September 30, 2005

Puff Dougie

Survey question: How in the bag is the media for the DFL, especially for the Chris Coleman campaign?

a) Totally in the bag.
b) Totally in the bag.
c) On their knees and in the bag.

Read Doug Grow's episode of purported clairvoyance piece of Coleman campaign PR flackery column bit about yesterday's Randy Kelly press conference before you answer.

It's no secret; the DFL can count on Doug Grow to be its adjunct in the "serious" media, essentially a PR flak on McClatchy Media's dime. It's a sweet deal.

It pays off in the editorial.

Note the title "Kelly's plaintive plea: Why can't we all just get along?"

"Plaintive Plea?"

Not request. Not question. Not demand. "Plaintive Plea". Condescension drips from every word.

It doesn't stop there, naturally:

St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly was about to give the most remarkable/ironic/desperate speech of his political career Thursday afternoon.

Before the mayor stepped to the lectern, a couple of his handlers buzzed about making sure the setting was just right for a speech the campaign had said would be "a major address."

The handlers wanted to make sure the right mix of people would be standing behind the mayor when he spoke.

There were several white people, including a couple of stern-looking cops from the Police Federation. There were a couple of black people. There were some old St. Paul pols, including former Council Member Vic Tedesco.

A handler looked at the staging and saw it wasn't quite complete. He wanted television cameras to be able to show that a cross-section of St. Paul supports the mayor.

The handler spotted a Hmong gentleman.

"Would you come up here, please?" he said.

The man obliged.

The stage was set.

A politician, staging his appearance.

You'd think that never happened.

Well, at least you would if you kept reading. Note carefully the condescending cues Grow slathers on Kelly, compared to the conspicuous neutrality of his treatment of his co-worker's brother and the DFL endorsed candidate, Chris Coleman:

The mayor, slathered in pancake makeup [Again, the cue here is condescension; real men don't even wear pancake makeup, much less "slather" themselves with it - right? I mean, Chris Coleman would never be caught dead "slathering", would he? Ed] , stepped to the microphone.
Grow comments on the unusual lead-up to the conference, billed by Kelly's staff as a major announcement about the campaign:
Would Kelly drop out of his race against challenger Chris Coleman? (Coleman drubbed Kelly in the primary.) Would he announce that he's officially becoming a Republican? (Since endorsing President Bush 13 months ago, Kelly's been hanging out with Republicans more often than Democrats.)

It turns out there wasn't anything like that on the mayor's mind.

His speech was about -- drum roll, please -- anger.



Something Doug Grow can take at face value? Or even put in a context remotely related to the event?

C'mon. It's Doug Grow, writing about someone challenging an endorsed DFLer!

Kelly may be a fine man. He may be an effective pol. ["May be". He beat, against a full-court press from the likes of Grow, the DFL's endorsed candidate and the darling of Saint Paul's moonbat left, Jay Benanav - and has spent the past four years beating down the St. Paul City Council. Yep, Doug - he "may be" effective. - Ed.]

But Kelly coming out against anger is a little like Mike Tice coming out against ticket scalping. Or R.T. Rybak coming out against mismatched socks.

Scores of people can give personal testimony to Kelly's frequent tirades. His bullying. He relishes being the tough guy.

Let's stop right here.

I'm thinking - I'm not going to go back and check it out, but I feel safe in the assumption - that Doug Grow just might have been one of those people who said "Who cares what [fill in a former president] does in his personal life and spare time?"

I suspect he just may be one of those Democrats who chuckle wistfully when talking about, say, Lyndon Johnson, and his backroom temper tantrums.

I have a hunch he was one of those Democrats who wondered why all of us Republicans made such a fuss about Howard Dean's vein-bulging, hate-drenched ranting during the campaign.

I know he's not a reporter who wasted one column inch on future Senator and longtime "tough guy" Al Franken's physical assault on a heckler last year.

No, anger and being a "tough guy" are only negative when you align yourself anywhere to the right of John Marty, in Doug Grow's world.

The other thing is that the anger of St. Paul voters obviously is hurting Kelly very badly, otherwise he wouldn't have delivered this weird speech.

"I've heard your anger, I respect it, I understand it," Kelly said.

But, he said, voters shouldn't take their anger to the polls in November.

"Voting against me won't bring the troops home," he said. "It won't stick it to George Bush."

Badly as he must be hurting, Kelly refused the opportunity to back off from his decision to back a president who received only 25 percent of the St. Paul vote last November.

"I'm not going to backtrack," he said, suggesting everybody should look ahead, not back, though he quickly added there are "a number of areas" in which he differs from the president he embraced.

I have seen, uncounted times, the media connecting Kelly's maverick - and courageous, and, by the way, correct - endorsement of Bush with Bush's 25 percent showing in Saint Paul. I have not once seen a Strib columnist give fair shrift to Kelly's reasons - which are, by the way, great ones.

It might not endanger the Strib's agenda in Saint Paul, a city where 3/4 of the people walk around with DFL Koolaid IVs stuck in their arms.

But it would give a fair shake to the one thing Democrats everywhere, especially in Minnesota, hate more than criminals, terrorists, rapists, even Republicans - an apostate Democrat.

For that, to a fully-marinaded DFLer like Grow (and most of Saint Paul west of Rice Street), that is the great unforgiveable sin.

He also insisted he's still a Democrat.

"An unwavering Democrat," he said.

Then, asked if he'd support a Democrat in the next governor's race, Kelly wavered.

"Well, ummmm, I'd have to see who it is," he said.

Anyone out there have access to Lexis/Nexis?

With exactly how many public officials has Doug Grow ever inserted, verbatim, filler interjections like "Ummmmm"?

Because unless he is consistent in including these, they only appear in a column for one reason - to impute shadiness, not-too-brightness, the notion of holding something out on the people.

Someone check that, will you please?

If he's an unwavering Democrat, why didn't he endorse the late Paul Wellstone or his replacement, Walter Mondale, in the U.S. Senate race against Norm Coleman?

"I did not support Paul Wellstone because he did not support me," Kelly said. "I'm a reciprocal person."

It was all so strange. The text. The pancake makeup. The fact that the mayor's campaign was having the whole thing filmed by professionals.

Why was it "Strange?"

Politicans film campaign appearances all the time. And they hire "professionals" to do it. Who would Doug Grow prefer, Saint Paul Cable Access? And when being filmed by professionals, why would one not wear "pancake" makeup? Does Doug Grow do his TV appearances in full Scandinavian pallor?

Chris Coleman appears. Now let the puffing commence.

His opponent was amazed when he heard reports of the mayor's speech.

"This whole idea that people support me because they're angry at him is ridiculous," Coleman said.

No, it's not.

While Coleman and Kelly have their differences (Coleman was "moderate" enough to earn a fair dose of emnity from liberal DFLers, many of whom deserted the party to vote Green in the primary), the Bush endorsement is the only big black line between the two.

And Coleman is running one of the dirtiest, muddiest campaigns ever in Saint Paul. Now, you don't need dirt if you have facts on your side.

Coleman does not. All he has is anger. And he and his "people" are fanning it as artfully as they can.

And Coleman is spinning - and Grow is disingenuously, uncritically passing it on - if he says any differently.

"What he's saying is that you can't possibly have a rational reason for voting against him."

There was a little disgust in Coleman's voice.

But not anger.

Oh, no. Because liberals don't get angry.

Just righteous disgust.

Further proof, were any needed, that the truth doesn't come in print around here.

Posted by Mitch at 12:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Bitter-Enders

Crazy day today. My alarm went off at 5:30, per usual. Unlike usual, I shut it off - normally about as easy as solving a Rubik's cube - and went back to sleep, which I never do.

I did lay awake long enough to hear my daughter's alarm clock go off at 5-ish. And go off. And off. I fell back to sleep to the sound of it beeping.

So I got up at 7:30, which is half an hour late for my daughter's bus.


Daughter's first high school dance tonight. Anyone know where I can find a ninja suit, some night vision goggles and a crossbow?

In a totally unrelated matter, I was at Keegans last night. It was the last night of the season for the Smokers' Patio out back. While some of the native Minnesotans in the crowd were kvetching about the chill in the air, the North Dakotans in the group sat in shirtsleeves and enjoyed a relaxing night out, puffing on a cigar or two (thanks to David Strom for yet another excursion into stogistics). We'll all be indoors next week, but I think I'll be there anyway...

Per usual, my team - Strom, Strom's friend Tom, and...someone else whose name I'm totally blocking came in one point out of the beer. One lousy point. Blah.

More posting later.

Posted by Mitch at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

Exit Lanpher

Via Michelle Malkin - Cacklin' Katherine "Six Martini" Lanpher is leaving the "Drug-free" Al Franken show.

The official statement from FrankenNet is a veritable feast of between-the-lines reading:

It is with great regret that we write to let you know that Katherine Lanpher will be leaving "The Al Franken Show." Katherine has received a book deal from a new imprint at Time Warner to write a memoir of her move to New York. [But of course! Everyone leaves a prime gig at a national network to write...a travelogue - Ed.]...

Her deadline in mid-January is unusually aggressive and necessitates an almost immediate departure so that she can begin procrastinating in earnest. [Huh. I wonder why that is? Half of the talk-radio industry is writing books, including Chad "The Elder", although you didn't hear it here, while they do their shows. In fact, it begs the question - why not? I mean, don't let anyone tell you that doing talk radio is an especially demanding gig, at least in terms of time invested. Promotional and production exigencies aside, a six hour day is not at all unusual - and for a piece of crap like the Al Franken show, with a luxuriantly-padded production staff and millions thousands of moonbat callers slavering away to help kill time, it had to be even moreso for Franken and Lanpher. So - even with the tight book deadline, why NOT keep the Air America gig and have a steady paycheck during the writing process? Unless...could it be the paycheck just isn't all that steady? - Ed.]Katherine has been very generous in agreeing to work for another two weeks while we prepare as best we can for our Post-Katherine Era.

I'm going to read between the lines again, and posit this scenario. Knock it off my shoulder, I dare ya:
  1. FrankenNet has no money to pay Lanpher.
  2. They need to let her go.
  3. However, they also need to keep up good appearances, while Sheldon Drobny is out trying to raise more capital to move into small markets pay the bills. So...
  4. Lanpher and FrankenNet agree to a two-week "very gracious" two week notice to keep up appearances
  5. Meanwhile, to give it all the appearance of plausibility, the network's management scare up a parachute deal for Lanpher, to give the whole thing the appearance of credibility. I emphasize, "appearance". I mean - a book about moving from a posh gig in the Twin Cities to a posh gig in New York? That sure makes me pucker with anticipation. How about you?
Other theories?

Posted by Mitch at 12:53 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Kelly Kampaign Klatsch

Saint Paul Mayor Randy Kelly is holding a big news conference this afternoon, billed as a "major address on the stateof the St. Paul mayor race".

So what's it going to be?

A change in party, a change in strategy, or (here's what I'm hoping) photos of Chris Coleman pounding on puppies with a hammer?

Stay tuned.

Posted by Mitch at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rumor Mill: Lewis Is Back

A fairly well-placed source says Jason Lewis is coming back to the Twin Cities.

To which station - his alma mater, KSTP, or the new Clear Channel outlet KTLK - is not yet entirely clear. He'd be a coup for both stations; his local popularity would help staunch the bleeding at KSTP with Limbaugh's coming departure, while it'd give KTLK an instant local presence.

For various reasons, I'm leaning toward thinking it's KTLK. Lewis was not a happy camper when he left KSTP; word from various sources had it that he was not at all happy with the treatment he'd gotten. And sources told me there was some friction between Lewis and also-returning Program Director Steve Konrad, as well as with boss Ginny Morris, who is not especially comfortable with political talk in the first place. Finally, there always the sense during Lewis' first hitch at KSTP that the building wasn't big enough for both him and Joe Soucheray (again, according to sources at Hubbard.

On the other hand, he's a known quantity at KSTP-AM, and I'm sure enough money and promotion would solve any interpersonal issues. Don't rule out KSTP.

However, I'm just connecting old dots here. I'll try to dredge up another source or two to try to nail this down.

Either way - and assuming the rumors are true - welcome back, Jason. It'll be fun being a competitor, rather than a caller...

Posted by Mitch at 12:11 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Setting Priorities

I haven't had the opportunity to talk about last Sunday's appearance on Race to the Right, on KNSI AM1450 in Saint Cloud, with hosts Marty Andrade and Tony Garcia. I appeared as a guest, along with King and Andy Aplikowski of "Residual Forces", an excellent blog for inside Minnesota political baseball.

We ran down the list of District Six candidates. Now, I live in the Fourth District, so I only know so much about the Sixth race - but since there's nothing useful going on in the Fourth, it makes a nice academic exercise.

The question - what did I think about the candidates?

The correct answer: Who cares what I think? I don't live in the Sixth District! But as I see it - and I freely admit my opinion is neither fully formed nor especially informed - things shake out like this:

  • Jim Knoblach is a superb legislative technician. He's one of those people that are...well, my polar opposites, a politician who seems to excel at politics, the day to day technical grind of working out language and ironing out deals. Is that, and a power base in Saint Cloud, going to earn him a nomination in the Sixth, a district that runs from Saint Cloud along the northern suburban fringe of the Metro and all the way to Stillwater? I have my doubts.
  • Jay Esmay, on which more below. Jay plays the veteran card, and plays it well - it gives him plenty of up-front credibility. He has a relatively solid vision, although not a monolithically conservative one, which loses him a few points. But the vision seems, to the outsider's first glance, like the anti-Knoblach; it evinces little taste for or background in the knock-down drag-out of the compromise. It would seem in character; Esmay's background is in Special Forces Aviation, as well as Manufacturing management; neither field is known for gray areas. More - much more - below.
  • Michele Bachmann is, of course, a lightning rod for people with all sorts of agendas; the educational-industral complex reviles her leadership in the education reform movement - a movement to which I give lukewarm support (which is why Cheri Pierson Yecke's departure from the race is really a non-factor to me; I think most education reforms are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Wilhelm Gustloff). And her social conservatism has every two-bit agendamonger in the five-state area jumping up and down and waving their arms and screaming "Hate! Hate! Hate!". All of which is good - and, in fact, could be a serious benefit. But while I tend toward social conservatism in most respects, I wonder if it's a big winner without a sincere, rigidly conservative fiscal vision - especially in a right-leaning, fiscally-savvy district like the Sixth? I think Bachmann needs to settle on a fiscal message and hammer on it, to overcome what Andy noted as some antipathy toward her in the Sixth's delegate base. The good news for Bachmann? Either way - whether she stays in the MN Senate or goes to Washington - Minnesota wins.
  • Phil Krinkie is sharp. He is to all appearances the sort of social conservative that will fly just fine among the Sixth's delegates, and he is the face of fiscal conservatism in the MN House; In Nick Coleman and Brian Lambert's fever dreams, David Strom runs Krinkie via a little remote control transmitter. This is very good. He's also a solid legislator with a concise vision that has taken a back seat to his experience, so far. Downside, say (as I recall) Andy and King, is the question "will he play in Saint Cloud?" Good question; a better one might be "If Krinkie or Bachmann win the nomination, will Knoblach and Esmay bust their asses for them in the northwest? And vice versa - if Jim or Jay win, will Michele and Phil hoof it to get them some name recognition in the metro 'burbs?"
During the first hour, Jay Esmay called in, essentially to correct (as he saw it) one of Marty's remarks.

I engaged Esmay in a brief conversation, one that some of the insufficiently perceptive in the audience have tried to gloss over, so I'll give you some context; to me, it seems like his campaign leans very hard on his military background, and on a vision of reforming the military. An important goal? Indeed, it is. It's a vision I agree with and support fully!

But I had to ask - did he think that was going to be the make-or-break issue among GOP delegates, the flashpoint issue that would solidify or scupper a nomination? And did he think it was going to be the issue that put a GOP candidate over the top against a DFLer in November '06?

His response seemed defensive - I'm paraphrasing closely, here - "Don't you think the war is an important issue?"

I doubt you could read my blog for ten seconds and miss that I believe the war is the most important issue facing this nation for the next five years or more. Not that I expected Esmay to have read my blog - but it seemed an odd assumption to make.

I tried to re-center the question; I do support the war, but it seems to me that "reforming the military" (as distinct from "winning the war") is about as vital an issue in the Sixth as Agricultural Price Supports are in the Fifth.

Furthermore, the question at the convention in the Sixth is not going to be "who supports the president in the war effort" - and I've talked with all of them except Knoblach, now - but "Who supports it most loudly and constantly". And it doesn't strike me that winning that contest is, perforce, going to lead directly to nomination.

So my advice to Jay Esmay, which you can add to a buck and get a cup of coffee: you need to add something to your comprehensive and very credible vision for military reform; that "something" is a vision for the boring stuff you didn't deal with as a Special Ops pilot; taxes; immigration; farm subsidies (the Sixth has a large rural population, and a larger one that depends on agribiz), crime, the economy; the pocketbook issues that affect people in between thinking about the war.

That, in fact, was the point.

Jay Esmay and Jim Knoblach haven't appeared on the NARN yet. While our people will be in touch with their people, be advised that we will welcome both of them at 1PM on any Saturday convenient to them.

Thanks, by the way, to Marty and Tony. It was a fun day, they are constantly improving as hosts (they've come a long way since the show was on "The Deuce"), and let's face it - being stuck around a table with a bunch of smart people, talking politics, is always a gas. I look forward to listening to their podcasts (KNSI's signal doesn't even reach the metro!) in the future.

Posted by Mitch at 06:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Very Worth A Read

Do yourselves a favor and read Terror in the Skies, by Annie Jacobsen. It's a story of her own terrifying encounter with a government that still seems not to be entirely serious about terror, and her investigation into how bad the problem really is.

Very, very worth a read.

Posted by Mitch at 06:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


When I meet a new manager, and he/she starts off with some variation of "I'm a process expert" or "I was brought in to help with process", I silently start updating my resume. The group I'm with will be in the tank before long.

So when the Strib writes:

When Minneapolis police Lt. Mike Carlson took command of the newly formed Violent Offender Task Force in January, the unofficial mantra -- focus on results, not process -- seemed like a no-brainer.
...I'd have to add "not to anyone who works in the world of business".

(Aside: I think people in newsrooms have it easy when it comes to this sort of things; the "process" for putting out a newspaper has been one long slow tweak since the late 1800s. They don't have to go through the periodic "process" upheavals that periodically wrack management. I remember calling into one of James Lileks' radio shows in the '90s, trying to explain "'Dilbert"; he didn't like it much, while nearly every one that ever worked in the straight biz world at the time (the early nineties, when Dilbert was still very new) raved about it. Newsies don't know how good they have it).

(Well, no - the news biz spawns a million ulcers a year. But they come from things other than management fads. So far. As the institutions of the daily paper and the network collapse, we may see more infiltration of the vulgate world of business into the cloisters of the mainstream newsroom).

Where were we?

Oh, yeah - gangs in Minneapolis.

The piece is interesting...

Similar initiatives had failed because participating agencies needed to work by a different set of rules, or county and federal prosecutors fought over who handled cases.

But none of these issues has surfaced so far, allowing the task force to wipe out the leadership of two feuding Minneapolis gangs and clear the streets of an emerging young and violent gang.


Of course, Minneapolis is a target-rich environment. But it's nice to see some of the targets going down.

Minneapolis Police Chief Bill McManus said the success of the eight-member task force, which includes the rare assignment of an agent from both the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has surpassed his expectations.

The numbers don't lie: 26 federal indictments or charges, 23 state felony charges, 45 recovered guns, 29 search warrants and 76 arrests.

The task force has become Minneapolis' proactive gang investigative unit, something that hasn't existed within the police department for at least five years, said Capt. Rich Stanek.

The obvious question: Why?

Why was gang investigation off the table in Minneapolis for five years?

Posted by Mitch at 06:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

There Is No Dog

I've had a post brewing for quite some time about the upcoming legal wrangling over "Intelligent Design".

As I said earlier, I personally find the debate moot; not only are religion and science utterly different, but there's nothing about the allegorical story of creation that is inimical with the notion of evolution. Nothing.

To me, the problem isn't in the science, faith, or living with both. No. The problem is the people on both sides; the blinkered believers on the one hand, and the atheist jihadis on the other. I've grown up around both, and number some of both among my best friends - although I probably get along with the blinkered believers better, if only because so many atheists (by no means all) tend to be both arrogantly smug and crushingly depressing.

Learned Foot actually sums up nicely what I see.

Laugh-out-loud moment:

The Militant Atheist *hates* religion, while never quite realizing that he subscribes to a religion of his own (and that little "ism" tacked on to the end of the word "atheism" is a dead giveaway).

The *belief* that there is no God, is just as much an article of faith as the belief that there is one. But [the utterly hypothetical subject of his post], and others like him, don't get it.

Read it.

Posted by Mitch at 06:18 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

I graduated from college in May of 1985 - and spent the next four months basically trying to figure out what do to next.

It was twenty years ago tonight - Friday, September 28 - that it all started to resolve itself.

I really loved college. Despite the maniacal pace I kept (I averaged like 23 credits a semester), I enjoyed it; after the penal drudgery of the lock-step high school curriculum, the idea of charting ones' own course and learning it all just for the sake of learning it all was a dream come true. I loved it so much, I never got around to making a plan for what to do afterwards.

I went to an obscure college in my hometown, Jamestown ND. I was in the horns of a dilemma; my grades weren't spectacular enough to make anything like law school or graduate school a viable option - even if I'd been interested in either. Which I wasn't. The other traditional option with a BA in English was teaching - but I had absolutely no interest in that, and had never taken an education class.


I spent the summer working a bunch of crummy jobs - roofing and siding, delivering water beds, the local Waldenbooks - during the day, and usually drinking at one place or another all night (as I'd been doing for the whole summer after graduation, five or six nights a week), while I tried to figure out what I was going to do. In those days when only Al Gore had access to the Internet, it was hard to find out what was happening elsewhere, as far as applying for jobs and trying to launch a career elsewhere (even if I'd had a career in mind).

And "elsewhere" was another interesting topic. Where was I going to go? Because staying in North Dakota certainly wasn't an option. I didn't know what I wanted to do - but I surely knew what I didn't; pretty much any job I could get on the Great Plains, certainly the ones I was qualified to do - which with my B.A. in English wasn't a whole lot.

Time crawled forward. My alcohol tolerance crawled upward. Life, however, did't.

Finally, it was Homecoming time. It was the last week of September. All my friends from the class of '85 came back to Jamestown, talking about their fun jobs (computer programmers were the big export from Jamestown College back then, but there were nurses, teachers, management trainees, doctors, law students - the whole post-grad works) and cool cities (Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle and, of course, the Twin Cities) and their cool lives.

And I wanted one of those.

We were down at the Elks Club for the "Over 21" Homecoming Dance, a table full of my classmates and I. As we launched into our assortment of drinks with great gusto, we went around in a circle, talking about who was doing what.

Finally, they got around to me. "What are you up to, Mitch?"

"Ummmm...". There was no varnishing the state I was in. "I'm doing some roofing and siding work, that kind of thing. But..."

I'd had probably five drinks - not that much, given the tolerance I'd built up over the summer, but it was enough to make me pretty toasty. "I'm going to move soon."

"Aw, awesome!", they said, happy for my sudden burst of resolution. "Where to?"

I sat and thought for a moment. Where did I want to go to that I could afford to get to? New York and Chicago were out. Fargo was still North Dakota. The Twin Cities, with their music scene peaking at the time and only 350 miles away and relatively cheap at the time by major-metropolitan areas, beckoned.

"Minneapolis", I blurted out, draining the last of a Vodka Kamikaze.

"Cool!", they said, nodding their heads.

"Don't let them ask when. Don't let them ask when", I silently begged.


"Oh, crap. OK. How long'll it take me to get this together."

"Two Weeks".


I wandered around the rest of the night, euphoric as much from the weight that lifted over having finally made a decision as from the booze. I danced until the band unplugged. I finally had something, at least for the evening; I could tell all my old friends that I, finally, was getting underway. And, I figured, there was no way anyone'd remember the next morning, anyway.

They did, of course. I was cornered. A couple of friends in the Cities offered to put me up on their couches for a bit, while I got going. A few other had some people I could talk to about jobs.

So like so many things in my life, my move to the Twins started as a rash, impulsive response to an unexpected challenge, under the influence.

Not bad, all in all.

More later.

Posted by Mitch at 07:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bagpipes Save The Day

A nurse tries to figure out how to help an Alzheimers' patient:

The new nurse in the Alzheimer's unit noticed a striking picture on the wall of one patient's room. It was a black-and-white photo of him in England during World War II.

"Hey, Ted, what are you doing in a kilt?" asked Sarah Hagen, 27, a licensed practical nurse.

The solution?
Breidenbach lent her his tapes of bagpipe tunes. Her patient obviously loved the music. It soothed him. It lifted his depression. Then Breidenbach paid Wallis a visit. Breidenbach picked up his bagpipes and played "Scotland the Brave." (You probably know it. If you can hum one bagpipe piece other than "Amazing Grace," it's probably "Scotland the Brave.")

Wallis did, and he wept. "They used to pipe us into breakfast with that one," he said, his memory for a moment as sharp as a piper's highest note. Most of the time, Wallis doesn't recognize his family.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 06:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

My Happy Place

Willie's American Guitars - on Cleveland Avenue in Saint Paul is one of the coolest places on earth:

A slender, soft-spoken man who sports a small triangle of beard below his lower lip, Westgor, 47, is a former guitar player and singer who started collecting used guitars in his teens. That collection -- 13 instruments in all -- formed the initial inventory when he opened his store in 500 square feet of space on St. Paul's Cleveland Avenue in 1989.

The space has grown to 3,500 square feet and the inventory has blossomed to more than 800 guitars, upward of 250 amplifiers and a variety of other equipment.

The result is a business that grossed $2.5 million in 2004 and headed for nearly $2.8 million this year to continue a pattern of about 13 percent annual growth for the past six years.

The core of his business, Westgor insists, is the local bands who frequent the store in search of top-quality gear. About two-thirds of the business is top-of-the-line new and used equipment -- sorry, but "we don't sell student instruments," he said -- and the typical sale is $750 to $1,500.

But it is the other one-third of the business -- his collection of vintage guitars, some of which sell for five or six figures -- that has given the business its cachet.

Here's the part that amazes me:
His highest-priced deal came four years ago, when he sold a 1960 Gibson Les Paul model for $160,000, which would be "a bargain today," Westgor said.

His most expensive offering right now is a $35,000 1958 Fender Stratocaster. There's also a 1939 Martin D-18 priced at $25,000 -- no dickering allowed, considering that "it'll be worth another 10 percent next year."

I haven't looked at the whole collectible guitar market for a decade or more. I remember when a mint 1960 Les Paul ran for under $5K.

Anyway - a trip to Willie's is just about my favorite way to spend an hour after work. Even if all I can afford is a new set of strings and some picks...

Posted by Mitch at 06:19 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Retail Rage

I was grabbing some stuff for dinner in my local Rainbow Foods last night. Now, it's rare that the music on the overhead Muzak doesn't bore or cringe me, much less irritate. But last night I got lucky (as it were); it played "The Waiting", the 1981 classic by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty, of course, is one of those artists who's always been one of my favorites - he's worth a post one of these days - and "The Waiting" and the whole Hard Promises album are among my favorites ever.

Remember when I wrote about "moments" in music a couple of weeks ago? One of my favorites is when Petty wraps up the bridge of "The Waiting":

Oh don't let it kill you baby, don't let it get to you
Don't let it kill you baby, don't let it get to you
I'll be your bleeding heart, I'll be your crying fool
Don't let this go too far
Don't let it get to you...
...which instantly resolves up a minor third into one of Mike Campbell's most glorious solos ever.

So as I unloaded my shopping cart, I waited as the bridge rolled along, silently building up to the little jot of ecstasy that little moment has always given me.

"...I'll be your bleeding heart, I'll be your blind fool/Don't let it to too...


"Attention. Tom Jimenez, pick up line, I'm sorry...heh...Tom Jimenez, pick up line two. Tom Jimenez, line two...thank you...."

I'm shopping at Cub next time.

Posted by Mitch at 07:40 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Don't Quit Your Day Job

"Ruby" - the Pioneer Press' breathtakingly-shallow dating blogger - is hanging it up after a couple of years:

This Part 61 is the last of the "Single in the Cities" episodes. It makes me a little sad to know I won't be sharing my views on love and losers or ranting about the barbarism of high heels or the vital role the nose-hair trimmer plays in American society.
Wow. What kind of guy might Ruby have found?

Let's see if we can find some hints from earlier columns.

Let's flash back to look at some of her previous work for a hint:

Unfortunately, it was doomed from the start – he doesn’t live in the Twin Cities and had no plans to move. The radical Republican slant made me kinda seasick, too.
And then there's this:
Relationships aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK, but if I wanted to live with that much unfounded fear, I’d vote for Bush .

How about...:

Which is the case with the guy I’ve been seeing the past few months. He’s sweet, attentive and kind. He brings me coffee in the morning and gives me a back massage before bed. If he uses my car, he fills the tank with gas. If I mention my love of lime tortilla chips, they suddenly show up in the cupboard. He’s everything a gal could hope for.

And it’s driving me crazy...But now, I’m seeing a guy who is spongeworthy. And all this giving and caring stuff is strange for a woman brought up to be the master of her own (life) domain. Am I too independent for such a helpful partner? Or will I become a Kramer type and never shop for my own groceries again?

So what do we know about "Ruby"'s beau?
  • He's nice - but not too nice; he'll still trip that need she has for a comfortable level of dysfunction. That covers a wide range of personalities, of course; from "nice guys with just enough flaws to bitch about" to full-fledged "I'll ignore your birthday, sleep with two of our bridesmaids, spend your 401K on a Harley and pimp-slap your mother -and you'll like it!" bad.
  • His clothes and hair are, however, perfect. If there's anything we learned from two years of "Ruby", that's non-negotiable; he has to be a clothes horse.
  • He's reliably Democrat. He can spend their collective paycheck on hookers and blow - but when the cops drag him home reeking of vomit and KY Jelly, if he blurts out "Honey? What would Wellstone do?", she'll still get that little melty tinge in her heart, the kind she got when he showed up for their third date - after standing her up for the second - looking
Either that, or he's going to be using that nose-hair trimmer on himself one of these days.

But hey, all the best to the lucky couple.

And note to the PiPress: the next time you do a dateblog, find someone who doesn't sound like someone who flunked the screen test for an extra for Sex In The City. K?

Posted by Mitch at 06:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

They Take Care Of Their Own

Scott Johnson at Powerline quips:

We keep waiting for Karl Rove's minions in the media world to give us a call and offer us a book contract on the inside story story of "The Sixty-First Minute." We figure he owes us after we so dutifully followed his orders and played our role in exposing the fraudulent 60 Minutes II story with which CBS sought to tip the campaign last fall.

No such luck for us. The key perpetrator of the fraud, however, has been a bit luckier. Scheduled for publication by St. Martin's Press this November 8 is Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power by Mary Mapes, the producer of the 60 Minutes II segment.

Scott! The Strib gave you your answer yesterday. The country is tired of the conservative-based hate!

The hate that dare not allow a little fabrication, a little thing like a totally fabricated story, speak its name.

However, I wonder if we can book Ms. Mapes on the NARN...?

Posted by Mitch at 06:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 26, 2005


I committed the great faux pas last week of posting, yet again, about the fact that I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan.

Oh, the nattering nabobs of absolute musical homogeneity chimed in, as expected. For a moment there I felt like I was in high school, listening to kids in gym class; "The Sex Pistols? That's disgusting!".

Chief among them, of course, is my old pal J.B. Doubtless. When presented with the notion that a piece of music, a genre or an artist's oeuvre might have not only been important in someone's life but even done so by shaking up one's preconceptions, Mr. Doubtless' favorite response is usually "Who cares about being challenged? Music should entertain".


First, the background.

One of many unusual elements in my pedigree is that I, perhaps alone among people walking the earth today, was converted to conservatism by an English professor. Dr. James Blake, the best professor in my entire college career, was a self-described monarchist - and he introduced me to the likes of Dostoeyvskii, Paul Johnson, Tolstoii, Orwell - all of them critical in my evolution from a snot-nosed liberal muttonhead to the comprehensively-knowledgeable, preternaturally-intelligent conservative you're reading today.

I - and Dr. Blake - could have taken a sideways reading of Laura Inghraham, and told the authors "Shut up and entertain me". I could have reared back, Doubltess on my haunches, and demanded that my books quit the proselyzing, and just entertain me. But they didn't. They challenged me. They started me thinking. They pushed the rock over the edge of the hill that led to me becoming not just a conservative - but a conservative with a vengeance. Four years after Dr. Blake made the connection between Raskolnikov's sense of the end justifying the means, the crimes of Stalin and the damage that statism had done to our own society, I was the Twin Cities' first conservative talk show host.

No challenge, no evolution.

So yeah. I go to exhibitions of frou-frou minimalist art at the Walker. I go to indy films. I go to the Fringe Festival. I help write pretentious art reviews. I gobble up music by Steve Earle and Gang of Four and the Screaming Blue Messiahs and the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers and Green Day and a lot of people who spit when they say "conservative".

I do it partly because it makes me a better conservative. Yep, JB, I mean it. Remember the movie "Patton"? (You have seen Patton, right? You didn't boycott it because it had that pinko George C. Scott in it, did you? Because George C. Scott hated Republicans. Right?) How did Patton beat Rommel? He read Rommel's book. He knew Rommel as well as Rommel knew himself. "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!".

So to does reading John Dos Passos and John Steinbeck, and listening to the Clash and Jonathan Borovsky and Garrison Freaking Keillor and every other variety of lefty wanker, and sampling from the cultural stew in which they wallow, make me a better conservative than those who don't. Because I know their cultural backdrop better than they do.

And it goes way beyond politics, of course. Challenging oneself is the key to just plain being a better person. Dr. Blake used to say, there are two kinds of people; the kind that go through life from "beer to beer", wanting only to be entertained and kept fat 'n happy as they waltz through life with their blinkers pointed straight ahead ("entertain me!"), and the people who are out there kicking the tires and taking everything - all the assumptions, all the prejudices, all the ideas - apart and putting them back together again.

So send me your lesbian slam poetry, your-wrapped skyscrapers and shrill street theatre and cubist cooking. Show me your Argentinian indy films and jazz trip-hop and gay choirs and xtreem scrimshaw...

...because in and among all the crap that passes for "art" out there are things that ennoble the human spirit, that give you a way of looking at your life that you hadn't thought about before, that give you a laugh you desperately need, or even piss you off to the point where you go and do better yourself.

And of course, it ties back into politics; art in all its forms is an avenue into the human heart, whether through the written word, the moving picture or the sung note - and conservatives are getting our asses handed to us on that whole front. The whole "Shut Up And Sing" motif is a fun, satisfying rejoiner to the puffery of the likes of Barbra Streisand - but it's a self-limiting idea, ceding an entire battlefield in the culture war to the enemy without a fight.

So don't bleat "Shut up and sing" to ther guys. Pick up a paintbrush or a guitar or a copy of "the Playwrite's Market" or "Mime for Dummies", and start beating the visigoths back from the gates on this, the last battlefield where conservatives are still forfeiting the match.

And quit being so farging afraid of a challenge. It's good for you.

Posted by Mitch at 07:38 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

"And Stop Socializing Everything, Too, You Conservative Bastards!"

Do conservatives hate liberals?

Unquestionably, some conservatives hate some liberals.

Does either side have the market cornered?

I dunno. For purposes of argument, let's leave out the fringe, Democratic Underground and Free Republic. Then, compare the leading conservative sites - Instapundit, Powerline, Michelle Malkin, Captain Ed - with the leading lefty sites, the Daily Kos and Atrios.

Of course, it really depends on how you define "hate". To most conservatives, I'd suspect, it implies active and abiding mortal malice toward another human being.

To the left, the definition seems to be "disagreeing with the left".

Case in point: our old friend , one Paul Scott, generic lefty writer-without-portfolio from Rochester, returns to the paper.

And he's mad. But not choked with hate.

Oh, no.

Let's look through his piece and see if we can find an example of anything that any normal person would call "hate":

There are days when one can feel as if the mounting and faceless stressors in American life -- technological change, acceleration of life, materialism, economic uncertainty, fear -- have turned inward on us, dividing us like Sunni and Shia. How else can you explain the way Americans now talk about each other?

I am talking about the way in which conservatives speak about liberals. Consider the creepy trade in "books" a person must pass on the way to the coffee bar at Barnes & Noble. In powerless bouts of protest I have turned upside down more anti-liberal manifestos than I can remember. Just look at some of these titles: "The 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America,"Surrounded by Idiots,"Useful Idiots,"Intellectual Morons,"Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,"How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must),"Persecution,"Slander,"Treason,"The Enemy Within" and my personal favorite, "Deliver Us From Evil." And this is from the movement that complains about the coarsening of America culture.

So Mr. Scott vandalizes store displays - but we're the hateful ones?

And where's the hate? Calling someone names isn't "hate" - please show me a non-hyperbolic example of a mainstream conservative wishing death on a liberal.

Then there is the sight of Fox News, which tends to talk about just two things: liberals and child abductors.
Right. Because it interests their audience.

Where's the hate?Liberals, it seems, are deranged morons, cunning and powerful misanthropes to be patronized at worst, institutionalized or outfitted in orange jumpsuits at best. On good days, you wonder how this outrage industry, as it has been called, can possibly turn up the heat any higher. Should we prepare for a book titled "Impale Them All. Now"? On bad days, you order your latte and wonder if this is how they started in on the Tutsis. No. It started when the Hutus decided they were better people than the Tutsis.

The left is not above demonizing the other side, but we don't do it nearly as well. Perhaps we don't have the stomach for it. The left has never managed to demonize the word "conservative," for instance, while the word "liberal" now rolls off tongues in quarters across the land as a nasty pejorative. Liberal books tend to target Bush, not Everyone Not Like Me.

Liberals - very mainstream liberals at that don't denigrate and insult conservatives at large?

Liberals don't act on their boundless rage by taking it out on innocent conservative bystanders at all levels?

Liberals' hatred doesn't splatter like a shattered vat of hydrofluoric acid over everything that surrounds it?

Self-congratulation, thy name is Paul.

Then there is the issue of access: You need to go to the back of the Nation to order a roll of George W. Bush toilet paper. But you need only look up from your treadmill to hear Bill O'Reilly. Forget Bin Laden; to American conservatives, it's liberals who have become the Other.
And there's no reason conservatives are angry at liberals?

Of course there are reasons. Many of us see reasons that fabian socialism, in its current American guise, is bad for this nation - and where the lunatic fringe of that movement, which seems in the pages of the Daily Kos and the Nation to be becoming the mainstream - is a bad thing for this nation. We see the damage that two generations of unfettered statism did to this nation, in the form of an entrenched entitlement class (of all income levels, races and classes!), and are calling spades spades. We see the awful results of a biased media and the generations of groupthink it's created. And we're flailing away at it.

And it's not hate. And we all know what happens to those we cast as the Other, of course. We turn them into a big white sheet to aim our projectors at -- after we load them with film of every quality we like least about ourselves. Ah. The old "I'm rubber, you're glue..." defense. Hard to argue with that.

This helps me understand, then, how liberals this past year became the "haters." If you hadn't noticed, the last election found the conservative movement adeptly playing the "hate" card at every turn.
Paul Scott; on the off chance you read this, please relate the story of the Swift Veterans to your thesis. Remember them?

They were right, of course. But for daring to speak out against John Kerry, they were torn to shreds in the media. Remember - they had the facts, the very truth itself, on their side - but the left went after them, personally and with a viciousness they can't seem to even muster for the murderers among us.

As an example of "hate", Scott cites Randy Kelly's statement:

"People want to vote for something," said St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly in the Sept. 19 Star Tribune. "You have to appeal to their instincts of a better future. He [Chris Coleman] hasn't done that. He has a message of partisanship and ideology. ..."

This is a sanitized version of the official Republican script, which is to paint liberals as bereft of ideas, filled with hate, blind with anger. Nobody likes an angry person, after all.


"This is a sanitized version...?" That's akin to saying "If I could just run four times as fast as I currently do, I could make it into the Olympics!"

And has Paul Scott heard what DFLers are saying about Randy Kelly?

It's not pretty.

Consider the handiness of this strategy: You take power with the slightest of electoral advantages, attempt to change nearly everything, and when the other side complains, accuse them of being against everything.
Politicians doing politics. Shocking, isn't it?
Forget about his endorsement of the most divisive political figure of our times -- Kelly deserves to lose simply because of the way he has taken up this faux-populist, demonizing language about his opponent. don't like his rhetoric, so it's "hate"?
On a larger level, by painting such a pitiful caricature of the opposition, the right denies the fact of its robust trade in hate-mongering. It also insulates itself from ever having to take seriously any criticism to its failed policies. Don't listen to them, it says, they're just the America-haters.
Ah. The old "If you don't see things my way, you're in denial, and denial is a form of mental illness, therefore you're crazy, and crazy people kill other people, ergo you are a potential murderer" defense.

Again, hard to argue with that.

In the eyes of Republicans we are shrill, hysterical, comical.
And this piece tends to confirm that impression, along with "poorly educated, incapable of reasoning, and promoted beyond one's skills".

Every day that the right entertains this narrative about the left is another day in which it knows nothing about 50 percent of the voting public, its own friends and neighbors, many of whom do not wear horns.
It is likely that the ringleaders behind this message think this is all a big game. It is no game at all. It is shards of glass thrown across the road. Next time you hear about the festering hatred in the hearts of liberals, ask yourself who the real haters are. Better idea; stop trying to impute other peoples' motivations by your own prejudices; it's the ken of hysterics and the sadly dissipated.

A simple case in point: Ask yourself, and do try to answer honestly, the following question: After Bill Clinton won the White House, how many conservatives...:

  • ...threatened to leave the country?
  • ...proposed secession from the Union?
  • ...Proposed separate nations for the smart red-staters and the dumb blue-staters?
Submitted for your approval; if conservatives compain about liberal hatred, it's because there's plenty of it out there. The odd Ann Coulter tantrum doesn't come close to counterbalancing it all.

Posted by Mitch at 06:05 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Notable By Its Absence

The Strib wrote a piece about domestic violence today.

In and amid its usual demands to have the issue treated as a public heath matter, there was one thing unstated that was shocking almost to the point of epochal.

Read the article and see if you can guess what it was before you read the answer.


You read it, right?

Note that nowhere in the piece are "Men" or "Women" mentioned. The words don't even occur in the piece.

Usually when the local media and chattering classes (excuse the redundancy) refer to domestic violence, they do so in the form of a men vs. women issue; women victims, men bad.

Is it a slip-up, or is it a sign that the Strib is learning that there is more than one side to the issue?

Posted by Mitch at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's Official

The 'Official' President Al Gore Blog covers what might have been.

Or maybe...what is?


Posted by Mitch at 07:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

(Oh Tell Me Why) I Don't Like Mondays...


More posting later.

Posted by Mitch at 07:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

Return Of "The Republican But..."

The media has invented a new political class in the US.

"The Republican But..."

You see them every week in the Star/Tribune letters section:

I'm a Republican, but I think the party's stances on abortion, lowering taxes, defending the nation and its borders, demanding accountability in education, supporting the law-abiding citizen's right to bear arms, reducing the size of government, lowering barriers to business, making America a land of so-called opportunity, achieving a so-called ownership society and punishing criminals are unconscionable".
If you pay attention to the mainstream media, you'd think that the GOP is a party full of people seething to impose socialism, if it weren't for the damned leadership!.

An example from the coverage of the "peace" demonstrations:

While united against the war, political beliefs varied. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does _ except for the war.

"President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let's move on," Rutherford said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein "a noble mission" but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

"We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily," she said.

Get the impression Mr. Rutherford might be an Arne Carlson/Jerry Ford/Stockholm Syndrome "Republican"?

Mr. Rutherford: Do you honestly think that the innocent weren't dying in fast droves before we ousted Hussein?

Do you think they'd stop dying if we packed up and left today?

Do you think...period?

Posted by Mitch at 10:05 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Perhaps You Heard

Perhaps you heard - there was an anti-war demonstration yesterday.

Of course, the anti-democracy crowd demonstrated in Saint Paul, too. After the show yesterday, my son and I went to the corner of Summit and Snelling, the northeast corner of Macalester College, aka "Berkeley on the Prairie", aka "Daycare Center for Upper-Middle-Class Twentysomethings". I was struck by the, vintage of the protesters. Other than a bunch of invincibly dim-seeming college students (one held a sign saying "WalMart Out Of Iraq"), the average age was well into the late fifties, with a "healthy" leavening of the sort of flinty, humorless late-somethings that have become nearly cliche; Volvo-driving, clad in mass-produced t-shirts with smug little quips, beaming with self-righteousness when among the faithful, glaring with offended rancor when confronted with dissent.

And the "men?"

It's no wonder the US was such a friggin' toilet in the seventies, when that generation of guys was in charge of things. Beaten-down looking guys whose visage screamed "Five more years until I get my AFSCME Pension", in the inexorable tow of their matronly masters, seemingly silently praying to Alan Alda for the sweet release of death. Guys who'd never taken down the freak flag, handing out leaflets and exuding unrequited must.

I behaved myself. I told my son "no flipping birds. No yelling obscenities. We're Republicans. We win by having more class than these morons".

OK. I almost behaved myself. As I crossed Snelling to head back to my car, a scrawny little guy in a hemp t-shirt and a ponytail pressed about five leaflets into my hand. It was crude, hand-drawn picture of the US, with a notional barbed-wire fence surrounding it. Inside, a horde of sad-looking stick figures.

"We are all prisoners of war", it said.

Words failed me. Actions did not. I ripped the leaflets in half, spat on them, crumpled them up and tossed them onto the street, and walked away. The guy seemed stunned.

Posted by Mitch at 09:54 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

In The Footsteps Of The King

I'm in Saint Cloud, posting from the Panera Bread store that King turned into a blogospheric legend.

Mmmmm - spinach and artichoke souffle...

I'm going to be appearing on Race To The Right, on KNSI (AM1450 in Saint Cloud, plus available on the website) with King, Andy from Residual Forces, as well as hosts Tony Garcia and Marty Andrade. We're going to be talking about the Sixth District house race, among many other things.

Tune in, log in, drop out! Or something like that.

Posted by Mitch at 09:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Minneapolis: The Death Of Art

This is Minnsota.

We provide copious welfare to major corporations.

We subsidize poverty, in order to make it a viable lifestyle.

And now, from the same people who brought you the Motor Vehicle Department and the County Code Enforcement Bureau, we have...

...arts welfare!:

To the artists and others at Wednesday night's public meeting, Minneapolis' new strategic arts and culture plan looked great. And it should have -- it's the result of three years of effort on the part of the Minneapolis Arts Commission, and involved the input of more than 500 people representing various neighborhoods and arts organizations.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says the plan will ensure the future well-being of what is already a culturally dynamic city.

In other words, Minneapolis is going to pay off yet another DFL constituency.

Says Mayor Rybak:

"When I really see the art percolating in this city, in the middle of the Fringe Festival, when the art festivals are going on and we see somebody doing a spontaneous art performance on the Stone Arch bridge, I feel so proud to be mayor of a city that has so much art percolating from just the basic DNA of the city of Minneapolis. I want to make sure we do everything we can to keep nurturing that"
As someone who deeply loves art of all kinds, I beg of you; please don't.

The Twin Cities are, indeed, great cities for the arts. Arts of all kinds - music, theatre, visual, kinetic, literature and more - all thrive here.

Making it a part of the bureaucracy is a wonderful way to kill it.

Look at what happened to Jazz and "Classical" ("Serious") music; as both moved from the realm of the market into academic sinecure and government-subsidized preservation programs, each evolved in the same way everything evolves once it is subsumed into the bureaucracy, whether it's an art form or the tax code; through opacity to arrogance; via subsidy to dependence and the homogenization that goes with it; from art that shares the world we live in to art that can only survive in a subsidized, academic hothouse; from art by artists to art by grant whores.

"I'm skeptical. We've seen how many arts plans have gone through," says Knox. "I want to believe the city of Minneapolis will demonstrate a commitment to the arts by acting on what has been put out. But right now, listening to what has been said, it feels like these are some really glib, easy answers."
Well, here's one more glib, easy answer: be veeeeeeery careful when subsidizing the arts.

There's a fine line between Shakespeare in the Park and the gratingly arrogant "public art" that clogs so much of the urban landscape... No, actually it's not a fine line at all. Enabling organic art to get to the people is one thing; paying artists to do what which is done best on their own is quite another.

Posted by Mitch at 05:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bruce at 56

Sheila O'Malley, as so often happens, sums up what I really mean to say:

It's funny when an artist somehow - explains your own life to you - at different stages of your life ... Like, you grow along with the artist. It's amazing - these people who have had really really long careers ... Sometimes you hear one song, and you can flash back 20 years in time to a specific place, a specific sensation ... You know where you were, but more importantly than that, more evocatively: You know WHO you were. We change, we grow, we evolve. But music, and musicians who call us out, who challenge us, who evoke emotions, who remain honest and true ... can remind us of WHO we were.
That's always been the thing with Springsteen, for me; beyond music, beyond the live performances, beyond anything conscious, something in my psyche has always found something to latch onto, to identify with - and which I forevermore associate with things, times and places, ideas, moods that have long passed but, when I hear the song, I can return to and place as powerfully as if they were yesterday.

JB Doubtless often sniffs about people who claim a song or an oeuvre or an artist "saved their life". It's It's not. It's shorthand for a lot of things; the memory of music (or any kind of art, although I'm most focused on music) that focused your life, that summed up how you felt and what you were thinking, that distilled a time of your life and being into a brilliant diamond-sharp token of experience, something that is with you forever.

I have a bunch of them. And the soundtrack for a vastly-disproportionate number of them comes from Bruce.

There are little swatches and passages from Springsteen that I forever associate with moments, some earth-shaking, some that seemed trivial at the time but evolved over time.

But there's much more to it than that. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it goes beyond an artist, and it goes way beyond nostalgia.

Work with me on this one.

I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when each of dozens of passages drilled themselves into my brain:

"Well the dogs on Mainstreet howl, 'cuz they understand"

"When the breakdown hit at midnight there was nothing left to say/but I hated him, and I hated you when you went away..."

"Tonight I went down to the River, though I know the river is dry/down to the river tonight..." - the harmony vocal on that part chills me as much as the association it makes.

"I got dirt on my hands, but I'm building a home..."

"Puerto Rican Jane/oh won't you tell me what's your game?/we can find it out on the other side of town/where paradise ain't so crowded..."

"But on a night like this, I know that girl no longer exists/except for a moment in some stranger's eye, or the faceless voices in cars rushing by..."

"I just want someone to talk to/and a little of that human touch"

"Big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams/meet me in the land of hopes and dreams" - this, as I entered the most wrenchingly awful year of my life, was unbelieveably vivid for me. Tell ya what, JB - maybe I'm going to have to revisit that "music saved my life" thing. This particular song may have done exactly that.

"If I should all behind, wait for me"

"I'm 35, I got a boy of my own now/last night I sat him up behind the wheel, said Son, take a good look around/this is your hometown"

(Damn - it's hard to even type those. Some of them - or rather, the things I associate them with - still absolutely wreck me).

And maybe the biggest one of all; it was right after 9/11, during The Telethon. The time for grief was wearing on us; the time to strike back was weeks in the future, and in any case the job of other people. The images of Ground Zero, of body bags and nightmarish onslaughts of dust and distraught survivors and pictures of the missing everywhere, and F-16s orbited over Minneapolis.

And on that evening, during the telecast - itself jarring for its grainy, noisy, hasty-to-the-point-of-slapdash production, which itself brought back memories of live broadcasts from the sixties and seventies - Bruce and his guitar and a couple of other singers did "My City Of Ruins". I sat with my kids and watched.

(with these hands) I pray for the faith, Lord,
(with these hands) I pray for the hope, Lord,
(with these hands) I pray for the strength, Lord,
(with these hands) I pray for your love, Lord...

And I did, too. In a way I hadn't before.

And I got it. Faith and hope. And Love and strength. Especially strength. I needed it, and it was there.

At this point, let me take a moment to head off the inevitable political jibe; I know. Springsteen campaigned for Kerry. Let me put this succinctly; I don't care if he was found giving Dennis Kucinich a pedicure. It means what it means, to me. That is all.

So why does this go beyond nostalgia? Because those associations exist for a reason; in the best of these moments, one not only gets an association, a combination of stimuli that etches itself into your consciousness. More importantly, one has learned something about oneself, about how you fit into or react to or live in this world, something you can file away - if you're lucky - and use later.

And when you need to pull that little lesson from life out of the memory hole, it's that association that helps you find it. And it's there when you need it.

The dogs on mainstreet howl. I don't wanna fade away. When I'm out in the street, I talk the way I wanna talk. That girl no longer exists. At the end of every hard earned day I find some reason to believe. Let their precious love bind me, lord as I stand before your firey light.

Give me strength, faith, hope, love.

You can't break the ties that bind.

Behind each of those snippets - meaningless on their own - is a piece of life, a lesson learned, a hope and a prayer, an ideal to which I still aspire.

Happy birthday, Bruce, and here's to 56 more years.

Posted by Mitch at 12:46 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Make-Work Program For Lefty Dilettantes

I've told this story before. Feel free to skip ahead to something else if you prefer.

In 1940, the official policy of the governments of Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands was pacifism and absolute neutrality. It was also the policy of Sweden and Switzerland.

For the Belgians, Danes and Dutch, with their flat, indefensible homelands and relatively long borders, it was matter of knowing that they had no way of defending against the likely aggressors - the Germans or (absolute neutrality bid them to include) the French or British. As a pragmatic matter, it seemed that eschewing war and relying on international law and blandishments about peace was the best practical course. Their militaries - at least in the homelands - were small, almost token forces (although in the days leading up to war, at least Belgium started a last-minute crash rearmament program, buying American tanks that were never delivered and British airplanes that their pilots hadn't enough time to train in before the blitzkrieg).

For Norway - a much more defensible country - it was much more a matter of national temperament; Norway decided as a matter of policy to eschew war.

For Switzerland and Sweden, pacifism and neutrality was spoken softly; both countries carried big sticks, by regional standards. The Swiss national psyche, with its citizen militia (every able-bodied male is in the military from age 20 to 50, and keeps his rifle, ammunition and gear at home - a system the Isralis adopted and retain to this day) and rugged mountains, was geared toward self-defense. The Swedes backed their neutrality with a well-equipped Army, and defended its long coastline with a relatively large and excellent Navy.

"Peace" was the official policy of these six nations.

Two of them survived World War II unscathed. The other four - Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands - were conquered by the Nazis.

After World War II, Sweden and Switzerland maintained their policies. Interestingly, the other four nations' societies didn't change - and yet, did.

Nobody can accuse the Norwegians or Danes or Dutch of being warmongers; if anything, they have quite the opposite reputation. And yet each of these countries backs their pious pacifism with relatively big teeth; Norway adopted an almost Swiss-style national service system (Norwegian reservists - a huge part of the population - keep their assault rifles at home) and built a Navy with a disproportionate number of small submarines and fast missile boats to defend its huge coastline. The Netherlands made a point of always buying the best equipment available, building a Navy that man for man was one of the best-equipped in NATO. The Danish military has, by all accounts known to me, a great reputation within NATO; in Bosnia, the Danish troops were more likely than most to take the fight to the Serbs; stories of Danish tanks blasting Serb snipers abounded a few years back.

The point?

There's this irritating little bumper sticker you see on a lot of Volvos in Merriam Park, which sanctimoniously sniffs:

You can not simultaneously prepare for peace and for war -- Albert Einstein
With all due respect, Einstein should have stuck with physics; history shows that a more accurate slogan is:
Preparing for "peace" without preparing to defend it is utterly meaningless
All by way of reacting to Senator Mark Dayton has endorsed the idea of a cabinet-level "Department of Peace".

The Strib reports:

In what peace activists call a milestone, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., introduced legislation Thursday supporting a long-shot citizen lobbying effort to create a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence.

He is the first and, so far, only member of the U.S. Senate to publicly endorse the plan.

A remnant of the quixotic 2004 presidential candidacy of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the idea of a "Peace Department" has been derided by critics as utopian and naïve, while supporters say it is an idea whose time has come.

It came, alright; in 1940. Our Scandinavian cousins can tell you what a wonderful idea it was.

For those of you who don't live in Minnesota; you probably spent a good part of the early months of the 2004 campaign wondering with whom on earth Dennis Kucinich got any traction.

Welcome to Minnesota:

Almost half of Minnesota's congressional delegation -- all the Democrats but one -- have lined up in support of the campaign, which calls for a cabinet-level secretary to develop an array of policies from international conflict-resolution to reducing domestic abuse and violence against animals.
Almost sounds like something from Dilbert, doesn't it? Linking abuse of animals to thugocracies killing each other...

...although five'll get you ten a "Department of Peace" will never address the sins of a single thugocracy.

Nobody gives the plan much of a chance in a Republican Congress [Thank God -- Ed.]. But backers in Minnesota -- where Kucinich turned in one of his best electoral performances -- say their support is intended as a political statement.

"It sends the right message," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. "It's about promoting justice, expanding human rights and preventing conflict."

Besides McCollum, Minnesota Democrats Martin Sabo and Jim Oberstar are cosponsoring Dayton's bill.

Minnesota is one of 12 states whose Democratic Party has endorsed the plan.

"It underscores Minnesota's forward-looking approach to government," Kucinich said. "That's what Minnesota is about. It's the one state where new ideas are welcomed."

No matter how stupid they are.

The fantasy-based community is truly in full sway in this state.

But hey, I can be convinced. I won't let the fact that every single example from history rises from the dank past to heap scorn on this idea prejudice me. Much.

The Minnesota Republican Party, however, is adamantly opposed, having chastised Democratic congressional candidate Coleen Rowley, who spoke at a Department of Peace conference in Washington on Sept. 11.

"Money would be taken away from the Department of Defense to fund programs such as a Peace Academy and prisoner rehabilitation," said a statement issued last week by Minnesota GOP Executive Director Bill Walsh. "The creation of a Department of Peace is a naïve and unreasonable approach to dealing with the problems of the 21st century, including international terrorism."

Detractors say that a new peace bureaucracy, along with its proposed $8 billion-a-year price tag -- pegged at 2 percent of the Pentagon budget -- is just another big government idea that will never happen. But Minnesota voters are likely to hear more about it in the coming election year.Which means we Minnesota Bloggers are guaranteed at least a year's worth of red meat free-range tofu.

The Minnesota GOP highlighted the Peace Department proposal to attack Rowley for joining forces with "liberal extremists." Rowley, who became a national figure for blowing the whistle on FBI shortcomings before the Sept. 11 attacks, is now challenging Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, a former Marine colonel with strong ties to the Pentagon.

Rowley dismissed the GOP's extremist tag, saying "that's their tactic. Everything they don't want to do, they call you a name."

Ms. Rowley; when does "accurately summing you up" turn into "name-calling?"

I'm so looking forward to '06!

Posted by Mitch at 12:12 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack


It's Bruce Springsteen's 56th birthday today.

I'm going to write more later today - but Red went and exhumed some of the stuff I already wrote (wow - did I write that? Thanks Sheila!). That'll hold ya for a while.

Posted by Mitch at 07:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Late Start

I sorta slept in today. I didn't get up until sixish.

More blogging a little later in the morning.

By The Way - if you've been trying to leave comments and getting rejected (unless you're one of the two people who've been banned from the blog, and you know who you are), let me know. Drop me an email at the domain "shotinthedark dot info", with the address "comments". I'll try to fix it.

Although not this morning.

Posted by Mitch at 07:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Yesterday, in an Alternate Universe

"Hello, this is your pilot, Kathleen Blanco."

"The nose wheel on our landing gear is jammed ninety degrees in the wrong direction."

"Each of you is now responsible for getting yourself safely to the ground. If it doesn't work...blame the Feds for not having a plan to get you out of a crippled airplane".

"So long, and thanks for flying Jet Blue"

Posted by Mitch at 12:17 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Annie Jacobsen

Ever since Chad the Elder booked the Wacky Chickens for an appearance on the NARN State Fair broadcast - for a show he didn't attend, natch - I've been very careful about his bookings, examining them very closely for hidden pitfalls and traps.

Fortunately, his booking for Saturday's broadcast - Annie Jacobsen, author of Terror In The Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again - seems like a good one.

Elder says:

I'm presently immersed in Annie Jacobsen's new book, Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again. You may recall that Jacobsen created quite a stir in the 'sphere last July with her account of a harrowing encounter with a band of Syrian musicians aboard Northwest Flight 327. The book recounts the events that Jacobsen witnessed unfold on the flight (backed up by other passengers), the follow up (or lack of) investigations of the affair by federal officials, and similar stories of suspicious in-flight activity submitted to Jacobsen by other travelers and airline employees.
This story has interested and scared me since I first heard it. It'll be a great hour.

Make sure you tune in, either by radio or on the web.

Hope to see you then.

Posted by Mitch at 06:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Pet Peeve

It used to be that most times someone tried to trump an argument by saying "You're in denial", that the unstated dependent clause was "...that I'm right, even though I haven't come close to convincing you".

The new "Denial" is when something "...speaks volumes". It's a new fad among the catch-phrase crowd; "The fact that you brought up the Tenth Amendment speaks volumes". The unstated conclusion: "...speaks volumes that I'm too lazy to explain anything about. So I'll just invoke these mystical volumes and hope that my zippy catch-phrase is a substitute for rational discussion".


Posted by Mitch at 05:37 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Hennepin Anti-Smoke Jihadis: "Duck Is Dog!"

Disclaimer: Other than the odd cigar (I'm up to maybe a couple a month) I don't smoke. Smoking doesn't especially bother me - I worked at radio stations where I was the only non-smoker. If smoke started bothering me, I never had a problem going to where there wasn't as much of it. It always seemed fairly simple to me.

I worked in bars for years, and - this is important - knew when I applied for the jobs that there was going to be some smoke involved.

Oh, yeah - and I learned that if something walked, talked, smelled, tasted and smoked like a duck, it was most likely a duck. Not a dog.

In Hennepin County, as support grows to amend its draconian smoking ban, the ban proponents are saying that all that stuff you see with your own eyes is a Malamut, not a Mallard.

The Strib:

Hennepin County's six-month-old smoking ban has had a mixed impact on bars and restaurants, showing that suburban businesses had declining liquor sales but that those in Minneapolis had better-than-average liquor and food sales, a new county study says.

The study, which looked at sales in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and was released Wednesday, has become a centerpiece in a debate over whether the state's most populous county should scale back its far-reaching ordinance. The ban, which took effect in March, made Hennepin County the largest unit of government in Minnesota to prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants.

The study was a apparently not designed to specifically settle this squabble - and it doesn't:
The study said that liquor sales at 497 outlets grew at a slower rate during the second quarters of 2004 and 2005, when the ban began to take effect, than they did during the same period in 2003 and 2004. Anoka County, which does not have a smoking ban and lies immediately north of Hennepin County, had increasing liquor sales during the same time, the study said.

However, the study added that "it is not known whether, or to what extent, this is due to the Hennepin County smoking ordinance."

Evidence that it's a duck: Our own eyes. I don't hang out in a lot of bars (Keegans is about it for me), but if you roll all my friends and acquaintances together, there'd be a couple of very dedicated bar-hoppers - and there's no doubt. The ban has gutted the night business. It can't be a coincidence that just as the bar season should have been picking up - as part of the rhythm of the seasons in bars - it fell through the floor. Bars that in every previous season had brought on new staff were laying off. Bars that had been full on Ladies Night every spring were sucking pond water. It's a duck.

On the dog side:

"I would consider any further action by the board a step backward," said Commissioner Gail Dorfman, a chief proponent of the smoking ban. Dorfman said that the study was "somewhat inconclusive" and that the data were based on a small sample size.

"I don't know what the next step is," she said.

Oh, I think you're going to see a bigger sample size, and pretty soon here.

Posted by Mitch at 05:31 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Riding The, Er, Storm Out

The kids and I spent about an hour in the basement last night, listening to 'CCO and...just chatting.

It was actually kind of fun. We don't get a lot of time to just sit and talk, anymore. Being teenagers (12 and 14, anyway) they don't generally like sitting and chatting with Dad. It's rare when none of us have anything else to do. It was kind of nice. It helped that Saint Paul is on the east edge of the metro - the urban heat island effect pretty much guarantees that any storm will be pretty well washed out over Minneapolis before it gets to us.

So I had a good time. It wasn't nearly as nice for everyone:

One man died Wednesday when a tree branch fell on him in Minneapolis as a string of severe storms pushed through the Twin Cities area, crunching trees and toppling power lines.

Minneapolis police said the 45-year-old man was hit by a falling tree branch at about 7:30 p.m. in the 5200 block of James Avenue North. His name was not immediately released.

Posted by Mitch at 04:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Best. News Conference. Ever.

Louisiana National Guard Adjutant-General Russell Honore, as transcribed by Generalissimo Duane, whacks a bunch of bubbleheaded bleach-blond reporters on the knuckles:

Male reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time...

Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out.

I heard this yesterday on Hugh's show and almost drove off the road laughing.

Duane continues:

I think the General just started a movement, and he may not even realize it. Every time a reporter, in any situation, starts spinning, or completely misses the point, they need to be peppered with, "Don't get stuck on stupid."

I'd pay money to see David Gregory in the White House Press Corps foaming at the mouth over something trivial Scott McClellan said, and have McClellan say, "David, you're stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that."

A lot of us would pay big money for that.

My fearless prediction: Expect a story in the Columbia Journalism Review condemning the chilling effect on democracy when news figures treat moronic reporters like morons, and demanding action to restore journalists to their accustomed priest-like status.

Posted by Mitch at 12:53 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Rule Of Law

I was thinking as I wrote the "Berg's Second Law" post this morning that in the past 3.5 years of doing this blog I have actually contributed a few laws to the world's canon.

I should make sure everyone is aware of them.

Berg's First Law of Liberal Iraq Commentary - "No liberal commentator is capable of addressing more than one of the President's justifications for the War in Iraq at a time; to do so would introduce a context in which their argument can not survive"

Berg's Corollary to Bissonnette's Law - (Whenever someone introduces an "Old West" analogy into a discussion on civilian firearms ownership, the person can be presumed to be covering for absolute ignorance on the subject). Corollary: Whenever anyone says "people who favor guns are compensating for something, ifyaknowwhatImean", know what they mean only in the most academic possible sense.

Berg's Third Law of Human Resilience - After any disaster whenever government and the media declare "there can not be any more survivors, and this is now a recovery operation", they will be wrong.

Berg's Fourth Law of Media/Sports Inversion - The Vikings will be contenders until the moment the local media actually believes they will be contenders. At that moment - be it pre-season or Week 12 - the season will fall irredeemably apart.

Berg's Fifth Law of Historical Illteracy - 99% of the invocations of Godwin's Law are done by 1% of the online population. Corollary: That 1% understands .000001% of the history required for a literate invocation of Godwin's Law.

Berg's Sixth Law of writing a Blog in a city full of people with dubious senses of Humor - To every joke, there is an equal and opposite inapproriately petulant reaction.

What laws have you contributed? Huh? Huh?

No, I mean, leave 'em in the comments. Seriously

Posted by Mitch at 12:26 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

But Don't Dare Call Them Unpatriotic

Joe from Brooklyn Park wrote to (among a few other local bloggers) the Fraters and I regarding this cartoon from this morning's Strib.


Regarding the cartoon on the Strib editorial page yesterday that showed Bush defending the military response to Katrina - the closing balloon had Bush saying: "There are more than enough troops to screw up both places" - the other being Iraq.

This is not only beyond insulting to the troops, but just plain ignorant. If anyone transitions well from providing humanitarian aid to killing bad guys with utter lethality, it's the U.S. military

Well, that'd imply that the cartoonist - a fellow from the Newark Star-Ledger whose name I cannot break through the ennui to look up again - cared about little things like distinctions and accuracy when it came to his "art".

Joe went on to explain the conundrum facing the US military worldwide:

I still recall Marine Commandant Krulak's comments about fictitious three-block city that he envisioned. In one block, his Marines had to kill bad guys; in the next block they had to care for refugees; in the third block they had to separate warring factions with a centuries-old hatred for one another. And they had to do all equally well.
And our military has had to, for a couple of generations, now. Steven Ambrose once noted that throughout world history, a squad of teenagers with weapons - whether they were hoplites, legionairies, knight's retainers, bashi-bazouks, vikings, redcoats billyanks, or Russian, German or Japanese soldiers - was always something the innocent bystanders had to fear; rapine and pillage travelled with them. The US soldier has always been the exception, never more so than today, when the "bystander" might be a thug with an IED. Many of the world's armies throughout history would have solved that problem by mowing down the whole crowd to get to the muj and avoid getting hurt.

But again, no matter. It's not about history to the cartoonist. Iraq, goes the conventional wisdumb, is a quagmire. So is New Orleans. What do they have in common? Chimpy McBushiitlerburton!

Saint has the definitive response so far:

Sure, those Marines have their challenges. But have they ever tried to incorporate hoary liberal clichés into little cartoons four times a week for the amusement of aging hippies and radical wannabes? Didn't think so! Until they do, they can just shut their cartoon chicken hawk traps!
Well, wait until the next big disaster hits Newark. Someday, when the city looks like a huge wad of refuse plopped into a swamp, and its infrastructure is falling apart and its government is a corrupt Democrat machine and..., never mind.

Posted by Mitch at 12:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Berg's Second Law

After a disaster, whenever government and the media declare "there can not be any more survivors, and this is now a recovery operation"< they will be wrong:

John and Leola Lyons stayed together, locked in their neat little blue house, riding out the killer storm and the flood that followed.

A pair of agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found the elderly couple inside their house Tuesday, more than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina roared through New Orleans.

That stuff, to me, is always the scariest part of big disasters; the notion that the government, operating from rules of thumb about survival that might apply to bureaucrats but seem continually to miss the mark with real people, leave a scary number of people alive in the rubble.

Posted by Mitch at 07:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saint Paul: The Racism of Charity

I live, as has been noted, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Beautiful city, clogged with funky history, vastly more interesting than neighboring Minneapolis.

Much less flaky, too. Generally.

But the Green candidate for mayor just logged 20% in the city primary, and the DFL is more strongly controlled by the Kos/Soliah wing of the party than ever.

Worse, one of the ideas that keeps the hive buzzing is generating ever-more traction in the St. Paul DFL; the "living wage".

King, thankfully, kicks holes in the idea.

King notes not only the weakness of the idea - but its great hypocrisy: It is generallly limited to companies that do business with the city.

We know that if the living wage ordinance was applied to all jobs -- whether or not with government contractors, whether or not the business is subsidized -- that it would create massive unemployment. It would be a minimum wage, as I argued before. The proponents get this, so they propose instead to restrict the scope of the ordinance to just the subset of firms that do business with government. What should be the harm? The better question to ask is qui bono -- who benefits from it? First off, to answer Downing's question on "why contractors", simply ask who the alternative to contractors would be? Answer: Government workers, represented by public employee unions. These are huge beneficiaries of living wage ordinances for government contractors; they would restrict the ability of the private sector to compete with union workers to provide public services.
That, indeed, is the key provision that enables the DFL to push it; it can't cut into the public employee unions' stock of jobs to be doled out.

It cuts down on the competition.

But more to the point is that, as an anti-poverty program, trading business subsidies for poverty reduction is a bad bargain. The poor are unlikely to be able to get the jobs provided; the biggest problem for the poor isn't a low wage but insufficient hours of work. It also takes away from the starter jobs the poor need to develop job skills that allow them to move up the wage ladder.
Unless, of course, they do it through the city - and the city's public employee union. More union employees. Fewer entrepreneurs.

And who are the people being cut out at the lower level?

See how it works?

Posted by Mitch at 04:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

From Your Fingertips To My Blog

The other day, commenter PB asked:

No comments about Iraq, about how swimmingly things are going, but just not getting reported?
Damn. PB's right. I've been a big negligent.

There's this. It's part 35 of a series.

And about Iran and North Korea, that old Bush "do it my way" approach sure is working (notwithstanding that he's actually changed his Korea position about 40 times).
You're right, P. It seems to be.

All the usual disclaimers apply, of course. But it's no worse than the "guarantee" that Bill Clinton got, and quite possibly a whole lot better.

Your collective wish is my command mild suggestion.

Posted by Mitch at 07:20 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Civilization: 1 Scum: 0

Commenter Gideon notes this story:

A south Minneapolis homeowner shot a man suspected of breaking into his house, according to police.

The shooting occurred on 16 th Avenue South. One witness overheard three men arguing outside the house after which one of the men broke through a large front window.

The burglary suspect is being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center, and is expected to live. The homeowner is not expected to face charges, according to one Minneapolis police officer.

Gideon notes:
The odds this will get reported by the Strib: zero.
I think you're being a pollyanna, Gideon. The odds aren't that good.

But thanks for the tip. Nice to hear that the good guys have apparently won one.

It's a rare thing in Minneapolis these days.

UPDATE: Wow. The space/time continuum is burping!

Posted by Mitch at 07:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Simon Wiesenthal: 96 Naziism: 12

Simon Wiesenthal has passed away at age 96.

Simon Wiesenthal, who dedicated a large part of his life to hunting Nazi war criminals, has died aged 96.

Mr Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna.

Wiesenthal has been a lifelong inspiration.

Posted by Mitch at 06:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Question: How can you tell the Star/Tribune editorial board is lying about civilian gun ownership?

Answer: Their presses are rolling.

Monday's Strib editorial, as usual, carries water for Rebecca Thoman and Citizens for a Supine "Safer" Minnesota.

Like most such editorials - and the Strib has done dozens in the past twenty years - it's hard to decide if they're merely getting bogus information, or actively lying to the people.

Read it. You be the judge.

Naturally, you can count on the likes of Rebecca Thoman to jump on the tragedy of Neil Mahmoud - the Apple Valley clerk who apparently accidentally shot himself - before the body was figuratively cold:

Neil Mahmoud had every reason to live. Newly married and on the verge of a career as a computer programmer, the 23-year-old student saw little peril in his job at an Apple Valley convenience store. The job entailed ejecting the occasional troublemaker, of course, and just this July Mahmoud tossed out two young men who tried to rob the place with a pellet gun. But the neighborhood was regarded as supremely safe, and locals were shocked late last month when Mahmoud was found on the shop floor bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. How could such horror invade a tranquil town?
Leaving aside accidents?

How could horrors invade Littleton, Colorado? Red Lake or Cold Spring, Minnesota? Pearl, Mississippi? A workaday commuter train on Long Island? A backwater cafeteria in Lubbock, Texas? A McDonald's in San Ysidro, California?

The crimes, and tragedies, in that little paragraph accounted for over fifty lives; aside from the criminals who put each of those places on the map, not a single person involved knew the "horrors" that were about to "invade", and end, their lives when they walked into the school, through the turnstile, up to the buffet or back to their table on those fateful days.

In each of those cases, the only thing that could have prevented some of those many, many deaths would have been a law-abiding citizen with a gun. And in dozens of cases a day - 2.5 million cases a year, according to Gary Kleck of the U of Florida - it's a citizen with a gun who averts horrors great and small; by showing a gun to scare away a rapist; by winging the robber for the cops to catch later; by holding the sniper at bay until police arrive; by killing the would-be copycat mass-murderer - that, rather that pietistic posturing, is how life's horrors are turned away.

A parallel on a national scale; during the 1920s and '30s, nations like Norway and the Netherlands counted on piety and even-handed relativism to protect them from the scourge of war; their both figured that relentless pacifism combined with blinkered neutrality would save them from the Nazis invaders. They were wrong - and had the sense to learn from the horrible lesson. Whatever their shortcomings, both armed themselves very heavily against the Soviets. The lesson? Pious pronouncements about non-violence and a buck will buy you a cup of coffee.

So too with crime.

But this, we find, isn't about crime. It's about an accident.

No matter - the Strib lies about accidents, too. Read on.

It invaded not because a criminal came to call, but because the store's owner had recently purchased a gun. The weapon was meant to deter robbers and protect employees, but -- as too often is the case -- ended up underwriting a tragedy. The person who shot Mahmoud, police have determined, wasn't an intruder. All evidence suggests that Mahmoud shot himself -- accidentally.
Let's make one thing perfectly clear; nobody who doesn't know how to use a firearm should be around them. Basic safety training is imperative. No two ways about it. We don't know the whole story, but at face value it would seem Mr. Mahmoud didn't get any, or enough, or he had one of those slipups that, tragically, kill so many people every year, via falling in the bathtub, driving down the street, riding a bicycle, playing golf in the rain or eating chewy foods (many of which kill many more than firearms accidents, by the way).
The accident may seem a fluke, a rare and unfortunate happenstance hardly worth a second thought. In truth, Mahmoud's needless death vividly illustrates the folly of counting on guns for safety. Thousands of accidental gun deaths occur in this country every year. The key to reducing the number is clear.
It is, indeed, clear. The number can be reduced by thousands... giving the true number.

According to the CDC, the number of accidental firearms deaths (and indeed firearms deaths of all kinds) have been dropping - and by no means equal "thousands", plural, under any circumstances. A cursory Google shows there were there were under a thousand accidental firearm deaths in the US in 1997, and the rate is dropping. The NRA notes, with my emphasis added:

Firearm accident deaths are at an all-time annual low, nationally and among children, while the U.S. population is at an all-time high. In 2002, there were 762 such deaths nationally, including 60 among children. Today, the odds are more than a million to one against a child in the U.S. dying from a firearm accident.
Every single one of those accidents was a tragedy. But the Strib is wrong; there are not "Thousands" of accidental deaths, not even one thousand. But with the number of guns in American increasing faster than the left's hysteria about them, the only way accidental shootings are a growing plague is among those really committed to smearing the law-abiding firearm owner and creating a perception of facts that do not exist.

Enter the Strib:

More than a decade ago, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that private gun ownership heightens a household's risk of homicide threefold and raises the likelihood of suicide five times above that of a gun-free household.
And about ten minutes after that study was released, it was roundly debunked - or, more accurately, the out-of-context conclusion that the mainstream media reported as fact was torn apart, to the point where knowledgeable opponents of civilian firearm use stopped citing the NEJM study.

I said "knowledgeable". The Strib editorial board doesn't qualify - and they don't want you to qualify, either.

The study said that a firearm in the household was 43 times as likely to kill a family member or someone known to the gun's owner as it was to kill an intruder or criminal. That was the "conclusion" drawn by the media.

The facts were these:

  • The survey was far from comprehensive. In fact, it included exactly one county - King County, Washington. The "study", in other words, covered the inner city of Seattle itself. Inner cities add a lot of contributing factors to both accidental deaths and homicides; intellectual honesty demands that one account for them in such "studies"; the media that disingenuously or ignorantly quoted the "43 to 1" ratio exercised no intellectual honesty.
  • Of the "43" in the "43 to 1" ratio, well over half were suicides. Tragic, to be sure - but suicide is generally a product of deep-seated emotional problems. And those who kill themselves with firearms are generally not those who are "looking for attention"; they want out, now. Tragic, to be sure, but no more so than those who jump from bridges or ram their cars into bridge abutments.
  • Of the remaining deaths in the "43", the vast majority were people "known" to the gun's owner. Unstated in the media - while "knowing" the victim included a few accidental shootings and a few tragic murders, it also included drug dealers shooting other drug dealers (they knew each other!). It included a number of homicides that were later termed justifiable, including a number of women shooting abusive and estranged spouses. It included every shooting where the victim had any acquaintance, fair or foul, with the gun's owner! For every accident or wrongful death of an innocent person, there were several criminal-on-criminal "acquaintance" shootings.
  • The "study" was incredibly bloodthirsty; it only counted as "good" shootings where a criminal (completely unknown to the gun owner) was killed. Incidents where the perpetrator was wounded, driven off, or deterred do not show up in the survey - but that, indeed, is the result that most self-defense shooters strive for; to wave the gun and have the attacker just go away.
  • The study also does not control for the criminal records, or drug and alcohol use, in the households being studied. Taking NEJM's numbers, and controlling for crime records, alcohol and drug abuse in the household, as well as projected uses of firearms to deter crime (using the most conservative numbers available, those from the FBI). While a firearm in the home of someone with a criminal record, a drinking problem or a drug problem was about equally as likely to kill an acquaintance (criminal or innocent) as it was to deter a crime, a gun in a household with no criminal record or substance problems a gun was over 400 times as likely to deter as to kill anyone (without even reckoning things like justifiable homicides and self-defense shootings).
Two canards up, two canards down.

And we're just getting started:

In short, having a gun close at hand is generally more dangerous than not having one. Plain logic suggests that this is true not just on the home front but in the workplace as well -- and research bears out the speculation.
"Research" refutes this speculation pretty spectacularly.
Workplace violence has become an American commonplace, and those who study it insist that blessing the presence of guns on the job can only bring more bloodshed.

A "commonplace?"

And who are those researchers doing the insisting?

Name them. Publish their studies. What are you afraid of, Star/Tribune Editorial board - that we, the people, are going to get your data and Rather it?

As researcher Dean Schaner has argued in a book about employer liability, "It is far more foreseeable that an employee will be injured in a workplace full of guns and an environment reminiscent of the Old West, than one in which weapons are prohibited."

In other words, the data doesn't exist (and we've shown that it doesn't!), but it could happen?

What are the numbers? What is the basis of Dean Schaner's claim?

All tragedies give rise to a flood of "if onlies." Surely all who cared for Neil Mahmoud are consumed with thoughts about how his life might have been saved. Yet such thoughts should preoccupy not just those mourning this charming young man, but all Minnesotans. This tragedy teaches a lesson to which employers -- and all of us -- should hold fast: To keep the workplace safe, banish weapons.
Which is, of course, poppycock.

Research is fairly conclusive that firearms deter crime, and that resisting a lethal attack (armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and rape) with a firearm is about a seventh as likely to result in your dying than not resisting.

No, what research - the kind of thing the Strib editorial board seems to abjure, in favor of rote regurgitation of "data" from "Citizens for a Supine "Safer" Minnesota" - shows is that guns in the workplace are a fine idea, as long as people know how to handle them safely .

And research also shows that the Star/Tribune is the last place to go for facts on this issue.

Posted by Mitch at 06:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Yucky Neighbors With Gall

Katie from Yucky Salad With Bones has joined the Ladies Neocon Auxiliary MAWB Squad.

Just as long as she leaves her neighbors at home.

Katie writes:

A family who lives on my street has a son who returned Friday night from an 18 month stint in Iraq. They sent out an email to everyone on the block, saying they had learned soldiers really just want to rest when they get home, but would it be OK if they lined the street with little American flags for his homecoming?

I don’t know all the details of what exactly transpired next, but I do know that some other folks on my street took great offense at this request, to the point where the soldier’s mother was in tears.

What brought her to tears? Read the post.

It didn't end well, natch.

olitics aside, I don't care what your view on the war effort is, I don't care if you're offended by the sight of an American flag and that on your own house you fly a flag of the planet Earth, here is a kid who has lived on this street his whole life as opposed to the few years you've lived here, who has been in a war zone for a year and a half and is now returning home to his parents, you know, those nice people who made that great chicken salad for the last block party, remember? So maybe what you should do, since you pride yourself on being so very open minded and kind-hearted, is bring him a pie and tell him you're glad he's home.

Because it wasn’t about you, believe it or not.

Of course, Katie, everything is about them. Smug self-righteousness animates so much of the local left. Like any person of intense fundamentalist faith - in this case, faith in the true religion of the metro left - they follow in the footsteps of their prophets, Wellstone and "The Honeywell Project" and Berrigan and Sheehan; they obsess over symbolic tokens of their beliefs, like solemn, somnolent vigils and sign-waving...

...and waving their bigotries in the faces of those they disagree with. Even if it's their neighbor's kid. No true believer is going to let petty minutiae like friendship or social skills or tact get in the way of salvation.

Posted by Mitch at 05:29 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Just A Bar

Craig Westover does something the the Strib and PiPress seem unable to; puts a human face on the Twin Cities' smoking bans.

The column's from last week. So what? It's still important this week.

You'd have to be blind - or willfully ignorant, and supernaturally arrogant - not to admit that the smoking ban, in and of itself, is killing bars in the Twin Cities.


For April, May and June, charitable gambling receipts in smoke-free Hennepin County are down more than $10 million year-to-year, according to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. After prizes, expenses and taxes, that's close to $500,000 that will not be funneled to local youth and civic organizations, veterans and senior citizens.

"Pretty quiet," I note to Greg Kubik, the bartender, cook, server — the only employee on duty. Staff has been laid off and hours cut since the smoking ban. Greg has worked at Stasiu's since the first keg was tapped 30 years ago.

"Wasn't always like this," he said. "Even on weekdays about half the tables were full. Both pool tables were usually busy." He gestures over the relatively empty room. "This is about it now."

Craig notes:
Smoking ban proponents point to aggregate industry numbers showing that hospitality taxes have not decreased after smoking bans were enacted. As long as government gets theirs, all is right with the world. That Stasiu's is virtually empty, that more than 20 such taverns have closed since the smoking ban, is inconsequential to the powerful, the influential and the arrogant.

Stasiu's is just one inconsequential working class bar; Jerry, Greg and Stasiu's patrons just inconsequential working class stiffs. Says the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, 74 percent of Minnesotans favor smoking bans. Is that a surprise? When at no cost a majority can impose its whim on a despised minority, why not? Individual property rights and freedom of choice are just inconsequential rhetoric in the collective vision of a smoke-free Minnesota.

Speaking of "at no cost" - I'd like to go back to that "74 percent" number. I'm sure the survey question was something like "Do you favor banning smoking in public places?" Even I'd probably be favorable to the idea; I don't smoke, other than the odd cigar.

But if you phrased it "Would you favor banning smoking in privately-owned bars and restaurants, knowing that such a ban would put hundreds of bartenders, waitstaff, cooks and other people out of work", I wonder what the number would be?

Oh, among the professionally indignant, the Jeanne Weigums of the world, the ones whose jobs don't depend on tips, it'd probably still pass.

The rest of us?

Posted by Mitch at 05:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

You Were Warned

The City Pages' Steve Perry carps about the Department of Homeland Security, among his usual topics.

Which brings up the question; "who warned you that centralizing all national security in one federal uberagency was a stupid idea?"

Why, we conservatives did, of course.

And mark my words - we warned you that the 9/11 commission's centralization of intelligence under another level of bureaucracy was a stupid idea, too.

Hope that doesn't come back to haunt us, too.

Posted by Mitch at 05:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Not Especially Observant

I used to rip on Mark Gisleson - proprietor of Norwegianity, one of the bigger local leftyblogs. He's written (and continues to write) a few howlers, but he's a leftyblogger; you expect him to bring down the Fox News Network?

Nah, I've met Gisleson. Nice enough guy, as these things go.

But he's gotta start hiring better help.

He's started subbing some of his blogging at the Wege out to one "MNObserver". I know - it's hard to find good subcontractors these days. For example, MNob wrote this bit here, about a piece I wrote last week, about which MNob says:

Oh, look, Mitch is screaming for Whistleblowers to step forward.
Emh, no.

If you read the piece, it's a bit of my customarily deft satire of NPR's dragnet-like search for any "whistleblower" - any - that can do something to impugn the Administration, and a characteristically savage-yet-perfunctory fact-checking of what the "whistleblower" (and NPR) were broadcasting.

Sorry, MNob. While I know the whole point was to grab a quick snark at my expense, a little reading comprehension might help.

But that'd be dangerous. One day, reading comprehension; the next day, you're a Republican.

Not to worry. I think you're safe.

Posted by Mitch at 05:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Bill Clinton took his opportunistic whack at the President on the Stephanopoulous show yesterday.

I'd fisk it - but Chester does it better.

Posted by Mitch at 04:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Doug Fawn

A number of us NARN and MOB bloggers were wondering - what impact would Chris Coleman's relationship with Strib columnist Nick Coleman (he's a younger brother) have on the Strib's coverage of Saint Paul politics.

yesterday's Doug Grow column is any indication, the answer is "introduce a level of fawning we haven't seen since Tammany Hall owned some of the New York City dailies".

For all of our (utterly justifiable) bashing of Nick Coleman, Doug Grow probably qualifies as the local columnist who most reliably carries the DFL's water.

He wrote about last week's Saint Paul mayoral primary, in which mayor Randy Kelly polled about half of Chris Coleman's numbers. Kelly, a lifelong east side DFLer, endorsed George W. Bush on principle during the last presidential election.

Naturally to the likes of Grow, that means Kelly is subject to every yawping DFL stereotype about Republicans:

St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly is learning that money can't buy you love.

A little more than a year ago, Kelly announced he was endorsing President Bush. This was surprising, given that Kelly still proclaims he's a lifelong DFLer.

At the time, many people were wondering how Kelly was benefiting from the endorsement.

Kelly said this was about noble things. His endorsement, he wrote, was for "the greater good for my kids, my city and the nation."

Turns out, the endorsement didn't hurt his campaign treasury, either.

Cash from all over the country has poured into Kelly's campaign. Before Tuesday's primary, he had four times as much money as the DFL-endorsed candidate, Chris Coleman. He had 40 times as much loot as the Green Party's Elizabeth Dickinson.

All the mayor lacked was votes.

In Grow's special little world, it's all about that GOP money.

Never mind that a Republican, or an "out" conservative DFLer, in Saint Paul would need a trunkload of money to counteract the lockstep rule of the government and teachers unions, to say nothing of the local media. No, to Grow Republican=money=bad.

The man with the cash lost to Coleman by a nearly a 2-to-1 ratio. He managed to beat Dickinson by a mere 8 percentage points.

The incumbent didn't even win his home precinct.

Most saw this as a stunning slap -- at least until Kelly and members of his entourage started spinning. With straight faces they explained that the outcome was expected and predictable and no reflection of the mayor's popularity in St. Paul.

Gosh, go figure - politicians playing politics.

Make no mistake about it - Saint Paul is a city dominated, for worse or worse, by a form of Democrat party only slightly less addled than Minneapolis' - and they're angrier. They've had two straight conservative DFLers thumb their noses at their endorsement proces, and beat two straight endorsed (and hilariously liberal) DFL candidate at the polls. Norm Coleman did a spike and a dance in the end zone by becoming a Republican after his second election. Randy Kelly's endorsement, to the Saint Paul DFL faithful who take their Kool-Aid by IV, is worse.

So the DFL finally endorsed a putative moderate; among "progressive" circles in Saint Paul, Chris Coleman is regarded as no better than Randy Kelly, due to his association with the Chamber of Commerce.

But he's the DFL, dammit - so he gets a Doug Grow hagiography:

Laughing, Coleman said that he went to bed Tuesday night feeling pretty good about the outcome. It wasn't until he read the Kelly camp's version of the primary results that "I realized how badly I'd been beaten."

Disclosure time: Chris Coleman is the brother of my colleague Nick Coleman. Not only that, Nick is Chris' godfather.

"By the time they got to me," said Chris, the sixth of seven children, "they'd run out of aunts and uncles."

"I was 11 years old, sitting there watching 'Gumby' " said Nick, "and my dad came into the room and said, 'Hey you! You're the godfather.' "

These Gumby-watching Colemans are not related to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a New Yorker by birth.

If the focus were any softer, the Colemans could pass for panda bears.

(Coleman's a New Yorker. In fact, most of the best Twin Citians come from somewhere else).

Chris Coleman is a rare candidate. He's not afraid to say he received votes from people who aren't so much charmed by him as disgusted by Kelly.

"He [Kelly] tried to say that this president is good for St. Paul," Coleman said. "Most people don't understand that."

Under Bush and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, St. Paul has lost millions of dollars for everything from police to schools, Coleman said.

In November, St. Paulites showed Kelly what they thought of his endorsement. They voted 3 to 1 for John Kerry.

Tuesday they showed they've neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Well, the city DFL certainly hasn't.

And Doug Grow is well within his character, acting as a flak for the party, wherever, whenever.

For example:

Stuart Alger is chairman of St. Paul's DFL. He said Kelly's flip-flop on the presidential race is what angers many.

"At first he said he wasn't going to endorse anybody," said Alger. "I think people were OK with that. Then he didn't just endorse [Bush], he started campaigning for him. It was a complete reversal."

It'd be out of character for Grow to tell the whole story; Kelly held off on giving his endorsement, and campaigned for Bush when he realized that the Saint Paul DFL had no sense of humor about apostates.
An organization, Recall Randy, sprang up in the days after Kelly endorsed Bush. The group wasn't successful in getting a recall election, but it never went away. These days, it's distributing signs that read: "Republican Randy, We Remember."We're not political people," said Laura Duddingston, a Recall Randy founder. "We feel like scorned people."Doug Grow apparently can't use Google. Or he can, and misspelled "Lara Duddingston". Or he misspelled it on purpose so people couldn't Google it themselves. Or he doesn't read Shot in the Dark. Lara Duddingston is "not political people" in the same sense that JB Doubltless is "not opinionated".

It wouldn't serve Doug Grow's purposes for you to know that, of course.

Duddingston says most people she speaks with are upset that Kelly continues to call himself a DFLer.

"He wouldn't endorse Senator Wellstone," said Duddingston. "He wouldn't endorse Walter Mondale [after Wellstone's death]. He wouldn't endorse Roger Moe. But he would endorse President Bush. At some point, you've got to say if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck. Why can't he just be honest about it?"

Ask Doug Grow.
What was Kelly thinking when he embraced Bush?

Kelly's campaign office did not return repeated calls to answer the question.

But beyond Kelly's deep respect and adoration ["Adoration"? Note the wording - you just know Doug Grow believes respect of George W. Bush is not possible; the sarcastic "adoration" tells you all you need to know about the "depth" of Doug Grow's tongue in Chris Coleman's mouth analysis - Ed] of the president, it's reasonable to think there just might have been some political favors involved.

For example, at the time he endorsed the president, Kelly owed much politically to Norm Coleman, who had embraced Kelly's first race for mayor.

And the money has flowed into Kelly's coffers.

"But this race really isn't about money," said Chris Coleman. "If it was about money, we would have lost by as much as we won by."

Money can't buy you love.

And it sure can't buy you the sort of fawning, non-focus coverage that the trifecta - the Strib's open DFL partisanship, Doug Grow's flagrant DFL hackery, and the chummy association among the politician Coleman and the media hack Coleman - will get you.

Money can't buy you honesty, either. Not if you're a Twin Cities major media consumer.

Posted by Mitch at 04:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Afghanistan held another election:

Afghan voters elected a parliament for the first time in more than 35 years Sunday as a massive security operation foiled Taliban threats to disrupt the polling.

There were 19 attacks across the country, but they were "very minor," said Peter Erben, chief operations officer for the U.N.-Afghan election commission. Three voters were injured in separate incidents in eastern Kunar Province, he said.

I blame Bush!

Oh, wait - Afghan elections are a good thing, right?

In Ghazni, 75 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, candidate Khan Badshah Khan, 68, said Afghans defied Taliban threats as a patriotic duty. "The Taliban are everywhere around here, but the people of Ghazni are brave," he said while visiting a polling station where voters cast ballots under trees behind cardboard screens. "We are ready to die for our country."

More than 70,000 Afghan police and soldiers and about 30,000 foreign troops were deployed nationwide.

It's all gotta benefit Halliburton. I can just feel it.

Posted by Mitch at 03:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Finney for Sheriff?

Rumor has it that former St. Paul police chief Bill Finney has announced (at last night's Bruce Vento Spaghetti Dinner) that he will be running for Ramsey County Sheriff.

I have to wonder - what's the motivation? He would have had a strong shot at mayor, had he decided to ignore the DFL endorsement. What would a term as sheriff set him up for? A shot at higher office, maybe? Or is he just jonesing to stay in law enforcement?


Posted by Mitch at 03:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Reaganmas Present to the Nation

Congressman John Kline has proposed putting Reagan on the $50 bill.

It probably says something about my personal financial habits that I had to Google who was on the $50 today, but I digress.

Ronald Reagan has an airport, an aircraft carrier and buildings around the nation named for him, but his admirers aren't through. As the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Reagan Revolution approaches, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is proposing legislation to put the late president on the $50 bill.

"Not all of America uses Ronald Reagan airport, but all of America uses our currency," Kline said. "We have used currency to commemorate great leaders in our past. It seemed to me this was a good way to do it."

Naturally, the local DFL contingent - they of the "Don't Park the Bus" bent - are ironically, comically tone-deaf:
But Rep. Jim Oberstar, D.-Minn., calls Kline's proposal "a fatuous idea."

"We could, as I proposed during the debate about adding 'Reagan' to Washington National Airport, name the unnamed Bureau of the Public Debt for Ronald Reagan," Oberstar said, because Reagan did more to expand the national debt than any previous president.

No, Representative Oberstar: "fatuous" would be more like this:
Memorializing Reagan has been a largely partisan issue, and Minnesota -- the only state Reagan never carried -- is no exception. State Senate DFLers amended the language of a Ronald Reagan Day resolution in February, adding "not paralleled until the Clinton presidency" to the resolution's praise for "unprecedented economic expansion" under Reagan.
Do you non-Minnesotans ever wonder why Minnesota Republicans are so short-tempered and crabby?

It's like having Felix Unger for a roommate.

Posted by Mitch at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In Case You'd Wondered...

...yes, there is indeed a handbook for Hooters waitresses.

Posted by Mitch at 03:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Happy blog anniversary to first anniversary of Gary Gross' "Let Freedom Ring".

Stop by and say congrats!

Posted by Mitch at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paying for Dowd

From now on, we'll have to pay $50 a year...

...for this:

Of course, it's taken Junior only five years to learn how smart his old man was.

His father made the "mistake" of not conquering and occupying Iraq because he had the silly idea that Iraqis would resent it. His father made the "mistake" of raising taxes, not cutting them, and overly obsessing about the federal deficit. And his father made the "mistake" of hewing to the center, making his base mad and losing his bid for re-election.

Yep. Starting tomorrow, you have to pay $50 a year to get the NYTimes' highest-demand features online.

I give it two years before it is quietly dropped.

Posted by Mitch at 12:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Notify Hinderaker

I had no idea there was a blog devoted to professional sports cheerleaders - but I should have assumed it.

Naturally, they kick my butts for traffic. Go figure...

Posted by Mitch at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


I have what is, for a second-amendment guy, kind of a shameful admission; I hadn't been on a shooting range in over a decade.

Until yesterday.

But I took a basic handgun skills test. Minimum passing score was 105 out of 150.

The good news: I got a 144.

The bad news: I think Stevie Wonder could have shot 120. The SAS CRW or FBI HRT qualification test it was not.

Mitigating news; It was the first time I'd shot a revolver in over 20 years. I'd never liked 'em before. I could be convinced now.

Maybe that MOB event at the range isn't such a bad idea...

Posted by Mitch at 11:30 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


The Good News: Angela Merkel of the "Christian Democratic Party" (CDU - a "conservative" party by European standards; think Kennedy Democrats) has apparently defeated Gerhard Schroeder:

BERLIN - Exit polls showed conservative challenger Angela Merkel's party in the lead and Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder's seven-year-old government voted out, as Germans on Sunday chose between different visions of their country's role in the world and how to fix its sputtering economy.
It's not all good, of course - it rarely is in European parliamentary elections:
The exit poll from ZDF public television showed Merkel's Christian Democrats at 37 percent, worse than expected and uncertain of winning a majority with her preferred coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats. Schroeder's Social Democrats and Greens were at 33 percent and 8.5 percent respectively.
That last bit is troubling, of course, if you care about Germany's future, and I do. Germany - afflicted with out-of-control social welfare combined with an ageing population, huge problems in assimilating immigrants and the former communist East, desperately needs to unload the baggage of the Sozialdemokraten.

David's Medienkritik has, naturally, excellent analysis.

Posted by Mitch at 11:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

Clearing The Air

Marcus Aurelius of Clearing The Air - the best blog out there about the smoking ban - has the word about a benefit for Porters - one of many bars that are reeling from the effects of the ban:

Kathy at Porter's Bar has been a friend and a real trooper trying to fight against the property rights infringement by the Johnson & Johnson marketing department the entire time. Sue Jeffers from Stub & Herb's, dubbed the scourge of Minneapolis by the American Lung and other Nicoderm CQ money recipients, is trying to help, here's an email about a fundraiser to help Porter's stay in business...
Read the post for the rest of the story.

I'm going to have to try to be there.

Posted by Mitch at 06:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


George Will on on the decline and fall of unions:

American unions have lost their hold on the public's sympathy. Time was, labor's anthems could stir the blood. "Solidarity Forever" declared:

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite

Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?

Somehow those words seem, well, disproportionate to the labor strife that recently so stirred the blood of John Sweeney --head of the AFL-CIO, or what remains of it after the defection on Wednesday of a fourth large union -- that he got himself arrested in a sit-in demonstration. The greedy, parasitic serfdom-lasher was New York University, which, it may be confidently said, is not a nest of reactionaries. The downtrodden serfs are graduate students.

They are teaching and research assistants who in 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration, won the National Labor Relations Board's approval to unionize. About 1,000 did, and associated with the UAW. But by 2004 the composition of the NLRB had changed -- presidential elections do matter -- and it reversed its approval. Then NYU withdrew recognition of the union because it was breaking its promise to confine itself to economic issues and not inject itself into academic decision-making, such as the assignment of teachers to particular courses.

The graduate students say they will strike. And perhaps they will sing:

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,

But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel could turn.

But if Northwest can fly without the brains and muscles of unionized mechanics, how likely is it that NYU cannot function without graduate student assistants?

Let's get something straight here; I'm not anti-union. Unlike 70% of my pro-labor liberal friends, I've actually been in a union. There are jobs and situations where unions are a very, very good thing. During the era of robber barons, cartels and sweatshops, unions performed a vital role - equalizing the playing field and securing better working conditions and getting a piece of the income for the workers. I'm a free marketeer - and labor is a factor in that market, one that has every right to compete, just as do suppliers and providers of capital.

If only the major American unions knew what they were.


That Northwest's operations have been only minimally disrupted by the mechanics' strike is a function of foresight. Northwest had it; the leader of AMFA's 4,430 striking mechanics, O.V. Delle-Femine, did not.

He has forfeited the support of other unions by poaching some of their members and disdaining other workers with lesser skills.

This is a problem that American unions have developed; they have become institutions to protect the middle and upper-middle class, in fields where there is frequently (but not always) enough demand for wages to stay pretty stable even without unions.

On the other hand, unions have left the lower-skilled fields and the service industry almost completely alone (except for taking token swats at the likes of WalMart).

Who needs a union more - the Taco Bell worker, or the airline mechanic who makes $80,000 a year?

Especially when the mechanic's union is utterly worthless:

AMFA has no strike fund or medical coverage for its members, whose coverage from the airline has ended. Northwest wants $203 million worth of concessions from the union -- a demand toughened from $176 million since the strike began -- as part of the $1.4 billion it is seeking from all its unions. Northwest is using cheaper replacement mechanics, many of whom it trained for months -- and not at all secretly -- in Arizona.

Northwest, which has offered permanent employment to some of the replacement workers, seemed to have studied the playbook that Caterpillar used against the United Auto Workers' strike of 1995. The strike failed after 17 months because of replacement workers and picket lines porous even to some union members.

Northwest might also have learned a lesson from Margaret Thatcher's victory over the National Union of Mineworkers. Her government stockpiled coal near power plants and steel mills, and warned other users to prepare for a showdown. Nevertheless, the miners struck. Independent truckers prospered by distributing coal from mines that were still operating. After almost a year, the strikers capitulated. The mines were reformed and, although the number of miners was reduced by 40 percent, they produced 85 percent as much coal as the larger work force had produced.

Again - I'm not "anti-union". There have been times in my career when I wished I'd had one.

But they're not earning their keep these days. Workers have been voting with their feet for a generation, now.

Posted by Mitch at 05:26 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Whack Upside The Head

I occurred to me as I sat in the midst of a mile-long traffic jam yesterday - I really haven't done a lot of commuting lately.

I live in the Midway, halfway between the two downtowns. Which is great, except that for years, most of the high-tech (non-defense-industry) jobs were growing up in the western suburbs. So for years after I left radio and went into software, I commuted. And commuted. And commuted some more.

From 2003 on, my various commutes - with the number of miles/major chokepoints included - were:

  • Eden Prairie (22/2)
  • Eagan (10/0), for all of six months
  • Golden Valley (15/2)
  • Bloomington (12/1)
  • Farmington (30/0)
  • Eden Prairie (24/2)
  • Minnetonka (20/3)
  • Plymouth (16/2)
  • Eden Prairie (23/3)
  • Minnetonka (20/3)
  • Maple Grove (23/0)
  • Minnetonka (18/2)
  • Chanhassen (40/4)
That all ended at the beginning of '03, when I spent four months out of work; after that, my next three gigs were on the East Side of Saint Paul (seven miles, going to opposite direction of the rush hour), in Downtown Minneapolis (five miles) and, for the past year, the Saint Paul riverfront (probably three miles, about a seven minute drive). It's been almost three years since I've done any serious commuting.

So yowsa, I'm out of shape! I've forgotten the shortcuts, and I've really forgotten the patience needed to survive as I slug through my drive to the northwest suburbs; half an hour if I'm lucky, and hour if I'm not.

Like yesterday.

You know who you are, woman in the Bronco. All I can say is, I suspect you must be guilty of some horrid crime in your past, which is why you have abandoned as irrelevant the concepts and strictures of conventional morality.

I have no better explanation.

Note to Governor Pawlenty: You need to build a toll skyway from, say, 55 and 100, directly to 94 and 280. You will once again be my hero.

Posted by Mitch at 12:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Off On Assignment

I will be off on assignment tomorrow, all day - so Ed will be filling in on the anchor desk.

Ed, John and the Fraters will have a great show for you. They'll be doing the usual Week in Review thang, plus interviewing Chris Muir of "Day By Day", the semi-official comic strip of the center-right, a guy who is doing what Gary Trudeau hasn't for 25 years; providing a tart, cutting view of current events and politics in four-panel comic strip format. Chris should be a great interview - don't miss it!

Plus the Third Hour of Power!

Join the Mitch-less (and King-less) NARN tomorrow, noon-3PM on AM1280, or on the web!

Posted by Mitch at 12:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wanted: Whistleblowers. Any Whistleblowers.

I was listening to MPR while driving to work this morning.

The reporter was interviewing a Mr. Borstein, a disaster recovery employee of some sort or another, who has apparently (according to the report) worked extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

I'm paraphrasing very closely (once again, I have no digital recorder in my car).

The reporter - a Ms. Sullivan - related Mr. Bornstein's accounts of FEMA screwups in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I'm going to have to find the transcript (I can't at the moment), but the report seemed to be a lot of things that, depending on context, might or might not say anything about FEMA's performance. Example (again, paraphrasing closely): Mr. Borstein didn't personally see the amount of FEMA resources that he thought should have been on the scene, from his perspective. Of course, his perspective - the context of the knowledge he brings to the issue - is never really explained.

The part I thought was the biggest hooter, though, was Ms. Sullivan's description of Mr. Borstein's visit to FEMA's national command post the Saturday before Katrina struck. Again, paraphrasing closely:

Mr. Borstein was shocked to see that the staff at the command post wasn't doing the things he expected them to be doing - mobilizing National Guard units, calling up buses...

Maybe - except that only governors "mobilize" the National Guard for natural disasters. And as of the Saturday before Katrina's landfall, rounding up buses was supposed to be the local government's job as of the day before (and the day after!) the hurricane.

Isn't the big advantage of the mainstream media - like NPR - that they "check their facts?"

Just curious.

Posted by Mitch at 12:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Green Parent

Karl Rove loves punk rock.

No, really. It's why I, a conservative nonpareil, am allowed to love an album like Green Day's American Idiot.

It's a great record. Oh, sure, it bashes Bush and Republicans, you say. But I look at it this way; if a band of high school dropouts put out a great rock and roll album, an album that you can't help but dance to, and the songs were all about how to perform open-heart surgery, what would you do? Ignore the medical advice and dance, right?

So for the record; Billy Joe Armstrong is a great singer and a decent songwriter, and he's come up with maybe the second really good album of his career; he's also an intellectually-thuggish bigot. He doesn't have to shut up and sing - but I'll just take what I need and ignore the rest.

However, I have to wonder about about some of their fans.

John Dispirito of Providence Rhode Island - a longtime fan - took his 11 year old daughter to a gig:

"Every time Billie Joe dropped an F-bomb, my daughter would go: 'Dad, he owes me a quarter,' " DeSpirito said. "At one point, she said, 'Dad, it's up to a couple of dollars.' "

If Olivia hadn't been so distracted by the fireworks and flash pots, she might have counted two-dozen F-bombs in Armstrong's banter.

Said Laurenti: "Halfway through the show, I looked at my wife -- and she used to manage rock bands -- and I said, 'C'mon. Enough already.' The Ramones never swore that much. Even Aerosmith has toned down its act. So does Kiss. When the Rolling Stones played Fenway Park and knew that Maria Shriver and Ted Kennedy's son were there, they self-censored themselves and didn't use the line 'Who killed the Kennedys?' in 'Sympathy for the Devil.'

"There should have been a parental warning on the ticket."


The guy claims to be a longtime fan, but apparently doesn't remember that Green Day has always been a profane band who sang about stuff the nuns warned you about.

Perhaps kids should come with a parental warning sticker.

Posted by Mitch at 06:37 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

Enter Konrad, Redux

A commenter last night prompted me to check; indeed, Steve Konrad has been hired as the program director at KSTP-AM.

I worked with Steve from 1990 through most of 1991 at KDWB; Steve was producer of the "Steve Cochran Show", KDWB's morning juggernaut at the time; I worked a crappy grunt DJ job at K-63, the oldies station. We both interviewed for the job at KSTP (then called "executive producer", so as to not make the occupant feel excessively powerful). In fact, the two of us came down to the final two for the job, in late July of '91.

The final interview was with the consultant who was pulling the strings at the time. His theory - they key to talk radio success was irreverence! Humor! Taking nothing too seriously, and poking pointed fun at everything! Political talk, said he, was pretty much a dead issue. To him, Rush Limbaugh was a success not because he was conservative, but because he was irreverent (the old "Abortion Update" bit, with the vaccuum cleaner sounder, made him laugh up a lung).

Naturally, and correctly, he figured that political talk was my main interest - and that Steve was probably better suited to run a station programmed for sarcastic yuks (although I not only pointed out my background with Don Vogel and Geoff Charles, but in fact pointed him to a tape of Vogel - which led to Don's second hitch in the Twin Cities, the following year). The consultant was responsible for the likes of Turi Ryder and Bob Schumacher and Barbara Carlson, as well as Bob Yates' last couple of years at KSTP.

The consultant was wrong about political radio, of course (and a source acquainted with him tells me that he now realizes it, which is almost as good as getting the gig would have been under the circumstances; yes, I would rather be right!).

In the years that Steve's been off and about, did he get the conservative-talk-radio religion? Or is he part of KSTP's master plan to build a less-political, more-local station in the wake of Limbaugh, Hannity and Hendrie's departures?

The next six months are going to be interesting.

Best of luck, Steve. Although the NARN will continue to pimp-slap KSTP all over Saturday afternoon.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Posted by Mitch at 12:38 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Straining Credulity

Michelle Malkin hasn't forgotten about Air America.

Oh, no:

In one of its first statements on the matter in late July, Air America attempted to distance itself from "the allegations of mismanagement and corruption at Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club" and spoke of the charity's dealings with Cohen as if they were past incidents divorced completely from the current management. On Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," liberal radio host Bill Press (who is incidentally starting up his own left-wing radio network with dubious cash) stated repeatedly that Air America's current management bore no responsibility for the shady loan and mimicked Franken's blame game: "The point I'm making is, this [loan] has nothing to do with the people who are now on the air on Air America, or that are now running Air America."

Al Franken, who signed a settlement agreement with Cohen and his partner, Rex Sorensen, that disclosed in detail the Gloria Wise liabilities in November 2004, continues to hide behind the "Didn't know nuttin'" card. And Jon Sinton, Air America's current president, told NRO's Byron York:

"Only he knew what he was doing," Sinton said of Cohen.

What Air America has failed to disclose is that at least one other of its officials held a key job at Gloria Wise. Yesterday, we confirmed with Martta Rose of Rubenstein Public Relations, which is representing the Boys & Girls Club branch, that Air America's Vice President of Finance, Sinohe Terrero, worked at the inner-city charity as finance director from 2000-2002 under Cohen. Though he left Gloria Wise for Air America before the controversial loan scheme was initiated, it strains credulity to believe that Terrero was completely in the dark about what kinds of things Cohen and his former colleagues were doing.

The city Department of Investigation has undoubtedly explored these ties by now.

There's much, much more.

Posted by Mitch at 07:50 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

I Love Joe Biden

Listening to the questioning of John Roberts (which Ed ably pillories), I'm so glad Biden is a Democrat.

"We are rolling the dice with you, Judge," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said. "It's kind of interesting, this Kabuki dance we have in these hearings here, as if the public doesn't have a right to know what you think about fundamental issues facing them."

25 years of public service law gigs. The man's got a paper trail.

But this isn't about getting answers, of course. The left, on this as most other issues, has switched into full Goebbels mode; state a Big Lie, repeat it until dimwits from coast to coast start to regurgitate its broad parameters in the polls.

Didja know Edwards is an extremist?

Posted by Mitch at 07:43 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Matt Abe at North Star Liberty had the best wrapup of the MNGOP state convention that I've yet seen.

Excerpt: Tim Pawlenty's speech:

The centerpiece address was given by Governor Pawlenty, who continued the "I Am a Conservative" message delivered in a letter to party activists a week or two ago. Pawlenty reached out to former rival Sullivan, who is now National Committeeman from Minnesota, with praise and thanks. This gave Sullivan a chance to feel the love from his applauding supporters (they are still out there, still somewhat irked at Pawlenty's cigarette "fee" and his pursuit of state-run casino revenue). For his part, after his endorsement defeat, Sullivan rolled up his sleeves and helped to elect Pawlenty, and has since worked behind the scenes to strengthen the party.

For those bleary-eyed delegates who weren't getting Pawlenty's early-morning message, his campaign volunteers distributed a flyer during his address, printed on bright red paper, titled "Conservative Reform for Minnesota." Even grumpy right-wingers must concede that Pawlenty has brought the state (and the governor's office) a long way since the days of feather boas, "my governor can beat up your governor," Playboy magazine interviews, and jokes on the David Letterman Show about "drunken Irishmen" from Saint Paul. So far during Pawlenty's first term, he has:

* Turned a $4 billion deficit, second only to California's, into a surplus in two years, without raising taxes (not counting the cigarette fee)

* Made Minnesota more pro-life by requiring a 24 hour waiting period, ensuring that expectant mothers receive information about fetal pain, and funding groups that provide positive alternatives to abortion

* Allowed law-abiding citizens to carry firearms (this law was actually passed a second time after being challenged in court)

* Oversaw the replacement of the Profile of Learning with rigorous, knowledge-based academic standards; and moving toward (Pawlenty claims "implementing") performance pay for teachers, also known as Q-Comp

* Supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman

* Slowed the growth of government, including merging or eliminating state agencies and reducing the number of state general fund employees (Lt. Governor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau had more to say about this later)

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 07:05 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

My Conundrum

Here's my conundrum: I love my city.

I think way too many of my neighbors are idiots.

Chris Coleman - longtime DFL bag man and scion of the Coleman political dynasty - won the Saint Paul mayoral primary going away, beating Randy Kelly by nearly 2-1. The Green candidate, Elizabeth Dickinson, scored 20%.

Granted, it was a primary, with about 15% turnout. These primaries are notoriously subject to party get out out the vote efforts.

But it's going to be a huge challenge for Kelly . First Ringer has a good wrapup:

How does this result compare to what may happen in November? Well, another 35,000 people will likely vote as 60,000 voted in 2001. Kelly will obviously have to win over a large percentage of those new voters and this major defeat tonight is going to make that extremely tough to do. Coleman won a double victory by surviving the huge liberal turnout that propelled Dickinson while still banging Kelly like a drum. If some liberal activists hoped that supporting Dickinson would force Coleman to do even more to placate them, this result worked against them by suggesting Coleman doesn’t need any more of St. Paul liberal base to not only win, but win convincingly.

However, Coleman still needs money, and lots of it. The scale of this victory will put his campaign in the spotlight and start talk of what a Coleman City Hall would look like---a definite positive for the Legacy Candidate, but also a breeding ground for tough questions on how Coleman will run his city. He won’t be able to just attack Kelly’s record now; he’ll be forced to answer such potentially tough questions on city management, including fiscal management, which might be his Achilles’ heel.

Couple that with Kelly likely spending his $400-600,000 on mostly negative mailers and ads and Coleman might have his hands full come November. But right now, it’s Chris Coleman’s campaign and he’ll deservedly savor the moment.

The negatives are definitely there; Coleman loves to spend - he'd kill the tax freeze that Kelly and Norm Coleman nurtured for the past 12 years. And while he tries to portray himself as a moderate on business (compared to the inexcusable Dickinson), he's clearly the ersatz business candidate compared to Kelly.

It's going to be an interesting two months.

Posted by Mitch at 06:57 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Disaster Management

Deaths per year in the US due to hurricanes have been dropping for decades.

Katrina might change that.

Is it big government's fault?

Prior to Katrina, it could reasonably be argued that declining mortality rates from hurricanes in the U.S. were the result of better long-range warning systems, sturdier houses, improved roads, comprehensive evacuation planning, and high quality hospitals. So why did all this fail when Katrina struck? Is Katrina a fluke or is it possible that government programs are in fact making us less safe?

Prior to Katrina, it could reasonably be argued that declining mortality rates from hurricanes in the U.S. were the result of better long-range warning systems, sturdier houses, improved roads, comprehensive evacuation planning, and high quality hospitals. So why did all this fail when Katrina struck? Is Katrina a fluke or is it possible that government programs are in fact making us less safe?Simple fact; when you subsidize a behavior, whether it's growing corn or having children or building in a flood plain, people will tend to flock to that behavior.

And that flood plain bit? It's subsidized:

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages people to live in harm's way. As of 2004, the NFIP had issued more than 4.4 million flood insurance policies in approximately 20,000 communities nationwide, representing nearly $637 billion worth of coverage. Since it was established in 1969, the program has paid $12.7 billion in flood insurance claims and related costs. In recent years, the NFIP has collected $1.1 billion in premiums and paid out around $1 billion in damages each year. Currently, the NFIP has about $1.1 billion in reserves; estimates are that the NFIP will have to pay out more than $10 billion in claims for the houses and businesses destroyed by Katrina. People should be told that this is the last time that the Feds will pay flood insurance claims to owners in areas prone to flooding. If private insurers want to take the risk, then their stockholders, not taxpayers, will be on the hook.
If there's an area where the free market makes eminent sense, it's in insurance. The fed has subsidized huge development in places that, under normal circumstances, people would have more sense than to move into.
Next, let's set aside the larger question of whether or not the government should be encouraging people to live below sea level at all. The fact is that the federal government, which is in charge of all navigable waterways, failed to provide adequate infrastructure to prevent the inundation of a city which was home to nearly a half million people. The failure of the levees protecting New Orleans and other parts of southern Louisiana perfectly illustrates the fact that politicians generally engage in short term thinking. Merely maintaining or bolstering some boring old levees will not garner many more votes. But senators and representatives who vote to spend the most tax dollars on restoring New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will become the heroes.
The lesson, of course? If you're moving into someplace that the free market would never support, make sure it's someplace that the politicians find "sexy".

Maybe in John Roberts' back yard.

Posted by Mitch at 06:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Like Budweiser, Without The Crappy Taste

The real Budweiser is coming to America:

A beer claiming to be the original "Budweiser'' will soon be sold in the shadow of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., maker of the better-known beer of the same name.

Czech brewer Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar (BMP) isn't interested in picking a trademark fight, at least not in the U.S., where it's calling its beer B.B. Burgerbrau — burgerbrau translated means "Beer of the City's Residents.'' In Europe, the same brew is sold as "Budweiser Bier.''

"I don't want to stick my hand in that fire,'' said Rob Neuner, president of Classic Beverages LLC of Darien, Conn., the U.S. importer of B.B. Burgerbrau. "Budweiser is a trademark of Anheuser-Busch. We don't want to market the beer as Budweiser per se, but we don't see any problem saying the beer is from the town of Budweis.''

Labels use the Czech term "Budejovicke Pivo,'' which translated means "Budweiser Bier,'' and the brew will offer point-of-sale references to "Czech Budweis City'' as the site where the beer is made.

When I was in Europe, I visited Schlitz - also much better than its America n namesake. I couldn't make it to the villages of Pfeiffer, Hamms or or Kornguertel.

Posted by Mitch at 05:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005


A few weeks ago, I wrote a pieceabout KSTP-AM and their imminent loss of Rush Limbaugh, Phil Hendrie and Sean Hannity.

A commenter left a note:

I listened to Yates back in the 80's and I remember him vilifying a guy named Mike Dorwart quite a bit and I don't have any sources inside the station to confirm it, but I don't think Bob was referencing Ginny Morris or Kenny Soulman Olson as a sexual harrasser so it might be old Mike Dorwart
I lost track of this thread after a day or two (as I often do), so I missed this until my old colleague Mike Dorwart wrote to call it to my attention.


The general manager at the time - the worst boss I ever worked for in any industry, ever - left KSTP after, sources in the late eighties said, a number of sexual harassment allegations. I know at least two of the sources personally.

Mike Dorwart - who was the station's production and/or operations manager (I think) when I was there - was never associated with any such activity. As a lower-level manager working with some of the most inept middle-management I've ever worked with, he was the butt of many of Bob Yates' jibes, and a sexual harassment trial may have actually been more fun than his daily job was - but no. Nobody's ever associated Dorwart and sexual harassment.

That is all.

Posted by Mitch at 06:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Espresso, Please

Posting's been a bit light this week. First week on a new gig is always a whack upside the head.

I've gotten a tad spoiled; I've spent most of the last 20 months commuting either to downtown Minneapolis or, for the past year, to the Saint Paul riverfront; my most recent commute was like eight minutes on a good day.

Now, the drive to my office in the northwest 'burbs is half an hour on a good day; it took me 50 minutes to get home last night. That used to be a problem - when my kids were in daycare, and daycare started charging a buck a minute late fee at 5:30, a long commute was a bane. Today, when they're a bit older and more self-sufficient, it's not so bad.

More posting later, most likely.

Posted by Mitch at 07:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Descent of Seth McFarlane

Family Guy - Semi-original parody of traditional family shows. Clever, funny, crisply-written, wonderfully-voiced (who cares about the animation?), skewers everyone. Consistantly hilarious.

American Dad - Hackneyed parody. Dull-witted, self-consciously shocking rather than funny, cliche-ridden, voices all suck, skewers conservatives consistently. Consistently dull.

Posted by Mitch at 06:47 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Setting The Record Straight

For the past week, any attempt to focus on the ball that the New Orleans' city and Louisiana state governments dropped has earned one a hearty "you're spinning for the right wing noise machine!'

This amuses me, in part: If I'm part of some noise machine, where's my damn check?

No, the story is there and it just keeps coming out:

Both Louisianians placed the blame for New Orleans' societal breakdown squarely on the shoulders of the mayor and the governor. "It felt like they were in the middle of some big power play. They weren't concerned about the people at all," alleged Allen.

Montegut, an insightful social service/forensic specialist employed by Louisiana's prison system, had gazed at a parking lot full of unengaged Regional Transit Authority buses from her position at the Superdome, and wondered why they were not being used to evacuate people from the deteriorating conditions.

"[Mayor Nagin] blew it, throwing his hands up in the air and blaming Bush for days - all the while, he could've been taking care of obvious solutions like that instead of telling people who hadn't the means to leave simply to 'get out'." According to her, the RTA buses sat in their same spots even as school buses came to carry the storm-worn from the shelter.

"When they originally sent the RTA buses out to bring people into the Superdome, it was the feds who made those arrangements, not the local government. It was just unbelievable, the lack of preparation on the mayor's part - even when he knew about the possible severity of the approaching storm," she said, shaking her head.

Hey, wait - the link isn't on a blog! It's in a newspaper!

It must be real!

Unless...[dramatic theme]...Karl Rove wrote the story and controlled the editorial process that got it printed...

Posted by Mitch at 06:38 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The Empire Strikes Back

James Pinkerton at TCS notes
that the Mainstream Media is here, it's liberal, and it's not going away. Katrina brought it out in full, flamingly lefty force.

The lineup is impressive - and depressive:

On ABC News' "This Week" last Sunday, George Stephanopoulos asked one of those compound questions that can be only refuted only by Jesuitical parsing: "Did government neglect turn a natural disaster into a human catastrophe and was it rooted in racism?" In the course of "interviewing" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Stephanopoulos sometimes dispensed with questions altogether, preferring to make statements, such as this: "So many people in this country have looked at so many of the victims being African-American, the sluggish federal response and said racism has to be at play." To which Obama, a cautious enough fellow, answered that the "incompetence" he espied in the Bush administration was "color-blind." Of course, such a tepid response wasn't good enough for the ex-Clinton White House spinmeister, who came back at Obama with, "But it was racism, I guess is the question." These weren't questions at all, of course, but rather witness-leading rhetoric: "How do you explain why President Bush didn't seem to get this early on?"

Over at Newsweek, the words on the cover, "Poverty, Race and Katrina", established the magazine's bleeding-heart perspective right away. Inside, the headline "The Other America" was a deliberate homage to the identically titled book by Michael Harrington from 1963, which spurred the Great Society.

Yet while Newsweek's macropolitics might be simplemindedly paleoliberal, the mag also knows how to wield a deft micropolitical shiv against Republican soft underbellies. In a companion article entitled "How Bush Blew It", the weekly jibed that Bush suffers from poor "situational awareness" about the Katrina disaster, such that presidential counselor Dan Bartlett had to make him a DVD compendium of the news coverage to get the point across to his uncomprehending boss. Now how do you suppose that Newsweek got that nugget? Assuming it's not fabricated out of whole cloth, the answer is that Bartlett either leaked it himself or someone leaked it about him. Either way, the trust level inside the Bush White House, once high, has now fallen lower than the New Orleans land-level.

And The New York Times provided a Blanco-eyed view of the recent events, giving long shrift to the Democratic governor -- and short-shrift to the Republican president. In the article's opening scene-setting vignette, the reader is informed that embattled Pelican State Governor Kathleen Blanco was "blistering mad" because she couldn't get help from the Bush administration: "Only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived." But what about all those other buses, such as the New Orleans school buses left to drown in that parking lot? Not pertinent, judges the Times story. But the enormity of detail in the piece -- nearly 5000 words, reflecting the input of eight different reporters -- brought with it an undeniable debate-shifting weight.

Other MSMers did their part, too. Time broke the Michael Brown resume-padding story, and two days later the Federal Emergency chief was out of a job. And The Los Angeles Times broke another story about the Republican loyalists who filled up FEMA's first tier -- implying that they were nothing but patronage hacks.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, always on message, rotely complains about "finger-pointing" and "blame-gaming," but the MSM is having none of that. The Roanoke Times editorialized about one briefing in which the hapless presidential flack "said no fewer than 16 times that the administration would not engage in 'finger pointing' or the 'blame game.'" But, the paper continued, "That is precisely the sort of evasion expected from those who have something to hide, something blameworthy." This Times is a liberal paper, it endorsed John Kerry last year -- but that's the point: the MSM is still out there, and it's having an impact.

How much impact? Let's look at the polls, which show that Bush's approval rating has dropped three or four points, to between 38 and 42 percent -- here's a graphic look at the same data.

The lessons for bloggers and talk radio are important:
So what happened? To put it plainly, the substantial pro-Bush contingent of the New Media -- that is, cable news, talk radio, and the Net -- was overwhelmed. Yes, the blogosphere could take down Dan Rather, but that was a dry and slow process of threshing out real and counterfeit typewriter fonts, military phraseology, and antique zip codes.

By contrast, Katrina is wetly overwhelming; even Fox News is in high dudgeon. So while a few bloggers [Pinkerton cites Ed] are hacking away at the accreting conventional wisdom that Everything is Bush's Fault, that battle is being lost.

In other words, the MSM got there firstest with the mostest. NBC News' Brian Williams arrived in New Orleans early and stayed. And while he displayed the familiar liberal myopia about underclass misbehavior, declaring that the looters looted because they had "nothing" -- even as the cameras followed them as they ripped off TV sets and other non-comestibles -- Williams nonetheless emerged as a star. In the words of Variety's Michael Learmonth, "Williams solidified his claim as the only certain heir to the Brokaw-Rather-Jennings mantle." That mantle is not as big as it once was, but the Big Three broadcasters still garner more than 25 million viewers a night.

When it comes to flooding a zone with people who can stay on-scene (in the finest hotels, on expense account, and more importantly on-message), the MSM has the act down.

And while CNN, strictly speaking, might not be part of the MSM [huh?], its heart is clearly with its elder brethren. Its president, Jonathan Klein is the former #2 at CBS. So it was easy for CNN talent, such as Anderson Cooper, to get into the MSM groove -- and to be rewarded with fawning profiles in the New York Times, which told its readers that Cooper "captivated" his audience. Anderson Cooper is the biggest joke of the disaster so far. His spittle-flecked ranting-on-cue was embarassing to watch; I'm afraid Cooper is going to be for this year what "Guests Fighting on Springer" was to 1997, or Larry the Cable Guy's buttcrack was to last year.

Has the MSM paid any price for its liberal-tilting? Has the American public turned off all these nattering nabobs of negativism? Apparently not. A Pew Center survey, widely and gleefully reported, found that 65 percent of surveyed Americans rated the Katrina coverage as "good" or "excellent" -- an 11-point improvement over the public's assessment of the 2004 election. By contrast, only 28 percent felt that President Bush had done all he could have at the onset of the Katrina-crisis.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 04:46 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Attention, Public Radio International Legal Department

To: Garrison Keillor's Lawyers.
From: Mitch Berg, Everyday Schmuck.
Re: Intellectually-vapid property

Word has it that Garrison Keillor - he of the fortune built with the help of state and federal taxpayers and the decreasingly subtle hatred of those with whose politics he disagrees - has sicced you on a Minnesota community-blog that - heavens to murgatroid - is satirizing you.

The blog is a project of, among others, Chuck Olson - longtime MOB pal/nemesis (kid=can); the bloggers responding so far include Swiftee and, ironically, Scott Johnson at Powerline.

I'm no lawyer, and I'm no Swiftee. But I'd like to express my solidarity with the MNSpeak folks in my own humble way.

It was a quiet week in Lake Sadsack.

Harrison "Harry" Dweeler was always known as the local suck-up. He was the son of Bjarne Dreeler, who used to run the "Church of God" over on Third Street, and also drove a school bus.

Harry had gotten straight "b"s at Lake Sadsack High School, where he'd been the Secretary for the Student Council. He'd gotten a bit of a (deep breath) reputation; he used to wash Principal Bjorkstrand's car without being asked. But it wasn't about kindness; he also used to play practical jokes on kids that were smaller and weaker than he was. In gym class, he used to toss Arnold Arens' clothes and towel out in the hall while Arnold was in the shower and the girls' gym class was dismissing and walking through the hallway. Arnold was, as they say (deep breath) a "little slow", and he'd sit and curl up on the floor by the door and cry and hope that some kind soul would get his clothes. Eventually, someone would - but Harry would be cackling about it for days with the other guys in the Star Trek club. In a few weeks, Arnold would forget about it, and Harry would do it all again.

It was a pattern Harry continued when he went away to Bemidji State; he'd suck up to professors and administrators; he'd be polite to the point of obsequiety to other students from whom he thought he had something to gain; as to everyone else...

...Bryan Tostengard told Becky Gunderson that Harry used to plant evidence against his rivals on the Student Senate at BSU. It seems (deep breath) that he took that sort of thing awfully seriously.

He graduated and came back to Lake Sadsack and got a job with Buckthorn County as the code enforcement officer. This didn't make him any more popular with the people who'd known him. Worse yet, he was one of those people who just *loves* planning and zoneing meetings, and who'd go to county commission meetings to chide people into voting for more money for...well, the County Code Enforcement office.

He also started writing a little column for the Lake Sadsack Tattler. It was a little bit of gossip about the locals, a little bit of sucking up to the people on the County Commission that controlled his job - and a lot of really snide snarks at Noel Corman, the head of the Lake Sadsack Republican Party. One of his columns started like this:

I think it was Shakespeare who said "all those lawyers oughtta be dead. Now, there are good lawyers in Lake Sadsack - Humphrey Huberty of the County Commission and Wells Paulston of the Mayonnaise Advisory Council being great examples. But I heard that Noel Corman is going to hell...

Well, that's the news from Lake Sadsack - where men are self-consciously solemn and unctuous, the women wear alpaca and drive Volvos, and the children (deep breath) go to Macalester".

He was accused of writing his column on the County clock - but most people around Lake Sadsack figured that if he was writing his column, then he wouldn't be writing you up for having a forbidden color scheme on your window treatments, as was (deep breath) his usual wont"
How about this?
On the third floor of the Acme Mall, in a city that knows how to keep its mouth shut - it's Sam Symbolic, Private Eye!

I was sitting in my office, watching a couple of cockroaches wrestle over what was left of a Cobb Salad from the Fastpack Diner downstairs, when I heard a knock at the door. It was (deep breath) a woman, with legs running all the way up to her arms.

"Hello", she said. "I need a to find a man".

"At your service", I said, standing up slowly.

"No, I need someone to find a particular man..."

How about this?
The Beer Advisory Board reminds you that Beer includes natural intoxicating agents! Sing along!
Has your family tried it, Sadsack Beer?
Has your family tried it, Sad Sack Beer?
Well if you're family's on it, then
you're knee-deep in their vomit
it's a liquid projectile comet,
Sad Sack Beer...
There's gotta be something in there you can raise a legal stink about. No?

How about this:

Mitch Berg Presents:
A Prairie Taxpayer-Funded Home Companion!
Maybe the NARN needs to do its long-planned Prairie Home Companion spoof. Maybe we need to rent the Fitzgerald to do it in...

Posted by Mitch at 04:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Welcome, Hordes of Misinformed Kool-Aid-sotted Zealots!

Eva Young's blog is called "Dump Bachmann", but it should be at least subtitled "Blather about Blogger Berg"; I seem to be the subject of half of the "writing" on the blog. This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
Cue Walter Winchell Drudge; she thinks she's onto something:

I thought Blogger Berg didn't read Dump Bachmann any more. As he stated over on Whine in the Dark...
"Whine in the Dark". "Blogger Berg".

Sigh. All these years of taking the high road - and for what?This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
Lying Ethically-Retarded Stalker Young then goes on to quote something I wrote in, I think, my own comment section a week or so ago.This material may not be quoted without my written permission.

But it's not Eva Young. I haven't read any of her blogs in a while.
She notes:
But he keeps on showing up in the comments. Perhaps he's over here trolling for hits.
[sarcasm on]No, I don't think my server could handle an Evalanche. [/sarcasm off]This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
This time he's mad that I mentioned that I thought we'd be seeing Michele Bachmann at the upcoming Vision America conference - a gathering for Leviticus Crowd types. Major Bachmann contributor Phyllis Schlafly was going to be one of the special guests.
"Mad". This material may not be quoted without my written permission.

Let's start at the top. I go to blogs. If they interest me, I come back. Sometimes the interest is positive. Sometimes - like, when a buffoon like Young is saying something really stupid, it's a negative interest. If I lose interest, I don't go back. I occasionally read the Dump for the same reason I read Nick Coleman. Hint: I don't read Coleman because he's a great journalist.

And, like Coleman, sometimes the endless miasma of breathless innuendo and frantic self-aggrandizement bores me. This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
The Dump is, of course, a joke; I used to suspect that it will actually help rather than harm Bachmann's campaign in whatever jurisdiction; now, I've gone beyond suspicion, and firmly believe it will be a net benefit to Bachmann. (She even claims, repeatedly, that I "support" Senator Bachmann, which is curious, since I don't live in the Sixth District, and if I did I'd be equally as likely to support Phil Krinkie. Young's claims of clairvoyance are, to say the least, exaggerated).

But hey, I welcome the flood of traffic that her blog (141 visits a day) will no doubt send my way. Note to Dump readers: "Rediculous" is usually spelled "Ridiculous" in English, and if someone loses, they are called a "loser", not a "looser", unless they took too much ex-laxThis material may not be quoted without my written permission..

WARNING: Ancient squabble that most of you know nothing about settled in great detail below. You've been warned.

You might say "Gosh, Blogger Berg - why whine in the dark and call her a Lying Ethically-Challenged Stalker?" Well, that's quite simple: She lies, she is ethically-retarded, and she approaches these sorts of things with a sort of monomaniacal obsession that is, to say the least, off-putting.

You reply "notify the media! someone on the Internet lacks social skills and plays fast and loose with the truth!". Well, I am notifying the media; there are a number of reporters in the Twin Cities who seem to eat up Young's coverage of Bachmann without knowing the type of "source" they're dealing with. Knowledge is power.

In order:

    Lying: Two years ago, there was a fight at Lucy's Bar in Saint Paul. The bar is a toilet, and was when it was the Blues Saloon. The fight involved the son of Saint Paul's then-chief-of-police, Bill Finney. I noted (in an email forum on Saint Paul, not on my blog) that in my experience working in bars that some of the knee-jerk condemnation of the officers involved may have been premature (as, indeed, the investigation proved); that eyewitness accounts in fights are frequently inaccurate and self-serving (especially when alcohol is involved) and that, sometimes, lesbians aren't averse to violence (according to both an article I had read about a book on the subject, and according again to my own experiences in bars). Young has repeatedly said in several forums that I said that meant "the lesbians had it coming". This is a lie. I challenge Young to come up with this nonexistant quote showing that I believed anyone had any violence "coming to them", or to apologize for her defamatory fabrication. Now. In the meantime - all you reporters out there who give "Dump Bachmann" such breathless credulity need to realize the kind of source you're so guilelessly quoting!
  • After making this statement, Young posted my private email to a number of gay-themed email discussion groups. Her posting was accompanied by her warped, false, defamatory interpretation of my statement. I was quickly overwhelmed with spam and quite a bit of hate mail. Since these were all members-only forums, I couldn't defend myself from her defamation (had I been inclined to, or had the time to; I have two kids and I was working two jobs at the time). I stress; this was my personal email address. Eva Young has repeatedly tried to rationalize this by saying that
    • If I put my email address on an email discussion group, it's not private. I subscribed to the Saint Paul discussion group using a private email address because the Yahoogroups system they used at the time hides email addresses from non-members of the group. Young responds to that by saying...
    • But the group involved was not a Yahoo Group!: Right. It was a mailing list started by someone else, who - and this was controversial - took the email addresses of a number of the Yahoo Group subscribers, and started a new discussion group without telling the people involved. It was (if memory serves, and it has to, since I believe the group is long-defunct and I doubt the archives still exist) controversial at the time - but the discussion broke out anyway. The point being, the email was intended to be private - and whatever the technology involved, it's incredibly poor ethics to divulge someone's email address when you get it from an email discussion group under any circumstances. Most people know this - but most people don't put their squabbles above their ethics like Eva Young does.
    Eva Young continues to rationalize this action. Her rationalization is long-winded and self-indulgent and at the end of the day completely worthless - there is no ethical excuse for circulating someone's email from within a group of people who are having a discussion at all, much less for purposes of injecting it into other discussions (to which my input was off-topic, and to which I was, again, not subscribed to carry out my end of the discussion)! It is just plain bad etiquette.
  • A few weeks back, I attended a birthday party at the home of a long-time friend (I won't name the friend - he didn't ask to be included in this squabble), who I know from back when "blog" was something that happened after burritos and cheap beer. Lying Ethically-challenged Stalker Young was there. As I was trying to get some food, she came over. There were a few awkward jokes (from others) about the situation: I responded with a laugh "It's only business; nothing personal". That was intended both to defuse the situation and to make it clear that I wanted nothing to do with politics or blog squabbling; it was neither the time nor the place. A few weeks ago, Young snarked at me in a comment, something (I'm not going to go look it up, because who fucking cares?) about me not "having the balls" to discuss the issue then and there. This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
    In other words, criticizing me for not turning a friend's birthday party into an excuse to hash out a tired, dull, stupid argument. It would have been a gaffe (as indeed was criticizing me after the fact for it!) and an imposition (it was a friend's fecking birthday party!) and it related to an argument that in any case needn't exist, since any person with a functioning ethical compass can tell that Young is irredeemably wrong anyway. What would be the point?
That is, in fact, the final word on the subject.

People ask me "why don't you ban Eva from your comment section?" For the same reason that I read Nick Coleman; it's easy material. Too easy, usually. It's worth noting, though, that the only two people I've ever banned from my site were referred by Ms. Young.

Let me be perfectly clear about this: if I were Michele Bachmann, the presence of the Dump would delight me. If I were an opponent of Bachmann, I'd be scared shitless; the Dump is such a defamatory, dubious, misconceived joke that it would be child's play to use it was a caricature of all opposition to Bachmann; having the Dump on your side would be about as useful as being endorsed by Al Sharpton or David Duke. This material may not be quoted without my written permission.
And that, as they say, is all.

(I reserve the right to browse anywhere I want even though I said "that is all" without having to explain myself, by the way. Deal with it).

Posted by Mitch at 04:22 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

Serial Failure?

One of the reason the left has kept up such fearsome volume about federal slipups in New Orleans is that if they don't maintain control of the message, they may be dragged into confronting the failure of the Great Society welfare state to which so many of them are not only tied, but to which the radical mainstream of the Democrat party aheres with such vigor.

Brendan Miniter looks at the situation:

Anyone who has taken a non-drinking-binge tour of New Orleans, venturing outside the French Quarter and Garden District, might have noticed that New Orleans was a failing city. Tourism kept it, well, afloat, but large swaths of the city were mired in poverty for decades. One out of four New Orleans residents was living below the poverty line, and tens of thousands of people were living in public housing. These are the people who were left behind in the flood and who have long been left behind by failing schools, lack of economic opportunity, and crime well above the national average.

The Lower Ninth Ward was one section particularly hard it by the blight of poverty. Another hit hard by both poverty and then the flood was the Sixth Ward, home of the infamous Lafitte housing project. Recently the murder of a teenager there sparked a high school class to write short, locally published books about Lafitte's horrible living conditions. One author and a Lafitte resident, Ashley Nelson, told NPR on Friday that her friends and relatives still hadn't been able to escape their flooded neighborhood.

Two weeks in a housing project.

On the other hand (and dont' say I've never given credit to Clinton...):

That's not to say there was a lack of funding or even a lack of interest in poverty "elimination" programs. For decades city, state and federal officials poured good money after bad into public housing and other programs. In the 1940s the Housing Authority of New Orleans built several public housing apartment buildings near the French Quarter. As the decades passed more money and more programs followed. In 1993 the Clinton administration recognized that packing public housing units into a small space didn't eliminate poverty, but it did create ghettoes that were not well served by public transportation or emergency services.

To solve the problem the Clinton administration launched the "Hope VI" housing program which called for partnerships with private developers to build "mixed income" housing. In 2001 one of the vintage 1940s public housing buildings--the St. Thomas complex--was torn down and replaced by a private development called River Gardens. It would be interesting to know how many River Gardens residents got out of the city ahead of the flood waters compared with those who lived in the remaining public housing units nearby.

It'd be an interested study.

Who do you suppose will oppose it?

Posted by Mitch at 07:37 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

No, We're The Party of State's Rights

The John Roberts confirmation hearings kicked off yesterday. I'll leave the legal analysis to guys who do this for a living - and among those that matter, Roberts seems to have gone over well.

But among the nattering left - well, you know where this is going, right?

In the same spirit that led Joe "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" Biden to declare Roberts dead in the water before the hearings animates today's Strib editorial - apparently written by shills from the Democrat Party and/or the National Organization of Women.

The editorial:

What kind of nation does John Roberts envision for us? A land of vast individual freedom and limited government -- or of carefully prescribed rights and muscular state power?
Isn't this rich?

The Strib is all about limited government when it comes to "privacy" (more later) and abortion. But let the Taxpayers League mouth off a bit, and...


Roberts' opening statement on Monday voiced respect for precedents, and stressed that he would "confront cases with an open mind,"safeguard liberties" and be open to the considered views of his colleagues -- good signs all, but with ample room for interpretation.
Well, duh.
Respect for judicial independence, as well as reluctance to apply political "litmus tests," should constrain senators from badgering nominees to reveal how they'll vote on matters before the court. Yet if the committee takes seriously its obligation to assure that the would-be chief will guide the court well, it will not shy away from questions that clarify his judicial philosophy.
In other words, "litmus tests are bad, but we'll encourage them to use them just this once.
Concepts that used to engender consensus -- equality, for instance, or liberty -- these days spur acidic debates about the courts' proper role in dictating what government, and citizens, may and may not do.

Equality and liberty themselves still have complete consensus (unless you're a Democrat discussing taxes or the Second Amendment). The only "acidic" debate is over the courts' role in making law. The Strib editorial board favors it. Most conservatives don't.

The upshot has been fresh dispute over long-settled questions -- and a shift from the popular assumption that the Constitution was written largely to fulfill, not restrict, the American promise of freedom.
And it's here that worldviews diverge.
This was certainly the common belief in the 1960s. In that decade, the high court recognized poor defendants' entitlement to counsel, instructed police to inform suspects of their rights, outlawed racial discrimination in housing and polling places, scrapped prohibitions against interracial marriage and toppled state bans against contraception sales. Most citizens regarded these rulings as a judicial acknowledgment of an emerging understanding: Freedom is the core of American selfhood -- the assurance that this country's people may think, believe, speak and conduct their lives as they wish.

A wondrous concept, but many these days scoff at the philosophy that underpins it: that the Constitution protects "unenumerated rights" -- freedoms that the wording of the Constitution doesn't explicitly identify. The idea is as old as the Constitution itself; in fact, it's responsible for many of the freedoms Americans take for granted. Chief among them is privacy -- first recognized outright in the court's acclaimed 1965 birth-control ruling.

Which ruling, naturally, federalized legislation that should have remained - under state control.
Years later, a young lawyer for the Reagan administration wrote of "the so-called right to privacy." His name was John Roberts, and a single dismissive remark may be no cause for alarm.
Nor may it be dismissive.

Lawyers, maddeningly, deal obsessively with black and white. Not gray. Arguing with lawyers can be maddening - the gray areas that many of us just plain accept in life make many of them deeply uncomfortable - because the law is supposed to be unambiguous (which isn't necessarily the same as "clear"); either something is black, or it is white; if neither blackness nor whiteness can be distilled from the debate, then there's either legislation or a precedent-setting lawsuit in the works.

The "right to privacy" is indeed "so-called" - because it is never specifically spelled out in the Constitution. That doesn't mean that there is no "right to privacy" - it does mean that, at least as far as the Constitution is concerned, it is something that people conjured up under the Ninth Amendment, and to which they then appended other legal "rights" (like "choice", which is likewise a Ninth-Amendment thing - and whether "choice" means "kill the unborn" is still open to debate).

Lawyers often craft arguments that run at right angles to their personal sentiments, and it would be heartening indeed to learn that Judge Roberts views the Constitution more generously than did the young White House lawyer.

Roberts the younger was talking like a lawyer, a language in which meanings are specific, not implied.

American justice has flourished because the Constitution guarantees far more than its words convey.
No leaps are necessary to embrace this notion, for it's made explicit in the document's Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

But for the Ninth Amendment, America would not be the nation it is. Without it, citizens would labor still under Jim Crow laws. Governments would still dictate what people may read, what political views they may hold, whether people in love may marry and whether couples may take charge of their reproductive lives. Freedom as Americans understand it would not exist; privacy, so fundamental to liberty, would be no more than a yearning. Certainly this isn't the legacy the nation's founders meant to leave us, nor is it a life Americans would likely tolerate.Nor will it be an issue, under Roberts.

But naturally it's the left that violates the Ninth (and Tenth) Amendments with the most wholesale aplomb; the Interstate Commerce Act has been used to trample states rights, and the courts' dangling penumbras have the salutory effect of creating vast new tracts of laws for courts to uphold and enforce.

For the Strib - who never met a government program or intrusion into the economy it didn't like - to suddenly get religion on the Ninth Amendment is disingenuous in the extreme.

Posted by Mitch at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Knew?

Catholic churches have cantors.

Go figure.

Posted by Mitch at 06:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Today's the mayoral primary in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

For those of you who live elsewhere, both of the Twins use the primary as a runoff among all the declared candidates.

The upside is that the primary is always wild and wooley; the most amazing nutjobs and wackoes come out before the primary; listening to their speeches and debate appearances is like watching a debate at Irv's Bar in North Minneapolis during breakfast-time three-for-ones.

Downside? In the lefty hives that are the Twin Cities, it pretty much guarantees that the election is between two Democrats. The last mayoral election in Minneapolis, for example, was between incumbent Sharon Sayles-Belton (DFL - Venus) and winner R.T.Rybak (DFL - Pluto).

The options in Minneapolis seem to be not much better this time around, but we have more options in Saint Paul:

Minneapolis and St. Paul will narrow their mayoral fields in today's primary election, setting off nine-week head-to-head races leading to Nov. 8 general election showdowns in both cities.

Mayors Randy Kelly of St. Paul and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis each seek election to a second four-year term. The two DFLers face their most serious challenges from within their own parties.

See you at the polls.

No, I mean if you live here...

Posted by Mitch at 06:15 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005


...of New Orleans' demise might be exaggerated:

Burnt-orange rubble from terra-cotta tiles, wrenched from roofs and scattered about the French Quarter, wait in neat piles for collection along the curb. Bourbon Street is cleaner than it ever is during Mardi Gras. And Donald Jones, a 57-year-old lifelong resident, is no longer armed when walking his street.

"The first five days I never went out of my house without my gun, now I don't carry it,'' Jones said, starting to laugh. "The only people I meet is military.''

Though 50 percent of New Orleans remains flooded and teams are still working to recover the dead, there are signs that hopelessness is beginning to lift two weeks after Hurricane Katrina plowed ashore.

"Each day there's a little bit of an improvement,'' Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, commander of the New Orleans relief efforts, told NBC News on Sunday night. "And in the end run, maybe a week, two weeks from now, someone's going to wake in the morning and have something they didn't have the day before, and that's hope.''

No mistaking that what happened in New Orleans is a tragedy and will cause immense hardship. But the initial reports - 10,000 dead being the most jarring - are apparently grossly exaggerated.

Here's something to hope for - maybe the people that return to New Orleans will start taking the business of electing good mayors and governors seriously; maybe they'll make more than token efforts to clean up the corruption for which their city has always been famous.

One can hope.

Posted by Mitch at 07:31 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Last Chance

You'll havre one last chance to meet Cheri Pierson Yecke before she leaves for her new gig in Florida.

It'll be tonight at the Barnes and Noble in Maple Freakin' Grove. She'll be signing copies of her book, "The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools".

Stop by and wish her well!

Posted by Mitch at 07:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Worships In Vegas...

Sisyphus at Nihilist In Golf Pants is in Vegas, and notes:

Many people don’t realize it, but Las Vegas does have Churches. In fact, the Catholic Cathedral of Las Vegas is located right on the strip (near the Wynn casino). Las Vegas churches often have impressive services thanks to the number of professional performers who are parishioners.
I did not know that.

I also did not know...:

For example, the cantor at the mass I attended had such an impressive voice that he must have a job singing in one of the shows.
...that the Catholic Church had cantors.
Also, I understand that the Unitarian Service contains an excellent topless revue.
Well, yeah.

Posted by Mitch at 06:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Really Important Stuff

I have this feeling that I'm the last person on the Internet to find this site, Restroom Ratings,, rates restrooms.

Cossetta's Pizzeria and Italian Grocery, on West Seventh in Saint Paul:

The warm, inviting atmosphere of famous Italian deli and restaurant Cosetta's ends at their restroom door. The actual door is quite nice. Some sort of heavy hardwood. I'm not making any wagers on the type as I'm notoriously bad at identifying wood (I don't know my Birch from my Beech). But, trust me, it's nice.

Inside, you're greeted with exposed pipework, missing tiles and cheap chipped countertops. However, a rigorous cleaning schedule posted on the (really nice) door ensured that things were modestly well kept. Nothing was backed up. Nothing was flooding. Nothing was overflowing. The water ran when you turned it on and it stopped when you turned it off. Great. Now, back to my pizza.

After all these years, finally - a place to write about the Half-Time Rec's rest room.

(Remember Trainspotting's "Worst Lavatory in Scotland?" It's right up there).

Via Croc-o-Lyle)

Posted by Mitch at 06:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Far Too Modest

Today's Strib Editorial sniffs:

American popular culture has an uncanny knack for seizing a promising new technology and converting it, before long, into junk. That's an awfully broad indictment, of course, but consider the evidence:
By way of evidence:
  • Television: "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?"
  • Radio: Howard Stern.
  • The Internet: 2.4 million X-rated websites. (A rough estimate courtesy of Google.)
  • ...
    But the cell phone industry has just delivered what might be the decisive blow for the prosecution. In television commercials airing this month, actress Pamela Anderson announces that fans will be able to use their video cell phones to watch snippets of "Stacked," the television sitcom that features Anderson as a daffy party girl who decides to improve herself by taking a job in a bookstore. (Stacked. Like books on a counter.)
Er, thanks. Not being Strib editorial writers, none of us would have gotten that deft bit of wordplay. I guess that's why we need the Star/Tribune, huh?

But seriously - why stop there?

  • The printing press: CJ, Nick Coleman, Syl Jones, Susan Lenfestey...
That's the part that kills me; the Strib - like Minnesota Public Radio - seems to believe that they are truly created for a higher calling than the mere quest for revenue.
Posted by Mitch at 06:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


One of the left's more irritating tropes is the "chicken hawk" slander - whereby the opinion of anyone who supports the war but didn't, for whatever reason, serve in the military is attacked with a pavlovian fury by people who, largely, didn't serve either (although some did serve in one capacity or another)

So, question: If a bunch of Iraq vets come back and tell the "chicken hawk" detractors to shut their yaps, because they have no right to an opinion, will they?

Or how about this: if a bunch of guys who saw combat in Iraq confront a bunch of the "chicken hawk" gang who served in the military, only in peacetime, and tell them to keep their mouths shut, will they oblige?

If GIs who support the war who served in the infantry in Iraq confront anti-war veterans who served in Florida or Oregon and tell them to keep their Rear-Echelon Garritrooper opinions to themselves, will they?

I mean, you do see the logical end result of this, don't you?

Posted by Mitch at 04:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Fighting Back

I saw "The Flight That Fought Back" on Discovery last night.

If you have a chance to see it, you need to. The one-hour special - a combination of dramatic reconstruction, real audio footage and interviews with relatives of the passengers (and, in two rather sickening examples, the men who taught karate and flying to the chief Flight 93 hijacker) is affecting, effective, warpingly intense.

It was almost too difficult to watch; the chilling screams of the cockpit recorder, the eerie memories of the families, the placidity of the Pennsylvania countryside where the fight ended.

Posted by Mitch at 04:01 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

September 11: Compare, Contrast

In two days, Saint Paul will have its mayoral primary (for those of you outside the Twin Cities, this is not just an endorsement primary, but in fact the runoff for the November election; the top two vote-getters for Mayor and, IIRC, the top four for School Board will advance to this fall's final ballot).

There are those who say turnout for this primary will be 10-15% in relentlessly, noxiously Democrat Saint Paul.

Compare with the nation whose liberation began four years ago today:

I was talking with one of interpreters yesterday and we were talking about the up coming parliamentary election. He stated that he would be voting and everybody he knew would do so too. When asked about the Taliban terror campaign to disrupt the election, he scoffed at them stating that the Afghan and American armies are disrupting the Taliban’s plans and the Afghan people will vote despite the Taliban’s efforts. I am thinking that the national participation in this election will have a higher participation level than some European or American elections. When I asked him why he and others will vote, he just pointed to the children hanging around interjecting with their views of the election.
See you at the polls.

Posted by Mitch at 12:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 11: Priorities

CNN won't show you this today:

But they will file suit so that you can see the decomposed bodies of people killed by a natural disaster.

The sight of humans falling to their death after a terrorist attack is "too inflammatory" to the network executives, and Allah knows we don't want to inflame people against terrorists...

...but there's apparently no problem "inflaming" people when you (the media, here) are pounding the drum that the Administration is responsible for the carnage in Louisiana?

Michelle Malkin calls BS.

Posted by Mitch at 11:49 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

September 11: Accents

One of the most interesting-cum-jarring things of the last few months has been the release of the transcripts and tapes of 9/11 radio traffic. Most of it is the inscrutable code of professionals carrying out an arcane craft; the transcripts are a tough read at best.

The police reports are more readable - and, in their thousands of pages (of which I've skimmed hundreds) are fascinating reading, testament to the "Fog of War" so prevalent that morning (at one point, cops at the WTC had a report of a missile launch from the roof of the Woolworth building).

But the radio traffic...

It's interesting listening; all those New York, Long Island and Jersey accents, groping for facts that would never come, or reporting the unthinkable - amazing listening.

Posted by Mitch at 11:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11: Things I Never Thought I'd See

I live in the Midway of Saint Paul. It's liberal - we keep electing the likes of Alice Hausman and Ellen Anderson to the legislature, and the likes of this person to Congress. Not as debilitatingly wacked-out as Highland Park, but more prone to silliness like Cindy Sheehan vigils and sending kids to Quaker School than, say, the East Side.

One of the most jarring things about the immediate aftermath of the attacks were the empty skies. I remember walking out of my office on September 13 and being astounded to see contrails in the sky - and more astounded still when I noticed they were travelling in pairs, and curved around in loops and circles, unlike the purposeful, arrow-straight single lines of commercial jetliners. It was a combat air patrol, probably F-16s from Duluth or Fargo, patrolling the skies and ready to shoot down the next wave of attackers.

A week later, I was at my kids' soccer practice, on a still September evening behind the local rec center. Kids skittered about the big grass field, kicking and yelling and being kids. Among the parents - well, there was still only one topic, whether the parent was a nose-ringed metal parent, a tank-topped union guy, a polo-clad yuppie parent, or a prematurely-gray, straight/short-cut, frumpy Volvo-driving Wellstone-voting fiftysomething; the attacks and what was going on.

Suddenly, a roar from the south:

An F-16 flew over, low enough I could almost make out the pilot's facial features. I presumed it had been flying CAP over the Cities, and fueled up, and was on its way back to Duluth or Fargo.

And a cheer went up from the parents, as well as the kids (the boys, anyway); nearly all the parents shook their hands in the air as the plane roared away to the north.

In my neighborhood? Cheering the military?

Oh, not everyone. There was one of those frumpy, alpaca-wearing fiftysomethings, muttering and phumphering. But you could feel exhilaration among most of the parents; they (and I) finished the evening with a spring in our step, a little jolt to finish the day. Uncle Sam was upstairs with a can of whoopass for the next piece of vermin who tried to attack us. "They're all going to hear this, soon".

Damn, that felt good.

Posted by Mitch at 10:04 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 11: The Perfect Awful Morning

Four years ago this morning, the morning had already started out badly. And that was just me.

I had been divorced less than a year. Dealing with the kids in the morning had not gotten any easier; One or both of them missed their buses that morning, so I'd had to haul them both in to school, then turn around and drive out to my job...

...which was an increasingly miserable exercise. It was a little dot-com that I'd been at for about a year; the experience was growing worse by the day; you could feel the place starting to roll down the long slide to oblivion, as the original ineffective management was replaced by aggressively stupid management. I had a headache that never seemed to go away.

I was listening to a P.J. O'Rourke interview on KQRS as I butted heads with the traffic on 394. The interview ended, short and light and, by O'Rourke standards, as unsatisfying as chinese appetizers at 2PM. I flipped over to MPR.

The national anchors were stammering, trying ineffectively to convey something bad. Ever the cynical ex-radio guy, I muttered "Can't ad-lib. Gotta work from a script. Stupid MPR f**ks." I was, indeed, that cynical and, I guess, jaded at the time. Chalk it up to stress, or just not being my better self on that day.

Then, as I pulled up to the office, something even they couldn't screw up; a second plane. I sat for a while in my car, flipping stations, trying to find anyone with the whole story, knowing in six-inch letters that it was war.

We sat around the office that morning, listening to radios, trying in vain to figure out what had happened, although I think we all knew.

I've mentioned it before in this space, but once more can't hurt.

The part that made me the angriest, in retrospective, was that ten years of relative sanity came to an end that morning. I grew up among the missile silos of eastern North Dakota. One of the most treasured dreams of my life came true in the nineties, when the Cold War ended and, gradually, the Minutemen were pulled from the ground and the silos decommissioned; nuclear war was so 1970. By the time my kids were born, the imminent threat of sudden, unreasoning annihilation seemed to have receded.

Of course it wasn't entirely true; annihilation suddenly and unreasonably came to people in NYC in 1993, and Oklahoma City and Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam and Saudi Arabia and to sailors in Aden and people in kibbutzes and pizza joints throughout Israel through the whole period. But against the receded threat of the deaths of millions - maybe billions - what were the dime lots in which the terrorists dealt? Against the ideology that had swallowed a hundred million lives in eighty years, what were a bunch of bearded fanatics in caves who shot women and stoned gays and massacred people in singles and threes and dozens?

I hate the trite phrase "...sending a wake-up call". But I woke up that day. And it wasn't pretty.

My son was ten years away from military age back then; today, it's six years. I'm watching it closely.

September 11: The WTC and Me

It was the third Saturday of October in 1988. I had flown to New York City earlier in the week, to interview for a couple of radio jobs. It was my first time in New York City.

I'd spent the previous four days interviewing or getting ready for interviews - and the previous four evenings meandering about Manhattan. I've never been much of a tourist-trap kind of person. But there was one thing I had to do:

I had to go up to the World Trade Center.

I'd seen them, of course; in pictures for decades, and below me as the plane descended out of the clouds heading toward LaGuardia. I thought "If they only had an angled catwalk between them, it'd be an "M", for "Manhattan".

I got off the subway on (I think) Chambers Streets, and looked up. The part that rocked me back on my heels and made me look like a total tourist was not the height, but the bulk, the sheer amount of matter on that big block. I walked along the base of the north tower, almost uncomfortable in being a 6'5 figure along side a 1100 foot wall, awed, staring upwards with my jaw slack and my eyes agog.

I waited in line for an hour as the snake of tourists snaked around the lobby, waiting to get on the elevator; I read a book I'd bought at the Strand bookstore (I was staying on the same block), and macked on a couple of Brooklyn girls that were ahead of me in line. Then, the rocket elevator ride to the top of the building.

It was a gorgeous, 85 degree day; I don't recall a hint of haze, even over Jersey. I could see, it seemed, hundreds of miles in every direction: ships like toys on the Hudson, the Brooklyn waterfront like a menacing black stormfront, the "swamps of Jersey" sitting there somewhere between Hoboken and Newark looking not remotely metaphorical, Queens and the Bronx and Brooklyn all uninterrupted waves of stubbly concrete washing out into Westchester and Lawn Gisland.

Standing on the observation deck near the top of it all, with the whole world stretched out below me, I could understand mankind's addiction to building really, really tall things. It all made sense to me.

Posted by Mitch at 08:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 11

Lots of things to write on today's fourth anniversary.

Rather than my traditional novel, I'm just going to post a lot of different things as they come up.

Posted by Mitch at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005


Sheila has been re-publishing a bunch of her 9/11-related posts - some of the best stuff I read on the subject - over the past few days.

Especially today's.

Posted by Mitch at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Swiftee's Latest... is the best so far...

Posted by Mitch at 09:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Among The Refugees

Brad Monkey's mom is a professional grief counselor currently volunteering among the refugees in Phoenix.

Brad posts her first-hand account of her job and the people she's working with:

Her first words were, "You would have been so impressed by the operation. There must have been twenty different agencies all working together. Of course, a few each think they're in charge, but it didn't seem to cause any problems. It's just obvious that this is being run by someone - by people - who have thought of everything." [Sheesh. Hasn't anyone told her it's a total disaster? Ed.]

She continued, "They have a huge bank of phones for them to use free. They have tables of computers for them to use. There are job placement services operating and lots, lots of people already have jobs." She explained that one of the men there had been on the front page of the local paper, which featured him as one of the first of the bunch to secure employment. He was signing people's copies of the front page, "just like a celebrity." She went on to explain that somewhere near 100 people had already been able to move out of the Coliseum shelter and into houses or apartments. But I think the efficiency of the operation was summed up when she gently grabbed my wrist and said, "Brad, kids who were on rooftops Tuesday were in school today." Stranded in a devastated NOLA one day - fed, clothed, comforted, and in class in Phoenix three days later.

Why, it's like they don't know how badly the government let them down.

Oh, wait - they do:

But her voice dropped to a whisper when she recounted the next part to me. She said, "I never brought it up, I never asked a question about it, but they kept offering it in conversation - the ones these people are mad at are..." and then she practically mouthed the words (why, I have no idea, as only my two kids were in the room) "the mayor and the governor. They are furious with them. Steaming." And again, she reaffirmed that she was not asking, she did not conduct a poll, but she reported, almost disbelievingly, that not a one mentioned being upset with Bush or the administration. She said Bush, the administration, the federal response were never mentioned. "Not once," she said, "To a person." But mom said they were quick to voice their heated displeasure at the local and state response.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 08:25 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I Read This...

...bit here and laughed for like three minutes.

Posted by Mitch at 08:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Politically Motivated"

The local Green Party was right, sorta; the federal investigation of Minneapolis City Councilman Dean Zimmerman was, allegedly, motivated by politics; the politics of people who wanted stuff done for them:

Minneapolis City Council Member Dean Zimmermann took $7,200 cash in exchange for support on zoning changes, according to a federal affidavit filed Friday.

The search warrant affidavit claims the FBI had probable cause to believe Zimmermann violated the law by accepting "bribes in exchange for official acts."

The allegations:

In a June 6 conversation at a Minneapolis restaurant, the witness told Zimmermann he needed his vote. When the witness asked the council member what he needed, Zimmermann said, "money, money, money," the affidavit said.

The witness agreed to pay $4,000 to $5,000 toward the legal bill in exchange for a zoning vote. "OK, you got it," Zimmermann said, according to the document.

The Greens, by the way, favor campaign finance reform. They want to get the "big money" out of politics, so it doesn't sully democracy any more.

There are more allegations - read the Strib piece.

Zimmerman's official response?

Speaking on behalf of the poor and oppressed and generations to come is not always popular, but it is necessary," he said. "It is my life's work. It is my work as a public official. And it's work I intend to continue."
Fascinating, isn't it, how many sins are written off by "working for the poor"?

The interesting thing is going to be seeing how Zimmerman does in Tuesday's primary...

Swiftee has more.

Posted by Mitch at 07:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Let Ryan Do It

I thought about Nick Coleman column...

Everyone is playing the blame game on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, and we at the top end of the Mississippi River can join the fun by pointing fingers close to home.

Part of what drowned New Orleans is a political ideology determined to shrink government and ignore scientific evidence of global warming. Well, "stuff" flows downhill, and some of those tainted ideas came straight from Minnesota.

But I really needn't - Ryan Rhodes already did a great job.

But I'm sure Coleman wrote the column before revelations of the incompetence of the New Orleans and Louisiana governments. Which were...

Posted by Mitch at 06:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Power of the Medium Sized Blog

Joe Carter on the 5/150 Principle

...[w]e bloggers rarely appreciate the power we possess. Instead of being constantly amazed at the potential influence we wield, we carp and whine (if only to ourselves) that we don’t have the links of Glenn Reynolds or the site hits of Daily Kos. We believe that since thousands of people could be reading our blogs that we should have thousands of readers. If we don’t then we judge ourselves to be inadequate.

But how important are links and hits? Try this experiment: write down (a) a list of 10 blogs that are the most linked, (b) a list of 10 blogs that receive the most traffic, and (c) a list of 10 blogs that you regularly read that make you think for the equivalent of five minutes a day. Once you have your list you can check the links and the hits at the TTLB Ecosystem.

Now how many on (a) and (b) did you get right? How many of the ones on (a) and (b) are also on list (c)? My guess is that you were only able to name (at most) five of the ten blogs on the first two lists and that only one or two show up on your own list. What this shows is that measurements we often use to determine a blog’s “success” have little to do with their actual ability to influence.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 04:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

Could Have Been Worse

I remember on September 11. I was out back at Flash's place. We were both dazed (I from the events of the day, he with that plus his day in court), pondering what the final toll might be. I'm paraphrasing from memory - but I'll stand by the idea.

"I bet there's 50,000 dead", said Flash.

"I dunno", I responded. "A lot of people got out of the second tower, and it looked like from the lower part of the first tower, too. I bet it's not much over 15-20,000."

"Really? You're pretty optimistic?"

I thought I was, anyway. When I heard later that "only" 3,000 had died, I was amazed, and grateful in a horrified way given the possibilities.

So, they say, in New Orleans.

Alarming predictions of as many as 10,000 dead in New Orleans may have been greatly exaggerated, with authorities saying Friday that the first street-by-street sweep of the swamped city revealed far fewer corpses than feared.

"Some of the catastrophic deaths that some people predicted may not have occurred," said Col. Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief.

He declined to give a revised estimate. But he added: "Numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the dire projections of 10,000."

The encouraging news came as authorities officially shifted most of their attention to counting and removing the dead after spending days cajoling, persuading and all but strong-arming the living into leaving the city because of the danger of fires and disease from the fetid floodwaters.

Good news, to be sure. Or at least less-bad news.

Posted by Mitch at 04:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Where Their Mouth Is

You'd think they have enough trouble to deal with on their own.

But a group of Iraqi troops made a good-sized donation to New Orleans' flood victims:

Iraqi soldiers serving at Taji military base collected 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Iraqi Col. Abbas Fadhil, Iraqi base commander, presented the money to U.S. Col. Paul D. Linkenhoker, Taji Coalition base commander, at a Sept. 5 staff meeting.

“We are all brothers,” said Abbas. “When one suffers tragedy, we all suffer their pain.”

The amount of money is small in American dollars - roughly $680 - but it represents a huge act of compassion from Iraqi soldiers to their American counterparts, said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Goyne.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of their generosity,” Goyne said. “I was proud and happy to know Col. Abbas, his officers, NCOs and fellow soldiers. That amount represents a month’s salary for most of those soldiers.”

That is, frankly, pretty amazing.

And a very cool thing.

Posted by Mitch at 04:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More Dean!

Watching Wolf Blitzer interviewing Mad How on CNN right now.

It's interesting - the Dems must be switching to full-blown Goebbels mode, latching onto a big lie and repeating it until their crowd believes it.

I have to say - at least Blitzer had a few good followup questions:

"The Guard Was In Iraq
Blitzer pushed back, saying that 3/4 of the LNG was in Louisiana:
Well, their equipment was in Iraq
Dean spent a lot of air trying to pin the disaster in New Orleans on FEMA. Blitzer, again, pushed back, noting that the City of New Orleans had left their schoolbuses sitting below sea level, ready to get washed out:
It's easy to blame . You can blame the last four or five presidents...
Blitzer, to his credit, tried to call BS on Dean's evasion: "On Friday there was knowledge that the storm was going to come ashore in the area..."

Dean's response:

This is Republican Spin Machine stuff. YOu have to blame FEMA...
Naturally, Katrina and John Roberts are connected. Oh, yes.
John Roberts appears to ber a family person...John Roberts' entire legal career is about taking opportunity away from girls and women...that's probably not the right thing to do two weeks after a disaster...where everyone didn't get the same treatment because of their circumstances...
I love Howard Dean. He's the best chair the DNC has ever had.

Posted by Mitch at 04:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

MPR: Carrying Water For The Greens?

Federal authorities raided the home/campaign headquarters of Minneapolis City Councilman Dean Zimmerman yesterday:

FBI agents spent about three hours going through Zimmermann's home, which is also his campaign headquarters. Zimmermann did not comment to reporters. Lauren Maker, campaign coordinator for the Green Party member, says agents showed up at Zimmermann's house with a search warrant and a sealed affidavit.
Zimmerman's supporters and shocked, shocked I tell you:
Green Party mayoral candidate Farheen Hakeem said she dropped by Zimmermann's home to give him moral support. She said Zimmermann sat at his dinner table and said little.

"He looked like as if a train just hit him and he looked like he was in shock. For me, I'm very much in shock because he's the nicest guy ever. He would never hurt a fly. So many people in the community who have known him for years just love him," she said.

But - and this is the vaguely-interesting part - they not only spoke with a Zimmerman neighbor:
Neighbor Nancy Stevens stood by and watched as reporters and others staked out Zimmermann's home. She says she can't believe that Zimmermann would do anything illegal and questioned the timing of the search.

"I think they are some of the more straightforward, honest people -- direct people -- that you could ever meet. To me it seems very very odd that all of this coming down just days before the primary. I'm very suspicious as to what instigated this and who instigated this," she said.

They also showed, in the MPR web version of the story, a photo of Zimmerman spokesperson Lauren Maker:


So we get the self-serving claim of political motivation, specifically, in full and prominently-displayed on the site...

...while the reader is left to infer for him/herself that it's a federal investigation, and so probably (barring evidence to the contrary, and I've heard none yet) outside the scrum of Minneapolis city/DFL (pardon the redundancy) politics.

Good reporting?

I'm asking. I'm not sure, and I have my doubts.

Posted by Mitch at 09:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Last-Minute Frenzy

Posting will probably be light-ish today; I have a bunch of last-minute work to do before I start a new gig on Monday.

Upside: Not only is it a new gig, but it is by all appearances a pretty cool one.

Downside: After almost two years of commuting to either downtown Minneapolis or the southern part of Saint Paul, I'm now going to have to embark on a 25-40 minute odyssey every morning, and ditto at night.

The actual company, as always, will remain a closely-held secret. There are some weirdos out there.

Posted by Mitch at 09:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Fever Bayou

Halliburton wins a contract to help clean up and repair New Orleans.

Over at the Bear Pit, the usual suspects are most exercised.

Never mind that Halliburton is one of the best in the biz at...

...oh, never mind.

Posted by Mitch at 07:37 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

Shred of Justice

King sent me this story, about a court case that, maybe, is starting to set some things straight that desperately need it.

The way "Family Court" law is currently set up, a woman basically needs only to tell a court who her child(ren)'s father is for the court to accept it as fact; the alleged father, in most states, has a short time to respond (sometimes, as in California, absurdly short; thirty days).

This has led to some amazing miscarriages of justice. A few years ago, I commented on the case of Tony Pierce - proprietor of one of my favorite blogs - who ended up in the California child support machine:

Tony Pierce remembers vividly the exact moment in November 2000 when the state of California began trampling on his life. "There was a loud angry pounding at my door at five o’clock in the morning," he recalls. "Very scary."

It was a female police officer with a complaint accusing him of being the father of an 8-year-old girl in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco. "I’m like, ‘Great! I’m definitely not the father of anybody,’" he says.

Read the whole story in Reason Mag - it's great background for why this case is so important. And if it doesn't leave you wanting to strangle some government bureaucrat, you should check your pulse.


The case, with the New Jersey Supreme Court, makes at least some headway in redressing these sorts of cases - at least the ones where active fraud is involved.

Which was in fact what happened with the case at issue, which sounds like a treatment for an episode of a soap opera:

In 1957, RAC — the duped dad — and BEC were married; in 1980, they divorced. Three children resulted, including DC born in 1969. (Court documents reveal the parties only through initials.)

The mother was "virtually sure" that PJS was DC's father but she did not disclose this to her husband. Instead, PJS became the child's godfather. Upon divorce, RAC fulfilled the obligations of both child support and educational expenses for DC, all the while maintaining a close, loving relationship with the three children.

In 1996, DC — then 27-years-old — was about to wed. The mother revealed her paternity fraud to DC because his natural father had a pronounced family history of muscular dystrophy, a condition which could be genetically transmitted. She promised to inform RAC of the deception but waited three additional years to do so.

In September 2000, the sadly-enlightened RAC filed a complaint against PJS, which also named the mother and included a demand for DNA testing. PJS was the biological father and a judgment of paternity was entered against him in June 2002.

The first court granted RAC reimbursement of almost $110K in child support - but refused to grant legal fees, and (more importantly) punitive damages for fraud and emotional distress and (naturally) didn't address the mother's complicity in the fraud.

The biofather/fraudster appealed, saying the deadline for filing paternity claims (five years after reaching the age of majority) had passed. RAC countered that, naturally, the existence of the fraud had been actively concealed from him until nine years after the boy had reached majority.

The Superior Court of New Jersey agreed that the fraud made the five year deadline impossible, and sent the case back to the lower court to re-evaluate the question of legal fees.

Wendy McElroy - an excellent writer who I've quoted many times in this space - wrote the article, and summarizes the ups and downs of this case:

I am uncomfortable with this reasoning.

Adultery is not and should not be against the law; consenting adults have an absolute right to have sex together without government interference. The sexual act may be immoral or otherwise unsavory but it should not be illegal.

But making an innocent third party legally and financially responsible for the consequences of that sex act is an entirely different matter. And the mother must have perjured herself on several legal documents during the divorce and child settlement arrangements when she attested to RAC's fatherhood.

The whole thing is worth a read - and, generally, good news.

But there's so much more work to be done. More in coming days.

Posted by Mitch at 09:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Speaking of Root Causes...

...Green Party candidate for mayor of Saint Paul, Elizabeth Dickinson, unleashed her big plan for combating crime in the city yesterday.

Let's look for the big plan, here.

By the way - people ask me "why do you pay any attention at all to the Green Party candidates?" Because they're borderline-contenders in the Twin Cities; they have been elected to the Minneapolis City Council, and it's not inconceivable that one could win office in one of Saint Paul's ditzier wards; the Second (downtown and posh, überliberal Ramsey Hill) and Third (Highland Park, Merriam Park, places where Wellstone signs dot the streets where people who still support Kathleen Soliah tend their immaculate organic lawns).


As Police Chief Harrington recognized in a recent editorial, and has been backed up by my conversations with scores of citizens, including current and retired police officers - although they might not use this phrase - there needs to be a more holistic approach to crime. Crime is an
endpoint and there are places of intervention - places where we can slow down
and stop crime in its tracks, if we only know where to look and we put the money and time resources in those places.
To this point, I could hardly agree more. There are many, dare I say, "root causes" of crime: poverty; the warehousing of poor, desperate people in inner cities; a largely-misguided "war on drugs"; a popular, predominant urban culture that glamorizes violence and the criminal life; disarmament of victim populations; urban "leadership" that harps on helplessnes and discourages hard work; even the long-term effects of slavery and the sense of hopelessness it ingrained in all of Black American society.

Yep. There are plenty of root causes of crime.

So what's the Green Party going to go after?

Do we need to put more officers on the street? Of course. But we _can not solve_ the problem only through those means - that's like trying to cure heart disease by building more cemeteries.
That's basically true.


So what's the solution?

80% of those incarcerated in our prison system witnessed domestic violence as children, and become perpetrators or victims of domestic violence. Many of those incarcerated are simultaneously guilty of drug related and/or gang related activity. And the single largest category of calls to the St. Paul police are domestic violence calls. We can not put a police officer in every home. What can a mayor do?
Er, good question. Start to address poverty, warehousing, desperation, misguided drug wars, gangsta culture, helplessness and culture?
First, let's look at domestic violence. As a mayor I will support the reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act which is about to expire. This act is a template to support policies which reinforce that domestic violence is a crime and should be treated as such.

So let me get this straight: Crime needs a "holistic approach", but domestic violence is a self-standing, independent plague on its own?

And even the ACLU recognizes that the Violence Against Women Act is an extremely troublesome piece of legislation. They referred to VAWA - which was part of the 1994 "Crime Bill", which was generally a disaster for civil liberties - "troubling", believed that the increased penalties and the pre-trial, extrajudicial incarceration was wrong, and that mandatory HIV testing was a gross violation of the right to privacy. The Supreme Court in US v. Morrison struck down large chunks of the VAWA, and the rest exists largely because the SCOTUS didn't address it at all. Violence against women is a bad thing; nobody argues it. But the VAWA is, putting it politely, a lousy piece of legislation. Better laws can be crafted (especially in light of research that shows that violence against men in relationships is also a serious problem, perhaps at least as prevalent as violence against women); VAWA should be allowed to die, and be replaced by better legislation.

So - will Elizabeth Dickinson get around to talking about poverty, warehousing, desperation, misguided drug wars, gangsta culture, helplessness and culture?

Second, to address other crimes including domestic violence, gangs and drug activity I will work with community councils to expand block clubs into every area of the city and work with the police department to ensure
a regular presence of police officers at the block clubs. Police need neighborhood block clubs to be the eyes and ears of the police - to notify them of any suspicious activity - whether it's graffiti which may indicate increased gang activity, or unusual comings or goings at odd hours of the night which may indicate drug or gang activity, or screaming from a nearby home which may indicate domestic violence.
OK, fair enough. Block clubs are important.

They're also, basically, extra eyes for the police department, a human burglar alarm. They address no root causes - the poverty, warehousing, desperation, misguided drug wars, gangsta culture, helplessness and culture issues we need to deal with. Right?

And again with the domestic violence. What's up with that?

So let's move on:

As a society, we encourage zero tolerance of crime through informal and formal community education - when neighbors know not only that they have the right to report suspicious activity when it relates to people they may not know, but they have a duty to report domestic violence even if it occurs with people they do know. Domestic violence is not a private family matter. Domestic violence affects all of society and must be recognized as a crime. And since many women withdraw charges against their batterers, we must offer the support of independent witnesses in court to ensure that warranted charges stick.
Again with the domestic violence?

We have meth labs all over the place; not a word. We have crack houses - zip. We have poverty, warehousing, desperation, misguided drug wars, gangsta culture, helplessness and a culture that preys on all the above; nothing. We have a liberal, catch and release judicial system; bupkes.

But we have relentless focus on domestic violence?

Why would that cause any problems?

As mayor I will aggressively look for continuing funding to expand on the $389,000 recently received from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat domestic violence [Seven! - Ed.] so when it runs out in two years, we will have replacement funds to continue fighting domestic violence...We must increase protection orders, since battering tends to be a pattern and not an individual event.

So let's get this straight: Crime in general is complex, and intuitive solutions like punishing it are like "building cemeteries" to fight disease. But the root of crime is domestic violence, and the solution is to allow more restraining orders - which are both terribly abused in the current domestic court industry and nearly worthless in preventing actual violence?

I smell a lot of influence by groups with agendas.

And as noted in the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights report, special attention needs to be paid to immigrant women, not because they are more likely to be battered [Eight - and we know there aren't any societies out there that systematically devalue women, Riiiight? - Ed.] than other groups, but because they have particular language and cultural barriers to accessing services likely to protect them. We must hire more trustworthy, bilingual interpreters at shelters and emergency rooms so immigrant women know there is a law against beating and laws to prevent your children ["Your" children? Huh? - Ed.] being taken away or to prevent landlords from evicting domestic violence [Nine! - Ed.] victims.
My head hurts.
Third, I will work with the community councils and recreation centers to get more VISTA and Americorps workers and volunteers into rec centers and libraries to start innovative programming. Vista and Americorps workers are an effective, lower cost way to help overworked staff in our rec centers.
OK, so Ms. Dickinson wants to pass the cost of staffing rec centers up to the feds. Innovative, in a sense, but not exactly a crime thing...
Additionally, besides traditional programming of sports and recreational activities, we need to develop programs to teach non-violent communication skills to parents and leaders in the community to encourage awareness that there are alternatives.
"Teaching non-violence". That's worth a post all by itself. Does Ms. Dicksinson think the people who need to be "taught" non-violence will show up? Or that they have time, stressed out as they are by underemployment and desperation and the stresses of whatever crappy situation they're in, to attend her precious classes?

Or is this going to be something that people are corralled into by force? Or just the men, perhaps?

Fourth, I will work with the SPPD gang unit to help them establish ongoing relationships with schools and rec centers to combat the formation of gangs. The community - especially kids - need to see police outside of traditional roles so they don't only perceive the police as the people who take people they know away from the community. I strongly support the establishment of police athletic and activities leagues so kids see alternatives to joining gangs and see police as trusted members of the community.
Wow. We got ten paragraphs into the statement before we got to something that actually makes sense and isn't a politically-correct dodge.
Do we understand that investments in keeping women and kids safe pays dividends of reduced crime, down both now, and in the future - so today's kids don't become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence [Ten! - Ed.], gangs and drugs? Do we understand that public investments in parks and rec centers and replacing playgrounds like the one here at the Margaret rec center give kids and parents not just a place to enjoy themselves - although that is incredibly important in this stressful world - but they also may be a lifeline - the one place a kid or parent may go to that encourages a sense of self-esteem, a sense that they are valued by the community simply because the community has given them a safe place to express their energy?

In the end, if we do care, do we care _enough_ to pay higher taxes now? Or
do we prefer to pay a higher price down the line?

Millions for cops.

Not a dime for feminist dogma.

Posted by Mitch at 07:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Root Causes of Irrationality

Via the Bear Pit (visit!), the British Independent newspaper has embarked on a comprehensive program of national self-loathing after the 7/7 bombings.

It's the victim's fault. Did you know that?

Posted by Mitch at 05:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does This Sound Fun, Or What?

Remember two years ago, when people still talked about "Social Networking" websites? Places like "Friendster" and "Orkan"? The idea, near as I can figure it, is that people were supposed to sign up, put a "profile" on the site, and talk their social circle into adding their own profiles to the site, so they could socialize? Sort of like they already did in real life, but online? Or something like that? I'm sure I'm missing something.

Maybe it was that they were supposed to write stuff or search for stuff on other peoples profiles, and discuss things. Sort of like blogs, I guess, with a captive audience...or...?

Or they're supposed to meet each other. Sort of like online personals. Or maybe like the MOB. Or...

OK, I'll admit it. I don't get "Social Networking" sites. But there's apparently a lot of money in them.

Including money that is buttressed by the taxpayer:

Minnesota's largest public-radio network, which recently launched the cutting-edge "Current" radio station, is again venturing into trendy waters -- this time on the Internet.

American Public Media Group (APMG), parent company to Minnesota Public Radio, has invested almost $1 million in the for-profit, Boston-based The new venture is a "social networking" website devoted to creating an online community of public-radio listeners.

This might not be as dumb as it seems at first blush.

Work with me on this one.

If I've noticed anything about the Volvo-driving, Alpaca-wearing Highland Park "Don't Park The Bus" set, it's that they're fundamentally hive creatures. That's why if you go to email discussion forums like E-Democracy, they are dominated by lefties; there are rules, and there's a place for everyone and everyone is in their place. People of a less-orderly lefty bent flock to places like Daily Kos or Democrat Underground, which are huge, but still essentially hives.

So, if you're Bill Kling, sitting on a taxpayer-supported fortune and looking for ways to insinuate your empire more deeply into more peoples' lives - why not exploit that hive instinct?

"We think we can take audiences beyond what we give them in public radio and connect them with a whole lot of people who have similar interests," said Bill Kling, president of APMG. "We hope there is a point where they actually get involved in activities with each other -- to take a tour of Italy, or live in a compound in Santa Fe."

"We can't do that in public radio," he said.

Well, it's part and parcel of what Public Radio does; take a segment defined by its sense of innate personal, cultural and intellectual superiority, and give them a special place to go - a place with the ostensible mission of bringing news and culture to the hoi-polloi, but whose main focus is to serve as a special place for those who just need to feel above and beyond them; a place where everyone may not know your name, but they speak the same language and know the same codes.

It's also a substitute, in a sedate, MPR-friendly way, for the bumptious, meritocratic world of the blog; social connection without all that pesky dissent that National Public Radio dislikes so much.

If you're Bill Kling, reinforcing that is just good taxpayer-supported business:, set to launch in December, will operate along the same principles as and -- fee-free sites where people can establish their own home pages listing their personal and professional interests, keep blogs and communicate with other site members. Revenue is generated by selling advertisers space on those venues.

Social networking sites, with their young-skewing participants, have become red-hot commodities of late. MySpace, which has almost 30 million members, recently was purchased for $580 million by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

However, Gather may be different. MySpace caters to teens and young adults and has been described as having the personality of a teenager's poster-papered, music-filled bedroom. Gather, designed for public radio's older, more sober audience, might more resemble the parents' book-lined study.

Or a commune in Santa Fe.

When it comes to ensuring the future of his taxpayer-supported empire, Bill Kling never sleeps.

Posted by Mitch at 04:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Disaster Pr0n

I read this and this yesterday, and laughed so hard I nearly passed out.

I hope there's a Part 3.

Via Kathy.

Posted by Mitch at 03:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

Not Good Enough. Not Smart Enough. And Doggone It, Now People Know You're Lying

Michelle Malkin shreds Al Franken's plea of ignorance in the Air America scam.

Then Brian Maloney beats the claims with clubs.

Both pieces include copious scans of actual legal documents.

Al Franken, it would seem, is a big fat liar.

Posted by Mitch at 12:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Whose Truck?

In my post yesterday about the el-flopola Labor Picnic on Harriet Island, Swiftee noticed something amiss:

After all, Chris Coleman, candidate for Mayor of the sainted city went through all of the trouble of borrowing a spare ladder truck from the SPFD to use as his mobile campaign HQ.

As you can see, the truck's nice red paint job went really well with Coleman's campaign signs and with the firemen's nice yellow Coleman for Mayor shirts..spiffy-O!

Note the pictures.

Minnesota Democrats Exposed had the answer:

This is a picture from the Labor Day picnic on Harriet Island. I originally thought it was a city of St. Paul Fire Department truck, but it is actually a fire truck from New York:
...which is a really classy move in and of itself; it's apparently a truck that was present at the WTC on 9/11.

But added another question:

While I am on the subject of Chris Coleman and fire trucks, is this a St. Paul fire truck?

I can't tell because a Chris Coleman for Mayor sign has been taped over the sign on the door.

Comments indicate it may be a surplus, privately-owned truck (and I'm not personally aware of any SPFD vehicles that are painted yellow).

But it's worth a look.

Posted by Mitch at 10:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


You're ready to go out to Ridgedale (a mall on the far west side of the Twin Cities); you've just turned the car onto westbound I94...

...when you get a cell call, telling you you need to go to Hudson (Wisconsin - 15 miles east of Saint Paul).

What do you do?

Swear, and look for an exist wtih an east-facing on-ramp, and fumble your way through traffic. You don't spin a cookie out on the freeway - which'd take maybe three seconds. No, you burn a few minutes.

Or more. Maybe it's rush hour; maybe there's a rainstorm or snow flurries going on, and traffic is snarled and the side streets are a mess and the ramps and highways are backed up from here to eternity.

Turning from Ridgedale to Hudson on the fly might take a while; actually getting to Hudson is going to take a bit to a lot longer than just driving to Hudson in the first place.

Now - apply that to government.

Captain Ed relates a few of the key facts that the Bush-bashers are missing - but that ABC News, of all people, are finally starting to get.

Ed notes:

If ABC's report is correct, then the feds may not have known of the evacuation breakdown until the flood on Tuesday made it a critical situation -- and then were forced to respond by getting the correct assets in place within 72 hours for evacuation while almost all the roads and bridges were unusable. By that time, FEMA had begun to use what roadways were left open to move in the supplies and temporary shelter they had prestaged in the area. The feds would have had to quickly shift to a massive evacuation effort instead, a difficult and time-consuming transformation.
In other words; FEMA expected that the state and city authorities would do their job and evacuate the city, at which FEMA would take over the feeding and relocation. When New Orleans and the State's efforts fell apart, FEMA had to change directions in mid-crisis - with the whole world falling down about everyone's ears - and take over the evacuation as well, in midstream (as it were), with roads and bridges washed out, power and communications mangled, and chaos all around.

The Guard and the rest of the authorities were late getting to New Orleans because they never expected to have to be there in the first place! The plan was for New Orleans to empty itself out, and for the feds to take it from there. It didn't happen.

Again - for like the tenth time - I'm not politicizing this tragedy. Merely doing my little bit to pound a spike in the heart of the stories that are being used to politicize it.

Posted by Mitch at 10:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Bob Williams on the local and state screwups leading to the disaster:

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.
And Ray Nagin - the one that some of the left's leading lights have tried to canonize?
Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His Office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.

The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.

The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.

[ Atrios on ] So why does the media hate the truth? [ Atrios off ]

Posted by Mitch at 09:30 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Slander is Collapsing?

Wes Pruden in the WaPo notes that despite a full court media press (not to mention a full-out effort by the yapping far left)...:

The vultures of the venomous left are attacking on two fronts, first that the president didn't do what the incompetent mayor of New Orleans and the pouty governor of Louisiana should have done, and didn't, in the early hours after Katrina loosed the deluge on the city that care and good judgment forgot. Ray Nagin, the mayor, ordered a "mandatory" evacuation a day late, but kept the city's 2,000 school buses parked and locked in neat rows when there was still time to take the refugees to higher ground. The bright-yellow buses sit ruined now in four feet of dirty water. Then the governor, Kathleen Blanco, resisted early pleas to declare martial law, and her dithering opened the way for looters, rapists and killers to make New Orleans an unholy hell. Gov. Haley Barbour did not hesitate in neighboring Mississippi, and looters, rapists and killers have not turned the streets of Gulfport and Biloxi into killing fields.'s just not working:
The first polls, no surprise, show the libels are not working. A Washington Post-ABC survey found that the president is not seen as the villain the nutcake left is trying to make him out to be. Americans, skeptical as ever, are believing their own eyes.
We have a way of doing that.

Posted by Mitch at 08:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Dilbert Lives

Hillary Rodham-Clinton speaks on the disaster:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., reiterated her calls for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be made autonomous from the Department of Homeland Security
Wasn't it just a few years ago that the left was demanding all emergency-related agencies be centralized?

Didn't conservatives warn against excessive centralization? Hello

Why, yes we did.

Posted by Mitch at 08:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Casualties Of Media

A Washington man is accused of killing two convicted child-rapists.

A man arrested in the shooting deaths of two convicted child rapists tried to plead guilty Tuesday before he had even been formally charged.

Police say that Michael Anthony Mullen might have targeted the men in reaction to a notorious case in Idaho in mid-May in which two children were abducted and one was slain.

This is a tough one.

On the one hand, the Steve Groene case drew saturation coverage - justifiably so, while the children were still missing.

And as a parent, I can't argue too much with the idea of publicizing the locations of registered sex offenders, especially since I live in one of those inner cities where the criminal justice and social welfare bureaucracies warehouse everyone they're responsible for.


"Mullen also said that he had planned the murders for some time and that on July 13, 2005, he had accessed the Whatcom County Sheriff's sex offender website, and from that selected at least one of the two victims," according to a police news release.
Beyond my normal revulsion at murder, I have to hope that neither of the victims were lower-level offenders with some hope of never re-offending. It does happen...

It also shows the danger of internet stalkers.

Posted by Mitch at 07:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Situation Named!

Neighbor and (if memory serves) blogger Peter Hoh writes:

My name for all the bureaucratic snafus, the confusion about who was in charge of what, the ensuing blame game, and the coming reorganization:

Operation Bureauqi Fiefdom

It's official!

(What's that blog again, Peter?)

Posted by Mitch at 06:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

Dim Bulb

Via Kool Aid Report - one of the essential area blogs - who notes this rather dim-sounding fella in today's Strib:

Imagine if the doctrine of preemption had been used for Hurricane Katrina. Imagine if all the resources of the armed forces and the government were brought to bear in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama before the disaster instead of after it. Imagine all the lives that would have been saved.

Because nothing would help the 82nd Airborne more than having to ride out 145 mile per hour winds.

Nothing would be better for the National Guard's water purification gear - big, fairly delicate, and essential - than having it piled into mounds of rotting metal by the winds and the storm surge.

Nothing would help the rescue effort like putting our troops where they'd need to be rescued first.

Nothing would help the effectiveness of the relief effort like a thousand more stories like this one:

Josh E. Russell had spent a tour in Iraq, then switched to the National Guard from the Marine Corps so he could spend more time at home. The 27-year-old was killed when the Humvee he was riding in hit debris on a highway in Pearl River County, Miss.

Russell was nervous about being called into action, sent into the teeth of the hurricane, said his widow, Jamie Russell.

"He didn't want to go, because he knew it was going to be a bad storm. But he went, because that was his duty," she said.

Yes, Mike. Great idea.

Posted by Mitch at 02:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Politicize This

John Tierney in the NYTimes elucidates a key truth of leadership in time of crisis:

What the city needed most was coldly effective local leaders, not a president in Washington who could feel their pain. It's the same lesson we should have learned from Sept. 11 and other disasters, yet both liberals and conservatives keep ignoring it.
Well, not all of us.

For all of the desire to fix blame on racism, the President, omnipresent corruption and decades of welfare-state dependence or what-have-you, it seems very likely that what was really needed along the Gulf was simple, decisive local leadership - people who weren't afraid to stick their necks out and make the tough calls.

And enforce those calls.

Tierney leads with an example of a state disaster official in Virginia:

[Jim] Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.

That simple strategy could have persuaded hundreds of people to save their own lives in New Orleans.

Great leadership isn't always a matter of reaching into peoples' hearts. Sometimes, it's an ability to make tough, unpopular calls, and stick with them. Reagan was the Great Communicator; he also endorsed a tough fiscal policy that led the nation through a gruelling recession, to squeeze a lot of inefficiency out of the economy. Winston Churchill inspired the world with his soaring oratory; he also sent thousands of men to their deaths. Long before Rudy Giuliani riveted the world on 9/11, he had to bull his way past the slings and arrows of New York's bureaucracy, unions and political establishment to reform the city, against insurmountable odds.

It's not a Republican or Democrat thing. And, the way things are supposed to work, it's not a Washington thing. Our Republic is set up, at least in theory, to avoid excessive centralization - and in few areas is that ideal still the norm as much as things like disaster relief. For all the nattering about the national Homeland Security department, the first line of defense against the daily grind of natural disaster is still the state and local officials whose boots are daily on the same ground as they people they serve.

Posted by Mitch at 01:16 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack


John Kerry is endorsing Chris Coleman, the DFL-endorsed candidate to try to knock off Saint Paul mayor Randy Kelly:

John Kerry is weighing in on St. Paul's mayoral race, a year after the city's incumbent Democratic mayor came out against the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in the presidential election.
Wow. Mighty big guns for a campaign like this, right?
Coleman's principal opponent, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly, is the nation's only prominent Democrat up for election to have endorsed Kerry's rival, George W. Bush. The other, U.S Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, has retired from office.

Reminding voters of Kelly's backing for the Republican has been one of the principal themes of the Coleman campaign. Kerry handily won the presidential race in St. Paul, despite Kelly's endorsement of Bush. Kelly's campaigning for the Republican did, however, make news across the nation from the New York Times to talk radio in Arizona.

I can understand why Coleman is rolling in the party's big guns; he's trailing badly in fund-raising, and there is really very little to gripe about with Kelly's performance in his job so far.

And Coleman is hardly the ideal darling of St. Paul's far left, the Wellstone/Soliah crowd that dominates so much of the Saint Paul DFL's party life west of 35E; I don't think it's inconceivable that Elizabeth Dickinson will draw a lot of support from Coleman's expected base in the primaries.

So going negative - banging on Kelley's principled stance in support of Bush, one that resonated with a more-than-fair number of Truman/JFK Democrats nationwide - is all Coleman has left.

In fact, there was informed opinion that the left, locally and nationally, that key Dems might abandon Coleman:

Trailing Kelly by about $365,000, Democrats are going to be forced to make a decision on Coleman’s viability soon. Matching Hizzoner’s fiscal fortitude is probably impossible given the limitations of time and with Coleman having so little in the bank already, don’t be surprised if statewide and national Democrats take a pass on lending a hand.
But let's not forget; if there's anything that gets the DFL angrier than a Republican, it's an apostate. Especially an apostate that wins elections. If the disenfranchised Truman/JFK/Scoop Jackson Democrats out there - and Bill Clinton's abiding popularity shows that there are a few of them, misguided as they are, out there - get word that a Democrat can bust out of the Paul Wellstone/Howard Dean/John Kerry/Ted Kennedy ghetto and thrive, all hell could break loose in the party.

So expect to see a lot of Party Faithful parading to Saint Paul along with Kerry. They have an insurrection to quell.

Posted by Mitch at 12:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Day Late, Dollar Short

I was reading Yucky Salad with Bones and I caught this bit here about an idea that languished until it was stolen:

Way back in 1992, when Mike and I were newlyweds and living in our first apartment over by Lake of the Isles, I wrote a treatment for a movie called "A Day in the Life of Sandra Kane", a fake documentary about a washed up bit player of an actress named Sandra Kane. A camera crew followed her around for a day while she pretended to be all that and a bag of chips as she scrounged for work and validation. One of the details I was so proud of was a framed photo Sandra had on her wall of her walk on on the show "In the Heat of the Night".

I got the idea for it after running into a local actress who'd been in a few low budget Hollywood flicks, and she was wearing a huuuuuuge floppy hat and rhinestone Jackie O. glasses and tried to big time me, so as I say, she was the inspiration for Sandra Kane......the treatment that ROTS IN MY BASEMENT AS I EAT STALE BARBIE BIRTHDAY CAKE AND WATCH LISA KUDROW STEAL MY IDEA. GAWD!!!!!!!!! And then of course there was my idea for a movie about a stand-in who thought he was the star and kept referring to himself as the understudy, but Ben Stiller stole that one. FER CRYIN'...And furthermore, if you think I'm ridiculous for these claims, sometime ask Mike about squeeze ketchup.

I feel yer pain.

No, really.

There have been a couple of those episodes in my life:

  • A couple of years ago, when I was a little underemployed, I started - and got about 60,000 words and 1/4 of outline into - the NaNoWriMo contest, writing novel about a bunch of unlikely strangers who were marooned when their plane crash-landed. If it sounds a lot like Lost, well, you're right. It does. It's an idea that'd been ricocheting around my head for years, and now it's too late. "Hi, Mr. Agent, didja read my, yes, it is a lot like, I really was first...". Blah.
  • Back when I was a kid, I built a lot of models; airplanes, tanks, cars, rockets, and of course a jillion ships, my favorites. The key to good glueing, by the way, is to apply a very thin layer of it to the surface you want to glue to something else (and hope the injection molding of the plastic parts isn't all defective and the parts are so warped they pull apart, but I digress). This being about the time the Magic Marker was first coming onto the civilian market, naturally, I thought "Hmmm - what if we did the same thing, only for glue? It'd be handier and less messy than the plastic squeeze tube, and give you naturally thin layers...". Well, it came out, when I was in high school - and if memory serves, was gone by the end of college.
Next big idea I have, I tell ya...

Posted by Mitch at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


A little bird wrote to say that yesterday's Labor Day picnic didn't exactly knock 'em dead:

Not much of a crowd this year.
Not like last year when Edwards was there . . . the whole island was full of people then!
Wow. Of course, if you look at the pictures and see the crowd, you might see why. The idea of spending a glorious Labor Day stuck among a bunch of hectoring, harrying know-it-alls, getting pummeled by the harpies of guiltmongering, all to eat a tofu dog and some soy chips and watch the Womyn's Empowerment Choir syng adaptations of socialist holiday caryls doesn't grab me a lot, either.

Oh, did I mention getting hectored by well-off, tax-supported professional nags?

Garrison Keillor says we are seeing the effects of Republicanism in New Orleans: This is what "less government" gets you!
N'awlins and Louisiana, of course, had plenty of government; they just didn't know what they were doing.

Oh, yeah - Wild Wendy was there:

Apparently she thought the flood was going to come all the way up the Mississippi to Harriet Island, and that she might need to be visible from the air.

Oh, yeah - good thing there were no UN or Geneva Convention observers present; Ms. Wild apparently sang:

She did the Pawlenty/Beverly Hillbillies song and the Bachman Morality Minute theme (Bachman, Baa-aachman, Baa-aa-aachman).
If you've heard the Wild Wendy show...

...pardon me, I had to giggle uncontrollably for a moment. Ed is a better singer than Wild.

So was anyone there? Any more eyewitness accounts?

Posted by Mitch at 08:53 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Upside The Head

Saw my youngest off on the bus today.

For seventh grade.

My oldest, natch, was on the bus at 7:00 for ninth grade - at high school. I've had some time to absorb that one, now.

This one's worse, though.

My son's still a little guy - he apes the behavior of the teenagers he knows, but he's not really a teenager yet. He hasn't hit that awkward, in-between stage; he's perfectly secure at the apex of little-boydom, sort of at the top of the boy game, not even aware of what awaits over the next four years or so. He'll still give me a big hug in the morning, still makes sure there's a light on when he's sleeping, still collects Pokemons and Yu-Gi-Ohs and builds forts and, really, all the things that make being a little boy tolerable.

Of course, little boys grow up. It happens, eventually. I'm just not sure the process of junior high - the big exposure to the "education" factory - helps them grow up in a direction I want. By seventh grade, of course, he's learned meek obedience (raising one's hand to go to the bathroom, learning what and when he's told to) to an authority that promotes deep cynicism (make a "gun" with your fingers, and you get suspended in the interest of "non-violence" - yet the violent kids are still in school, still beating the crap out of other kids). Junior high is where they encounter the soul-crushing peer pressure that pushes them into places that it's hard to get them back from.

I'd pull both my kids out of the public schools right now, if I could. Ten years ago I was a bit of a proponent; I've gone way past the desire for school choice, well into actively loathing much about the compulsory, factory school system. Yeah, there are some excellent teachers out there, and my little guy will no doubt learn some stuff this year - but unless a kid is naturally wired to sit in classes and play the paper chase game, I can scarcely think of an institution better designed to destroy the love of learning in the rest of the population than the compulsory school system, especially (as I remember it) Junior High.

But leave the system aside for a moment; while a kid whose self-respect survives can enjoy High School (to say nothing of college), and elementary school is relatively insulated, the fact is that Junior High is when kids start to marinate in the worst of human nature. Little kids who haven't yet (or perhaps never will) learn to deal with their own emergent worst traits, letting them run untrammelled; soul-crushing peer pressure; the grossly human trait of banding together against other tribes...

Well, anyway.

I guess that having been through these years before (I have a stepson who's 24) I know that I can't even begin letting the guard down yet.

So I hugged him goodbye this morning. He's excited.

I pray he stays that way.

Posted by Mitch at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'll Call You

Among the conversations with Lileks the other night at the MOB party - a revelation about Blondie's "Call Me":

Blondie killed New Wave. It started with “Heart of Glass,” which sounded fresh and new-wavey when it debuted, but now sounds like music to wear Halston shoes by. It wasn’t New Wave, of course, but Blondie came out of the CBGB world, so they were grouped with Television, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, and other groups. I’m sure they fit the mold early on, but they went mainstream faster than any other group, culminating in the Great Sell-Out of 1980: “Call Me.” The idea that a CBGB group should make a record with Giogio Morodor, king of flaccid mechanical synth-pop, was heresy. Heresy!
Blondie always bugged me. They highlighted - badly, usually - the big difference between "Wave" and "Punk"; Punk was raw, brash and authentic; New Wave slathered on the attitude, the style and the irony.

Irony? Debbie Harry started as a Playboy bunny, then sang in "The Stilettos", a faux-cabaret act that specialized in trashy girl-group covers, a hanger-on to the whole CBGB scene. Blondie was to New Wave what Billy Idol (and before that, Generation X) were to punk, or Creed was to grunge; a face and a voice in the right place at the right time; technically the "real thing", but just a bit...too...perfect.

I actually loved "Dreaming", one of their lesser-known hits, a song where Clem Burke's Keith Moon-like drumming overshadows Debbie Harry's preening.

Lileks remembers:

I was working in a bar when that accursed song came out, and it played 10 times a night; every night, a stab in my heart! New Wave had been co-opted! No one who ever stood on the same stage as Tom Verlaine can sing “roll me in designer sheets” – somewhere, Lou Reed sat down, and yea he wept.
I was working at my first radio job in 1980 when I heard it for the first time (on the "American Top Forty" show with Casey Kasem, natch). After the glorious power-pop of Eat To The Beat, hearing that mechanical, Giorgio Moroder drone was...depressing.

But there's a revelation:

Well. The other night “American Gigolo” was on, and I watched it for the first time in (gulp) a quarter century [Heh - Ed.]. Even though it was shot in
’79, it’s very much a movie of the 80s - reasonable lapels, venetian blinds, pretty pictures set to synthetic music. The “Call Me” tune appears in 18,209 variations, but my ears perked up when I heard the Blondie version used in the credits.
Lileks links to both audio files - go check 'em out.
Straight forward guitar chords. Now here’s the movie version, again, by Blondie. Note the difference. The chords are different – augmented, I believe. Much jazzier, and somehow more elegantly corrupt. Almost makes it a better song, doesn't it? That's what radio was like in 1980: they had to dumb down "Call Me" to make it palatable.
I can almost picture a meeting at Chrysalis Records in 1980:
SLICK EXECUTIVE: "Call Me, huh? I like it..."


EXEC: "...but..."

MORODER: (alarmed) "But?"

EXEC: "Gotta lose those funny notes..."

MORODER: "Augmented notes? Sevenths and ninths?"

EXEC: "Whatever. Yeah, those. Jazz doesn't play in Peoria"

MORODER: "It's not jazz, it's just a..."

EXEC: "Look, lose the funny notes, or you got no single!"

I'm going to put on Eat To The Beat now and forget the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at 07:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Legal Question

If someone associates you with "groping" on a public website, does that come anywhere near the legal definition of libel?

Because I think someone inferring that you're a sexual harasser is pretty defamatory.

I suspect I'm just close enough to being a "public figure" to be out of luck, but since I've, oh, I dunno, never groped anyone in my life against their will, it might be fun to investigate the possibilities.

Anyway - any lawyers with any advice, I'd love to hear from you.

Posted by Mitch at 06:05 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack


The National Review Editorial Board calls for a serious committment to New Orleans on the part of the GOP; holding the '08 national convention there (and, naturally, any rebuilding necessary to achieve that):

Critics will call it a transparent attempt to burnish the party's image after the Bush administration "failed" with the initial relief effort. The gesture would, however, reflect the genuine sentiment of Republicans who, like all Americans, want to help a city facing such a bleak future. We heard similar complaints — easily brushed off — about the Republicans' coming to New York for last year's convention.

No doubt there will be logistical problems. There were logistical problems putting on big events in New Orleans even in the best of times. But the Republicans held their convention there in 1988, and should return 20 years later. They will go to a city that then will, no doubt, still be scarred by the catastrophe of the last week, but back on its feet, and a perfect venue for a testament to the American spirit.

Not a bad idea.

Posted by Mitch at 05:38 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Shallow, Shrill

While Nick Coleman is gone from the local amateur radio station (the FrankenNet affiliate), I could feel him resonating through the air on Saturday. I had the pleasure misfortune to be in the audience for one of the "station's" weekend shows during the fair.

Carla Kjellberg, a local lefty lawyer, hosts It Takes a Village.

A Potemkin village, in this case.

Saturday morning, she electrified shot flecks of spittle onto the crowd eight or so people (of whom three were Brian, Chad and I, from the NARN and two more appeared to be resting and ignoring the din behind them), bellowing:

"What's going on in New Orleans is all about race and class! And don't let anyone ever tell you any different!"
Nick Coleman is gone; but his spirit lives on. It's only gotten more shrill.

Posted by Mitch at 06:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Mobbed Up

I made it to the third biennial Minnesota Organization of Bloggers party at Town Hall Brewery, in Minneapolis' West Bank at Seven Corners.

For starters - I love what they've done with the place. It's a great brew pub; wonderful atmosphere, excellent food, and they brew some excellent beer (I laud their Oatmeal Stout and India Pale Ale).

Naturally, the highlight is meeting everyone. I'll see who all I can remember, here:

...and probably quite a few more that I'm missing.

These parties are always the highlight of the season; it's an uncommon pleasure to be stuck in a room (or in this case, the Town Hall's lovely patio at Cedar and Washington) with a bunch of maniacally-diverse people who are all having actual fun together.

I'm looking forward to the next one!

Posted by Mitch at 05:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Out Of The Spotlight

In Iraq, Baghdad gets all the attention because, as we learned with Hanna Allam, that's where the beauty shops and karaoke bars are.

So too with Hurricane Katrina; the media is in New Orleans - ergo, that's where the disaster was.

Not so:

Mississippi hurricane survivors looked around Saturday and wondered just how long it would take to get food, clean water and shelter. And they were more than angry at the federal government and the national news media.

Richard Gibbs was disgusted by reports of looting in New Orleans and upset at the lack of attention hurricane victims in his state were getting.

"I say burn the bridges and let 'em all rot there," he said. "We're suffering over here too, but we're not killing each other. We've got to help each other. We need gas and food and water and medical supplies."

Gibbs and his wife, Holly, have been stuck at their flooded home in Gulfport just off the Biloxi River. Water comes up to the second floor, they are out of gasoline, and food supplies are running perilously low.

Until recently, they also had Holly's 75-year-old father, who has a pacemaker and severe diabetes, with them. Finally they got an ambulance to take him to the airport so he could be airlifted to Lafayette, La., for medical help.

Remember - the worst of the hurricane itself passed to the east of New Orleans and smashed southern Alabama and Mississippi.

If a disaster happens in an unfashionable area without two-star hotels for the media, did it happen at all?

Posted by Mitch at 09:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why They Call It Labor Day

Tons of housework today. Hopefully a job offer this week.

Stay tuned.

More posting - including, I hope, a wrapup of the MOB party - later today.

Posted by Mitch at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Just How Wrong Is Coleman?

In yesterday's column, Nick Coleman said

Today, many citizen soldiers are far away, their boots and bodies being used as Hamburger Helper to stretch out the ranks of the regular Army in Iraq...But with 40 percent of our troops in Iraq coming from the ranks of Guard and Reserve forces (2,600 more Minnesota troops will soon be on their way), Katrina has made it clear: The home front is un-Guarded.
James Robbins in the NRO puts Coleman's argument on a skewer with some of those pesky "facts" that Nick Coleman isn't apparently journalist enough to dig up and write about:
There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.

And what about the Guard?
So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course — the Left wants you to believe that the country has been denuded of its citizen soldiers, and that Louisiana has suffered inordinately because Guardsmen and women who would have been available to be mobilized by the state to stop looting and aid in reconstruction are instead risking their lives in Iraq.

Not hardly. According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies.

So what about Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico?
So is the war in Iraq causing troop shortfalls for hurricane relief in New Orleans?

In a word, no.

A look at the numbers should dispel that notion. Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.

So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course — the Left wants you to believe that the country has been denuded of its citizen soldiers, and that Louisiana has suffered inordinately because Guardsmen and women who would have been available to be mobilized by the state to stop looting and aid in reconstruction are instead risking their lives in Iraq.

Not hardly. According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies.

In Louisiana only about a third of Guard personnel are deployed, and they will be returning in about a week as part of their normal rotation. The Mississippi Guard has 40 percent overseas. But Louisiana and Mississippi are not alone in this effort — under terms of Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMACs) between the states, Guard personnel are heading to the area from West Virginia, D.C., New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Washington, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan. Thousands have already arrived, and more will over the next day or so.

The New York Times has called the military response “a costly game of catch up.” Catching up compared to what, one wonders. National Guard units were mobilized immediately; 7,500 troops from four states were on the ground within 24 hours of Katrina — a commendable response given the disruptions to the transportation infrastructure.

And this compares to previous disasters exactly how? (emphasis added):
The DOD response is well ahead of the 1992 Hurricane Andrew timetable. Back then, the support request took nine days to crawl through the bureaucracy. The reaction this time was less than three days officially, and DOD had been pre-staging assets in anticipation of the aid request from the moment Katrina hit.
Wow - did Nick Coleman write to condemn the Guard's response during Hurricane Andrew? I don't remember.

But I do remember the administration that was in office when Andrew happened.

If the left didn't have Katrina, they'd have to invent it.

Posted by Mitch at 08:48 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Eternal Froth

I was in a union once. I taught at a local MnSCU affiliate for a semester; given a choice between paying $108 for my "fair share" of collective bargaining costs (which was apparently well-spent; it was a very well-paid part-time job) and dropping $120 to join the Inter-Faculty Organization, I paid the extra $8; it was worth it to be able to be able to taunt all my non-union-member DF"L" acquaintances.

But I nearly regretted the $8 when I went to the New Faculty Orientation meeting. One of the speakers - the longest-winded and most frothingly-impassioned - was the IFO steward for the "shop". A doughy little liberal arts PhD who didn't look as if he'd lifted anything heavier than an MLA bibliography in his life, he stood in front of the group and described the previous bargaining session. His voice smoldered, and his eyes flamed as the described the perfidy of "Management", sounding like a Wobbly as he, an overly-fed upper-middle-class fellow who had clearly known enough opportunity in life to have attended 20 years of school and getting a job teaching at a college for excellent money in a very pleasant metro area, went on like he'd just bargained the work week from 90 hours down to 75 for a bunch of sweat shop workers.

So let it be known - I'm a big supporter of unions in their role as collective bargainers and watchdogs of work conditions. And I'm not so naive as to think that management is always looking out for workers' best interests. Nor am I willing to forgive the willful naivete of too many in organized labor in believing that they are truly interested in representing "labor", as opposed to "white, middle-class labor in traditional manufacturing jobs".

All by way of noting that it's twenty years since the Hormel strike in Austin, MN. The 13 month strike ended with violence, a National Guard response, and finally the hiring of replacement workers and the defeat of UFCW Local P9.

For some in Austin, the strike never ended.

From this morning's PiPress:

Not far from the sprawling Hormel Foods processing plant, about 25 members of the P-9 United Support Group gather each week in a small hall that serves as their strike headquarters.

Never mind that the strike began 20 years ago, concluding 13 months later with the union they held dear essentially obliterated.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, the "Fighting Local P-9ers" begin their meeting by facing an American flag that has been pinned to a wall amid posters, photos and banners. "The Best Workforce Hormel Ever Had," one banner proclaims in the tidy little room the die-hards enter from an alley behind a dilapidated commercial building.

In unison, the former Hormel workers recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Some are the sons or grandsons of workers who were called "Wobblies" when they first organized Local P-9 with a sit-down strike in 1933.

It's a fascinating story on several levels; the strikers' obvious commitment...:
"All we're trying to do is keep the story alive, so it doesn't happen again," said Arlen Gorman, who had worked for 19½ years at Hormel before the strike.
...and the suffering the workers endure to this day...:
About 150 strike veterans showed up to listen to speeches by Macalester's [Professor Peter] Rachleff, former union officers and other strike veterans.
Making them listen to Rachleff? For the love of G-d, all they did was strike. It's not like they're murderers or rapists or anyone that deserves having to listen to Peter Rachleff.

But I digress. Read the whole thing. I'm not sure if it's an interesting view of perseverence, or a depressing example of monomania, like when they find one of those Japanese soldiers who's been carrying on the War since 1945.

Posted by Mitch at 08:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

We Conquered

The transmitter was down at the Patriot today - for all but the last ten minutes of the show - but that didn't even break our stride. We broadcast a full program from the Minnesota State Fair

We did our show for the live audience at the Fair, as well as for the audience on the web (which is a surprisingly large number, actually).

It was a lot of fun; Rocket Man joined us for the first hour and an unplanned reprise, while Ed and King did the rest of the day. I had a blast - we took half the usual number of breaks, got to really dig into some topics, and really had a good time.

Oh, and to the woman who stood at the edge of the crowd and shrieked "Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate!" for about twenty seconds; our microphones are directional; nobody heard you. Now, if you'd had the guts and intelligence to have actually met me at the fence, where I was standing with the microphone specifically to get peoples' feedback, that might have changed; as it turned out, your little outburst amounted to nothing. Cheer!

Posted by Mitch at 04:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Today At The Fair

It's going to be a fun one at the fair today.

We'll be doing more Week In Review, plus talking with Chris Caywood of Soldiers Angels.

And if you're a blogger, stop by in Hour Three for the Blogger Showcase; basically, it's a free plug for your blog on the most blog-savvy station anywhere in the world. Last year's showcase helped launch a bunch of the MOB blogs we all read today - you might be next!

Stop on by - we're on Judson, just south of the Horticulture building. Hope to see you there!

Posted by Mitch at 08:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Nick Coleman's Invincible Ignorance

Nick Coleman, inevitably, holds forth on the New Orleans disaster.

Is he on-target?

Oops - my title sort of tipped my hand, didn't it?

Coleman, like a lot of pundits, compares the '97 Grand Forks flood with New Orleans - or, as we say in the punditry business, "compares apples with oranges".

Floodwaters filled the streets while buildings burned. Many people fled. But others, too old, too broke or too stubborn, stayed, only to end up sleeping on cots and grumbling angrily about having to live like rats. I am not talking about New Orleans. I am talking about North Dakota.

The Big Freezy, not the Big Easy.

G'huk, g'huk! A North Dakota joke!
In April 1997, I waded through hip-high floodwaters in Grand Forks in the middle of the night as street lights shorted out and transformer stations blew up in arcs of blue light. The Red River of the North had burst through the dikes and smashed through the city, shattering homes and buildings and pouring inside.

I'll never forget the scene at a six-story senior citizen residence where a fiery red sun rose over a surreal disaster scene. The elevator shaft was filling with water and screeching fire alarms made an unceasing din while a handful of rescue workers carried old people in wheelchairs, trundling them down flights of stairs, sloshing through a lobby where the furniture was swirling around in a freezing vortex.

The Grand Forks flood was indeed a miserable time; a flood in freezing weather. But - and this is sort of important - it didn't follow a hurricane. It didn't hit by surprise - unlike New Orleans' vague predictions of catastrophe, Grand Forks pretty much knew that when the Red hit a certain depth, the dike system would probably fail. Grand Forks had had similar, though lesser, floods many times in the past. And the area involved, huge as it was in comparison with Grand Forks, was much smaller than the catastrophe in New Orleans.
Thank God for the National Guard deuce-and-a-half, a vintage troop truck standing outside, its diesel engine rumbling, a 22-year-old kid with freckles at the wheel. After being loaded up with old folks, it moved off like a tour boat through the dark waters, ramming away a giant Dumpster floating down the street.

Praise the Lord and call up the National Guard.

That was the good old days, 1997, when Americans expected their government would assist them, and back before those who governed bragged that they wanted to drown government in a bathtub. Along with whoever was in the way.

And it's here that Nick Coleman, as in few other places, shows what a deeply, abidingly, invincibly stupid man he truly is.

I use the word "stupid" fairly rarely, actually, and usually to refer to acts of man rather than men themselves. I usually try to eschew namecalling - it's usually the sign of insufficient brightness

But I think it applies, here.

Quick, Nick Coleman - show us a single tax-cutting crusader who wants to gut the military, or the National Guard.

In fact, it's your side who, when there's no emergency going on, puts on bumperstickers; "Wouldn't it be great if the Schools had what they needed, and the Air Force had to put on a bake sale...", that kind of bilge.

Grand Forks was a picnic compared with what has been happening in New Orleans [Duuhhhhh - Ed.]. But the pictures from New Orleans make me nostalgic for a time when college kids and grizzled military veterans signed up for service in the National Guard so they could be relied upon to help their neighbors get out of trouble in fires, floods, tornadoes and -- yes -- hurricanes.

Almost a week after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, there are supposed to be 7,000 National Guard troops in New Orleans, including 2,000 from states other than Louisiana.

Way too little, way too late.

Perhaps Mr. Coleman is unaware; the disaster covers the entire Gulf Coast. Biloxi and Gulfport and much of the lower Mississippi Delta are all in a ruinous state. The National Guard - much of which was gutted during previous administrations to help cash in the "Peace Dividend" - was stretched thin all over the southeast, from Florida to Louisiana.

Grand Forks was a small (geographically, anyway) disaster; the Military could concentrate its efforts on a fairly small area. And - this is kind of important - they were ten miles from a major air force base, to which evacuees could be transported over intact roads from a city that, while flooded, was both readily accessible and fairly small.

None of which applies in New Orleans.

In the Red River flood of 1997, Guard troops helped ward off a larger disaster. Thousands helped -- building dikes, rescuing the stranded, maintaining order. Some isolated towns like Hendrum, Minn., literally were saved by citizen soldiers to the rescue.
Hendrum was saved when a National Guard unit, given plenty of warning by a State government that knew what it was dealing with, built a flood wall around the city, leaving it an island surrounded by five feet of water. But - and this is sort of important - the flood in the Red River Valley behaved predictably; Minnesota knew that it needed a Combat Engineer unit in Hendrum before a certain time on a certain day, when the flood waters would be above a certain height.

Nothing in New Orleans has been that predictable - or at least the Louisiana state government hasn't known how to predict it, either way.

Some folks want to pretend that the crisis in New Orleans can be blamed on the people who were stuck in an abandoned, drowning city. Not many prosperous Norwegians, like up in Grand Forks, you know. But I am telling you there were a lot of unhappy Norwegians in North Dakota, and if they hadn't had food or water for four days, things might have gotten not so nice.
Naturally - but again, he's comparing apples and oranges. No, by this point he's down to apples and axles.

The Air Force base near Grand Forks is both dry, above the flood plain, and has nearly 10,000 servicepeople. Imagine if a military base housing 100,000 troops were located ten miles from New Orleans, were somehow immune from the storm and the flood, were connected to the city via ten miles of intact (but flooded) roads passable by the thousands of vehicles at the base. Think things might be different today?

Coleman inverts things, of course:

Human nature is human nature. But New Orleans didn't have to look like the end of the world. It could have looked like Grand Forks. The difference is Grand Forks had timely help, from neighbors in uniform.
And a lack of Category Four Hurricanes, and a civil infrastructure that didn't wash away, and a disaster that was mathematically predictable. Had the Grand Forks flood been accompanied by 145 mph winds, a town set permanently below the level of the Red River (it is not!), and accessible by causeways and bridges that could fall apart under the abuse of the weather, Grand Forks could have looked like New Orleans. Just smaller, whiter and much, much colder.
Today, many citizen soldiers are far away, their boots and bodies being used as Hamburger Helper to stretch out the ranks of the regular Army in Iraq. All to make America safer while our cities fend for themselves and Army Corps of Engineer flood control programs are slashed.
He's stupid, and he's a liar; 3/4 of the Louisiana Guard is in Louisiana; the Army Corps of Engineers budget has nothing to do with the fact that no levee programs that would have affected New Orleans were in any way affected by the budget cuts.
There were at least 2,000 Guard and military personnel in or on their way to Grand Forks the day the flood hit.
Grand Forks is a base town!
And some Guard units had equipment to make 65,000 gallons a day of potable water from contaminated flood water -- something that might have saved countless lives in New Orleans.

Read a fecking book or two! Water purifications units are all over the place in Louisiana; there was, for whatever reason, no way to get all that potable water into the city!

Coleman wants to blame - in his feckless, elephantine style - the Bush Administration and, I guess, the Taxpayers League for the City of New Orleans' unwillingness to plan for disasters, or the State's unwillingness and inability to drive the National Guard into New Orleans, to quell the looting by force.

The New Orleans metro area has 13 times more people than the Grand Forks region, and maybe 25 or 50 times the number of poor and elderly people, the folks who are often unable or unwilling to evacuate during a natural disaster. So a comparable troop ratio for New Orleans would have meant 25,000 on hand before the disaster. And more now. Coleman calling for...what? Military garrisons in major cities?

Grand Forks is a base town!

I know. We are at war, fighting "them" over there so we don't have to fight them here. But with 40 percent of our troops in Iraq coming from the ranks of Guard and Reserve forces (2,600 more Minnesota troops will soon be on their way), Katrina has made it clear: The home front is un-Guarded.
No. It has not.

It has made it clear that the home front is run by politicians whose forte is not planning for disasters.

And it's served by a news media that does no better a job of covering the home front than they do in Iraq.

Posted by Mitch at 08:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

Conjuring Brickbats

Ann Rice in the NYTimes, on what America would miss without New Orleans:

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. Andam though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

Who's dismissed New Orleans?

Who's called for dispensing with the non-jazz, non-blackened catfish, non-Mardi-Gras parts of the city?

What am I missing, here?

(For those who missed it earlier - to help with the recovery, pick a charity and give!)

Posted by Mitch at 06:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Fair!

Join the NARN at the Minnesota State Fair today - it's going to be a huuuuge show.

The first hour will, as usualy, be the Week In Review - and what a week it was.

Second Hour - Congressman Mark Kennedy will join us live at the Patriot Booth for your questions and feedback.

Third hour will kick off with another of our classic Fair Food eating contests (today - Pronto Pups!), followed by a new feature at the Fair, "Conservative Haunted House". Bring a liberal friend and watch the fun!

Finally, the The Jolly Zuk Brothers - a six-piece band - will join us at the middle of hour three.

It's going to be a fun show - hope to see you there. "There", in this case, is on Judson Street, south of the Horticulture building and just east of the International Bazaar.

See you there!

Posted by Mitch at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Count Three and Preen

I seem to have gotten a few local leftybloggers' lace panties in a whirl.

I've called - repeatedly - for people to send help to New Orleans. I'll do it again - pick an organization from this list of excellent choices, and give until you think you've done all you can.

Now - "Moses" of the local all screed, all the time leftyblog "Yowling from the Fencepost" - a blog whose writing and rationality I've disparaged in the past - took crude and not-overly-cogent issue with my post the other day about citizens restoring order on their own.

Like I said, they really hate it when you, the people, do that.

Mr. Moses, not content to merely link to my story, did a screen capture. Heard of copyright laws, Moses? Or did you think I would just take it down - make it all disappear, as if I were the loathsome Jane O'Brien from Mahablog (link omitted on purpose)?

Moses writes:

I completely understand the importance of security in a ravaged area such as what Katrina has left behind. The looting and assaults need to be stopped in order to help bring assistance and relief to the people left behind in New Orleans and other cities in the hurricane's zone of destruction. But it is important that police and national guard units work on this matter.Five days.

It took Five Days for the National Guard to send a convoy into the city proper. Five days during which the police were looting, the State Police's attempts at providing aid were repulsed by gunfire, and the National Guard stayed in its lagers because, presumably, Washington thought avoiding pitched battles between thugs and the Guard was more important than rescuing people dying of thirst on their rooftops.

In the face of that, the best you can do is say "order is important, but it's important that the authorities be the ones to provide it?"

They're not! So the question is, if the authorities aren't there, and the only thing standing between your family and a bullet in the stomach - or a slow, painful death from thirst, or a slower one from drinking polluted water and starvation and all the sub-tropical diseases that are endemic to the region, is the resolution to band together and, under your rights, restrictions and responsibilities as a citizen to defend yourself, restoring order within your personal purview, what do you do?

The area is chaotic. Armed vigilantes, in my opinion, can only add to the anarchic situation that currently exists.
Vigilante. To the committed lefty, it's like "Punk" to JB Doubtless - it evokes a Pavlovian reaction.

Vigilante derives from the Latin Vigiles - the original block club leaders, citizens who watched their blocks in ancient Roman society for fires, burglars and disorder. They were an arm of the law. It comes from the same root as "Vigilance" - watchfulness.

Treating "Vigilante" as a dirty word is a leftist conceit of the last fifty years, yet another of their puerile calls to Old West mythology. Vigilantes - citizens watching their territory to deter lawlessnes - can not act like cops, they can't arrest people, they can't (unless deputized, which is not something that happens much (and I doubt it ever happens in urban areas) go chasing after people. But they can watch, and deter, and defend themselves under the law.

Vigilantes - those who watch. Question, "Moses": Do you lock your door at night? Do you belong to a block club? Do you call the cops when you see someone jimmying your neighbor's garage door? Then you, too, are a "vigilante".

And if you're watching against a criminal class that can and is killing people for food and loot, isn't it prudent to be able to meet that threat fairly?

Or - and this is directed at all of you people who have your undies in a knot over guns being used - is it better to trade your families' lives (assuming any of you have any) for the satisfaction of knowing, with your last thought as you bleed out into the mud and the thugs ranscack your home, that "at least I waited for the authorities, rather than taking the law into my own...".

Now is really not the time for a peddle petty portraits of nationalistic vigilantism, Mitch.
Nationalistic? Ah. It's the Flag that's the problem?

Get over yourself, Moses. Drop the self-righteousness - you're not qualified.

Posted by Mitch at 08:52 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 02, 2005

The Cavalry?

The military is on the scene in New Orleans:

More than four days after Hurricane Katrina struck, the National Guard arrived in force Friday with food, water and weapons, churning through the floodwaters in a vast truck convoy that was met with both catcalls and cries of "Thank you, Jesus!'' from the suffering multitudes.

"Lord, I thank you for getting us out of here,'' Leschia Radford said at the New Orleans Convention Center as the military rolled in with orders to restore order and feed the hungry.

Good news.

But...what's this?:

[NOPD Chief] Compass also warned that if anyone did anything disruptive, the troops would have to stop distributing the food and water and get out.

If a bunch of thugs and human vermin disrupt things, the U. S. Army will pack up and leave?

Note to Chief Compass: You have the guns! You have the legal authority! You have, allegedly, the training and mission.

"Disruptions" should be met by a hail of gunfire, at this point.

Who are these people?

Posted by Mitch at 05:55 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


My post yesterday about the guys in New Orleans who got together, armed themselves, and secured their neighborhood against looters raised the hackles of one of my semi-regular commenters, "Cleversponge".

Like many on the left, he is repulsed by the sight of citizens with guns and flags, doing what the government can't.

"And James, yes...I am pissed. I'm pissed that we have a 3rd world situation in the greatest nation on the planet."
I responded that the commenter had it completely backwards.

"First-world"ism - elected representative governments, the rule of law, a civil system of working out disagreements, a police force and judicial system that generally (yeah, exceptions exist, bla bla bla) works to enforce and adjudicate the rule of law, rather than the rule of men - isn't a normal condition of being. Throughout history, that is very much the exception. In most of the world, through most of history, chaos is kept in check by monarchs and dictators and force; in the most of the Third and the late Second worlds, it is a function of the strongest gang beating and killing their rivals; in America and an increasing portion of the world, it's through the will of society - a free association of equals - to band together and create a government based on the rule of law. And in the rest of the world, where those laws and rules can't be enforced through traditional means, it's done through the will of the *people* to stand up and say "this is where the wilderness ends". When their rulers allow them to.

And, as I noted in my comment, the left hates it when people do that. Noticing this was one of many things that led me away from the left in my early twenties; the idea that "if the police can't protect you, you shouldn't resist criminals", or "if the government falls to some extreme ideology, you should follow along like a good subject" nauseated me. They still do.

The left are trotting out the usual pejoraties to refer to the guys who, under the American flag, secured their homes and families and neighborhoods (even after allowing for the fact that the photo is posed - it's the idea of self-defense that seems to enrage them so). It's all I expect from them anymore - this notion that if government can't provide law and order, then we must accept lawlessness and disorder without question until government gets around to the job; if government can't protect your life, liberty and property, well, you probably don't need any of them all that badly, now, do you?


Remember the LA Riots? When government and official "law and order" turned and fled from South Central LA, turning the city over to anarchy, lawlessness and - lest we forget - a boundless torrent of racial hate - the only islands of sanity in the riot zone were the homeowners and apartment-block-dwellers and Korean merchants who took out their rifles, and gave a show of force to the rioters and looters; the ones who said "Your madness stops here". The article tells the story of a Korean-American family defending one store after another had been looted and burned:

With their main warehouse looted and torched, the rest of the family moved to their second store near the corner of Second and Western streets to defend it. When police came by and spotted the armed Korean Americans on the roof of the structure, Billy Kim says the police initially tried to get them to come down.

“Fortunately the officer that was in charge of the task force that tried to get us off the roof was much more understanding [than the ones who had come to the warehouse],” he said. “We knew we had lost one store, and we were determined we would not lose a second store. When they told us to come down, we told them we had no intention of complying with their orders. We had lost too much already. The police left.”

Further in the article, Commander Paul Kim of the LAPD - the highest-ranking Asian on the force as the article was written, three years ago - confirms the (lefty) media's bias on the issue:
Like many other Korean American residents, Commander Kim feels the mainstream media unfairly characterized Korean American business people and residents as “gun-toting hotheads.”

“The mainstream media totally failed,” Kim stated. “They practiced prejudice. They practiced their professional trade poorly. They were being controlled by some preconceived ideas that they might have had about certain people. How many rioters did these Korean American shop owners shoot? There were none. It isn’t fair, but I don’t want to dwell on it. We have to start building on something positive for the future rather than arguing about something that happened in the past.”

I'm going to say it here, and say it clearly: the people in New Orleans who are defending law and order by legal and orderly means in their neighborhoods (and, posed photos for Limbaugh's website aside, it's happening in New Orleans today), like the Koreans who faced down the inflamed hordes who were baying for their loot and their blood in 1992, and like the freed slaves and former Union Army veterans in Galveston, Texas who stared down the Ku Klux Klan in 1867 over the barrels of their surplus Springfields, are some of the best Americans I know, and are - and should be regarded as - heroes.

Posted by Mitch at 11:00 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

It Had To Happen

I've had "Shot in The Dark" for three and a half years, now (or, depending on who's counting, perhaps as much as 1010 years). Now, I see there's another blog, "A Shot In The Dark", written by one Sandra Miller from Wisconsin.

She's participating in the Bear's Blogs for the Relief of New Orleans -and with a diabetic son, she's got a unique perspective on the needs of diabetic refugees and victims in the city.

She also links to this story, by Times-Picayune columnist-turned-refugee Chris Rose, adrift in the deep south with his wife and kids and a mind full of doubts:

Oh, my city. We have spent hours and hours listening to the radio. Image upon image piling up in your head.

What about school? What about everyone's jobs? Did all our friends get out? Are there still trees on the streetcar line? What will our economy be like with no visitors? How many are dead? Do I have a roof? Have the looters found me yet? When can we go home?

Like I said, it consumes you as you sit helplessly miles from home, unable to help anyone, unable to do anything.

If I could, what I'd do first is hurt the looters. I'd hurt them bad.

But you have to forget all that. You have to focus on what is at hand, what you can reach and when you have three little kids lost at sea, they are what's at hand and what you can reach.

Make sure you go to one of the charities involved - any of them - and give as much as you can.

Posted by Mitch at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Of This, I Approve

Via Limbaugh - resistance to the looters and corrupt NOPD cops, in the Big Easy:

All is not lost.

Posted by Mitch at 02:12 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

New Orleans

The greatest catastrophe ever to hit a major US city is still well underway.

Blogs from the left and right are joining today to urge you to contribute to the rescue and recovery efforts. Instapundit has the definitive list of links.

Hugh Hewitt is directing people to the Canal Street Presbyterian Church, as well as Soldiers' Angels for military people whose families are in New Orleans.

Salem Broadasting - owner of the Patriot and KKMS (Christian Radio) is directing you toward Feed The Children.

And of course the Salvation Army is a personal favorite, having saved my family from a stretch in a homeless shelter in 1993.

Please give.

Posted by Mitch at 09:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


World War II began 66 years ago today, with Germany's invasion of Poland.

The Germans outnumbered the Poles 9 to 5 (2-1 in artillery, 3-1 in tanks and aircraft). Poland's military, like the rest of the struggling nation, had suffered during the Depression. They were not completely mobilized when the Germans crossed the border; like France, they had settled on mass-producing their key weapons - fighters planes, mainly - a few years too early, meaning they had a fair number of obsolescent planes rather than too few modern ones.

But history's game of public relations has not been kind to the Poles. The German PR machine started a number of myths about the Polish campaign that last until this day.

Let's address a few of them.

Metaphor Alert! - The legend sprang up during the war that the Polish cavalry, hidebound in the nineteenth century, had charged German tanks using lances and sabres.

Not remotely true; for starters, the Poles stopped issuing lances for non-ceremonial duties after 1935 - and, in fact, the original battle that led to this legend was actually, initially, a victory for the Polish cavalry.

It started in the sort of confusion that's typical in war:

"Perhaps the most vivid image to have emerged from the September Campaign is the picture of a squadron of courageously foolhardy Polish lancers charging a wave of steel Panzers. That such attack never occured does not sem to have diminished the popularity of these tales, even among serious historians. The tales originated in the first days of the campaign from the pens of Italian correspondents on the Pomeranian front. They were embesllished by German propagandists and became more fanciful with each new telling. The orginal source was a small skirmish near the hamlet of Krojanty on the evening of 1 September. The Pomeranian Corridor was defended by several Polish infantry divisions and the Pomeranian Cavalry Brigade. The area was indefensible, but the force was stationed to prevent the Germans from making an unopposed seizure of the contested Corridor, as they had the Sudetenland. Upon the outbreak of war these forces were immediately to withdraw southward. Covering the retreat was Col. Mastalerz with his 18th Lancers and a number of infantry regiments. In the early morning of 1 September, Gen. Heinz Guderian's 2nd and 20th Motorised Division began their drive on Polish forces in the Tuchola forest. The cavalry and infantry were able to hold them back until the early afternoon, when the Germans began to push the Poles back. By late afternoon a key rail and road junction through the forest was threatened and Mastalerz was ordered to repulse the German thrust at all costs. Mastalerz had his own regiment, some infantry and the Brigade's tankettes at his disposal. The TK tankettes were old and worn out, and were left with a portion of the regiment to hold the existing positions. Two Lancer squadrons mounted up and began to swing around the German flank to strike them in the rear.
Then, the Poles found a target:
By early evening they had located a German infantry battalion exposed in a clearing. The squadrons were already within a few hundred yards, and a sabre charge seemed the sensible course. In moments the two squadrons had swept out of the woods and wiped out the unprepared with hardly any casaulties.
The, the situation got much dicier for the Poles:
As the troops were re-forming, a few German armoured cars equipped with automatic 20mm cannon and machine guns happened on the scene and immediately began firing. The Poles were completely exposed, and began to gallop for cover behind a nearby hillock. Mastalerz and his immediate staff were all killed, and the losses were terrible.
And here, the legend began:
The grim evidence of this encounter was discovered the following day by Italian war correspondents, who were told by German soldiers that it resulted from the cavalry having charged tanks and so the legend began. What has escaped attention was the fact that later that evening Guderian had to step in to prevent the 2nd Motorised Division from retreating 'in the face of intense cavalry pressure'. This intense pressure came from a decimated regiment which had lost 60 per cent of its strenght in the day's fighting and was not even a tenth of the size of the German unit it was pushing back."
Myth #2: The Luftwaffe Mopped the floor with the Polish Air Force - The legend has it that the German air force destroyed the Poles aircraft on the ground, on the opening morning of the campaign (like they did two years later with the Russians, or the way the Israelis did with the Egyptian and Syrian air forces 28 years later).

In fact, the Poles not only dispersed their small, obsolescent air force in the days before the campaign, but developed, in those days before radar, a very efficient system of observers and communications to vector the old planes - and their pilots, among the best-trained in the world at the time - to the German planes. The Poles shot down a fairly staggering number of Luftwaffe aircraft. After the fall of Poland, many Polish pilots escaped, first to Romania, then to France and finally to Britain. During the Battle of Britain, Polish pilots racked up amazingly high scores.

Poland was, of course, the scene of unimaginable horrors during the war; Hitler put his Vernichtunslagern, "Extermination Camps" like Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka, in Poland - partly because of the Polish Plain's desolate remoteness, partly because a huge number of Polish Catholics were more hostile to Jews than to Nazis, making a lousy environment for escape.

But Poland's resistance to the Nazis - during the fall of '39 and, underground, for the next five years - was otherwise a story of immense courage against hopeless odds.

Posted by Mitch at 09:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Tramps Like Us

Bruce Springsteen released Born To Run thirty years ago today.

Thirty years. The album is twice as old as I was when I first heard it.



I hear the album today, and it's still just as fresh as it ever was. If Rock and Roll is a matter of crystalline moments that still cut and shine through the tarnish of the years and the background noise of everyday life, Born To Run is the mother of all diamonds.

I remember being a seventies-addled junior high kid, watching the guy at Mother's Records in Jamestown - the one across from the high school - drop the needle on the first copy of Born To Run I ever saw, on the one hand thinking "no way it's better than Boston", on the other hand looking at the sleeve - a 26 year old Bruce leaning on a 33 year old Clarence (with a Fender Freaking Telecaster Squire, in the middle of the heyday of the Gibson Les Paul, no less!), presaging the joy and tension and just plain ENERGY in the album, and thinking "Wow. That's rock and roll".

And then - Thunder Road:

The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch. As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
A girl! Dancing on the porch! Sign me up!

All prelude of course, to the burst of energy to come that washed over me, that shot a chill up my spine:

With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's busting open
This two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, Heaven's waiting on down the tracks...
Bruce has done better albums (Darkness on the Edge of Town, Tunnel of Love), he's had records that sold more albums (Born In The USA) - but no album, before or since, has ever had moments like Born To Run.

Moments - it's a prosaic word, but in the world of Mitch, as applied to Rock and Roll, it has a very specific meaning that, for purposes of explanation, I should make clear; a "moment" is something, some tiny snippet of a song, that sends a chill up your spine, that rattles you to the core of your being. They can be huge and dramatic (Roger Daltrey's scream in "Won't Get Fooled Again"), or light and subtle (Susannah Hoffs' cooing "to a perfect world" at the end of "Dover Beach", from the first Bangles album); they can be part of a great song (the final "to bring the victory Jesus won..." in U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday", the murderous guitar hooks in Big Country's "Where The Rose Is Sown", the bridge in Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'"), a mediocre one (the final coda in the Alarm's "Blaze of Glory", the bridges in the Babies' "Isn't It Time"), even a crappy one (Neil Schon's entrance in Journey's "Don't Stop Believing"), it can beat you over the head (the beginning of Barry Goudreau's blazing final solo in Boston's "Long Time"), it can seduce you (the mournful, whispered chorus of Richard Thompson's "Jenny", Aimee Mann's transclucent last line of the last verse of Til Tuesday's "Coming Up Close"). You get the picture.

Moments are ephemeral, unpredictable. Most artists never have one (Laura Brannigan and Dee Snider searched their whole careers in vain); most albums never send a single chill up a lonely spine. A single such moment can redeem an otherwise mediocre career; the world could forget the Monkees, Roxette, 10,000 Maniacs, the Cars and Abba tomorrow, but I'd love them for a grand total of maybe fifteen seconds worth of moments among them (brief snippets of "I'm A Believer", "It's All Over Now", "These Are Days", "Bye Bye Love" and "SOS", two-second flares of pop brilliance that are all I need). A talent for such moments - the ability to create more than one or two on a couple of albums - is a rare thing indeed, almost mythical. Pete Townsend, Ray Davies, Chuck D, Lennon/McCartney, Paul Westerberg, Chrissy Hynde (until about 1985), Bono/The Edge, Stuart Adamson, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs, Aimee Mann - it's a small, select list.

And in no album are there more such moments jammed so tightly together, moments enough to define the careers of a dozen other artists, moments that, thirty years later, still thrill and chill and drag you out into onto the Jersey Turnpike of the mind in Dad's jalopy. None. Ever:

  • Thunder Road - "...roll down the window", "it's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling outta here to win..."
  • Tenth Avenue Freezeout - "While Scooter and the big man bust this city in half!"
  • Night - Almost too many to count - the frenetic opening, the raw harmonies of the first verse, the bridge ("Hell, all night, they're busting you up on the outside...")
  • Backstreets - The crescendo when the entire band joins, the exit from the bridge ("...but I hated him, and I hated you when you want away - whoooooah", raw with aching and longing and unrequited pain)
  • The title cut - Again, too many to catalog; "Boom" Carter's half-bar drum intro, "Beyond the palace, hemi-powered drones...", the moment when Bruce counts off the beat to the last verse...
  • She's The One - The band stomping into the Bo Diddley beat from the intro, heavy enough to crush rocks but deft enough to dance to - in fact, impossible not to dance to.
  • Meeting Across The River - All the sly little moments that tell us the song is about a couple of desperate losers looking for the big break; "Here, stuff this in your pocket, it'll look like you're carrying a friend..."
  • Jungleland - Too many to list; the first "", the glorious guitar solo, " the parking lots the visionaries dress in the latest rage..., and of course, the song's cornerstone "...and the poets down here write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be..."
Born To Run is the encyclopedia of rock and roll - one moment at a time.

And thirty years later, it still crackles like static from the speakers, feeling barely controlled, throbbing with potential energy ("Backstreets'" ominous buildup) and thundering with explosive release ("Night"), careening from smokey barroom to dragstrip to rumble to backseat like one of those lost weekend evenings from your teens - or the teenage years you imagined other people having - packed into a sleeve.

Born to Run is one of those rare records that feels as good today as the day it was released; it hasn't aged or dated itself one iota; one of those bits of art that will long outlive its creator.

One moment at a time.

(Feel free to comment - but please keep all politically-oriented criticism out of this thread. Springsteen's support of John Kerry last year is no more an indictment of Born to Run than the Pedophile Priest scandal is a black mark on the New Testament. Politically based criticism will be gleefully mutilated).

Posted by Mitch at 05:45 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Birth Of A Second Amendment Activist

The looting in New Orleans is like something from "Day After Tomorrow" - it seems so sensational as to be unreal.

Thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.

Looters also chased down a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot.

Armed looters also broke into a children's hospital - some reports said "besieged" the hospital.

Central New Orleans, in the flood zone, is in a state of anarchy - and when anarchy holds sway, the natural advantage goes to the young, the strong, and those who feel they have nothing to lose. The losers? The old, the weak, women, children - and anyone who can't convince the looters that it'd be a bad idea to try to steal the supplies they are depending on to survive.

Twenty years ago, I was a gun-controller. Not an extremely committed one, and far from an absolutist - but I would have fit in with most Minnesota Democrats, eschewing handguns and the like. I changed my mind, naturally, for a variety of reasons.

But among those reasons - before the Madisonian belief in an armed populace as the ultimate safeguard of liberty, before my commitment to deterring crime, before the sheer joy and stress relief I felt when busting caps into paper targets, and before the pure existential relief I felt when I deterred a burglarly in my own house (in 1988), my conversion to second-amendment constructionism started with the vision of the nightmare we're seeing in New Orleans today.

Bruce Clayton, in the classic survivalist bible "Life After Doomsday", estimated (purportedly from sources) that in a crisis and a complete breakdown of order, one in ten people will steal for food; one in a hundred will kill for food. One in a thousand will resort to cannibalism, said Clayton, while one person in ten thousand would actively hunt humans for food.

We're seeing the first two in spades in New Orleans today.

The situation in the Big Not So Easy today - like that in the LA riots, only much, much worse - flies in the face of many of the left's traditional blandishments about the relationship of the individual to society.

  • "Let the professionals take care of things"- But in LA in 1992, and in New Orleans today, the professionals can't take care of things. They're stretched far beyond their limits trying to conduct search and rescue; defending law and order is way down the list of priorities. What is the law abiding citizen to do? Especially the type of citizen who tried to...
  • "Follow official directions; you'll be safe" - If the LA riots, 9/11 (where the PA system in the Towers advised people to go back to their desks as the fires ate away at the towers' skeletons) and now Hurricane Katrina tell us anything, it's that official direction, even the best-meaning (by all accounts, the evacuation of New Orleans was ordered adequately early to prevent a much worse disaster) aren't enough. Stories tell of many families who tried to hit the road, but became ensnarled in hopeless traffic, and opted to ride the storm out in the city. Stuff happens - but now, they're the ones in the city trying to defend what little sustenance they have against the human jackals while they wait for help to arrive.
  • "What are you? Paranoid?" - For what - pondering that I and my family could be caught in a situation where law and order are gone and I have to defend my family's lives against the worst of human and mob nature? I think this past few days have shown that it's not paranoid in the least.
  • "Guns only make the situation worse" - In the hands of the bad guys? Sure. But I'm not the bad guys. If the bad guys have to think there's someone like me sitting in the attic window of the next house they're going to try to ransack, maybe they'll think twice. Twice is all they'll get.I'm coming around to the belief that it's not just a nice to have thing, but rather the duty of every citizen who values the rule of law and order, to say nothing of their families' safety, to be prepared to secure their little corner of the Republic against this sort of a disaster, until the beleaguered authorities can make it official. That means things like storing enough food and water to get through an immediate crisis - and having the means immediately at hand to defend themselves.

    You know - all that "paranoid" stuff that, in New Orleans today, isn't.

    Posted by Mitch at 05:30 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack