Call Congress

Ed and I are talking with Rep. Bachmann on the air as I write this – and she stresses the importance of calling the representatives whose votes might be up for grabs on next week’s healthcare vote in the US House.  She notes that while she, Rep. Kline and Rep. Paulsen are going to vote against the bill, and there’s no real suspense about Ellison or McCollum either, that we could well put some pressure on Tim Walz (a liberal Democrat in a district that, in a rational climate, would have sent Gil Gutknecht back to office in ’06), Collin Peterson (a blue dog from the conservative northwest corner of the state) and…

…Jim Oberstar?  That’s right – the 224-term congressman from the Arrowhead represents a district that loves its pork, but is also very pro-life – and would not be impressed by the pro-infanticide aspects of Pelosi’s novel.

So call!

Jim Oberstar:
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6211
FAX: (202) 225-0699

Collin Peterson
(202) 225-2165

Tim Walz
Washington Office
1722 Longworth House
Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Remember – be polite (because if you say so much as “gosh darnit”, the media will accuse you of assault), and that Congressional staffs (and Reps) know that every caller represents 100 other people.

Even The Losers Get Lucky Sometimes

A program director at a radio station I used to work at let me in on the great secret of music radio – which let me in on an even greater secret of psychology.

People tend to be most attached to whatever music they were listening to when they were going through or immediately after puberty.  Chalk it up to hormones; the same motivation that makes every little slight or setback into a dramatic battle royale also gives music – the most emotionally-direct of the arts – a special place in most peoples’ perceptions.  It’s why for any given generation, “Oldies” music tends to focus on the music that was current when the listener was between 12 and 21 years old; the part of their life when lifelong emotional buttons get put in place, ready for the pushing.

And if you do the math, it was about thirty years ago that a slew of music came out that, thirty years later, fits that bill for yours truly.  I think there’s a fair case to be made that each of them is an extraordinary record.  A few of the records are on the list because they are extraordinary, whether I cared for them much at the time or not.  But most of them are there because they stuck a flag in my psyche thirty years ago, and I can still see why today.

It was thirty years ago today that Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes was released.

We’ll come back to that.


It’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there exactly what music was like in the late seventies.  There was great music, to be sure; and a lot of the music I turned my nose up at at the time, I’ve softened on over the years; Fleetwood Mac doesn’t bore me as stiff as it used to; bits and pieces of the treacly corporate pop of the era have grown on me since I was a pissed-off teenager.  And the bits and pieces of pop genius that leaked back out to me after years of sleeping on ’em have occasionally made me shake my head and wonder what I was thinking.

But still, with all that, the mainstream in 1979 was a dismal place.  Linda Ronstadt was the mainstream.  Billy Joel was edgy stuff.  A generation of nebbishy California singer-songwriters – Robert John, Sammy John, Roger Voudouris, Alan O’Day, Rupert Holmes and a slew of other pre-MTV fodder – sold millions upon millions.

But most of it was dreary stuff; formulaic, mechanical pop treacle.  “Rock is dead”, sang The Who, and it kinda showed; and while rock may have lived on via the dinosaurian touring machines that dominated the industry of the day, rock and roll – the danceable, three-minute song you could dance to or sing along with or pump your fist to – was on the ropes.

Oh, sure – there was Springsteen – who had roared back from three years’ legal limbo the previous year with Darkness on the Edge of Town, the second installment in “The Holy Trinity” that started with Born to Run and would end with The River in 1980 – but he didn’t exactly light up the Top 40 singles charts.  Bob Seger was hitting on all cylinders – Night Moves was a huge smash as an album and as a single, but Seger was a palpable outlier.

And then, thirty years ago today, came Damn the Torpedoes.

I hadn’t personally had much of an opinion of Tom Petty; I only knew of him through a lukewarm review of his second album, You’re Gonna Get It, a sophomore slump that shamed many artists’ debuts.

So, truth be told, the Halloween release date passed without my noticing.

But a little less than two weeks after the album’s release, on November 10, 1979, the band appeared on Saturday Night Live.  Buck Henry hosted that night, and he introduced “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!”, and I watched as a scruffy, Strat-slinging Petty counted Stan Lynch into the opening drum kick to “Refugee”. by four counts into the song, as Ben Tench’s howling Hammond B3 led the band through a dark, edgy reading of the soon-to-be classic, I muttered to myself “Damn.  I love this”.  In as many words.  Mike Campbell played the interlacing lead guitar parts like God and Chuck Berry and Keith Richard had created them to be played; sparely, economically, not a wasted note or a dropped impact.  And Petty bit off every word, every teeth-clenched yelp, like it was now or never.

Or that’s how I remembered it.

Via the miracle of YouTube, I actually found that performance; it’s the first time I’ve seen it since that chilly night  thirty years ago:

(NBC Universal, curses opon them, blocked the video)

(Update 2 – someone else posted it)

Youtube has the potential to deflate an awful lot of adolescent memories; things that seemed so amazing back then often ring a little duller today.

Not this one.  Oh, Petty sounds a little hoarse; he has a little trouble hitting the high notes.  The band drops a note or two here and there.  The drums are badly miked; it sounds like Stan Lynch is playing on empty Cap’n Crunch boxes. I watched it, and thought “this ran into me like a runaway supertanker thirty years ago”.

But I can see why I reacted the way I did.  I still do – thirty years and a whole lot of music and not a little jading later.   It was raw – like one of the garage bands I was playing in – yet it sounded polished.  Beyond that?  It had an emotional “snap” to it that, up to then, I just didn’t year on the radio.

The next morning, between Sunday School and church, I took $7 from my paycheck at the station, ran over to the record section at White Drug and grabbed the only copy in stock off the rack.  And four or five of us – Mike Aylmer and Matt Anderson and Keri Kleingartner, I think – sat in one of the classrooms and skipped church and listened to the whole thing on a cheap turntable, all the way through.

And it blew me away – but I didn’t know why until maybe ten years ago.

For many Americans educated in the public school system, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers were the first real explanations of why Americans fought in World War II, and what they did.  And it served that purpose because they were among the first vehicles to make history accessible to people.

Damn the Torpedoes was similar.  It was a 37 minute and 36 second trip through the best of American rock and roll since the Beatles had come and gone, without filtering it through all the baggage of the concept of the Rock Star.

Refugee sounded like The Band with the twang beaten out and the grit pounded in.  “Here Comes My Girl” was the Byrds via the bayou.  “Louisiana Rain” sounded like an outtake from Exile on Main Street, replacing Mick Jagger’s verbal posturing with Petty’s laconic backwater drawl. “Don’t Do Me Like That“, with its pulsing piano/organ attack, and “You Tell Me” with its dark, slinky refrain, both sounded like Stax/Volt songs that had gotten lost on a Gainesville backroad on a muggy night, wandered into a redneck roadhouse, grabbed a guitar and a bottleneck slide and a Budweiser, and stayed for the after-hours party.  (The simile is even better than I thought when I first wrote that last passage; Stax’ house bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn sat in on “You Tell Me”.  Can I call ’em or what?)

As to “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)”, “Century City”,and “What Are You Doin’ in My Life?” – well, they’re all Petty; little bits of every nook and cranny in the history of rock and roll, from Chuck Berry through the Stones, jumbled into Petty’s own supercharged pop-via-Memphis sensibility.  And unlike just about every other “album” of the era, there was not one second of “filler”.

The highlight, of course, was Even the Losers – long since my favorite song on the album, and in fact one of my favorite songs ever.

Is it possible that there was an American teenage boy of that era that couldn’t not only relate to the song, but know what it was about without needing to know the lyrics?

Well, it was nearly all summer we sat on your roof.
Yeah, we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon.
And I’d show you stars you never could see.
Baby, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me.

Damn.  That was me.  Well, if I smoked.  And had a girlfriend.  One that’d let me take her up on the roof.  Otherwise, just like that.  Someday.

Baby, time means nothing, anything seemed real.
Yeah, you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be.
No, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me.

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride.
They get lucky sometimes.

And amid Ben Tench’s howling B3 and Stan Lynch’s muscular, aggressive beat and Petty’s hard-chewed delivery, you could only pray to yourself “good Lord, yes – maybe we will get lucky sometime”.

It all led up to the bridge; Tench drops the Hammond to a lower register, and Lynch switches to the highhat:

Two cars parked on the overpass,
Rocks hit the water like broken glass.
I should have known right then it was too good to last.
God, it’s such a drag when you’re livin’ in the past.

It’s the kind of passage Springsteen wrote all the time.  But he wrote it through the lens of his crew of characters; Zero and Blind Terry, Mary with the waving dress, Crazy Janey and the Mission Man, Puerto Rican Jane, the visionaries in the parking lot underneath the Exxon sign – the whole cast of wild-eyed misfits with their ’69 Novas and their boardwalks.  And damn, it was good.

Seger?  Yeah, him too; “I woke last night to the sound of thunder/how far off, I sat and wondered.  Started humming a song from 1962…”.  Of course, I was born with two weeks left in 1962.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about a guy, Seger, who wrote a lot of great music, and it’s only resonated more as I’ve gotten older.

But Tom Petty’s secret?  He wrote that bridge about Mitch Berg, age 16, of Jamestown North Dakota.

And about you, fella, whoever you are.

And as I sat in that church classroom on November 11, 1979, as the chill fell outside and the congregation sang in the background, I thought it was a pretty neat trick.

And I still do.

We Got A Real Pressure-Cooker Goin’ Here…

WELCOME “MERCURY RISING” “READER”(S):  Wow. “Phoenix” is still yapping about this?  Sheesh.  Even for an anonymous gutless leftyblogger, “she” is a dim little specimen, isn’t she?

Let me give you a little background, so you know know something – which is more than “Phoenix” can ever say:  In radio, you always plug the show after yours.  Hell, if “Phoenix” and “Avidor” (heh heh) bought time after my show, I’d give them a plug – and they’re “both” idiots!   Because that’s what you do when you do radio.

“Phoenix” thinks this is evidence of a “close tie between Bradlee Dean and the GOP”.  I have faith enough in people to know that most of you know that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

Hey, tell “Phoenix” I said I!  And tell her to go easy on the “thuddingly stupd”, or “she” might run out!


Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network brings you the best in Minnesota conservatism from 9AM-3PM.

  • Volume I “The First Team” –  Brian and John or some combination thereof kick off from 11-1.
  • Volume II “The Headliner”Ed and I are up from 1-3.  And it’s gonna be a huge show; we’ll have Bradlee Dean from the “Sons of Liberty” broadcast (3-5PM Saturdays on AM1280) to talk about their gala dinner with Michele Bachmann, coming up in the next week!  Then, Paul Scofield joins us – he’s the token conservative running for the Hopkins school board (and lordy, do they need him!).  Then we’ll be talking with Kyle McNary, author of Pitch Black, about Negro League baseball in the upper midwest.  You heard that right!
  • The King Banaian Show! – That’s right, KB is back, doing the economic voodoo he do, Saturday mornings from 9-11 on AM1570, Business Radio for the Twin Cities!  We’re broadening the franchise; two stations, now!
  • And don’t forget, our long-time colleagues David Strom and Margaret Martin lead things off on the David Strom Show from 9-11AM!

(All times Central)

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of sanity. You have so many options:

  • AM1280 in the Metro
  • streaming at AM1280’s Website,
  • On Twitter (the Volume 2 show will use hashtag #narn2)
  • UStream video and chat (at or at UStream).
  • Podcast at Townhall, usually by Monday
  • Good ol’ telephone – 651-289-4488!

Join us!

This Was The Year That Was

A little background:  As I wrote some time ago, the question “which decade was the best” in pop music of the Rock and Roll era is a misleading one.  Popular music in the rock and roll era has really been divided into ten distinct eras (see the linked article above for explanations).

  • Pre-Rock and Roll (1948-1953)
  • Early Rock and Roll (1954-1958)
  • The Brill Building Era (1958-1962)
  • The Golden Age of the 45 (1962-1968)
  • The Album Age (1968-1972)
  • The Malaise Era (1973-1979)
  • The Alternative Era (1980-1986)
  • The Style-Over-Substance Era (1987-1992)
  • The Return Of The Seventies (1993-2000)
  • The IPod Era (2000-Present)

Each of these eras – 4-10 years long – had its own unique personality; music moved in a direction.  Not always a good one, but a direction.

And it was thirty years ago tomorrow that my favorite among these eras really got its start.  Not just an album (tune in tomorrow), but the beginning of a year-and-change period in time when pop music changed more, faster, than had ever happened before.  It was a dizzying time to be listening to, and taking part in, music.  It wasn’t just that there was plenty of experimentation going on; it was that for about five years or so, the underground became the mainstream.

Think about it.  Check out the Top 100 songs of 1978; mostly depressing bilge.  The last remnants of the Disco boom (and, in the case of Chic, Yvonne Elliman and the Bee Gees, some of the best of the genre) were about the only memorable thing about the entire year.  Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow were still big hitmakers.  In the meantime, groups like the Cars, the Police, the Talking Heads and Dire Straits were a mildly-threatening insurgency; Tom Petty and AC/DC were snotty rockers riding in on the ragged edges of punk and new wave; The Clash was an obscure bunch of pub punks; Prince was a teenager in Minneapolis; Bruce Springsteen’s only Top 100 hit, said Billboard, was Manfred Man’s vandalism of “Blinded By The Light” the previous year.

Now, jump ahead a mere six years, to 1984.  Nary a Ronstadt or an Air Supply to be found; even Elton John, one of the few throwbacks on the charts, had had to radically update his approach to get his second big burst of success.  The stuff that dominated the charts was the stuff that was on the fringe of the fringe in ’78, like Prince, The Police, Springsteen, Dire Straits – or groups that didn’t exist in any publicly-visible form in ’78, like Duran Duran, the Pretenders, Big Country, U2…really, pretty much the whole list.

Over the next year and a half or so, I’ll be celebrating the thirtieth anniversaries of a couple of dozen albums that changed pop music forever, more drastically than anything since the Beatles and Elvis.

See you tomorrow.

Sitcom Interlude

It’s Friday – the official day in the blogosphere when you don’t have to apologize for posting about frivolous stuff (Friday “cat blogging” comes to mind), even on supposedly “serious” blogs. To help SITD keep up with that glorious tradition, here is a post that has nothing to do with politics, elections, the economy, or geo-politics. This post is about the media equivalent of junk-food – television sit-coms!

I’m not the world’s biggest television junkie. In fact I go through long periods when I hardly watch the thing. However with the advent of online television show viewing I’ve actually been able to keep up with a few of this season’s shows. Here’s my mid-season report on some current sit-coms I’ve been following. Follow along if you care.
Continue reading

A “made-up metric if there ever was one.”

…in other words, (again) “You Lie!”.

The White House is about to start singing the praises of the accelerated socialist government expansion stimulus program citing the “saving” or “creation” of 1 million US jobs.

The network news media have let the administration get away with using such a fictional metric for months now.

Basically it is a number pulled out of their butts via extrapolation, as if all the slated stimulus “dollars” had already been spent.

More reliable sources have pegged the jobs impact of the stimulus thus far at between zero and 30,000 jobs saved or created.

Predictions for 2010, widely calling for another tough year for unemployment throughout, have left the Obama Administration preemptively scrambling to find justification for their already lengthy record of failed policies.

Their plan is not surprising.

Smile, deflect and lie.

But At Least There’s No Death Panels, Right?

Um, yeah.  Of course there are.

The provision [in the latest “Healthcare Bill”] allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

For years, federal laws and policies have encouraged Americans to think ahead about end-of-life decisions, and make their wishes known in advance through living wills and similar legal documents. But when House Democrats proposed this summer to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling, it touched off a wave of suspicion and anger. Prominent Republicans singled it out as a glaring example of government overreach.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, at the time a lead negotiator on health care legislation, told constituents at a town hall meeting they had good reason to question the proposal.

“I don’t have any problem with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family,” he said. “We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”

Of course, the real problem – if you’re a Democrat who wants to socialize the healthcare system – isn’t that government will wield the power of life and death (via “case management”, which is indeed what HMOs do today – the difference being that HMOs can be left for competitors, or sued). 

No.  It’s that all us uppity peasants actually make them earn their pay, explaining the whole thing:

Thursday, the sponsor of the provision said the barrage of criticism may have actually helped.

“There is nothing more basic than giving someone the option of speaking with their doctor about how they want to be treated in the case of an emergency,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. “I think the outrageous and vindictive attacks may have backfired to help raise awareness about this problem, which is why it’s been kept in the bill.”

“And if you get out of line at any more town hall meetings, we’ll institute two death panels!  Hahahahaha!  Because we can!  That’s why!

Hopeless And Changeless

OK, so the Obama Administration is only “improving our image abroad” in the most cosmetic, least-meaningful possible way. 

But at least he’s cured the whole housing crash, right?

Oh, what do you think?

Whitney Tilson has another take on the August Case-Shiller numbers, which sent housing bulls into spasms of glee a few days ago.

The sequential increase in prices in August was less than the sequential increase in July.  This, Whitney believes, is the start of the seasonal downturn that will take house prices down another 10%-15% by the middle of next year.


Well, at least Obama’s gotten the government out of the mortgage business – right?

You still don’t see the pattern, do you?

But we were wrong — the housing bubble is back. Sure, prices aren’t at their old levels, but everything else is in place.

Generous government involvement is back. Fear of missing out on good deals is back, and yes, even no-money-down is back.

And Freddie and Fannie have to buy all the squibs back, right?

Just a wild guess.

Hope And Pocket Change

Remember when the Administration was going to change the way things were done in Washington?

More than 40% of President Obama’s top-level fundraisers have secured posts in his administration, from key executive branch jobs to diplomatic postings in countries such as France, Spain and the Bahamas, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Twenty of the 47 fundraisers that Obama’s campaign identified as collecting more than $500,000 have been named to government positions, the analysis found.

 Overall, about 600 individuals and couples raised money from their friends, family members and business associates to help fund Obama’s presidential campaign. USA TODAY’s analysis found that 54 have been named to government positions, ranging from Cabinet and White House posts to advisory roles, such as serving on the economic recovery board charged with helping guide the country out of recession.

Nah.  Me either.

But at least the key job of making the US beloved around the world will be entrusted to seasoned foreign service officers, rather than a bunch of Chicago ward-heelers with deep pockets.


 Nearly a year after he was elected on a pledge to change business-as-usual in Washington, Obama also has taken a cue from his predecessors and appointed fundraisers to coveted ambassadorships, drawing protests from groups representing career diplomats. A separate analysis by the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats’ union, found that more than half of the ambassadors named by Obama so far are political appointees, said Susan Johnson, president of the association. An appointment is considered political if it does not go to a career diplomat in the State Department.

Someone wake me up in November of 2011.

Lest We Forget

There’s an election in Saint Paul on Tuesday.  It’s the biggest election in the state this year – Mayor of Saint Paul.

If you live in Saint Paul, you know what dire straits this city is in.  Taxes are booming, services are crumbling, and our school system is by any rational standard a complete failure, especially for the kids who need it the most – immigrants, the poor, and so on.

Saint Paul shows the sclerosis that happens when you have one-party rule; having competition in government brings accountabilty; if there’s anything Saint Paul needs, it’s a whole lot of exactly that.

So I’m gonna give a plug for Eva Ng. I’ve been writing about her ever since she announced her campaign.  She’s a businesswoman and a turnaround specialist – which Saint Paul needs.  Desperately.

So here’s the deal; if you are a conservative – by which I mean a Republican, sure, but also the vast throngs of union guys on the East Side who’ve seen your property values shrivel even as the City Council makes it impossible to buy vacant houses, the small landlords who have seen your prices dropping even as city regulations strangle you, the small businessperson who is hanging on by the skin of your teeth even as the government tries to destroy you – then you need to turn out to the polls on Tuesday.  And bring friends.  And family.  And tell ’em that this isn’t just another rubber-stamp mayoral election; this is a time for choosing.

And if you don’t live in Saint Paul?  Call your friends in Saint Paul who you think might be amenable, and who might yet be thinking of sitting this one out.  Change their minds. Get them out.

And if you’re able to?  Check out the website, and give Eva a hand. There is no more David v. Goliath battle in the world than a Republican running for mayor in Saint Paul.  She needs all the help she can get.
As far as Saint Paul is concerned, this really is for all the marbles – and this weekend is the two-minute warning.  With office vacancy rates up close to the school system’s minority graduation rate, this city – the place where I’ve raised my kids this past 18 years – stands a good chance of becoming a cold Flint.

So let’s get some turnout, shall we?

And it should go without saying that anyone voting for Eva Ng needs to vote as well for John Krenik, Pat Igo and Chris Conner for School Board.  If you are a Saint Paul resident, remember the names, and don’t vote for anyone else; everyone else on the ballot stands for the status quo, and it’s hard to describe how bad the status quo is.  And if you’re outside Saint Paul, but have friends here?  Call ’em, and tell ’em.  Quiz ’em on the names.  Hell, send them this article, if it helps.

People get the government they deserve.  Saint Paul deserves a hell of a lot better than it’s had this past four years.

Style Points

New Jersey GOP goober candidate might be portly (“I’m 550 pounds”).

But in a couple of months on Jenny Craig, he’ll have abs like Matthew McConaghey…

…while John Corzine and his campaigners will still be a bunch of gutless, sniping hacks.

(By the way – can I say how much fun I’m having now that my display code supports video embedding?)


I’ve never much cared for Halloween; being done with it is one of very, very few reasons I look forward to my kids both being over 18.

But Katie Kieffer has some costume ideas that might even rekindle some of that Halloween spirit.

Like, Obama Administration “czar”:

With about 32 personalities to choose from, you should easily be able to find one you can dress up like.

Hold a sign that says: “I’m a Czar and life’s too short to follow the Constitution.”

I was thinking about going as an angry, overtaxed middle class guy.

Where will I find a costume, though?

Question For Obama Supporters

One of the Administration’s big campaigning points (back when Obama was campaigning before the election, as opposed to whatever he’s been doing this past nine months) was that he’d re-establish America’s purported image abroad.

Which, at this remove, brings up two questions:

  1. With whom, exactly, has our image improved since January, in any meaningful way (and by “meaningful” I am not referring to cheap talk and blandishments like the utterly meaningless Nobel Peace prize)?
  2. More importantly:  Of the countries that hated, disliked, were utterly ambivalent to, or competed with the United States in 2007, which did not exhibit precisely the same feelings toward us in 2000?  For purposes of this discussion, leave out the Taliban goverment in Afghanistan and the Ba’ath government in Iraq.  List ’em, and give specifics, please.

I’ll be interested in seeing the responses.

Protecting The Brand

Caught this piece from the Forum Group’s Saint Paul bureau; Al Franken is shilling for money for Byron Dorgan:

Franken today sent an e-mail message to his supporters asking them to donate to Sen. Byron Dorgan’s campaign who last year, he said, “made the long trek from North Dakota to Minnesota and we spent some time talking to folks about helping small businesses and getting our economy moving again. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for his insight and support.”

“Look, we need genuine champions of the middle class in the Senate, and Byron Dorgan is one of the best,” Franken wrote. “Can you donate $5 or more today to help Senator Dorgan gear up for 2010?”

Federal Elections Commission reports indicate Dorgan’s campaign has $4 million in the bank.

Of course, there’s more to it than a simple repayment of a campaign favor.

Dorgan – who was a heavyweight in North Dakota politics when I was starting out in radio news in NoDak 30 years ago – is the king of the purple-dog Democrats.  He’s a Democrat, and a fiscally-liberal one at that, in a state that’s voted Republican for president almost every possible election since statehood; local politics in North Dakota tends to be also rigorously right-of-center. 

But since the eighties, the state has sent Byron Dorgan, and then Kent Conrad, to the Senate.  It’s about the money, of course; Dorgan and Conrad are champions of big farm bills; they have enough seniority between them to deflect light artillery fire.  NoDak’s voters (like those in South Dakota, Montana and much of the rest of the Midwest, who send plenty of socially-conservative, fiscally-profligate people to Washington) know where the loot is.

But this election, there’s a real challenge.  John Hoeven, North Dakota’s very popular and wildly successful Republican governor (who is, at the moment, the nation’s longest-serving state governor), is rumored to be interested in going to Washington.   He won his last gubernatorial bid by almost fifty points…

…and the rumors are causing strange things to happen in North Dakota Republican politics.  People are donating money, coming to meetings…

…and talking about doing to Dorgan what voters in South Dakota did to Tom Daschle not so long ago; “the unthinkable”.

And so Dorgan would seem to be calling in his markers, dipping into that bottomless pool of Twin Cities liberal money (which, dimes’ll getcha dollars, he’ll softpedal back home) to pad his war chest for what could be the biggest challenge of his long political career.

We’ll be talking with people from the NDGOP on the Northern Alliance in coming weeks.  This could get interesting.

Barbarians At The Gates

Victor Davis Hanson takes down so much of what’s wrong. with the Obama Administration in this post.  You need to read the whole thing.

But it’s this part that stuck me; this was the bit that had me nervous even before the election.  Democrats – I was about to write “liberals”, because there used to be a distinction when it came to foreign policy, but I’m not so sure anymore – have a certain “style” about fighting wars.

And Obama might as well be Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Ted Kennedy or Algore:

Here is our anti-terrorism policy.

1) Euphemism: hope that words can change reality—“overseas contingency operations” aimed at “man-caused disasters” (this will mean there is no more terrorism as our enemies are no longer demonized)

Remember when critics – mostly liberal, many of them correct – used to barber on about how crazy some military terminology sounded to civilian ears?  Now “Neutralized” sounded so much nicer than “Kill”?  How “Prep Fire” was so much more clinical than “hose the entire area down”?

“Man-Caused Disaster”?

As a language geek, I suppose I can say it’s accurate enough.

But if you’re a 20 year old kid being asked to go over seas at some considerable risk to fight for this country, how do you think the idea of losing an eye or a leg or a life in a “man-caused disaster” sounds?

Like your leaders are clueless?

2)   Apologies to Islam: boast that Muslims fueled the Renaissance, invented printing, pretty much gave the world our present civilization, while we offended them after 9/11 (this will mean no more plotting inside the US to kill us all, as they sense our newfound empathy)

Societies go through peaks and valleys.  Germany gave the world Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Nietzche, Wagner and the Hamburger (and, to be fair, Marx, Freud and Nietzche); then, there was the little matter of the Nuremberg Laws, World War II, the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka. German society had to see to a few touch-ups.

Islam has a great history, indeed.  In some places – most of India, Indonesia and the Balkans – it has a history of getting along just fine with its neighbors in pluralistic societies, just like Germans live next to Poles and French and Danes in Europe and, for that matter, in the US.

And as with that unfortunate stretch in the thirties and forties with the Germans, it only takes a few million bad apples to screw it up for the rest; as with the Germans, there’s the little matter of that sect that wants to kill the Jews, have a big piece of the world to rule for itself, and destroy its enemies.

3)   “Bush Did it”: a) blame Bush the Impaler for our unpopularity and shredding the Constitution to pacify the Middle East and Europe; while stealthily keeping in play most of his protocols like Predators (more attacks in last 9 months than Bush did in 3 years); tribunals, renditions, intercepts, wiretaps, and Guantanamo, etc.); (this will mean that we copy Bush, but blame him for our failures and claim success as our own).

Mr Hanson, I believe you’ve got it.

4)   Reach-out: Become socialist at home, and UNish abroad, to convince an Ahmadinejad, Assad, Chavez, Putin, and others that we are a declining, 1950s British-like socialist state, a threat to no one, exceptional in the manner that Greece is, and becoming, as Pravda boasts daily, more like them than they like us (this will mean, why hate us when we are one of you?)

And you’ll note how well that worked in keeping peace between Nazi Germany and the USSR, who were functionally pretty identical…

5)  Declare victory and leave: there is a reason why Afghanistan and now Iraq have flared up since Obama took office, and it may well have to do with the fact that radical Islam, defeated in Iraq, stalemated in Afghanistan, suddenly bets that with a little push here and there, Obama will declare victory and leave, with something like “We can’t win Bush’s wars.” If I were a terrorist, I might think, “One or two more big death days, and this American government will Mogadishu its way home”).

They’re already making those noises.

In a year or two, al Qaeda will begin to suspect we are the weaker horse. They hated us when we were strong, but they will hate us even more when we appear weak.

Not just Al Quaeda, mind you.

Bifecta of Cool

What could possibly beat getting my first Instalanche in three years and change?

Getting linked from, the official home of all things Bruce, that’s what!  The Jersey News Turnpike linked to yesterday’s piece on Garry Tallent’s birthday.

When I was in my twenties, ekeing out a living as a freelancer, and still trying to make it in music, I used to fantasize on how cool it’d be to get an article in Backstreets, back when it was entirely a paper production.  This works just fine, too!

(And I’m not gonna lie – there’s something just so fun about seeing that pageview counter sprinting into quintuple digits).

Anyway – thanks, newcomers, for stopping by!  Come back anytime!

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It looks like even the Administration is sticking a fork in Creigh Deeds.  And it goes deeper than just a candidate with a funny name.  If current trends hold, it might just mean that not only is the Hope ‘n Change honeymoon over, but dead, buried, and pushed out to sea.

Democrats seem to be learning that life without a boogeyman is hard:

They’re learning, painfully, that campaigning without George W. Bush is baffling, frustrating and scary. Worse, it offers a preview of what the congressional campaigning will be like next year. One Obama doorbell ringer, working neighborhoods in Northern Virginia for Creigh Deeds, says even the promise of free pizza can’t lure faithful Democrats to a rally.

And when you can’t get Democrats to let other people pay for their stuff, you know you got a problem.


Suddenly, the White House is treating the bereft Mr. Deeds as if he’s on the fourth day of a three-day underarm deodorant pad. Bill Clinton, accustomed to speaking to cheering thousands at a hundred grand a pop, was dispatched the other night to a Deeds rally to set the throng on fire with one of his late-October stumpwallopers. The rally, such as it was, was held not at an arena or a hotel – not even a Motel 6 – but in a campaign office in the Washington suburbs. The “throng” was counted in the dozens, about the size of a PTA meeting. Not even Bubba could dispel the gloom of a wake.

It’s not all good, of course – polling shows John Corzine is coming back in New Jersey, which on the one hand isn’t much of a shock, since New Jersey is just New York without the nightlife, but there had been hope.

Still, this could be a good sign.

Real Feminism, Real Change

Nothing tells a would-be rapist “reconsider your ways” like blowing his head off.

And in and around Chicago – where generations of gun control have led to the biggest criminal quagmire in America – women are increasingly saying “baloney“:

Local gun shop owners say they’re seeing an increase in the number of women shoppers right now. The reasons, they say, are many, including the downturn in the economy and violence on the street.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, about 48 percent of people taking their first handgun seminars this year happen to be women. CBS 2’s Pamela Jones reports on the growing trend.

“It’s very dangerous out there. I mean, there’s people getting robbed here and there,” said Josie Santiago. “It’s just for protection.”

That’s one of the reasons that I’m not worried about gun control making a big comeback, no matter what the President really believes on the subject; when women start shooting as enthusiastically as guys do, then gun control is doomed on at least a national level.

The city of Chicago itself?  Well, that might take some work.

Der Wacht Am Doof

It’s the oldest, most manipulative game in the world of rhetoric.

  1. Find something an opponent of yours said, wrote or did that, taken by itself, could be seen as embarassing.
  2. Carefully pare away anything that’d give the casual consumer any idea of the context of the original saying.
  3. Splash it out there as big and bad as you can.
  4. Make sure it splatters all over anyone or anything associated with your victim.

It’s a good way to get people who already agree with you to really really agree with you; boy, are your opponents icky!

Of course, it’s not all that honest.  But then, it’s rarely about presenting an honest appraisal of something or someone one disagrees with.

Oh, it happened again; a local leftyblogger made a really, really ugly insinuation about one of the local conservative ‘sphere’s stalwarts.

Let’s walk through it from the top.

Find Something Embarassing

Jeff Fecke, writing at his own blog and at lefty coagublog “Alas A Blog”, writes:

On July 1, over at Minnesota righty superblog True North (”Pointing Minnesota in the Right Direction”), Kevin Ecker decided to use his time to highlight an anti-immigration rally in Austin, Minnesota:

Political activism at it’s [sic] best is honest grassroots efforts by people finally fed up with lying politicians who decide to do something about an issue rather than just complain.

Kevin, like a lot of conservatives, is opposed to illegal immigration.  Unlike most liberals, he distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration – which is a lot more nuance than a lot of the left will credit, as they need to keep the bloody shirt aloft.

Now, remember – in the graf above, Ecker notes that “political activism at its best” is the stuff of the grassroots activist, the one who does it for the love of his/her cause.

Kevin found one of them, and quoted him:

Basically Austin is a town that the residents feel has been devastated by illegal immigration, and a lone resident, Sam Johnson, finally got fed up. He organized the first rally despite being up against professionally organized counter protests by the likes of La Raza, Centro Campesino and various Marxist organizations bussed in from the cities.

And if that’s where we stop – if that’s all you know – then so far so good!

But it’s there that the problems begin.  Sam Johnson was surely out-front on the immigration issue; unfortunately, he’s out-front on something else.  Something Fecke apparently learned about (albeit four months after the fact):

Sam Johnson, honest American, just doing the best he can to make our country free of “illegal immigration.” Or, you know, any immigration. Because this is Sam Johnson:


In case you’re wondering — and I doubt you are, but some people might not be able to view the picture — yes, that’s a guy wearing a neo-Nazi uniform. Because Sam Johnson isn’t just a hard-working white American who’s fed-up with illegal immigration. He’s a neo-Nazi, the head of the National Socialist Movement Southeast Minnesota. He is one of the most vile individuals in my state, and he’s a guy who the world will be better off without.

I’m not personally as ready to demand anyone’s death as Fecke seems to be – but the fact remains, Johnson is an unsavory character – or is at least a guy with some beliefs most people actively shun.

Strip Away All Context

And Johnson deserves some shunning:

Sally Jo Sorensen of the outstanding (sic) Bluestem Prairie blog actually interviewed Johnson (one hopes she took a long, hot shower afterward) [Stop objectifying women!  – Ed.]; you should really read all of part one and bookmark the site for the next two installments, but here’s a brief excerpt:

“Minorities should not be citizens,” Johnson said, “only 100 percent true white Americans.” He outlined his vision of a nation in which all people of color would be stripped of their citizenship, no matter how long their families had lived in the United States, and moved to communities that would be strictly delineated according to race.

People of African descent would live with other people of African descent, Latinos with Latinos, Asians with Asians, American Indians with American Indians, and “real Americans” with other “real Americans. “Real American” and non-citizen status would be determined be having had family living in the country for five generations or 50-70 years.

And it goes on.  It’s pretty putrid stuff.  (And some liberal will no doubt chime in “Putrid?  That’s the most you can say about Nazis?” Look – my anscestors, most likely like yours, spent the best years of their lives bombing, shelling, shooting and bayonetting the Nazis back into their caves.  I’ve gotten anti-semitic death threats; I’ve interviewed, and shredded, Holocaust revisionists.  Question my Nazi-slagging pedigree at your own risk – preferably to my face).  Read it if you want; Fecke and “Blue Stem Prairie” list it at some length.

But what actually happened?

This is the guy that True North — a blog that has included Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; PowerLine’s Scott Johnson; and David Strom, the head of the Minnesota Taxpayers League as contributors — decided to back. A neo-Nazi.

It’s a a lie.  Quoting someone on an issue, even approvingly, without knowing anything about his background, is not an “endorsement”. 

Kevin Ecker, by way of endorsing grassroots activism on an issue that matters to him, latched onto the actions of Sam Johnson, of whose political affiliations he had no knowledge.

No, I mean  no knowledge.  Because I did what Fecke should have done before accusing someone of being in cahoots with Nazis; gotten his side of it.

Here’s what Ecker said, in an email to me shortly after this “story” “broke”:

No I did not know he was a Neo-Nazi and if I had I wouldn’t have run it. I thought he was a small time illegal immigration activist.  I’m not inclined to assume the worst in people, so the thought that he was a Neo-Nazi never occurred.  And googling a name like “Sam Johnson” seemed an act of futility.  My posting was NOT an endorsement, but rather simply a notification of a illegal immigration rally, something I’ve posted dozens of times before, for BOTH sides of the issue.

Of course, if you’ve written a blog for any length of time, you’ve probably done this – quoted someone without knowing the deeper context.

But if you’re smart, you haven’t take that factoid – a mistaken compliment paid to someone who doens’t deserve it – and expanded it into a group smear of everyone you disagree with.

What Fecke has done (to deafening, echoing applause in his comment section) is taken that error, stripped it of context, and…

Splash It Out There, Big And Bad And Far And Wide

…applied it willy-nilly to a shopping list of Big Bad People Jeff Fecke disagrees with.  True North?  Michele Bachmann?  Scott Johnson (who, I should point out, is Jewish, not that the Minnesota left considers bad taste especially declasse when referring to Big Bad Conservatives)?

Of course, the conclusion was written long ago – long before Kevin Ecker started his blog:

But that shouldn’t be surprising — the Republican party has deliberately chosen to throw its lot in with the most extreme elements of the hard-core, fascist-and-no-that’s-not-hyperbole, racist right. It is disgusting. It is despicable.

Well, no.  It’d be charitable to call it “hyperbole”; indeed, it’s worse; it’s the kind of dehumanizing, stereotyped approach to all dissent that managed to find six degrees of separation between anyone you disagree with and the ugliest depravities you can imagine.  It’d be like holding every Democrat today accountable for the Holodomor because of the historic links between the DFL and the Comintern.  At the very least it’s an attempt to make it virtually impossible to stay with an argument on a run-of-the-mill domestic issue; to discuss illegal immigration, you have to not only carry on the argument, but also fight against the whole “Nazi” thing.

Which may strike one as the perfect argument, in an Alinskiite sense, but doesn’t help much when it comes to running a civil society.

Stupid, right?

Someone tell Fecke.

Make Sure It Splatters

Of course, Fecke – and the mass of demented bobbleheads in both of his comment sections – couldn’t let it go at defaming Kevin Ecker.  He had to apply it like rhetorical birdshot, splotching it all over every target of opportunity in the regional right; he tries to infer that every workadaddy, hugamommy conservative that has problems with unfettered illegal immigration is part and party to the  Nuremberg Laws, the Warsaw Ghetto and Majdanek.

We’ve been through this before, of course; it was two years ago the local leftysphere hopped up and down and vented their outrage on cue over the “Dirt Worshipping Heathens” “scandal”.  Of course, that episode was a little different – there was actual intent involved, although not the intent that Karl Bremer imputed to Tracy Eberly’s piece.  But with context carefully and misleadingly excised, Bremer went on to slag the entire “Minnesota Organization of Bloggers” (notwithstanding the fact that the MOB has no, none, zero, zip editorial input, much less control, over any of its member blogs.  We drink.  That’s it).  But that doesn’t matter; in the Alinskiite world of the leftyblogger, actual meaning is of no value.

Anyway – unless…

  1. …Ecker actually meant to endorse a Nazi.  Any Nazi.  And…
  2. …if Rep. Bachmann, Scott Johnson, the editors and contributors to True North and/or anyone involved with the project endorsed any part of Naziism, and…
  3. …any part of current mainstream Republican thought shares anything (beyond the level of the “Hyperbolic Rant”) with actual Naziism, as opposed to the “everyone we disagree with is a Nazi whether they actually goosestep or not” sense of the term…

…then it’s really just defamation, guilt by association, and group slander.

Which, thankfully, is wearing thin with real people.

I invite Mr. Fecke’s response.

UPDATE:  From an email:

“It sure would be interesting to comb through Fecke’s archives looking for approving references to people who turned out to be scumbags, wouldn’t it?”

I bet.

I don’t really care for “gotcha” blogging.  But if you do, by all means, have at it!

One Step Back, One Step Up

For the past couple of years, from whenever the snow’s been off the roads until I just can’t manage it anymore, I’ve been biking to work.

Or trying to.

2007 was a good year.  After about 15 years of virtually no biking at all, I commuted pretty much daily from June through August.  And I did it without dying of a heart attack.

2008 was even better.  I managed to bike pretty much daily, from late April ’til late September.  It was a hard fall, and getting the kids to school ate up a lot of time and effort, but it was a great season, all in all.

This year?  Enh.  I spent most of the summer dealing with a family situation every morning, which precluded most biking from mid-June until September.  And between the cold, hard fall and the usual school schedule, it’s precluded a lot of biking; I’ve managed a couple of days on good weeks, less on others.

But this week, with temps up in the high fifties and brisk but temperate mornings?   Yesterday felt good out on the road.

Yeah, I’m fixing to send the season off with a bang.  Might even bike to the station on Saturday, with any luck.

Next biking season, though?  It’s gonna rock.

Escape From New York

New Yorkers are  hitting the exits.  And it’s over taxes.  They’re leaving in six-digit box lots…

…and they’re leaving over taxes!

What’s worse is that the families fleeing New York are being replaced by lower-income newcomers, who consequently pay less in taxes.

Overall, the ex-New Yorkers earn about 13 percent more than those who moved into the state, the study found…It all adds up to staggering loss in taxable income. During 2006-2007, the “migration flow” out of New York to other states amounted to a loss of $4.3 billion.

And they’re moving…to low tax states!

While New York City and the state were the losers, the Sunshine and Garden States were winners. more than 250,000 New Yorkers who lived in and around the city fled to Florida.

Hm.  That’d be a red state, wouldn’t it?

Maybe Amy Klobuchar Should Armor Them

Remember when the Democrats held up “unarmored Humvees” as the greatest crime ever committed against US troops?

It all seems so long ago, now:

Afghanistan is a country the size of Texas, with only a handful of major roads. So when the U.S. military wants to haul gear, supply isolated outposts, reposition forces, or evacuate wounded troops, the first, best and sometimes only option is to do so by helicopter.

Which means that the demand for helos at most U.S. bases far outstrips the supply. And the helicopters that do fly operate under unforgiving and often dangerous conditions, as we saw in Monday’s twin copter calamities, which killed 14 Americans. In short, helicopters are the irreplaceable connective tissue of the Afghanistan war effort — and its potential Achilles’ heel. “It’s our strategic weak point,” a defense official told Danger Room.

Apparently we don’t have nearly enough of them:

For years, commanders have complained that helicopters were the one thing they couldn’t get enough of, and coalition forces in Afghanistan have often had to rely on outsourcing to fill in the gaps. “We definitely don’t have enough helicopters,” British Foreign Office Minister Lord Maloch Brown recently said, before issuing a quick “clarification.”…

Most of what I know about helicopters I learned from reading Colonel Charlie Beckwith’s book about the formation of “Delta Force” and its role in the Desert One raid.  And it put me off of wanting to ever fly in a helicopter.  The main point; helicopters are incredibly fragile, and desert sand and dust makes thingsmuch, much worse.

…Even if more military helicopters are sent to Afghanistan, there’s a much bigger issue: Operating rotary aircraft in Afghanistan can be extremely difficult.


Earlier this year, Popular Mechanics reporter Joe Pappalardo spent some time with the wrench-turners who keep the helicopters flying in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan,” he concluded, “is hell on helicopters.” Here’s a list of just a few of the things he noted that can go wrong: Temperature extremes that destroy seals and gaskets; “high/hot” flying conditions that reduce engine performance; dust and sand that ruin rotor blades and clog up hydraulics.

Just saying, Mr. President – whenever you get around to deciding what you’re going to do about Afghanistan…

UPDATE:  Welcome, Instapundit Readers!  It’s been a while!  Glad I finished getting the place cleaned up for ya!

This is What the “Stupid” Tag Lives For

I couldn’t wait until Friday for “Hot Gear Friday.”

Police Auctioning Off Motorized La-Z-Boy Used in DWI

If you’ve ever had the urge to cruise your neighborhood in a self-propelled La-Z-Boy, your opportunity has arrived. Minnesota resident Dennis Anderson (no relation to the Gravedigger monster truck franchise – we think) has forfeited his notorious motorized, and over-the-top modified, recliner chair involved in his DWI incident and crash recently is going on the eBay auction block later this week.

The damn thing has headlights (and nitrous)!