusions on that narrow question appear well-reasoned, although he does seem to have gone quite 'beyond his remit,' as the British say, in attaching so much blame to one short broadcast comment by a BBC reporter. In the end, the British still put together a dodgy intelligence dossier on Iraq. That would seem a bigger deal than the BBC error, but you couldn't tell it from the Hutton report."
A state-supported press organ lied, and lied grotesquely. What's "Beyond the remit" about that?

Is the Strib nervous?

The editorial goes on:
The United States now needs a Hutton investigation of its own to determine just what the administration did as it sought to develop a case for war.
The record is fairly clear:
  • Buried 3,000 dead
  • Erased the specious, legalistic distinction between terror groups and their leaders, and the states that support them financially, logistically and morally
  • Took out two of them.
You're welcome, Strib.

Seriously - this editorial is further proof of Berg's Law; No liberal commentator can simultaneously attack more than one of the four justifications for the Liberation of Iraq; to do so, they'd invalidate their own case. Iraq was a terror-supporting state (trying to de-link their amply-self-documented payments to Hamas from Al-Quaeda is worse than wrong, it's intellectually frivolous), it violated scads of UN resolutions, it was a human rights nightmare, and yes, at some point in the recent past it did have enough WMDs to use on Iranians, Shi'a and Kurds.

To fail to consider all four of these justifications is intellectually vacant.

Speaking of which:
Britain, conversely, needs a Kay investigation that can document just how wrong the British intelligence claims were, and there were some humdingers...The peoples of Britain and the United States both were sold a bill of goods. While it's nice to know Blair didn't deliberately do that, he still made a hugely important error, for which his administration should be called to account. That matters not only to the British; it matters to Americans as well.
Bill of goods?

IT'S INTELLIGENCE WORK! In the middle of a WAR, no less!

Two intelligence agencies (in league with many smaller ones) put together the evidence they had, and took their best shot at a conclusion. That evidence led the President and the Prime Minister to make the same conclusion that Bill Clinton and John Major and, for that matter, the UN made all the way through the nineties. As somebody noted, President Bush didn't reach any different conclusions than the Clinton Administration did - they just did something about the conclusions.

But to make the Strib's point, you have to forget the nineties. You have to forget the UN resolutions, you have to think of terror groups as insular groups with only incidental interaction - like it would never occur to Al-Quaeda, Hamas, Jamiyat-e-Islamiya, Hezb'allah, the ISI, and ten thousand Wahabbist extremists to give each other a phone call.

And you have to ignore all of that and 9/11.

Which the Strib does, when convenient.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/30/2004 06:42:52 AM

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Shocking? - Pepsi has just put out a press release about its lineup of Super Bowl ads.

The big deal, of course, is the 100 million download music giveaway:
Pepsi iTunes – “I Fought The Law”
This groundbreaking ad, featuring 16 real-life teenagers who were sued by the recording industry for illegally downloading music from the Internet, shows music fans a new way to freely and legally download music--the Pepsi iTunes 100 Million Song Giveaway. The commercial is set to Green Day's version of "I Fought the Law.”

About the Pepsi iTunes Promotion
On Super Bowl Sunday, Apple and Pepsi will launch a historic promotion to legally give away 100 million free songs to Mac and Windows PC users from Apple's iTunes Music Store -- the world's number one digital music service.
On the one hand - I like the idea; free music, and lampooning the RIAA (albeit for Pepsi's commercial gain). On the other - there could be a hundred billion free songs available (they're putting download codes on bottles of Pepsi products) and I still won't win one. On the third hand - Green Day doing "I Fought The Law" - pretty cool.

But I'm really wondering about this one:
Sierra Mist – “Bagpipes”
A bagpiper performing in extremely hot temperatures finds a unique way to achieve a “shockingly refreshing” cool down.
I smell a kilt joke coming on.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/29/2004 08:31:29 AM

Reaganmas, '04 - Every year, my kids and I celebrate Ronald Reagan's birthday, February 6. We go out to dinner, and I bring some little treat or another in to the office (assuming I have an office) to share with my co-workers.

This year, I'd like you to share the joy of the Reaganmas season by passing on some small, decentralized, private-sector kindness to your friends, family and neighbors.
  • Bring jellybeans to share with your co-workers. Take out all the red ones.
  • Spend some money - and yet, grow more financially healthy.
  • If you have an elderly neighbor who needs any walls torn down, do it.
  • Tell your kids the story of the end of the Cold War - including the stories about what life was like when the phrase "Iron Curtain" meant more than just Cher's control-top nylons.
  • If all else fails, just send your email acquaintances a Reaganmas card - nothing spreads the joy of the season like a card.
It's really (in the great private sector tradition) up to you.

More on this - my suggestion for the next national holiday - as we approach the big day.

So until then, may the joy of the Reaganmas season follow you through your day!

posted by Mitch Berg 1/29/2004 07:00:28 AM

The Test - Whenever I read many liberals' take on things like foreign policy and defense, I grit my teeth and fume; "Someone should make these people take a test on foreign policy and defense before allowing them to vote for candidates for Federal office."

And I realize - if I don't design this test, who will?

So here it is: The Mean World Awareness Test, soon to be required for all liberals (and too many big-L Libertarians as well).


Keep track of your answers. The answer key is at the bottom. No cheating.

That means you too, Mr. Gore.

Pre-Emptive Defense - what do you think about the doctrine of pre-emptive defense?
a) We have to be very careful about pre-emptive defense. We weren't.
b) Pre-emptive defense is wrong.
c) It's inappropriate for the US to pre-emptively defend itself, since we are the world's worst aggressors.
d) After a year of butting heads against the corrupt French and Russians in the UN, the invasion almost doesn't qualify as "pre-emptive" at all.

WMDs - We haven't found any WMDs in Iraq yet. This means:
a) The invasion was done under dubious pretenses.
b) The Administration was wrong to invade Iraq.
c) This proves it was all about oil!
d) Nothing. The only difference between a barrel of insecticide and a barrel of Sarin is a notebook full of instructions, some cached equipment and some time. How much time? How many lives do you want to risk in finding out?

Was Hussein a Threat?
a) Not directly. He had no long-range missiles, and no documented link to Al Quaeda.
b) We need to be searching for Bin Laden! Just Bin Laden!
c) Hah. Unlike Bush, he was elected!
d) In a world where terror groups cross international boundaries with daunting ease, and connections can be hidden within a single innocuous courier trip, and WMDs are supremely portable, and any plane or ship or truck can be a "delivery mechanism", Cold War-era measures of threat (that focus on things like missiles and submarines) are dangerously obsolete. Hussein was as much of a threat as he wanted to be, and could arm himself (or his surrogates) wit not only his own WMDs, but anything he could buy from others.

The UN
a) Getting approval from the UN for a military action would have been a nice backup for our diplomatic efforts.
b) Without UN approval, any action against another nation is illegitimate
c) The UN should have right of first refusal over all US military actions, even in self-defense
d) When it comes to military crises, the only UN actions that have ever worked - Korea, East Timor, Sierra Leone - are the ones where competent military powers (the US, Australia and the UK, respectively) kept the UN within strict limits. Otherwise, UN involvement in military crises ranges, historically, from comical to disastrous.

The Military: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show us that:
a) I honestly dont' know. I haven't read enough about military history and the art of war to have a cogent opinion.
b) The Clinton Military saved the day!
c) The US is the greatest threat to peace in the world.
d) After a decade of post-Cold-War contraction, and eight years of Clinton-era underfunding, organizational contempt and use as a social-services laboratory, we were damned lucky the military still has the Reagan-era legacy of excellence - and Bush II-era funding increases.

The War on Terror - in prosecuting the war on terror, we need to:
a) Focus on catching Bin Laden and Al Quaeda.
b) A law-enforcement issue - something we should tackle with the cooperation of Interpol.
c) Realize that it's we who are the real terrorists.
d) Treat this like the war it is.

Informational Baselines: Josh Marshall and the Daily Kos are:
a) Solidly credible blogs.
b) Not as accurate as Hesiod.
c) Not as accurate as Democratic Underground
d) A couple of liberals with an anti-Bush agenda much more powerful than their extremely limited knowledge of military and foreign-policy matters. They should stick to (in Kos' case) folding, spindling and mutilating polling data, and (for Marshall) analyzing press spin with Yeshiva-like obsessiveness - both of their strong suits.

Now that you're done, assign yourself points as follows:
  • For every A - 2 points.
  • For every B - 1 point.
  • For every C - 0 points.
  • For every D - 5 points.
Add up your total score, and compare it to the following scale:
  • 0-5 points: You're too deluded even to work on the Kucinich campaign. Consider being an ego-bearer for Noam Chomsky. I'm not going to question your patriotism - but I'm not going to interfere with anyone else doing it.
  • 6-12 points: Step away from the keyboard. You'll do this nation less damage if you drink a twelve-pack and go driving.
  • 13-20 points: You should preface any remarks about the War on Terror by saying "Everything I need to know about foreign policy and defense, I learned from Josh Bartlett...". You would have been a great guest on "Politically Incorrect".
  • 21-28 points: You have the right to an opinion. Your comments are welcome.
Let us know how you did.

Amazingly enough, I got a 28.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/29/2004 06:50:55 AM

Saud Off - Given their immense wealth, it's sometimes hard to remember that Saudi Arabia is really a jury-rigged country. Formerly a rump province of the Ottoman Empire, it became a nation purely by decree of the League of Nations.

Those post World War I League of Nations-mandated nations have a pretty poor record; the Czech Republic managed to last seventy-odd years before splintering peacefully; Yugloslavia was another story. As far as Israel and Palestine - the less said the better, right?

The Saudis - a nation of tribes held together only by intrigue and oil wealth - might be showing signs of the same pattern:
The families and tribes here are exploiting the vulnerability of a perhaps fatally weakened Saudi ruling family to reassert their territorial claims over those of the al-Sudairy.

As many as 60 per cent of Saudis identify strongly with a tribe.

Since the increased instability following last year's bombings in Riyadh on May 12 and Nov 8, the ruling family has been eager to show that it has the full support of the tribal sheikhs.

But al-Jouf shows what everyone knows: that tribes will switch their 'allegiance' as soon as it is convenient.

Residents say the final straw was the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, when United States troops took control of the airport in the nearby Arar, the kingdom's official border crossing with Iraq.
So what to do?

Steven Green has an idea:
Best solution in case of dissolution? Extend Jordan down the Red Sea coast to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, as was promised to the Hashemite family after WWI. The Eastern Province -- home to oil and Shi'as, to be united with their Arab Shi'a brethren across the border in southern Iraq. And the Bedouins of the interior can fight one another over what's left: sand and hate.
If, indeed, there is some long-standing social and ethnic reason to partition Saudi Arabia - or at least the parts worth annexing - then, indeed, why not?

posted by Mitch Berg 1/29/2004 06:37:12 AM

Open Letter to Al Franken - So Al Franken took out a heckler - either "hit him low" or "bear hugged and body slammed him". According to one account, he was in his sixties, and by all accounts Franken blindsided him.

According to other accounts, he's done a lot of tough-talking about the likes of Rich Lowry and some other endomorphic pundits.

Well, well. A tough guy.

So, Al Franken, tough guy and would-be senator from Minnesota - come after me next, OK?

Oh, you only haul off on hecklers? OK - you haven't had a funny bit since Stuart Smalley, and that only for the first couple of times. Your voice makes Fred Rogers sound macho. And - oh, yeah - you're a walking example of Little Fella Syndrome in action. Your talk show is going to make Jim Hightower look like Sean Hannity, in terms of numbers.

People who heckle Dean? OK - he's a whack-job.

Wanna go a round or two? I never did any high school wrestling - grappling with guys was never my bag (not that there's anything wrong with that), but worked in bars long enough to know how to do tonsil surgery with a pool cue.

So let's go, Al. Say when - or even charge me from behind, for all I care. Best make it works the first time, though.

Cowardly hypocrite.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/29/2004 06:21:42 AM

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Loya Jirga - For all these years, the only person I've met from the Northern Alliance is Lileks - and, with the exception of a brief chat at the State Fair, that was fifteen years ago.

Finally fixed part of that last night. At an undisclosed location (hint: Dick Cheney served the drinks) I popped a few tops with the Scholars' King and the Fraters' Saint Paul.

Someday, I'm going to have to get the whole mob together. It could be a fun party, if we can get JB Doubtless to quit replacing whatever's on the CD player with Perry Como.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/28/2004 07:11:19 AM

Don't Wanna Know If You Have An Opinion - How desperate is the City Pages to whack at the right?

The CP's weekly hatchet job has turned from Lileks and the Fraters to...the Governor.

City Pages - and former Saint Paul Pioneer Press - music critic Jim Walsh interviews Grant Hart.

You might ask "Who's interviewing WHO?" And you'd be right.

For those of you from out of town:
  • Jim Walsh is a music critic. He writes about music - although given the CP's pedigree as an "alternative" weekly, he has free reign to yak about politics or cooking for, for all I know, brain surgery. He is an excellent music critic. He is a less effective record producer; I may never forgive him for turning the evanescent Gear Daddies into the dull, flat, joyless band we heard on "Let's Go Scare Al". But I digress; as a critic, he's good; as a producer, he sucks chunks through a long conduit; as a political columnist, he should stick with producing.
  • Grant Hart was the drummer for Husker Du, a Twin Cities post-punk band that was what the overly-serious, slightly dorky kids listened to while the fun kids were listening to the Replacements or the Time. They had some great music, and a lot of tossaway filler; graded on their high points, they get an A-, while the Replacements got the A. While the rest of Husker Du went on to bigger and better things (Bob Mould has a successful solo career; Grant Norton is, according to an acquaintance, an excellent chef), Hart went on to front "Nova Mob", a band only a City Pages critic could love.
It turns out Grant Hart and Tim Pawlenty are high school classmates!

No, really!

So what does Grant Hart - dissipate superannuated punk rocker - have to say about Tim Pawlenty, moderate conservative governor?

Well, it's another one of those things where fisking would be redundant. Here's a section, no worse than the rest of Hart's essay:
I don't know how much liberty, life, and pursuit of happiness I can put on the line about this stuff, but I think you know how I feel about what's happened in this state in the last two years. I think that the right wing has looked at history, and they don't trust Minnesota. I think this next year is going to be revolutionary. I mean, even four more years of Bush is going to polarize everyone even more. [The Republicans] are going to give the American people the conclusion that we can't afford to govern ourselves, that we have to have the corporations do it for us.

And they've got a [friend] in Minnesota. When I think of the crowd Pawlenty ran with, it was the high school equivalent of, you know, Grunseths. I mean, kids that weren't in and of themselves bad kids, but kids who automatically made the A squad. The very, very privileged of the town.

I was working at Cheapo [Records] at the time, and bringing my amp and guitar and record player to parties. Guys would go, "Is this the new Aerosmith?" And I'd say, "No, it's the New York Dolls." I would say that Tim was probably into whatever music swung with the crowd he was trying to impress. He probably had never been to an arena concert, at a time when you could see eight bands for four bucks, but I don't know.

That's the funny thing: I knew the guy for years, and it's still like he's a cipher. He's Chauncey Gardener. With a lot less Zen. You know, I'd vote for Chauncey.
Well, as long as you set him straight about the New York Dolls. I mean, really.

Read the whole thing, if only to prove to yourself that the City Pages is overpriced.

(Note to out-of-towners; the City Pages is free. And with articles like this, I have to say it's worth every penny).

posted by Mitch Berg 1/28/2004 06:06:02 AM

Foreign Policy Via Cliff Notes - Further proof today of Berg's Law of Liberal Iraq Commentary, the iron-clad law I defined last summer, and which has never been challenged:
No liberal commentator can simultaneously address more than one of the justifications for the liberation of Iraq. To do so would render their position untenable.
Jeff Fecke recaps a theme you're sure to be hearing from a lot of leftyblogs of widely varying degrees of literacy in the near future:
"Anyhoo, now that David Kay has said that there are no WMDs in Iraq and were no WMDs in Iraq, and now that the administration is sending big shots around the globe to say 'hey, we never said anything about WMDs!', and now that the best our Preznit can cite is Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction-Related-Program-Activites-Maltodextrin, I'd say the full story about WMDs has been told, and it is this:

Except, Jeff - and by extension, all liberals whose view of foreign policy and defense and the War on Terror is equally myopic - you're doing to the issue exactly what liberal media outlets like Reuters and NPR did to the Kay interviews; taking the part that fits your predetermined conclusions and omitting the rest. That is the only way to look at this issue as a defeat for the President, if factual resolution of issues is what determines victory. And it confirms my law.

Remember - or if you get all your news from NPR or Atrios, read it for the first time - Kay also said that Hussein had retained all the information he needed to reconstitute WMDs again. Remember (or if you're a Democrat, learn it for the first time); applied physics is Nobel Prize material the first time it's done. After that, it's a blue collar job.

What's the difference between a drum of Sarin and a drum of insecticide? A CD with the instructions to make the Sarin and a little time.

Longer than it takes to say "Yummy Yellowcakes?" Metaphorically, no.

How long is acceptable?

posted by Mitch Berg 1/28/2004 06:04:01 AM

You Know Who You Are - During the snowfall, with accidents dotting the traffic map and people slewing about the road like open auditions for "Bullitt II" were in effect all over town, you came sailing up behind me, going a good twenty miles per hour faster than me, as I pulled up behind a line of stopped cars on a local arterial.

You were waving your arms and gesticulating like the crack-sotted cabbie you may have been in a previous life - or may be in your next, with the karma you generated yesterday - but you're driving a Blazer, and the outline of a tie was silhouetted against the angles of your white dress shirt in the rear-view mirror, so you don't have that excuse.

As I started going through the light, you swerved around and passed me on the right, sailing down the slushy morass of a semi-open lane as if it were mid-July and you were driving on roads baked for weeks by the summer sun, dry enough that your spit would stick.

The biggest irony, I thought, was that in what passes for your "mind", you probably consider yourself a "good driver" - in fact, the very miserable driving habits you exhibited probably contribute to your vehicular id, creating the exaggerated sense of confidence in your own ability - no, in your competence as a driver that bids you to drive like such a completely irredeemable moron.

Watching you sail around the ramp ahead and slosh to a shuddering halt two inches behind a minivan 30 yards in front of me, I remembered my most wonderful encounter with a driver just like you...

< harps and fuzzy flashback graphics >

It was after the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1991 - which was a doozy, but has been largely forgotten since it followed four weeks after the memorable Halloween Blizzard. I, my wife (at the time), stepson and infant daughter were driving back from an anniversary party. It was -15, late at night, with a bitter wind, and the roads were still atrocious, with even the "passable" lane on 694 feeling a little tender. I was doing perhaps 45mph, like all of the sensible traffic that night.

A driver in a Ford Bronco came sailing up behind me, doing at least 60. It slowed down behind me, flashed its high beams a few times - and then swerved into the passing lane.

It blew past, gunning its engine petulantly, and sailed about a quarter of a mile ahead of me - up to behind the next car, also doing about 45. The Bronco started repeating the drill - the dramatic slowdown, the flipping high-beams, the acceleration...

...when he got to the swerve, though, things went drastically wrong. He caught a bit of ice, swerved to the left, caught just enough pavement to allow him to lurch back to the right, where he hit ice again. He spun 360 degrees to the right, and kept going as he skidded over the icy shoulder, turning end-around again as he plopped into the snow-clotted ditch.

And I'll bet anything that, as he sat there in the ditch, he was bitching about all those other crappy drivers...

< end flashback >

So, to clarify:
  • No, you are not a good driver.
  • You are, in fact, merely working out some form of personal crisis or inadequacy via your behavior on the road.
  • That being said, you are still scum.
  • If, by some chance, your behavior should cause you to slide into my back bumper, they will find the long, thin strips into which I will have torn you, arranged to spell "BAD DRIVER" on the pavement next to your vehicle.
That is all.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/28/2004 06:02:16 AM

The Enemy Down The Street - It's signally depressing to read, a site that digest speech codes on our nation's campuses.

MacAlester College is the lead story today. Their harassment policy says:
MacAlester's "freedom of expression does not include the right to intentionally and maliciously aggravate, intimidate, ridicule or humiliate another person." It also defines harassment as "speech acts which are intended to insult or stigmatize an individual or group of individuals on the basis of their race or color, or speech that makes use of inappropriate words or non-verbals" and states that the "use of any offensive or demeaning terms which have sexual connotations including those contained in jokes and humor" may constitute sexual harassment. The college also asserts that it is a "gross misdemeanor" to "intentionally harass a person by engaging in certain acts which cause the person to feel oppressed, persecuted or intimidated." Thus, the college sacrifices students' rights of free speech by prohibiting a broad category of expression, seemingly in order to protect some students' feelings. No one who tells students that they are too weak to live with freedom is their friend.

Speechcodes calls Mac a "Red Light" school, based on this sort of thing.

How do the other area schools stack up?

The U of M also rates a red light, while Carleton College rates a yellow.

I'll have to ask fellow Northern Alliance muj King from SCSU Scholars how he thinks MNSCU stacks up. Reading the blog, I'd suspect "not well".

posted by Mitch Berg 1/28/2004 06:00:29 AM

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Franken Smackdown - Al Franken a LaRouche supporter at a Dean Rally:
"'I got down low and took his legs out,' said Franken afterwards.
Franken said he's not backing Dean but merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely. 'I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally,' he said.
And if it'd been a Dean supporter at a Bush rally...?
'I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down.'
Because Howard Dean's voice is so utterly stifled otherwise, right?

Here's my question; I have not seen a LaRouche supporter who was less than 60 years old since Jimmy Carter was in office. I'm dying to see what sort of opponent Franken, a high school wrestler, smacked down.

(Via Jay Reding, among others)

posted by Mitch Berg 1/27/2004 06:42:29 PM

On A Typical Morning... - ...I wake up at five, dry my laundry from the previous night, take a shower, blog a bit, wake the kids, get them on the bus, put the finishing touches on my last-minute postings, drive to work.

The cat must have unplugged the alarm clock. No, seriously.

Now, I don't NEED an alarm clock to wake up at 6AM - I just do. And normally, that's enough time.

But for whatever reason, Daughter has missed her bus. So - no last-ditch surge in blog productivity this morning.

I'll catch up tonight. After my bagpipe final. Wish me luck.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/27/2004 07:30:57 AM

Fiduciary Responsibility - Doug Grow's column in the Strib today is a masterpiece of misplaced populism:
"Poor Wells Fargo. In a bloody drama that's unfolding in New York courts, the big bank could be portrayed as coldly crushing innocent small businesses owners.

But the big bank points out that it's merely doing its job of protecting investors.

David Dennison, owner of a small video production company in Delano, is among those on the verge of being crushed in the name of investor protection."
Grow goes on to explain that Mr. Dennison is going to court in New York State - and that if he loses, he could lose his business.

With all due respect to Mr. Dennison's situation - and it's a crummy one - I need to ask Doug Grow this; what is Wells Fargo supposed to do? It's a bank and investment company - its job, indeed its fiduciary responsibility, is to look out for the well-being of its investors. The company can be barred from representing investors at all if it doesn't look out for their interests!

And yet - read the article - Grow paints this very legal fact as proof that Wells Fargo is a looming, uncaring bureaucracy whose only interest is squashing the little guy.

Dennison needs to go to court. The court will, hopefully, see the absurdity of the situation.

So does Mr. Dennison have a legal defense fund?

Mr. Grow doesn't say.

(Full disclosure: I'm currently a consultant with Wells Fargo Mortgage - which is not directly related to Wells Fargo's investment business)

posted by Mitch Berg 1/27/2004 07:12:50 AM

Measuring Bias? - The blog Lying in Ponds has an interesting take on measuring the "bias" in media figures.

Now, LIP's vibe is that they oppose "partisanship" of all types, which is ludicrous - partisanship is how things get done.

But it's an interesting exercise nonetheless.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/27/2004 06:37:29 AM

Monday, January 26, 2004

The Ruminator Handout - I've always liked Ruminator Books. Although the store and its management are relentlessly DFL-PC, and they host readings from some of the most obnoxious left-wingers (Michael Moore and Paul Krugman are recent guests), it's a just-plain-good bookstore...

...apparently run by some just-plain bad management. Ruminator's troubles are long-standing and well-known. The store is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

So Ward 4 City Councilman Jay Benanav is proposing giving the store $150,000 in city money in the form of low-interest loans and grants, as the Fraters noted the other day.

The "loan" and gift has drawn a bit of discussion on E-Democracy's "Saint Paul Issues" mailing list. The lines are drawn - between 20% on the one hand who say the city has no business handing out money to any business, 20% on the other who say that not only should the city not give out money to private business, they really really really should't give out money to rich capitalists, and 60% in the middle who really really really really hate giving money to capitalists, but note that David Unowski is a good liberal so maybe we should make an exception.

As one correspondent - a local "progressive" stalwart - said:
When Ruminator asks the city for millions of dollars, then you can raise eyebrows and complain about the lack of equal treatment or favoritism towards only certain businesses in town. But I could find the amount of money that Ruminator needs in attorneys fees that the city paid out to do the Wild Arena deal, so this is really a disingenuous comparison. Ruminator is admittedly a place where progressives feel more at home than City Hall or Barnes & Noble, but you know what, if you look at the voting in the last election, this is an overwhelmingly democratic city. Why can't the people who are in the majority get something they want once in a while, as opposed to all the backroom deals that suck away the downtown property tax base?
I opposed the Wild deal, and I oppose the Ruminator deal. As a taxpayer, I'll raise my eyebrows and complain any time I want to - the St. Paul DFL hasn't yet gotten a law passed requiring prior approval.

And I don't care who the people of St. Paul vote

And I oppose my "representative", Jay Benanav. The main criteria for getting city aid from Benanav seems to be "be a known DFL supporter". Last year, Benanav brokered a deal to sell a residential lot - worth over $26,000 on the open market - to a local businesswoman and neighborhood DFL leader, for roughly $8000 in back taxes. The sale - basically, a $16,000 gift - was justified under "neighborhood beautification"; the woman used the lot ot make room for an addition to her kitchen and porch, and for an extra-huge lawn. It's beautiful all right; but the city would have benefitted much more by allowing the lot to be sold for market value, and letting someone erect a tax-generating house on the property.

Not on Jay Benanav's watch. Paying off patronage is what it's about.

Stay tuned.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 07:25:12 AM

Fisking the Unfiskable - Last week, I got one of's intermittent spams. This one concerned a dire Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to keep the organization's "winning" anti-Bush ad off the Super Bowl.

I like fisking grotesqueries of illogic as much as the next guy - but the whole notion of considering CBS to be in league with the Vast Right Wing was just. too. absurd to get my head around.

Fortunately, Mark at Classically Liberal is more on the ball:
So, clearly let's welcome CBS as a cog in the VRWC instead of a business legally lobbying for law changes which it believes will enable it to prosper better than current law. Regardless of one's views about media ownership changes (I'm generally against them myself...) claiming that CBS is some kind of Right Wing News outlet is hilarious. This is the network with Dan "transparently liberal" Rather as its nightly news anchor and executive news editor.
There are a few issues out there that left and right approach from such grossly different perspectives as to make meaningful communication impossible. The concept of media bias is one of them. I've sat, slack-jawed, reading Greens and Wellstone Democrats describe with a straight face the media's "Conservative bias". I've written it all off to "From Sacramento, Salt Lake City is East" metaphor - but is the part of the Dem mainstream represented by the likes of MoveOn that far out to the left?

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 06:25:01 AM

Leading Indicator - The new Minnesota poll shows Governor Pawlenty's popularity is increasing:
"Two of the more telling indicators in the January poll are those showing his standing among older Minnesotans and political independents.
In September, only 46 percent of those over the age of 65 said they approved of Pawlenty. In the latest poll, three months after he mounted his Canadian drug-buying initiative -- a plan that drew harsh rebukes from conservative interest groups and the Bush administration -- 61 percent of 65-and-over Minnesotans approved of his performance.
In September, 37 percent of self-described independents approved; in the January poll, 52 percent. Among conservatives, Pawlenty's standing improved by only 3 points, to 71 percent, but among liberals it increased 9 points, to 37 percent. Even among DFLers it rose 7 points, to 40 percent."
Although another recent poll shows the President's popularity has dropped a few points in Minnesota, Pawlenty's growing popularity should help this fall.

On one hand, like the President, Pawlenty is earning much of this popularity by departing from many conservative principles. On the other, unlike the President, he's held to two of the big ones - no new taxes, and rollback of gun control with the Minnesota Personal Protection Act.

So here's the question; what does the DFL have? For the past year, their entire agenda has been:
  • Trying to pin trumped-up ethics charges on the administration
  • Complaining about budget cuts that, in terms of actual numbers, weren't.
What am I missing?

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 06:04:56 AM

In Praise of Flaws - Every time I read David Warren (on my blogroll on the right), I find myself drawing into one of his fascinating intellectual odysseys which prompts thought far beyond the scope of the original article.

Such is his current essay, "In Praise of Slightly Flawed Men:

The essay illuminates the morally-ambiguous acts of three men - good acts performed via means the clucking classes might find odious - and lets you draw your own conclusions - as I hope you will.

The second of the three:
"George Radwanski. I used to hate this guy, but have learned to love him. He was like so many Liberal Party flaks, in and out of public life. Adapted to power, they tend to write the rules by which they are guided, and rewrite as they go along. (This is inevitable in any one-party state.) A career of cynical self-promotion; but mixed, in Mr. Radwanski's unique case, with moments of actual public service. He wrote, for example, two commissions for the Ontario Liberal government of David Peterson (on services, and on education), which were not entirely foolish, and led to some minor improvements.

His very arrogance was put to good use in his job as Canada's Privacy Commissioner, for he had the guts to stand up to the government last year, in the matter of a national biometric identity card. This card could be used to invade our privacy in numerous ways (by data-pooling in combination with communications and video surveillance), while in no credible way improving our defences against terrorism. Mr. Radwanski boldly rang the alarm that it was his duty to ring -- at the cost of becoming a traitor to his class.

And now he is to be investigated by the RCMP, for expense overruns and minor acts of corruption which can hardly impress a student of the coalition of interests that keeps our Liberal Party in power. Let everyone who received a good lunch from this man rise in his defence!"
Read the whole thing.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 06:01:58 AM

Take Back Our Sandwiches! - Forget the war on terror or the battles over taxes and education. Ramblin' Ryan Rhodes knows the questions that really need answering:
There is no way to reclaim a sandwich once modern day portions of mayonnaise are applied. It's a lost cause. It gets all over the lettuce, which is ruined, and it finds its way into the deepest fibers of the bun or bread. Once introduced to the pristine sandwich environment, you see, mayonnaise stages a massive takeover.

It's hard to explain my disdain for mayonnaise, beyond the fact that I just can't stand the taste. I have a violent reaction to the taste of mayonnaise, by which I mean I spit it out and scrub my tongue with a napkin. I think it says volumes about mayonnaise that the biggest mayonnaise company out there is called Hellmans, because when I bite into a sandwich with mayonnaise glued in there, I think, "Yuck! What the hell, man?!"

And, you know, I don't think I'm the only mayonnaise hater out there. I think there are legions upon legions of fellow mayo haters who are sick and tired of restaurants just assuming that we want our burgers iced with mayonnaise.
You're not alone, Ryan. Although there's a caveat.

Mayonnaise is truly a horrid creation, and Ryan has given voice to that which I have too long suppressed.

Paradoxically, though, while I can not eat any other sandwich with even a hint of mayo, I find myself unable to choke down a BLT that doesn't have at least a little mayo. How much? Just enough to make the bread glimmer a bit - basically picking up the piece of toast and whispering "Mayonnaise" at it should do.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 06:00:28 AM

The War and the Election - Victor Davis Hanson on the war and its electoral implications in the presidential race.

Money clip:
Europe, not America, has proved most interested in Iraqi oil over the last decade. Europe, not America, is apt to tolerate massacres in the Balkans or Iraq. Indeed, the victory in Iraq emphasized that our greatest sin is in being cumbersome and often acting belatedly to stop autocratic killing — but this is a far different moral quandary than never acting at all. When you look at Iranian fascists being wined and dined in Paris, count up all the corpses from the August heat wave, and contemplate the explosive issue of school scarves, France, not the United States, is the real sick puppy.

Much is made about the security alerts here at home and the new bogeyman Attorney General Ashcroft. But apart from the (necessary) inconvenience at airports, it is hard for Americans to agree with the Democrats that we are living in a police state — or that after September 11 we have been at the mercy of al Qaeda while President Bush was purportedly asleep at the wheel...

...With all this in mind, it is hard to understand the Democrats' logic of disaster. True, we are in an election year — the stuff of predictable hysteria. Politics, of course, is an arena in which there are no laws — a gladiatorial free-for-all that (unless you are Howard Dean) you don't enter demanding the retiarius leave behind his net or the Thracian dull his scimitar. But still, both history and reason offer no support for the calculus of the candidates' current invective. The party of Harry Truman has somehow boxed itself into the corner of seeing bad news from the Iraqi theater as good news for them.

In contrast, encouraging developments — from the capture of Saddam Hussein to a return of services and gradual stability in Iraq — are embraced as antithetical to the Democrats' own election hopes. But do they grasp that very few presidential hopefuls — remember McClellan, McCarthy, and McGovern — have ever been elected during a period of turmoil through calls for a cessation of effort, which the American electorate always interprets as defeatist rather than rational? During wars the more successful candidates usually campaign from the right on matters of tactics, arguing perhaps — as an Eisenhower in 1952 or a 1968 Nixon — that the war is mismanaged and conducted haphazardly, rather than intrinsically immoral and futile.

To be fair, the Democrats do not have a large range of options. After September 11, the United States conducted two brilliant military campaigns when conventional antebellum wisdom predicted doom and quagmire. Al Qaeda has not duplicated 9/11. Saddam Hussein was apprehended far more quickly than the Balkan outlaws still on the lam. Democracy in the Middle East is becoming at least as revolutionary a movement as Islamic fundamentalism.
There is a long way to go, of course. But people who quibble about that do so only by forgetting how long it took to secure Democracy here in the US.

posted by Mitch Berg 1/26/2004 05:00:28 AM

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