So after decades of ignoring the place, Hollywood has apparently set some sort of television show in “North Dakota”.

“Blood and Oil”, starring Don Johnson (who some of you may remember from, ahem, thirty years ago) airs on ABC – which is one of those “TV Networks” your parents used to talk about before even they switched to Netflix.   It gives off the appearance of being a Dallas-style soaper.

How do you think it turned out?

That was the question no doubt going through the minds of many people in the state when ABC’s new drama “Blood & Oil” premiered last week to modest ratings. The show is ostensibly set in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, though it’s hard to tell, given the snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains looming in the background of exterior shots.
The Rockies, in case you needed an update on your geography, reside hundreds of miles to the west of North Dakota.
There were other guffaw-worthy moments for North Dakotans in the show’s first episode. A character killed a white moose at one point — moose aren’t at all common on the prairies of North Dakota — and a scene depicting two characters wrestling in jet black oil was downright incongruous.

But it could have been changed – with the help of subsidies, naturally.  North Dakota doesn’t offer them; Utah does:

Turns out it’s all about money. Utah offers filmmakers a 25 percent tax rebate. For filming “Blood & Oil” in that state, the Utah Film Commission gave the show’s creators an $8.34 million tax credit.

North Dakota, on the other hand, offers filmmakers exactly nothing. Which is why some in the state think subsidies could fix “Blood & Oil’s” scenery problem.

It’s the same reason Gran Torino, whose screenplay was set in Saint Paul, was filmed in Detroit; because Michigan has a program to transfer wealth from Detroit to Hollywood.

Which is something North Dakota’s legislature turned down by a 2-1 margin.

Which is roughly the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the North Dakota legislature.

Diagnosis: Idiots

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

An electrician friend had his van broken into, hundreds of dollars of copper wire stolen.  Repeatedly.

The cops wrote a police report so he can report it to his insurance company.  But there’s a $500 deductible for each incident, so the few nickels the thieves make selling scrap wire cost him thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.  Thievery in Minnesota is a “cost of doing business.”

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves by cutting off their hands and thereby dissuade others.  We put them on probation to steal again.

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves.  Nobody is dissuaded from crime.

Minnesota is too civilized, too afraid of offending the offensive.

Minnesota is . . . doomed?

Joe Doakes

When citizens can’t count on “law and order” to uphold the law and preserve order (and, let’s be honest, also count on law enforcement to prosecute organic civilian efforts to enforce law and order more rigorously than actual criminality), how long can a free society survive?

Combat Record

Yesterday, the guided missile frigate USS Simpson was decommissioned.

The Simpson is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, commissioned thirty years ago last week, at the height of the Cold War.

She was designed as a (relatively) low-cost, high-performance anti-submarine escort, intended to guard convoys against Soviet submarines and aircraft.

But as the Cold War wound down and the Middle East heated up, she found herself in the Persian Gulf on her first overseas deployment.  As the Iran-Iraq war slogged on, she was part of the multinational effort to escort oil tankers through the Persian Gulf, in response to another ship – Simpon’s sister ship, the Samuel Roberts – hitting an Iranian mine in international waters.

There,  on April 18 1988, Simpson and two other US ships attacked an Iranian intelligence station aboard an oil platform.  The Iranian missile boat Joshan – a French-built fast attack craft armed with US-built Harpoon missiles – launched a Harpoon at the US force.  The missile was shot down or decoyed away from the task force.

A “Combattante II” class missile boat – in this case, the Greek “Plotarchis Vlachavas”, a sister of “Joshan”.

Simpson then returned fire with four “Standard” antiaircraft missiles, hitting Joshan in the superstructure.  The task force finished the Iranian ship off with gunfire.   Simpson shared credit as one of the very few US vessels since World War 2 to actually sink an enemy ship in combat.

Simpson went on to a long career; it rescued the crew of a burning naptha tanker two years later; it served in Desert Storm, as well as several deployments on humanitarian and counter-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia.

But beyond that, it’s not an especially notable ship, and its decommissioning isn’t big news; it’s one of many, as the Obama Administration mothballs the Navy at an alarming rate.

But the notable thing about the decommissioning of Simpson is that with its departure from active service, the US Navy now has exactly one vessel in commission (that is to say, an active, commissioned vessel in the Navy, as opposed to a museum ship or a decommissioned vessel in the reserve “mothball fleet”) that has ever sunk an enemy ship in action.

This one:

The USS Constitution, commissioned in 1797, and which racked up quite a record in the undeclared war with France in 1806, the War of 1812, and the actions against the Barbary Pirates, and still a commissioned US Navy warship.

True Colors

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Got a note from a colleague saying, in effect, “You know real estate law, you’d be an asset to the group, why don’t you participate in more bar association stuff?”   I’d respond but I can predict how the conversation will go:

I’m not in The Liberal Lawyer’s Club because I’m not a Liberal lawyer.

It’s not a Liberal Lawyer’s club, it’s for all lawyers, but even if it were, you should be a Liberal;  all lawyers should be Liberal lawyers because we’re so welcoming and tolerant of diversity.

No, you’re only tolerant of things that don’t matter.  For things that do matter, you’re shunning and intolerant.  For example, a case comes to court, the Plaintiff is White and the Defendant is Black, who wins?

The color of the parties doesn’t matter, only the facts and law matter.

Okay, second example, the Plaintiff’s lawyer is a Straight man, the Defendant’s lawyer is a Lesbian, who wins?

Again, the gender and sexual orientation of the lawyers doesn’t matter, only the facts and law matter.

Yet the bar association is obsessed with color, gender and sexual orientation.  You have committees and outreach programs for every one of the Things That You Say Don’t Matter.  But half the state voted for Conservative Norm Coleman over Liberal Al Franken so half the lawyers in the state ought to lean Conservative, too.  But there are no programs for Conservative lawyers, no committees, no outreach to the half the lawyers in the state who are not bar association members, perhaps because you’re not open and tolerant of diversity of opinion, perhaps because Conservatives are not welcome?

Well, of course we don’t welcome haters, sexists, bigots and homophobes.  If that’s the kind of horrid person you are, we wouldn’t want you to participate in bar association stuff.

Exactly . . . .

It also works for Saint Paul community council groups.

Mob Mentality

It was designed to change the Entente’s fortunes in the Great War.

Across open fields clouded by chlorine gas, 6 divisions-worth of newly trained British soldiers threw themselves at the lightly defended (but heavily fortified) German line.  For the first time in 1915, the British were taking on a significant role in operations on the Western Front.  The young men who were leading the charge had answered the call from Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Lord Horatio Kitchener, whose very image had surplanted the traditional “John Bull” (the British “Uncle Sam”) in rallying Britons to defend the Entente.  After a hard year of bloodletting from their French allies, “Kitchener’s Army”, or “Kitchener’s Mob” as his critics derided the volunteer recruitment effort, was to go into battle at the French town of Loos-en-Gohelle.

The Germans never saw the attack coming, and coupled with a surprise artillery burst and the first use of poison gas by the British, the Allied advance looked to be successful.

It ended in another wholesale slaughter.

The Battle of the Loos – the “mist” is 140 tons of chlorine gas

By the fall of 1915, Britain’s strategy to win the Great War had gone horribly adrift.   Continue reading

Follow The Money. And Jobs. And People.

I do a lot of speaking to GOP, Tea Party and Conservative groups around the Metro Area.  And when I drive out to a place like Mound, or Maple Grove, or Lakeville, I often start my remarks with something like “It’s so nice to be here – with that smell of competence, prosperity and success all around”.

It’s at least in part a dig at Saint Paul – a beautiful city with a failed one-party government.

But census data also shows it’s absolutely true; Red states are leading whatever economic “recovery” that’s going on:

The new Census data on where we live and where we moved to in 2014 shows that the top seven states with the biggest percentage increase in in-migration from other states are in order: North Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. All of these states are red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile the leading exodus states of the continental states in percentage terms were: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Kansas. All of these states are blue, except Alaska and Kansas.

There’s a reason the left’s noise machine focuses as much “energy” as it does on Kansas; it’s neither a failing Democrat hellhole like New York, nor a booming Conservative success story like North Dakota, Florida or Texas.

Get That Popcorn Ready

“Black Lives Matter” has announced that they intend to protest at, and attempt to block, the Twin Cities Marathon.

Let’s make sure this is clear; after months of protesting at things that the DFL elites in Kenwood and Summit Avenue revile (the Mall of America) or are outside their frame of reference (the State Fair, the Green Line during a Vikings game) or that isn’t part of their lives (or rush hour on I94 in the Midway, I35W in South Minneapolis, or Snelling Avenue), they may have finally gone a bridge too far; they’re not just inconveniencing the proles this time; they’re going to mess with one of those things of which white, upper-middle-class, MPR-listening, St. Olaf-alumniing, Volvo-driving, Whole-Foods-shopping Minnesota is most proud; an institution that is one of the A-list faces of the part of Minnesota that wants to look at the rest of the world and say “yeah, we’re a little like New York!”.

As I started thinking about writing, I got an email from a regular reader:

I’ve been minimally following the BLM plans to protest the marathon.  I know people who run the marathon who have never supported BLM, so their reaction is obviously anger.  However, secretly I kind of like that the group is finally disrupting something other than poor and working class people getting to and from work.  Especially when I read comments on Facebook that suggest the mindset of “why are you protesting us?  We support you.” to which BLM protesters respond with something like “if you support us, what have you done to make real changes?” (not exact quotes, but enough similar sentiments on the Facebook pages that [the operator of a local political discussion listserver] linked to) Liberal types who tend to think they’re helping by voting for all of the stuff that Liberals like probably are scratching their heads at that, which at least makes this protest fun to follow.

It’s more than just Schadenfreude, of course…

…although there’s plenty of that, too.

For example:  what must it be like to be Betsy Hodges or Chris Coleman, right now?  They’ve bent over 90 degrees past backwards for BLM – who, being liberal and (partly) black, they consider their electoral property – allowing them to block city streets numerous times without the protest permit every other group would need to bet, much less blocking interstate highways and mass transit over and over again.  And now – after all those favors – BLM ungratefully wants to screw with one of Hodges and Coleman’s marquee events?

Will either of them decide to “get tough”, as the eyes of the marathon-running world are on them?

But beyond that?  As the emailer pointed out – how will “progressive” Minnesota react to their own hypocrisy being sent up on a world stage?

The Vortex

The GOP is about to embark on a bruising battle over who’ll succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Kevin Williamson notes that it really might not matter that much, because Congress at the moment is little but a speed bump (emphasis added):

As [Conservative speaker candidate Louis] Gohmert notes without quite saying so, these United States are in the process of transforming the form of their union government from that of a democratic republic to that of a unitary autocratic administrative state. Barack Obama and other progressives have hastened that transformation in no small part because they consider the American constitutional order in purely instrumental terms rather than as a good in and of itself. Sometimes the constitutional order serves progressive ends and sometimes it constrains them, which is why President Wilson despised the Constitution and President Obama simply ignores it when he believes it necessary, adopting as he has — with rather less fuss than one might have expected — a Gaullist rule-by-decree model.

And if you’re a frustrated conservative Republican?  You’ve got reason:

The familiar ratchet effect is in operation: The Left in power expands the state, particularly the executive, and the Right in power does not reverse the turn, in part because conservative politicians like power, too, in part because reversing those expansions is difficult, and in part because even if conservatives win the fight there’s not much juice in it.

Is this part of an eccentric, unpredictable cycle of the ebb and flow of power?  Or an inevitable part of the United States getting just too big and too diverse?

 As my colleague Charles C. W. Cooke points out, the lack of an American king and an American prime minister has not prevented the traditional English contest between crown and parliament from sneaking into American politics. And the crown is winning. The waxing of the president and the consequent waning of Congress is a result of the deep psychological structure of mass democracy on the American scale, probably an inevitable one. TAmerican democracy was born in the New England town-hall meeting and in state assemblies, relatively intimate venues where following the operations of government was non-cumbrous. A population of more than 300 million with worldwide interests is a very different sort of thing. From the very beginning, the mere scale of the American project ensured that most Americans would find it incomprehensible: How many Americans at the time really understood that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton went into the Philadelphia Convention plotting to abolish their government and set up a new one? How many can identify the main points of contention between Senator Cruz and Senator McConnell?

It’s easy to try to boil it all down to simplistic chanting points – and both sides do it.

But the American experiment was largely predicated on the idea that we’d have a population full of people who weren’t all that different from each other (intellectually and politically, anyway) – a point the unwitting nostalgia for which I satirized in Trulbert, but which also happens to have had some merit in analyzing our founding.

We’re anything but that, anymore.

Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

What do we really need for President?

Jack Kemp.

The former Bills quarterback and congressman from Buffalo was perhaps the most influential American politician who never became President; he was behind much of the “get out of the way” legislation that led us to the prosperity of the ’80s and ’90s.

And he rose to prominence during an era with great similarities to today.

Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes write in the WSJ:

The present era resembles the miserable 1970s. Growth is glacial. Incomes are stagnant. The country’s mood is sour. Divisions are widening. In 1979 only 12% of Americans thought the nation was headed in the right direction. Now it’s around 30%. And politicians are pitting class against class: the “1%” against the “47%”; white workers against Mexican immigrants. The public is furious with Washington, and no wonder. Polarized Republicans and Democrats do nothing for them.

Jack Kemp shook things up—but with dramatic ideas about policy, not by pitting outsiders against insiders. The Republican establishment resented the gall of a backbencher’s butting into tax policy. Democrats hated tax-cutting, even though Kemp kept reminding them that President John F. Kennedy first proposed lowering the top rate to 70% from 90%. Special interests were furious when Kemp proposed reducing their tax breaks. He once wrote Reagan’s deficit-hawk budget director, David Stockman,demanding to know why Mr. Stockman wanted to raise taxes on working people and cut food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start, but keep subsidies and tax breaks in place forBoeing,Exxon and Gulf Oil.

Go on and read the whole thing.

And then ask yourself – which candidate would Kemp support?

Kemp was, of course, one of the people who converted me to conservatism.  We could do much, much worse, and we usually do.

It Was Ten Years Ago Today…

…that it occurred to me that “twenty years ago today, I made the impulsive, borderline-intoxicated decision to move to the Twin Cities.”

Which led to the longest-running series in the history of this blog, Twenty Years Ago Today – a seven year, 130-essay series about my life from that night I decided to move until my daughter was born.

Apropos not much – although it probably got more positive feedback (and, believe it or not, howling anger from certain anonymous leftybloggers) over a longer time than anything else in the history of this blog.  The temptation to put the whole series out as an e-book is definitely there.

Complication: I started the series on my old “Movable Type” blog, and then switched to WordPress in 2006.  I started copying posts over, but never quite finished them.

Here’s the list of the posts before 11/06; here are the remainder and the ones I’ve migrated over.

Anyway – time flies, it seems.


Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network – America’s first grass-roots talk radio show – is on the air! I will be on live at the Minnesota State Fair COM from 1-3PM today!

Today on the show,

  • We’ll be talking with Andrew Rothman of GOCRA and Rob Doar of MNGOPAC about Kim Norton’s “gun violence” “proposals”, as well as a look ahead to coming sessions.
  • We’ll be talking about John Boehner, Brandon Peterson’s resignation and the upcoming special election, and much more.

Don’t forget – King Banaian is on from 9-11AM on AM1570, and Brad Carlson has “The Closer” edition of the NARN Sundays from 1-3PM.

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

Join us!


Over on the Facebook, Rep. Kim Norton – about whom we talked the other day – has asked for a “conversation about guns”.

And, per usual DFLer practice in “conversations”, she seems to be deleting every comment that represents the other side of the “conversation”.

I left a comment:

Norton Screenshot

Let’s see how long that lasts.

If you’re a Second Amendment supporter from the Rochester area, by all means, sound off in Rep. Norton’s space (with a polite, well-reasoned argument, natch).  Let us know how long it takes for your comment to get whacked.

UPDATE:  It took ten minutes.  She also banned me from responding to any posts on her Facebook page.

In a different facebook post, Norton says:

They are not from my district, Jared. They have signed on for the purpose of lobbying. I have this sight for informational purposes and to share with my constituents. Please use my legislative email for lobbying or, even better, for suggestions!!

But she’s proposing laws that affect more than just her constituents; she’s put herself in the position of being the state’s lead for gun control efforts in the coming session.

If you live in her district, please sound off.

UPDATE 2:  I’ve invited Rep. Norton on my show:

Rep. Norton,

Mitch Berg here. I’m a host at AM1280 in the Twin Cities; I have a pretty sizeable audience in your district, over the air and via the internet.

I’m on the air every Saturday from 1-3PM – and I’d like to extend an invitation to you to come on my program this coming Saturday to talk about your “gun violence” proposals.

I’m wide open this Saturday; I’ll make 30-60 minutes available to discuss the issue in the sort of depth most media don’t allow.

And if you’re not free this coming Saturday, I’ll extend the offer; ANY Saturday afternoon between 1-3PM, between now and your retirement from the legislature, I will open for you and this conversation, whatever it takes.

I sincerely do look forward to your reply.

Mitch Berg

PS: I would understand your reticence about coming on a “Conservative” talk show. However, I have a long record of civil, productive interviews with people I disagree with. RT Rybak and Dane Smith are references!

Again, I hope we can talk on the air soon.

UPDATE 3 :  Well, not tomorrow.

Notwithstanding the very specific proposals she laid out in the Rochester paper, she says she’s just researching the issue, and has no specifics in mind, and perhaps we’ll talk when she has a bill written.

The invite will stand until the end of the session.


Hot Gear Friday: The Tool, And The Craftsman

Today’s “hot gear” is, along with the Bowie knife and the K-Bar, perhaps the most legendary piece of cutlery in the business – the Khukri.

The Khukri is a strange knife, to western hands; oddly-balanced, weirdly-shaped, more of a machete than a knife.  It looks, and to western sensibilities, feels odd.

So clearly, the legend is less in the hardware than in the software.

The Khukri is the traditional blade of the “Gurkhas” – members of tribe from rural Nepal that, in 1815, not only stymied a British/Indian invasion, thus securing Nepalese independence, but so impressed the would-be conquerors that it led to an agreement to allow the Brits to recruit tribe members into the British Army.  Being selected into a Gurkha regiment is not only one of the greater honors in the tribe – it’s also the only career path that doesn’t involve farming and raising yaks.

Given a choice between living more or less the same way they did a thousand years ago, or jetting into the 21st century (or 19th, for that matter), getting into the Army is an incredibly competitive process.  And it shows; the Gurkhas have been an elite force in the British Army for the 200 years since.   Sometimes they step beyond “elite” to just plain legendary.

But here – learn some more:

Die Hungerspiele

For hours, women had gathered in line at the farmer’s market in Cologne.  Before even daybreak, hundreds, and then thousands of German women had lined up to try and be among the first to buy badly needed supplies fresh from the nation’s farms.  The long lines, and limited food stuffs that awaited them, were nothing new.

But the prices were.  The cost of eggs, butter and fat had been raised yet again.  Indignant, the women began to argue with the market’s sellers.  The arguing quickly turned to shoving, as women pushed past farmers to grab what food they could.

Cologne’s police were quick to arrive, which only seemed to anger the women further.  “We want to eat,” the women chanted.  “Our men are fighting for the country, and we are starving!”  With the market’s supplies being overrun, the police drew their sabers and charged into the crowd.  Dozens were wounded as the women fled, trampling five of their fellow protesters to death.  For the next two days, thousands of Cologne’s women rioted in response, smashing the windows of shop keepers they accused of hiking prices, and attacking police units around the city.

In the fall of 1915, Germany and her allies might have been winning on the battlefield, but were losing the war at home.

A German Food Line – the initial effects of the blockade weren’t really felt until 1915 as the 1914 crops had already been harvested when the war began

While the Central Powers were experimenting with new technologies to try and win the war, unleashing poison gas and zeppelin raids, the Entente’s most powerful weapon had been among the simplest – starvation.    Continue reading

Autonomy And Its Victims

Back in the storied history of this blog, there was a liberal blogger who fancied himself a transit advocate – indeed, was alleged to have taken money from light rail interests to attack, using his various sock-puppet blogs, not only opponents of light rail, but proponents of any competing type of transit.

Among some of his many howlers over the years, the leftyblogger claimed – repeatedly – that I was a supporter of “Personal Rail Transit”, notwithstanding the fact that I repeatedly wrote I did not.   “His” “reasoning” was apparently that Michele Bachmann once parenthetically noted some interest in PRT, and Bachmann is a conservative, and I’m a conservative, so I must also support it.  To be fair, it wasn’t the least logical the little fella ever got.

But I always opposed PRT.

Part of it is, and has always been, that I think PRT’s supporters underestimate or underreport the technical challenges of having “just in time” personal rail service on a city-wide network of tracks.   Also the costs.

Part of it is that I don’t care; I’d rather have a steering wheel in my hand.

But the biggest reason I’ve never supported PRT was that I believed that the private market will provide a way to power cars from hydrogen and guide them with software decades before the government can put tracks of any kind, ultralight and personal or heavy and East-Germanlike, from anywhere people are to anywhere they actually want to go.

And, as usual, I’m right.

Not that I’ll ever buy one.  Trusting my safety and schedule to a bunch of programmers is only marginally better than trusting them to government transit employees.

Second Time’s The Charm?

Stuart Mills makes it ooh, so close to official that he’s going for a rematch in the 8th CD.

A rematch with Mills – whose 2014 bid lost by about a point – will give the DFL a chance to exercise those keen logical and reasoning skills in their never-ending pursuit of the stupid vote:

House Majority PAC and the DCCC aired ads thrashing Mills for his personal wealth, and at the time, his long hair.

“If you take a look at the attacks that they leveled against me, the one thing they never wanted to engage in was the issues,” Mills said on Wednesday. “They wanted to talk about my hair. They wanted to talk about my family’s success and the people we employed. They did not want to talk about the issues.”

Mills cut his iconic long hair this summer after a barbecue accident.

How many ancient keg-stand photos do you think the DFL can recycle before people figure out they’ve got nothing?

“Safe, Rare, And Awesome, Dude!”

Planned Parenthood supporters are trying to trend a “#ShoutYourAbortion” hashtag on all the usual annoying social media.

And if you’re a pro-lifer, this may be the best news of all:

Recent polling from Gallup revealed that 61 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the first trimester. After that, though, “support drops off sharply, to 27%, for second-trimester abortions, and further still, to 14%, for third-trimester abortions.” Thus it is that the average voter is opposed to the overturning of Roe v. Wade – and in favor of banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Thus it is that America’s moderates believe that women should enjoy a short window during which to make a decision, and that after that point the government should step in. Thus it is that the practice carries with it a serious stigma – even in the eyes of those who believe it must remain available. Should the “shout your abortion” contingent somehow manage to persuade the country’s leading pro-choice politicians to speak about the phenomenon as if it were a mere trifle – or, perhaps, even to praise it — they would be entering new and untested ground — ground, I’d venture, on which they may begin to lose. As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru has argued convincingly, the perceived aggressor in any culture-war dispute is likely to be the ultimate loser. Might there be a good reason that the pro-choice crowd has remained reticent?

They may be wrong, but they’re not stupid.

Well, some of them aren’t, anyway.