It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part LXXI

It was Saturday, January 31, 1988.

I worked my third straight weekend at George’s in Fridley. They totally loved me there. Which was a very cool thing.

The roommate situation had stabilized – sort of. After we kicked Chris (the crazy guy who earned a living from welfare, working at Wendy’s, and shoplifting clothes from Dayton’s, and who’d left his cat locked in his room for three days) out, we’d taken out an ad in the “Roommates” section of the paper. A young genetics major at the “U”, “Ron”, moved in. Nice kid; short, clean-cut, laid-back…

…gay. Very very gay.

That didn’t faze me.

But when Ron tried to bring a boyfriend over, Wyatt – the aggressive libertine – blew a gasket. “I don’t like fags”, he muttered in the fake arklahoma accent he affected (he was the son of a very wealthy family from downstate Connecticut, actually) whenever he wanted to make a point.

Things got very tense, very fast.  Wyatt started actively antagonizing Ron. 

Ah, but that was the home life.  And I was at George’s, again.  And I totally rocked the joint.  Which had its benefits.

A big one – I drank free, there.  I found this out when I stopped by there one day on my way home from a bar that the agency had sent me to to “learn the joint” – spend a couple of hours learning the gear, watching another DJ work the room, etc.  Tony wouldn’t take my money.

This was a very good thing.

So I’d brought a date there the previous Tuesday, my night off.

Let’s back up a bit. It was some girl I’d met at a gig with my band, the previous year – and you may read anything you want into the fact that I don’t mention her until a eight months after we met and almost a week after our date – but only if you read absolutely nothing interesting into it.  We ran into each other at the various rock ‘n roll bars around town. I figured what the heck – let’s ask her out.


I took her to George’s – partly because Tony wouldn’t take my money. A nice cheap date was the best one. Plus it made me look all connected – walking into the bar, having the owner (who might have looked Italian, it’s not like my date was going to know) welcome me like I was a member of the family and refuse my attempt to pay the bill…

…yeah, that rocked.

Oh, yeah.  Saturday night.

I had the whole floor packed.  The assistant kitchen managers had learned not to come waddling up to the booth to order me to play what they wanted – by this point, knowing that I had Tony’s blessing, I was pretty much off-limits to them.  And for the first time in my six-week-old DJing career, I achieved something that only happened a few times in the next several miserable years of club-jocking; the floor was so full, so jumping, so packed, it left me buzzing.  The same sort of high I got when my band had a (rare) great night…

…and it was me, dammit!

Tony and Papa George liked me just fine.

Clinton’s Malaise Moment (UPDATE: Or Not)

As I’ve pointed out on this blog since its very first day, I started out as a liberal.  I’d probably have called myself a liberal into my early twenties; I voted for Reagan in secret in ’84.

But I remember pretty keenly when I first started having serious questions about liberalism.  It was Jimmy Carter’s infamous “Malaise” speech.  I remember the speech – reading, hearing, watching, I don’t remember exactly how I remember it, but I do – and thinking “so that smug little bastard’s got his, and now he’s telling me I gotta assume I won’t get mine?  Screw him”. 

It took me a few years to realize that Carter was not the aberration – that Carter and his malaise were the rule, not the exception; that liberalism was all about patiently, politely asking those who had theirs – the money, the jobs, the medical care, the information, the security, the power – if you could have yours, your post-tax income or work or CAT scan or news or police protection or motivation or whatever.  Pretty please?  If I promise to be happy to pay for a better Minnesota?

And I have to hope that every time someone, somewhere, hears this deeply stupid remark by Bill Clinton, that a new conservative gets his or her wings:

In a long, and interesting speech, [Clinton] characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?

Reading this, I think we need to start by taking a moment to thank God or ineluctible fate or biology or whatever for Newt Gingrich and the ’94 Revolution; between Hillarycare and this sort of attitude, the United States could have come out of the nineties with an economy the size of Bulgaria.

Bill!  Slapnuts Mr. President?   Let’s accept, hypothetically, that global warming is both real and significantly driven by human activity (and I am being hypothetical).  It is only through economic growth that humankind will develop a rational response

Economic growth slows population growth, as people develop the ability to feed themselves, curb child mortality, and need to have fewer kids to ensure survival.

Economic growth funds and eventually drives the innovations that allow society to perpetuate itself. 

If humankind indeed does need to save itself from itself, it will be through economic growth and the innovation that it drives.  Not through stagnation.

Not through Tic conceits like “slowing the economy down”.

Note to President Clinton:  the right stage door is calling.  You’re late for your exit.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION ADJUSTMENT: Commenter “Terry” notes that I took the quote out of context (see first comment, below). 

So Clinton’s not advocating economic shrinkage.  My bad.

Of course, his former Veep and most of the Green movement are, so my overall conclusions don’t change. 

Mission For Today

Kool Aid Report is running a poll – “Best Metal Song”.

I nominated “Running WIth The Devil” by Van Halen.  If you have a minute or two, run by and give it a vote, if you please.  Kid Leo of WMMS in Cleveland – the greatest rock and roll disk jockey of all time – calls it the best metal song of all time, and if Kid Leo and I agree about anything, well, go with Kid Leo anyway.  Thanks.

Now, metalheads might ask “is that really metal?”

To which I respond with a thwack upside their fool heads; who cares?  The definition of “Metal” has bounced around like a ferret on Jaegermeister over the past 25 years, and all you metalheads better shut up or I’ll sic Wilson Pickett on you.

And you don’t want that.


Ed Morrissey has been showing his commitment to his Irish roots by learning to speak Gaelic.

That’s committed!

But is Ed as committed as Will Ferrell, who declared during his monologue accepting the James Joyce award…:

“I’m so committed to my Irish roots that I intend to continue wearing this outfit [a green rugby jersey] upon my return to the United States,” Ferrell told his audience. “I will also continue to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Will it be dangerous? Yes. Is it illegal? Highly. But that’s just how committed I am.”

That’s commitment.

(Via Sheila)

They Have a Pledge?

Well, that changes everything!

The Republican Convention is going to draw scads of protesters.  Bully for them.

It’s also going to draw scads of arrested (figuratively) adolescents who intend on creating mayhem.  Some of them have been saying in public that their intention is to “shut down Saint Paul” and “stop the convention” and harass delegates outside the convention and generally cause mayhem.  And while I’m willing to write 90% of it off to vainglorious adolescent posturing, rumor has it that it’d be naive to assume that it all is. Very, very naive.

Fortunately, Grace Kelly rides to the rescue.  Kelly – a Saint Paul area 9/11 Truther and DFL spear-carrier – writes for MNBlue, a blog that lost last year’s “Unintentionally Funniest Leftyblog Contest” only because I didn’t allow myself to vote 200 times a day – submits a pledge for your approval:

I propose that everyone involved in the peace parades and peace protests at Republican National Convention (RNC) use the same pledge as the School of the Americas vigil in Georgia.

We will gather together in a manner that reflects the world we choose to create. We will promote an alternative to domination systems by acting with love, respect, mutuality, compassion and acceptance for the interdependence of all life.

We will struggle for a world free from violence, and we will use
actions, words and symbols consistent with this struggle.

We will not use or instigate violence against any person.

We will act with respect for the people and property of the local community.

We will promote the safety of ourselves and others through our
actions and interactions.

We commit to recognize and to work to dismantle all forms of
oppression in our personal relationships, local neighborhoods, globally and with Earth itself.

We will return to our communities with renewed energy to create the peace.(Retyped from a physical copy)

One minor change is in pledge to ensure relevance , the phrase “to close the SOA/WHINSEC” is changed to the more generic “to create peace”.

An alternative is the Pledge to Nonviolence. that all marchers in Birmingham had to sign, before participating in the marches:

Oh, have no fear; since the various Tic factions resemble the Peoples Front of Judea sketch, Kelly actually submits about forty different options for pledges, delving into the semiotics of each in a way that sjdaksd kl,ml;ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

Oh, crap.  I’m sorry.  I nodded off.  Where was I?

Pledges.  While Kelly (have I mentioned she’s a 9/11 Truther?) does give a small pile of options for pledges to give out, she neglects to tell us how she’s going to get the Black Bloc, the “Youth Against War”, and the other groups that have reported dedicated themselves to mayhem and violence to take, and follow, them.

Note to all you lefties; we know most of you aren’t going to cause any problems, pledge or no.  It’s all those “people” who travel with you that we’re watching.

Pull Like Mad

It’s a metaphor I’m going to beat to death in the coming week and a half. Politics is a tug of war.

And right now, the tug I’m following is within the GOP.

Although my choice for the caucuses was still up in the air as of yesterday, it was going to be between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Two good friends and colleagues of mine – Dennis Prager and Ed Morrissey – endorsed Rudy and Mitt, respectively, and for reasons I fully support.

Truth be told, I was planning on caucusing for Giuliani on Super Tuesday. Not “endorsing” Giuliani, because me and my political decisions are of no interest to anyone. But for whatever it’s worth, I was going to take it to the floor for Rudy. He has the combination of executive experience, fiscal conservatism and leadership that I think this nation needs. He’d have needed his feet held to the fire about nominating constructionist judges, of course, and the national media would have done to his personal life as the regional media did to Rod Grams (but, oddly, not Bill Clinton).

But there’s been a change of plan.

I’m a movement conservative first and a Republican second. My goal is to do what it takes to move the party to the right. My prototype for this idea was the 2002 Minnesota Gubernatorial nomination; during the convention, the insurgent candidacy of conservative Brian Sullivan drove pragmatist Tim Pawlenty to the right, enough that after over a dozen ballots he was able to win the nomination and, in November, the general election. I could have, and would have, gotten behind either one, because the alternative, Roger Moe, was too awful to think about.

And so it is this year; John McCain, whatever his sins against conservatism and conservatives, would be better than any of the Tic alternatives. He launched McCain-Feingold, but even the BCRA isn’t as bad as Hillary’s “Fairness Doctrine”; he’s wrong on immigration, but Madame Putin and Barack O’Kennedy would be worse; consulting with Carl Levin on judges is bad, but not as bad as having Levin controlling the president’s actions as he would with either of the Tic contenders. And McCain is right on so many issues; spending (although he needs to get religion on taxes), the war, the Second Amendment, and many more. Perfect is the enemy of good enough – and McCain would not just be the lesser of three evils when stacked up against Madame Putin and O’Kennedy – he’s lesser in the “evil” department by head, shoulders and ankles.

But the general election is nine months away; the convention, seven; Super Di Duper Tuesday, a week and a half. Today is not the time to settle for the lesser of evils; not yet.

So I’ll be caucusing for Romney on Tuesday. I’m going to do my bit to make sure that the media coronation of their pet Republican gets a steep, snarling speed bump, courtest of the right; I’m going to give the Straight Talk Express some straight talk of my own, right into the teeth of the gale, and make damn sure Mac knows that, while I’ll work and donate and vote for him should he come out with the nomination, there is a movement here that he’ll ignore, or antagonize, at his own peril.

You listening, John?

“Bogus” Doug over at True North says:

Seriously, despite the blather, John McCain is no liberal. Neither was (umm… I mean IS… he’s not technically dead. Just pining for the fjords.) Rudy. Neither is Mitt. They’re all merely imperfect in their execution of whatever conservative perfection is supposed to be these days…

…On to Super Tuesday and the Minnesota Caucus… where I shall be politely applauding the cause of the Man from Michigan Utah Massachusetts. But I’m not going to be all lathered up about it. Nor foaming at the mouth if the zeitgeist of my fellows ends up endorsing McCain. Any other result will get the expected mockery of course. But I’ll at least get some entertainment out of it, so even that wouldn’t be a total loss.

Thorley Winston stated a thought-provoking case for JMac last fall – one that coincided with my Road to Damascus Tempe moment at the December 8 debate, where I noticed that Mac does say a lot of the right things. (Thorley – get back to blogging, man!)

Jay Reding (I add emphasis):

Sen. John McCain is an American hero, a man of great personal integrity and someone who has always stood strongly on the side of his country. He often rubs conservatives the wrong way, and his “maverick” image causes much consternation—however, when it comes right down to it a man who agrees with us 80% of the time is better than a woman who represents the worst of American politics and a man whose great rhetoric is but a cover for a fundamental lack of real-world experience. We may have our issues with John McCain, but when it comes down to the basic principles of the party: fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense and strengthening the family, McCain has his heart in the right place.

Conservatives should make their voices heard, and they should continue to push Sen. McCain towards the mainstream of the party as they have on issues like immigration. However, if McCain gets the nomination—and it seems altogether likely that he will—conservatives cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. John McCain will cut wasteful spending in Washington, defend our troops in Iraq and our war against radical Islamist terrorism and will continue to be a strong voice for respecting human life, born and unborn. He may not be perfect, but he can lead, and we need true leadership in Washington more than anything else.

GeeEmInEm will also be caucusing for Mitt. He promises a post soon; keep checking TvM, since whenever he writes it, it’ll be better than just about anyone else’s take on the subject.

Ed notes:

If Romney wants to build momentum and define the race in binary conservative vs moderate terms, he has to start tonight and get aggressively positive about his credentials. He has only a few days in which he can crowd McCain out of the messaging. If he can’t do that tonight and for the next five days, he will have little chance of prevailing, especially if McCain takes a big delegate lead next week.

What does McCain need to do? He needs to reach out to conservatives. He started last night with a gracious victory speech, but he needs to address the real and honest concerns on policy that conservatives still have with McCain. They need to see McCain promise to go after the Democrats with the same fervor that he went after Republicans over the years, and he has to convince them that he won’t go back on his word on border security and tax cuts. After this debate, he has to make a significant outreach effort, and CPAC would be the best place to do this.


What I find particularly hard to swallow, though — and this is not Bill’s problem — are the people who say that if Romney doesn’t make it they’ll vote Democratic rather than support McCain because McCain’s not a true conservative. Maybe not, but neither is Romney, and it seems like a strange place to draw the line. Those who hold a special grudge against McCain over immigration or McCain-Feingold are a different case. But again, everybody gets to vote how they want. Just be prepared to live with the results.

More as we get closer to the cauci.

Words Mean What Jim Oberstar Says They Mean

An emailer notes that Jim Oberstar is going to provide cover for the Tics and their premature indictment of the Taxpayers League, the Governor and the Incredible Stable Gas Tax for the collapse of the 35W River Bridge.

He  points us to this article in the Strib (emphases added):

Minnesota Democrat Jim Oberstar, chairman of the
House Transportation Committee, fired off a critical
letter to the head of the National Transportation
Safety Board
(NTSB) on Wednesday, saying it was
“highly inappropriate” for him to dismiss corrosion
and poor maintenance as possible causes for the
Interstate 35W bridge collapse

Seems to me that Oberstar is pressuring the NTSB to
make sure that their final conclusion includes some
mention of corrosion or maintenance. 

If the facts don’t support you, argue the law (of physics); if the law of physics doesn’t uspport you, argue the facts.  If the facts and the law are against you, argue like hell.

Call it “trying to create reasonable doubt” – although the doubts Oberstar is trying to create are in no way reasonable.  Bridges don’t fall because of ethical lapses or political choices or semiotic miscues; they fall due to ineluctible failures in material or design.   

Back to Oberstar:

“The board has not determined whether the design of
the plates was the primary cause of the accident
compared to other possible causes such as corrosion
and poor maintenance,”

His earlier statements just after the NTSB press
conference also imply he’s expecting different results
in the final version.  Oberstar is the head of the
transportation committee which has over site of the

In other words, Oberstar would seem to be playing to the nutroots; people who’ll believe any crap you shove in front of them. 

Read and decide for yourself:  here’s the transcript of the NTSB press conference.  See what references to maintenance or corrosion or gas taxes you can find coming from the engineers who contributed to the findings, so far.

The emailer notes:

At no time does the NTSB claim to know the
cause of the bridge collapse.  The purpose of the
press conference is to issue a “safety recommendation”
to the Federal Highway Administration with regards to
re-performing bridge design calculations.

NTSB safety advisory report (not a preliminary report)

and here if you’re a bridge engineer.

The emailer also directs us to this bit on Rep. Oberstar’s website, and this quote:

“Congressman Jim Oberstar says that the preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may help prev ent another tragedy like the I-35W bridge collapse.  “The NTSB is right to take aggressive action to release any information about the bridge collapse.

Unless it doesn’t provide cover to Alice “The Phantom” Hausman, E-Tink, Nick Coleman, and the DFL and their other water carriers.

I’m going to send an email to Oberstar’s office asking for comment. 

I’ll keep you posted.

I Don’t Think That Word, Metaphor Or Concept Means What You Think It Means

“Implausible” means “people talking with their dogs”.

“Irony” might be “leftybloggers that would lose debates with real dogs”.

Ipso Spotty” from Culling Snook:

If Mitch had an irony-warning meter in his head, it would have been pegged while he wrote that. But Mitch is, of course, dead to irony.

Well, to be fair (to me), “Irony” isn’t the term you’re looking for.

That’d be “non-sequitur“.

“He” (it’s a writing in a dog’s voice, but he’s not fooling anyone; dogs have better reading comprehension) was writing about yesterday’s bit about abortion; how abortion rates are falling because people (says columnist Steve Chapman) are assigning moral gravity to humans-under-construction today that they didn’t 20 years ago.

My point – well, read it yourself.

Mr. Stool:

So pro-choice supporters have to realize that there is a “moral dimension” to abortion? And then a “compromise” would be possible? Does Mitch sound like he wants to compromise, boys and girls?

Well, Bad Dog, all you had to do was ask. I think I was pretty clear about it.

Me? Personally? Hell no. If it were up to me, there’d be no compromise at all! Not on abortion, or many many many other issues.

But I’m not an absolute dictator. I am one of a couple hundred million voters.

Our society reaches compromises, though, on pretty much every issue (mostly; there’s not much call to legalize cannibalism). I liken it to tugs of war, with people pulling the rope of each issue one way or the other; some pulling hard, others not so much, still others cajoling people to pull with them or at least stop pulling for the other side.

If you want a different metaphor, you go ahead and pick it! But since society does the compromising, my goal is to pull like a mofo to try to make society’s compromise better (from my point of view).  I expect others to pull against me.  Being a conservative, I’m a match for any 20 of them, but knock yourselves out.

Well, he does wrote about “an acceptable a less vile compromise,” Spotty.

Grasshopper, does that sound like Mitch would accept half a loaf if offered to him?

No, I guess not.

With good reason – society and its attitudes aren’t a “loaf” that someone offers me, for which I should be grateful, with which I should just shut up and go along. It’s a huge organism with five million parts (in Minnesota alone), each with a mind of its own. And I’m doing my best to reach as many as possible, on the things that matter to me.

And if “Spotty” thinks society and its attitudes and the way our culture conducts its business are some kind of “loaf” handed to him by some unseen benefactor, [Joke about how DFLers are just a bunch of mindless hive creatures, like Borg slathered in patchouli and chanting mindless doggerel, deleted for civility’s sake]

Mitch sees compromise as just a step in the incremental banning of abortion until it is entirely illegal.

Bad dog! Stupid dog! Who’s gonna clean up this pile of steaming intellectual crap on the floor? Bad dog!

I see compromise as “where society as a whole is” on whatever issue you want to talk about.

And yes – my goal is to try like hell to make society as a whole realize that life begins at conception.

Because it’s not my role to compromise. My role is to affect the compromise. To respect the results of that compromise, of course – it’s called “living within the rule of law” – but to keep trying to swing that compromise via any legal, civil means.
To be fair to Spotty, though, he’s handicapped. DFLers in this state aren’t used to compromising. They’re used to having absolute control. Now that there’s someone pulling against them on some of these issues, it’s disconcerting to some of them.


Tell you what Mitch, come back after you’re willing to concede that there is a privacy and civil liberties dimension to abortion. Then maybe we can talk.

But you go first.

OK. I’ll go first.

No! I will concede no such thing! The parents’ civil liberties and privacy do not trump the “fetus”‘s right to life, liberty and happiness any more than they do mine! The fetus is a human from the moment it’s conceived. Killing it is murder. People – individual men and women – need to take that into account before they make flippy floppy. It’s as simple as that.

And for someone else – let’s call her “Gretel Buncombe-Stipe-Purvis” – it’s equally clear-cut. Abortion is not just a right, it’s a civil sacrament, which I have an obligation to supply via my tax dollars.

Ms. Buncombe-Stipe-Purvis and I meet. We yell. We scream. And in the end, since we do need to decide and since neither of us has the power or right to coerce each other, we compromise somewhere in the middle. I retain my opinion; Ms. Buncombe-Stipe-Purvis retains hers. We continue trying to pull the issue toward our point of view. If I get bored and drop out, Ms. Buncombe-Stipe-Purvis will make abortion a civil sacrement! And if I convince someone else – say, Ann Plotnik, pro-lifer – to join the debate – we’ll outnumber Ms. Buncombe-Stipe-Purvis and the compromise will be recast, maybe a little more to the right.

You see how it works, Spot?

Oh, jeez – you pooped on the floor again, didn’t you?


It’s a tad cold out there – made all the worse by the fact that yesterday it was pushing 40 (and will probably be back in the thirties by the weekend). 

I say a tad cold.  I’m from North Dakota, originally – and while some naysayers will natter and phumpher about the idea, it is colder up there, and much, much windier.

So while most southern Minnesotans will call this current snap “cold” – reminding me people who whinge like Hillary Clinton staffers at a NASCAR event when it drops below forty – I’ll allow this much; it’s a tad brisk.  I did zip my coat all the way up this morning at the bus stop.  And I wore a cap as I walked upwind to the office (although I did eschew the skyway.  I mean, as if). 

But I’m all about the help.  Here’s a hint:  when you’re walking into the teeth of a gale in weather like this, hum a Beach Boys song.

It really helps.

From Small Things Big Things One Day Come

Glenn Reynolds noticed something at the State of the Union; people – the President, in this case – are seriously talking pork:

His actions aren’t as bold as I’d like, but still — back in 2005 when PorkBusters started, nobody in Washington cared and members of Congress were bragging about pork. Now the State of the Union leads of with an attack on earmarks, to thundering applause.

Thundering applause – from the pork ranchers themselves?  Isn’t that sorta like Major Renault’s “I’m shocked – shocked line in Casablanca?

Yeah, a lot of it’s a sham. But hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and this kind of hypocrisy indicates that the anti-earmark momentum is growing.

One of these years…

Pulling The Ribbon

Politics in our society is a matter of compromise among different forces pulling in each direction, reaching an agreement that everyone can live with (or at least tries to, until the next election cycle).

I view politics as a tug of war. A series of tugs-of-war, really – one for each issue that’s out there, at any level, from National Security to Welfare to Cheese Price Supports. At the center of each debate is a mud pit; a ribbon in the exact center of each rope shows how well each team is doing.

My role in that tug of war is to affect that compromise by pulling to the right like there’s no tomorrow. So I pull like mad, and the ribbon over the mud thus inches a little closer to the right. Others, of course, pull against me, trying to edge the ribbon to the left. I know there’ll be a compromise; I know that the harder I pull to the right, the more people will (if I’m doing my job) be convinced to pull with me, and the farther to the right that ribbon – the “final” results of the compromise – will be.

Abortion is one of those tugs of war. When I was a kid, in 1973, the ribbon got a huge pull to the left with Roe Vs. Wade. In the past 35 years, many – from conservative evangelicals to liberal Catholics – have grabbed onto the rope from the right and pulled with all their might. And for some of us, the hope for a compromise – knowing that a complete ban was not going to happen in our lifetimes – was the hope that just one more tug would pull the ribbon just far enough so that people – maybe a majority – would see that while abortion was legal, that aborting a fetus was an act imbued with much more moral gravity than excising a wart or clipping a toenail.

In other words, the first step to an acceptable a less vile compromise would be for abortion’s supporters to realize that there is a moral dimension to abortion. It’s a realization that abortion’s most sacramentalist zealots resist, because it’d be the first step in gutting the notion that a fetus is nothing but a mass of tissue until you get a diaper on it.

Steve Chapman notes in Sunday’s Strib that there are signs the ribbon, measured by popular culture, may have moved that far (I’ve added some emphases):

Laws often alter attitudes, inducing people to accept things — such as racial integration — they once rejected. But sometimes, attitudes move in the opposite direction, as people see the consequences of the change. That’s the case with abortion.The news that the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years elicits various explanations, from increased use of contraceptives to lack of access to abortion clinics. But maybe the chief reason is that the great majority of Americans, even many who see themselves as prochoice, are deeply uncomfortable with it.In 1992, a Gallup/Newsweek poll found 34 percent of Americans thought abortion “should be legal under any circumstances,” with 13 percent saying it should always be illegal. Last year, only 26 percent said it should always be allowed, with 18 percent saying it should never be permitted.

Further signs?
Sentiments are even more negative among the group that might place the highest value on being able to escape an unwanted pregnancy: young people. In 2003, Gallup found, one of every three kids from age 13 to 17 said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. More revealing yet is that 72 percent said abortion is “morally wrong.”
It helps that pro-life groups have adopted the tactics of the tug of war, if not the metaphor:
By now, prolife groups know that outlawing most abortions is not a plausible aspiration. So they have adopted a two-pronged strategy. The first is to regulate it more closely — with parental-notification laws, informed consent requirements and a ban on partial-birth abortion. The second is to educate Americans with an eye toward changing “hearts and minds.” In both, they have had considerable success.
And the biggest victory might be the change among the biggest set of hearts and “minds” involved:
Even those who insist Americans are solidly in favor of legal abortion implicitly acknowledge the widespread distaste. That’s why the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform omitted any mention of the issue, and why politicians who support abortion rights cloak them in euphemisms like “the right to choose.”
Let’s jump to a different mud-pit for a moment, on an issue that can still be just as fractious as abortion.The high-water mark of gun control was between 20 and 30 years ago. Gun control laws reached their high-water mark – the ribbon was as far to the left as it was going to go – in the early eighties, when the detritus of the first wave of gun laws hadn’t yet crumbled away; in 1983, only eight states had “shall-issue” permit laws, and many cities were flirting with Morton-Grove-like gun bans. 25 years later, gun control is electoral poison for Tics nationwide (and outside the metro in Minnesota).
That the Tics are soft-pedalling the issue at the platform level might just be a sign that even they see the ribbon has pulled far enough to the right that they need to change their approach.Like all political geologic shifts, it’s been a slow one. I remember this moment…:

But some abortion-rights supporters admit reservations. It was a landmark moment in 1995 when the prochoice author Naomi Wolf, writing in the New Republic magazine, declared that “the death of a fetus is a real death.” She went on: “By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity.”
I remember thinking then – almost 13 years ago – that this could be the first gap in the dam. And it may be another 13, or 26, or 39 years before we reallysee the fruits of this change in attitude.But that’s how national attitudes change.As in so many societal changes, technology helps:

This growing aversion to abortion may be traced to better information. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, most people had little understanding of fetal development. But the proliferation of ultrasound images from the womb, combined with the dissemination of facts by prolife groups, has lifted the veil.
But if even that most reactionarily-left-of-center barometer of this nation, Hollywood, takes note, then maybe we’re on to something:
In the comedy movie “Juno,” a pregnant 16-year-old heads for an abortion clinic, only to change her mind after a teenage protester tells her, “Your baby probably has a beating heart, you know. It can feel pain. And it has fingernails.”
“Juno” has been faulted as a “fairy tale” that sugarcoats the realities of teen pregnancy.
That ain’t the half of it. Twin Cities’ area critics – perhaps eating their own (Juno writer Diablo Cody is the only one of their clique to make good in recent years – have called it “conservative”!

But if it’s a fairy tale, that tells something about how abortion violates our most heartfelt ideals — and those of our adolescent children. Try to imagine a fairy tale in which the heroine has an abortion and lives happily ever after.

But whatever the larger barometers – pop culture, politics, wherever – the ultimate arbiter is found in the American heart aned mind. And Chapman sees reason for hope in a small turn of emotional phrase:

The prevailing view used to be: Abortion may be evil, but it’s necessary. Increasingly, the sentiment is: Abortion may be necessary, but it’s evil.
And so, one tug at a time, the ribbon moves toward the right bank of the mud pit.

When Cicero Spoke…

Yesterday, in a thread about the South Carolina primary, commenter “Peevish” wrote in the midst of a tangent about Barack Obama’s appeal to voters…:

Obama, like Reagan, has an extraordinary oratory presence

Interesting point there.

I give speaker points.  My father was a speech teacher; I’ve earned a living from speaking, and had it as a wonderfully-rewarding avocation for almost the past four years.  Winston Churchill is one of my personal idols, if only for his talents as an orator.  Like radio, oratory and communication are skills about which I am pretty remorselessly clinical; I’ll state my admiration for the politicians purely on their communications skills, leaving their actual policies and beliefs out of the mix (for the moment, anyway). 

Bill Clinton, while a poor big-crowd orator, was wonderful at the up-close and personal stuff, and a master at the use of television.  George W. Bush is famously bad at prepared oratory (although he’s had his moments), but is as good at off-the-cuff ad-libbing as anyone in the business.  Paul Wellstone was an odd case; he could be a riveting speaker, as long as he didn’t let his emotions run away with him – then, he’d become a sputtering caricature that reminded one of the bastard love child of Benito Mussolini and Daffy Duck.

Obama is an excellent speaker.  How excellent? 

“Like Reagan?”  Well, he’s good.  Good enough to cajole mainstream Republicans to vote Democrat? We don’t know.  So far, he’s spoken almost exclusively to friendly or benign audiences; campaign appearances, mostly.

Is he good enough to sell conservative values in a state that is, and has been for decades, fundamentally hostile to them?  We don’t know – Obama has never been an executive.

Is he good enough to rally a nation behind a vision that goes against a congressional majority?   We don’t know – he’s never been an executive.  His (short) legislative career has focused on voting on other peoples’ stuff, not making an intractable mass of enemies tractable.

Good enough to rouse several nations full of slaves to hope for freedom, against not only the nations’ own governments and his own legislative opponents but elements of his own administration?  We don’t know; Obama has never faced a situation anything like that. 

Could Obama do any of these things – things at which Reagan excelled?  Perhaps – but there’s nothing in the record to tell us one way or the other.  It’s said when Cicero spoke people said, “Wow, what a wonderful speaker Cicero is,” but when Demosthenes spoke they said, “let’s go pants Phillip of Macedonia.” (or words to that effect). 

Can Barack Obama get Democrats to come out and vote for him?  Sure.

Can he get Republicans to go pants Philip of Macedonia?

As good a communicator as he is, that remains to be seen.

South Carolina as Sista Soulja?

Jay Reding, quoting Dick Morris, calls Obama’s South Carolina victory over the weekend “pyrrhic“.


By challenging Obama for the black vote – by promising to go door to door in South Carolina in minority neighborhoods, for example – Bill is highlighting the question: Will Obama carry the black vote? Of course, he will. He leads, 4 to 1, among African-Americans now.

But by making that the central question, Obama’s South Carolina victory will be hailed as proof that he won the African-American vote. Such block voting will trigger the white backlash Sen. Clinton needs to win.


This loss certainly doesn’t look good for Hillary Clinton—she got creamed by Obama—but ultimately time (and the byzantine Democratic primary process) is on her side. The Clintons are masters of political hardball, as well as divide-and-conquer politics. They know full well that all they need to do is split the vote along racial lines and they can win—and it’s not like black voters will cross over and vote Republican in the general election.Obama won a major victory tonight—but it could end up being a Pyrrhic one. Obama must broaden his appeal beyond racial and class lines, and so far he’s been unable to do it. The demographic tide going into Super Tuesday doesn’t favor him, and while he’s dinged Clinton’s armor twice now, he’s yet to slay the beast.

Which is, I think, a good thing.

As I said on the show on Saturday – Obama is my nightmare scenario. Not because he’s presidential material, by any means – he’s a state legislator with not even an entire term in the Senate.

But if Obie wins the nomination, America may well go through the nightmare Minnesota suffered from 1998 to 2002, when thousands of the politically-apathetic turned out to vote in another fantasy based on “change”, Jesse Ventura. Obie is trying – in some ways successfully – to capture the JFK vibe, all “change” and youth and upsetting the establishment which he is, conveniently, a part and product of. Like Minnesota during its four year nightmare, we’d get an executive with no executive experience (actually, even less than Ventura, who was at least a one-term mayor of sleepy bedroom suburb), peddling phony “change” to an audience that only has to buy the con once for the damage to be done.

If the Tics nominate Hillary, the fantasy element is gone, and we can have a race based on the issues, the facts, and of course Hillary’s whopping negatives.

My emerging hypothesis; that Hillary is the Tic Bob Dole. She’s someone whose main impetus to run is that she wants the job.

1941-Morning Quarterback

“What if Napoleon had a B-52 at Waterloo”?

It was uproariously funny (to a seventh-grader) when John Belushi asked it on “Weekend Update” in 1976.

When applied to modern-day crises? Not so much.

Bob MacNeal does more or less the same thing, trying to apply the “Works Progress Administration” – FDR’s immense socialized Depression-era make-work program – to the current putative downturn in the economic cycle, in this Sunday Strib op-ed.

Are one-time tax rebates the only way to cure our sputtering economy?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have pushed for a rebate given to most of us who, if you believe the naysayers, would spend it on lottery tickets and beer.

I’d like to thank the “naysayers” for leaving out “NASCAR tickets” and “lap-dances”.

President Bush, House Republican Leader John Boehner and others in their party have sought more handouts for their elite-class cronies and tax breaks for corporations — which, if you again believe the naysayers, would widen the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

Do “those naysayers” have the initials “BM”?

Just curious.

I digress:

Most Americans, rich or poor, don’t care about silly, ineffective tax cuts and paltry rebates.

At least, “most Americans” who are “naysayers” who think the average American will be lined up at Superamerica with his/her refund check buying Powerball and Old Milwaukee, don’t care.

Those of us who pay attention notice that tax cuts – big, sweeping ones – have a pretty good record of setting the national economic blender on “puree”.


What Americans want, and what the U.S. economy sorely needs, are jobs.

And, as luck would have it, most Americans have jobs! The Department of Labor showed that unemployment was “up” to 5% last month, even though the economy added 18,000 jobs. Granted, that is a slowdown, and there are signs we might face a recession – which is both a problem and, as it happens, occasionally necessary.

We need living-wage and decent-paying jobs. What if these jobs had the unifying goal of rebuilding our country?

“Rebuilding our country?”

Germany in Japan in 1945 needed to be rebuilt. Everything was broken! We had bombed their infrastructure back, almost literally, to the stone age.

Poland and France and Italy and the Netherlands and Luxembourg and Belgium needed to be rebuilt. Having five armies pound each other to bloody shreds in their front yards played havoc on every part of those nations.

The United States? Well, a twenty-year “urban renewal” fad did leave our inner cities blighted and in many cases nearly abandoned. Forty years of “Great Society” programs have left us with a permanent welfare underclass and an assumed obligation to subsidize poverty, rather than lift people out of it. The federal takeover of the public school system has led to collapsing performance and ballooning costs. And both helped create a forty-year-long “war on drugs” that has killed more Americans than Vietnam, and – combined with the detritus of Urban Renewal, the War on Drugs, the collapse of education, has left parts of the US – including the Near North and Phillips neighborhoods in Minneapolis – blighted, decaying free-fire zones. Oh, yeah – and decades of government subsidy have left healthcare hideously expensive, made college unaffordable except through great wealth or government aid, and helped cause the near-complete collapse of the private agricultural sector the subsidies intended to prop up.

But other than those policies – which are all legacies of precisely the same stifling statism that MacLean seems to want more of – the US is doing pretty well.

Let’s get back to Mr. MacLean. I’ll confess a certain fondness for tinkering with hypotheticals. In my mind – and occasionally on paper – I’ve designed entire societies, hypothetical perfect nations or theoretical redesigns of existing ones; nations sprung from the ether or rising from the ashes of older ones or wrenched from some descending tyranny or another. It’s fun .

It’s also something I pretty much keep in my “time wasters” folder on my computer. It’s where they belong.

And maybe Bob MacNeal will figure this out.

Let’s use the $150 billion currently proposed for rebates and corporate welfare to instead fund an 18-month infrastructure and government-efficiency initiative. This initiative — call it IGE — would be a contemporary version of the indisputably successful WPA program launched in 1935 by presidential order to cure economic depression.

The WPA was very disputably successful. Oh, the program – which put hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans to work on the government dime on all manner of infrastructure projects – did put unskilled and semiskilled workers to work. Grossly ineffecient work at, nonetheless, a subsistence wage, but work.

Bear in mind, it was the unskilled and semiskilled that suffered the worst during the Depression. People who actually produced things fared OK (although it was a wrenching, awful time for the whole nation).

MacLean may or may not know the history of the WPA (and the history he knows may or may not be the media’s orthodoxy on the subject) – but he certainly seems to be completely adrift as to the uses and realities of such a program:

Employment by IGE would target underfunded infrastructure and thwart government inefficiencies.

Didja catch that? Creating a huge government make-work program with 150 billion in funding would thwart government inefficiency?

How? By sending platoons of unemployed people through government offices, holding summary trials and giving out pink slips for inefficiency?

Some 70 years following the WPA, isn’t it time we inspected our gusset plates

Other than the people who currently do inspect them, what would Mr. MacNeal propose? Taking unemployed mortgage brokers and dry-wall installers – the people who are most affected by the current slump – and send them out to crawl around the nation’s bridges?

ENGINEER: OK, so you’re the new IGA workers. Hi.


ENGINEER:  …whatever.  So your job is to…what?

UNEMPLOYED MORTGAGE BROKER: Inspect the gusset plates.

ENGINEER: OK. You, um, know what to do?



ENGINEER: It’s those little plates that cinch those beams together, way up there.

UNEMPLOYED MORTGAGE BROKER: We’re gonna need a big ladder!

UNEMPLOYED DRYWALL INSTALLER: So what do we do? Look at them?

ENGINEER: Er…no. You measure each of them in all three dimensions. You get the material specs for each of them – assuming you can find them, but they should be in the construction documentation archive – and calculate how much load each of them can bear, and compare that to the compression and expansion load they’re getting from the various beams to which they connect. Bear in mind, you have to calculate in three dimensions, because due to settling there is some unavoidable lateral shear! Also, keep in mind that you can’t rely on the original calculations, even if you do find them, because as you know, the loads have increased with the number of cars and several repaving projects. Now, the tricky part is that you have to also allow for deterioration, both visible deterioration through corrosion and metal fatigue. Now, part of that you can get through material specs, but some of it means you’re going to have to get test samples of a meaningful number of the plates. And that means that given all the factors above, you have to figure out what a “meaningful sample” is, and then figure out how to get the testing done, either destructively or nondestructively. Then, you can have some data, and start working on corrective action. Any questiions?


ENGINEER: I thought so.

If 150 billion is not enough, perhaps we should divert some of the black-hole money that fuels the continuing catastrophic failures perpetrated by U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

I don’t suppose it would be a Strib op-ed without a “black hole” reference to the Middle East, would it?

The old way of addressing government inefficiencies was budget-cutting that led, ultimately, to limited or poor taxpayer service. The new way is to use up-to-date business practices. IGE employment aimed at thwarting government inefficiencies could be implemented by hiring the country’s best business analysts, consultants and home-grown programmers.

MacNeal? Slapnuts? America’s best business analysts, consultants and programmers are already working! They are already earning a “living wage” times several!

And most of them – I am assuming this, but it’s an educated assumption – would rather gouge their eyes out than work a government gig, with its stultifying bureaucratic overburden and, paradoxically, low (for technical professionals) pay.

And what does Mr. MacNeal think – that a bunch of business analsysts are going to change the way governmemnt works?

These folks could institute contemporary business practices, upgrade hardware, and provide software automation and systems integration through all levels of government.

Americans are capable. WPA workers built 650,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges, 125,000 buildings and 700 miles of airport runways.

That MacNeal compares a huge make-work program for the unskilled to a fantasy about drafting armies of technicians makes me wonder – what does he do for a living?

Bob MacNeal, St. Paul, is a software consultant.


It’s a small market, but I don’t think I’ve met Mr. MacNeal.

But perhaps if he brings the insight, knowledge and logic to his consulting gig that he did to this op-ed, it’d explain why he wants a huge government make-work program for consultants.


As we close in on this blog’s annual Reagan’s Birthday celebration, it blows my mind sometimes that there’s a whole generation of adults out there who have no concept of life that wasn’t in the post-Reagan world. People who don’t remember “Malaise”; who likely went through 12+years of schooling without really learning about the Cold War, who know little about Solzenitzyn and Reykjavik, the Brandenburg Gate; people who know the fall of the Berlin Wall only from music videos and various bits of post-irony.

I got an email from someone today; this person was born in 1985 and, like an awful lot of people, is not a political junkie (and is thus pretty normal!). This person writes:

Hey Mitch! __________ here….. i’ve got a bit of a question for you that will make you see how uneducated i am about politics before my time (i’m 22.)
i’ve been reading your blog, truthfully not understanding a lot of it, but i’m interested: the general consensus whenever Reagan is brought up is
that he screwed up. Even Republicans think this way. i was raised in a house where from noon-5 all our radios blasted Rush Limbaugh and Joe Soucheray. My parents are uber-conservatives, who raised me with this line: “Ronald Reagan was a GREAT president.” That’s all they said. i never thought about it much, but for some reason a lot of people have been talking about him lately, my parents saying “I wish there were another Reagan running” and everyone else, including many people who post on your blog saying “Wow, Reagan was a mistake.” What did he do that was so wrong that even Republicans are bad-mouthing him? i haven’t been able to do much research on this, but if you could point me in the direction of a “Reagan for dummies” or another such resource, i’d be much obliged. i googled it, but there is way too much stuff that i don’t even know where to start. Thanks!

If you’re busy, don’t worry about it-it’s just a
casual interest of mine.

Well, of course I responded! The notion that people can grow up in this society and get their entire exposure to Reagan from people who are dedicated to rolling back his legacy – teachers, professors, the media, Hollywood – is a national travesty; any chance to try to roll it back, even for one person, is an opportunity and a gift.

So my response:

A *great* book to read – and a fast one, at that – is Ronald Reagan – How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary President”, by Dinesh D’Souza. It’s a
fast read, and it’s a GREAT intro to the life of Reagan by a guy who was about your age when he worked in the White House. I’d lend you a copy, but he only copy I own is already lent out!

I grew up in a Democrat house, and was a liberal until was…well, about your age! And Reagan was the first Republican I ever voted for. It occurs to me
there’s a couple of generations out there who don’t kow how hopeless this country felt during the Ford and Carter years; your (plural!) entire frame of
reference is post-Reagan America! If you ever get a chance to see “Miracle” with Kurt Russell – the story of the ’80 US Olympic Hockey team (jeez, that was years before you were born!), the beginning shows a lot of why America was in trouble before 1980; demoralized from Vietnam and Watergate, with economic troubles that seemed intractable (inflation AND high unemployment). Add in Jimmy Carter telling us in a speech that we might all have to get used to the US being a smaller, weaker country, and top it off with *Iran* taking 53 Americans hostage and making the world laugh at us for a year and a half – it was a miserable time to be an American.

Just to give you a *very* quick digest of Reagan’s pros and cons:


  • he turned that around. Reagan was all about hope, patriotism. America never stopped being great, in Reagans world, and never would! We were still the “shining city on the hill”, not just the lesser of evils.
  • He articulated a vision for smaller government and lower taxes. Remember – before Reagan, the highest marginal tax rate was over 70%! He cut that to under 40%, and made it stick!
  • He had a vision; a world without Communism. He’d spent the forties and fifties (when he was still a liberal Democrat!) fighting communism in Hollywood as president of the Screen Actors Guild. When much of the punditry believed that Communism and all of its horrors were here to stay, Reagan said “No” – we were going to free all those hundreds of millions of people. When his advisors advised him in 1987 to go easy on Gorbachev in a speech in Berlin, Reagan said – before a crowd of rapturous, screaming Berliners – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”. Four years later, the wall that *everyone* thought was permanent…was gone. This was HUGE for me. I grew up just down the road from a missile silo – the first place that’d have been nuked had the world gone to war. I wondered as a teenager and twentysomething – “why would I dare bring a kid into this world when the chances for a nuclear holocaust are so high, and so close by?” My daughter was born not long after the Berlin Wall fell, and after NORAD stood down from “hair-trigger” alert for the first time in a generation. For that ALONE, I thank God – and Ronald Reagan. I’m deadly serious – I still get a little choked up over that, alone – and more than a little POed at the historically-ignorant liberals who just. don’t. Get it.
  • He created a genuine dialog in this country. Before Reagan, Republicans – dating back to the forties – were not that much different than Democrats; both parties weree big government, high-tax, high-intervention parties – the GOP *slightly* less so. (In Minnesota, it took an extra twenty years to
    have that debate, but it’s finally on, and the DFL hates every second of it!). Finally, there was a genuine alternative – which a lot of liberals find very, very threatening.CONS
  • He ran up a huge deficit. He spent A LOT of money on defense, and still managed to hold the line on t xes. That meant he spent a LOT of money, and racked up a big deficit. George Will dinged him endlessly on spending. Of course, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln both racked up huge deficits, too; they had wars to win, and the nation was better off for it in both cases. Reagan had a war (albeit a Cold one) to win, too. Some economists have shown that America *saved* so much money on defense in the nineties (because there was no more Cold War!) that it more than repaid the costs of the Reagan Deficit – indeed, the “peace dividend” was largely what made the Clinton Presidency so prosperous.
  • He didn’t do that much about social issues. While he was pro-life, he didn’t advance the pro-life movement all that much. I suspect that it’s largely because he didn’t see the role of the federal government to be changing social views (and I agree!).

That’s about the quickest intro to Reagan I could give. He was, without any doubt, the greatest president of my lifetime, and the best of the last half of the Twentieth Century; I’m not sure who’s dinging on him and why, but there’s my two cents.

I think that was a good, quick summary…

Continue reading

Fitting Retribution

Wackjob town in Vermont refers an initiative to arrest Bush and Cheney for “war crimes”:

Brattleboro residents will vote at town meeting on whether President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be indicted and arrested for war crimes, perjury or obstruction of justice if they ever step foot in Vermont.

I think the rest of the US should vote to bestow a fate worse than prison.

Maybe having to share a hotel room for a weekend with Tim O’Brien and Matt Snynders.

Glittering Prizes and Endless Compromises

Today on the Northern Alliance Radio Network:

  • Volume I “The First Team” – John, Brian and Chad – will kick things off from 11-1. No idea, as this is written, what they’re going to talk about.
  • Volume II “The Headliner”Ed and I will be doing our thing from 1-3.  We’re scheduled to talk with Steven Baskerville.
  • Volume III, “The Final Word”King and Michael will talk Minnesota trash after that until 5PM.  They’ll be talking with Peter Fritz, the Carlton College student that Al Franken piled on last week, along with Ron Carey.

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of sanity. On the air at AM1280 in the Metro, or streaming at AM1280’s Website, or via podcast at Townhall.
(Along with the Stroms, from 9-11, natch).

Take An Infinite Number of Mitches…

…and have them try an infinite number of careers, and eventually you’ll get lucky.

Actually, I got lucky ten years ago, when I switched into my current career. And it seems that people are finally sitting up and noticing, as FastCompany’s list of “Ten Jobs You Didn’t Know You Wanted” does:

Interaction designer
Interaction designers work at all stages of product development to design innovative and user-friendly products. In addition to wearing the traditional hat of a designer, they work with executives to define goals for products and systems in development. They also investigate how people actually engage with new products and systems by creating “personas,” hypothetical users with constructed life stories, to predict their reactions.

Although many interaction designers have advanced degrees in design, such a background isn’t a prerequisite, says David Fore, head of consulting services at Cooper, a pioneering interaction design firm. Fore previously worked as a reporter for industry publications — valuable experience, given that interaction designers’ research requires “the skills of a reporter and an anthropologist,” according to him.

 Reporter and anthropologist?  Sure.  Add engineer, negotiator and psychologist.

In addition to the competitive salary, interaction designers enjoy the opportunity “to learn about every walk of life and industry imaginable,” says Fore. “There’s working with stock brokers, working with a golf course superintendent, an advertising creative director, working with a nurse to build infusion pumps. Everyone needs product design.”

They don’t all know it, but they do, indeed.

You Ask Why?

I ask “Why Not?

A farmer built an entire mock castle behind a screen of hay bales…

 Of course, the long, stultifying arm of the law is there to screw things up:

…and lived there concealed for four years to evade planning regulations, officials said on Friday — but it may be torn down anyway.

Robert Fidler hopes to take advantage of a provision of planning law that allows buildings without planning permission to be declared legal if no objections have been made after four years

But Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey is not impressed.

“It does not count because the property was hidden behind hay bales,” said a spokeswoman. “No one knew it was there.”

You’d think they had bigger things to worry about over there…

Shaking Off The Fatigue

My blog child, Doug Williams, notes in a long and essential post that’s chock-full of good stuff you need to read, (and not just because it links back to me) that…:

[Republicans, as opposed to Conservatives] don’t nominate Ronald Reagan every 4 years. We only nominated him twice… and he was personally available before that and rejected. We USUALLY nominate someone like Gerald Ford, George Bush (either one), or Bob Dole.

Considering that is our OBVIOUS habit, what the hell is so shocking about the current slate of candidates?!

I’ll go one step further; given the “choices” we’ve had to put up with in the past – George HW Bush, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford – this year’s slate might, by some measures, be a big step up from the usual fare we get.

I don’t care why you disagree with them or where… Romney, McCain, and Giuliani are all WELL within the mainstream of the Republican nominations of the recent past. So many people are acting like something is SOOO special about not getting a perfect candidate this year. Hell… when has that EVER happened? Even Saint Ronald had crap he endorsed as California Governor AND as President which the current generation of chucklehead voters would apparently find disqualifying because such things are evidence that someone is not a “true conservative.”

One of my most special possessions is a book of George Will columns from the eighties. 

Guess what he said about Reagan?

My advice to all involved is to step back juuuust enough to embrace the notion that our system of government has ALWAYS been one in which movements have to deal with compromise and the lesser of evils. That’s not new. It’s not a crisis. It’s just the way America’s government works. Blame your teachers if you find your expectations dashed coming to grips with this reality, because it’s not remotely new.

You will never get a 100% perfect candidate – at least, not from a party that every has to govern, anywhere (get outta here, Libertarians).  The goal is to find one that’s better than the alternative. 

As I said on Wednesday – is there any rational doubt that any of the current crop of Republicans, whatever their imperfections as first-principle conservatives, wouldn’t be better than Ms. Putin, Silkypony or Obie?

If you’re not sure (and by “you”, I mean this blog’s conservative audience), consider the following:

  • Associate Justice Michael Moore
  • Associate Justice Sean Penn
  • Associate Justice Markos Moulitsas.

Have I made myself clear?

Shapes Of Things

Simple Fact:  None of the great famines of the last 100 years – Ukraine in the ’30s, Bengal in the ’40s, China at various times but focuses in the ’50s, India and Bangladesh in the ’60’s, Sub-saharan Africa in the ’70s, Ethiopia in the ’80s – was caused by a lack of food. 

None.  Zero.  Every last one of the above was caused by government action.

A further simple fact:  no place with a free market and a free press has ever suffered a famine.  Every one of the famines above were caused by governments that had dictatorial powers, either structurally (most of them) or due to exigent circumstances (British-controlled Bengal in the early forties, in which the government assumed wartime powers over distribution and the press). 

In every case above, but for government intervention (usually hostile, as in the case of the USSR, China and Ethiopia, but sometimes “well-meaning”, as with the spectacular, grisly failure of India’s foray into big-state socialism), the means – food! – existed to solve the famine.

Of course, it’s misleading to compare the Ukranian Famine of the ’30s – which was induced by Stalin’s Cheka/NKVD to force the collectivization of Ukrainian farmland – with India, whose hamfisted attempts at creating an industrial powerhouse by second-world means was such an incredible human catastrophe.  Isn’t it?

Well, not if you’re starving.

All of that is just backgrond for this story; Hugo Chavez is sending the army to confiscate food from Venezuela’s food merchants, to “alleviate shortages”:

Venezuela’s top food company has accused troops of illegally seizing more than 500 tonnes of food from its trucks as part of President Hugo Chavez’s campaign to stem shortages.

The leftist Chavez this week created a state food distributor and loosened some price controls, seeking to end months of shortages for staples like milk and eggs that have caused long lines and upset his supporters in the OPEC nation.

Price controls?  State distribution?

Yeah, goodness knows that’s worked so well every time it’s been tried.

Simple economic fact:  You can not make something worth other than what people are willing to pay for it. 

Artificially lower the price?  Expect shortages; people will gladly pay $1 for $2 worth of product!  Expect the black market to try to make up for the shortages; expect massive amounts of the artificially-cheap product to find their way to the black market.

Artificially raise the price?  Expect the black market to fill the demand for cheaper.

Did someone say “black market?”

The highly publicised campaign has also included government crackdowns on accused smuggling, with the military seizing 1,600 tonnes of food and sending 1,200 troops to the border with Colombia.

Using the military to crack down on the black market caused by government-induced shortages?

Why, it’s like a “war on drugs”, only with food!

Jose Anzola, a director of food company Alimentos Polar, told reporters that troops stopped 27 of its trucks over the last three days and described the seizures as “illegal, arbitrary and irresponsible.”

Troops said they halted the transport of 350 tonnes of food to states along the Colombian border on suspicion of smuggling, he said. Another 165 tonnes were impounded in an eastern state on accusations of hoarding, he added.

In other words, he’s sending the military to undo peoples’ responses to the shortages his own government is causing.

Business leaders say shortages of these products are caused by strict price controls, which have lagged inflation that is Latin America’s highest.

Chavez is focusing on practical issues like food supply and crime after losing a December referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and expand his self-styled revolution.

He announced an increase of more than 30% in the retail price of milk in an effort to ease shortages that have created headaches for consumers of all social classes.

He also threatened to expropriate companies selling food above regulated prices.

“Anyone who is distributing food … and is speculating, we must intervene and we must expropriate (the business) and put it in the hands of the state and the communities,” Chavez said during the inauguration of a new state-run market in Caracas.

Let’s see how well that works.

Any bets?

BONUS QUESTION:  What do you suppose happens when Hillary, Obie or Silkypony does the same exact thing to healthcare in the US?