I’m Not Sure What Surprised Me More

Whether it was that the MinnPost is doing stories that sound like they could have come from the “Around Town” column in a small-town weekly…:

Sources close to the 400 Bar are reporting that a squirrel recently got into the historic West Bank music landmark and did serious damage to the top row of the liquor shelf behind the bar.

…or the details of the actual damage done:

Co-owner/manager Tom Sullivan is telling friends that the club lost several high-end bottles of Scotch in the little rodent’s raid. Sullivan couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but a good bottle of Chivas Regal goes for hundreds of dollars (not this much, we hope) and, as this edition of MinnPost went to press, police liked this guy as a suspect.

This is the same 400 Bar I played back in ’86-88?   The place where ordering Michelob got you branded an effete pansy?

Either they’ve moved upmarket, or west-end rock-bar barflies have a lot more money than they used to…

Where Was Blagojevich On Christmas Eve?

“Small Fire” at “Candidate #5’s” house on Christmas Eve:

The origin of the fire was underneath the main fireplace in the residence. The homeowners are listed in a police report as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), police said.

No injuries were reported.

From Second City Cop:

While we certainly hope that everyone got out ok, we can’t help but wonder that so soon after a sweeping indictment of Illinois and Chicago politics is released, a mysterious fire breaks out at the home of someone who’s been feeding information to the feebs about a sitting governor since 2003 after a $25,000 “dishonorarium” was solicited for a state job.We certainly hope Fitzgerald subpoenas the debris and ashes and finds out what was lost in the blaze.

Sometimes a fire is just a fire…?

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

From Luke – one of history’s original bloggers, 2,000 years ago (give or take a few):

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Merry Christmas, all.

Posting will be, obviously, pretty nonexistant today.

Warm Up That Friggin’ Apple Cider!

While I actually had all my serious shopping done a week ago, I always make a point of saving one last thing on my Christmas list for Christmas Eve. 

I like to have that one bit of last-minute, woozy, frantic, cheery mayhem before I head home for the family holiday – but just a very controlled dose of it.  So one item (per kid) it is.  It’s always one of the highlights of the day. 

And time’s a-wastin’, so I’m on my way.

At any rate – this has been a good year for me, the Berg family, and this blog.  Thank you all for stopping by this past year, and may you all have a wonderful, blessed Christmas season.

Paging Max Headroom

I finally got around to reading David Brauer’s two part interview with Tom Mischke (parts one and two), about his exit from KSTP and his thoughts on the future of the business.

More on that in a bit.


I remember walking into KSTP the night I filled in for Bob Davis, on January 23, 2003.  It was the first time I’d set foot in a radio station in ten years; the first time I’d done a talk show in almost sixteen.

I felt a little bit like Rip Van Winkel.  When I’d left radio, shows were recorded on cassettes; audio editing and production work was done on twelve-inch reel to reel tapes; commercials, songs and dropins came on “Carts” (which looked and worked like eight-track tapes, for those of you old enough to remember them).  At my last previous radio “job” – as a volunteer news guy at KFAI – they’d just installed a computer to download the AP wire and allow a little rudimentary editing.

At KSTP (and AM1280, which followed about a year later), everything was on computer; commercials, dropins (on a slick touch-screen array), commands to switch between recorded, live and satellite programming, even the recorded programs themselves. 

And that was the least of it.  As I’ve noted many times in the past, when I left KSTP-AM, it was the poor cousin of the Hubbard empire; Hubbard Broadcasting had been trying to sell KSTP-AM for years, with no luck – because rumors had it that AM was dead, and the band was going to get decommissioned eventually.  By 2003, that was in the past; KSTP-AM was financially carrying Channel 5, Channel 45, KS95, Estrogen 107 and the rest of the Hubbard operation.

A number of things hadn’t changed, though.

  • When radio management wants you gone?   You’re gone.
  • If you give Hubbard Broadcasting a silk purse, they’ll not only find a way to make a sow’s ear out of it, but in such a way as to make the observer wonder if sows can be on meth. 
  • ———-

Mischke on exactly why Hubbard told him they’d gassed his show:

On the day I was fired, I was handed a transcript of a conversation I had with my producer two weeks earlier. I remembered the conversation. I had been curious to know where the jingle for [Hubbard-owned] Channel 45 had come from. It’s the little sing-song way they say “45.”

I wanted to know who came up with it, how many other ways they thought to sing it, what talent they hired to deliver the jingle and how many different takes there were. I suppose I just wanted to learn the backstory behind a modern corporate jingle.

I asked my producer to call them and ask them, knowing full well these are fellow Hubbard employees. My producer refused. I think he was just tired of me having him do various things while he was busy trying to answer the phone.

So I picked up the phone and called them myself, on the air. I phoned downstairs, a receptionist answered, and I asked to speak to someone at Channel 45. She said, “Just a minute” and put me on hold. I then put the entire call on hold and asked my producer if he’d now please speak to them off the air so as to get a sense of where that jingle came from.

That’s what I was fired for. Making that call to the receptionist without getting her permission.

[David Brauer]: Isn’t such a call an FCC violation?

A: They told me it was indeed an FCC violation.

Back in 1986, Don Vogel caught wind that the afternoon guy at the old WLOL-FM, a chucklehead named “Doctor Dave”, was lifting a bit of Vogel’s (a takeoff on radio tele-shrink Dr. Harvey Ruben) on WLOL’s wacky afternoon zoo.  He told me to get “Dr. Dave” on the air.  Via a contact or two, producer Dave Elvin had their studio line number handy.  I called “Dr. Dave”, and Don put him on the air, live.  Of course, being a newbie to talk radio, I didn’t know there’d be a problem; Don, a fifteen year vet of Chicago talk, didn’t know either.

There was.  There is an FCC regulation whose number I could, until recently, recite from memory, saying that radio stations can not put someone on the air without them having a realistic expectation of knowing they are being put on the air.  You have to tell people they’re going to be on the air, we were told, by an irate station counsel who’d just gotten an irate phone call from an irate general manager at WLOL.  We spent the next day wondering if we were going to get fired.  Our own GM, Scott Meier, saved the day, basically saying that we’d forget their plagiarism if they’d forget our stunt.  It blew over.

You’re thinking “not only does every half-assed FM morning show in the world do ambush calls for yuks, but Mischke’s made an art form of those kinds of calls”.  And you’d be right.  Heck – we had a long-running bit on the Vogel show, “Random Call”, where we’d pick an area code and dial a random number, often to hilarious results (like Christmas Eve, 1985, where we got a hold of the Nome, Alaska Police Department squad room, with predictably deadpan-hilarious results).

And beyond that? Back in Mischke’s early years on evenings – one of the first times I listened to him, in the early nineties – I heard him struggling to get someone on the air, live and uninformed.  I called the studio; my old friend and colleague Joe Hansen – aka “The Jackal”, at that point – answered, and I told him about my near-miss on Vogel.  They waved off on the bit – that time.  Naturally, Mischke followed through on the bit the next umpteen jillion times.

Do you think this was news to KSTP-AM’s program director, Steve Konrad, or to his various levels of management?

If so, I have a tape from Willie Clark that I’d like to try to sell you.


If you can say one thing for Mischke, it’s that he’s a comedic genius with a flair for using radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and traditions, as a tool in his comic toolbox.

If you can say one more thing for him, it’s that he’s always seemed to keep radio, with all of its foibles and limitations and corrosive dysfunction, in its place. 

Mischke said, and believes, all sorts of things that separate him from the mainstream (i.e. successful) parts of talk radio, but make it safe for the likes of Garrison Keillor to be an “out” fan.  Still, it’s hard to work in commercial radio (outside of Air America) and not understand what actually works out there these days:

I watched many people attempt radio shows over the years. I saw talk hosts come and go. In all my years at KSTP, I saw only three shows succeed — truly succeed. The only three programs to ever generate any kind of decent ratings at all were Rush Limbaugh, Jason Lewis and Joe Soucheray. That’s it.The rest of us never offered anything in the way of mass appeal. So any talk host, outside of those three, should walk away, following a firing, feeling lucky to have been given a shot.

Three hosts; a populist conservative, an intellectual conservative, and a culturally-conservative-to-the-point-of-reactionary curmudgeon. 

Mischke clearly understands something that KSTP-AM’s management does not.

[Brauer]: Where do you think KSTP is headed? The talk around town is about terrible numbers, save for Joe, and a pricey Twins contract that might not pay off, since it was signed during good times but now must be sold to advertisers during bad times. This is a strange time in radio and there’s something to say here.

A: Radio, as we’ve known it in this country, is dying. I don’t envy anyone trying to make the transition to the next stage in media. The Twins gamble has not paid off for KSTP. It has not affected ratings.

That has been very disappointing. It was a coup to steal them from ‘CCO, but oh, the cost.

You add that to the fact that Soucheray is the only talk host over there driving home each day feeling good about his ratings and you have big worries. Tack on the dismal economy with its bleak advertising picture and you have more than just worries.

But after all that – especially after my “Rip Van Winkle” riff at the beginning of this long post – we get to the interesting part; the future of talk radio. 

It’s overly obvious to say that “things have changed since Mischke and I got into the business”.  The interesting part is, “where are those things going?”

I was pondering that as Ed and I did the NARN2 show last Saturday; while talk radio was years ahead of the traditional dead-tree and showbiz-broadcast media in incorporating interactivity – phone callers with their own points to add – it was all still very hierarchic.  Callers passed through a screener to get to the host, who was the center of attention.  And that’s changing, I thought, as Ed and I worked the webcam, kept up with the chatroom and the Twitter thread and the incoming email and, by the way, did a broadcast show.  The audience’s relationship with a talk show host is changing in an analogous way to the changes the Blog brought to the reader’s relationship to the newspaper; the host isn’t necessarily in charge of the conversation by sole virtue of having the microphone. 

It’s not bad – indeed, being a blogger, I’d be dumb to do anything but embrace the change.  But it is different. 

I think every radio station in town has to pray to God they have a visionary on their staff. This is the time for change and innovation. A dramatic shift needs to occur.

I hope to end up somewhere where this idea is fully grasped, where the ideas move to the Internet, websites, video-blogging, music, live streaming. I think what is about to rise out of the ashes of the old radio model is far more exciting and interesting than what has come before. Some station in this town is going to be the first to fully exploit this. To those folks go the spoils.

The future is out there.  I sincerely hope – and believe – that Mischke is a part of it.

Among others.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas!

Here at the Hopey Changey Roosh household, we are concerned for the environment too.

We’re all wearing Green to celebrate the coming rescue by Brrr Ack! Obanana of our besieged Mother Earth.

After reading Mitch’s alarming post, I convened an ad hoc family symposium! Starting today, we only turn on our L.E.D. Christmas (er – sorry to offend) X-Mas lights during off-peak hours (2:20-2:40 AM) so please stop by then to enjoy their glorious splendor.

We have our thermostat set for a cozy 52 degrees, but we’re a Snuggly-Wuggly clan! Plus, we have discovered coats and snow pants aren’t just for the outdoors any more! Yay!

Our Turkey was interviewed before we chose it to make sure that it wasn’t mistreated, and we made sure to buy one that died of old age.


In order to thwart Global Warming Cooling Change, we are walking to Church as a family this year! It’s 4.9 miles by car but we should be able to shave some of that by cutting through yards and crossing streets diagonally, like The Crosstown Highway 62. It’ll be a swell time to try out our new Vegan-Tanned Ethical Leather shoes!

Gift-giving is another way to express your rage for the Bush Administration, Corporations, Employers, Wall Street, Exxon, SUV Owners, Methane-Leaking Cows, Taxpayers, Jon Voight, God-Fearing Bible Bangers, Plumbers and Hockey Moms.

First of all, we’re really into recycling, so all of our gifts are recycled this year too!

I can’t wait to see the look on Great Grandpa’s face when he unwraps my son’s Playstation 2! We didn’t want to contribute to the slaughter of our forests so we wrapped it in Saran Wrap.

A guy in the cube next to me says he read an email from an old girlfriend whose Mom’s boyfriend knows a lab assistant that said manufacturing new gifts releases more carbon trioxide into the environment which has created a massive tidal wave of Arctic runoff that is heading towards Florida and is going to come ashore next Wednesday.

So we did our part.

Not to worry, the kids won’t be disappointed! They’re all getting their own Starter Kits for Change! Wait ’till all their little friends see this!

…a super-cool, eco-friendly, gift that keeps on giving! Packed full of green goodies that include a recycled, reusable tote bag, and arbor day tree seedling or “tree in a box”, fair trade hot chocolate, a treeless journal, soduku booklet, compact fluorescent light bulb, gratitude cards, and an envelope to end hunger.

Fun! Yay!

It Was Inevitable

“Scientists” warn us that Christmas lights can harm the planet:

CSIRO researchers said householders should know that each bulb turned on in the name of Christmas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases.Dr Glenn Platt, who leads research on energy demand, said Australia got 80 per cent of its electricity by burning coal which pumps harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Er,yeah.  Let’s not forget that wrapping paper, festive meals, gleeful consumerism and, what the heck, flying reindeer all impact the environment.

I may just have to start an astroturf scientific group to tell scientists what they can do with that Festivus pole.

People To Remember This Christmas

Joe Galloway (via Michael Yon) asks us to remember…:

Even in hard times, this is the holiday season and a time when thoughts turn to home and family and dinner tables covered with food and gaily wrapped presents and bright lights.Save a moment amid the celebrations to give thought to the hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform in far-flung parts of this world who won’t be sitting down to dinner with their families.

More than 170,000 men and women of our military will spend their Christmas and New Year’s in Iraq and Afghanistan, where killing and dying never take a day off.

Oh, Uncle Sam will do his best to see that most of them sit down to a special dinner of hot turkey and dressing and all the trimmings, and even in the most remote outpost some soldier or Marine will jury-rig a tree of sorts with decorations of sorts.

But it’s a hollow celebration for a lonely soldier so far from home and loved ones, and lonely, too, at that dinner table back home where a chair stands empty at the head of the table.

Galloway – the dean of American war correspondents – remembers more than a few such Christmases:

Another memory is of Thanksgiving in the Saudi Arabian desert in November of 1990. I’d signed up to go eat turkey and trimmings with some unit, somewhere out among the sand dunes, when I was called to board a bus with two dozen other reporters and photographers…I stepped off literally in the middle of nowhere. A tall captain of artillery stepped up and saluted: “Mr. Galloway, we are C Battery, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery. We call ourselves The Falcons and you will understand why far better than anyone. We provided fire support for the 7th Cavalry at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang.”

I stood there unable to say a word, tears rolling down my cheeks. Then I knew that somewhere in that cold, forbidding institution that is an Army, there was both a memory and a heart, and that heart was as tender as my own.

I’ve never had so fine a Thanksgiving dinner as that one in an Army mess tent in a cold, windswept desert; never enjoyed the company and camaraderie so much as I did then and there.

Hope this Christmas has you awash in good company and fellowship – and thankful for what you have.  As tough as times are, it could be a lot worse.

But…I Thought..They Were Always…Um…

The WaPo has been drifting toward…balance?

Former Washington Post reporter Ron Kessler believes his old paper “has steadily become more fair” since Katharine Weymouth became publisher. “It has become more probing and interesting as well,” he contends.

On the one hand, I’d agree.

On the other – I need to go out and start scanning leftyblogs for complaints that the WaPo has become “conservative”. 

Y’know.  Like many of them claim the Strib is, and has always been.

My Husband Went For A Job Interview and Never Came Back

I was viewing a news video on CNN.com and the obligatory pre-commercial was for openings at the CIA.

What does it mean for our Men In Black if they need to advertise? There’s no waiting list, what with all the cool toys and mysterious women you meet?

Are you qualified?

The CIA has very high standards for hiring. Some suggestions they offer on their public website for people who may be interested in CIA jobs are:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Strengthen verbal and written communication skills
  • Keep a clean record-that means absolutely no involvement with illegal drugs and no criminal activity at all, because no one can work for the CIA without a security clearance
  • Hone foreign language skills

Hey, wait a minute. The President of the United States doesn’t even need all that! U.S. Citizen? Pfffft!

Successful applicants must go through a rigorous background investigation (emphasis mine-JR) and physical and psychological testing.

Like the President? Ah, never mind.

Then I learned this piece of information that I am sure the Government doesn’t want you to know.

I was visiting the site www.c[CLICK]

Dumbed Down

One of the things that makes a conservative a conservative is opposition to the relentless dumbing-down of our culture.

Authoritarians need a dumb, compliant population, focused purely on their own material wants and needs – people who value punctual trains over liberty – to succeed.

Our education system has been failing for at least a generation to try to produce anything but that.

Jay Reding notes that even the Chinese are getting this:

The Asia Times talks about the value of classical music in forming a strong and supple mind:

Any activity that requires discipline and deferred gratification benefits children, but classical music does more than sports or crafts. Playing tennis at a high level requires great concentration, but nothing like the concentration required to perform the major repertoire of classical music. Perhaps the only pursuit with comparable benefits is the study of classical languages. It is not just concentration as such, but its content that makes classical music such a formative tool.

I’m not one of those people who dings on “rap” music strictly for its own sake – but there’s a great point here.

Classical music ties a lot of highfalutin’ concepts – meter, melody, harmony, counterpoint – together simultaneously. Not only does playing it require a lot of concentration, years of practice and long-delayed gratification, but listening to it takes time and effort to really appreciate – which was why colleges used to teach “music appreciation”. For people who don’t grow up around classical music (and I didn’t, although I played cello from ages 10 to 22, and can still crank out a tune, so I like to think I’m a fairly literate listener) some of those concepts are not things that jump out and grab you by the hypothalamus. It takes time, practice…education to really get it.

As contrast, I present hip-hop. No, this is not the standard-issue social conservative attack on the form; indeed, I used to be a rap DJ. There is a skill to taking a rhythm apart; there is a certain art to the wordplay that a really, really good rapper brings to the table. But hip-hop is about rhythm, which is the most immediately obvious aspect of music; even babies can perceive and completely enjoy rhythm and simple melody.

And there was a time when the goal was to master things that babies couldn’t do.
Jay writes:

The problem is that the concepts of “discipline” and “delayed gratification” are practically foreign to Americans these days. We’ve become a nation that has begun to systematically rout out the qualities that make us strong. Instead of allowing children to explore, we coddle them. Instead of teaching the classics, we teach drivel. We teach “self esteem” instead of formal logic. A classical education trained young minds to think critically, appreciate culture, and inculcated them with the values necessary for life in a democratic society. Now, thanks to the relentless dumbing-down of society, that sort of education has been cast out as being “patriarchal,” “ethnocentric” and even just plain “racist.” It is any irony that the Chinese seem to have a finer appreciation for our culture than we do.

Yes, it is.

There’s a parallel, of course.

Like classical music, conservatism is not intuitive to most people. Toddlers have a hard time with Hayek and Mahler, but can fully wrap their minds around “make people happy” and banging on pots. To embrace conservatism – the conservatism of Hayek and Buckley and Goldwater moreso than most of your single-issue varieties – takes some of the same attributes.

Anyone can figure out the First Amendment.  The Tenth Amendment?  That’s complicated.

The Price Of Solvency

There’s an old parable of a group of frogs.  Things were getting difficult in the pond, so the frogs demanded a king.

They were sent a new king; a stork.

Storks, naturally, eat frogs.  The frogs weren’t happy about this – but hey, they’d asked for a king, rigt?

With that in mind – what’s the price of effectively socializing the auto industry?

(Besides going down the same road that led us from Jaguar/Cooper/Lotus/Bentley/Rover to British Leyland, obviously?)

Eternal stagnance, perhaps?

The Bush administration’s $13.4 billion rescue of GM and Chrysler is a fitting finish to a year in which governments around the world expanded their role in the economy and markets after three decades of retreat.The intervention comes at what may prove to be a steep price. Future investment may be allocated less efficiently as risk-averse politicians make business decisions. Whenever banks decide to lend again, they are likely to find new capital requirements that will curb how freely they can do it. Interest rates may be pushed up by government borrowing to finance trillions of dollars of bailouts.

Perhaps the problem is that we have a generation of reporters, government figures, businesspeople and “thinkers” who don’t remember the nadir of the seventies, when the US economy flirted with socialism (and much of the rest of the Western world went way past flirting, figuratively ending up in the locker room with the whole metaphoric soccer team on the rhetorical first date).  The pain of the Carter years has dimmed in the minds of too many – or, perhaps those teachers, reporters and other eminementoes were biding their time in college and were immune to it?  I don’t know.

“We’re seeing a more statist world economy,” says Ken Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “That’s not good for growth in the longer run.”

It’s not good for stocks either, says Paola Sapienza, associate professor of finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Slower economic growth means lower profits. Shares might also be hurt by investor uncertainty about the scope and timing of government intervention in the corporate sector.

“If the rules of the game are changing, people are reluctant to invest in the stock market,” Sapienza says.

Which slows everything down.


Vice-President Elect Joe-Blow Biden is such a buzzkill.

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) — Vice President-elect Joe Biden said he is worried about the “exceedingly high expectations” that world leaders have placed on President-elect Barack Obama.

“Their expectation for Barack’s presidency is overwhelming,” Biden said, according to excerpts from an interview with CNN’s Larry King Live, scheduled to air at 9 p.m. tonight, New York time. “They are so hungry to have an American leader who they think has a policy that reflects our stated values, as well as one they can talk to.”

Obama’s three-million-jobs-created goal pulled from thin air this week notwithstanding, it turns out Barack Obama may have somehow, unbeknownst, inadvertently, created expectations for his administration that he may or may not be able to manifest.


Newsflash: Some of us never believed anything he said then or now.

I think I know what Joe is saying, at least here at home. People will have to pay their own mortgages, work for a living and go back to worshiping the incumbent savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Oh – I almost forgot – and do their own Christmas shopping (despite the sentiment expressed in our recent poll).

Obama can still walk on water, as long as it’s frozen. Less hopey, less changey. More samey, more lamey.


Speaking Of

The Bad News is…we lost the election…many times over.

Amid all the pressures on the radio industry, news-talk stations see an opportunity — and his name is Barack Obama.

After eight years of playing defense for President Bush, the conservatives who dominate talk radio are back on offense.

Hours after Mr. Obama’s election, the country’s most popular radio host, Rush Limbaugh, was talking about the “rebirth of principled opposition.”

Sean Hannity, the second highest-rated host, quickly cast his afternoon show as the home of “conservatism in exile.”

Premiere Radio, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, is projecting a consistent audience from 2008 to 2009 as it signs on advertisers. “There’s more to talk about than there has been in a hundred years,”

The good news is we may be on the verge of a Golden Age of Talk Radio and Political Blogs.

Franken’s Old Boss Hearts Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh Is Right on the Fairness Doctrine

Conservative talk radio has worked itself into a tizzy lately over the rumored revival of the Fairness Doctrine — the FCC policy that sought to enforce balanced discussion on the nation’s airwaves.

As the founding president of Air America Radio, I believe that for the last eight years Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have been cheerleaders for everything wrong with our economic, foreign and domestic policies. But when it comes to the Fairness Doctrine, I couldn’t agree with them more. The Fairness Doctrine is an anachronistic policy that, with the abundance of choices on radio today, is entirely unnecessary.

The conventional wisdom is that Rush’s success depended on the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. Some say that if he had to make time for opposing opinions, Rush would have flopped. Personally, I think he is most entertaining when he is dismantling opposing arguments. He’s successful because he is a superior entertainer.

…I also think he’s successful because despite his personal foibles, he’s right more often than he’s wrong.

The Panic That Never Ends

Sanden Totten at MPR’s “LoopHole” blog writes about the “phenomenon” of ‘Survival Panic’:

In the coming months, mental health experts expect a rise in theft, depression, drug use, anxiety and even violence as consumers confront a harsh new reality and must live within diminished means.”People start seeing their economic situation change, and it stimulates a sort of survival panic,” said Gaetano Vaccaro, deputy clinical director of Moonview Sanctuary, which treats patients for emotional and behavioral disorders. “When we are in a survival panic, we are prone to really extreme behaviors.”

The U.S. recession that took hold in December last year has threatened personal finances in many ways as home prices fall, investments sour, retirement funds shrink, access to credit diminishes and jobs evaporate.

A little background here.

My first job out of college paid a princely $3.35 an hour; by the time I got tubed at KSTP, I was making maybe $6 an hour. It was OK at the time – my bills were minuscule. My rent was $135 a month, no car payments, gas was cheap, no real serious other bills; if I sold an article or did a voice-over or production gig on the side, I was living pretty large for the month.

Then, of course, follow many lean years – exacerbated by what (if you’ve been following the last year or so of my endless “Twenty Years Ago Today” series) would probably have been diagnosed as clinical depression, if I’d been smart enough to see a doctor at the time. I worked in bars, and then more low-paying dead-end jobs in radio, and then some even worse temp jobs. The kids entered the picture around this time, which straitened things even more. I didn’t top $20K a year until 1994, after my youngest was about a year old, when I’d finally snuck into the world of IT, first as a technical writer and, from 1998 on, as a User Experience guy.

That wasn’t the end of it, of course; IT isn’t always much more secure or stable than radio. Companies fold; contracting jobs end without warning or, seemingly, reason. The 2001 recession left me out of work for five months, and doing subsistence contracting for five or six more in 2003.

I do fairly well these days, of course; it’ll be interesting to see if I can ride out a recession without another dislocation. Knock wood.

In short, I don’t know that I, personally, have “survival panic” over the economy, so much as an ongoing,lifelong “100 years’ war of survival”.  I guess I’ve gotten to age 46 without a whole lot of expectations about the material manifestations of “Success” in life.

Which, on the one hand, means my house isn’t getting into VH1 Cribs or Architectural Digest any time soon and, on the other, means I probably won’t be one of these any time soon…:

For those who need to abruptly curtail spending, that leaves a major void, said James Gottfurcht, clinical psychologist and president of “Psychology of Money Consultants,” which coaches clients on money issues.

“People that have been … identifying with and defining themselves by their material objects and expenditures are losing a definite piece of their identity and themselves,” he said. “They have to learn how to replace that.”

Now, don’t get me wrong; growing up as I did around all sorts of survivors of the Great Depression, I know that pathological frugality can be pretty debilitating, too.

Still – if this is the alternative…:

Beth Rosenberg, a New York freelance educator and self-professed bargain hunter, said she stopped shopping for herself after her husband lost his publishing job in June.

She is now buying her son toys from the popular movie Madagascar for $2 at McDonald’s, and is wearing clothes that have hung untouched in her closet for years.

She said it has been stressful to stick to an austere budget after she used to easily splurge on $100 boots. “I miss it,” she said of shopping.

…I don’t feel so bad.

Hopefully Bush’s late-administration Hooveresque socialist thrashings and Obama’s FDR-like delusions don’t stall the recovery so long that the pathology has to swerve from one pathology all the way to the other one.

Notes To A Young, Dumb Lefty

Benicio Del Toro – an excellent actor, and, like too many actors, dumb as a bag of hammers about politics and history – is directing co-producing the yuuuuuuge biopic about Che Guevara:

When asked why the movie needed to be so long, co-producer and star Benecio Del Toro replied, “That is a question for Che. Why such a fulfilled life? We believe that this is the shortest film about Che Guevara’s revolutionary life that could be made.”

Mark Goldblatt in NRO, with emphasis added:

Well, no.

The shortest film about Che’s revolutionary life has already been made. In it, a couple of scruffy, paramilitary-looking, motorcycle-riding cartoon cockroaches decide to “take over” a kitchen, running amok until a giant muscle-bound can of Raid appears and “kills them dead.”

Guevara, in reality, belongs to that species of human vermin who attach themselves to a charismatic villain — in Che’s case, Fidel Castro; in Heinrich Himmler’s case, Adolf Hitler; in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s case, Osama bin Laden — and enact their murderous agendas until the countervailing forces of history end their pathetic existences. Granted, Che is more photogenic than either the thin-lipped Poindexter Himmler or the hairy-backed Super Mario Brother Sheikh. It’s hard to imagine either of them ever moving a gross of tee shirts the way Che does. But the fact that Che continues to sell is a testament to the historical ignorance of every consumer of his visage.

I remember standing at Lake and Lyndale, at the little counterdemonstration with a little over a dozen of my friends and readers of this blog last year.

A cute redhead with a pierced nose and a carpenters apron festooned with fascist flair walked through the crowd selling buttons. Among them were a bunch of Che Guevara buttons.

“One dollar”, she said, perkily.

“You do know that Guevara was a mass murderer, don’t you? He ordered the execution of children?”

She grinned, looking a little dazed, and walked away to more fertile sales ground.

The guy ordered the murder of eight-year-old boys. He slaughtered entire families of his opponents. He was not merely a thug; he was a cowardly, sadistic thug.

To not only roil in admiration for Guevara, but to support a systematic, institutional beatification of such a person, complete with rewritten/suppressed history and iconic imagery?

Wow. Good thing that’s just the province of young, dumb radicals. Good thing no modern movement would immerse itself purely in a figure’s surface appeal and ignore all that’s underneath…

Since it’s inevitable that someone in my comment section will bleat “What? You’re comparing Obama and Che?” – Er, no.

I’m comparing their audiences.

It’s Not Just The American Media…

…that mangles facts and context.

A few weeks back Michael Yon wrote a piece about US and NATO special forces working and fighting in Afghanistan.

Here’s what he wrote:

U.S. and Afghan soldiers in Zabul Province give high marks to the Lithuanian Special Forces, who like to ride these captured Taliban motorbikes to sneak up on, and chase Taliban fighters. The “LithSof” are on their way to becoming living legends: Both Afghans and Americans report that the Taliban are afraid of the Lithuanians. Stories about them are filled with dangerous escapades and humor.

Americans say that the Lithuanians are sort of a weaponized version of Borat, who think nothing of sauntering around a base in nothing but flip-flops and underwear. “They look like mountain men. They never shave, sometimes don’t bathe, and often roll out the gate wearing nothing but body armor and weapons. Not even a t-shirt,” an American soldier told me. The Lithuanians may be a little bit nuts, but the Americans love to have them around because Lithuanians love to fight, and when you need backup, you can count on them.

The typical American reader might not know that there are Lithuanian Special Forces.  Given the state of American education, many Americans migh think Lithuania is the church formed by “Martin Lithuan” after he posted his 95 theses.

I might have been the former (certainly not the latter), but for having read brief passagein Robert Kaplan’s “Imperial Grunts” about Lithuanian Special Forces in 2003 earning nods from our “Green Berets” for bringing a pregnant cat with them to Afghanistan (soher kittens could kill the mice that plague the military camps).

Still, Yon is pretty clear:

That contrasts starkly with many of the NATO “partners.” Maybe when your country spends almost a half-century with the Soviet boot on its neck, its first generation of free soldiers know what freedom is worth — and that you sometimes have to fight for it.

Not clear enough for some in the Lithuanian media, who seized on the “Borat” stuff and ignored the obvious respect Yon showed their countrymen.

Yon Lpretty explicitly clarified things, of coursre:

To: Aitvaras [Lithuanian Special Forces] Commander
From: Michael Yon


The words I wrote about Lithuanian Special Forces were meant as the highest praise. Yet I understand that those words have been widely misinterpreted in Lithuania. One Lithuanian journalist contacted me saying that normally a gigantic story in Lithuania spawns around a 100 comments on their website, but that this one about my commentary on Lithuanian Special Forces has gotten well over 400 comments.

A number of U.S. military personal have reached out to me privately in defense of Lithuanian soldiers. My long time readers realize that my reference to LithSOF being a “weaponized version of Borat” was tongue-in-cheek. I did not realize that there are so many Lithuanian readers of my work, or how some might take offense to those four words, when the rest of the story was clearly very complimentary of LithSOF.

Read the whole thing, and rejoice; myopic media aren’t just an American phenomenon!

Er, wait.  Not “rejoice”. “Cancel your subscription,wherever you are”.

That’s what I meant.

Eighteen Million Dollars of Spam

As Governor Pawlenty prudently cuts aid to local government, these cities will in turn need to prioritize their expenditures.

I’ve got an idea. Cut lobbying expenditures.

Plymouth taking an exit from I-494 lobbying group

Unhappy that Interstate 494 has not been widened through Plymouth as it has through Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, Plymouth plans to pull out of the 494 Corridor Commission and pocket the $16,000 it would have contributed to the lobbying group next year.

Over the past 10 years, the city has paid more than $100,000 to be part of the multi-city group but without obvious benefit, Mayor Kelli Slavik said. “They don’t seem to be lobbying anything for Plymouth,” Slavik said. “If we are truly interested in getting a third lane on 494, then we need to refocus our efforts and spend that money more wisely.”

I can’t imagine $16,000 per year is a large line item for a city the size of Plymouth; that’s probably the annual fuel cost for one of their snow plows.

Some perspective:

Local governments spent a total of $7,817,620 on lobbying activities in 2007.

Sixty-five local governments (two more than in 2006) directly employed or hired contract

lobbyists in 2007Local governments paid dues of $10,024,137 in 2007 to local government associations that also represented their interests before the legislature.

Statewide, $18,000,000 per year and growing. Seems like a lot of money to hire someone else to spam the legislature with phone calls and emails.

Dopey me, I guess. I am sure there is so much more to the art of being a lobbyist.

Somehow the idea of taxpayer money being spent to lobby for taxpayer money smacks of government waste at best; corruption at worst.