Enjoying The Tailspin

I hate Twitter.

There.  I said it.

Twitter is the most annoying social media outlet (at least among the ones I use; I’ve come to cordially detest “Vine” videos, but I don’t use them, either).  Twitter has become a necessary evil for self-marketing; I use Twitter for promoting blog and show content and following pundits in semi-real time, in theory, except that I make about as little time to spend on Twitter as I can get away with.  It’s nearly useless as a form of communication; it’s 300 million people shouting…

…and mostly doing it badly.  The 140 character limit had been one of the greatest blows to literacy in history – and yes, I know, learning how to fit a coherent thought into 140 characters can teach a writer a lot about economizing, if they’re inclined to learn those lessons.  But of 300-million odd Twitter users, perhaps three or four dozen are so inclined.

Twitter is a banal, but very urgent, wasteland.

And so if it were to collapse and disappear from the public discourse, I’d dance around the fire, myself.

Well, That Snuck Up On Me

Today is this blog’s 14th Anniversary.

On February 5, 2002, I – a fairly recently divorced guy with a couple of kids and a fifteen-year-dead “career” as a pundit, working at a dotcom that was already circling the drain – read an article in Time magazine about “the new generation of conservative intellectuals”.  They directed me to, of all people, Andrew Sullivan – who was a conservative, at the time – and in a sidebar, explained what a “blog” was.

Starving for an outlet, I ran out to “Blogger.com”, signed up, and started writing.   And I’ve kept at it, most weekdays, ever since.

I got lucky – I got a couple of back to back Instalanches bright and early and, on one notable day back in 2004, simultaneous plugs from Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt and James Lileks – which pretty much put me on the map.

Blogs surged, of course, and then settled back into the social media pack behind Twitter and Facebook.  What was once a huge, bustling blogging scene in the Twin Cities is now a couple of blog superstars – Ed Morrissey, Lileks and the Powerline guys – and a small, hard core of people who just love to write; I’m one of them.

Up until that first couple of Instalanches, this blog got maybe 10 hits a day.  I’ve been holding steady around 1,000 visits every weekday for most of the past decade or so – not enough to make it a fulltime job, too many to be anything but thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.

And it’s been an amazing opportunity.  It led, of course, to meeting a group of amazing friends; Brian, Chad and Atomizer from the Fraters (Brian emailed me back in 2002, the first person to tell me that there were other bloggers in the Twin Cities), John and Scott from Power Line, Lileks, King Banaian (blog is long gone), Brad, the Stroms and the Stewarts, the tireless Mr. D, Enge, Gary, Ryan, Foot, and too many others to mention.

And it led to the show, of which much more next month.

Anyway – thank you all for indulging my little outburst this past almost-decade-and-a-half.

Noc Spisovatel Opět Jezdí!

The good news:  Night Writer has pretty much retired “No Longer I Who Live“, the essential blog he wrote about life and faith while living with ALS while he, seemingly, had it.  Which he apparently no longer does.  The ALS, I mean.  The life and faith go on – which is better than good news – but let’s not go on a tangent here.

The great news:  He’s dusted off “Night Writer”, at least for a bit, to chronicle his family’s trip to Prague to get “Tiger Lily”, the junior writer of the clan, started on her new career introducing vowels to the Czech Republic.

Stop by and wish them šťastné cesty!

It’s Pledge Week

I’ve been blogging away for thirteen years, now.  I have an average of 600-800 people a day reading this blog – which is about 10 to 20 times more than I’d dreamed about possibly reaching when I started this blog back in 2002.

I have said this many times in the past; I’d still write every day even if nobody read me, here; writing is just part of what I am and do.

But every April in recent years I’ve passed the hat for whatever spare change people feel this blog is worth to them, provided they can spare it, and only then.  Contributions mostly go toward hosting, and a few other little things (and, in some of my past years with more parlous fiscal circumstances, self-preservation; I’m not there, this year, knock wood, and I’m happy for it!)

So if you enjoy what you read here, and have a buck or two to spare, I’d be much obliged.

UPDATE: I fixed the broken button. I think. Sorry!

Either way, thanks for reading!


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

In the olden days, honest Democrats praised expertise:

Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz) wrote this about “Terrorism” by Benjamin Netanyahu, released in 1986:

“Few are as well equipped to bring us this message as Netanyahu. He currently serves as Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Netanyahu not only distinguished himself as a commander in many operations for his country’s military but served for several years as the executive director of the Jonathan In stitute, a Jerusalem research foundation on terrorism. He has been touched in the most personal way by modern terrorism. His brother, Lt. Jonathan Netanyahu, died leading the historic Entebbe rescue mission and is the namesake of the institute.”

President Obama says Netanyahu lacks credibility because he’s been wrong about Iran before, predicting bad things that haven’t happened yet. Meanwhile, the UN says it can’t finish its inspection because Iran is still lying about its nuclear program


Joe Doakes

Just has everything Obama says has a shelf date, so this everything in the Democrat past.

I’m Still Here, He’s All Gone

Sometime next week, this blog will hit its 13th anniversary.

I’ve told the story, of course, many times; when I started this blog, I was inspired by reading Andrew Sullivan’s site. Along with James Lileks, it was Sullivan that I went to to see how this new form of writing was supposed to be done. Back when bloggers kept track of these things, I called him my “blogfather”.

But after 15 years, Sullivan is hanging it up:

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

i’ve gotten some of the same urges, myself; not burn out – although that certainly happens, from time to time. Working through that has been a zen like exercise in self discipline, on the occasions – roughly every two years – when it happens.

But the urge to do things smaller, slower, older and more deliberate is certainly there.

A Simple Request…

…for everyone in the mainstream media, alternative media, and talk radio – even conservative talk radio:

Unless you work at a Red Wing outlet store and are changing your shelving, could you never, Ever, EVER use the term “Boots on the Ground” again?  It’s gone so far beyond cliché, light leaving “cliché” right now won’t reach us until our great-grandchildren are getting AARP cards.

“Troops in the field” actually works.

Thank you all in advance for seeing to this.

That is all.

Curry The Gray Died; Curry The White Rises

Blogs were The Big Thing ten years ago.  Over the past 5-8 years, a lot of people who were into blogging, got out of blogging.  The ones that are left are the ones that either found a way to make a living at it (close-up shot of Mitch Berg’s impassive face) or who just love writing (Berg waves hand). 

Of course, most of them passed unlamented.  But some real gems have disappeared over the years – given the number of excellent bloggers that the Twin Cities produced, the ratio of wheat to chaff was higher than one might expect.  Other excellent local bloggers have slowed way down, or confined their writing to fits and starts.

Earlier in the summer, I checked out Casual Sundays with Mr. Curry, the longtime project of “MLP” – and was dismayed to see it was gone. 

I chalked it up to the inevitable attrition of the medium.  But I’d always loved CSWMC; like a lot of blogs, I made a point of catching up on it every few weeks because, doggone it, I liked it.  And I filed it away as yet another broken blog heart.

But I spoke too soon.  MLP advises us that rumors of Casual Sundays with Mr. Curry’s demise are greatly overstated.  And while it’s a cliche, it actually is bigger and better than ever. 

And I am, in fact, so so happy.

Don’t Forget…

Tonight is the release party for Katie Kieffer’s first book, Let Me Be Clear.  The party is from 6-8:30 pm. at Casper’s Cherokee in Eagan (just off Cliff at Nichols).

You can still invite yourself to the party, right here.

Sue Jeffers and Ed Morrissey, along with some other local celebs, will be there. So, for that matter, will I!

Hope you can make it!

And if you want to make it a sweep?  Mary Franson is having a fundraiser at Paddy McGovern’s, on West 7th in Saint Paul by the Xcel Center from 5-7PM. I’ll try to make it by McGovern’s on my way to Casper’s. Hope you can too.

When Making Plans For Wednesday

Don’t forget – the release party for Katie Kieffer’s first book, Let Me Be Clear, is coming up this coming Wednesday, June 4th from 6-8:30 pm. at Casper’s Cherokee in Eagan (just off Cliff at Nichols).

And I know Katie would love to meet her fans – or make a bunch of new ones.  So  RSVP here

Sue Jeffers and Ed Morrissey, along with some other local celebs, will be there.  So, for that matter, will I! 

Come on down!

Actually, make it a two-fer; Mary Franson is having a fundraiser at Paddy McGovern’s, on West 7th in Saint Paul by the Xcel Center from 5-7PM.  I’m gonna try to make it by McGovern’s on my way to Casper’s.  Hope you can too. 

Maybe some of us can caravan!

Weekend Plans

I’ll be live-blogging (or live-tweeting) the Minnesota GOP Convention tonight.  Or maybe just bar-hopping.  Not really sure.

Tomorrow Brad Carlson and I will be broadcasting live from the Convention in Rochester.  Tune in from 1-3 – which, if the race takes three ballots or less, might even be when the winner is determined!

In Blog-Related News

Two new blogs to report:

No Longer I Who Live“, by John Stewart – who presided over “Night Writer” for a long time.  John was recently diagnosed with a serious illness – but the blog doesn’t take the usual approach to the subject.

And “Nooj” is in the process of slowly launching “Bar Chords” – about the law, rock and roll, and…well, we’ll see.

Of course, some of my favorite “old” blogs keep chugging away; Bill Glahn (perhaps the only investigative reporter working in Minnesota today), Mr. D, Katie Kieffer, MLP and of course the Fraters are still writing regularly – sometimes very regularly.

Not To Dig Too Hard For Analysis…

…but I noticed an interesting pattern in the voting in the Shot In The Dark straw poll yesterday.

Scott Walker jumped out to a sharp lead, early in the morning, closely followed by Ted Cruz 

Then – along about noon or so – Rand Paul put on a surge, at one point tying Cruz for second place.   This surge ended in the wee hours of this morning.

Then, early in the AM, Walker got another surge. 

Not saying this says anything about relative demographics.  But some people might.

Post-Shakeout Reading

The Twin Cities’ conservative blog scene has been at it for over a decade now. 

And it was inevitable; from its high point in the mid-oughts, where there were dozens and dozens of bloggers scratching away at all corners of Minnesota’s body politic – from international megablogs like Power Line and Ed Morrissey’s Captain’s Quarters and then Hot Air, all the way down to a maze of smaller niche blogs that live on in memory and the Internet’s wayback machine – time has taken its toll – in both the tempus fugit sense of the term as well as the time it takes people with jobs, families, hobbies and lives to actually write something of any value. 

And so outside of Hot Air and Power Line neither of which have ever been primarily Minnesota blogs – and Lileks, who covers everything in the universe, sometimes simultaneously – the “thousands lights” of Minnesota local blogging have shrunk to a fairly manageable number.   Some – like the great Sheila Kihne – have taken their talents out into the corporeal world of activism (with a little Twitter to keep people up to date).  Others – the essential Gary Miller, long of Truth Vs. The Machine, has moved is oeuvre to Facebook as his politics have moved toward the libertarian. 

(It’s odd that the solid Big-L libertarians never really developed any serious bloggers in Minnesota.  My observation; most of them don’t seem to believe they need to convince anyone outside the club, and many of them are pretty terrible at it.  Opportunity missed, in my book). 

But many of them are still at it – putting out superior material monthly, weekly, or even more often.  And they’re worth visiting a lot more than you likely do. 

And as one of the ones that has been getting consistently, surprisingly high traffic for better than a decade now, I feel a little remiss in that I haven’t always spread as much attention around as I should have. 

I’m going to try in my tardy way to fix that today. 

Of course, my NARN colleague Brad Carlson has been cranking away pretty non–stop for a long, long time now. 

And Mister Dilletante is still writing superior stuff, on the average more than daily, which is how often you should be visiting The Neighborhood. 

Brad and D are pretty eclectic – music, religion, politics, home and family life, Wisconsin high-school football (or maybe basketball – given the scores D writes about, it’s kinda hard to tell) – which is in fact one of the things I like about the better Minnesota proto-conservative blogs; in contrast to Minnesota’s little collection of herniated-sounding, self-righteous, self-referential, usually shrieky leftyblogs, most of the the conservative-blog holdouts have more than one topic.  In some cases, many, many of them.

Along those lines – Joe Deal’s Red Squirrel Report is all over the map.   And Ryan Rhodes has  been writing longer than me, and has covered a dizzy range of subjects, from politics to intestinal chemical warfare to the trials and travails of owning a small business to, a few years back, the gut-shot heartbreak and slow, miraculous inspiration of the story of his preemie twins. 

If Ryan Rhodes contributes no more than this meme to western cultural life, his life will have been well lived. But there’s so much more at his blog.

And while family and career have slowed down the writing at Fraters to more of a weekly thing, they still cover the waterfront. 

As does one of my favorite low-key reading pleasures, Mary Louise Pivec’s wonderful Casual Sundays with Mr. Curry.  What can I say?  Casual and low-key?  Yep.  And always worth the visit.  I’m always happy I clicked over. 

I’ll never mix up Casual Sundays with Minnesota Hockey Mom who usually writes about hockey, and, well,  being a mom, but has branched out all over the place – but I read it as regularly as I can as well. 

Of course, there are bloggers who cover shorter stretches of the waterfront with a more focused passion.  Katie Kieffer has slowed down to roughly weekly  on her “business for  young adults” blog, as she works on a very different writing project – but she still sounds off, and is always a delightful read.    Gary Gross has been at the business of covering Central Minnesota politics for almost nine years now at Let Freedom Ring, and his biggest days are (I have this on very good authority) just in front of him.  As in, over the next few weeks.  Seriously – stay tuned.  And Tea Party stalwart Walter Hudson is an essential read at Fightin’ Words.

Of course, John Gilmore at Minnesota Conservatives  is sort of a rhetorical daisy-cutter; he’s had his occasional ready-fire-aim moment, along with his home runs with bases loaded.  Which will his next post be?  It’s always fun to wait and see. 

And the big new event has been Bill Glahn’s blog, perhaps the most essential new political blog in Minnesota since Sheila Kihne was killing giants, 3-4 years ago.  His entire series on following the trail of money among Minnesota’s liberal political “non-profits” is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what’s wrong with Minnesota politics today – and stuff I’d say Minnesota’s mainstream media doesn’t have the balls to write about, except the problem is more a matter of “financial independence from big lefty money” than “courage”. 

Anyway – if you’ve been feeling the need to broaden your horizons, your assignment is clear.

UPDATE:  I knew I’d forget one.  Andy Aplikowski has been doing superior analysis at Residual Forces for roughly forever, and I can’t believe I neglected him when I first wrote this.  My apologies.

Some Might Call It “A Bugout”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Great column explaining how Obama is “reviewing” his First Term promises for the Middle East, now that’s it’s all going to pot.  Best lines:


“They might describe it as “review” of foreign policy, it is actually a shutdown process; the act of shooting all the remaining sheep in the corral prior to boarding up the ranch and putting up the “for sale” sign.”


And this gem later, describing how the perverse financial incentives in Obama-care create a death spiral for private insurance companies:


“ . . . [T]he president is basically busing high risk applicants into a lower risk pool. Those who can, will flee the neighborhood. That will leave only those who have nowhere else to go stuck in it,  making Obamacare the health insurance equivalent of Detroit.”


Man, I wish I could write like that.


Joe Doakes

Richard Fernandez has always been one of the greats. He should be a daily read for everyone who has that nagging feeling they’re not getting the whole, unvarnished story…

My Submission For The DSM-6

To: American Psychiatric Assocation (APA)
From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant
Re: Cyberphrenia

To whom it may concern,

Please accept the following submission for the sixth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-6), whenever you release it:

Cyberphrenia: a personality disorder which presents with a complete dissociation between the subject’s “online” and offline personalities.

This usually (but not uniformly) manifests as a subject developing an “online” personality that manifests as negative ideation ranging from mild impulse-control and conduct disorders to symptoms resembling full-blown sociopathy or narcissistic personality disorder.

Keep me posted.

That is all.

Open Letter To Badge-Carrying Journos

To: “Badge-Carrying” Journalists
From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant
Re:  Here’s My F***ing Badge

Two whom it may etc etc,

Over the past 11 years or so, not a few journos have asked “citizen journalists” to show you their “journalist badges”.

I haven’t eaten Cracker Jacks in years, so I don’t even know how I’d get one.

But as a blogger, here’s my “badge”:  In the SCOTUS case of Lovell v. Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court:

“The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own history abundantly attest. The press in its connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.”

Given that we uppity bloggers are the ones that actually “defend liberty”, I think that settles that.

That is all.

Just Like Old Times

How long has it been since I, or any Twin Cities conservative blogger, lit up a Nick Coleman column?

Seems like forever. 

Fisking Nick “I Know Stuff” Coleman used to be to Twin Cities blogging what bread was a a meal; a staple.  But since Nick’s exit from the Strib, he’s been pretty much out of sight.

No more. 

Tune in at noon.

Bearish On The Bird

Is Doug Kass right about the stock market?

Who knows?  I mean, given the almost-unanimous pollyannaism that’s broken out in the parts of the financial media that get quoted on the MSM, I’d suspect contrarians are right just based on knee-jerk hunchism. 

But when it comes to Twitter, I think he’s got a point; Kass is giving up on the popular social media site:

“Unfortunately, there are many haters in the social blogosphere, who, perhaps because of their own issues, drown out the many good people who want a value-added investment experience by learning more and enjoying a healthy dialogue in real time.”

Twitter has become dominated by people whoarewhat Laura Billings warned bloggers were a decade ago; a combination of raving loners and paid human (give or take) copy-and-paste-bots who clog all discussion with ranting or recirculated drivel. 

“Unfortunately, there are many haters in the social blogosphere, who, perhaps because of their own issues, drown out the many good people who want a value-added investment experience by learning more and enjoying a healthy dialogue in real time.”

Time for a companion book to James Surowiecki’s huge hit of about eight years ago;The Idiocy Of Crowds.