Friday, December 31, 2004

A New Year's Toast

I was considering live-blogging New Years Eve. But then I thought about it a bit more. Wouldn’t it be something like this:

10:00pm It just became 10 o’clock. Tension is building.

10:15 pm Tension continues to build. The clock is no longer at the hour point.

10:25 pm. Just refilled the drink. Need it to cut this mounting tension.

10:45 pm 15 minutes until the next hour is reached! Such tension!

Etc….etc. …

So anyway, no live-blogging. You’re welcome.

New Years Eve here involves snacking on expensive food all evening, drinking from a well-stocked liquor cabinet, and listening to the Rat Pack (currently Sammy accompanied by The Count Basie Orchestra). The kids are allowed to slowly wind down. They’ll not be staying up ‘til midnight, but a bit past their normal bedtime is allowed.

The last year brought a lot. Not the least of which was this blog. The blog has been a fun and fascinating venture. Quite a bit more rewarding than I presumed heading into it. I’m amused reading many of the lofty analyses of the blogosphere at year end. Well over 90% of commentators truly don’t understand why folks like me do this. Gives me a trendy alternative-culture kind of vibe when I read someone talking about my motives and goals and being totally clueless.

I’ll be lifting a glass to toast the old year and hope for the new later this evening. But for now, I’d just like to give a virtual toast to those of you, who have read, commented, linked, or in any other way assisted this weird new endeavor.

Predictions for 2005

Everyone must be simply dying over the fact that I have not made my predictions for 2005 yet!! (Ok, well I read Rick’s post on the topic and the mood hit me anyway.)

So without further adieu….

Predictions for 2005:

  • Iraqi elections will be held as planned. The new government’s legitimacy will be immediately challenged by the Western media on the basis that "Bush is evil."
  • Hugh Hewitt will publish another book (working title, “Cooking with Hugh”).
  • Donald Rumsfeld will not resign.
  • Hot new diet fad of 2005: The Monster Thickburger Diet!!
  • Hottest Rap Artist of 2005: Like I’d have a clue.
  • Republicans in the Senate will quickly adopt the media-dubbed “nuclear option,” preventing judicial nominations from being filibustered. This will be THE big story of 2005.
  • Best new show of 2005: Battlestar Galactica
  • Worst new show of 2005: CSI Fargo
  • Following the death of William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas will be nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • In an attempt to move their party in a more moderate direction, The Democratic Leadership Council will launch a "Bush isn't evil, he's stupid" campaign.
  • The Northern Alliance Radio Network will become syndicated.
  • In an attempt to stay hip and relevant, NBC will name Comedy Central's "Daily Show" Host John Stewart as their new evening news anchor.
  • In a typically out-of-touch and rather clueless attempt at the same, CBS will name comedian Gallagher as their own evening news anchor.
  • After refusing network demands that he conclude each broadcast by smashing a watermelon, ABC will announce Peter Jennings’ retirement.
  • Congress will not pass a resolution demanding that nations receiving foreign aid from U. S. taxpayers stop calling us evil or give back the money – but they should.
  • Bogus Gold will handily win the Wizbang award in its category (Best Upper-Midwestern blog, with an anagram title, written by a pasty-white mid-30’s guy, lacking any discernible theme).

Thursday, December 30, 2004

How Is Gay Marriage Related to the Gas Tax?

The First Ring has an interesting article tonight about a potential compromise in the Minnesota State Legislature:

“Is the DFL willing to trade constitutional amendments in order to get two partisan pieces of legislation out the door? Gay marriage and a gas tax could be on the ballot in 2005 as a sort of partisan compromise to take both issues off the table for 2006. Just as significant, both the Governor and the legislature could wash their hands of any responsibility for dealing with both “hot potato” items by simply allowing the voters to address them and having the special interests on both sides duke it out at the ballot box and not at the State Capitol.”

Some intriguing sources, as well as excellent background and analysis offered by The First Ring regarding this. Read the whole thing.

(And blogroll The First Ring, if you haven’t already. It has become a daily read of mine for good reason.)

A Study In Contrast

Stopped by Surdyk's today to pick up some New Year's Eve treats. Even though we're not going out this year, as we have not the past few, we like to have a little special celebration on our own.

My goodness, how the price of fois gras has gone up! Not that it was exactly cheap previously.

I also picked up some champagne. Despite my oenophilia, I have never really taken the time to get to know sparkling wine very well. I chose a bottle of S. Anderson 1998 Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley, on the basis of the positive and intriguing Surdyk's wine taster's notes. I'll probably review it tomorrow evening.

And, I have to ask myself, how can I possibly live it up and enjoy the finer things in life when disasters like this are going on?!

Well, two ways actually. The first is to offer prayers and assistance to the victims of such a disaster. Incidentally, the latter is possible by just clicking this button (hat tip to Stones Cry Out for pointing us to it at Brain Shavings):

Help tsunami victims here

The second is to keep things in perspective regarding ones' own life. I do not have the ability to end suffering. I contribute nothing positive to those around me by living my life in perpetual sympathetic misery.

Life certainly cannot be about only self-indulgence. But neither can it be solely about guilt and shame that others cannot share my every joy.

But I do feel a little awkward when I read the stories, and notice such a tremendous contrast in my good fortune and the terrible fortune of so many others. So in the midst of the meager financial assistance I can offer the victims of disaster, I think I'll remember to also offer a little extra thanks to the Lord this New Year. As the poet once said, "There but for the grace of God go I."

The Rigorous Standards of a "Professional" Journalist

While it would probably be proper to give Nick Coleman a day off to lick his wounds, I would hate to fail in my duty as a hobby-hack journalist and leave part of the story untold.

In addition to his explosion of vice directed at Powerline yesterday, some of you might recall Coleman’s previous diatribe against the blogosphere in general. In the course of that diatribe, Coleman offered this criticism about bloggers:

“Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square -- without editors,
correction policies or community standards.”

[The Star Tribune doesn’t seem to have retained the column in question on
their website. Perhaps you might remember it as the one in which Nick
concluded that the big difference between himself and bloggers is that he
“knows stuff.” - ed.]

Not that I gave much credit to his newspaper’s editors, policies, or sense of standards, but I did assume he considered this to be an important distinction; something “real journalists” have and bloggers don’t.

Turns out I was wrong to leap to such a hasty conclusion. The Big Trunk writes at Powerline today:

I spoke yesterday with Coleman's editor at the Star Tribune to complain
about the factual inaccuracies in Coleman's column and to ask the Star Tribune
to run corrections. …

Among other things, the editor advised me that Coleman's attack on us
involved no reporting, and that the column's factual misrepresentations were to
be read in that light. Moreover, certain of the misrepresentations were to be
construed as sarcasm rather than taken at face value.

Finally, according to the editor, Coleman's false assertion that he
didn't know and we didn't say whether we might be on the take from some
campaign, political party or anonymous benefactor, appeared to violate no Star
Tribune standard. …

So despite Coleman’s delusions, according to his editor he’s not a reporter. He’s also not fact checked, apparently because they can’t tell when he’s being sarcastic. And even when he’s known to make a false claim, that doesn’t violate any of his paper’s standards either. So exactly what standards does Nick Coleman have to abide by?

(From The Big Trunk’s post again)

I asked the editor what standards Coleman's column was subject to at the Star
Tribune. He said he didn't know; he would have to research the answer to that
question and get back to me.

If this guy wasn’t actually being paid money for his column, that would be funny. As it is, it’s hilarious. He’s been preening like a peacock for years about the rigorous hard-news environment he works within. Yet his own editor, other than knowing Nick’s writing isn’t reporting and doesn’t have to be factually correct, isn’t terribly sure what these rigorous standards might be. Perhaps his columns are rigorously typed into MS Word and spell checked (as well as becoming eerily similar to early 70’s secret military memos)?

To all of you fellow Twin Cities Metro dwellers out there who simply must have a dead-tree news source, might I suggest one that actually has some editorial standards for columnists? One that also had the sense to kick Mr. Coleman to the curb, and hire some real talent instead?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gorey-Krishnas and Senator Kerry

Drew from Darn Floor uncovered the latest flailing of the moonbat fringe.

From the Boston Globe:

"The election is long over. A new year is starting, and even most of the more ardent liberals are moving on. But in Louisburg Square this week, one determined group isn't quite ready to let go. About a half dozen supporters of John Kerry are holding vigil in front of his house, still hoping for a Kerry presidency."

The subsequent article could almost originate from the Onion, but I'm pretty sure these people are real.

A few favorite tidbits, with some commentary:

"The little knot of demonstrators, calling themselves the Coalition Against Election Fraud, stood shivering in the cold yesterday, hoisting signs and pressing fliers into the hands of bewildered passersby. Taxi drivers, neighbors digging cars out of the snow, and Beacon Hill residents who happened to be strolling by were subjected to earnest pleas to join the cause."
The lefty-political version of Hari-Krishnas. We finally see that political impact from Farenheit 9-11 Michael Moore hoped to instill.

"In any case, Kerry wasn't home to take notice of yesterday's demonstrators. A woman answered the door and promised to deliver a message when he returns from vacation at the end of January. Kerry has been in Ketchum, Idaho, for several weeks, and he plans to go to the Middle East for the first two weeks of January."
Man of the people. No wonder the little guys keep pulling for him.

Incidentally, now that he's not on the campaign trail, isn't there something kind of Senate-related he ought to be seeing to? Just asking.

"Parks and her coalition, many of whom worked feverishly on the Kerry campaign, are part of a larger phenomenon since the 2000 presidential election, specialists say. The ballot debacle that year in Florida has helped fuel conspiracy theories and given groups like Parks's a new cause."

Apologies to Mr. Moore. These seem to be Gorey-Krishnas, rather than Moorey-Krishnas.

"Parks, who years ago legally changed her surname to that of the famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, plans to take her group to Washington, D.C., next week to push her cause. In the meantime, the Coalition Against Election Fraud will spend an hour each day in front of Kerry's house in Boston, lamenting the attention that's been paid to national elections in the Ukraine and waving signs that say, ''Senator Kerry: Please Fight for Ohio" and ''Alert: electile dysfunction."
But of course she did. The parallels in courage the new Ms. Parks displays are obviously representative of the old one.

And what is it about lefties and penis metaphors lately? Burnt out on the Vagina Monologues already?

Incidentally, Drew notes another interesting tidbit in his post. The group is targetting a small group of Senators in a campaign to pressure them to "challenge the electoral vote"; whatever that means. Among the list of 13 targetted? Minnesota's own Evacuatin' Mark Dayton. Our own Senator is among the elite 13 favorites of the lunatic leftist fringe! Sure makes Minnesota proud.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Nick Coleman

Reading the latest shoddily researched angry screed from Nick Coleman today, I noticed something intriguing. The man actually managed to display all seven of the Seven Deadly Sins in a single column.

Obviously, envy shows up in spades. The man is positively seething with jealousy that Powerline just received more national journalistic recognition than himself.

The end of the year is a time to bury the hatchet, so congratulations to Powerline, the Twin Cities blog that last week was named Time magazine's "Blog of the Year!"

Now let me get a new hatchet.

But he's got a lot of pride also. Misplaced pride, to be sure. But he takes tremendous pride that he is a "professional," and therefore indefinably loftier than mere bloggers. The man is so full of his own journalistic importance, he even goes so far as to suggest that it was his journalism that elected former governor Governor Arne Carlson:

A story: In 1990, I reported that this newspaper's endorsement of DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was decided by then-publisher and Perpich crony Roger Parkinson. He had quashed the decision of the newspaper's editorial board, which had voted in favor of the Republican challenger, Arne Carlson.

The truth got out, the Republican won and the public was served.

Anger? Woah nelly yes! The man is so full of anger, he lets items fly like this one:

Time magazine's "Blog of the Year" is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won't recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.

Lust? Perhaps a bit more of a stretch, though he does provide evidence that he thinks about other men's penis sizes (we can only speculate why this concerns him):

The lads behind Powerline are a bank vice president named Scott Johnson and a lawyer named John Hinderaker. If you read Powerline, you know them better by their fantasy names, Big Trunk (that's Johnson) and Hind Rocket (Hinderaker). I will leave it to the appropriate professionals to determine what they are compensating for...
And greed? Nick has exemplified this one for years, and offers up this nice tidbit today:

I keep wishing the Ivy League boys had told me I was rich before I took my first job cleaning bathrooms in a factory at night, or my next job driving a school bus, or my first newspaper job at the old Tribune for $147 a week.
Sloth? Again, very much on display in today's column. For example he states:

But does Powerline or its mighty righty allies take money from political parties, campaigns or well-heeled benefactors who hope to affect Minnesota's politics from behind the scenes? We don't know, and they don't have to say.

But Nick was simply too lazy to find out this answer. As John Hinderaker responded today: "But, Nick, you didn't ask. If you really thought this was a burning question that needed to be investigated, why didn't you pick up the phone and call one of us? We'd have been happy to fill you in."

Finally we come to gluttony. How does Nick display this particular vice?

Looks a bit pudgy around the jowls to me.

That's seven deadly sins, all in a single column. An impressive record for anyone. But all in a days work for the jealous, proud, angry, lustful, greedy, lazy, gluttonous Nick Coleman.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Strange Happenings At Fraters

Odd things are amiss at Fraters Libertas this week. The evidence:

1. They added a "Minnesota Orginization of Bloggers" section to their blogroll. The list seems to be ordered according to average daily alcohol consumption. Scandalous DC and Cathy! (hic)

2. "The Elder," has changed his nom de blog to "Chad The Elder." Your secret is safe with me Irving!

3. All FOUR Fraters posted today. Including TWO posts from the generally postless JB Doubtless.

I'm not sure what this all adds up to. But the leading candidates are "hillarious hijinx," and "impending takeover of the Hewitt empire."


Update on Adult Learning

Incidentally, a word for those of you interested in my geeky Christmas present (The college lecture series Rome and the Barbarians).

I've finished the first four lectures now, and I am suitably impressed. Most of this has been review material for me so far: Introduction to Roman government, society, & warfare. But since I do know a bit about this, and realize how good the lessons have been on those topics, I am enthused as the lectures start to delve into territory I don't know much about.

If the kids behave enough to give me 30 minutes of peace, tonight's lecture will be on Celtic Europe and the Mediterranean World. If I'm in the zone to go further, after that we get into Rome's conquest of Cisalpine Gaul. Fun stuff.

Incidentally, The Teaching Company, from which this lecture series originates, is running a really good sale on most of their offerings. From the looks of it, they're knocking prices on most of their stuff down 66% - 75%. I have no idea if this will be a lasting thing, so I'd encourage anyone else interested to check them out now. Compare the sale price lectures to those not on sale, and you'll see how enticing it is.

In further historical geekitude, I also got hooked when the NARN guys interviewed David Liss, and subsequently picked up "A Conspiracy of Paper" from Amazon. Really well written. Drew me in very quickly. So lately I'm spending part of my evening in Ancient Rome, and another part in eighteenth century London. Beats the days I'm spending in modern office-world.

Wine Talk

The Wine: Bogle Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, 2003.

The Review: Eh.

But a glass of wine is needed, or else I'll turn to the stronger stuff waaaay too early in the evening. It was that kind of day. I'm not sure how many things my employer thinks I'm supposed to be able to juggle at once as a "favor" for them, but the current count is bumping against whatever that limit can be.

Incidentally, speaking of wine, I meant to plug Policyguy's (a. k. a. John R. La Plante's) article from last week: Wine Sellers and Protectionism.

The current situation is nonsensical. You want to be a dry state? Fine. You want to ban alcohol delivery through the mail to your citizens? Fine. But if you decide alcohol consumption is legal, and delivery is allowable through the mail, you cannot decide to throw up barriers to out of state competition. That is about as naked a form of protectionism as could be.

And damned inconvenient for us wine consumers incidentally. I once recieved a bottle of wine as a gift via Fed-Ex. Then I tried to order a different bottle of wine from another winery, and they wouldn't ship to Minnesota. There is so much confusion among wineries about which states allow such shipments and which do not, that you practically have to haggle on an individual basis.

Minnesota's alcohol laws are similarly bizarre. Minnesota allows you to purchase alcohol on Sundays - but only if you drive. Liquor stores are closed by law that day, so you have to go to a bar or restaurant. Can we say "unintended consequences"?

And I would love Minnesota to allow grocery stores to carry beer, wine, and liquor. This is the only state I've lived in where that was banned. We don't keep drugs confined to drug stores. The downside would be the hit certain local liquor merchants who only went into that line of business because of the current legal structure. Surdyk's would do just fine though.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Blog Flog?

Has Hugh Hewitt coined a new term, or am I discovering myself to be out of the loop yet again? “Blog flog”?

Anyway, I pre-ordered Hugh’s new book “Blog” from Amazon today. I had always intended to order once it came out. But on his show tonight Hugh got me spooked about the possibility that Amazon won’t stock enough and it will sell out leaving me with an unpredictably long delay.

Good marketing pitch? Of course. But I doubt he’s wrong. The major bloggers are giving some seriously good buzz to this book, and blog readers are… well readers. Also the book is not exactly priced like a leather-bound 26 volume set of encyclopedias. It’s priced to move, and all that requires such movement is attention and interest. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the kajillion bloggers and blog-readers whose attention has been called to this book are interested in the topic.

I never got around to blogging about Hugh’s last book, because I bought it so close to the election, and so much of the book was written in devotion to the specific pre-election period when he was writing it; which was a pity in a way. The majority information in the book is not tied to the 2004 election. There is juicy stuff in there about the nature of politics in early 21st century America which will hold true for a long time to come, as well as terrific political activist advice likely to be passed over in 2006 and 2008 as readers dismiss it as a tome meant only for 2004.

On the other hand the new book can’t help but become quickly dated. That’s the nature of the blogosphere itself.

Yet there are still specific elements which may prove more lasting, and I’m curious to see how Hugh deals with them. Take the technology out of it, and you’re still stuck with the same old human nature that intrigued Plato. Technology doesn’t change human nature; it merely enables aspects of it to become more or less powerful in relation to others. The technology innovation of blogs is free and universally available publishing ability, coupled with point to point communication. What does the nature of man suggest about the direction such technology points modern society?

If I knew what a “blog flog” was, I’d be able to tell you whether or not this constitutes one. Anyway, I’ll certainly give my thoughts about the book after it arrives.

Post-Holiday Blahs

The modern lack of specificity about specific holiday names has yet another draw-back. Are we post-holiday now? Between holidays? Still within the holiday season?

I don’t think rational explanations quite suffice in answering something like that. Holidays are more about a state of mind than a date on the calendar. I’m back in the office, with no plans to celebrate New Year’s Day beyond my typical weekend pastime of watching football. So the “holiday season” seems to have ended for me.

Now we enter one of my least favorite times of the year. The January – February stretch, which consists of inhospitable weather, short days, dirty cars, and no significant holiday to break things up. All we have to look forward to is March – which is wildly unpredictable, and therefore nothing to pin any hopes upon. It could be just more snow and ice. It could be a muddy mess. It could actually end with hints of spring, but one never counts on it.

Never helps that in the past few years I started noticing that I become quite affected by seasonal affective disorder around this time of year, and it doesn't begin to dissipate until the daylight really increases – late February at the earliest. It doesn’t leave me in a suicidal funk or anything. It just leaves me tired and unmotivated all the time, and no amount of sleep clears it up. Feh. I should perhaps embrace my inner crotchety-old-man and channel this toward some productive purpose; like yelling at the kids in the neighborhood for their joyous laughter disturbing my Weather Channel viewing, or trying to pass a city ordinance against Christmas lights being up past the first week in January.

Anyway, nothing terribly important to comment upon today. The tsunami was tragic, but you know that already (though it is curious that these days it’s reported using the Japanese “tsunami,” rather than the English “tidal wave, ” which means the same thing and is more widely understood among English speakers). I haven’t read Hugh’s new book yet, but since Instapundit already reviewed it you’re not starving for that info either. Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, is still missing, but since Will Collier has no info it isn’t so much an interesting story as an unchanging curiosity. Blogger-burnout most likely. Seems to have hit a lot post-election.

Oh, and one other thing. I’m dropping from the Blogs for Bush blogroll after inauguration day. This is not a political statement against the president. It’s based on a desire to get back a meaningful TTLB Ecosystem ranking. The two-hundred plus links from that blogroll don’t really count in a meaningful way as regular readers or linkers here. Bigger blogs, please don’t eat me when I drop down the food-chain, or I will give you SUCH indigestion…

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas at Our House

Well that was a blur.

Christmas with 3 kids under age 5 is fun, crazy, exasperating, and fast-as-heck. They've been overloaded with the experience, but are far from surrendering to sleep or anything close to it. Short story on the kids - lots of presents. Far more than they have even realized they have yet. Great interest in each others' presents, which has lead to many a fight today. But in general, they've been happy all day, and Christmas seems to have been a hit this year.

After a day of opening, assembling, and batteryfying kids toys, as well as playing an uncountable number of games with little duckies, Dora the Explorer, Hungry Hippos, and the like; dinner was mommy and daddy time. Tunes by a new "Christmas with the Rat Pack" CD Santa kindly provided. A huge herb rubbed prime-rib roast, with Klondike potatoes in herbed butter, and fresh asparagus.

The wine is one I almost regretted opening, because it deserved to age longer. But I have no proper cellar, so holding this thing for 2 1/2 years was about as long as I dared push it. It was a 1997 Niebaum-Coppola Cask Cabernet. A lovely wine, with an amazing nose. I'll not bother reviewing it here, because it really needs some more cellaring time to achieve its potential. But if you're holding some, you're going to be dazzled in around 5-8 years. It's d*mn fine now.

The most fun gift I got was from the wife, of course. Several weeks back I had mentioned seeing an add in National Review (the magazine, not the online site) about a company called "The Teaching Company," offering "The Great Courses" on DVD - college lectures by professors they selected on a myriad of subjects. I had mentioned an interest in one called "Rome and the Barbarians," and my wife enabled my geekitude by procuring it for me. Thirty-six thirty-minute lectures, and no papers to write or finals to sweat. Just the fun of learning about one of my favorite historical periods from a darn fine professor (by his credentials and my initial viewing anyway).

We also got Tivo, which is sure to be fun; though setting it up I hosed my VCR something fierce. Not the most enjoyable experience when you have a two year old clamoring to see the "Dora Magic Princess," DVD she got in her stocking this morning. Thankfully, she was distracted by other toys, but that won't last forever.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Crazy Bloggers and Beer

It’s getting so you can’t swing a dead cat around Keegan’s on a Thursday night without smacking a conservative blogger. And only about half of us deserve to be smacked that way, so I wouldn’t advise it.

Apparently we have all silently agreed to make Terry Keegan a rich man. He doesn’t seem to mind, stout publican that he is.

There were so many bloggers in attendance last night, I got to visit with only a fraction of them beyond a quick “hello.” Check out this list:

The Fraters
(of course): the Elder, Saint Paul, and Atomizer. They started this Thursday blogger stampede.

Our House: David, Margaret, and Margaret’s parents (who were kind enough to invite me to join them).

Jo’s Attic: Jo, Mark, Dr. Jonz, plus a whole bunch of their relatives. I missed meeting Dr. Jonz, who apparently ducked out early.

Craig Westover: Craig himself, plus his wife, daughter, and boyfriend (the daughter’s, not Craig’s)

People’s Republic of Minnesota: Noodles and Mrs. Noodles

Dayton v. Kennedy: Gary. Just Gary.

Nihilist in Golf Pants: the Nihilist

Centrisity: Flash, the Doctor, and another fellow I believe was named Michael. Flash is not a conservative blogger, but likes stalking us from time to time. I still owe him a beer, incidentally.

For all I know, there were more there as well, but the place was so packed (and loud) it was hard to tell.

And this was just a normal Thursday evening – though perhaps the holiday allowed more people to be available than otherwise. I sort of expected the opposite.

Makes me wonder just how crazy the place will be when we have the official Minnesota Blogger Gathering on January 22nd.

Anyway, nice to see you all. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to chat much with as many of you as I’d like.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Iraq Is a Real Fight? That Changes Everything!

Several years back, I did some training with a friend who had been into martial arts almost his entire life. He had a small group of students he trained in various things, from karate to swordplay. Unlike most of the martial arts schools around, he put a tremendous focus on actual sparring. Not point-sparring, mind you. This was the kind where you fought until one person surrendered (or became incapacitated).

Having grown up with parents who very much disapproved of violence, it was the first experience in my life with something like that. My prior experience with violence had come in very controlled forms; like playing football, wrestling in gym class, and a bit of foil-fencing. I quickly learned that the reality of fighting was nothing at all like what I had assumed.

Previously I had visions of great martial artists wading through lesser fighters, dishing out devastation and being left without a scratch. But I quickly discovered that real fighting hurts – often a lot. Even when you win, it’s sometimes just because you refuse to quit before the other guy.

I remember a discussion about this I had with my martial artist friend, and another friend also training with us who had been at it for years. When I mentioned my surprise that even when you gained the skills, fighting still hurts, they both burst out laughing. Of COURSE it hurts, they replied. How could anyone be so foolish as to think otherwise? The scariest fighters are the ones who want to hurt you so bad, they don’t mind how much they hurt themselves in the process.

This came to mind today reading commentary regarding Iraq. Apparently there is now a general consensus among some previously pro-war pundits that the post-war situation has gone horribly, and Iraq is now a bungled hell-hole, as evidenced by the continuing casualties.

From William Saffire:

“I now admit to having expected the war in Iraq to be won in a matter of months, not years. Saddam's plan to disperse his forces and conduct a murderous insurgency, abetted by his terrorist allies, was a surprise.”

Joe Gandleman responds

“Fair enough. And as someone who has supported the war, The Moderate Voice would say the same thing.”

I see these comments from two very intelligent men (that’s not sarcasm, they truly are), and I have to shake my head. Just like I expected fighting to be “clean and neat” once I learned it properly, these folks seem to think war is much the same. If you plan it right, it’s a clean and orderly affair, and you’re finished in short order.

My reaction? Of COURSE war hurts! I’m just as baffled (but not nearly as amused) as my friends were when they heard my naïve preconceptions about fighting. You mean to tell me there really were people who thought that once Saddam was caught, everything would be just rosy? That’s probably an unfair way to state it. But this is not: Were there really that many people who expected something far better this soon after the collapse of the Saddam regime than we see today?

It’s not the talk about the failings of post-war planning, or the second-guessing about troop-levels, or the concern about pre-war intelligence that really bothers me. Kvetching about the conduct of a war is a time-honored tradition – usually practiced to perfection among the troops themselves. What galls me is the entirely out-of-proportion significance these things are given; the “enemy made a successful attack, so fire Rumsfeld and find out who lied to us” perspective.

Maybe this is an inevitable result of people starting to realize that the “War on Terror,” was not a euphemism like “War on Poverty,” or “War on Drugs.”

Iraq - a single theater of the larger war - was invaded to take Saddam out. Saddam had to be taken out because he had a history of sponsoring terror, hostility to the U. S., and the potential to provide terrorists devastating weapons. None of those reasons have been invalidated by anything discovered post-war.

It's time for many folks to wake up to the realization that war is painful. The pain we're feeling in Iraq ought to have been expected. The real question is whether Americans have the fortitude to see our way through that pain to victory. If we don't, the best plans and equipment in the world won't be enough to win real wars of any kind.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mark Steyn asks…

On the Hugh Hewitt show today, the incomparable Mark Steyn rhetorically asked if he lived in Minnesota why he would bother subscribing to a local paper, when local blogs, like Time Magazine “Blog of the Year” Powerline, deliver insight which is more original and insightful, and also free.

Pretty good question. The only answers I could come up with were Lileks, and Westover. I’m told the coupons in the Sunday edition are an attractive reason as well (though I’ve been practicing the Fraters Libertas endorsed “Starve the Beast” campaign for years now, so I wouldn’t know).

Anyone have more?

New-School Bests Old-School

What a fun day in the blogosphere. Like many of you I’m sure, my day began by reading James Lileks out-mock the actually quite witty (if rather insular and lefty) James Wolcott. I found the exchange an excellent illustration of an interesting new phenomenon.

Wolcott is a known wit, as well as an insider among the circles of people who “matter” in New Yaaawk City. Back in the day, these people got to decide what was important to a staggering degree among America’s educated class. Back then, a mere columnist for a Midwestern newspaper being mocked by a wit like Wolcott would have been devastating.

Today, Lileks reads it, and responds the very next day, undoubtedly reaching an audience that dwarfs Wolcott’s in size – and perhaps more importantly in influence as well. It doesn’t matter whom you think had the better of the exchange (though if you don’t realize it was Lileks, you’re delusional). The interesting point is how easily a jest from a circle that used to be so important is swatted aside by an “unconnected” columnist from an insignificant paper in the middle of a land New Yaaawkers can’t find (or at least wouldn’t care to find) on a map.

In its own small way, this illustrates the utter bewilderment of the left after the last election. This was a crowd convinced they had everyone who mattered united against Bush. Therefore, Bush’s win represented more than political failure. It represented that their own intellectual sovereignty is fading in ways they simply cannot comprehend. Their overwrought reactions about the death of civilization itself in the wake of the election are understandable when you realize they cannot comprehend the nation’s intellectual life in any sense which does not place people like themselves at the pinnacle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

More on Public Education

One of our favorite lefty bloggers - Flash, from Centrisity, who also happens to be an educator in the Saint Paul Public School system - responds to the recent flap between the bufoonish columnist for the Star Tribune, and the local conservative blogosphere, lead by Saint Paul Pioneer Press Columnist Craig Westover.

Flash is someone I never tune out on these matters. He actually works within the Saint Paul Public School system, believes in it, and offers insights you'll not find from outsiders.

Therefore, while he hasn't changed my mind on the issue, I consider it valuable to take the time to read his view on the recent Maxwell School matter, as well as Craig Westover's response to him.

And Now a Brief Wine Review

I wasn't going to review this wine. It's just a readily available selection I picked up as an "everyday" wine to go with tonight's dinner (Spinach Pie, thanks for asking).

But I've had some harsh words for California wine producers recently, so I thought I'd mention a mass-market wine from a California winery that is doing good things.

Rancho Zabaco gained a well deserved reputation as a terrific value for Zinfandel with it's "Dancing Bull," label. They have expanded that label into another varietal, which I have in front of me at the moment: Rancho Zabaco, Dancing Bull, Sauvignon Blanc 2003.

The reason this is worth mentioning? Two reasons actually.

The first is the absence of oak. All the harsh words I have to say about abusive over-use of oak in California Chardonnay goes double for California Sauvignon Blanc (sometimes called "Fume Blanc"). At least Chardonnay has the excuse that French White Burgandy, and certain elite Napa Valley labels pair oak with Chardonnay to make truly sublime wine (though the vast majority of lower-end imitators are plonk). Sauvignon Blanc's greatest expressions are the racy Loire Valley expressions from Sancerre, or Pouilly-Fume; and the exoticly flavored New Zealand bottlings from the Marlborough region - neither of which spend a moment in oak barrels. While I have had a couple of worthwhile oaked California Sauvignon Blancs - Caymus comes to mind as a winery which makes a worthwhile wine that way - the vast majority simply ruin this grape with their generous dollops of oak.

This particular bottling is oakless, and as a result you can actually taste the flavors Sauvignon Blanc grapes bring which oak mostly masks.

The second reason is that this is truly a value wine worth noting. It's around ten or eleven dollars, and is quite tasty. Difficult to find that in a similarly priced California Sauvignon-Blanc, with or without oak contamination. It has a nicely tropical/chili pepper nose, reminiscent of a New Zealand Marlborough. On the palate it also seems rather Kiwi-like, though with a much softer finish than is typical of those, and not nearly as herbal. It has a nice acidity that cuts across the palate.

With all the praise, I should note that this isn't really a special-occasion wine. But considering price and availability? This one is well worth noticing. Also a great wine to pick to gain an appreciation of this varietal if all you've had previously was full of "toasty oak" and "vanilla" flavors.

More Thoughts on Blogs and the MSM

Joe Gandleman linked to an interesting story about a blog-community and newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina. Is it a sign of things to come? Or an eventually fruitless experiment? I certainly don’t know. But Joe says Jay Rosen's PressThink is the hub for the story, so that’s a good place to dive in deep.

Personally, I really enjoyed Gandleman’s own roundup of different perspectives on the issue, where discussion seems to be developing around all sorts of interesting things: the nature of blogging itself; the economic potential of it; the nature of blogging communities; and how all of this might change an old media source that is truly willing to embrace it.

The perspective I most related to was from a blog called Southern Rants:

“Blogging isn't an industry; rather, it's a pastime. It's a way of sharing, meeting new folks, enjoying online chat in a controlled setting. I can read what you have to say without paying you a nickel or responding. I respond to get more links back to my blog (for which I still haven't made any money). If there's a magic way of creating income streams for blogs, then they will develop over time and with solid entrepreneurial risk-taking. If the newspaper scraped my blog, then I'd feel honored. But money? Heck, newspapers don't pay real money. I should know, my son's in the field”

Not all that far from the perspective I offered a few days ago.

It does mark one of the peculiarities between bloggers and traditional media types when they interact though. The vast majority of bloggers write with no expectation of financial reward. Traditional journalists see that same activity as their primary source of income. Friction is guaranteed whenever the two try to come together at this point.

Is the average newspaper journalist a superior writer to the average blogger? Yes. No question. And on that basis many professional journalists like to dismiss the blogosphere in general.

But that dismissal doesn’t really doesn’t work when you factor in the high-end of the blogosphere, like Powerline or Captain’s Quarters (or Joe Gandleman for that matter), and this is where things are sure to get interesting.

The other interesting element is that blogs haven’t just created a new kind of writer. They’ve created a new kind of reader – one who often expects a more interactive relationship, and one with loyalty to an individual writer which doesn’t necessarily translate into any additional loyalty to a larger media entity.

This has often underappreciated ramifications. For example, many months ago I started getting my morning editorials - the mainstream media kind - largely via Real Clear Politics. Why rely on the editors of a local paper – like the Star Tribune, or even a national paper, like the New York Times? Real Clear Politics can perform the editorial function of selecting which columnists I might care to read just as well – and it costs me nothing to direct my browser that way rather than another.

No necessary summarizing point here, other than the observation that the economic model behind the traditional media is falling apart, and the blogosphere is blazing ahead without concern for replacing it. Experimentation in the midst of this is crucial, yet much of it will surely fail. It certainly is an interesting time to be a (very tiny) part of it though.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Thoughts on Social Security Reform

A couple of weeks before the election, I came across an interesting perspective regarding Social Security I meant to comment on. But in the flurry of campaign activity at the time I never got around to it.

With Social Security reform back in the news lately, this seems a more opportune time to comment.

The perspective that caught my attention was from a Freeper known as “Nick Danger,” who intrigued me by approaching the Social Security problem from an intentionally non-fiscal angle:

“The key to understanding the Social Security problem is to forget about 'money.' The problem has nothing to do with money, or what they did with it, or where it went.

Think instead about 'stuff.' Stuff is what gets purchased with money. You can live in stuff, you can eat stuff, and you can wear stuff. Note that you cannot eat, wear, or live in money.

By definition, 'stuff' is made by that fraction of the population that is working. In a nice pleasant world, the working generation produces enough 'stuff' for itself, for its children, and for its aged dependents.

Historically, the generation of 'aged dependents' was (a) smaller than the working generation, and (b) not long for this world. This is what historically allowed working generations to support the aged without starving their children or themselves.

This scheme breaks down in the presence of three things that are going on now. One, the working generation is not that much bigger than the one that's about to retire. Second, the ones about to retire are going to live longer than ever before. And third, science is creating ever-more exotic and expensive medical treatments that can prolong the lives of the aged into ranges that humans have never seen before... but only at great expense.

The aged therefore represent a demand for 'stuff' that is higher than any such demand in the past. This demand for stuff can only be satisfied by those working to produce stuff, i.e. the generation that also has young dependents to worry about as well.

No matter how much 'money' the aged might have socked away, the quantity of 'stuff' is still limited by the size of the stuff-producing generation. So forget about the money. It wouldn't matter if the government had put it all in gold bullion and kept it at Fort Knox. Beyond a certain point, the existence of more 'money' held in safekeeping from the past cannot produce more 'stuff' in the present. All it does is bid the price of "stuff" up to the market-clearing price.

All talk about 'saving Social Security' with money tricks is BS. There are only two solutions to the real problem. One is euthanasia for the aged, and the second is to insert new adults into the working population from outside the system.

In Washington, they know this. They just can't say it out loud. So what they do instead is smile and say they are securing the borders, while allowing working adults from outside the system to get in here and get to work as fast as they can, because making the working generation bigger than the one we raised here is the only way out, other than euthanasia — which is ugly — or beggaring children to maintain the old — which is even uglier.

What's really gonna happen is that fewer 'aged' are going to retire. There will be tremendous peer pressure on older people to work until they drop, because the minute they go on Social Security they add to the load on the people who are also trying to raise the society's children. I think there will also be some suicides, and it might come to be seen as an honorable thing to do.

What we can't have is another generation like 'the greatest' that keeps voting itself more and more bennies at the expense of the people raising the kids.”

Approaching the issue in this way draws our attention to a couple of other burning issues. One of them is euthanasia, which Hugh Hewitt admirably called attention to using the case of the insidious Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands as a warning sign. This is significant because it will become more and more seductive the further our society becomes beggared by the cost of supporting retirees.

The other issue raised is immigration; the reform of which is the new third rail of American politics now that Social Security has surrendered that status. The reason the latest generations of immigrants represent a potential threat, rather than a demographic cure can be summed up in a single hyphenated word: multi-culturalism. Assimilation of immigrants built America. Multi-culturalism has built nothing but self-congratulatory smugness among a narrow intellectual elite. This needs to be confronted - and soon.

As Mr. Danger has noted in subsequent posts, we're confronted with a stark choice - euthenasia or immigration. I'll take immigration every time when that's the choice.

Another side-issue that comes into play is something I’m almost reluctant to bring up, but feel it necessary. Americans aren’t having enough babies. A combination of self-indulgence, Malthusian pessimism, and a Peter Pan-like cult of youth has lead to a generation of adults who all too often never find themselves quite "ready" to have kids.

The problem with discussing this topic is that there are always valid justifications for such a thing on an individual basis. But when your society’s birth rate starts to dip below the rate of replacement, something in your culture has become sick. It isn’t normal, and it certainly isn’t healthy for societies to commit suicide that way.

America is certainly not the sickest in this regard. Most of Europe is so far down this path there may be no way to avoid demographic disaster for them in the near future.

The challenge for anyone who wants to reverse this trend is to accept the fact that politics is not to blame, nor is there any sufficient political solution. This is a social and cultural matter - something that will be won or lost in the hearts of our countrymen, rather than at the ballot box.

But I do think there is cause for hope.

It wasn’t until I became a father that I understood how incomplete my understanding of being “pro-life” had been. It wasn’t until then that I looked at the future and saw myself – in the sense that I pictured my own children – having a REAL stake in it. How many others of my generation are having similar experiences I cannot say, but it's the kind of thing one cannot help but believe others share.

Too many of us have become comfortable with a society looking forward to a cushy and comfortable retirement. And while that is an understandably happy desire, it is not worth the price of killing the prospects of future generations. Short-sighted leaders have sent us over that edge. Time for those of us who care to pull society back.

'Twas The Monday Before Christmas

After weeks of Minnesotans wishing for a white Christmas, this morning mother nature answered those wishes with the closest precipitation can come to spitting us in the eye - freezing rain. This offers none of the seasonal beauty or nostalgia of snow, and more than doubles the inconvenience.

I had a similar experience to Steve's this morning, in which my 10 mile commute which normally takes about 15 minutes, turned into a 90 minute bumper-to-bumper exhaust-scented crawl.

This always makes for a lovely mood in the office on a Monday. Doesn't help that the office where I'm currently consulting is one of the crankiest and unfriendliest I've been to in some time. In addition to my smiles and "good mornings" offered to passers by being returned by scowls around fifty percent of the time, their version of holiday cheer is to bring in the standard holiday treats - typically Christmas themed candy and baked goods, homemade as well as store bought - and post angry bills about how they are NOT FOR EVERYONE, but only for their special holiday club. Please see the author of said angry-worded public screeds if you'd like to join the "club." Conjures up images of a body cavity search for the purloined crumbs of illicitly enjoyed holiday snacks as a background check. Think I'll pass.

Additionally, I have very little opportunity for extra vacation in this Christmas season. In fact, at work I am totally swamped. Very little opportunity to catch the Christmas spirit this year, as there are annual bonuses to be had by people other than myself depending on the fruits of my labor.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Can't See The Beam In His Own Eye

Local columnist, Nick Coleman is up to his old tricks again. Today's column is another classic example of Nickiosity. Saint Nick (don't get too excited kids - not THAT Saint Nick) is once again bravely standing against a tide of evil Republicanism threatening to ban education for poor minorities. He's a lonely visionary, and everyone else is part of the problem.

But today he takes special - some might even say desperately defensive - notice of rival columnist (and excellent blogger) Craig Westover.

He's right to feel defensive. Westover writes better, and is actually able to state his case rationally, rather than resorting to embarrassing hyperbole about the opponents of his position, such as:

"...pirates who want to plunder education funds and use the money for schools that will teach young men how to tie a proper bow tie."

Argh, Matey! It's not even "Talk Like a Pirate Day," and already I'm in the mood.

The bow-tie reference kind of baffles me though. Neither George Will nor Tucker Carlson are terribly relevant to this discussion. Pining for former Illinois Senator Paul Simon perhaps? No matter. I'll look past it as I adjust my eye-patch.

Obviously most people will focus on Coleman's continuing attempt to portray his previous columns about the Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul as something other than the misleading hucksterism they actually were. I'll leave the straightening of that issue to people like Craig Westover, Swiftee, and Coleman-mocker supreme, Saint Paul of Fraters Libertas; all of whom are far better equipped than I to comment on the specifics of Nick's educational bufoonery.

However, this being Sunday, I'd like to focus on our holier-than-thou columnist's subtle reference to the Holy Gospel. Though I may disagree with Nick on matters of education (therefore, I be a pirate, me hearties!) , I surely cannot disagree with the real-life parable Nick was kind enough to offer as perhaps a kind of olive branch to his (swashbuckling) opponents.

Open your Bibles to Luke, Chapter six. The Reverend Coleman is about to offer us a real life parable based on verses 41 and 42:

From the KJV:


And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

Nick's illustration of the importance of this lesson comes in an unexpected form. One could easily miss it, if not for the realization that Nick is a deeply religious man.

Here is the lesson for the day, fellow sinners:

"I will say, however, that [Craig Westover's] blog on the Internet shows a picture of an ancient mariner in yellow slickers, standing at the helm of a storm-tossed yacht. He looks like the guy on a box of frozen fish sticks.

After distorting the Maxfield story, Captain Fishsticks was reproved in print by Maxfield Principal Zelma Wiley. Since then, Fishsticks has gone back to his boat and confined his tirades to the first refuge of scoundrels, his personal Internet blog, where he is toasted by other rum-swigging hearties daily."

(Get the obligatory "Arrgh, Matey!" out of your system. We're studying the Bible here!)

The point I would like to make is the extraordinary example of humility Rev. Coleman offers by intructing us to pay attention to the pictures of the columnists, rather than what they have to say. Surely Mr. Coleman means for us to examine his own picture (i.e. the beam in his own eye) ....

... and notice that he resembles an especially smug mime who has not quite succeeded in removing his makeup.

If on the basis of a pretty cool picture of Westover steering a tiny craft in a storm on Lake Superior Coleman sees fit to mock him as "Captain Fishsticks," he is clearly inviting others to
come up with some suitable nickname for himself. Fi-fi le Mime perhaps. Or Jean-Clod. These are just off the top of my head, but surely the blogosphere can satisfy Rev. Coleman's desire for humility in this case.


Fraters Libertas contributor Saint Paul has indeed commented in the latest Coleman missive.


Noodles also enjoyed Nick getting piratey. And Jo believes Nick looks more like "Mrs. Doubtfire" than a mime. Tough call.


Captain Fishsticks himself weighs in (Yes, Craig. Coleman is a doofus, but that name is going to stick)!!

As does Swiftee, who deserves some sort of lieutenant position over hush-puppies or something.

Twin City Theater Doldrums

Interesting article about a financial downturn in the Twin City theater in the Star Tribune: Every which way: Is there too much theater in the Twin Cities?

The main thrust is speculation about why there was such a downturn in theater attendance this year:

“…Theaters across the Twin Cities area report marked drops in attendance this year, especially in the fall. Select performances at the Jungle and Old Arizona theaters, for example, drew as few as a dozen patrons each -- a terrifying sight not just for theater managers, who must dig deep to make up the lost income, but also for actors, who would rather play to people than to chairs.

Such developments potentially affect the Twin Cities area's vaunted reputation nationally as a big theater town. The effect might also be felt in the state economy, which has nearly 10 percent of its work force in the nonprofit sector, including a significant number in the performing arts.”

Some conservatives like to adopt a triumphalist attitude about such things. Theater communities tends to lean politically to the far left side of the scale, and the Twin City theater community is no exception.

But I think such reactions are seriously off the mark. Very little politics goes into the vast majority of performances. Most production companies are simply dedicated to putting on good shows, and in this town they do a pretty good job of it. There is content to satisfy almost any taste – from big production Broadway musicals, to small-house avant-garde original productions.

Speaking anecdotally, the main reason I rarely get out to the theater anymore is simply the time. A nice night of theater to me includes dinner and time for conversation as well as taking in the show. With three little ones who have bed times right in the middle of the average show time, it’s very rare that we’re able to arrange it. But on almost every occasion when we have, the shows have been well worth the ticket price.

Personally, I think the theater scene in the Twin Cities will remain vibrant. If it’s a little over-saturated now, it won’t have to shrink very far to find the right balance. We have a very strong amateur to semi-professional theatre community who will continue to put on plays, even if they only manage to break even.

I’d encourage anyone who perhaps hasn’t been to the theater in a while to check it out. With good theater companies scrambling for an audience, there are probably a lot of really good deals available. Instead of hitting a movie sometime, why not try a play instead?

Winter Arrives

This morning reached the level we call "cold" in these parts. It's currently eight below zero. Farenheit of course. That translates to something like 74 euros on the metric system.

I never count wind-chill for cold incidentally. Wind chill doesn't make machinery stop working the way real air temperature can. Answer to wind chill - get out of the wind. Answer to real cold - move to Arizona.

It's actually not true that Minnesotans are terribly brave about the weather, despite what they say to people from milder climates. I'm a transplant to this state and one of the only people I know who doesn't whine about the cold from late September through mid-May. How people who live under an annual covering of ice and snow came to expect weather like they get in Scottsdale, Arizona is one of the big mysteries about Minnesotan culture I've never quite grasped.

Granted, this may be more of a Twin-City thing, than Minnesota at large. Around this time last year I spent some time working in Saint Cloud, and despite temps in the twenty to thirty below range, all they could talk about was how they hoped for more snow, because it wasn't deep enough for really good snowmobiling yet.

And, of course, the ice fishermen have been praying for a little frozen blast like this. We may have a brown Christmas this year, but by God we'll have the ability to sit around little holes in the ice, drinking and asserting our place at the top of our lakes' food chain. That has to count for something.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Minnesota Blogger Gathering Announced

I don’t know why I have to be the one to break this news to the blogosphere. I looked for an original link closer to the source. But certain bloggers seem to think announcing something on a freakin’ radio show absolves them of the need to post it to their blogs as well. Kvetching officially over. On to the news.

The second official Minnesota Organization of Bloggers gathering (i.e. MOBsters) will be hosted at Keegan’s Irish Pub on January 22nd, from 5pm - 9pm. Mark your calendars.

Rumor has it Wisconsin bloggers will not be turned away either, but you might want to call Keegan’s ahead of time to make sure.

We're getting a sitter so the wife can finally meet some of the strange people I spend so much of my free time reading, responding to, and/or drinking with. I’m looking forward to meeting bloggers beyond the Thursday night trivia crowd (And no, that’s not a slight to the Thursday night folks. I expect them to attend as well. Points will be deducted for any unexcused absence.).

I missed the last one, so I’m really looking forward to this. Hope to see lots of you there. Thanks to the NARN folks (lazy to post though they may be) and Terry Keegan for setting this up.


Just to clarify, the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers is not some official group. It includes anyone who lives in Minnesota and has a blog. Or reads blogs. Or enjoys hanging out with bloggers at a really fun pub.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Blogs And Money

I noticed that Instapundit linked to an interesting piece over at ABC News by Michael Malone about blogs and bloggers. It really is a good article and worth reading, though like Glen I choked when I came to this line:

“You see, the real problem of the blogosphere is not its content, but its structure. That is, it has yet to develop a viable business model. It is essentially a vast global movement of volunteers, most of whom are hoping for some kind of eventual payoff for their noble labors.”

Huh? Am I so far out of the blogging mainstream that I forgot I’m supposed to be motivated by profit? I do it because I enjoy it. I think of money somehow coming my way because of it about the same way I think of discovering an unknown distant relative who died and left me a billion dollars. Which is to say it would be cool, but it doesn’t rise to the level of likelihood that I find it motivating.

Malone seems to have both benefited and been undercut by his deep Silicon Valley exposure. It offers him keen insight into those who truly do pursue blogging for profit (and some do, I just don’t think it’s a very large percentage). Silicon Valley in the 90's was nothing but techies thinking about profiting some way by taking advantage of the latest technology. And that’s the reason his article is worth reading. Confining his point to only those kind of blogs, he’s right on target – with the current analysis anyway. His speculation about where things will end up, I’d take with a large grain of salt.

But like so many media commentators on the blogosphere, he confuses the medium with those who use it. Coming from a Big Journalism background, he looks to the blogosphere and sees only blogs devoted to conventional journalism. In light of the last election, why not? They were hugely significant. But they were also just a tiny sliver of those now over five million blogs Technorati claims now exist.

I think a far more coherent picture of the nature of the blogosphere has been described by Hugh Hewitt with the phrase “circle of influence.” Blogs strive for this – not all for the same reason or in the same way of course. Some approach it the same way a J-school grad might. Others like a grassroots campaign organizer. But most are just people who have something to say, and would like to share it with like minded people.

As I read this article, I couldn’t help thinking of our blogger gatherings at Keegan’s. This strikes a lot closer to home when it comes to why I like blogging. Why do bloggers who read each others blogs like getting together in places like that? To talk about the technical ins and outs of doing a blog? Not as far as I've seen. I've seen that it's simply fun socializing with people you have a lot in common with. Outside of blogging itself, bloggers find lots of things in common with one another; from politics, to religion, to sports, to almost any other hobby you can name.

Hey, if any of you want to shower money my way so I can do nothing but blog for a living, please feel free. But don't let the fact that I haven't developed a "viable business model" for my blog keep you up at night worrying about my impending ruin.

A Queer Study of Abe

On my way into the office in the morning, and again on the way home this evening, two different radio hosts were commenting on the New York Times piece on the upcoming book attempting to “out” Abe Lincoln as a homosexual. This was of course followed by the inevitable cop-out where the host says he doesn’t really care one way or the other. Of course he cares. Otherwise, why bring it up?

And they care for good reason. If true (and for the record, to me it screams “agenda-driven publicity stunt” more than “serious scholarship”), what does it say about the history of homosexuality in America?

Not to rain on this latest gay-parade, but if true one thing it seems to suggest is that closeted homosexuals - the kind who married women, fathered, and raised kids - were able to attain the highest offices in the land. They were not resigned to the ghettos of public life. All that was required was public discretion about the nature of their peculiar sexual interest. The same discretion that was required of any others with unusual sexual proclivities.

I’ll not hold my breath waiting for Andrew Sullivan to revise his calls for publicly recognized gay marriage as a result.

And indeed he shouldn’t, because this story will not hold up to scholarly review any better than Michael Bellesiles once celebrated and now discredited book claiming that personal ownership of guns was rare in early American history. Just like that other “controversial” book which boastedabout shattering long-held beliefs, this fits just a wee bit too conveniently into the modern-leftist preference more than the likely historical reality.

But I have to admit, this is fodder for some good jokes. Like the title of Joe Gandleman’s post on this topic “So He Went To The Theater To See A MUSICAL...

That’s worth a “Heh,” or two.

A Much Needed Weekend

Scary-crazy work day over? Check!

Blogger service responding? Check!

Refreshing adult beverage at hand? Check!

Right-wing radio host about to tell me what to think? Check!

Time to blog.

Weird week. I try not to talk too much about work here. Suffice it to say, yikes! Peaks and valleys of activity, with urgent deadlines arriving all over the place seemingly at random. Could be worse. No layoffs looming on the horizon at least. Been there. Makes this stuff much more bearable, thank you very much.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Musical Interlude

And now a brief musical interlude, as R-Five comes Christmas Caroling:

(sung to a well known Beach Boys tune)

Well way downtown where the libs all head
There’s a paper printed there that you all have read.
And a real famous scribe who deems himself chic.
And he tells us what to think at least three times a week.

It’s our little Saint Nick (Little Saint Nick)
He’s our little Saint Nick (Little Saint Nick)


(Read ... no... Sing the rest over at Speed Gibson).

For more from the R-Five songbook, be sure to check out his additional verse for the Oompa-Loompa song in the comments of this post.

These Evil Suburbs

What is it about a suburb that drives certain city-dwelling personalities to distraction?

Mitch, at Shot in the Dark, responded to a particularly unhinged example today (And did an excellent job I might add. For a city-dweller anyway).

Let’s be clear what we mean by “city,” here. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are fine cities. Nice neighborhoods. Plenty of trees. Accessible and interesting downtown areas. However, the idea of “urban living” in Minneapolis would sound positively agrarian to a life-long Manhattan resident. To me this is a good thing. One of the reasons I like living here is that we have very little acrage devoted to the gray desolation one finds in cities such as New York City, Chicago, or L. A.

There really isn’t a sharp dividing line where city ends and suburb begins here. I happen to know, because I live in exotic Fridley – a suburb Minneapolitans frequently speak about like it’s half way to Duluth, but in actuality my house is about 61 blocks from downtown. Travel from my house down University Avenue, and you’ll pass through Columbia Heights and Nordeast Minneapolis. Without the signs telling you where one ended and the other began, you’d not be able to tell. The houses slowly begin to be spaced closer together, and yards become a bit smaller. Travel the other way and things get more spread out. “Exurban,” in trendy parleance I suppose. A rather convenient situation in which one can find accomodation in a population density most suiting one’s preference.

Of course, population density is only one factor. People choose where to live not in some city versus suburb dichotomy. That would be absurd. They factor in all sorts of things - convenience, aesthetics, crime, schools, taxes, cost of living to name only a few. It’s the same equation you’d put in when choosing which neighborhood to live in within city limits.

I know I have seen a couple of places in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul where I wouldn’t mind living. But considering my current job, and the age of my kids, they’d be decidedly inferior to where I live now (to say nothing of the property tax comparison). Why this decision drives some people into sputtering rage baffles me. But I’m pretty sure it bespeaks some rather unsavory characteristics on the part of the ragers far more than it says anything about “suburbanites.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Football Update

Not that anyone I know in this neck of the woods cares, but former Nebraska football coach Frank Solich appears to have become the head football coach at Ohio University.

As a lifelong Nebraska football fan, I can only wish Coach Solich all the best. He brings class and an old-time sense of sportsmanship wherever he goes.

Ohio instantly becomes my favorite MAC team. And one of my favorites in all of college football. .

You're Remaking What?!

Drew, at Darn Floor, points us to a newly released trailer for a movie I really don't want to see remade: Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Like Drew, I also believe that Johnnie Depp is a terrific actor. Moonbat weirdo in real life, but one of the few actors today who draws me to films just because he's in them.

I'm not all that big a Tim Burton fan though. He's hit or miss with me. Loved his "Nightmare Before Christmas". "Beetlejuice" was alright. Didn't care for his "Batman" much. His other films blend into the realm where I'd have to look them up before I remembered he'd made them.

Mind you, I get Tim Burton's style, and have no doubt why he wanted to remake this film. It's quirky, and offbeat, and slightly dark.

But let's set aside the book for a moment, and talk about the original movie, since that's what every movie goer targetted by this remake will remember. The element in that original movie that made it truly special was Gene Wilder. He brought a madness, silliness, and warmth to the Willie Wonka role that will never be repeated, no matter how many remakes are attempted.

And this is surely why Johhny Depp wanted the role. He's undoubtedly decided that he will take the role some other direction entirely. He lives for that kind of thing. He loves acting challenges.

But I don't really want that role taken another direction. I don't want something so wonderful cast into the era of film today - with endless sequels until the marketing finally wears out. And, God help us, a generation of children are about to be scarred by the McDonald's or Burger King license fills them with dozens of Willie Wonka action figures, and plastic cups, and card games - all in the image of Johnny Depp.

I'm not a big boycott guy. And I'm certainly not calling for one here. But when I want to show my kids Willie Wonka - because their Happy Meals have caught their interest - it's the Gene Wilder version they'll be seeing.

Thoughts on the Holiday Season

The boy has been very excited about the holiday season this year. And no, in this case "holiday" is not a euphemism for Christmas.

He is most excited about Christmas of course. Santa Claus, presents, decorating the tree, lights, candy - it's about as good as a holiday can possibly get when you're 4 1/2.

But he has also decided that he wants to get in on the other action as well. He has been dutifully counting off the days of Hannukah for us this year. And today insisted that he make the Jewish teacher at his Pre-K school a Hannukah card and give her a present. Fine. Good. No problem. Shows thoughtfulness and the spirit of giving and all the rest. Plus I have no beef with Hannukah.

There is however the matter of Kwanza that he will simply not drop no matter how many times we try to gently explain that we do not celebrate Kwanza in our family, and we don't know anyone else who does either.

May I offer my most sarcastic and insincere thanks to the multi-cultural moonbats who decided to elevate a separationist made-up holiday to the equvalent of the real and ancient holidays that share a roughly equivalent place on the calendar. And even more sarcastic thanks to the Minnesota educators who decided to instill this notion in the minds of Minnesota's children.

Kwanza just pisses me off. It was invented by a truly nasty man, who wanted to instill Marxism and separatism among African Americans under the guise of fake African symbolism.

The proper greeting to someone celebrating that particular holiday is not "Happy Kwanza." It's "You need help."

No matter how cutely he pleads, we will not be celebrating Kwanza this year. As a compromise, he is allowed to eat corn on the cob at that time - which supposedly has some kind of Kwanza significance. And beforehand we'll say a nice Christmas blessing. And maybe I'll put in some Nat King Cole Christmas tunes to demonstrate how the African Americans I know choose to celebrate this holiday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Spirit of Giving

First things first...

We're down to the last two days (well... last one if you're reading this tomorrow) of the Spirit of America Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge. I am happy to report that the Northern Alliance team is doing well. But I am unhappy to report that our numbers are not keeping pace with earlier projections. Hopes to provide a new Ford Explorer for every Iraqi family have turned sharply in the used AMC Concord direction. Is that the impression we want to leave the Iraqi people?!

What are you folks spending money on, rather than donating to Spirit of America?! It's like there is some other money-sucking event just around the corner causing people to turn their cash toward purposes other than this contest.

People, in case you haven't noticed your neighbors think this contest is so important they're decorating their houses with lights capturing the colors or the Iraqi flag! Pardon their confusion if they toss in an extra color or two - vexillology has never been a particular strength for America's education system - just admire their enthusiasm!

But before you run down to the Home Depot for your own strands of Sprit of America Iraqi Freedom lights, why not toss a few of those dollars in the jar here instead? It will save you the hassle of messing with electrical devices on ladders in sub-freezing temps, AND assist a good cause. It's even tax deductable (unlike some other holiday donations).

Click the flag below, and get into the spirit of the season.

Bear of a Day

Sorry for the late posting. It's been a bear of a day. Still catching up here.

In the meantime, let me just plug the indefatigable Jim Styczinski's Nick Coleman impression over at Fraters Libertas. I started my own last night, but Jim buried the freakin' needle and left the competition (including me) in his dust.

Star Tribune: Jim has proven you can get an authentic Nick Coleman column without the necessity of paying Nick Coleman's posh salary, or tolerating his aristocratic demeanor around the office. Something to think about.

Back later tonight.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Minnesota's Rogue Elector

Captain's Quarters is reporting a very weird development in the normally uneventful and ceremonial casting of Minnesota's electoral ballots. Apparently, one of the Democratic electors - by accident or design - cast a vote for John Edwards, rather than John Kerry.

This immediately brought to mind that the mother of one of our favorite local lefty bloggers - Flash from Centrisity - was one of the electors this year. So I popped over to Centrisity to see what Flash has to say about it.

He was actually in attendance for the event. In his words:

"The news hounds on site immediately went to the Elector table and polled the votees to interview the hold out, but no one came forward. As discussion continued, it appeared that there was one person who may have thought at the time that they were casting the Vice Presidential ballot first. Either way, the vote count was certified, and the 9 - 1 count will be forwarded to Washington, DC.

The ceremony was very dignified and honorable. I was proud to be there to witness my mother be a part of history, and to have her name and signature stored in the National Archives. I will post a couple photos when I get home later"
Is it possible Flash's mom was too sensitive about her son's feelings to admit her deep contempt for John Kerry? Since it was a private ballot, did she feel free to cast her protest vote leaving Flash none the wiser?

On a more serious note (no, I don't really believe Flash's mom was the defector), Flash noted something kind of curious shortly before the election:

"...I want to share a brief E-Mail exchange I had with my Mom last night.

She received a phone call from an AP reporter, checking for voter' 'loyalty. It seemed strange to me, at first, that they would be calling a lifelong DFLer like my Mother, but then I found out why. She is a 2004 Kerry Elector, one of 10 in the state of Minnesota. The reporter was checking to see if there was any movement possible within the slate of electors currently assigned to each party."

Perhaps nothing unusual here. But wouldn't it be interesting to discover the name of that reporter and find out if this was merely a routine call in all the battleground states, or whether it was based on information he'd received about a Minnesota Democratic Elector not wanting to vote for Kerry?

Media Bias, Blogs, and Minnesota 2006

John Fund wrote an interesting article on blogs, media bias, and elections at Opinion Journal this morning. It calls attention to South Dakota’s 2004 Daschle vs. Thune Senate race, noting the clash between South Dakota bloggers, and the impact they made on the traditional media establishment. It also notes a parallel situation in Minnesota, which is likely to receive similar blogger attention in the upcoming 2006 Senate election (he even plugs Gary’s Dayton v. Kennedy blog, to whom the hat tip goes for pointing out Fund's article this morning).

This is surely true, as far as it goes. But the media situation in Minnesota is a bit more complicated than that of South Dakota, and any campaign media strategy ought to keep this in mind.

First of all, unlike South Dakota, Minnesota has two large newspapers; the Minneapolis based Star Tribune, and the Saint Paul based Pioneer Press. The Star Tribune is the larger of the two in terms of circulation, but the Pioneer Press still retains a significant state-wide voice.

Much to the chagrin of Minnesota’s Republicans, the editorial boards of both newspapers have traditionally aligned themselves with the political left. A local joke has been that we don’t have a left and a right perspective between the papers. We have only left and lefter (the Star-Trib is “lefter” if you were wondering).

Yet there are intriguing signs that this might be changing.

First of all, while the Star Tribune continues to reliably endorse Democrats for major office (once in a while they might back a lefty Republican for lower office as proof of their “objectivity,” but they never allow that to intrude upon their endorsements for more senior offices, like President or Senator), the Pioneer Press has surprised many by beginning to endorse Republicans for major office. They recently endorsed the re-election of President Bush, and backed Norm Coleman over Walter Mondale for Senate in 2002.

Another interesting development at the Pioneer Press has been noted at Fraters Libertas among other local blogs:

“Over the past year or so, there have been signs of an ideological change [at
the Pioneer Press] coming. Most prominently, the hiring of Mark Yost on the
editorial board and Craig Westover as an editorial contributor. I've been
hesitant to declare the Pioneer Press as a legitimate alternative to the Star
Tribune. They still have a dominant hard left influence on their editorial board
and their news coverage, … But some of their editorials, the work of Westover
and usually unattributed work of Yost, have been outstanding.”

Not to project my own wishes too strongly on these developments, but there is at least the possibility that the strong left-bias of the Star Tribune might face a challenge from a media organization of the traditional sort, above and beyond any it faces from the blogosphere.

Another interesting difference between Minnesota and South Dakota is the blogosphere itself. As Fund’s article noted, the blogs opposing Daschle were more or less start-up operations that had to invent themselves as they went along. In contrast, Minnesota is home to some of the largest and most influential blogs anywhere on earth. Minnesota based Powerline (2 of the 3 writers anyway), Captain’s Quarters, and James Lileks’ (occasionally political) Bleat, are sites with daily readership rivaling that of many newspapers (albeit drawing a national, rather than local audience). They are already well established and influential, and likely to be even moreso by 2006. The role such powerhouses of the blogosphere might be able to play in a local rather than national election was perhaps only hinted at in South Dakota.

This in mind, it should also be noted that Minnesota is not nearly as conservative as South Dakota. It is, however, no longer reliably Democratic either. It is a state that has come to embody the “50/50” nation. Exactly half the members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation are Democrats, while the other half are Republicans. Democrats control the State Senate, while Republicans control the House. Republican Tim Pawlenty currently holds the governorship, but won it in an election where former Democratic Representative Tim Penny ran as a third Party candidate, perhaps splitting off a significant number of votes which would otherwise have gone to Democratic candidate Roger Moe.

In this environment simply exposing a candidate’s liberalism is no assurance of victory. Unlike South Dakota, a sizable number of Minnesotans will enthusiastically support a strongly liberal Senator.

All this makes for a very different equation than the 2004 South Dakota race. One element they surely hold in common is that blogs will be crucial in fact-checking the local media. But beyond that, the 2006 Senate race in Minnesota is shaping up to be an even wilder ride.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Powerline Weighs In on the Westover / Coleman Dispute

The Big Trunk from Powerline weighs in on the Westover v. Coleman incident. Needless to say, he brings along some serious ammunition, suggesting that the Star Tribune itself, as well as their sloppy sensationalist hack "columnist," Nick Coleman, are guilty of bias and negligence to the profession of journalism.

In the old days it was said, "Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrell."

These days the blogosphere responds, "Ink? How quaint. Isn't that the way messages were sent somewhere between smoke signals and e-mail?"