Twenty Years Ago Today

Democrats like to bleat that Ronald Reagan couldn’t be elected in today’s GOP.

It’s rubbish – watch “A Time For Choosing” and ask what he’d have to change today – but I’d answer in response that Paul Wellstone would either have trouble getting endorsed in today’s DFL, or would have to displace hard to the left to stay viable.

It’s exceptionally hard to believe that it was 20 years ago today Wellstone died:

The crash – which DFLers of my acquaintance spent years was a hit job carried out by an RNC sniper – handed the election to Norm Coleman.

The Coleman/Wellstone race was, in fact, what put this blog on the map (checks notes) twenty freaking years ago: covering the DFL’s bizarre, often antisemitic attacks on Coleman, and another prominent Minnesotan’s clod-footed assault on Coleman, got me the Instalanches that launched this blog from 5 hits a day into the 3-4 digit range.

Au Revoir, Not Goodbye

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When I turned 62, that number really hit me hard. In my mind, 62 is
OLD. It should be retirement age. I should be sitting on a beach
looking at snowbunnies in bikinis. I should be sipping a brewski as
walleyes nibble my bait. I should be finishing the book I started to
write before Covid. I should be taking my grandkids to the shooting
range and the magic shop and the ice cream parlor but I’m not doing any
of those things.

So I’m taking a break. I’ve really enjoyed writing for Shot In The
Dark, the back-and-forth in the comments, but it’s time to focus. Take
good care, everybody. I miss you already.

Joe Doakes

We’ll keep your seat warm for you, Joe.

It Was Twenty Years Ago…Saturday.

It was a passive-aggressive MInnesota winter day; a storm threatened to make the afternoon commute miserable, but all it was doing was making traffic between Saint Paul and Minnetonka miserable.

I was working at a little startup that, five months after 9/11, was already exhibiting the stench of death that would soon stalk the high-tech market. I was being managed by two of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in the world of business – a titanic accomplishment, in my various careers.

And I was smack dab in the middle of trying to rebuild my life. Not in the sense that a refugee from Rwanda tries to get back to subsistence – no, nothing that eternal and existential. I was just a guy who’d been divorced a little over a year, busy raising a couple of kids – 10 and 9, at the time – and trying to figure out where I fit into the world.

I didn’t have much of a social circle – for a variety of reasons, the one I had hadn’t survived my ten years of marriage. I certainly hadn’t had the time or, perhaps, the wisdom to rebuild one the conventional way.

And the pall of gathering rot about the company punctuated the sense that had crept over me; a chapter of my life had ended, and I had no idea what the new chapter was. It was more a sense than an idea – but it was real, and it wasn’t a whole lot different than the restlessness I’d been wrestling with 16 years earlier.

Lunchtime came. I pulled out a sandwich – that stench of imminent corporate collapse had turned the social, lunching-three-times-a week crowd I worked with into hermits – and started grazing about the internet.

I got to Time.com, and opened up an article about “The New Generation of Conservative Intellectuals”. That grabbed me. I hadn’t been especially active in thinking about politics, much less actual politics – but I fondly remembered my time as a political talk show host at KSTP in the late ’80s. It was a time I’d felt…

…well, not like I did that day.

I read onward. It introduced a number of writers – most notably, Andrew Sullivan, a gay British writer who was making waves with his blog, a new invention that was sweeping the internet.

I thought “Blog? Good lord, what a stupid word”.

But there was a sidebar piece on “What is a blog”. Which I read. And took notes, to take home.

And that night, after the kids were in bed and the dishes done, I went out to blogger.com, and started writing. After briefly considering calling it “Reel News” – after a “‘zine” I’d fantasized about putting out, back when ‘zines – small, do-it-yourself print magazines – were the bleeding edge of DIY media – I settled on “Shot in the Dark”. It seemed to fit; that’s what it was; that’s what most everything in my life had been. It seemed to fit.

And twenty years later, it still does.

It’s hard to count up all the things that this blog has brought to my life over the past, ahem, two decades. But I’ll try.

It brought me a social life. The “Minnesota Organization of Bloggers” hasn’t really been active in a decade – but the connections that were made haven’t gone anywhere. Some of the best friends I have, I have from doing this.

It brought me a voice. While I started this blog thinking that I might reach 5-10 people a day, I thought that’d be just fine. It was mostly about the writing. While blog traffic isn’t’ what it was 15 years ago, I still reach a lot more than 10 people a day. And even if there were still five people a day clicking into the site, it’d still be an outlet for all the things that have been let out, here, over the past 20 years.

It got me back on the air. This blog led me into contact with John HInderaker and Scott Johnson from Power Line, and Chad, Brian, Atomizer and JB from Fraters LIbertas, King Banaian from SCSU Scholars and Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters, which got noticed by Hugh Hewitt, who dubbed us the Northern Alliance of Blogs, which in turn led us – after another one of those bouts of restlessness of mine – into pitching the idea of doing an all-blogger talk show to AM1280, which incredibly got green-lit by some of the least risk-averse radio management I’ve ever met. And that – for almost 18 years now – has been an unalloyed blessing in my life.

It got, and kept, me independent. Along about 2013, when Facebook promised to take away the content management headaches, and Twitter forcibly limited the length of one’s thoughts, I thought about following a lot of bloggers over to social media. I didn’t think about it long, though. Part of it was suspicion of Big Tech’s motives, even then – which were utterly justified in retrospect. This blog owes nothing to Jeff Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey. Neil Young can bitch about me until he turns blue(er) in the face. I’m here, and I’m not going away until I’m good and ready.

And perhaps most importantly, it’s given me a…what’s the right word? A rhythm.

I’m not a fundamentally orderly person. I thrive on chaos; I’m one of those fish who swims toward the turbulent water. I was increcibly bad at things like “follow-through” (outside work, anyway) and “focus”. I started my adult life in a career – radio – that is chaos incarnate, where changing jobs. yearly is (or was) the norm, and went into another career where a (largely) contractor’s life ion’t a whole lot more stable. It’s been a career that would take a chaotic and spin him into a complete basket case, as indeed I kind of was on the morning of February 5, 2002.

But for the past twenty years, sitting down five mornings a week to write something, has been the beat behind my days. Through cataracts of creativity, and bouts of writer’s block so serious I could taste it, I made it my goal to write something at 6AM, 7AM and 11AM, every weekday, with very few breaks. It might be crap, it might be perfunctory, it might be something I’m enduringly proud of, or something in the great in-between – but hitting those deadlines has lent my life a discipline and focus I didn’t have before.

I finish thoughts. I follow through on actions (more than I did, anyway). I think about “what comes next”.

Obsession? Habit? Therapy? Blessing? Zen exercise?

I can cop to any or all of them.

A Change Will Do You Good

In almost two decades of running this blog, I have tried to keep a hands-off approach to the comment section. I do this because I believe the answer to bad speech is more better speech. This blog has one of the smartest comment sections anywhere, so I feel little need to intervene with stupid comments – you all are more than capable of handling that.

I can count the number of people I’ve actually banned from the comment section on one hand. The last was six years ago, and it was in large part due to constant threadjacking [1].

Anyway – we’re gonna try something new.

Threadjack Policy

If you look up on the top menu, there’s a “Contact me / Report Threadjacking” item. It’s actually been there for years, but didn’t really work very well.

I fixed it over the weekend.

Anyway – if you want to complain about a threadjack, leave a note there. Please include the link or title for the post, and explain what you think the threadjack was.

My decisions will be, of course, final. I’ll do my best to explain my rationale in the related comment section, but that’s not a promise.

People who continue to jack threads? There’ll be consequences.

People who abuse the reporting process? Well, you’re all adults. I don’t think I need to get redundant, here.

[1]. Although in the case of Dog Gone, it was even more due to the fact that she took an unconscionable liberty with the fact that she knew my family, socially, decades ago, and decided to go full bore stupid.

Never go full bore stupid.

A Quick Christmas Announcement

I’ve always tried to keep a fairly hands off approach to my comment section.

I mean, it took me five years of escalating warnings to ditch the, in retrospect, utterly useless Dog Gone. That’s how hands off I try to keep things.

I’ve always figured that anyone who is still reading blogs is probably at least nominally an adult.

In recent weeks, unfortunately, that has yet again proving to be the case.

So I’m going to take this moment of Christmas cheer to pass the word; in the new year, I will be curb-stomping thread jacking without mercy.

More details to come.

Merry Christmas, and I’ve had enough.

The Why We War

I write a blog, and do a talk show, that covers a fair amount of politics.

People jump from that to assuming I looooove politics.

It’s not true. Truth be told, I hate ’em.

But just because you’re not interested in politics doesn’t mean they’re not interested in you.

Charles Cook lays it out as well as anyone in this bit here.

Pullquote:

If, like me, you believe without irony, exaggeration, or caveat, that the United States of America remains the last, great hope of mankind, then you have no choice but to fight those who would “transform” it. If, like me, you believe that America was exceptional before its Founding, was exceptional at the time of its Founding, has been exceptional throughout its 250-year history, and remains exceptional to this day, then you have no choice but to resist the entreaties of those who consider its run thus far to have been a pernicious lie. If, like me, you believe that the world benefits enormously from American leadership — and that, if and when we reach the point at which another nation is in the driving seat, we will regret it enormously — then you have no choice but to try to keep it on top. And if, like me, you believe that the American system of government — which represents the only remaining ossification of core Anglo-American ideals in the world — is a work of astonishing genius that must not be tinkered with for temporary political gain, then you have no choice but to defend it to the hilt. I cannot prove this, but I suspect somewhere in my bones that we will get just one shot at America — one — and that if it goes, then so does the classically liberal order that has done wonders for the world.

And in my little, D-lister way, I feel the same. .

Renovation

I’ve been writing this blog going on 20 years, as of next February.

And while blogging is traditionally, stereo typically fairly solitary a past time, we’ve had some company here over the years.

Of course, back in the day Johnny Roosh was a regular. Bogus Doug/Diane wrote a thing or two. And when the subject of history comes up, the First Ringer makes the occasional, much welcomed appearance.

And of course, Joe Doakes, while not quite wanting to take the plunge and become an official contributor, is about as regular as it gets. He is second only to me in terms of volume of posts over the past decade or so.

And, tomorrow morning, we will welcome a new writer to the stable here at SITD.

Why yes – I’m going to leave you a cliffhanger.

Tune in tomorrow!

The Heckler’s Veto

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

A heckler can shout down a speaker, preventing the audience from hearing the message.  This activity is known as a ‘heckler’s veto.’  The heckler is abridging the freedom of speech rights of the speaker and audience while asserting his own freedom of speech right.

A troll can shout down a poster by thread-jacking or multiple inflammatory posts, thus preventing the audience from reading the message.  This activity shall henceforth be known as a ‘Troll Veto.’ The troll is interfering with the free exchange of ideas between the poster and readers while hiding behind the rules of etiquette for polite society which the troll refuses to follow himself.

Unbounded liberty without order is anarchy.  The first requirement of ordered liberty is order.  In both examples, a balance of the rights justifies removing the heckler/troll.

Drop the ban hammer.

Joe Doakes

I’m loathe to do arbritrailty what the group is perfectly good at doing organically.

But thread–jacking is wearing out its dubious welcome.

Pondering

Being a conservative is traditionally a fairly solitary thing. We tend to have higher priorities in our lives than politics.

With that in mind – know what I miss the. most from blogging’s brief, ephemeral “Glory Days?”
The social life. It’s a little ironic that “social media” cut the heart out of the actual social life that built up around blogging.

And by “social life”, I don’t mean *just* the MOB parties – although those were pretty epic, in their heyday. And not the crowd of really awesome people I met via blogging, back then – some of whom are still the core of my social circle, 17 years later.

What I – and society, I think, misses today – was the hard edge to that little home-made social network we built back then.

Back then, when somebody – a reporter or columnist, a politician, a bureaucrat – said or did something ignorant, harmful, defamatory or stupid, the answer would be a “crowdsourced” response from several, maybe dozens, of people who had some knowledge of the issue, directing the energy of dozens, sometimes hundreds, occasionally many more, to respond in a way that even the high and mighty couldn’t ignore.

The ultimate example, of course, was Rathergate; when Dan Rather tried to defame President Bush using a “letter” from a Texas Air Guard general as evidence. My friends and, at the time, cohosts at Power Line led a horde of thousands of people who pointed out facts about the “letter” that meant it could have been nothing but a forgery, and a really clumsy one at that. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes paid with their careers – and almost two decades later, and even after Hollywood put out a scabrous fabulist movie to try to rewrite the history, they remain disgraced.

And that was one of many such episodes, both earth-shaking (my friend and former co-host Ed Morrissey’s reporting leading to the toppling of the Chretien government in Canada) and minor league (me and an army other other lilliputian bloggers, bit by bit, showing the Star Tribune that Nick Coleman’s hackery was going to hurt them more than it helped).

I wouldn’t say that “Big Left” [1] created “Social Media” to divert energy, talent and effort from the DIY world of blogging. But if they had intended that, I don’t know how they could have done it better.

And I think it’s important; back when conservative blogs (and our other alternate media) *were* a major social medium, then there existed a powerful counterbalance to “cancel culture”. Now, the counterbalance has all but evaporated.

And we see the results. “Cancel Culture” is a cancer that is gutting American intellectual, social and even vocational life.

Glenn Reynolds points out that the way to fight cancel culture is “never apologize, punch back, and bring friends”. I suggest that one can’t skimp on any of the three. Which means you need friends.

Since blogging, as Brad Carlson notes, has gone pretty passé in the past ten years or so, it’s time – and imperative – for the good guys to recapture, if not the organic media we all built (although that’d be great, too), then at least the strength in numbers that allowed the Army of Davids to punch upward, and do it effectively, back in the day.

Something – an organic social group, a club, whatever – to bring some raw, motivated numbers to the fight. (And it is a fight, like it or not).

It’d be a shame to lose the culture war because nobody showed up where it mattered.

Thinking…

[1] You got Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Steel? You got Big Left.

Hackery Most Foul

John Hinderaker asks a question many of us have been mulling for nearly two decades: why does 60 Minutes still exist?

It’s a holdover from a time when American media held some general (and often ill-deserved) respect for fairness and, if not “objectivity” (that’s a myth) at least detachment.

But between Rathergate, 17 years ago, and last week’s revelations that the show presented an “expose” of Ron DeSantis edited so far out of context as to be an absolute lie, it bids the critical thinker to ask: why is the show still on the air at all, if not to serve as a Democrat PR production?

Hinderaker has the original, and edtied-out, text. It is beyond damning. You be the judge.

My only regret is, having not watched the show in nearly 20 years, I have nothing to boycott.

Ideas

Monday, I linked to an article by Glenn Reynolds about how to deal with the attack-wokies.

To wit – never apologize, bring your friends, and punch back twice as hard.

I’ll come back to that.

One of conservatism’s great mistakes was forsaking the small, independent blogs that dominated (along with, naturally, conservative talk radio) the alternative media scene in the 2000s.

During the heyday of the independent blog, there was a natural, organic network of supporters that would rally – almost always online – when one of the left’s droogs started dishing what was, at the time, almost always some pretty pathetic smack.

Since then, two things have happened:

  1. Altogether too many conservative content producers took their game to Twitter and Facebook – and either got censored into nothing, or just atrophied.
  2. Big Left invested in turning their attack machine from a pack of chancred losers into a pack of chancred losers with venal, dull but constantly practiced teeth. Cancel culture has become the norm across swathes of society that were still fairly open and healthy a decade ago when Andrew Breitbart warned us about losing the culture war.

So – how do the good guys ‘n gals start to organize, to fight the dirty part of the culture war again?

Ten years ago, when it was still good, clean fun, we had it down. Today, the jackals are running rings around the good guys.

It’s two-minute warning time at the state cuture war finals, and we’re down by two touchdowns.

How do the good guys get back in the game with the game that matters – organization, organic institutions that fight these battles, and the will to fight and win?

(While I run an open discussion at all times, lefties are urged to sit this one out).

Curiosity

I occasionally look over the traffic numbers for this blog.

The top five posts in this blog’s history – at least in terms of hits since I installed a hit counter, probably 10 years ago – were pretty steadily the same for much of that time; a piece on Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, an article about the Gordon Kahl shootout, a few others.

But over the past year or so, a piece I wrote in 2007 about Saint Thomas University’s early adoption of cancel culture against itself seems to have run away from the pack – as in, gotten nearly triple the hits of its nearest competitor. As in, 80,000 hits to something like 30,000.

Used to be you could Google for links to individual web pages, but that seems to have been discontinued (or I’m doing it wrong).

On the one hand, immortalizing the perfidious moral cowardice of St. Thomas’s former administration is a feather in my proverbial cap.

On the other?

Who the hell is still citing an article from 13 years ago to tens of thousands of people?

Tangent

I love reading Powerline, but sometimes, their contributors completely miss the point
Here’s a column suggesting impeachment should be done fairly, on a measured and reasoned basis, with the President assisting Congress to reach the Truth.
Impeachment has nothing to do with the truth. Impeachment is strictly a political act, similar to a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. Democrats know this and are playing hard ball: anonymous rumors and gossip as “evidence,” Republicans excluded from interviewing witnesses, nobody getting  due process.
This impeachment investigation has nothing to do with high crimes or misdemeanors. This is a prolonged campaign commercial so their pals in the media can scream Trump Impeached to deceive the last few low-information voters.
There’s no mystery why Trump refuses to play along. The mystery is why establishment Republicans want him to.
Joe Doakes

Where Have You Gone, Learned Foot…

…turns out you were just too far ahead of your time.

Collecting old Kool-Aid packets is big money:

While there’s no real quantifiable way to know just how big this particular community is, the best place to pulse-check their vitality is eBay. A quick search for “Kool-Aid packet” seemed to signal the market is alive and well, returning over 250 active listings, some of which were going for triple-digit asking prices: $400 for a still- sealed case of Pink Swimmingo, $225 for a single packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo Berry, and $195 for a single packet of one of Kool-Aid’s most beloved flavor mascots, Purplesaurus Rex, just to name a few. A search for recently completed eBay auctions showed a display of 1960s Grape packets being sold for $250 and a single packet of Rock-A-Dile Red closing out at $125. The good stuff don’t come cheap, my friends.

There has simply got to be a way to turn this into a glorious troll of obnoxious foodies.

Lines Like This…

…are why Lileks is still the best there is:

“I woke up this morning,” I said to the salesman, “and I felt like I wanted to be flattered and lied to, but there’s no brothel around so I thought I’d go to a dealership.”
If he’d been a dog he would have cocked his head sideways; it’s possible he thought “Brothel” was a new soup place down the road.

I’ve needed that dog cocking his head line so many times…

BoCo

I was remiss (overwhelmed with life, really) in not noting last week the big local media news – Bob Collins of MPR has retired after 27 years at the Taj Ma Klling and 45 in radio all together.

Bob worked at MPR, so it’s an absolute given we’d disagree on…well, most things. We sparred a time or two over at the “NewsCut” blog he ran for many years over at MPR. Which says something – Bob would spar. Most MPR figures hid behind the organization’s magisterial facade and didn’t bother engaging the peasantry.

Not Bob. He was the only MPR staffer – and one of very few mainstream media figures – to ever appear at a MOB party, back in blogging’s heyday. The image of Collins talking, I think, sports with Gary Miller was one of the highlights of that whole time of my history doing this blog thing.

And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that he wrote two of the things that I’ve been proudest of in all my years of doing this.

In 2007, I wrote a piece o the death of Bo Diddley, about which Bob wrote:

Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments writing this blog – notably, the fact that so many of you spend time reading it every day – but yeah, that one coming out of the blue stuck with me.

And the next year, during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I walked from my job at the time over to a news conference held by a group of groups that were planning the demonstrations at the convention. Collins took up the scene:

What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example?
“The violence that I’m worried about is the violence that’s being carried out in Iraq right now,” she answered, which isn’t really an answer.
“You’re not answering my question,” a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist.
“I know,” she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the blockades being planned — allegedly — by other groups “violence.”
“That’s not what we’re planning,” she said.

I was the blogger, natch. And while I’ve never been a “political journalist” – I’ve always preferred “irascible peasant” – I always took that as a great compliment.

Anyway, good luck out there, Bob.

A Couple Of Birthdays

It’s been a little crazy lately, and in the rush I neglected two birthdays.

The first, of course, is today.

Reagan

Note:  This is an “encore” of a post I wrote in 2013

Today would be the 108th birthday of the greatest president of my lifetime.

People say “there’s no Ronald Reagan in American politics today”.  And they’re right – but as his son Michael told me in an interview a few years ago, it’s not that there couldn’t be.

Because Reagan had three great talents:   he was a great, natural communicator (who, unlike a lot of “natural communicators”, honed his craft with relentless discipline);  he developed a vision and he stuck to it with determination and focus; and most importantly for today’s  conservatives, he knew how to build coalitions, rather than exclude people from them.

We have plenty of people who can communicate well, although the conservative movement has had its share of duds in that department too.  And we have not a few who can visioneer with the best of them  – in fact, with the rise of the Tea Party, our movement’s best years may be to come, provided they keep the faith.

But as to building coalitions?

Today, we’re better at building silos.

Reagan did something that conservatives are terrible at today; he got social conservatives (at the peak of their notoriety and political cachet), blue-collar Democrats who the economy had turned into instant fiscalcons, Jack Kemp-style economic hawks and paleocons together…

…by focusing remorselessly on what they agreed on;  fixing the economy, and ending Communism.

And once in office, that’s what he focused on.  Oh, he paid lip service to issues that were to him tangents – and lip service from the world’s greatest bully pulpit ain’t chicken feed. But he didn’t fritter his political capital away with excessive natterings about issues that were tangential to his vision, and the vision his coalition all agreed on in electing him.  He spoke eloquently on issues – many of them – and that speaking had its effect.

Some call that an abdication; it was in fact a matter of leaving that work to the members of his coalition (example:  he exerted very little executive effort on abortion and gun control – but the efforts to roll both back at the state and local level started to coalesce during his time in office anyway – in part because of his leadership from the bully pulpit.  But for all that, always, the focus was on “dancing with the one what brung him” to DC at the head of an impossibly-diverse coalition; his rock-solid, bone-simple two point agenda, fixing the economy and toppling the Commies.

As I moderated the “Where Do We Go From Here” event last week at the Blue Fox, and listened to some of the friction and cat-calling across the party’s various factions, I thought there was a lot of focus on what divided us.  And so my final question to the panel was “what do we all – all of us, from socialcons like Andy Parrish to libertarians like Marianne Stebbins, actually agree on?”  Because that is the only real way forward for any of the factions – since if any faction takes Parrish’s (tongue in cheek?) advice and forms a separate party, it’s the road to mutual palookaville, with multiple parties that are less than the sum of the parts they once were.

So for my annual Gipper Day celebration, it’ll be the usual; jelly beans at my desk, taking the kids out to dinner to talk about what Reagan’s legacy has meant in their lives (other than the uninformed, out-of-context crap the DFLers in their lives’ll say)…

…and asking my fellow conservatives “what do we agree on?”

The second? Well, that’ was yesterday.

Shot In The Dark

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of my starting this blog.

Hardly seems possible, sometimes.

Tempus Fugitive

I first remember James Lilkes’ daughter Gnat as a toddler around about 9/11, in the Daily Bleat.  Near-daily updates about Gnat were a part of the early years of this blog, reading the Bleat every morning on my way about the rest of my life.

Gnat has just graduated from high school.  It should go without saying that it snuck up on me.

Congratulations, Gnat!   And the whole Lileks family, while we’re at it.