Saint Small

SCENE. Mitch BERG is leaving a small cafe. Avery LIBRELLE is walking in. BERG is too tired to care and doesn’t try to evade or escape the encounter.


BERG: Cut to the f***ing chase, Avery.

LIBRELLE: In “One MInnesota! (TM) “, we are all prospering in a future where we boldly stride forward together.

BERG: Can I have some blue cheese dressing for that word salad?

LIBRELLE: You just hate progress.

BERG: Nah. I hate decay and decline. Here’s an example. The entire Grand Crossing center, which used to be the heart of a vibrant neighborhood back before “vibrant” meant “graffiti and panhandlers”, is empty with demise of the Pottery barn.

LIBRELLE: And you’re blaming the DFL?

BERG: Who else has defined the business climate in Saint Paul?

LIBRELLE: The wider state economy, duh.

BERG: Which, according to Governors Flanagan and Klinki, is…

LIBRELLE: Going gangbusters for One MInnesota! (TM)

BERG: So Saint Paul’s main commercial strip is languishing because the state’s economy is…too good?

LIBRELLE: Yes. It’s the GOP’s fault.

BERG: A party that has no power in Saint Paul is responsible for a business climate that isn’t really failing…?

LIBRELLE: Yes. That’s why.

BERG: Huh. Maybe if Saint Paul were to identify as a prosperous city, that’ll help.

LIBRELLE: Oh! The city does identify as a prosperous city! And if. you disagree, you’re a MAGA white supremacist1

BERG: Oh, clearly.



Today is the 82nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

For those who observe.

As I often have over this past few decades, I call out the fact that the first shots at Pearl Harbor were fired by a crew of Navy Reservists from Saint Paul, who’d been mobilized earlier in the year as part of Roosevelt’s build-up to the war everyone knew was coming.

The ship – which was built during World War 1, was thoroughly obsolte, and had been pressed back into service to fill the gaps until new ships could be built – was converted into a fast transport in 1942.

The men of that crew are all gone, now – Alan Sanford, the last survivor, died in 2015. And the Ward itself didn’t survive the war – it was lost in action off the Philippines, three years to the day after it fired the first shot of the war, on December 7 1944.. The Ward was hit by a Kamikaze and crippled.

In a bit of historical poetry almost too unbelievable to be in a Hollywood script, after the ship was abandoned, the ship was sunk by gunfire from another destroyer, the USS O’Brien, who’s commander, WIlliam Outerbridge, had been the Ward’s CO at Pearl Harbor. (And, just because I’m a geek for this kind of thing, I’ll note that O’Brien was built just down the waterfront from this ship, which I wrote about a while back).

But while Sanford, his shipmates and the Ward ˆitself are long gone, the gun they crewed lives on…

…on the State Capitol grounds, acquired from some naval armory decades ago.

Wonder what pretense the Walz administration will use for removing it?

If The DFL Were A Spouse, It’d Be An Abuser

“The Twin Cities are victim of Greater Minnesota!”

It’s a weird approach to messaging.

But the DFL’s noise machine is apparently betting long on it.

common refrain from Minnesota Republicans goes something like this: Rural communities are overtaxed, underfunded and ignored by legislators. Greater Minnesota sends their tax dollars to the Twin Cities, where metro residents benefit from government programs…It’s a sweeping argument that plays into the state’s often bitterly divided partisan and geographic politics, which have become deeply intertwined during the past decade, with Republicans dominating greater Minnesota while the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has locked down the metro. It also simplifies a complicated web of tax and revenue distributions — and it’s factually untrue. 

This is an extension of Paul Krugman’s ludicrious claim from 15-odd years ago that “blue” states “send more revenue” to “red” states than the other way around.

To the extent that its true, it’s because:

  • Much federal spending is huge-ticket items – farm bills, interstate highwatys, military bases – dropped into sparsely-populated states. A Minuteman III squadron in a bunch of farmers fields in northwest North Dakota may consumer hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but almost none of it goes into local pockets.
  • Costs of living and incomes are higher in urban, “blue” areas. Wait – don’t Democrats support “progressive taxation”?

But for whatever reason, DFLers are hammering on this “issue” this week. The DFL’s “taxation expert” Aisha Gomez:

We talked about this in 2010: big-ticket “public good infrastructure costs the same in Greater Minnesota (basically) as in the metro; a school or water treatment plant or road in a town of 4,000 doesn’t cost 1% as much as a school in MInneapolis (400,000). Those costs are spread across a smaller population – meaning higher per capita consumption.

Gomez could point that out.

Or she could demigogue the – for lack of a better term – “issue” and try to use it to wedge the Blue cities and Red state even further.

Why? No idea.

But if I were forced to bet on this, I’d spot a couple bucks that:

  • The next financial forecast isn’t nearly as rosy as the last couple
  • The DFL is pre-emptively trying to demigogue the issue to stoke their base’s sense of victimhood and tribal rage.
  • That sense of rage is a good bit of “preparing the PR battlefield” for an election in a decaying economy where the SCOTUS can’t overturn Roe again.

Action on that bet?

False Flags: The Career

“Flag experts” – there are people out there who call themselves that – step in to grade the new Minnesota state flag proposals:

So what about the actual experts? In interviews, flag experts and graphic designers generally praised the six choices. Vexillologists — yes, there’s a word for people who study flags — said Minnesota’s finalists mostly follow the guidelines of flag design.

Ted Kaye, secretary of the North American Vexillological Association, said he thinks the six finalists are a “good start.” But he also suggested one or more changes to each. A common critique was that the flags are “trying to do too much” and should be simplified in order to be distinguishable from a distance.

“All of these designs have a great flag in them trying to get out,” Kaye said. “They all need work, but that’s OK.”

“They all need work”

Give up hope. You have entered the world of the “Graphic Designer”.

Don’t get me wrong – I have good friends, colleagues and family who are graphic and visual designers. It’s a talent I do not have. I’m in UX, but not one of the visual-design-y UXers (no, they are not the same thing).

And if you turn a group of average graphic designers (not the very good ones in my social circle) loose on a project, they can and will spend two years picking out the “right” color palette.

So the GOP may get to repeal this nonsense after all (provided they win some House races).

No Mask Conceals Stupidity

Blue City governments apparently think banning matches will prevent fire.

No, it hasn’t quite gotten that stupid ytet. But give ’em time.

Banning guns (in the hands of the law-abiding citiizen, at least) is a pretty common…conceit? Deflection? Fig leaf? Anyway – the notion that barring law-abiding citizens from using legal things to do things they weren’t going to do in the first place will affect crime (positively) is the sort of thing you have to believe to be a modern Democrat.

But that sound you hear?

It’s the bottom of the intellectual barrel being scraped.

Philadephia bans ski masks in some public places.

Because crime:

“The City of Philadelphia has been under siege with individuals who use ski masks to commit crimes. It’s caught onto not just young people, but young adults who have made this a particular thing to do,” Phillips told CNN. “The Philadelphia Police Department can’t tell who’s a criminal and not a criminal, which makes it difficult for crimes to be solved in Philadelphia.”

Sarah Peterson, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, told CNN, “The administration will review the legislation, and in the meantime looks forward to our ongoing work with City Council on the urgent matter of ensuring public safety.”

The Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in people wearing various face coverings including ski masks, “complicated policing” because mask mandates made it easier for criminals to conceal their identities, Philadelphia Police Department Deputy Commissioner Francis Healy said during a committee hearing in November.

Philadelphia has a crime problem.

Too many ski masks? Could be.

Could also be all the depraved leftists:

Place your bets.

Leftist Western Intellectuals: The Moral Density Of A Collapsed Star

The rhubarb between the DFL “Democrat Socialist” Fascist Symp Caucus attacks on Ron Latz reminds us that while consistency (to say. nothing of morality) aren’t leftist values, they do have some consistencies.

For example, a tendency to coddle the most ghastly dictators:

I always wondered about the leftist intellectuals who supported Stalin, and those aristocratic sympathizers and peace activists who excused Hitler. Today’s Hamas apologists and atrocity-deniers, with their robotic denunciations of “settler-colonialism,” belong to the same tradition but worse: They have abundant evidence of the slaughter of old people, teenagers, and children, but unlike those fools of the 1930s, who slowly came around to the truth, they have not changed their views an iota. The lack of decency and respect for human life is astonishing: Almost instantly after the Hamas attack, a legion of people emerged who downplayed the slaughter, or denied actual atrocities had even happened, as if Hamas had just carried out a traditional military operation against soldiers. October 7 deniers, like Holocaust deniers, exist in an especially dark place.

The “de-colonization” narrative may different, in that it is better organized, and western academics, “journalists” and the non-profit industrial complex are even more pro-communist than they were from the 1930s through the 1980s.

The Why We War

I support Ukraine.

No, not in that “I’m going tro put a flag on my social media profile and call everyone I disagree with a Putin-bot” way.

And not in the “let’s risk World War 3” over a squabble over an ethnically mixed border area (although it’s worth noting that many of those areas are only “ethnically mixed” because the Soviets deported the natives to SIberia and replaced them with Russians.

I was, in fact, supporting a free and independent Ukraine back when most Democrats were saying “The USSR is here for good, get over it, wingnut”.


Among other reasons, because Ukraine has within its living memory this episode, the Holodomor, whose formal memorial took place last weekend.

One reason is that the Holodomor has been buried from the beginning — and not just by its perpetrators. New York Times journalist Walter Duranty, a Soviet sympathizer based in Moscow during the 1920s and 1930s, infamously claimed that “there is no famine.” Worse, the Moscow bureau chief led a foreign press corps campaign to discredit Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist who reported the atrocities in March 1933. (Jones’ heroic attempt to reveal the genocide was depicted in the award-winning 2019 film Mr. Jones.) Despite his deceit, Duranty would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, even though the Times later conceded that his articles were “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.” There continues to be a worldwide effort to revoke his unearned Pulitzer via an online petition initiated by the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness campaign. (READ MORE: Mr. Jones: A True Story of the Holodomor)

Unsurprisingly, the atrocity was also suppressed by its perpetrators. For decades in the Soviet Union, any mention of the Holodomor was treated as Western propaganda, something the ruling Communist Party did not treat lightly. Not until the USSR adopted its policy of glasnost in the 1980s was public discussion of the famine possible. (This is a sobering reminder of the danger in allowing the state to determine what is true and false.)

The Holodomor was the worst of the atrocities visited on Ukraine – but far from the only one.

So I support Ukraine. With an endless blank check? No. But in defending its existence? Absolutely.

“But Ukrainians are Nazis”. WIthin living memory, Nazis were seen as liberators from the people who’d starved the 1/4 of the nation to death. The war changed that for most Ukrainians – but it’s not a huge reach that some of the less-bright in Ukraine see “Naziism” as an alternative to the retro-Stalinism across the border that murdered them before and is murdering them today.

“But Ukraine is corrupt”. And Russia isn’t?

Save the strawman responses. No, I don’t want World War 3, and yes there needs to be an off ramnp, and it doesn’t appear that that ramp leads to Sevastopol, much less the eastern border of Donbas.

Got To Be A Better Way Home

It’s “Southside” Johnny Lyon’s birthday today.

He’s (checks notes)…uh, 75 today.

Unlike their Asbury Park pals in the E Street Band, the Jukes never really hit it big; their last album to really. move the needle was in 1978.

But let’s be clear – Hearts of Stone didn’t move the needle, it pinned the needle to the right of the deal:

nd their one Top 40 single, in 1991, was a group effort by Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Steve Van Zandt to get their friend across that particular finish line. Of course, I was working at KDWB at the time, and the competition was, well, Vanilla Ice, so it was a welcome respite:

Johnny hasn’t lost a step in concert, of course.. This is his pretty stunning cover of David Ruffin’s “My Whole World Ended”, which he started rolling out about the time he last played the Dakota in Minneapolis in 2019:

Happy Birthday, Southside.

And FFS – come back to the Dakota. We’re burning daylight here.

Just A Couple Of Quick Questions For All Western Feminists

To: All Western Feminists
From: Mitch Berg – Obstreporous Peasant and the Twin Cities Best Feminist
Re. #YouToo?

Dear every “Feminist” I’ve just been getting a refresher course on the horrific, ritualized sexual violence that Hamas inflicted on Israeli women and children.

And I’m wondering – where’s the *#MeToo” hashtags?

Where are all the “#BelieveWomen” bumper stickers?

Where are all the sanctimonious celebrities with their “#BringTheGirlsBack” signs and selfies and tiktoks?

It’s almost like you have a double standard.

That is all.

Berg’s Seventh Law Comes Screaming Back From The 1930s

I was warned that if I voted Republican, there’d be an explosion of Fascist sympathizers.

And they were right.

Berg’s 7th Law is called a “law” for a reason.

Senator Ron Latz – an anti-gun zealot about whom I’ve never, not once, said anything good or complimentary – came out in support of Israel finishing the job of removing a terrorist group that has spent decades training its children to hate Jews, and is currently not only deliberately using civilians as human shields, but bragging about it.

And his DFL colleagues were not amused:

The DFL responded “Nuh-uh” in defense of a group that has created a generation that in fact is trained to venerate killing Jews. Because the truth about “Palestinians” is to DFLers what sunlight and garlic is to vampires.

The Senate DFL Caucus went full-on fascist symp in response:

CAIR is trying to put the squeeze on.

I’d say this makes a good electoral “hit list”, although of this entire list of genocide symps, the closest to one to a “contestable” seat is Erin Maye Quade. One hopes Apple Valley does better. I, for one, am going to do my bit to make sure they remember this.

Just to be clear, this is what the MNDFL supports. It’s a long thread.

If you happen to know a “progressive” who supports this mob, push their snout to the screen and make them read the whole thing. :

Churchill For Our Times

Our times aren’t as genteel and civil as…

…(checks notes)…

…World War 2.

So perhaps it’s fitting that the closest thing we’ve had from a major figure in the culture war to Churchill’s “Dunkirk” speech is this interjection from Elon Musk to the companies who are yapping about boycotting him for supporting free speech on the platform he owns:

But I”ll take it.

Politics is downstream of culture.

And this is a message that the parts of this culture that care about free expression, critical thought and liberty in general need to say, in one form or another, to the parts that don’t.

Open Letter To GOP State Central Delegates

To: MNGOP SCC Delegates
From: Mitch Berg, Irascible Peasant
Re: On Your Predilection For Running Headfirst Into Walls And Kicking Yourself Repeatedly In The Groin

Esteemed Colleagues,

I got your letter the other day, about the intent to try to toss state party chairman Hann at the next State Central meeting.

I know who’s driving this, and I suspect I know why.

I’ve also seen no evidence that there’s any more of a “plan” to this than there was to Matt Gaetz’s defenestration of Kevin McCarthy.

Seriously – show me the alternative you provide. And I don’t mean vague blandishments or the usual impotent tough talk.

You want to take a run at Hann? Come on my show on Saturday. Let’s talk.

There will be questions. Serious ones.

I’d like to the delegates to know if there’s a “there”, there, or if this is just another round of ritualized head-into-sidewalk smashing.

Shane MacGowan

Well, I’ll be. Something can kill Shane MacGowan.

MacGowan, the lead singer of the legendary Irish punk-folk band The Pogues, passed away overnight. He was 65, going on 110.

He was a Keith Richards/Ozzy Ozbourne-level drinker, a brilliant songwriter, an irreplaceable bandleader…

…and, like most British punks of the era, full of political hot air:

“We just wanted to shove music that had roots and is just generally stronger and has more real anger and emotion, down the throats of a completely pap-oriented pop audience,” he told NME in 1983 as the band was getting off the ground.

He frequently wrote about Irish culture and nationalism, as well as the experiences of the Irish diaspora — including his support of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

“I was ashamed I didn’t have the guts to join the IRA — and the Pogues was my way of overcoming that,” MacGowan admitted in Julien Temple’s 2020 documentary “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan.”

MacGowan was celebrated by many of his peers as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. But he was also known for his heavy boozing, often leaving him stumbling and slurring his words at shows. 

Love the art, ignore the artist.

And at their best, the Pogues were one of the things that made the early-mid eighties such a blast

So what was “their best”?

I’d start with the title cut of their 1985 classic album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God,

Featuring the shreddingest Mandocello solo in rock history.

I’ve always been partial to this one, from the previous album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash:

This one pops up on the NARN once in a while – and likely will again soon:

Most Americans who are familar with the Pogues at all know them from this, a song that is to Christmas music what Die Hard is to Christmas movies:

MacGowan’s been suffering healthl issues for a while now, and was reportedly wheelchair-bound since 2015.

Probably a decade ago, a story circulated that scientists were studying some of the most legendarily indestructible rock stars – Keith Richards, Ozzy Ozbourne, MacGowan and a few others – to try to figure out how they could survive decades of chemical abuse at a level that’d kill entire 70s funk bands or squads of Marines, and keep on going.

It’d seem they found a data point.

The Miseducation Of Miguel Cardona

Secretary of (checks notes) Education Miguel Cardona misquotes Ronaldus Maximus:

Wonder how many Millennials think Reagan was actually endorsing the Feds?

What If Someone Threw A “Genocide”, And No Entire Groups Were Murdered?

In addition to football, we saw last week the annual “progressive” tradition of wrapping one’s self and others in un-earned victimhood.

It was “Trans Violence Awareness Week”, during which Leftis pols conjured up victims from the ether to rally the soft-minded to their cause.

Senator Smith, for starters (with a riposte from Shawh Holster)

If the Human Rights Coalition says it, its worth fact-checking:

The only catch is that no such systemic violence exists. According to Jean-Pierre herself — and, presumably, to an LGBT-rights group with every interest in magnifying the phenomenon — the total number of trans-identified Americans known to have been killed in 2023 is 26. If we round that up to 30 (to account for December) and assume that just 1 percent of the U.S. population is trans (given that, as one very limited survey shows, around 3 percent of young Americans are), we obtain an annual transgender-murder rate of 30 in 3.32 million, or just 0.9 people per 100,000 people. Even if we, alternatively, assume an American trans population of just 1.6 million — to gel with one high-quality but conservative recent estimate — the resulting murder rate would be merely 1.9 per 100,000 people.

To put that in context, the murder rate for blacks in the U.S. is currently 30–33 per 100,000 people. The African-American community is an outlier but not necessarily a remarkable one: In a representative recent year, 4.5 percent of black-male deaths were the results of homicide, versus 2.3 percent for American Indians, 2.2 percent for Hispanics, 2 percent for Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders . . . and 4.9 percent for all whites under full majority. To say the obvious, all of these groups are currently living far more dangerously than “trans women.”

Holster ran down the HRC’s numbers in this twitter thread:

Long story short – like iron ore, Big Left wants to take the raw material of intra-relationship and street violence, and try to refine it into yet another social grievance to keep the ignorant and uncritical in a hot lather.


It’s come up on the blog before – I wasn’t a big Jimmy Carter fan. The consequences of Carter’s one term in office played a disproportionate role in my becoming a conservative in the first place.

He’s garnered a lot of hagiography for his philanthropic work over the past 40 years or so – and earned a few brickbats for his dingbat contributions to foreign policy. Like President, lie Ex-President.

But there’s a throwback aspect to Carter that we could use more of; the idea that political opponents weren’t entirely sub-human.

The family of his late wife Rosalynn did something I can’t imagine a lot of Democrats, and even a few Republicans, doing today:

I’ve most certainly gotten cynical over the years. I’m not alone – the funerals of Paul Wellstone and George Floyd certainly set the bar for public funerals, and set it very, very low.

I’m glad to see someone can still get over it.

The Bolt From The Blue Redux

This is an update of a piece originally from 11/20/2018

It’s gone through every musician’s mind.

You’re at a show – from a club gig to an area show – and you watch the musicians doing their thing, and the thought crosses your mind; “What if (fill in a member of the band) were to keel over in a faint right now, and the band called for someone in the audience who knew the material, and I jumped on stage and totrally rocked it“?

Yeah, I’ve had that.  At a Springsteen or Asbury Jukes or Richard Thompson or Warren Zevon or Gear Daddies or Los Lobos gig, thinking “If Nils or Gary Thompson or Pete Zorn or David Landau or Cesar or whoever the guitar player is gets the flu and faints away, I could jump up there and totally take over!”

It remains a fantasy for almost everyone.  1


It was 50 years ago last Friday, every musician’s fantasy came true, for one Scot Halpin, of Muscatine Iowa, who’d been living in the Bay Area for about a year.

He was at a Who show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

After playing an hour and a half, Keith Moon – the Who’s manic drummer – passed out behind the drum kit.  Roadies revived him after another song or two, before he passed out again.

The rest of the band – singer Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle and guitar player Pete Townsend, continued for another song (“See Me, Feel Me”) without a drummer.

Then, Townsend asked the crowd if anyone could play the drums.  Halpin’s friend ignored the fact that Halpin hadn’t touched a drum kit in the year since he’s left Iowa, and got the attention of a roadie, who got the attention of promoter Bill Graham.   And one thing led to another.

As Halpin told the story to the San Francisco Examiner  years later:

When Townshend called out, “Can anyone play the drums?” Halpin and Danese were already at theedge of the stage.

“And my friend starts saying to the security guard, `He can play,’ ” Halpin says. In truth, he hadn’tplayed in a year, but that didn’t slow the braggart Danese, who made such a commotion thatpromoter Bill Graham appeared. “He just looked at me and said, `Can you do it?’ ” Halpin doesn’trecall his answer, but Danese assured Graham that he could.

“The story was that I stepped out from in front of the stage, but that’s not what happened,” Halpinsays. “Townshend and Daltrey look around and they’re as surprised as I am,” he says, “becauseGraham put me up there.”

With a shot of brandy for his nerves, Halpin shook hands with Townshend, then sat down at his firstdrum set since he left Iowa, in front of 13,500 critics. “I get onto the stool. Was it still warm? Whoknows. I’m in complete shock,” Halpin says. “Then I got really focused, and Townshend said tome, `I’m going to lead you. I’m going to cue you.’

“I’m laying down the beat. They’re doing all their `Live at Leeds’ kind of stuff, and then I don’tremember what happened. I guess I played a couple more songs. It was such a weird experience.”

The bootleg reveals that Halpin drummed through the traditional “Smokestack Lightning” and”Naked Eye,” from “Odds and Sods,” closing with the anthem “My Generation.” He wasonstage for about 15 minutes. “I played long enough with them that no one booed and no one threwanything at the stage,” he says.

After the show, Halpin got to party with the band backstage; Daltrey gave Halpin kudos in the press later – and bootleg tapes showed that he did a decent job.   And he won a special, one-time-only “Best Pickup Player Of The Year” award in Rolling Stone‘s critics’ poll at the end of the year.

And until his death fifteen years ago of an inoperable brain tumor, he was probably the luckiest pickup drummer in history.

1 As it largely has for me.  Although in the summer of ’18, I went to a show at the Seventh Street Entry making the 40th Anniversary of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, with a Springsteen tribute band, “Tramps Like Us” (possibly now defunct, more’s the pity – and if it’s for lack of a guitar player, have their people call my people).   They did a good show, by the way.   But they were doing “Something In The Night”, one of the more obscure deep cuts on the record, and the lead singer was flloundering for the words.  And I was singing along at the foot of the stage, so rather incredibly, he handed me the mic and I finished out the last verse for him.  Not exactly pinch-hitting for David Hidalgo on “Will The Wolf Survive”, but it was fun, and I thank that lead singer, whoever he was…

Has Anyone Told Angie Craig About This?

Looks like Tina “The Butcher” Smith is in the money – literally:

That’s six figures worth of profit, in one week.

Nothing suspicious there. Or here, for that matter.

The fact that the media isn’t covering it isn’t so much “suspicious” as it is “predictable”. The Strib, MPR News and all the rest are nothing but PR flaks for the DFL.

But that’s what we’re here for.

Fake News?

Someone claiming to be MN State Senator Grant Hauschild posted this on TWitter yesterday:

This must be a Russian hoax. Hauschild,and the rest of the DFL caucus in the legislature, to say nothing of the Flanagan/Klink Administration, spent the whole first half of summer high-fiving each other over “fully funding education” (in between selfies of grinning legislators stuffing donuts and corn dogs in each others mouths).

Now, they never, not once, explained what that meant.

For that matter, the term has vanished from the DFL’s chanting points since about Bastille Day.


Mark from Saint Louis Park

One of the great lessons Don Vogel taught me when I was working as his call screener was that there are four types of callers on radio talk shows;

  • Boring callers: People whose calls, mostly agreeing with you, didn’t help the show go anywhere. Inexperienced hosts figured having someone on the air was better than nothing – but an experienced host doesn’t need callers – and can do better than the boring ones. Don wanted me to politely turn them down.
  • Average callers: Regular people making regular points. Put them on as time permits.
  • Crazy callers: They’re a crapshoot. Sometimes crazies kill the mood. Sometimes, they accelerate it. They’re a judgment call – one of the things that separates a good call screener from someone who just takes calls and types names into a computer.
    • Great callers: The ones who had great points, and made them in a way that didn’t just help the flow of the show, but improved it. “Get them on all the time, every one”, Don said. It’s harder than it sounds. Was I any good? Well, I learned to pick out Tommy Mischke’s voice when he was still “The Phantom Caller”, and got him to the front of the queue every time he called – which played a solid role in launching his career. So yeah. I was good. Sometimes.

“Mark from Saint Louis Park” was one of the great callers over the past decade or so at AM1280. How great? He’s the only regular caller I’ve ever written an obit for [1].

We got word on Saturday that Mark – real name Mark Rice – had passed away. I met only met Mar in person once, but even face to face I recognized his voice instantly. 

Mark’s incisive intelligence and keen understanding of whatever the conversation was about made him a standout caller, even when he occasionally disagreed with us. “When Mark from SLP calls, just put him on the call board”, we told our producers.  No need to screen him, having him on the air always made the show better.  

Mark was one of the few regular callers that was a subject of conversation off the air himself.  That may not sound like a big deal; trust me, it is.  

My condolences and prayers for all his friends and family, from all his radio fans.   He is missed.  

[1] I’ve long since lost track of “Steve from Roseville” of my KSTP days, who popped up as “Steve from Plymouth” once on the NARN in probably 2006. He’d be the other one to rate a full blown memorial.