Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meet and Greet for 50B

Only time for a quick post - just got back from a meet and greet dinner for 50B Republicans over at Lakeside. We had a good turnout and I had a chance to speak at length with the candidates for the endorsement. We have three sharp individuals vying for the opportunity to knock off Kate Knuth. I learned a lot tonight and I am looking forward to the actual BPOU convention on Saturday morning (9 a.m. at Christ the King in New Brighton). No matter who emerges from the process, Knuth will have a battle on her hands. I also had a chance to meet Right Hook of Boots On and AAA from Residual Forces. I strongly commend both of these blogs to your attention.

I'll have much more to report on all this over the weekend following the BPOU. We have hard work ahead but there is legitimate reason for optimism.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

American Portrait

Here's a picture of Mike Gullickson that my sister-in-law sent. A big guy on a big bike with a really big heart. He will be missed. Thank you for your prayers and support - they mean a lot to our family.


William F. Buckley died today at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was at work in his study when death came. That's fitting, of course.

You'll be able to read millions of words about Buckley, his life and times, his exploits and his legacy. I don't really have a lot to add to this but I wanted to share how I understand him and his role. As anyone who's read this feature for more than a few entries realizes, I'm a cradle Catholic and my faith is central to my understanding of the world. In thinking about Buckley two important figures in Church history come to mind.

The first is St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, more than just about anyone else, was able to synthesize the currents of Western thought and integrate the large lessons of antiquity and bring them to bear in understanding God. Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica, which still underpins Catholic theology to this day. For conservatives, Buckley played a similar role. He gathered a talented cast of writers and thinkers on the staff of National Review, still the pre-eminent conservative journal in America. Buckley clarified the commonalities of classical liberalism, libertarianism and other strains of conservative thought. He began this process midcentury, during a time when liberalism was pretty much unchallenged, and stayed at it for the rest of his life.

I also think of St. Patrick when I think of Buckley. Like St. Patrick, it fell to Buckley to rid the snakes from the conservative movement. He was the primary reason that the Birchers, the anti-Semites, the America First acolytes of Charles Lindbergh and other people who traffic in hatred were regularly expelled from the conservative movement. From time to time these efforts caused him significant personal anguish, especially when Buckley had to get rid of his friend and protege Joseph Sobran, whose tenure at National Review had made him Buckley's heir apparent but whose work turned darkly anti-Semitic as the 1980s came to a close. Buckley understood that if conservatives were to have any influence in the government and/or the larger American society, they had to be seen as fair and as honest brokers. Even though it pained him greatly, Buckley sent Sobran packing. It was the right thing to do and Buckley knew it.

As he leaves the stage, conservativism is at one of its periodic moments of doubt. The current presidential campaign has exposed divisions within the movement. Buckley understood this and did not shy away from the challenges that lie ahead. While he will no longer be involved, he has left an enormous legacy that conservatives can use to excellent effect should they choose to do so. R.I.P.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clowntime Is Over

We've all had 24 hours to get mad about the override of Governor Pawlenty's veto that forced the transportation bill down the throats of Minnesotans. Anger is understandable and even cathartic. Now it's time for focus.

Much of the anger has been directed at the six GOP representatives who went native and who are now hiding behind Margaret Anderson Kelliher's petticoats and/or the Chamber of Commerce. While that anger is richly justified, there are other people who need attention. I'd like to call your attention to two of them.

Kate Knuth. Paul Gardner.

These two first-term DFLers currently represent adjoining districts in northern Ramsey County, 50B and 53A. Both replaced Republicans, with Knuth winning the seat vacated by Char Samuelson and Gardner barely beating the redoubtable Phil Krinkie. Both represent districts that have a strong Republican presence. Gardner won his seat by only 51 votes. Knuth won by a larger margin, but she is highly vulnerable. Both should be held directly responsible for the hoovering of our wallets, just as much as the Tingelstads, Erhardts and (en)Abelers of the world.

Knuth is my representative. She is very young and was a ridiculous candidate. She had no relevant experience and had been little more than a perpetual graduate student. She listed her experience as a drum major for the Irondale High School marching band as a qualification for her candidacy. No, really, she did. But she had advantages. She has a father who is a registered lobbyist and she had a lot of DFL money and muscle behind her. Between the lassitude of the Republicans in the district and the motivation of the pros behind her, she managed to beat a far more qualified opponent for the open seat. She will face strong opposition in the fall and those of us in 50B fully expect to beat her.

Our neighbors in 53A, an affluent district that includes Shoreview and North Oaks, for some reason took Representative Krinkie for granted. Mr. Gardner sold himself as a moderate who would get things done in St. Paul. He's no moderate, but he certainly did get something done -- an enormous tax increase that will provide essentially zero benefit for his district. He should also face strong opposition.

Here are some questions that Knuth and Gardner need to answer.

1) There will be money galore for light rail because of this bill. Neither line will run anywhere near your respective districts. Both lines will also require massive subsidies, likely in perpetuity. What benefit will light rail provide for your constituents?

2) Your districts are the home of three of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the Twin Cities: the intersection of 35W and 694; the intersection of 694 and U.S. 10; and the intersection of U.S. 10 and County Highway 96. How will this new transportation bill, with much of the money dedicated to the train, alleviate these issues?

3) Related to that, because of the incredible traffic delays that develop on 35W during the evening rush hour, the main roads on either side of 35W (Old Highway 8 and Cleveland Avenue) are carrying thousands of cars during the rush hour, causing myriad problems for residential neighborhoods in both New Brighton and Arden Hills. How does this bill help these issues?

The answer to all three questions is the same: not at all. Which leads to the final question:

4) Why would you support something that will hurt your constituents financially and provide no offsetting benefit? And related to that, why should anyone in 50B or 53A support your re-election?

Clowntime is over now. We have work to do. The work in 50B starts on Saturday with the BPOU convention. Similar work has begun elsewhere in Minnesota and will take place throughout the state in the coming weeks. Time to field strong candidates and time to go to work.
Cross-posted at True North.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mike Gullickson

In Madison for Mike Gullickson's funeral. He was truly a great, big-hearted guy who lost his life in a really tragic snowmobile accident on Wednesday. God has a plan for all of us, even if it's tough to understand for those of us who are left behind.

Here are the details from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Gullickson, Michael P. "Gulli"
Michael P. "Gulli" Gullickson, age 37, of Ridgeway, died on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, from injuries due to a snowmobile accident near Mount Horeb. Mike was born on July 23, 1970, in Madison, to Harold and Bonnie (Brink) Gullickson. He was a 1988 graduate of Dodgeville High School, and a graduate of UTI Tech of Phoenix, with a degree in H.V.A.C. Mike worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Madison. He was a member of the Ridgeway Riders Snowmobile Club and A.B.A.T.E. Mike lived life to the fullest and enjoyed snowmobiling and riding motorcycles. His positive, loving ways will always be remembered along with his saying that, "you don't say goodbye without saying I love you." He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Glenn Gullickson, Wayne Brink, Loren and Ruth Gutherz and Jerome Skindrud; a brother-in-law, Mark Olson; an uncle, Dennis Brink; and a cousin, Michael Brink. Mike is survived by the love of his life, his "Little Princess" Halle Kiesling of Cross Plains; his fiancée, Dena Ellery and her children, Jaymi and Wes Ellery of Ridgeway; his mother, Bonnie and Bill Skindrud of Mount Horeb; his father and best friend, Harold "Chick" and Julie Gullickson of Arena; his stepmother, Jan Gutherz of Dodgeville; two sisters, Heidi (Paul) Heuring and their children, Joel, Will and Natalie of Appleton, and Kelsi Gullickson and her children, Jordan Slack and Jenna Knoble of Mount Horeb; step-brothers and step-sisters, Melissa Olson and her children, Zachary, Miranda and Kiera of Mount Horeb, Billy (Ronda) Skindrud and his children, Lucas Danz, Morgan Danz and Jordan Oyen of Mount Horeb, Michael Elhert of Portland, Ore., Colin Elhert of Madison, and Lindsey Elhert of Madison; grandparents, Gladys Gullickson of Ridgeway, Alice Brink of Mount Horeb, Alma Skindrud of Mount Horeb, Bob Hill of Dodgeville and Betty Hill of Spring Green; a very special friend, Al Kaul of Menasha; as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends. Funeral services will be held at noon on Monday, Feb. 25, 2008, at the BARNEVELD LUTHERAN CHURCH. Pastor Jack Way will officiate with burial in Eastside Cemetery in Ridgeway. Friends may call at the church on Monday after 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated. The Lulloff-Peterson-Houck Funeral Home, Dodgeville is serving the family.

Mike, May you soar with the angels, with the wind beneath your wings. We will always love you.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Barack Obama: The Soundtrack -- A Mr. Dilettante Seminar

I am fortunate enough to have completed my college education before the semiotics and post-structuralist craze totally took over the English departments of American universities, but the irritating vapors of Derrida, Foucault and other similar folks were already starting to seep into my beloved Beloit College when I studied there in the early 80s. Much of the theory that these guys traffic in is risible, but I've always been fond of the notion of deconstruction, which is an intellectual parlor game where one takes things from one context and tries to strip it down to its "text." Derrida, Foucault and their buddies were mostly interested in subverting any ostensible Western values in works of literature and replacing it with nothing in particular beyond their own vaguely Marxist nostrums.

I know that's not a fair summation of what they argued, but it's about as fair as what they argued about most literature. But I completely understand the allure: it's a lot of fun to take ideas, images and words and throw them into the Waring blender. A lot of what comes out can be unintelligible goo, but sometimes wonderful things can emerge from the recontextualizing.

So what does that have to do with Barack Obama? Patience, grasshopper, we're getting to that.

We've already used music to discuss the Obama campaign twice in this feature, using Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" and Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" as songs that have resonance for understanding Obamamania. The redoubtable Anonymous Truck Driver suggested R.E.M's "It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine." All fine thoughts. But that's not enough for a full campaign soundtrack. And that's what I want to establish, along with a few helpful suggestions from the vast worldwide Mr. Dilettante audience.

So, to get things started, I offer a few more ideas, all of these coincidentally from 1976:

"Step Right Up," by Tom Waits, in which our favorite dissolute neo-Beatnik offers a series of promises only slightly more outlandish than some of the things one typically hears on the hustings. And the accompanying video is plenty strange, combining Waits and "The Matrix." YouTube is a Foucault playground. Change into a 9 year old Hindu boy?

"The Rubberband Man," by the Spinners. So much rhythm, grace and debonair for one man? Lord. The video, from "Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special," is just a hoot -- gotta love the 1970s.

"Golden Years," by David Bowie. Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel. And yes, that's David Bowie on "Soul Train."

The floor is open for nominations. And if you can find silly video to go with it, even better!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Four Best Words, Part 2

We'll get back to politics tomorrow. Meanwhile, let's talk baseball. When we left off, we were discussing the Twins, who will be a very different team this year. The topic today is pitching. Next week, we'll get to my beloved Brewers.

When the Twins won the division in 2006, their starting rotation featured Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. It is quite possible that, two years later, there will be five different pitchers in the rotation. Radke has long since retired to his fishing boat, while Santana and Silva are now wealthy plutocrats pitching on opposite coasts. That leaves Liriano, who was absent all of 2007 following surgery, and Bonser, who might as well have been absent in 2007. If things break right, the Twins could have a very good rotation this season. If things go wrong, it could get ugly in a hurry.

The always helpful and amusing Dorky Dad suggested that the Twins should bring in Fidel Castro for a tryout. While Twins management didn't hop on that eminently sensible solution, they did bring in a different ancient Cuban, Livan Hernandez. Hernandez, who I believe was 32 when he defected from Cuba over a decade ago is apparently still 32 years old now, at least according to birth registrar Danny Almonte, and has been a reliable if unspectacular vagabond pitcher throughout his major league career, regularly pitching about 200 innings and managing to be quietly surly everywhere he goes. He's not a long-term solution, but he'll certainly fill Silva's spot in the rotation. For now, it appears that the most likely opening day starter is Scott Baker, who has shown flashes of brilliance but not a lot of consistency during his time in Minnesota. The Twins would love Liriano to take the top spot and based on his spectacular 2006 season, he could be a top line starting pitcher. He's going to have to prove he can go, however. And getting to spring training late because of visa issues isn't a good start.

Beyond those three spots, things get murky. Bonser has lost a lot of weight in the offseason and should be stronger as a result, but he doesn't have great stuff and has to be very fine to succeed. Last year he would get wild and things got ugly in a lot of his starts. That can't happen this year if the Twins are going to be successful. For now, you assume that Bonser is the fourth starter, but that could change. The fifth spot is where it gets interesting. The aptly named Kevin Slowey was pretty so-so in his few stints with the big club last year. He's very smart but he has even less stuff than Bonser. He has almost no margin for error. Few pitchers with a similar makeup last very long. Orel Hershiser was one. There wasn't a lot of evidence that Slowey is like Hershisher, although he is a quote machine like Hershiser and if Slowey can last a few years in the bigs he should have a good chance to replace some the current cast of mumblers on ESPN's Baseball Tonight round about 2015 or so. If the Twins decide to take another lefty, oft-injured Glen Perkins might be the guy, but my guess is the quota of fragile lefthanders is filled in this rotation. Righthander Nick Blackburn was pretty good for AAA Rochester last year and will get a look, as will Mets newcomers Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey. The early word on these two is that Mulvey is the better looking long-term prospect, but Humber might have a better chance of contributing this year. Look for Slowey to get the 5th spot and for one of the others to come north as a long reliever/spot starter. The guess here: Humber.

The relief corps is significantly better than the starters, but there are concerns here as well. Joe Nathan has been great ever since he came to Minnesota, but is unsigned and will likely be trade bait later on, especially if the Twins fall from contention. He'll be the closer for now. Pat Neshek was lights-out early in 2007 but tired down the stretch. He still has great stuff and that really funky delivery and should be the primary set-up guy. Juan Rincon has been mostly effective for the past few years, with a few conspicuous screw-ups, but I have a hunch that he might be moved this year. By the end of last season, Matt Guerrier was a better pitcher than Rincon and I suspect he'll have a larger role this year, possibly at Rincon's expense. Jesse Crain has been solid but was injured last year and no one knows if he'll be able to contribute. If he's healthy, he's someone you want around - he has very good stuff, including an explosive fastball. Dennys "Big Sweat" Reyes is the house lefty and was decent last year after an outstanding 2006. You worry about his conditioning, but he takes the ball 60-70 times a season and will probably do so again this year. That leaves the Humber/Mulvey/Perkins/Blackburn spot for the long man. If Rincon gets moved, my guess is that Perkins will be the next man up.

What kind of pitching staff will this be? An iffy one. It's going to be impossible for the Twins to replace the brilliant Santana and Silva was pretty good during his time here, even though he was often a frustrating guy to watch. The Twins play in an awfully rough division and it will be difficult to get much traction, but there's hope for the future, as many of these guys are young. If Liriano is ready, things will be much better. But for now, 85 wins looks like the ceiling for this bunch.
Next: my beloved Milwaukee Brewers

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No politics today

Got word this evening from my brother that his wife's brother was killed in a snowmobile accident today in Wisconsin. Only 38 years old. Say a prayer for Mike, a wonderful guy who leaves this world way too soon, and for his family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Lots going on today and not enough time to talk about all of it. So it's time for a few bullets:

  • Fidel Castro has finally decided to make official what's been long suspected; he's no longer running the show in Cuba. While it's quite likely that, at least in the short term, Castro's brother Raul will continue to run Cuba with the same tender mercies that his brother has displayed for the past 49 years, change will be coming to Cuba. The transition to a better Cuba will be a very long slog, but it will happen now. Once Raul is gone, things will be up for grabs. My friend Strolling Amok celebrates the news by bashing President Bush. Well, at least he's consistent.

  • It's becoming clear that Barack Obama has used rhetorical flourishes in some of his speeches that are remarkably similar to words spoken by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in his 2006 campaign. Patrick said this and then Obama said this. Yesterday the Clinton oppo people put out another example where Patrick said something that Obama later mirrored. It turns out that both Patrick and Obama both have used David Axelrod as a campaign advisor. Looks like Axelrod was able to sell both of them the same campaign. While I don't think that the Clinton camp is correct in calling this plagiarism, it does tell us something about Obama that we didn't necessarily know before -- a lot of his moral uplift seems to be off the rack. And I'm guessing that Joe Biden is wondering where he can get a refund on his 1988 campaign (HT: The Politico and Instapundit).

  • An additional irony in all this -- Deval Patrick was a very loyal Clintonista, working under Janet Reno at Justice. Apparently that doesn't matter much now, a recurring theme for the Clinton campaign.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Waiting for Gaffeman

What's been remarkable about the Obama campaign is how both the candidate and those supporting him have been pretty good at avoiding the dreaded gaffe. The first slip may have happened today, out of the mouth of the candidate's spouse, Michelle Obama.

Here's the full quote (video here):

"What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It
is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my
adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has
done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been
desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so
alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to
be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud."

If you listen to the full quote, this seems silly but not necessarily objectionable. As I've been dinging around the internet tonight, the part that's been used most has been this:

And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am
really proud of my country.

As you might imagine, this fragment of the larger quote has been generating howls of outrage from various sectors of the punditocracy. And if you take just those words, I can see why someone might be outraged. But I don't think that you can or you should do that. Conservatives have howled for years about "Dowdification" - the practice (named after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd) of some in the media to take a fragment of a longer quote and use the words as a brickbat with which to beat conservatives. We hate it when it happens to us. We shouldn't do the same thing to the other side.

Anyway, what I see in the fuller context of Mrs. Obama's quote is not anti-Americanism, but solipsism. What I see is a speaker who is so locked into her own vision of the world that she either refuses to see, or cannot see, the country that the rest of us see. That's unfortunate and it is potentially troubling that as a potential First Lady she should be so blinded to the goodness of so many other people, and of the many amazing things that have happened in her adult life, which roughly spans the same period as mine. But I also see something else - she's not the candidate. Her husband is. And he's the guy who should be getting the scrutiny. While Barack Obama hasn't seen nearly the scrutiny I'd like to see him get, it will come.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Four Best Words, Part 1

Pitchers and catchers report. It's happening now all over Florida and Arizona. Another season begins. Hope springs eternal. Even 100 seasons removed from their last glory, the Cubs believe this could be the year. What's not to like.

Well, the accompanying picture isn't so great. It's an unfortunate part of baseball economics that great players for smaller market teams rarely stay with their team for an entire career. Once in a while it does -- George Brett in Kansas City, Robin Yount for my beloved Brewers, Kirby Puckett here -- but the scenario that recently played out here in Minnesota is far more typical. Johan Santana has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for most of this decade and is still young enough that he should continue to be a star for a long time to come. As Minnesotans, we were fortunate to watch him blossom into a dominating lefthander who regularly baffled American League hitters with his assortment of power pitches and a devastating changeup. No more, though -- now he's off to New York and the tender mercies of the back pages of the tabloids. Good luck to him. So what is left here?

It's an excellent question. The Twins went through a pretty substantial transformation this offseason, although they did it fairly quietly, in a series of deals that leave a team that may have as many as five new position players in their starting lineup. Out are Torii Hunter, Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo, with Jason Kubel and Nick Punto likely slated for the bench. In are Delmon Young, Adam Everett, Mike Lamb, Brendan Harris and a mystery guest in center field.

It will be a very different team with different strengths. Young has a chance to be special, a fleet outfielder with a cannon for an arm and the potential to be a 35-40 home run threat soon. He comes with some definite concerns, but he's as talented a guy as the Twins have had in a long time; at a comparable age, Hunter was still in AA ball. Thing is, he doesn't appear to be a center fielder, so that causes issues. Figure Young for left field, with Kubel moving to DH. Everett is probably a push compared to Bartlett. Everett is an outstanding defensive player but doesn't hit much, while Bartlett was an improving defensive player who didn't hit as much as some people hoped that he would. Lamb is a good hitting third baseman who generally couldn't crack the Houston lineup, but should have a chance to flourish here. He could be a poor man's Corey Koskie, I guess. Harris has excellent power for a second baseman, but isn't as accomplished defensively as Castillo. Center field is the question. Carlos Gomez is apparently a talented guy and has tremendous speed, but it's not clear that he's ready to be an everyday center fielder. Denard Span, the longtime heir apparent for Hunter, hasn't shown he is ready either. The other candidates are Jason Pridie, another Tampa refugee who has some skills but has not played at the major league level yet, or perhaps Craig Monroe, the former Tiger who hit a rough patch last year. Monroe is likely the fourth outfielder, but he may be needed in center for now, with the longshot possibility that Michael Cuddyer will move to center with Young and Monroe as his wingmen.

We'll talk about pitching soon. And we'll also discuss the prospects for my beloved Brewers, who had what might be called a curious offseason after their near miss in 2007.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I'm Mark Heuring and I Approve This Message

A few thoughts on a philosophical change for this blog. You may have noticed that I have posted my picture on the blog, replacing the Swedish Chef avatar that I've displayed previously. While I've operated this blog semi-anonymously since it opened, my actual identity has been easy enough to figure out. If anyone were to Google my name, Mr. Dilettante is the first thing that pops up, along with references to some other dude with the same name who is apparently a science teacher near St. Louis. I'm sure he's a good guy.

The issue of privacy is a slippery one for all bloggers, but as I have made efforts to raise the public profile of this feature it's made less sense for me to disguise my identity. All the items that I cross-post on True North will go up under my byline, so disguising my identity no longer makes much sense anyway.

There are concerns about revealing one's identity, of course -- various MOB bloggers had to deal with a fairly unhinged lefty blogger who was using images posted on MOB blogs for nefarious purposes last fall. Could something like that happen? Sure. I can't worry about it, though. I stand behind every word that I've published here. And I will do my level best to make visiting this site worth your time.

Friday, February 15, 2008

T-Paw Ex Machina

Governor Pawlenty made an excellent, well-reviewed State of the State speech in St. Cloud earlier this week. It was a powerful reminder of what an effective communicator Pawlenty can be.

Unfortunately, Pawlenty hasn't been offering a lot of effective communication lately, at least for local consumption. He has spent a lot of his time in recent weeks on the road for John McCain and playing footsie with the global warming crowd. This sort of thing frustrates conservatives and rightly so. The sense a lot of us have is that Pawlenty has been more interested in pursuing private agendas than in fighting for conservative principles or even doing right by the people who elected him. Because he is such an amiable fellow, he gets by with it a lot. And if there weren't consequences to his actions, many people would probably give him a pass.

The consequences are all too apparent, though. Because of the disastrous special election for Tom Neuville's seat, it's quite likely that the DFL will have a veto-proof majority in the Senate. T-Paw could have helped out there, but he didn't. For much of the past six months, Pawlenty has been largely absent from the fray in St. Paul. Worse, his absence has essentially cleared the stage for the DFL. (I had a little fun with that idea in this post which I wrote yesterday but didn't get around to posting until earlier today.)

Pawlenty needs to change course now. Effective speeches are wonderful things; they are no substitute for sustained interest, effort and leadership from the governor. It simply won't do for Tim Pawlenty to give a speech, then disappear again and drop into the action from time to time with his veto pen. This legislative session promises to be especially contentious and it won't be possible for the Republicans in the legislature to get much traction when faced with the myriad predations of Pogemiller, Kelliher et al. The DFLers will be coming for Carol Molnau and they won't stop there. Dave Senjem and Marty Seifert can talk all they want, but the cameras won't turn to them most days. Pawlenty can draw a crowd of cameras any time he chooses to. Even better, if Pawlenty uses his skills properly, he can turn the debate, and the legislation coming from the legislature, into something better, perhaps even something worth signing, if he is persuasive enough. Pawlenty is a popular governor and he can run rings around Pogemiller and Kelliher, who are not impressive figures. Here's hoping that Pawlenty chooses to be an active player now that the legislature is in session.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Iowahawk is a Genius

Just read this. That is all.


For a lot of people, Valentine's Day is an obligation more than anything else, the tribute that the greeting card companies and the florists extract from a begrudging public, prefabricated romanticism on an arbitrary schedule. Not for me, though. Without sounding like this guy, I'm going to take you back 20 years. Because 20 years ago this weekend, my life changed.

It was Valentine's Day weekend, 1988, and it didn't mean much to me at the time. I didn't have a girlfriend and the last few relationships I'd pursued really didn't get much past the starting line. I was living in Oak Park, Illinois and working in Chicago. I loved being there; Chicago is a great place for a young man on the make, but I decided to get out of Dodge for a weekend. It was pretty easy to get back to my alma mater, Beloit College, from there - a 45 minute trip on the El through downtown and back out to O'Hare, then a hop on the Alco Bus Company line that went between O'Hare and Madison. I had finished up at Beloit back in 1985 and then went to work for the college for a couple of years in its public relations office. Although most of my classmates were long gone by 1988, I still knew a lot of people there; former work-study students, some of my former colleagues. It was a relaxing, enjoyable place to return and I could get up there in less than two hours.

There was one person I was hoping to avoid, though - a young lady of my acquaintance named Jill. I'd known Jill for a couple of years at Beloit and always enjoyed her company; she was part of our wider circle of friends, but I hadn't spent a lot of time talking to her or even paying her much mind. I'm pretty certain that Jill felt the same way about me. But there was a problem. Jill and one of my best friends from Beloit had been dating and they had broken up over the holidays. My friend hadn't handled it well - he's the first to admit it, and I knew that Jill was very unhappy about it. I also sensed that she might not be too happy to see me because of it. I was thinking about what might happen as I rode north, assuming there was an excellent chance that I would see Jill at some point over the weekend. Beloit College is a very small school; at the time, less than 1,000 people attended there. You could get to know just about everyone if you made the effort and I knew that Jill tended to frequent the same places I liked to frequent. While I wasn't overly worried about seeing her, I thought that there might be an unpleasant moment or two, so I tried to prepare myself for it.

After I arrived, I met my friend Kevin, threw my bag on the floor of his apartment and we made haste to Goody's Bar, a clean, well-lighted place just off campus. We had just purchased a pitcher of Miller Beer and filled the excellent jukebox with coins when we saw a group of young women at the door. At the head of the group was Sue, a wonderful Southside Chicago gal who was friends with just about everyone at the college. Her best friend was Jill, who was following behind. Sue saw Kevin and me sitting at the table and froze. She told Jill to wait, then approached Kevin and me.

"Mark! What a suprise!" she said. "You didn't bring your friend with you, did you?"
"Nope, he's back in Chicago," I replied.
"That's a really good thing, Mark," she said. Then she turned around and walked back to the group of ladies with her. She quietly informed Jill that the Jerk wasn't in the house and the young ladies joined us at our table.

After a few minutes, Jill turned to me with visible anger and said, "You know, your friend is really a jerk." I thought about that for a moment. I didn't disagree with her, but I wasn't going to rip him when he wasn't there to defend himself, even if his conduct had been indefensible. It seemed that everyone at the table was waiting for my response. I decided I'd see if I could deflect the anger.

"So, how 'bout them Dodgers," I said. Jill glared at me with evident disgust and said something that changed my life.

"They're in spring training!"

She was right, of course. Valentine's Day is the time of year when pitchers and catchers report and certainly at that moment Orel Hershiser and his pals were probably plodding along somewhere in Florida. But that wasn't what caught my attention. In her anger, I saw something in Jill that I hadn't seen before. 20 years on, I'm still not sure if I can really explain it, but suddenly she was no longer this girl who was floating around on the perimeter of my college social circle. At that moment, I thought that this was a pretty sharp lady and this was someone I needed to know a little better.

I was there all that weekend and Jill and I talked a lot. We talked some about my friend, but her anger abated. She knew that I wasn't responsible for what had happened. At one point, somewhat impulsively, I reached for her hand. I looked in her eyes and said, "I'm not like him, Jill." She looked at me intently and said, "I know."

I got back on the bus on Sunday afternoon and thought about her all the way back to Chicago. There was something there -- I knew it. I wasn't sure how I knew, and I sure wasn't sure what I should do next, but I knew that I wanted to hold her hand again. We wrote letters back and forth a few times and eventually we started to date. It was her senior year and by the time she was ready to graduate in May, we were thinking of each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. Our relationship continued to grow and eventually she moved to Chicago to be near me. Jill and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary later this year.

There are moments in every person's life where magic is possible. It's not something you can easily schedule. Hallmark can't put it on your docket. But when the moment arrives, you have to be ready. And even if you aren't ready, if you are fortunate you will recognize the moment when it comes. Through 3 years of dating/courtship/engagement, 17 years of marriage, the birth of our children and everything else that has happened in our lives since that wintry evening in 1988, I have celebrated that moment. Thank goodness we both saw it.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Six Characters In Search Of An Author - Act 1

A Mr. Dilettante/Quinn Martin Production

The Players:

Governor Tim "T-Paw Ex Machina" Pawlenty
Lt. Governor Carol "Frau" Molnau
Senator Larry "Taxman" Pogemiller
Rep. Joe "Grand Inquisitor" Atkins
Speaker Margaret Anderson "Ma" Kelliher

And introducing

Rep. Kate "Ingenue" Knuth

As we set the stage, the players are arrayed about the stage. Governor Pawlenty is hidden above the stage, attached with ropes to the rafters. Lt. Governor Molnau is strapped to a table placed on the apron of the Wakota Bridge. Nearby is Representative Atkins, dressed in an outfit he has apparently borrowed from someone at the Renaissance Festival and holding a cat-o-nine-tails. Speaker Kelliher is perched in a sedan chair mounted to a 4-post automotive lift. Representative Knuth paces anxiously next to Speaker Kelliher, resplendent in an Irondale High School marching band uniform. Senator Pogemiller scurries about the stage, wearing an ill-fitting suit equipped with Inspector Gadget arms. As the play begins, Atkins is in the midst of interrogating Molnau.

Atkins: Frau Molnau (sound of horses whinnying in the distance), why is the other half of the bridge not done?

Molnau (moaning, as if in agony): Owwwwww. E-tink. Owwwwww.

Atkins: I can't understand a word you're saying. Do I need to crank this up another notch or two? Why did you let the 35W bridge collapse?!

Molnau: Auuuugh. Rolvaaggggh….LeVanderowwwwww….

Atkins: We're not getting anywhere, Frau Molnau (sound of horses whinnying). Do I have to burn you at the stake?

Molnau: Aaaah…. T-Paw, where are you . . . . aaauuggghhh.

Pawlenty: Is that you, Carol? Sorry, too busy. I have to introduce J-Mac to the Joplin Kiwanis Club this afternoon. Maybe when I get back.

Meanwhile, Pogemiller scurries about the stage, his Inspector Gadget arms menacing the assembled audience, including a visibly alarmed Mitch Berg.

Pogemiller (singing): That's one for you, nineteen for me. Ha! I love this! Ma Kelliher, where are we on that gas tax?

Kelliher: I'm working on it, Larry. Goodness! (Turning to Knuth) Now, what's troubling you, grasshopper?

Knuth: I'm scared, Ma Kelliher. I keep hearing the sound of these boots hitting the floor. I think someone is out to get me! Can I hit them with my baton?

Kelliher: No, dearie, that wouldn't be wise. The way we handle things like that here in the Legislature is to pass a law to stop the behavior. Maybe we can tax them a thousand dollars every time they mention your name? Call it a "legislator impact fee?"

Pawlenty: If you call it a fee, I'll sign it.

Kelliher: See, snookums? That wasn't very difficult, now was it? Wait, that's my cell, hang on. . . . Hello? Oh, hi Susan! (turning to Knuth, sotto voce) It's Susan Lefenstey. What can I do for ya, Sooz? That mean guy is picking on you again? Oh, that's dreadful, simply dreadful. What would you like? A snarking ban? Hmmm, I'll have to think about that one. Let me get back to ya, Sooz.

Meanwhile, back at the bridge, the interrogation continues:

Atkins: It snowed last night, Frau Molnau! (Horses whinny). Why is my street still unplowed?

Molnau: C'mon Joe, I'm not responsible for that. Owwww!

Atkins: And the pothole in my neighbor's driveway – why isn't that fixed yet?

Molnau: Owwwww! T-Paw, why have you forsaken me?

Pawlenty: Is that you, Carol? Sorry, I'm having a hard time hearing you. Steger's huskies are barking a lot right now.

Molnau: I need your helpppppp – auuggghhh!

Pawlenty: I hear ya, CM. Look, I'd love to help, but J-Mac has me scheduled for the grand opening of a Steak N Shake in Beavercreek, Ohio tomorrow and I gotta be there. Battleground state, ya know. Can I get back with you on Saturday?

As this is happening, Pogemiller's Inspector Gadget arm grabs Atkins.

Atkins: Hey, knock it off, Pogey! That's my per diem money! You can't have that – go threaten the audience again.

Pogemiller: Sorry about that, Joe. Avast, ye scurvy coupon clippers!

Meanwhile, Kelliher continues to instruct her young acolyte.

Kelliher: Don't worry, angelface, we're taking care of you. That "future potential leadership award" we gave you – that was on the front page of the local paper, right?

Knuth: Yes, Ma, every word of it.

Kelliher: See, sweetpea, they always take care of us! Still, you seemed troubled. What's the matter?

Knuth: Well, Ma, I still hear those boots and they scare me. And my dad keeps stopping me in the lobby and asking me about his bill.

Kelliher: What bill is that, hon?

Knuth: This one (hands bill to Kelliher). The Cheeba for Everyone Freedom Act.

Kelliher: Holy Bob Marley! Hmm, let me think, let me think. I know, I'll stick it in the Minnesota Care appropriation bill.

Knuth: Thanks, Ma! You're the best!

As the play has been in progress, Pogemiller has managed to lift the wallets, billfolds, money clips and assorted loose change from everyone in the audience. He then turns to face the dumbfounded assemblage, clutching a sheaf of paper.

Pogemiller: We're all happy to pay for a better Minnesota! Time to send the particulars to the governor!

Pawlenty tumbles from the rafters, dangling from ropes. He is wearing a Mighty Mouse outfit and sideburns that seem to move as much as intermittent windshield wipers. He carries a large red pen in a scabbard.

Pawlenty: Here I come to save the day! 'Scuse me, while I whip this out!

The crowd gasps.

End of Act 1

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An Announcement

This feature is pleased to announce that, going forward, content from Mr. Dilettante will be appearing at True North. True North is your one stop shop for coverage of Minnesota politics from a sensible and reliable conservative perspective. Many of the best bloggers operating in Minnesota regularly post their work there and I am honored and pleased to have the opportunity to add my voice to this distinguished roster. I'll have more to say about this in the coming days. And if you haven't bookmarked True North yet, there's only one question: what on earth are you waiting for?

Slowly back away from the Zeitgeist

Meanwhile, there is reality out there to discuss.

Obama wins the "Potomac Primary." There are lots of reasons for what is happening over on the port side these days, but the key is this: fear of the Clintons is receding. Most people understand that the Clintons ruled and prevailed during the 1990s primarily by using fear and intimidation on their political opponents. Just about every political enemy the Clintons encountered back in the day was turned into a flaming puddle of goo: Bob Livingston, Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr, Kathleen Willey. The only person who really beat Bill was Paula Jones. Barack Obama is not afraid of the Clintons and they can't do anything about him. The appointment of old Clinton hand Maggie Williams to run Mrs. Clinton's campaign is a sign that the long knives are coming out; my sense is that they waited too long, though. Obama will win my beloved Wisconsin next week and if things start to turn in Ohio, you can probably stick a fork in Hillary.

McCain stops Huckabee. Huckabee has stayed in for two reasons: a potential vice-presidential nod and/or name recognition for 2012. My guess is that he'll garner neither. McCain has far better choices for the Veep slot than Huckabee and by 2012, you'll see a new crop of attractive Republican candidates. The two to keep an eye on: Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Twins sign Livan Hernandez. He's probably about the equivalent of Carlos Silva, but he'll be $40 million cheaper than Silva. He's more likely 37 than his reported age of 33, but we'll leave that aside. Based on ability and track record, he's a much better rent-a-pitcher than either Sidney Ponson or Ramon Ortiz, the two stiffs that Terry Ryan brought in last year. Best of all, pitchers and catchers report in just a few days! Now there's a reality to celebrate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Too Late

One of the advantages of being a blogger is you can (1) think weird thoughts and (2) put them down and then (3) have your readership either (a) praise, (b) condemn or (c) ignore you for it. On a good day, you get options 3(a) and 3(b) and you avoid 3(c). I had a weird thought this afternoon and now that I'm home it's time to share it. You've been warned.

Back in March of 1971 Carole King released an album that would become one of the most enduring records in the history of rock and roll, Tapestry. It was an odd duck of an album in some ways, comprising some songs that King had written back in her Brill Building days with then-husband Gerry Goffin, along with some newer compositions. It was a massive hit and the most successful album of the singer-songwriter era. The vision of the album is all over the map, which is probably fitting, because it's certainly emblematic of its times. By the time the album was released King had left Goffin, moved to California and was floating in and out of relationships with other men. Feminism was very much in play in those days, but there's nothing especially feminist about the songs or the album itself. It's more ruminative than anything else, what the British call a "bedsit album."

Several of the songs hit very, very big that year, with the biggest being "It's Too Late," a song that may or may not have been about King's relationship with Goffin. It's a pretty clear-eyed summation of a romance gone wrong. The words are pretty plangent, especially the chorus:

It's too late, baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died and I can't hide
And I just can't fake it

So here's my weird thought - I hear the song and it makes me think of what's happening right now, and not only in this election cycle. I've done my fair share of alternately mocking and cringing at the Obama campaign in recent days. But it's becoming increasingly evident that there's something else in the air, something that's only tangentially related to Obama, his campaign or even what his adminstration would look like should he ultimately prevail in November. I'm not sure what's happening, but whatever is happening is bigger and more momentous than all that. My sense is that there are forces at play right now that are a lot more powerful than anything else that we've experienced in my lifetime. I think that the next 4-8 years are going to be transformative regardless of the occupant of the Oval Office. Something very new and potentially quite strange is on the horizon. I'm not worried or fearful about it, because there's no use in worrying about things you cannot control. But my sense is that we're in for a hell of a ride, and soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Just wanted to make note of a change to the blog - I have made some changes to the "Me Gusta" section of recommended links, including adding a few new ones. For a while I tried to be cute and disguise the link names, mostly for my own amusement. As I think about it, that doesn't make a lot of sense since the purpose of recommending something is to recommend it, so the cuteness was undercutting what I was trying to do. All the links are labeled in a way that should make sense now. If you want any more information about any of these recommendations, please feel free to let me know - I am happy to offer fulsome praise for everything listed therein. Except maybe Badgerbadgerbadger, which is there strictly for my own amusement.

Rejoice, Obama Fans!

Your blog is here!

And a useful reminder from a very good band, Living Colour, power chords and dreadlocks flying, circa 1988:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Updated: Four Guys Named Ben Update - Tournament Extravaganza Edition - Day 1 and Day 2

It was a generally good day for the Irondale 2 Gold Standard as they won two of three games in the Mounds View 5-6 basketball tournament today at Chippewa Middle School in tony North Oaks. The day began early, with a 9 a.m. tilt against the always-rugged Irondale 1 team, which had defeated the Gold Standard a few weeks before. The tables were turned this time, as our lads defeated Irondale 1 by a final score of 24-13. Ben scored, grabbed a handful of rebounds and was typically tenacious on defense, helping to ensure a good result.

Game two took place at 11 a.m., against Mounds View "31," the team that the Gold Standard had beaten convincingly last week. The 31 team had a bye and was well-rested and the difference was obvious as the game went on. The Gold Standard broke to an early lead but were eventually worn down by the fresher Mounds View squad, losing 35-22. Ben did not score but was effective on defense and hit the boards hard. After that, we escaped Chippewa to have some lunch, allowing Ben to rest a bit and for all of us to experience the Doctor Zhivagoesque conditions that are settling in on the Twin Cities.

We returned to Chippewa for a consolation bracket tilt against Mounds View "29," which had lost earlier to Irondale 3 and was well-rested. The Gold Standard started slowly but took control as the game went on, cruising to a 34-20 victory. Ben did not score but was ferocious on defense, nabbing a half-dozen rebounds and making a beautiful bounce pass assist on the final play of the game. It's a lot of basketball but it was fun.

Action in the double-elimination tournament continues tomorrow at Chippewa with a 9 a.m. tipoff against St. Anthony 1, who beat our Gold Standard very early in the season. If our lads win, they play for the consolation championship at 1 p.m. against the winner of the Irondale 1/Mounds View 27 tilt. Stay tuned to Mr. Dilettante for up to the minute coverage of exciting Irondale 5-6 in-house basketball.

UPDATE: In a tough, physical game, the Gold Standard ended their season with a heartbreaking 18-16 loss to St. Anthony 1 Sunday morning at Chippewa. Our charges fell behind 9-2 early, then clawed their way back into the game but could not get over the hump at the end, playing in the teeth of a ferocious St. Anthony press. Ben did not score but again played his usual solid game, defending a variety of St. Anthony guys with tenacity and grabbing four rebounds to boot. Thus the season ends. A splendid time was had by all. And baseball will be starting soon enough!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Politics and Emotion

I wrote about John McCain yesterday and why, even though he's a maddening figure, he does deserve support. G-Man at Boots On has posted an excellent piece on the same topic. I want to call out one point G-Man makes in particular that cannot be repeated often enough:

Still, I know what many of you are feeling. Frustration, betrayal, anger,
disgust, and want for vindication likely sums it up. But, for now, box these
feelings – don't forget them – just set them aside for awhile. Your decision
about voting in November should be driven by clear thinking and not emotional
impulse – as is the case with most Democrats. It's time to live up to the bumper
sticker Republicans Think, Democrats Feel.

Emotion is a tricky business; because we are human, we think and feel. I have struggled to control my emotions at different times in my life; it's a universal problem. One of the hallmarks of maturity is recognizing when your emotions are taking over and finding a way to step back.

Dealing with overly emotional people is always a challenge and it's one reason why many conservatives struggle with those on the left. While it's never good to be too emotional, controlling your emotions too much can backfire. One of the signature moments of the 1988 campaign was when moderator Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis whether he would want vengeance if his wife was murdered. Dukakis, ever the soulless technocrat, chose to deflect the question and offered a colorless disquisition on his opposition to the death penalty. While he might have lost the election anyway, that moment probably sealed his doom.

One of the most interesting and potentially troubling things about this campaign thus far is how masterfully Barack Obama has played with the emotions of our always-excitable friends on the port side. Obama himself is a cool, cool customer. He almost never seems to get angry; about the only person I've seen in public life who is as visibly in control is Tony Dungy, the eerily serene coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Yet when you watch Obama on the stump, and when you consider the way some of his supporters behave, it's fascinating. He stays above the fray, even as the adoring throngs come to him, looking for all the world as if they want to touch the hem of his garment.

I wrote about this phenomenon twice before, but its persistence has become, at least for me, the story of the campaign thus far. A lot of Democrats understand the world in thoroughly secular terms and a fair percentage either don't believe in God or don't think the God is particularly relevant in the modern world. One can go through life that way, I suppose, but it has to be difficult. There's something universal in humans that makes us yearn for an explanation for the unexplainable. This is the root of faith and it seems to me that a lot of people are singularly lacking in faith.

I brought up Dungy because his serenity is completely grounded in his Christian faith; he trusts in God so completely that he can be serene about everything that happens in his life. It's increasingly evident that a whole lot of people are viewing Obama as some sort of savior who will transcend the unpleasantness of our politics and point the way to something new. This yearning is largely emotional and Obama is using it masterfully. I hope Obama understands what a dangerous game he is playing, because as a politician he cannot give meaning to people's lives.

Politics is about conflict, compromise, priniciple and sometimes treachery. For Obama to govern, he will necessarily have to engage in conflict and treachery from time to time. There are many people who are getting emotional about the Obama campaign and many of these individuals are putting an enormous amount of faith in this man. I wonder who is going to pick up the pieces for these individuals when Obama inevitably has to disappoint them.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pret-a-Porter, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Support McCain

The standard objections still apply. The presumptive GOP nominee is full of balloon juice on a number of issues and ran a campaign that used a fair measure of mendacity to achieve its aims. I would strongly prefer a standard-bearer who has a better grasp of economic issues, who has a thicker skin, who is less likely to reach for the cudgel of government sanction at the slightest provocation. I would definitely prefer someone who valued the First Amendment more. Most of all, I would have preferred a system that would not let the citizens of states that will not support the Republicans in the fall select the Republican candidate. It's telling that a large number of Senator McCain's victories have been in "blue" states.

Still, you play by the rules as they are established. And it's always important to remember that, in this country, we buy candidates off the rack. It's well-nigh impossible to find a candidate who is precisely tailored to your views on all issues. Not one of the candidates on offer this year fit my views as well as I might have liked. But in the words of the retail industry, it's all ready-to-wear.

Since I can't buy a Romney suit this year, or a Fred Thompson polo shirt, I have to choose from what's available. And the choices that are left are either McCain, Clinton or Obama. Do I want to take a chance on Barack Obama, a guy whose campaign is filled with vague nostrums, a content-free mantra of change (to what, precisely?) and an increasingly bizarre cult of personality? Do I want to return of the Clintons, with their venality and their bad faith? Or do I support McCain, with his prickly personality but also a genuine commitment to many things I hold dear? And who is more likely to listen to my concerns?

No matter who wins in the fall, the country will survive. I know many people of intelligence and good faith who will support choices that I cannot support. I understand and share the anger and frustration that many of my friends and colleagues feel over the way the campaign has developed. Still, even when the choices aren't what you might want, the choice still remains to be made. If McCain is the best available choice, and there is no question that he is, that's who I choose.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Caucus Tuesday - 50B, New Brighton Precinct 1

As P.J. O'Rourke might say, the Republican Party Reptiles were out tonight. You could tell something was up right away by the traffic jam that was forming outside of Highview Middle School. The cafeteria had been set with about 350 chairs, which were already full when I arrived at 6:50. The Highview parking lot was filled and the side streets around the school were jammed with cars. The people were coming, and kept coming, and kept coming.

Tony Bennett, the Ramsey County commissioner (not a singer as far as I know) surveyed the scene with eyes as big as saucers. He had not seen anything like this crowd before in 30 years of caucuses. The Arden Hills precinct sections were jammed with students from Bethel University, who seemed to be split down the middle between Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee supporters based on the signs and stickers they wore. I looked for a chair in my precinct section and they were all gone. So I stood and watched, as the people kept coming and coming, filing in a steady stream and milling around in the entryway.

Classrooms had been set up for the precinct meetings, but it quickly became evident that the classrooms were not big enough to hold the throngs who had arrived. My precinct was moved from a classroom to a corner of the South Gym, where the precinct leader tried to hold court over the clatter of basketball and the squeaking of sneakers from a basketball practice in the adjoining north gym. We counted off to find out our total number of attendees; 112 citizens from the precinct were there. We elected a young man from Bethel to be the new precinct chair, and another gentleman who had his toddler daughter in tow as vice chairman.

It was time for the straw poll. Ballots were passed out and tabulated as quickly as possible. As the results were tallied, the highly visible Paul supporters craned in to see the results. They were disappointed. While McCain may be having a big Super Tuesday elsewhere, he got no love from New Brighton Precinct 1. The results:

Romney 51 votes

Huckabee 26 votes

Paul 18 votes

McCain 17 votes

Keyes 0 votes

Based on the early results, it appears that Romney was winning elsewhere in Minnesota as well. While Senator Straight Talk may get forced down our throats, it's becoming increasingly clear that he has a lot of work to do among typical Republican voters, at least in my precinct.

Then it was time to select delegates for the BPOU convention. We needed 20 delegates and, eventually, 20 people stepped forward, including your trusty blogger. I would guess that if 18 people voted for Ron Paul in our precinct, that half of the delegates who volunteered for the BPOU were Paul supporters. I will say this for Paul - he may not have many supporters, but the ones he has are really fervent in their support.

We then spent a half hour making suggestions for improving the party platform. About 10 resolutions were made; it turned out that 8 of them were already covered in the platform, including my suggestion to repeal McCain-Feingold. Note to self: next time, get a copy of the platform before you go to the caucus.

While it's always dangerous to draw conclusions from such a small sampling, a few things are clear:

  • Despite what you might read in the public prints, Republicans are not dispirited in the least. The people I met today were hopeful and well-adjusted. They understood the issues and were not complacent or disgusted with the choices on offer. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the building.

  • Kate Knuth, the callow, shallow perpetual graduate student DFLer who managed to sneak into representing 50B last time around, is going to have her hands full. There are three potential challengers who should be able to make a pretty compelling case for their respective candidacies. Based on my first impression, I would support Gina Bauman, who is currently one of the voices of reason on the New Brighton City Council. But I'll listen to the others at the BPOU. More to say on this anon.

  • If McCain is the eventual nominee, he's going to have a lot of trouble with the rank and file. Besides finishing last among the actual candidates (Keyes doesn't count), when I spoke on behalf of repealing McCain-Feingold there was a lot of enthusiasm for the notion. The people in this room understood that this particular reform has actually hurt political discourse in this country, especially given the influence of people like George Soros who funnel millions into the process while hiding behind a miasma of front organizations. If McCain is the nominee, will I support him? I suppose I'll have to. But he won't benefit from the enthusiasm that was in the room I was in tonight unless he starts to make amends, and quickly.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Time to Be Raucous

Time to go to the caucus. Time to make your voice heard. Time to be a loudmouth, or a wiseguy, or even a rhetorical bomb-thrower if necessary. We have to decide this year what kind of government we're going to have. Do you want public servants or do you want the self-serving? Do you want people who understand that government ought to be limited, or do you want unlimited government? Do you want to be represented by someone who lives in the real world, or by an orange-clad, pie-eyed perpetual graduate student? Do you want to send a flawed but generally decent man to the Senate, or do you want to send a parasitic lawyer or a professional smart-ass to replace him? And what of the White House? Do you want a Clinton restoration? Do you want the man in the fancy suit behind Door #3, chanting a mantra of change? Do you want something better than that?

It's time to rouse your inner Cincinnatus and get involved. It's easy to say that it doesn't matter, that the decisions that are made at City Hall, or in St. Paul, or in Washington, don't really matter that much. Easy and wrong. Here in Minnesota, the day to speak your piece is tomorrow. Don't miss your opportunity.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

C'est la vie say the old folks. . . .

. . . just goes to show you never can tell. Congratulations to the New York Football Giants, a deserving champion.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I Don't Believe in Zimmerman

But the Pro Football Hall of Fame does. Gary Zimmerman, a former Viking, is one of the new inductees into the Hall of Fame announced today. The others include former Redskins Art Monk and Darrell Green, defensive lineman Fred Dean, linebacker Andre Tippett and defensive back Emmitt Thomas, best known around these parts for his two-year stint as defensive coordinator for the Vikings during the final years of Dennis Green's tenure at Winter Park.

The Hall in Canton is a lot less restrictive than the one in Cooperstown and that's probably just as well; I've written a number of times before on the subject of the baseball's often bizarre politics where HOF voting is concerned. I am old enough to remember all of this year's enshrinees. Zimmerman clearly deserves to go; he was a dominant offensive lineman in the league for a decade. Monk was a possession receiver, but probably the greatest one of all with the possible exception of Fred Biletnikoff, while Green was a tremendously successful player who lasted 20 years in the league.
Dean and Tippett were both fine players, but it's hard to see why they are considered special; frankly, if Fred Dean is a Hall of Famer, you could argue that Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila of the Packers should be a Hall of Famer, too. While I love KGB, that would be absurd. Tippett was a very good linebacker but there are probably 10-15 guys in the league right now who are just as good as he was. Emmitt Thomas had some memorable battles with Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Paul Warfield and other talented receivers of his era. I remember watching him on the NBC late games back in the 1970s, fighting tooth and nail while waiting for Daryle Lamonica's rainbows to descend, with Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis explaining what he was doing. That was a lot of fun to watch; even more fun was re-enacting those plays with my brothers and/or my friends with the Nerf football back in good old Alicia Park, all the while humming the NFL Films music (usually the sweeping orchestral version of "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor") and/or trying to lower our pre-puberty voices enough to sound like John Facenda. And failing, of course.

I expect you'll hear some gnashing of teeth because Cris Carter and Randall McDaniel didn't make it this time around. Doesn't matter - both will be in there soon, maybe as early as next year. Carter was a more explosive player than Monk and has comparable stats in many ways; an important difference is that Monk has a few Super Bowl rings. Carter won't have to wait long, though. Nor will McDaniel, who was a Pro Bowl perennial and a regular flattener of guys like Blaise Winter or Al "Bubba" Baker during his long and distinguished career. They'll get to wear those hideous yellow jackets soon enough.

Four Guys Named Ben Update - 020208

The Gold Standard was golden this afternoon, routing yet another mysterious but apparently well-regarded Mounds View team 38-23 at Chippewa Middle School. Even though the team was short-handed, with only 7 of the 10 players there, it was a wonderful, total team effort as our lads fought back from an early deficit and took control at halftime. Ben had his best all-around performance of the season, scoring 4 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, while managing 2 steals and an assist, even while spending a good part of the game guarding an opposing player who was significantly bigger and faster than Ben. Yep, Dad's a little proud.

The win brings the squad's final regular season record to 4-5-1. The year-end tournament begins next weekend, with the first game at 9 a.m. at Chippewa against one of the seemingly endless parade of Mounds View teams that we've seen this year. Remember, Mr. Dilettante is your source for wall-to-wall coverage of exciting Irondale 5-6 in-house basketball action.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Don't Look Back

Besides being one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, Satchel Paige was a very wise fellow. He became famous not only for his blazing fastball early on and his dazzling array of junk as he got older, but also for his six rules on "How to Keep Young," with the last suggestion remaining the most prescient. To wit:

Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.

It's tough not to look back, however. Especially in sports. I know that a lot of Packer fans have been having a difficult time getting over the loss to the Giants, especially now that the Super Bowl is nigh. My friend Rich pointed out that some of us still haven't gotten over the John Hadl trade back in 1974. Packer fans seem to have very long memories and we don't forget much. Sometimes we should, though. I read a fascinating piece earlier today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which is here. It turns out that Ron Wolf, former Packer GM, is still stewing about losing Super Bowl XXXII to those pesky Denver Broncos, and that he puts the blame for the loss primarily on the shoulders of the Walrus. Wolf, now in retirement in Annapolis, thinks that Holmgren should have made adjustments to the all-out blitz package that the Broncos used to rattle Brett Favre.

I greatly respect Ron Wolf, who was the primary architect behind a Super Bowl championship. Still, after ten years, it's really time to let it go. I've seen the NFL Films piece on the game any number of times over the years and it always turns out the same way. There's no good reason to keep picking at that particular scab. Life is too short for regret.

With the news that the Johan Santana trade is now essentially complete, I sense that a lot of fans of the local baseball team will be going through similar feelings of regret. And while this particular event is much closer, it is now passing. I'm going to be happy that I got to see Johan Santana pitch in his prime and I am glad that my kids got to see him pitch here. I doubt that he is worth the nearly $151 million that he is receiving from the Mets; really, is anyone in baseball worth that kind of money? But you can't begrudge the guy for it. You just have to thank him for his service and look forward.

When we look back at such things, it's pretty clear what that we run the ristk of missing what is gaining on us. As a Packer fan, I don't need to think about whether or not Dorsey Levens ran the ball enough ten years ago. A far more interesting topic is what Ryan Grant will do in 2008. And as a Twins fan, a far more interesting topic is whether Francisco Liriano is ready to pitch again. We'll start getting answers to these these and many other questions soon enough. I can't wait.

A beautiful tribute

Unfortunately, Leo Pusateri, who blogs here, lost his father last week. But from moments of great sadness can come great beauty.

RIP, Leo Sr.