Visualization

When I was in high school, I may have been the last generation to actually spend any time watching instructional films.  Not videos – productions shot on film.

Now, my beef is not with the medium on which the production was shot; video versus film is an aesthetic argument, and not one that I’m particularly involved in.

But along about time time video supplanted film, computer animation began to replace an older, more fascinating art – the building of explanatory models.

Explaining complex processes, equations, and mechanical concepts is difficult.  And in a way, I’ve found the plethora of computer-based animations used to do the explaining today are almost too accurate to do a job of explaining complex concepts.

Filling that gap, long before there were any computers, was the operating model.

An operating model took a complex concept, mechanism or process, simplified it, magnified the important stuff while omitting (or deferring) the minutia, and explained it.

And it’s kind of a lost art.

Which was why I loved this film – which explains the function of the auto differential, a bit of mechanical engineering that always amazes me…:

…and this one, which is as good an explanation of pretty much every firearm operating system in the business:

And I can watch them for hours.

To Mr. Chunk, Wherever And Whoever You May Be

To: The Piece Of Garbage Throwing Chunks of Cement at Bikers in Minneapolis
From:  Just Plain Mitch Berg
Re:  Consequences

Big Guy With The White Bronco And The Cement Chunks,

Just a hint for you before you go throwing any more chunks of cement at bikers; it is – I’m speaking purely hypothetically, here – possible that not every Twin Cities biker is a sprout-eating, Whole-Foods-shopping, Betsy-Hodges-upsucking, NPR-listening, pacifism-endorsing (against everyone but people who shoot lions), Obama-voting, coffee-shop-folk-music-listening, Daily-Show-watching Peace Studies major.

Again, I’m speaking purely hypothetically, here.

Just saying.  Go back to pulling the wings off of moths and torturing cats.  They probably can’t fight back.  You’re clearly into that.

That is all .

A Dilemma

As the sales of my first book, Trulbert!, continue to outpace my meager expectations, the question “what next” is occupying more and more of my time.

I’ve been thinking about compiling my Twenty Years Ago Today series into an e-book, for all the people who’ve asked me about it over the past decade (and there have been quite a few).  I am strongly thinking about putting that out this September, in time for the tenth anniversary of the series.

But in terms of original books, as opposed to “Hewitts” (books compiled from blog posts)?

There are a few contenders:

  • “An Accidental Conservative”:  how a guy who by all rights should have been a liberal, became a conservative.  Then a libertarian.  Then a libertarian-conservative again.  And why.   Pros:  that book is largely also already written.  Cons:  I have to dig through a little over 12,000 blog posts to assemble it.
  • “Josef Sklrbczsz, American”:  The story of a young man from an Eastern European goat-town whose entire knowledge of America comes from the mass media.  Then, he comes to America.
  • “Purple Sunset”:  An expansion of my “Secession Diaries” stories, from ten years ago.  Pros:  It’d be a fun piece to write.  Cons:  What?  Me, write a book of absurdist speculative political fiction?

The Twenty Years Ago one is kind of a no-brainer.

Beyond that?  The sky is the limit…

John Edwards Was Only 2/3 Right

Former Senator and two-time Presidential hopeful John Edwards was an immensely tragic figure, in a purely satirical sense, in that he may have been the only Democrat candidate in history to be derailed by violating conventional prole social mores.

But he made one great contribution to American life; the phrase starting “There are Two Americas…”.  This is a gift that has kept on giving to satirists, and likely always will.

But in some cases, it doesn’t go far enough.

Because in cities like Saint Paul, at least in re the Met and City Councils’ ongoing plans to bike-ify the streets and make driving cars utterly unpalatable, there are three Saint Pauls:

The Midway, Saint Anthony Park, Merriam Park, Battle Creek, Payne-Phalen, Summit-Uni and the like:  In these neighborhoods, there is a minority of bikers – and no real resistance to the idea of having the neighborhood’s streets whittled down to one lane plus bike lanes and, maybe, parking.

The East Side, The North End, Frogtown, Dayton’s Bluff:  Nobody bikes, and nobody wants to build bike lanes through them.

Highland:  A powerful minority of well-connected bikers went up against a powerful minority of well-organized NOMASs (“Not On My Arterial Steet!”) – and the NOMAS won a victory, even if only temporary.

The council voted 6-0 for Council Member Chris Tolbert’s amendment to study possible bike lanes on Finn Street and Prior Avenue as well as Cleveland, and to ask the Public Works department to draw up “a robust public engagement plan” to get more input from residents, business owners, district councils and others before deciding by the end of the year where to put the lanes.

Finn?  That’s narrow enough already!

Prior?  That’s two blocks from Cleveland!

And four blocks from already bike-friendly Fairview.

Tolbert said based on the feedback he had gotten — “the most public engagement I’ve received since I’ve been on the council” — he wasn’t sure the issue had been properly vetted. He represents the area south of St. Clair Avenue, where business and property owners said they had collected more than 1,000 signatures opposing bike lanes down Cleveland.

“Both sides have brought up a lot of good issues and a lot of issues that need to be resolved, and we haven’t had a lot of time to let that happen,” Tolbert said.

Now, in most cases – see “The Green Line”, the “Lebanon Hills Park Bike Path” – the “public engagement” is just a ticket the bureaucracy punches on the way to doing what it had planned all along.

In this case?  NOMAS in Highland Park might actually bring some teeth to the issue.

Trulbert: A Comic Novella About The End Of The World As We Know It


Welcome, Instapundit Readers!  Thanks for stopping by!  By the way, one of Glenn’s commenters referenced “Berg’s Law” – here they are.


My first book, Trulbert, hits Amazon on Monday; it’ll be available for Kindle and compatible e-book readers.

Trulbert___A_Comic_Novella_About_the_End_of_the_World_As_We_Know_It_-_Kindle_edition_by_Mitch_Berg__Literature___Fiction_Kindle_eBooks___Amazon_com_

The book asks the rhetorical question “What if the world shrugged before Atlas did?”

What if every Libertarian purist, every anarchist, everyone who ever walked out of an IRS audit, got their fondest wish, and – poof – government disappeared overnight?  What would happen?

Would the world spontaneously sort itself into a functioning order, and society – now the assortment of individual, autonomous bits of pure reason that some of the Founders dreamed of – prosper and be perfectly happy?  Would mankind spontaneously order the world into the Best Possible one?

Or would the baser impulses of human nature – laziness, demagoguery, evil, or unfamiliarity with the works of Ludwig Von Mises – rot the utopia from the outside in?

The book explores those questions through mankind’s greatest analytical tool – broad, tongue-in-cheek hamfisted satire.

The book takes place from the perspective of a group of neighbors in South Minneapolis:

  • Paul Hendrickson, a mild-mannered, anxiety-prone married father of three and project manager at a Minneapolis healthcare claims software company, and his family
  • Hana Codriciu, a Romanian immigrant and budding American success story, owner of “Dripping With Irony”, a coffee shop plagued with hipsters but percolating with promise
  • Dave Os, firebrand libertarian activist and unpublished anarcho-capitalist philosopher
  • Myron Ilktost, henpecked Methodist church deacon
  • Jessica Hardman, glamorous TV anchor and hard-nosed journalist in the tradition of Chelsea Clinton

Together, these people and a cast of thousands navigate a world where the old assumptions are as obsolete as an iPhone 3, and are changing faster than Google’s definition of “evil”; a world with simultaneously no authority and infinite power.

A world pretty much like ours, only upside down.

Trulbert:  A Comic Novella about the End of the World As We  Know It is available for pre-order today and tomorrow, and will be released on Amazon on Monday!

Whew

Posting is a little light this week.  On top of a much busier than normal scrum of regular life events, I’m scrambling to get the manuscript for my upcoming e-book, Trulbert:  A Comic Novella about the End of the World as We Know It” (available for pre-order on Amazon now!) ready by my Thursday night deadline (so far so good), as well as work on some changes to this site.

Things’ll get into more of a groove next week, I’m sure.

Almost Like The Real Thing!

My upcoming e-book, Trulbert:  A Comic Novella about the End of the World As We Know It, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  The release date is June 15.  Trulbert___A_Comic_Novella_About_the_End_of_the_World_As_We_Know_It_-_Kindle_edition_by_Mitch_Berg__Literature___Fiction_Kindle_eBooks___Amazon_com_

 

In related news, I’ll be doing the traditional “book tour” in coming weeks.  So far, I’m scheduled for:

  • The Ed Morrissey Show on Thursday at 4PM Central
  • I’ll be interviewed by Mitch Berg on the Northern Alliance next Saturday
  • I’ll be on with Brad Carlson this coming Sunday

And there’s more to come!

Trulbert: The Final Installment (V)

 – 7AM, November 10, 2015:  1725 Slough Avenue, Scranton, PA

“You see yourself as a sort of Hendrickson figure?” Schrute said with an air of contempt to his longtime nemesis and recent Bestische Mensch, Jim Halpert.

“Well, yeah”.

“That’s stupid”, Schrute harrumphed.  “I’d be Myron Ilktost”.

“Dwight, in so many ways, I think you’re right”.

Is that how Trulbert ends?  

That’s what she said!  

Check back June 15!

Let’s Try Some Free Association

If you were to learn about the United States entirely from media – news, movies, music, radio, television entertainment, newspapers – what are some of the erroneous things you would believe about this country and our society?

Leave them in the comments. No idea is too dumb – in fact, the farther out they are, the more I may like them.

Trulbert: The Final Installment (IV)

 – 7AM, November 10, 2015:  Holsten’s Restauraunt, Newark, NJ

“But what was it all about?” Carmela asked, as the sound of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” warbled on the jukebox in the background.

Tony and AJ focused on the menu.

“What was what all about?” Tony grunted as AJ compared the Sicilian and German style pork chops.

“The whole thing about the Methodists?”

“Jeez, mom.  They’re a generic yet absurdist enemy figure, selected to avoid bogging the story down in actual current events that would distract from the real theme”, AJ snapped, impatient with his mom.

“Yeah”, Tony grunted.  “What the f*** ya gonna do?”

“Yeah, but why?” Carmela insisted.

Tony started to answer, but noted the dinging of the bell on the door as Meadow walked into the diner, just as the voice of Steve Perry sang the final…

Is this, in fact, how “Trulbert” really ends?  

Check back this summer, when “Trulbert:  A Comic Novella About the End of the World As We Know It” comes out on E-Book!

Featuring new material not found in the blog serial (including, like, an actual ending and a regulation denouement!)

From Buffalo Microchip Publishing

Trulbert: The Final Installment (II)

 – 7AM, November 10, 2015:  South Fork Ranch, Dallas, TX

Pamela Ewing sat on the bed, reading an e-book.

Suddenly, she was visibly perplexed to note the sound of running water in the attached bathroom.

She laid her iPad on the nightstand, got out of bed, and walked to the bathroom in a gait that suggested valium addiction.

The water was running – and through the pebbled glass partition, she noticed the figure of a naked man inside.

Notwithstanding the fact that she was as certain as she ever was that there hadn’t been a man in the house the night before, she walked to the shower stall and opened the door.

Inside, a nude, wet Bobby Ewing stood, rinsing off.

“Hey”, he said.  “I saw you reading Trulbert!   A Comic Novella About the End of the World As We Know It” . What the hell is a “trulbert”, anyway?”

Wait – is this how “Trulbert” really ends?  

Check back this summer, when “Trulbert:  A Comic Novella About the End of the World As We Know It” comes out on E-Book!

Featuring new material not found in the blog serial (including answers to many age-old philosohical conundra)

From Buffalo Microchip Publishing

Trulbert: The Final Installment

 – 7AM, November 10, 3715:  Somewhere In What Was Minneapolis, MN

George Taylor looked warily, scanning the jagged, geometric landscape around him, as Zira, the gorgeous blonde, clung to him on the back of the white stallion.

Suddenly, he pulled up short, his face wrinkling with alarm.

“No!”, he yelled, the anguish palpable in his voice.

He climbed off the horse.  “Oh, no, no, no”, he repeated, louder, his voice taking on an air of panic that started to alarm Zira.

Taylor jogged a few steps.  “Noooooooo!”

Zira climbed off the horse, and wariliy stepped toward Taylor.

“You blew the whole thing up!”, Taylor bellowed, falling to his knees, as Zira, sliding into panic herself, ran to him.

“You maniacs.  You did it!”

Zira looked at the shape in the rubble ahead of them.

“You blew the whole thing up!”

Ahead of them, a statue of Mary Tyler Moore, throwing her stocking cap into the air, sat, cockeyed and tilted backwards, amid a pile of long-weathered rubble.

“Damn you!  Damn you all!  Damn you all to hell!”

Is this how “Trulbert” really ends?  

Check back this summer, when “Trulbert:  A Comic Novella About the End of the World As We Know It” comes out on E-Book!

Featuring new material not found in the blog serial (including, like, an ending!)

From Buffalo Microchip Publishing

It’s Pledge Week!

As I noted yesterday – if you like what you read here, and if (and only if) you can spare a buck or two, this is the time of year when I humbly solicit contributions:




Either way, thanks for reading!

UPDATE:  I’m wrapping it up early.  Thanks, everyone!

I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Season 9 Preview

The temps are in the fifties. More important, the temperature at 7AM is above 33 degrees.

And after a couple of lean-ish years, it looks like biking season starts for me at 7AM tomorrow!

I wrote a lot about biking to work from 2007 through 2010. Back then, I had a job in downtown Saint Paul. It had a locker room and a couple of really fun, obvious routes which – this is important – were alongside or near bus routes. That way, if I had a mechanical problem on the road (always a possibility, when I was riding my early-eighties road bike as I was at the time), the worst case was I’d get to work on time.

It’s been a little tougher since then. In 2011, I worked at a very bike-friendly company – in Minnetonka. It was a 16 mile ride each way – easy enough if you’re in shape, difficult if you’re not. So I spent much of the summer building up to commuting. This involved finding “park and ride” lots at varying distances from the office, a little further each week. Which led to a big leap around mid-summer; from park-and-rides in Saint Louis Park, seven miles from the office, to having to ride all the way across Minneapolis (where there are no park and rides), and do the whole 16 miles.

Which, at long last, I did – once. I rode 16 miles to work in the morning. And then I rode home that night. And as I got to the top of the long, grueling climb up Marshall Avenue, two miles from home, I got a call – my son was in the ER, the beginning of a three month ordeal that had me at the hospital most evenings, living on Jimmy Johns and Cosetta’s Pizza (yum) and losing most of the gains I’d made over the summer.

The next season – 2012, or Season 6 – I worked at a company in West Bloomington. A 22 mile, non-bike-friendly commute to a building that had no locker room. Biking was out. The next two summers – 2013-14, or Seasons 7-8 – I worked at a job that was nominally bike-friendly – they had a locker room of sorts (a shower stall in one of the men’s rooms) and a theoretically manageable distance (11 miles). But it was one of the worst routes in the Twin Cities; from Saint Paul backstreets to the brutal (if you’re out of shape) climb up Pilot Knob. Worse, most of the route wasn’t along any kind of transit; a blowout would mean an hour of pushing a bike to a bus route or to the office. I made a half-hearted go of it in 2013, and didn’t bother last year.

And it shows this year. I’m not in the worst shape I’ve been in, but I can see if from here.

But I have an eminently bikeable job this year, in a great route for getting back into shape (with some easy upgrades when I get my wind and legs back), a locker room, a place to park a bike, and a spring that, so far, is turning out to be excellent; I don’t recall the snow being melted and the tempersatures above 33 at go-time at all in the past years.

So I’ll see you out on the trail!

Anniversary

Back in 2005, I started writing a series – “Twenty Years Ago Today” – about various episodes that have happened in my life 20 years previously, starting with my decision to move to the Twin Cities.

As I worked my way through 130 episodes of that series over the course of about six years, I often marveled at how much things changed over the six years in the story – and in the 20 years hence.

And I’m getting close to the same, whack upside the head moment right now. Because it was 13 years ago today that I started writing this blog.

13 years ago today, I was an angry, incoherent, voiceless guy with a couple kids working at a misbegotten dotcom that was rapidly swirling down drain of the post 9/11 tech bust. This will probably be the 12th time I related the story – I read an article in Time Magazine about Andrew Sullivan, a leading “conservative intellectual” voice in the new, do it yourself medium of blogging.

And that night, after I hustled the kids to bed, I sat down at “blogger.com” and tapped out the first ever installment of “Shot In The Dark”. And suddenly, I was…

… Well, still angry and incoherent – but I had a voice.

It goes without saying a lot of things of happened since then; the blog led me to the talk show; the talkshow lead me to the regional forefront of blogging as a brave new medium, in the middle of the last decade.

That, of course, was then. Blogging has receded from the bleeding edge of cultural consciousness since then, and with that a lot of bloggers. There are people who ask why keep blogging?

Because I enjoy it.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been periods of intense burnout. I just went through one of those, in fact; postelection fatigue and unexpected job change over the winter led to one of those, from which I’ve just emerged over the past couple of weeks. And writing through those periods of burnout has, in its own way, then even more personally instructive and interesting than the periods where I feel like I’m on fire; I’ve learned a lot from prevailing over my own mental limitations in those situations

Of course, writing when you are absolutely on fire is a lot of fun too.

Anyway – as always, I think all of you readers for having gotten, and stayed, interested over this past 13 years. I know you won’t take it as ingratitude when I say “I do it even if none of you to dinner every day” – I do it because I enjoy writing – but having all of you here every day is certainly a kick, too.

So thanks!

They Call The Wave Maria

It’s Mr. Dilettante’s daughter’s birthday today.  And he’s written a wonderful post on the subject, which I think pretty much any parent can identify with.

I have mostly left my kids out of the blog in recent years – mostly because I didn’t want the small minority of creepy stalkers that plague my public life to slop over onto them.

And there are times I resent that.

But until the creeps finally dissolve in their own bile, Mr. D’s piece will certainly suffice.

Ow

As I mentally get ready to start a new job that is well within biking range, I can’t help but read about U2’s Bono, and his biking accident in New York.

Bono broke his arm in six places and fractured his eye socket, hand and shoulder blade in what he called a “freak accident” in New York.

Ow.  Ow.  Ow.  Ow.

At the time, the hospital where Bono was being treated said he had been involved in “a high-energy bicycle accident when he attempted to avoid another rider”…The 54-year-old Dubliner revealed he now had a titanium elbow.

Ouch.  Ow.  Owwwww.

Irish singer-songwriter Bono and his band U2 pictured in Berlin late last year

Bono said he “blanked out on impact and have no memory of how I ended up in New York Presbyterian with my humerus bone sticking through my leather jacket. Very punk rock as injuries go”.

Aaaagh.  Owww. Ow.  Owwwwwwww.

Bono continued: “Recovery has been more difficult than I thought. As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor western civilization are depending on this.

“I personally would very much miss fingering the frets of my green Irish falcon or my (red) Gretsch. Just for the pleasure, aside from writing tunes.

“But then does the Edge, or Jimmy Page, or any guitarist you know have a titanium elbow, as I do now? I’m all elbows, I am.”

Aaaaaaaaaaagh.

I’d mention that Nils Lofgren has two replacement knees, except aaaaaaaaaaaagh.

He talked about learning from his mistakes adding “the first of which is the discovery that I am not an armoured vehicle”.

I love biking.  And biking in the city is certainly all about having 360° situational awareness.

But, in addition, aaaaaaagh ow ow ow.

The Doldrums

In February, I’ll have been doing this blog for 13 years.  And in that time, I’ve been through just about every kind of cycle there is – all between 5:30 and 7AM, weekdays.

Some days – especially in the runup to election time – the material just comes from I have no idea where; I sit up at 7AM, and I’ve got five posts written for a day, and two for the next day, and I wind up taking notes for several more on my phone during the day (major shout-out to the WordPress app for smart-phones!).

Others?  It’s like dog-paddling through maple syrup to get anything done at all.  Which is part of the point, for me;  developing the self discipline to write something every day I’m physically able.  It’s helped in a lot of other parts of my life, so it’s a big net gainer for me.

This last month has been different.  And it occurs to me why.

Two years of DFL majorities in the Legislature have meant no down-time; the Democrats made a big run at Second Amendment rights in 2013 and again last session; the customary stretch of downtime between election and session, where I normally write about music and history and leave politics alone, evaporated.

This is my first fall without substantial politics to write about since the fall of 2011.  And it took me a while to remember how to deal with those two months of inter-MN-political writing doldrums.

The answer, of course, is to take a deep breath and find other things to write about, things I enjoy rather than out of some misguided notion to try to save the world.

And everything’s pretty darn good, once I get past that!

On A Winter Night…

…in the winter of 1980, on an evening where the air was cold and dry enough to tickle your nose a little, not a lot different from this one, I asked a girl to come out on the floor near the end of the high school dance, for one of the slow songs.

And to my shock, she said yes. 

And you could smell the heating in that old high school building, and the smell of a whole bunch of high school kids – flop sweats, cheap booze, cheaper cologne, and anticipation, as we – well, I – stumbled awkwardly out onto the floor.

And the band counted four, and they started into a pretty faithful cover of this song:

And for four minutes, the world felt perfect.

Veterans Day

I never quite know what to say to veterans.

Hear me out, here.

Saying “thank you for your service” seems trite – almost mawkish.   Someone who never served saying “Thanks for going overseas and getting shot at!”?

See what I mean?

In the meantime, what I want to say is “glad you made it home”.  But I can see that being taken the wrong way.

http://www.rare-posters.com/5475.jpg

So I’ll wing it.

Veterans:  thanks for spending the best years of your lives in barracks, troops ships, foxholes, berthing spaces, CVC helmets, cockpits and gun mounts, doing things most of us can’t imagine, to protect the freedoms too many Americans take very much for granted.

It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it doesn’t have to.

Election Night, 1984

It was a chilly evening – as I recall, snow was falling in Jamestown.   Or threatening to, anyway.

I walked from my “home” at the time – Watson Hall at Jamestown College – to the polling station.  I turned the decision over and over and over again in my head.

On the one hand, I didn’t see myself as one of “those” people; “fatcats”, “fundamentalists”, “warmongers”, any of the labels I’d been painstakingly trained to believe applied to conservatives.   Truth be told, I still saw Republicans – or at least a lot of other Republicans – that way.   And I believed that government – a rational, “good” government, the kind that a lot of Good People, like me, would elect, if we got the chance – did have a place in making peoples’ lives better.   Four years ago the previous summer, at North Dakota Boys State – a mock state government put on by the American Legion – I’d become the state Federalist Party chairman.  I wrote a party platform, all full of “redistribute” this and “regulate” that, the kind of thing that Paul Wellstone would have just loved.  And we won.

And the press – which was even then liberal, especially the parts of it I paid attention to, “Rolling Stone” magazine and the like, had left me terrified four years earlier at the thought that Ronald Reagan was going to re-institute the draft and send us all overseas to fight for Exxon.

On the other hand, some of my adolescent certainty in my adolescent beliefs was decaying.  I’d felt the first twinges years earlier, reading “The Black Book” – the B’nai B’rith accounting of Nazi war atrocities – and realizing that a disarmed society was ripe for the picking.  And I remembered listening to Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech, and thinking “What – you got yours, and now you’re telling me I have to settle for less?”.

And I saw what had happened in Vietnam, where a liberal majority in Congress had rendered the sacrifice of 56,000 American soldiers utterly vain, and the national humiliation of the Iran Hostage Crisis.  And I read Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, and wondered if, indeed, national weakness and self-abnegation would indeed keep all those missiles that the goverment had planted around me in North Dakota from firing after all.

My high school pal and unwitting political mentor, Dwight Rexin – a real-life Alex P. Keaton in his own way, a fire-breathing radical libertarian-conservative – grabbed me (rhetorically) by the scruff of my neck through 11th and 12th grades and explained to me – very, very patiently – how the stagflation that still wracked North Dakota was a product of wanton government intervention in the economy – the kind of thing I’d been brought up to think was a good thing that benefited real people.

And a year before, a family of Polish refugees, the Krzameks, had moved to town.  And hearing their side of the Cold War – the oppressed “citizens” of the Second World – gave me a perspective on the time that I’d never had.

And at college, at the behest of my English major advisor, Dr. James Blake – who, after a few months of talking with me about politics, current events, faith, life and the world around us, told me in his New York accent “You’re no liberal, Mitch.  Seriously”.  He had me read “The Gulag”, and “1984” to learn current events, and “Crime and Punishment” and “War and Peace” and “The Possessed” to learn the philosophical cases for and against the big, “progressive” state, and about Jack Kemp’s free-market reform proposals, and P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptile” to see just how conservatism could resonate with a guitar-playing, grunge-before-it-was-cool fish out of North Dakota water.

And all of this tumbled around in my head as I signed in, and got my ballot.

On the one hand?  I was angry.  I knew what I really was!  A thoughtful, “Moderate”, “good government”…something.

And on the other hand?  None of that seemed to add up anymore.  “Good Government”, the world around us seemed to show, really was the one that governed least, and left the most to the people themselves.

The lady at the desk gave me my ballot – a “butterfly” ballot – and pointed me to a voting “booth”, a little plastic carel.

And I opened the ballot up to “President of the United States”.  Because of North Dakota’s ballot-access laws, there were something like two dozen candidates on the ballot.  And because of a court case that had been filed and won by a Jamestown man, Harley McClain, after the 1980 election, (he’d protested the fact that the GOP and Democrat candidates were at the top of the ballot, and the SCOTUS agreed, and so ballots were thereever-after either alphabetical or random), I had to dig down through the choices.

I got to “M”.  “Harley McClain – Chemical Farming Banned Party” was right above Walter Mondale.

I thought about Mondale – spawn of Carter.  The needle hovered over the chad…

…and I stopped to think.  I came close to punching McClain’s chad as a protest against the conundrum I was in.

And then, in a mental flash of “do it before I regret it”, I punched Ronald Reagan.

I dashed through the rest of the choices.  I think I split my ticket, likely voting for Byron Dorgan for US House as a sort of emotional contrition for voting Reagan.  I turned in my ballot.

I walked up First Street South, then down Main Street to “Fred’s Den”, a bar which had open stage night on Tuesdays.  There was a set of drums and some amps and guitars on stage, but the evening hadn’t started yet.  I ordered a Stroh’s at the bar and had a seat.  The TV in the corner was tuned in to the local cable access station, and they were showing election results from around the US and around town.

As I sat, in came a small group of men, including none other than Presidential candidate Harley McClain himself; a hippie and musician, he was a regular at open stage night.  At Open Stage the previous week, I’d promised him I’d vote for him.

Not only had I not voted for him, I’d pretty much voted diametrically against him; one of the songs he sang constantly at open-stage night, a 12-bar blues song he sang while accompanying himself on the guitar, made his politics pretty clear:

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan

That man is a pagan.

Gonna sing a song about Ronald Reagan,

yeah, that man is a pagan…

“Hey, Mitch!”, he yelled, “Didja vote?”

“Yep! Voted for ya!”, I lied.

As open stage started up, the result started coming in.   I’d voted in my parents ward, Ward 2, where my driver’s license was still addressed.

Cable Access ran the vote totals by the precinct.  Harley Clain got 0 votes in Ward 2.

In fact, he got exactly three votes in all of Jamestown.

“Hey!”, McClain yelled at the screen.  “Don’t you vote in Ward 2?  There’s voter suppression going on here!”

I looked in panic at the screen.  There as a “McClain” vote in the ward containing the College.

“I voted at school”, I answered.  Mollified, McClain relented, and we watched as he racked up exactly 4 votes in Jamestown.

Reagan carried Jamestown decisively, except for the precincts by the College, where he carried Jamestown merely convincingly.   He won North Dakota with just shy of 100% of the vote, as I recall, and won all but two of the states – the greatest landslide in history.

I was happy about my vote.

Not happy enough to tell my parents, of course.

Oh, yeah – open stage night.  Tim Cross, Scott Massine and me (drums, bass and guitar) did a couple of songs.  “Summertime Blues”, “I Will Follow” and something else, I think.  And we each got a free beer.

That was fun, too.

So that’s what I was doing thirty years ago tonight.

100 Reasons I’m Voting Almost Straight-Ticket GOP

I do this every election.  I’ve got 100 reasons I’m voting a straight Republican ticket.

And Mitch ain’t one.

  1. Minnesota House District 65A:  I’m voting Anthony Meschke for US House because he’s the most aggressively pro-liberty candidate I’ve met in recent years.
  2. And yet he didn’t take the intellectually-onanistic path of joining the Libertarian Party.  More on them below.
  3. He’s got a lot of great ideas on how to scale back government’s dominance over your life.
  4. Because while I’d never smoke pot (I’m not a mellow, laid-back, hallucinogenic person; I’d be more a cocaine kinda guy, if it didn’t destroy your health and your finances), Anthony will push to legalize it – which is not the panacæa some of the more obnoxious pot activists say it’ll be, but it’ll certainly end a lot of inner-city crime.
  5. And even though I don’t smoke cigarettes, Anthony’s platform also advocates eliminating the state’s latest round of cigarette taxes.
  6. And Rena Moran is a reliable rubber-stamp for whatever the Metrocrat DFL wants.  That, indeed, is why she’s in office.  She was recruited and installed entirely to be a passive “yea” vote for all of the DFL’s dumbest ideas.
  7. And any vote against Rena Moran is a vote against the entire Saint Paul DFL machine – and as such, a little spark of hope.
  8. Because that DFL machine is in the process of turning Saint Paul into a cold Flint.
  9. And if I didn’t live in 65A, I’d be out there voting for any of the other excellent GOP candidates in the 4th CD – especially Stacey Stout, Heidi Gunderson, Randy Jessup, John Heyer, John Quinn, and Lukas Czech.
  10. And if I lived across the river in the 2nd CD, I’d vote for Andrea Todd-Harlin and Jen Wilson in Eagan, and Roz Peterson in Burnsville, as many times as the law would permit.
  11. Oh, hell – statewide.  Vote GOP for House. All of them.
  12. In the 4th Congressional District, I’m voting for Sharna Walgren because Betty McCollum is and remains a reliable rubber stamp for Barack Obama.  Or Nancy Pelosi.  Or a stuffed bear, if someone tells her it’s her boss.
  13. And because while Betty McCollum is mainly focused on pleasing her masters at a national level, Sharna will actually represent the district. 
  14. Because after six decades in office, the biggest thing Betty McCollum can point to as an “accomplishment” is nattering about the National Guard advertising at NASCAR races.
  15. And because Sharna has actually accomplished things in the private sector.
  16. And Betty hasn’t been in the private sector since before she started at Saint Kate’s.
  17. And because the Independence Party candidate’s campaign seemed to be entirely based on unicorn dust.
  18. No, seriously – in a world where ISIS is slaughtering people, the economy is in the toilet, our debt is booming, our entitlement bubble is about to explode, and our healthcare system is a self-inflicted shambles, one of the IP candidate’s top priorities is…legalizing marijuana.  While i’m fine voting for un-serious candidates, too much is too much.
  19. Because Betty McCollum is the very definition of “Washington Status Quo”…
  20. …and I think Sharna can help change that.
  21. And needless to say, if you’re a Republican living outside the Fourth – well, lucky you.  Please vote early and often for Doug Dagget if you live in CD5.  He’s worked 10 times harder than Keith Ellison in this race; in a just world, he’s have the same vote margin.
  22. …or Torrey Westrom if you’re up in the 7th CD; Torrey could score one of the great upsets ever tomorrow, with a little luck and a tailwind.
  23. …or  Stewart Millsif you live in CD8; officially putting “The Range Is Blue” to bed forever would be sweet.
  24. I have little doubt that John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer will win; Emmer, perhaps, by three digits.
  25. Or Jim Hagedorn if you’re in CD1
  26. Because if Mills, Westrom and Emmer win – all of them eminently possibly – Minnesota’s congressional delegation will be 5-5, as it should be.  For now.
  27. For Supreme Court of Minnesota, I’m going to vote for Denny Crane.
  28. That’s right.  William Shatner’s character from Boston Legal.
  29. Darth Lillehaug is one of the most wretchedly biased liberal lawyers you can imagine.  He was a terrible US attorney, he’s been a relentless DFL upsucker.
  30. Oh, yeah – and he put the “own” in “crony“.
  31. And if they ever hold Nuremberg tribunals for enemies of the Second Amendment (and I do not advocate any such thing!), Lillehaug’ll be sitting in the Von Ribbentrop seat.  Nobody who values the Second Amendment should vote for Darth Lillehaug.
  32. But wait!  There’s a GOP candidate!  Why aren’t I voting for Michelle MacDonald?  It’s not so much that I have anything against Michelle McDonald as a lawyer – although her attempt to sue the Minnesota GOP was summarily dismissed because no matters of law were actually found in the petition, which isn’t necessarily the mark of a crackerjack lawyer, or so I’m told.  I’m no lawyer.  What do I know?
  33. I do have my concerns, I should say just between the two of us, about someone who walks around holding a video camera in front of her everywhere she goes.  That’s a personal thing, but I’d be lying if I say it didn’t effect my impression of the woman.
  34. My biggest problem, however, is with how she was nominated to run.  The GOP Judicial Elections Committee (JEC) – a group of people who were elected by I have no idea who, and who met I have no idea where – endorsed her, knowing that she had an upcoming DUI trial.  They opted not to inform the delegates at the convention that this was the case.  They just marched her onstage, demanded an acclamation vote from a crowd of delegates many of whom (like me) really resent the hours of our lives we’ve spent listening to the ineffectual, cronyistic Judicial Elections Committee babbling on and on and on and on, , and that had just spent a day and a half resolving an intensely fractious Senate endorsement, and was looking ahead to sorting out a five-way donnybrook for Governor.  So about 3/4 of the delegates cheered on cue, and about 1/4 abstained, and there we were!
  35. And in the days after the news came out about MacDonald’s upcoming case spilled in – inevitably – the media, the behavior of the JEC’s members filled me with contempt.
  36. Which only got worse come State Fair time.  When Michelle MacDonald tried to bum-rush the booth at the state fair, surrounded by a phalanx of codgers from the JEC who stonewalled requests for basic information from fellow Republicans. 
  37. I’ll sum it up; the JEC people that slipped MacDonald’s nomination past a group of ass-numbed delegates are worthy only of contempt – and the GOP should do its best to eliminate the JEC and handle all nominations through the Nominations Committee.
  38. And so rather than vote for the loathsome Lillehaug or the skittery MacDonald (and thus rewarding the duplicitous committee that rammed her past the convention), I’m going to vote for a fictional lawyer.  And I hope everyone in Minnesota does too.
  39. For Secretary of State, I’m voting for Dan Severson.
  40. In fact, I’m going to do so, ironically, as many times as Mark Ritchie will let me get away with it.
  41. Severson is a sharp guy with much better ideas for the office than his opponent.
  42. Because Minnesota is rife with voter fraud, and Severson is the guy to fix it.
  43. Because elections are only half the job.  Minnesota’s Secretary of State’s office also handles business incorporations.
  44. And under DFL control, that’s turned into a Romanian Cluster-Cuddle.
  45. In short, someone is going to need to put on a hazmat suit when they go into that office.  Dan is the guy to fix things.
  46. I’m voting Scott Newman for Attorney General, because the AGO should not be a vehicle for cheap political points.
  47. And that’s exactly how Lori Swanson, and her mentor Mike Hatch, have treated that office for almost a generation now.
  48. And there are actual jobs that need to be done out there.
  49. For State Auditor, I’m voting for Randy Gilbert.  He’s an actual accountant…
  50. …and not a political hack like Rebecca Otto.
  51. Minnesota needs a watchdog for its state government.  Rebecca Otto is the DFL’s partisan lapdog.
  52. Why Not Third Parties?:  I’ve had people throw this out there.  Why won’t I vote for a third party?    Partly because I believe it’s a waste of my vote.
  53. “But a vote for the major parties is also a waste!”.  Well, I disagree, but even if it’s true, I’m no worse off than you are, am I?
  54. Fact is, I did the third-party thing, from 1994-1998.  It made me feel good, compromising none of my principles in my political life.  Then I realized – sitting resplendently above it all not only affected no policy whatsoever (no Libertarian is ever going to  hold any significant public office).  I realized that the path to make the GOP jibe with my principles and thence go forward to make people free (or more free) would be easier than the one to get the Libertarian Party into a position to affect actual policy – to make people more free.
  55. “But what about Jesse Ventura!”  Proves my point.  He was elected in Minnesota’s great prank on itself – and then had to run to Roger Moe and the DFL majorityi in the Senate to get anything done.  The “Independence Party” because “DFL Lite”.
  56. Don’t get me wrong – in a perfect world, I could see voting for Hannah Nicollet, the IP’s candidate.  I probably agree with her on 80% of issues, and probably 100% of issues that matter to me (shaddap about marijuana).
  57. But the world’s not perfect, and my vote for Hannah Nicollet would be one less vote that Jeff Johnson – with whom I also agree well in excess of 80% of the time – is going to need to shock the world tomorrow.
  58. Oh, yeah – Nicollet seems pretty sharp.  But I’ve been distinctly unimpressed by the rest of the IP slate when I’ve heard them.
  59. And don’t get me started on the Libertarians.  They’ve added a veneer of annoying slickness that the LPM never had when I was in the party – but they’re still preaching pure principle, which is another way of saying “simple answers to complex questions that will never ever be tested in real life”.  And I say that as a sympathizer and former party member and candidate!
  60. For US Senate, then, I’m voting for Mike McFadden.
  61. Al Franken has been a reliable hyperpartisan.
  62. While I was an Ortman supporter until the convention (quietly so, as it is prudent for me to be), that was no swipe at Mike.  He’s clearly an accomplished guy.
  63. And the Democrats’ swipes at McFadden have been as groaningly disingenuous as ever; they’ve tried to paint him as a Wall Street bankster, while trying to ignore the Franken Family’s ties to Lazard.
  64. McFadden’s a businessman.  Franken is an entertainer – or was, I guess.  Who belongs more in Washington?
  65. Think of all the establishments that’ll wet themselves if Franken loses?
  66. The Twin Cities and Beltway DFL elites?
  67. Hollywood liberals?
  68. The coastal “intelligentsia?”
  69. The mainstream media?  They’ll all be completely outraged.  And that alone will be worth it.
  70. Because the only thing standing between us and “Supreme Court Justice Eric Holder”, or worse, is a Republican-controlled Senate.   Seriously – even Susan Collins is a useful firebreak against that madness.
  71. Indeed, harshing Obama’s mellow is an utterly justifiable end
  72. While McFadden flubbed on the “gun show loophole” issue early in the campaign – result, I’m sure, of K-Street focus group testing that showed suburban soccer moms were uneasy about “gun violence” – I think he’s made up for it.
  73. And even if he hasn’t completely?  An imperfect conservative is a more receptive audience, and a better prospect for conversion, than any Democrat.
  74. A conservative Senate is a good start toward saving this nation’s foreign policy.  Not as good as a conservative President…
  75. …but that’s what the next four years is for.
  76. And For Governor?:  There is no doubt I’ll be supporting Jeff Johnson. He is the best guy for the job.
  77. Indeed, he may be the best Gubernatorial candidate I’ve ever seen.  I was an Emmer fan – but Johnson is even better.
  78. For all of you sick of “compromising” – Johnson is not.  He’s as conservative a fiscal rep as you can find.
  79. How conservative?  He ran the “Hennepin County Taxpayer Watchdog” blog for years – and in it, he was exactly that; a ferocious watchdog for fiscal sanity.
  80. Seriously – if the Henco Commission had had more of him, the Twins might have paid for their own damn stadium.
  81. I think he’s done an excellent job of tying together the different strands of the GOP; liberty people, socialcons, business conservatives, all can get behind the guy.
  82. Because while Mark Dayton may be a decent human being, I do not believe he’s capable of governing.
  83. And I don’t think the DFL thinks so, either.  That’s why Tina “The Butcher” Flint Smith has replaced Yvonna whatsherface as Lieutenant Governor.  She’s going to be in place to take over.
  84. And let’s be honest; Dayton has never really been governor.  He is a talking sock puppet for the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and its main constituents; the government unions, the environmental lobby, and the teachers union.  He is a marionette, not a governor.  Replacing him with Tina Flint Smith would really only be a formality.
  85. Because the Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota deserves a sound electoral rebuke.
  86. As do some of the pundits that’ve been trying to drum up a pro-DFL, anti-GOP “bandwagon effect”.
  87. Indeed – “upsetting the narrative” alone is enough reason for me to vote for Johnson.
  88. Because Jeff Johnson gets economic growth.
  89. And to Mark Dayton, it’s just an academic concept.
  90. And Mark Dayton (and his supporters) think “economic growth” includes “government dependence”.
  91. Because Jeff Johnson crushed Dayton in every single debate without breaking a sweat.
  92. Because Mark Dayton went to Yale, but you’d never know it by his accomplishments.
  93. Because Jeff Johnson went to Georgetown, and his accomplishments show it, but you’d never know it by talking to him; he doesn’t jam it down your throat.
  94. Because Mark Dayton’s behavior could be called “passing the buck” if you’re feeling charitable, and “not knowing what he’s doing” if you’re not.
  95. And I don’t see Jeff Johnson ever trying to pull that.
  96. Because it’ll put the Strib Editorial Board and MPR’s management on suicide watch.
  97. Because Mark Dayton routinely evades all media access (scrutiny is obviously not in the cards)…
  98. …while Jeff Johnson has no reason to.
  99. And I’ve thought so for a long time. I remember interviewing him when he ran for Attorney General in 2006, and thinking “this guy could be governor”. I love being proven right.
  100. And Minnesota could use a break for some competent government, all up and down the line.

See you at the polls.