Lie First, Lie Always: Delusions Of Adequacy

It’s been a frustrating week to be a Real American in Minnesota – an American who believes that law-abiding citizens should have more rights in the eyes of the law than criminals.

More on that tomorrow on the show.  Oh, yes – the show will fairly crackle with rage.

But there’s some comic relief.  Grim comic relief, under the circumstances, but relief nonetheless.

She Who Has Never Made  A Single Substantial, Original, True Statement About The Issue:  It’s been interesting seeing what the Reverend Nancy Nord Bence has rattling around her little ELCA-coiffed noggin.  This was in her email blast yesterday (emphasis added to highlight particularly comic passages by me):

I am pleased to announce that the House public safety committee omnibus bill introduced today in committee does NOT contain the Permitless Carry or Stand Your Ground bills! That was the goal of our Cure Gun Violence lobby day and rally on Tuesday—and we succeeded!

Make no mistake about it – the criminal-protection, black-victim-disarmament lobby, after spending ten times as much as the Real Americans in this past year for almost no results, obtained a victory of sorts, for now.  But they didn’t win it.   It happened due to nothing they did on their own.   Not one iota of it happened due to anything The Reverend Nancy Nord Bence’s fact-free rambling, the sanctimonious preening of the Dreamsicles, or the trunks full o Jacksons that the Bloomberg lobby spent.

No.  The GOP gave it to them.  They “won” a forfeited game.

Leadership in the Senate, apparently rendered pusillanimous via winning the majority, decided to play “protect the incumbents”, even though it’s three years ’til the election.

House leadership, hearing this, decided to play it “safe” – thus earning themselves a raft of well-deserved and impassioned primary challenges supported by a group of people…

…who, I can tell you right now, are pissed off at having their votes courted, but their policies ignored in the breach.

It was the kind of stupid error that makes being a Republican such a trying thing in this Godforsaken state.   How hard is it to dance with the ones that brung you?

But it wasn’t “Protect” MN’s f****ng win.  Those lumpen fossils and caterwauling shrews dominate their little echo chambers in Crocus Hill and Kenwood, and not a hell of a lot more.

The Lesson:  Even after years of winning, and of beating back serious challenges while in the minority, Real Americans not not relax.  We can not be complacent.  We can not trust the party for which most of us worked our asses off.

Ausweis, Bitte

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Every state issues its own driver’s license but the quality varies greatly.  TSA decided it needed a standard form of identification to screen people allowed onto airplanes.  As of next year, Minnesota’s driver’s licenses will not meet the new requirements.  A bill to upgrade them is stalled in the state legislature.

That means you won’t be able to get on an airplane using your Minnesota driver’s license.  The only other form of acceptable identification is your United States passport.  So even if you’re flying domestically – even a short hop from Minneapolis to Duluth – you must show your federal passport.

 An Internal Passport to travel within the United States.

 Your papers, bitte.  Have a nice trip, comrade.

 Joe Doakes

He’s right, you know.

Mission For Today

Y’know that calling that all of us Second Amendment Human Rights supporters need to do to keep the Constitutional Carry and Self Defense Reform bills alive in the Omnibus bills?

Keep at it.

It’s having an effect – if only by  making certain GOP leaders nervous.

A few of them made the mistake of thinking that a couple dozen plush-bottom yoohoos in orange t-shirts and ELCA hair waving stacks of Bloomberg money could cause them more electoral pain than 20,000 members of GOCRA, MNGOC, tens of thousands of NRA members, and other law-abiding shooters  could serve up.

Bring the pain.

Bring lots of it.

“Wiretapping”

“The press takes [Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
”  — Salena Zito

When Donald Trump claimed “Trump Tower had been wiretapped”, the media – awash in images of sweaty, donut-dust-stained cops hunched over in a 1974 Ford Econoline amid amplifiers and reel to reel tape decks, concentrating on conversations through headphones.  And they laughed – nobody’s done that since the ’80s!  Har di har!

Roger Simon connects some  dots – inconvenient ones, for the agenda-driven media:

What appears at this writing is that Trump transition team members and possibly Trump himself had their identities revealed, were “unmasked” in the parlance, while foreign diplomats were being surveilled. The identities of American citizens were not sufficiently “minimized,” as they are required to be by law. This is a crime one would assume would put the perpetrators in prison. So far it hasn’t. More than that, such behavior is a grave threat to a free society, to all of us.

In effect, Trump was wiretapped — if not in the corny, old sense of the word, something very close. Technologically, he was wiretapped, as were several (actually many) others.

A fair amount of this happened not long before Barack Obama suddenly changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, for the first time ever allowing the NSA to share its data with 16 other intelligence agencies, thus making the dissemination of said data (i. e. leaking) many times more likely. That was done on January 12, 2017, just three scant days before Trump’s inauguration. Why did the then president finally decide to make that particular change at that extremely late date, rather than on one of the previous seven years and three hundred fifty-three days of his presidency? You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or Watson to smell a rat. Something’s rotten somewhere — and it’s not Denmark.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Possible New Berg’s Law

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I hadn’t heard about this case.  It’s a bad decision.

 A jury of one’s peers that deliberates in secret is fundamental to the American system of justice.  Every other system is subject to corruption and undue influence that deprives the defendant of a fair chance at an impartial verdict.

 The defendant has an opportunity to investigate jury members before they are seated, to question them through voir dire, and to strike for cause any potential juror who reveals prejudice.  If the strike-for-cause motion is denied, the defense still gets to strike jurors without cause, using preemptory strikes.

Invading the sanctity of the jury room to second-guess the jury’s motivations after the fact is a terrible precedent.  It opens the door to second-guess everything that happens in the jury room and throw out verdicts that result from the “wrong” deliberations.  That precedent strikes directly at the heart of secret deliberations.  They’re no longer secret anymore. 

 There could be a host of reasons the jury didn’t acquit the defendant: they ignored the judge’s instructions, they misapplied the law, they hated the defense attorney’s tie, they resented the defendant forcing them to burn up their personal leave days listening to his pathetic lies . . . and none of those are grounds to overturn the jury verdict.   

 But if we allow the defense to second-guess the jury as to racial animus, then you know the next thing will be defendants wanting to second-guess jurors who may have been influenced by sex, religion, disability, veteran’s status, receipt of public assistance, gender orientation . . . and why stop there?  What if a jury member voted for Trump, clear evidence of raging hatred and mental illness?  Now we need thought police stationed in the jury room to make sure the secret deliberations come out right, the way right-thinking persons want them to come out, which is exactly what a jury is supposed to prevent.

 Here’s another illustration of that new Berg’s Law:  Liberal Policies Destroy Liberal Values. 

 Joe Doakes

It may actually be one of the better candidates for a Berg’s Law we’ve seen in a while.

Time For Some Action

Gun owners.

When we’re on the defensive – as we were 3-4 years ago, here in Minnesota – we are the most motivated people in politics.  We make people sit up and listen – or we throw them out of office.

But when times are less perilous?   It’s another story.  And it’s understandable; unlike the anti-gun / criminal safety movement, we have jobs, families and real lives.  We can’t just drop everything and run down to spend a day at the Capitol for anything but a serious emergency.

And let’s be honest – compared to 15 years ago, never mind 30 years ago, we Real Americans of the 2nd Amendment movement are doing pretty well.  The 2nd Amendment may be the only liberty where the needle has been pushed the right way – but we have pushed it.

But complacency is what got us the 1970s.  And it could happen again.

This year, there are two important 2nd Amendment-related civil rights bills on the agenda:

  • HF188, authored by Rep. Jim Nash, would make permits to carry optional throughout Minnesota. A law-abiding citizen should not have to beg government permission to carry a firearm – and the little card has no bearing on whether people commit crimes or not.  
  • HF238, also authored by Rep. Nash, provides some much-needed reforms Minnesota’s self-defense laws, codifying decades of case law (thus removing nobody-knows-how-many felony traps from the rules of self-defense), removing the so-called “duty to retreat” in Minnesota law.

Now, it’s was a fair bet Governor Dayton would have vetoed either or both bills.

And then again, maybe not; antagonizing shooters helped the DFL lose pretty much all of rural Minnesota; Dayton could easily have doomed a few more of the remaining outstate Democrats by vetoing these bills – and caused any number of other headaches by vetoing the omnibus bills they were going to be parts of.

But the GOP caucuses haven’t put the bills into the omnibuses yet.  Word has it that Senate leadership is “playing defense”, trying not to lose seats (notwithstanding their next election isn’t until 2020).  And if the Senate isn’t going to push the bills, there’s no point in the GOP pushing them.  Right?

Wrong. 

And there’s a report that at least one GOP legislator from a safer-than-safe district is afraid of the Dreamsicles.

It’s time for the GOP to pay back some of the political capital that the 2nd Amendment movement has invested in it.  And  if safe Republicans are going to profess political “fear” a couple dozen  ELCA-haired, deluded bobbleheads in orange?   It might be time for them to re-learn what political “fear” really is.

And that means you and I need to step up.

It’s Go Time.  It’s time for all law-abiding 2nd Amendment human rights supporters to get on the line and burn up the phones, today.

Call your representative and your Senator.

And call:

House Speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt
Office: 651-296-5364
E-Mail: rep.kurt.daudt@house.mn

Majority Leader Rep. Joyce Peppin
Office: 651-296-7806
E-Mail: rep.joyce.peppin@house.mn

Public Safety Committee Chairman Tony Cornish
Office: 651-296-4240
E-Mail: rep.tony.cornish@house.mn

Politely tell them that they need to deliver.   We’re not complacent, and our support is not to be taken for granted.

This needs to be a political flood of biblical proportions.

The First Priority Is To Have Priorities

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

President Trump issued an Executive Order on immigration last month, pursuant to a law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama two years ago.   A Federal judge in California blocked it. 

 President Trump issued a revised Executive Order that took into account the judge’s objections.  A Federal judge in Hawaii has blocked the new order on the grounds that a Muslim Imam living in Hawaii may have a First Amendment right to invite anybody from anywhere in the world to come to Hawaii to visit him, if he feels like it, and therefore the United States government has no power to stop any invited guest from entering the country.

 This is sheer fantasy, of course, utterly unsupported by statute or any prior interpretation of the Constitution.  If it went up the ladder to the Supreme Court, it would be . . . well, now wait a minute.  That court is divided 4-4 because of the Scalia vacancy.  We can’t say what would happen.  Neil Gorsuch was nominated to fill the Scalia seat.  Did that happen?

 No.  The Establishment Republicans in Congress – the ones who supported Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan for President – the ones who swore “Never Trump” – are in charge of the Supreme Court nomination.  It’s the single most important thing they have on their plate but it’s stalled. 

 They’re busy, you see.  They never thought Trump would win so they didn’t bother making plans to repeal Obamacare.  Now that he’s dropped this tar-baby in their laps, they’re atwitter over how to appear to be doing something to keep their phony-baloney jobs without doing anything that might make the New York Times call them names.  It’s a conundrum, you see, which might possibly go away if they wait long enough and Trump is impeached.

I read the other day that North Korea claims to have a nuclear missile capable of reaching Hawaii.  Reeeeeeealy?  Hmmmmmmmm.

 Joe Doakes

 Not sure regular commenter Mammuthus Primigenius would approve – and losing Hawaii but keeping California just leaves the country in the same boat we’re in.

The Warm Flint, The Cold Baltimore

What’s the only thing worse than politics?

No politics.  Or, rather, no need for politics, since someone is making all the decisions without any need for all that pesky “compromise” and “discussion”.

History is full of the big examples – the USSR, East Germany, Germany itself, Communist China, India under Indira Gandhi, and on and on – places where politics was essentially a one-party exercise in internal spoils division.

The examples come closer to home, of course; places like Baltimore, DC, Newark, Camden, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento – all one-party cities where “politics” is a matter of internal Democrat party power utilization.

And of course, there’s California, where even some liberals are figuring it out:

We’re a case study in what a political community looks like when Republicans wield little or no power — and an ongoing refutation of the conceit that but for the GOP, the United States would be free of dysfunction.

Sure, the Golden State gets a lot right. It’s the sixth-largest economy in the world.

But California ranks in the lowest fifth of states in education. Housing costs are out of control. Our major cities face a crisis of homelessness. Our police officers kill citizens at rates comparable to the rest of the country. Our infrastructure is severely overstressed due to underinvestment. The bullet train project meant to connect L.A. to the Bay Area is a national joke. Our counties, cities and schools are being crushed by an unsustainable pension burden. Our taxes are already among the nation’s highest.

And it is no longer plausible to blame any of this on Republicans. For the foreseeable future, Democrats own every Golden State success and failure.

That particular article, written by the LaTimes’ token moderate-lefty (moderate = he hasn’t called for any violent overthrows laterly) Conor Friedersdorf, is mere acknowledgement that California Democrats had best be alert, since they’ve got no other parties to pass the buck to.  Victor Davis Hanson is more forthright.

Closer to home?  Horowitz’s Frontpage says what nobody in Minnesota dares say; Minneapolis is burning, whether you admit it or not.  After “only” forty years of one-party DFL rule (challenged, briefly, from the left by the Green Party in the nineties and early 2000s), Minneapolis’ decay has accelerated with DFL hegemony:

The result has been disastrous. As of 2015, the poverty rate in Minneapolis was 25.3%, nearly twice the 14% statewide rate for Minnesota and the 14.3% rate for the United States as a whole. In 2010, a study of 142 metro areas in Minnesota found that only 15 bore a heavier property-tax burden than Minneapolis, and that was before the city raised its property taxes by 4.7% in 2011.

More recently, Minneapolis property taxes increased by 3.4% in 2016, and by a crippling 5.5% in 2017.

 Notwithstanding the growth in revenues generated by these taxes, the government of Minneapolis has been incapable of balancing its budget. In 2015, for example, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s budget included $84 million in federal subsidies and grants. In 2017, the Metropolitan Council—which describes itself as “the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region”—received $91 million in federal funding. That same year, the Minneapolis Public Schools operated with a budget deficit of nearly $17 million.

But massive deficits, coupled with ever-increasing dependency on federal assistance, have done nothing to persuade the political leaders of Minneapolis to question their zealous devotion to leftist political solutions, including an unwavering commitment to the “sanctuary” policies that prevent city employees from assisting federal immigration authorities. When President Donald Trump in 2017 announced that he planned to cut off all federal funding for sanctuary cities, for instance, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges stated defiantly: “As long as I stand as Mayor, he’s going to have to get through me.”

He probably won’t, though.  Because as Minneapolis’s decay inevitably accelerates, and Betsy Hodges cashes in her sinecure points and moves on to a non-profit that contributes to the problem, the decay and collapse of the city will do what Donald Trump can not.

Howl

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Republicans in Congress are doing their usual job of chickening out from taking effective action, preferring half-assed deck-chair-arranging and cost-can-kicking instead of risking the chance someone might call them names.  Fixing this mess requires understanding how we got into it. 

Before the Great Depression, doctors charged what the patient could afford, overcharging some to give free care to others.  Hospitals charged the patient directly.  In the Roaring 20’s, people could afford good medical care.

 During the Great Depression, people couldn’t afford doctors so they substituted nurses and midwives or went without care.  Private hospitals ran short of money.  FDR spent federal money on medical care as a stop-gap measure.  Hospitals associated with charities or religions provided reduced-fee medical care.

 When World War II loomed, FDR worried that federal contractors would gouge the government so the Office of Price Administration set wage and price controls.  When men rushed to enlist after Pearl Harbor, employers scrambled to fill positions on the now-booming assembly line but were unable to offer higher wages to entice employees.  Employers offered free health insurance to pad the offer and deducted the cost as a business expense.

 After the war, employers couldn’t drop insurance because it would be seen as a pay cut.  But as Baby Boomers aged and needed more expensive care and the economy slumped reducing profits, employers were forced to drop coverage.  The clamor for free health insurance turned to government, resulting in Obamacare. 

 The health insurance problem is just like rent control in New York – it was a temporary war-time something-for-nothing measure that was continued too long and now the addicts are screaming because they won’t get their special war-time subsidies.  They shouldn’t.  The war is over.

 The first step is to end the deduction for employer-paid health care so that more employers drop coverage, and prohibit units of government and unions from paying for health insurance, which will level the playing field as everybody becomes a health insurance consumer, same way everybody is a car insurance consumer.

 The second step is to let states decide what insurance policies are allowed to be sold.  Minnesota coverage will cost a bundle because the legislature will require every policy to cover everything.  That decision will cost us jobs as employees leave to get lower premiums elsewhere.  The laboratory of democracy eventually will find its balance.

 The third step is to means-test Social Security and Medicare.  Seniors who can afford to pay, must pay, or the system goes broke.

 The fourth step is to limit the use of welfare medical care.  People who buy health insurance have deductibles and caps so they don’t run to the doctor for every sniffle.  People who don’t buy insurance should have similar incentives to conserve resources.  Yes, this means some children will suffer and die.  If the entire system collapses, all the children will suffer and die.  We’re trying prevent that.

 The fifth step is to deregulate medicine.  Allow more drugs to be sold without prescription.  Allow non-doctors to prescribe medicine.  Allow medical providers flexibility in meeting standards.  The country doctor who had his office in the front room of his house could handle most of what came in the door, he didn’t need admitting privileges at a Level 1 trauma hospital.  That policy might also mean recruiting more health care professionals from other countries – we’d rather have them than have unskilled laborers climbing The Wall.

 The sixth step is to limit medical malpractice lawsuits to reduce malpractice insurance premiums so doctors can afford to charge patients less.  Doctors make diagnoses by using statistics to play the odds, there always will be mistakes, not every mistake is a lottery ticket.

 I know: Democrats will howl.  The media will howl.  College kids will howl.  Seniors will howl.  Everybody who wants Free Stuff will howl that they’re not getting enough Free Stuff, fast enough.  Doesn’t matter, clean up the mess anyway because (a) it’s the right thing to do and (b) if we don’t, the system will collapse and the howling will be even worse.  Time for Republicans to man up and do the right thing, for a change.

 No, I’m not holding my breath.

 Joe Doakes

Nor should you.  The cult of the government savior is ascendant.

Breslin

Jimmy Breslin died over the weekend.  He was 88.

We’ll come back to that.


The media today – or at least, people of a certain age (i.e. older than me) who are still in the media – remind me of circus performers telling inside jokes about what the ringmaster did after that one show in Lincoln, or of mailmen amongst themselves about the worst breeds of dog to encounter, or  city bus drivers reminiscing about the foibles of that old model of bus that got retired a couple of decades ago, unlamented by anyone but, well, them.  They remind me of any group of clubby, beleaguered insiders who turn the foibles, peccadillos and petty miseries of their callings into legends in their own minds.    Not like World War II veterans telling niche anecdotes from a little tiny window of the fight to save freedom.  Just guys who did something most people don’t care about all that much, building it in their minds into something worthy of the life they built around it.

Unlike arthritic old circus hands, mailmen and bus drivers, journalists buy newsprint by the rail car and ink by the barrel – so they can inflict their particular tales, traditions and argot onto the rest us.  And lest anyone accuse me of ridiculing other people, I am one of them, at least as regards the radio industry.

I remember hearing some longtime Twin Cities journalists talk about Nick Coleman leaving the Star/Tribune.  “He was a great, old-time newspaperman”, one of them said.  “One of the best”.

Why, I asked.

What followed was an explanation I can’t possibly reproduce here – but it boiled down to Coleman epitomizing what an old-school “ink-stained wretch” was supposed to look, act and write like.

And I thought “this is the Nick Coleman who made an outsized contribution to the decline and fall of journalism.  If he didn’t like you, he’d just make s**t up; he’d conjure up community groups from his imagination,  or make up facts when he didn’t know enough to dig, ask or wait for the real ones.  And he played a bigger-than-average role in the financial ruination of the field he, and the journos who reminisce about him, try to earn a living in.

But no matter.  Journalists are like those hold each other to a standard that only they understand, and really only makes sense, or matters, really, to them.

And so Nick Coleman is a hero, while journalists who actually do what journalists are supposed to do but don’t know the secret handshake get mocked and derided by the bus drivers.  Er, circus geeks.

Damn.  I mean journos.


Along those lines, Journos like to tells themselves their mission nis to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.

It’s pretty inevitably b******t.  Most reporters spend their careers covering city council meetings and one-car crashes and writing obits and, today, probably selling ads to help their outlet get by.   Their biases are irrelevant, because their beats are all about the mundanities of civic and public life that are just too boring for partisanship.

But Jimmy Breslin, like Studs Terkel and Jim Klobuchar and, heaven help us, Nick Coleman, was on a different plane.  A columnist as well as a reporter, or maybe a reporter who got to have opinions, a pioneer in what they used to call “New Journalism” – subjective, advocacy-oriented, opinionated, journalism that put white and black hats on its subjects…

…rather than letting the reader do it for themselves.

To journos – and consumers of a certain outlook – it was brilliant, pioneering stuff.  And it certainly did pioneer the idea of the journalist as the crusader rather than the crier, the seeker of goals rather than the reporter of facts – as the ones who could comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.  As being able to fight, as one of Breslin’s obituary writers said, for the little guy.

I found out Breslin’s regard for the little guy, straight from the horse’s mouth.  I met Breslin once, back in 1986.  He was doing a book tour, back when book tours meant traveling the country and doing radio live in the studio; I booked him on the Don Vogel show.

This was in the wake of one of Bernard Goetz’s trials.  Vogel asked him a question about Goetz – an electrician who’d been mugged, over and over, and reacted famously by shooting a group of muggers in the subway with an unregistered gun (only celebrities and politicians could get handgun license in New York – and that’s still pretty much true).

Breslin oozed contempt for Goetz.   It was sneering, visceral, hateful – as if the thought that a mere hoi polloi’s life was worth defending itself violated the public order.

But Goetz wasn’t “the little guy” to Breslin or the “journalism” establishment who aped him.  The criminals – with whom the purveyors of the myth of New York in the sixties and seventies had long since made fitful peace – were the little guys; not predators, not even pests; part of a zen-like symbiosis that one had to tolerate to “be a New Yorker”.

To the likes of Breslin and his many many imitators.

He was there for the right little guys.

Like most journos.

But never let it be said I speak ill of the dead.  Breslin did write one thing in his long career that rocked me back on my heels; the piece he wrote about the surgery he underwent a few decades back for an aneurysm.   Positively brilliant.  I can’t find it, but I will keep looking.

Asking The Questions That Need To Be Answered

I have a mission for you all.

Read this article.

Then vote below – is it satire, or is it straight.

Satire or Straight?

 
pollcode.com free polls

I have read it a few times, now, and my opinion changes with each time I read each paragraph.  I literally can not decide.

Perverse Disincentives

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Big headlines, Trump is bad for the industry, profits are way down from what they were under Obama, jobs threatened.

 Which industry?  The gun industry.  Obama was its greatest salesman.  Under Trump, the gun industry is crashing.

 Fewer gun sales means fewer guns on the street which, as every Liberal knows, means less crime, less domestic violence, fewer dead children, fewer animals suffering lead poisoning . . . Trump has accomplished more in eight weeks than Obama accomplished in eight years, so why isn’t Trump getting more credit from Liberals?

 Joe Doakes

Consistency isn’t their long suit.

NARN Is The Answer

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network – America’s first grass-roots talk radio show – is on the air!

Today on the show:

  • Berg’s Seventh Law in the news!
  • Jonathan Aanestad on next weekend’s protests against Ramsey County’s dilatory response to the attacks on the Trump rally two weeks ago.

Don’t forget – King Banaian is on from 9-11AM on AM1440, and Brad Carlson is normally heard on “The Closer” edition of the NARN Sundays from 2-3PM.

So tune in the Northern Alliance! You have so many options:

Join us!

Bullet The Cement Sky

If you remember my “Twenty Years Ago Today” series from way back when, you may recall that one of the things that drew me to the Twin Cities, 32 years ago this fall, was the music scene.  While I had not the foggiest idea at age 22 what I wanted to do for a career (and happened back into radio by blind luck), I did know I wanted to be a musician.  And so the fact that Minneapolis had a thriving music scene in 1985 played as much into my decision of where to move after college as anything.

I’d been writing music like a madman ever since I moved to the Cities; between December of 1985 and the following Christmas, I probably wrote 60-70 songs, and probably cut demos of 30-40 of them on my Fostex X-15 four-track cassette deck.

A Fostex X-15 tape deck. With it, a cheap drum machine , and a bass and my guitars, I recorded dozens of fairly elaborate demo tapes for the music I was writing like a madman at the time.

Eventually I worked up the nerve to take out an ad in the City Pages, and start an actual band.

That November, I found three guys.  That December – 1986 – we had our debut gig, and the old “McReady’s Pub” in downtown Minneapolis (where the Gateway parking ramp now stands).

And thirty years ago today, the gig that, ever so briefly, made me think like I’d made the right call, and might just be on my way.

The band was “Tenant’s Union” – and we’d gotten booked to play “New Band Night” at the Seventh Street Entry.

The Tuesday night gig was normally a dead end for bands; you got $20, and you played in the reverse order that the band showed up in.  We got there first, so we were the last band up -which ordinariy meant you just played for the dumbest drunks.

But this wasn’t just any night.

For starters, it was the day U2’s The Joshua Tree came out.

Which didn’t really bear on the gig, so much – it was completely unrelated. However, I’d picked it up on my way to work at KSTP that day, and had jacked my brain up into an expanded level of adrenaline-soaked frenzy listening to “Where The Streets Have No Names” and “In God’s Country” and “Bullet The Blue Sky” all day.

So I was pretty jazzed.

Second – and much more important?

It was Saint Patrick’s ‘Day.

Part of that meant that half the band – a couple of brothers from a large family of 100% Irish descent – were on an emotional tear.

And part of it meant that “Boiled in Lead”, the legendary Twin Cities traditional Irish band – would be playing the main room.

Now, Boiled In Lead was a great band.  Indeed, they still are.

But I don’t care who you are, and I don’t care how Hibernian you fancy yourself or how much Guinness you drink or how much you say “ting” instead of “Thing” – people can only stand so much Bodhran drum and uilleann pipe music before they need a break.

And the only place to take that break that night was over to the Seventh Street Entry.

And so by the time we got on stage, the place was packed to its capacity.

High-budget stuff, huh? It’s our poster for our Saint Patrick’s Day 1987 gig at the Entry. From left to right, it’s Matt on bass, Corey on guitar, WIlly on drums, and me over on the right on guitar, harmonica and occasionally keyboards.

I have no idea what that “capacity” was.  I’m sure the number has grown over the years; in my mind, there were a solid 200 people there that night.

It took me a bit, but I remembered the set list from that night:

  1. Tiger Tiger (A song by Willy, the drummer – yes, it was a William Blake reference.  I told you he was Irish).
  2. Five Bucks and a Transfer (My song about having…well, the title says it. It shamelessly stole the beat from The Pretenders’ “Message of Love”, but it was a way better song, if I say so myself.  And I do say so myself).
  3. Switchyard Blues (think The Who covering Mose Allison.  I played a VERY mean harmonica that night)
  4. Espresso Corey (he other guitar player, Corey’s ode to working in a crappy coffee shop back before everyone was doing it)
  5. Ride Shotgun (wherein I pilfed the riff to “Jackson Cage” and the harmony guitar part from Big Country’s “Tall Ships Go” to grand effect)
  6. Blood On The Bricks (the Iron City Houserockers’ classic)
  7. Oh Suzanne (a bald-faced mash note)
  8. Fourth Of July (a song I still play at the occasional open stage night)
  9. Long Gray Wire (a song I’d written in about five minutes in the car on the way to practice one night.  Still one of the coolest experiences of my life.  Great tune, too)
  10. Great Northern Avenue (a song I’ve quoted on this blog before, and still by a long shot the favorite song I’ve ever written)

And we were smokin’ hot.  The sloppiness of our first two gigs had been replaced by a fearsome tightness and confidence…

…although we’d still not gotten over the nerves entirely.  We played very fast that night.  Between the speed, the tightness, and the fact that we were very loud, some thought we were a speed medal or thrash band; some people started moshing out on the floor.

This I didn’t expect.

It was a spectacular success.  Musicians who saw us asked us to open for them.  Other bars started booking us.  People paid a little bit of attention.

It didn’t last – it rarely does.

The band soldiered on in one form or another until 1989 – and did a one-off gig under a different name in 1996, at the Turf Club.  Then came marriage, kids, careers, adult life.

There’s never much point in dwelling on the past.   But taking five to remember one of the highlights can’t be all bad.

Postscript:   One of the songs – our big finale, as it happens.  It’s a different band, here, but it’s basically the same song, all full of country-mouse chip on the shoulder and carpet-bombing “wall of sound” guitars that I put on that four-track cassette back in the summer of 1986.

And you might surmise there’s another musical project underway.  And you’d be right.

More on that later.

Starting Decade Five

It was a wet, cold, slushy March evening in Jamestown, ND.  I was in the basement of the FIrst Presbyterian Church, at a church youth group meeting.

Notable fact about the group:  one of the group’s leaders, a student at Jamestown College, would eventually have a son named Jared, who’d become an all-star defensive tackle for the Vikings.  The guy who eventually became Jared Allen’s father was no slouch of an athlete himself; he was one of the very few people from that NAIA Division III school ever to get a walk-on tryout with an NFL team – I think it was the Rams, and I think he got as close to making the cut as anyone from an NAIA III school ever did.

But the story’s not about  him or his future son.

The kids in the group were what passed for my “best friends” at that socially awkward time of my life, probably, sort of.  Which isn’t to say that cliques didn’t find their way into the group.  Immune to cliqueishness as I’d always been, some teenage angst was inevitable.

And for whatever reason, I had a nemesis at the youth group.  Her name was Cindy.  She didn’t like me, and the feeling was mutual.

And I watched, teeth clenched, as Cindy uncased a guitar and started strumming out a song of some kind or another.

I will play guitar.  And I will play it better than Cindy, I resolved to myself.

I went home that night, and dug through the closet in the room I shared with my little brother.  There, I muttered.  The guitar.

It was a guitar that someone had left in my dad’s classroom back in the mid-sixties.  It’d sat in Dad’s locker, forgotten, for several years, before he brought it home – this on the day of the first moon landing, as I (possibly falsely) remember.

And after a little dilatory plinking, it spent the next eight years doing what most guitars do in the hands of little boys; it served as a machine gun, a fort for toy soldiers, an aircraft carrier for toy planes – pretty much everything but a guitar.

But those days had passed.   I needed a guitar, and a guitar it would again be.

It’d take all my stingy, cheapskate resourcefulness to make that happen.  The guitar had been a very cheap guitar even when brand new – a “May-Bell”, the kind of thing you got in the Sears catalog for $19,99 back in the sixties;  it was apparently part of a long line of cheap instruments.

Not my guitar, but close.

Its years of abuse had left it the worse for wear; there was a crack in the back and another in the front; it had two remaining strings, and it was missing three tuning heads.

I wasn’t completely green at this; I had played cello since fourth grade, and had picked up a few tricks, and had a few contacts.   I gathered my paper route savings and went to work.

And so on Monday, March 14, 1977, I walked into Midwest Music – a tiny little hole in the wall on main street in Jamestown.  I bought a pack of strings, dug through an odds and ends box for some parts to assemble some one-of-a-kind tuning machines, and a little tube of wood glue to try to repair the cracks.

I also bought a copy of the Gene Leis “Nexus Method” guitar book – basically a chapter on how to hold the instrument, a chapter on how to read chord frames, and then 20 pages of photos of chords.

Gene Leis, who passed away in 1993, but whose advice -make your chords automatic – are words to live by If you can find a copy of Leis’ “Nexus” guitar method book, you could do a LOT worse.

It was a fortuitous choice; the book’s tag lines said “If you don’t know your chords you’ll never play enough guitar to be dangerous”, and I took it to heart.   It was a brilliant maxim, and it served me well.   And I had one huge benefit – four years on the cello had taught me out to keep time, what intervals and chords were, and how music fit together.

The maxim was good.  Unfortunately, for all my cheapskate ingenuity, the MayBell was another story.  While I did a serviceable job repairing it, it was pretty much a disaster of a guitar.  It wouldn’t stay in tune (the wood glue didn’t really fix the cracks, and more importantly didn’t give the structure enough rigidity to stay in tune at all).

It was there that serendipity stepped in.

My dad had spent the previous year on sabbatical from his job at the high school, teaching in the education department at the college up on the hill.  One of his students was a young woman who was a music and education major from rural northern Californnia, who had just dragged her fiance – who, in a fun example of the circularity that seems to plague my autobiographical stories in this blog, was the future father of Jared Allen (whom you met in the second paragraph above).  They had broken up; Mr. Allen had a new girlfriend and a new best friend from the football team (a guy from Crystal, MN named Mick Burns, who is now a Presbyterian minister in Virginia) who asked him to come down and help with the youth group at the church…

…but I’m digressing.  Jared Allen’s future father’s ex-fiance, Jenny, who’d become a bit of a friend of the family, noticed how gamely I was wrestling with the jury-rigged MayBell, and noted that she had a Yamaha classical guitar that she’d tried learning to play once upon a time, and didn’t have time for, and that I could borrow until she graduated from college.

And so I set to work with a vengeance and, armed with the knowledge of what a guitar sounded like when it could actually stay in tune, and 20 pages of chords to learn, I started learning music.

And ran quickly up on a reef of ignorance; I just didn’t know that much music, other than the classical stuff I played on my cello at school.  My parents, God bless ’em, weren’t musicians, much – and when the radio was on around the house, it was usually tuned into CBW in Winnipeg, because it was the closest thing to NPR you could get in rural North Dakota at the time.

had heard a few songs by one artist, though – John Denver.  And so I grabbed a copy of the sheet music for his Greatest Hits album.

And for probably six months, I sat in my room most every night and woodshedded on that album. “Follow Me” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” were the first songs I ever managed to play coherently – and from there, my musical world kept expanding; “Back Home Again” was where I had my “ah hah!” moment on how fourths and fifths play together, and how to do a rolling sixth (which you use in every Chuck Berry song, and thus most everything the Rolling Stones and Mike Campbell ever played). “Take Me Home, Country Roads” taught me how relative minors work – and you can’t play anything on Born to Run without relative minors!  I got to “Sunshine On My Shoulders” – and discovered the perfect song for learning the basics of fingerpicking. The whole thing is a languid eighth-note pattern – like drumming your fingers on the table, once you learn your chords. And “Rocky Mountain High” is a great little workout on how chords fit together.

And so by the middle of that summer, I could play…a bunch of John Denver songs. It seemed like it took forever – and occasionally felt like it. My fingers did, occasionally, literally bleed. In retrospect, it was blazingly fast; anger was a great motivator!

But even then, I knew – knowing how to play John Denver wasn’t going to land me any babes.  And so I started branching out.

I found a copy of the sheet music for “Sundown”, by Gordon Lightfoot, and learned how to play moving chords fluidly in a progression.

And right after that – in July of ’77 – while sitting and listening to the radio in my room, I heard Styx’s gloppy, pompous faux-art-rock classic “Come Sail Away”. It was inescapable back then, let’s be honest.

And as I played along with the big, climactic guitar part, I strummed a “C” – and then an “F”, and a “G”, and then back to the “F” – and it all clicked; that’s how the song went together.  I learned it by follow a standard chord progression (1 to 4 to 5 – the progression you use for everything from “Louie Louie” to “Wild Thing” to  “Twist and Shout” to “Born to Run”), and back, without needing to buy sheet music for it

And it was like the floodgates opened.  By that fall, I would sit in the chair in the corner of the room I still shared with my brother, doing homework, with my guitar at my feet, and listen for any songs to cross the radio that I wanted to learn; I’d pick apart the chord progression, faster and faster, and pretty soon be playing along pretty fluently; by early winter, I knew most of the KFYR “Torrid Twenty” every week.  I learned hundreds of songs – some that I still remember;

Why yes – learning this song DID make me edgy back then. And it’d be months, maybe a year, before I learned who “Bruce Springsteen was”.

“Hot Child in the City” by Nick Gilder, “Fooling Yourself” by Styx, “Logical Song” and “Give A Little BIt” by Supertramp,  “Help Is On Its Way” by the LIttle River Band, “Three TImes a Lady” by the Commodores, “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones, “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meatloaf, “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas (fingerpicking and all), “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan, “Still the One” by Orleans, “Night Moves” and “Hollywood Nights” and “Mainstreet” and  “Still The Same” by Bob Seger, “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle, “Because the Night” by…Patti Smith (it’d be months before I learned who Bruce Springsteen was), “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne, “Wild Fire” by Michael Murphy, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon – and learned them so indelibly I can play all of them, note for note and word for word, today – even the one hit wonders (Nick Gilder?  Really?  Yes.  Yes, I can).

And sometime in the next year, it led me to my next big project; learning how to be a lead guitar player.  And after hours of trying to decipher how it was done, I had my first victory; the solo from “More than a Feeling”, by Boston.

If you were an adolescent in 1977 and this song doesn’t make your heart go “poing”, I’m not sure you were an adolescent in 1977.

And once that fell into place, the whole musical world opened up to me; by tenth grade, I was not just a greasy-haired dweeb.  I was a guitar player.   I had an identity, and it was damn fine.

And it started forty years ago this past Tuesday.

One thing that ended not long after that anniversary was my junior-high enmity with Cindy.  We actually became friends through high school and then college.  And around college graduation, I mentioned to her that she was the reason I started playing guitar in the first place.

“Huh”, she responded  “I think I quit the guitar right after that”.

Anyway – I got hooked.  About a year after I rebuilt the Maybell – just before Jenny graduated and needed her guitar back – I bought my first guitar, a Ventura acoustic that I still have (although it needs some TLC).  Then, the summer after 9th grade, my first electric, a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster.  I still play that one; God wiling, I’ll hand it down to my son, also a guitar player, someday.

And eight years later, it led me elsewhere.

More later today.

Weekend Plans

In the not too distant future,
This weekend, AD,
my house will be all quiet,
except for my TV.

I’ll have MST3K on,
and I won’t even turn the volume down.
Won’t stop for rain or snow or hail
and all your calls will roll to voice mail

I’ll watch wretched movies,
the worst of all time (la la la)
Even “Manos Hands of Fate”,
though I might just lose my mind.

I keep in mind that his is time
that I can not ever get back,  (la la la)
As I’m sure I will be notified
by the silhouette backing track

(Ro Bot Roll Call)

Cambot!
Gypsy!
Tom Servo!
Croooooooooow!

If you’re wondering what I’ll eat and breathe,
and other logistic stuff,
repeat “MST is on Netflix”
And you will know enough,

More Mystery Science Theater, Three Thousand!

Pivot

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The H-1B visa program was started because Americas were such a bunch of dummies, we couldn’t supply the tech industry with enough qualified people not matter how much we offered to pay them.

 But according to this article, it’s now being used to bring in foreigners who can be paid less than qualified Americans.  The problem now isn’t that there aren’t enough qualified Americans, it’s that they cost too much.

 The program was never supposed to be about cost, only supply.  If we have an adequate supply, we don’t need the program.

 Joe Doakes

Oh, it’s about cost.  How else can our high tech industry compete on commodity products like code?

Flipping Big Bird

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking through the streets of Lowertown when he encounters MyLyssa SILBERMAN, who covers the “Fake News” and “Diversity” beats for National Public Radio’s Twin Cities bureau.  SILBERMAN steps out of a Taoist nail salon in Lowertown, and runs into BERG.  

SILBERMAN: Merg.

BERG:  Hey, MyLyssa.  What’s new?

SILBERMAN:  On assignment, looking for the people spreading fake good news about the Trump Administration.

BERG:  Exposer’s gotta expose, huh?

SILBERMAN:  Yep.  It’s why we have public broadcasting – doing the tough, unbiased jobs nobody else would do.

BERG:   Just reporting the facts.

SILBERMAN:  Correct.

BERG:  Like the fact that gun violence is down sharply over the past two decades, and gun control has had nothing to do with it.

SILBERMAN:  Heavens, no.  That would be biased.  Hey – we just finished out pledge drive week.  Did you donate?

BERG:  Nah.  I mean, I listen to the news, and I sometimes tune into mock, taunt and fisk “On The Media“, and I do happen to like what Chris Thile has done with Prairie Home Companion.  But I don’t listen much, and I figure I pay for it with my taxes.

SILBERMAN:   Oh, good heavens, no.  Taxes are just a tiny portion of what Public Broadcasting runs on.  Insignificant, really.  Almost nothing.  Pennies on the dollar, if that.  If you think we’re “government radio”, you’re spreading alternate facts.  Nothing “socialist” about us.  Taxes are pretty much insignificant.  Totally.

BERG:  Whew.  I was worried that I’d hear all sorts of “sky is falling” panic because Trump is proposing cutting federal subsidies to Public Broadca

SILBERMAN:  (Eyes go wide with rage and fear) NO!  CUTTING THE FEDERAL SUBSIDY WOULD DESTROY PUBLIC MEDIA!  YOU’LL BE BOILING BIG BIRD!  YOU’LL BE GANG-RAPING ALL THAT IS GOOD ABOUT OUR SOCIETY!   EVERY SINGLE PENNY OF FUNDING GOES STRAIGHT INTO THE MOJTHS OF THE NEPHEWS AND NIECES OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING EMPLOYEES!   YOU’LL DESTROY THE ONLY RELIABLE SOURCE OF VALID NEWS ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN NOT TO NORMALIZE TRUMP THAT THERE IS IN THE AMERICAN MEDIA!    NOT ONLY MUST NOT A PENNY BE DIVERTED, BUT WE NEED MORE!  MORE!  MORE!

BERG:  So – hands off public radio budgets…

SILBERMAN:  NOT ONE PENNY OR WE’LL ALL STARVE!

BERG:  So it’s really government radio after all…

SILBERMAN:  (resuming nasal NPR-casting voice, complete with faint sound of Ghanaian drum choirs in the background) No.  Absolutely not.

BERG:  Glad we could clarify this.

And SCENE.  

My Obamacare Debate With Nearly Every Democrat

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is cutting brush with a sawzall.   Avery LIBRELLE walks through the alley and catches BERG unawares.

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!

BERG:  Er, hey, Avery.  I’m kinda busy…

LIBRELLE:  The GOP’s Obamacare repeal will throw people off their insurance policies.

BERG:  Nah, that’s what the subsidy and tax cuts and medicaid are for

LIBRELLE:   You won’t lower bills!

BERG:  Well, that’s what the free market is for.

LIBRELLE:   But you’ll throw people off their insurance.

BERG:  Nah, that’s what the subsidy and tax cuts and medicaid are for

LIBRELLE:   You won’t lower bills!

BERG:  Well, that’s what the free market is for.

LIBRELLE:   But you’ll throw people off their insurance.

BERG:  Nah, that’s what the subsidy and tax cuts and medicaid are for

LIBRELLE:   You won’t lower bills!

BERG:  Well, that’s what the free market is for.

LIBRELLE:   But you’ll throw people off their insurance.

BERG:  Nah, that’s what the subsidy and tax cuts and medicaid are for

LIBRELLE:   You won’t lower bills!

BERG:  Well, that’s what the free market is for.

LIBRELLE:   But you’ll throw people off their insurance.

BERG:   You realize you’ve  just repeated the same recursive series of denials three times?

LIBRELLE:  Misogynist!

BERG:   Er, are you a…er…

And SCENE

That Which Can’t Be Sustained, Won’t Be

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Every year for the last 40 years, the United States has run short of money in the budget.  To fill the shortfall, the General Fund borrowed from the Social Security fund, but that still wasn’t enough.  To make ends meet, we borrowed even more.  The total accumulated debt is now $20,000,000,000,000.  That’s twenty trillion, with a T.

 That number does not include the cost of promises the government will be obligated to pay in the future such as Social Security and Medicare, the 20 trillion number is only the total of the promissory notes signed to fund government operations in the past.  Covering the cost of all government promises is closer to 100 trillion, give or take, depending on who you talk to.

 We’re not paying down the debt.  We’re making the minimum monthly payments on existing debt while running up ever more debt, month after month, with no end in sight.

 I don’t care whose fault it is.

 No, I really don’t care whose fault it is.  Finger-pointing and blaming is useless blather, at this point.

 I want to know what we’re going to do about it.

 The reason it comes up is because Republicans in Congress are talking about reforming Obama-care to make it affordable enough that the government can continue to offer the program, but Democrats are screaming the reforms will make the program unaffordable for individual citizens.  Both have fair points.  Both fail to address my point.

 Can government programs run in the red forever?  Can public debt be accumulated forever?  Is there literally no limit to how much debt we can run up?

If so, why?  That’s not true for private individuals or corporations.  If it’s true for government, there must be a reason why it’s true.  What’s the reason?

 Joe Doakes

Let’s ask Paul Krugman.

Oops

The Shakopee School District had a flub in their budget, to the tune of almost $5 million:

According to Thompson’s email, the district found a $4.5 million discrepancy during a yearly financial review.

Finance Director Mike Burlager mentioned the error during the school board’s Truth in Taxation meeting Dec. 12, but did not mention the exact amount. Soon after, Thompson mentioned a $5 million shortfall.

Of course, if it were a charter school, the state would have SWAT team locking the doors by now.