Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Does Mr. Dilettante Meet Your Needs?

While I run this blog primarily because I have ideas to express, dirt to dish, etc., I am grateful for my readers. So here are three questions for my readers:

1) Do you generally enjoy the fare offered here?

2) Are there topics that you'd like to see get greater attention?

3) Are there topics you wish I'd not spend as much time on?

I appreciate your support. If you'd like to offer comments privately, you can click on my profile and find an e-mail link there. Thanks to everyone!

Quick Question for My Liberal Friends (And Everyone Else)

If you are upset about the price of oil and the effect it is having on people, and you are demanding that Something Be Done About It, like Amy Klobuchar did the other day, why should we oppose drilling for more oil in U.S. territory? Yes, that means in ANWR and in coastal waters.

Here's a good synopsis from Washington Post (and Newsweek) columnist Robert Samuelson.

And (anticipating the question) yes, it's a question that our Republican senator and noisy ANWR-drilling opponent Norm Coleman should answer as well.

Help me understand the reasons not to drill.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

H & R Blockhead

So do you think that Mike Ciresi is kicking himself about his decision to bail on his Senate campaign? The Star Tribune is reporting that DFL candidate and business genius Al Franken owes $70,000 in back taxes to 17 different states.

"You're an accountant? Well then, account for yourself!"

-- Zero Mostel in "The Producers"

The accounting for Mr. Franken is not too pretty. According to the Star Tribune article:

Franken told the Associated Press that he never intended to avoid paying taxes and that on the advice of his accountant, had paid taxes to the city and state where he lived.

It's not clear if that means New York -- it could be Planet Zorf for all we know, which is apparently where Franken's accountant is based. There are probably a couple thousand competent accountants here in the Twin Cities and any one of them could have told Mr. Franken that if you do business in more than one place, there's an excellent chance that the local government in each place will be looking for a little taste. But big picture types like Mr. Franken don't like minutiae, of course.

I live in hotels, tear out the walls/I have accountants pay for it all.

--Joe Walsh, "Life's Been Good"

This incident, on top of several others, might indicate that Minnesota's Prodigal Son may still be a little, well, prodigal. Since the DFL reminds us all that we must be Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota, our local portsiders will have a hard time selling a guy who wasn't happy to pay for a better California, New York, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Delaware, Michigan, Kentucky, etc.

The DFL is in a bit of a quandary, though -- with Mr. Franken's campaign currently on the shoals and Ciresi out of action, they may need another candidate. There is that peacenik professor from St. Thomas. . . what's his name? Charles Nelson Reilly? No, that's not it. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, I think. I know that some of the more earnest lefties think he's the real deal, but my guess is that a hyphenated lefty professor channeling Dennis Kucinich isn't exactly what the DFL needs to lead its ticket this time around. Who will save their soul?

Don't worry, down-hearted DFLers, Mr. Dilettante understands your predicament and has great sympathy for your pain. I have a suggestion -- Betty ("Betty!") McCollum. Betty could step into the breach, let fly with her patented shrill accusations and brilliant legislative record and she'd be sure to beat ol' Norm. Why, she'd crush Norm! Of course it would work! And the best part is, it would open up the 4th and give Ed Matthews, the highly impressive GOP nominee, a better chance.

C'mon Betty -- Mr. DeMille says it's time for your closeup!

Cross-posted at True North

Brewers Rally Again, Lose Late

Once again our intrepid Brewers fell behind early, but mounted a furious rally before falling to the Mets 12-9 in 5 innings at Southpoint Park in North Oaks this evening. The Brew crew was behind at one point 9-2, but rallied all the way back to tie the score in the 5th inning, highlighted by a bases-clearing triple by one of our lads, but the Mets were able to push across the winning runs in the bottom of the 5th as darkness fell. Ben went 0-1 but scored a run during the rally and also made a nice fielding play to end a Mets threat in the 4th.

The Brew Crew now stands at 0-2 and will be off until a week from today when they will play the Mariners in another 6:30 tilt, this time at soggy Wilson Park in Shoreview. As always, Mr. Dilettante is your source for exhaustive coverage of Shoreview Little League American league baseball.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Late April Thanksgiving

We've been entirely too serious lately. Herewith, two classic bits of television comedy that both relate to Thanksgiving. Why not? It's sure felt like Thanksgiving 'round here lately.

Then the famous Thanksgiving episode of The Bob Newhart Show where Bob and his cronies get drunk and end up ordering moo goo gai pan.

No vote - just enjoy!

Don't Read the Soundbites from Rev. Wright's Speech

Read the speech. As a speech should, it speaks for itself. Oh my goodness, does it speak for itself.

King Banaian

Word is that King Banaian, intrepid economics professor at St. Cloud State, blogger nonpareil at SCSU Scholars, NARN luminary, Mayor of the MOB and all-around good egg, is in the hospital awaiting surgery to remove his gallbladder. Be sure to keep King in your thoughts and prayers -- he'll likely come through this just fine but the journey ahead is not going to be a lot of fun. Your prayers will help him. I speak from experience on this.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Brighton Hospitality

So they had a "town meeting" on Saturday morning at the Family Service Center in New Brighton. It's an election year of course and at any such gathering, you'd fully expect politicians to be there. And sure enough, several were. Kate Knuth and Satveer Chaudhary, our state rep and state senator, were there. So was Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Parker. These folks, all of whom are Democrats, were welcome.

Another politician showed up as well -- Ed Matthews, the GOP candidate for the 4th CD, who is running against incumbent Betty McCollum. As it turned out, our municipal hospitality wasn't so, shall we say, bi-partisan. Force50 from Boots On picks up the story (read the whole thing!):

The Republican candidate for U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 4th
District, Ed Matthews, came to meet people at the April 26th Town Hall meeting.
He had already met dozens of people including the City Manager with no problem.
But just before the program began, Mayor Larson shows up and stops Ed Matthews.
He told Matthews, “… this is tacky, you shouldn’t be doing this!”

There was no evidence that Matthews was disrupting the event in any way. The other politicos were free to do as they pleased -- in fact, as Force50 notes in his dispatch, Chaudhary was given an opportunity to address the audience.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is penny-ante stuff. Mayor Larson may not agree with Mr. Matthews or support his candidacy, but when the mayor of a city ham-handedly attempts to silence a political candidate while representing the city at a city event, it's embarrassing at best. Larson clearly owes Matthews an apology, but more than that he owes his constituents an apology. The citizens of our community deserve better.
Cross-posted at True North.

Brewers Rally Falls Short in Lid-Lifter

A furious late-inning rally fell just a bit short as our Brewers lost 9-8 to the Phillies in their Shoreview Area Youth Baseball American League debut this afternoon at Sitzer Park in Shoreview. The Phils steadily built a lead early and were up 9-0 when things started to change. The Brewers put together a remarkable 5th inning, scoring 8 times to close the gap. After holding the Phils scoreless in the 6th, the Brewers had one last opportunity, but the Phillies reliever was able to hold our lads at bay.

Ben's debut was a good one. He was officially 0-2, but he scored the first run of the 8-run rally after reaching base on a fielder's choice, then later drove in the final run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk. All told, a pretty good start.

The Brew Crew will next be in action on Tuesday against a mysterious Mets squad. The game will take place at 6:30 p.m. in North Oaks. As always, Mr. Dilettante is your source for continuing coverage of Shoreview Area Youth Baseball.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Monsters, Inc.

Saturday night is movie night here at the Dilettante household and my kids were screening a really good movie from the seemingly endless trove of Disney/Pixar fare that we've managed to accumulate over the years, Monsters, Inc. The basic premise of the movie is that the monsters who live in Monstropolis go into the world and scare children to capture the energy from their screams.

It's sort of the same approach that Democrats in the Minnesota Senate like to use to push for legislation to get their global warming/regulatory agenda off the dime. Watch as Sen. Ellen Anderson talks about how children are afraid they are going to die from global warming, then listen as her Republican counterpart Julianne Ortman calmly and methodically calls her out.

As usual, Leo is on the case.

In our day, our teachers would scare us while telling scary stories of
goblins and witches on Halloween. These days, kids are frightened with equally
frightening (and equally fanciful) stories of polar bears swimming and the earth
conflagrating in a huge fireball, all because mom and dad drive an SUV and don't
throw the pop cans where they're supposed to. The difference, back then was that
the teachers didn't give the impression that the witches and the goblins were


Tradedown Ted Strikes Again

In today's Star Tribune, Judd Zulgad and Kevin Seifert had the Packers taking Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm in the first round. They were right - the Packers have drafted Brohm. But they did it in the second round. Not sure why the Packers took another wide receiver with their first of three second-round selections, but the guy they took, Jordy Nelson from Kansas State, was insanely productive last season, catching 122 passes. And they got a needed defensive back named Patrick Lee as well.

As we've seen in recent years, Green Bay G.M. Ted Thompson likes to stockpile guys. It's worked out pretty well. We'll know for sure about these guys in about 2011. And on a side note, I'm proud to report that my afternoon was essentially Kiper-free.

700 Club

So this is the 700th post on Mr. Dilettante. Just wanted to note that in passing. Now, on to the bullets.

  • Word comes that The Capital Times is ending its 90-year run as a daily afternoon paper in Madison. I never liked the Cap Times much -- it's long billed itself as "your progressive voice," and the type of progress they advocate (relentless expansion of government) hardly seems like progress to me. It will now become a twice weekly tabloid and will mostly devote its efforts to its internet presence. I'm not sure that the Cap Times will do much better in this arena, where they will be competing for eyeballs with Kos, HuffPo and rest of the portside commentariat. Madison is still a lefty place but especially on the west side of town the populace tends to be affluent and less inclined to subscribe to the oppositional leftism that the Cap Times has long pushed. My guess is that the Cap Times will continue to struggle in its new incarnation. They never liked Joseph Schumpeter much at the Cap Times, but as usual his insight was better than what they had on offer.

  • It's the most hype-filled day of the year -- NFL Draft Day. Of all the marketing triumphs that the National Football League has accomplished in its history, Draft Day has to be the most amazing. A two-day administrative exercise is now an industry where amazing amounts of contradictory information and opinions are synthesized into a quasi-scientific goulash that millions of addled fans swallow whole. And yep, I'm one of those fans. I have spent a lot of time in my life watching the musings of Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Mort, Boomer and the rest of the refugees from the S. I . Newhouse School of Public Communications that dot the ESPN roster. Back in the day I spent many hours on beautiful spring afternoons holed up with the Anonymous Truck Driver, watching endless commercials and pointless discussions of the vertical leaping abilities of Darrell Thompson or the 40 time of Tony Mandarich, both of whom came through the NFL without making even the slightest impression despite the thousands of hours of analysis offered on their behalf. Even though the weather today is abysmal, I'm really going to try to stay away from the screen this afternoon. Good luck with that. So, who are those Packers going to take anyway?

  • We were supposed to start Ben's baseball season today. I guess the snow on the ground put a stop to that. I wonder if Kate Knuth could do something useful and cap and trade some of this foul weather for me. . . .

Friday, April 25, 2008

Right Hook Asks a Question

As you may know, our august House 50B representative, Kate Knuth, has sponsored a hellacious boondoggle of a bill that would establish a cap and trade system on emissions. This got our good friend (and blogger extraordinaire) Right Hook over at Boots On pondering the larger meaning of Knuth's handiwork. His question is this: is Kate Knuth maliciously destructive or just plain stupid? Because Right Hook is a charitable fellow, he's leaning toward just plain stupid.

I'd like to agree with him, but since applied stupidity can cause all manner of malicious destructiveness, I'm beginning to wonder. Knuth seems to think that the regulatory scheme she would impose on all of us will bring new jobs. From the Star Tribune article:

"Cap-and-trade will change the jobs that we have in Minnesota -- I think it will change the jobs for the better," said Knuth, DFL-New Brighton. "It will bring clean-energy jobs."

I can envision some of the jobs it will create. The people who will benefit most from such a scheme are the highly paid consultants who will bring their expertise to bear on this problem. People like Kate's dad, Dan Knuth. The elder Knuth once held the seat that his daughter now occupies and has in recent years made his living as a lobbyist. One of his clients is Fresh Energy, which would stand to benefit directly from the imposition of any cap-and-trade system.

Now you're thinking - isn't Fresh Energy a non-profit? Sure, but as their website notes, they are in the business of "developing powerful relationships with businesses, faith leaders, allied organizations and citizens, we advocate for deep permanent pollution reductions that will slow global warming." And those relationships with businesses are worth exploring in greater detail, don't you think?

As Leo mentioned yesterday, it's always a good idea to follow the money. Those jobs that Kate is touting may just be with Fresh Energy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leo Notices Something

The invaluable Leo Pusateri runs Psycmeister's Ice Palace, one of the best blogs in Minnesota and a daily read for me. Leo simply doesn't miss much. And today someone we all know is on his radar.

Read the whole thing.

Guilty Pleasures Part Fourteen - The Joys Of Self-Indulgent Jamming

You've got a guitar. You've taken the stage. The crowd adores you. And they want you to play that thing. What could be better?

It must be fun to be a rock star. I wouldn't know. My last public musical performance that wasn't drunken karaoke was a desultory performance of "The Entertainer" at the Jefferson Elementary School talent show in April of 1975. Oddy enough, I didn't win - as I recall, I lost to an zaftig tap dancer.

So for tonight's competition I decided to look to the ever-popular spectacle of extended jamming at a rock concert. And while self-indulgence might count as a venial sin in the eyes of the Church, the results can be pretty cool. Especially when you have performances like these.

First, from the late 1960s, it's the quintessential power trio, Cream, performing Spoonful, with Eric, Jack and Ginger all in fine form (I especially like Jack's stylin' fur hat).

Next, from 1970, at one of their legendary Fillmore East shows, it's the Allman Brothers, with Whipping Post.

Then, Lynyrd Skynrd answers the eternal question, "what song is it that you want to hear," with the ever-popular Freebird.

And last but not least, a little love for the Deadheads, with Jerry and the boys offering Franklin's Tower.

And the polls are open - exit polls are projecting no winner at this time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where do you slot W?

Like most conservatives, I've been disappointed in certain aspects of George W. Bush's presidency. The thing that continues to amaze me is that so many people on the Left routinely denounce Bush and refer to him as the worst president in the history of the nation. (No, you sure don't have to click on all those links. Although some of these folks would probably appreciate the traffic.)

Given that in my lifetime we've had people like Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton occupy the Oval Office, it seems simply inconceivable to me that anyone could view Bush as worse than all of these guys. But apparently some people do.

So I'm throwing the following questions out to the Mr. Dilettante audience:

1) Is Bush the worst president in American history? If so, why?

2) If he isn't, who is worse?

3) What do you view as Bush's greatest accomplishment?

4) What do you view as Bush's greatest failing?

5) 50 years on, how will Bush be viewed? Will he still rank low, or will his reputation rise like this guy?
The floor is open. And I will answer my own questions in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Finally, Pennsylvania votes

And Hillary Clinton is the winner. While the final margin of victory remains to be seen, it appears that it will be pretty close to 10 points, probably with Clinton getting 54-56% of the vote. Guess she can knock back a couple more boilermakers tonight with her pals in that bar she visited in Indiana last week.

A few interesting things to note:

  • The exit polls are pretty interesting. As has been the pattern throughout the primary season, Obama won the youth vote pretty substantially, with voters between 18-29 giving him a 61%-39% advantage. The problem, as always, is this - that cohort only represented 12% of the electorate. Meanwhile, Hillary cleaned up with the Early Bird Special crowd, winning those 60 and over by 62%-38%. And that cohort represented 32% of the electorate. We keep hearing about how the energy of younger voters is going to carry the day. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's nonsense. The only time I ever saw it happen was when the army of north suburban dudes wearing mullets put Jesse Ventura over the top back in '98. And those guys aren't the "youth" that the chattering classes so adore.

  • Another interesting finding -- those who "cling" to their religion were perhaps a smidge offended by Sen. Obama's undergraduate-level sociological explanations for their behavior. Weekly churchgoers supported Mrs. Clinton 58%-42%, while those who don't attend church supported Obama 56%-44%. Again, the key is that weekly churchgoers represented 36% of the electorate, while their secular counterparts are only 17%. And occasional churchgoers, who represent the remaining 45% of the electorate, supported Mrs. Clinton 55%-45%. That pretty closely mirrors what the overall numbers will look like. And among Catholics, Mrs. Clinton won by better than 2-1, despite the ministrations of Sen. Bob Casey Jr., the theoretically pro-life senator who supported Sen. Obama.

  • Turning away from the numbers, here's something else for the Obamaphiles to consider. Stephen Green at Vodkapundit makes an excellent, pre-cocktail observation as he "drunk-blogs" the Pennsylvania primary, to wit:

What’s wrong with the Democratic nominating process? Look. You can become
President of these United States by winning just 11 states: California, Texas,
New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, North
Carolina, and Georgia. Of those, Clinton has won California, New York, Florida
(which didn’t count), Ohio, Michigan (which also didn’t count), New Jersey,
presumably Pennsylvania tonight, and the popular vote in Texas. If the Democrats
ran a winner-take-all system like the Republicans and the Electoral College do,
she’d have this thing clinched — and Obama would look like a regional candidate
who can’t win much outside the South and his home state of Illinois. Instead,
the race goes on and on and the candidates get weaker and weaker and without an end in sight.

And that's what you get when you game the system in the interest of "fairness."

So What Does It All Mean? Beats me, kids. Mrs. Clinton will certainly slog on to the next states and Obama will continue to flood the airwaves with his gauzy advertisements. But the only thing I can conclude with any certainty is this - the Republicans may be the Stupid Party, but the (Sid Hartman) geniuses (/Sid Hartman) in the Democratic Party are doing what they always do - screwing up a Sure Thing. Darn shame, eh?

Cross-posted at True North.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Looking For Her Lost Shaker of Salt

This campaign can't end fast enough, no? My search for a picture of McCain with a hookah continues; I'll keep you posted.

The Buckos Reach For A Retread

When it comes to coaching, the NBA is a strange league. It's funny how the same guys keep resurfacing over and over again. When the Bucks announed tonight that they were bringing in Scott Skiles, I had to roll my eyes. This is his third stop in the NBA and the other guy they were reportedly considering, Rick Carlisle, has had a similar career path. What, isn't Hubie Brown available? Or maybe Matt Guokas? Or Doug Collins? Surely the 30th time must be the charm for one of these dudes. And I understand that Isiah Thomas is available....

Skiles got run out of Chicago last season for reasons that seem to be a bit opaque. He walks into a tough situation with the Bucks - they have some talent but they also have a lot of bad contracts and not a lot of cap room. The best they can hope for, realistically, is finding someone to take some of the bad contracts away, or maybe to have the ping pong balls land in their favor yet again. This would be a good year to get a top pick, as there are some really fine collegians entering the league this year. The Woofies might even get a good player for a change this time. Naah, that never happens. They'll probably end up with Spencer Tollackson or someone like that.

When I was young I was a huge Bucks fan but it's been awfully tough to get with them in recent years. They were a fine team for most of the first 20 years of their existence, but they haven't been a factor for a long time, with only one appearance in the conference finals since then. Is Scott Skiles the guy to lead them out of the wilderness after lo these many years? Guess I'm a little bit skeptical. Stinger is a bit more sanguine about this hire than I am, although he wanted Carlisle - I trust Stinger's judgment about these things as he pays more attention to the Buckos than I do, but I'm hard-pressed to see how either of these guys would have made any difference.

A sure sign of spring

It's Inflatable Bucky! And there seems to be some sort of odd ritual going on as well. Look at how green the grass is, by the way. I have to assume the 900 inches of snow they got down there in Madison must have greened things up in a hurry....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Annus mirabilis - Repost

So the Nightwriter was waxing nostalgic the other day about 1974. And I was thinking about how bad a year it was. Then I remembered, I'd already written about this, almost two years ago now. So from deep in the archives, I exhume the following.


"These are the days of miracle and wonder, so don't cry baby, don't cry, don't cry."
-- Paul Simon, "The Boy in the Bubble"

Sage advice from the former partner of Art Garfunkel, circa 1986, an excellent year in rock history. But that's not why you're here. A regular reader of this feature sent an e-mail referencing a recent article about the worst song in history. Link is here:

While an instructive tour of the horror that is Bobby Goldsboro, it only references in passing what the author refers to as the "annus mirabilis" of 1974. And that, friends is the mother lode, the money shot, the greatest repository of dire that I know.

"Let's go back, let's go back, let's go back to way back when."
--Aretha Franklin, "Think"

Do you remember? The President was reeling, gas prices were soaring and waves of pessimism were threatening to engulf the land. It even seems vaguely familiar today. But AM radio was not yet the province of Rush and his shout show acolytes, and stations like my old hometown favorite, WNAM, were spinning the top hits. And what a cavalcade it was. Just let the soundtrack play in your mind.

Seasons in the Sun
Billy, Don't Be a Hero
The Night Chicago Died
Having My Baby
Rock Me Gently
Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)
My Girl Bill
Midnight at the Oasis
The Streak
Hooked on a Feeling (the "Ooga Shocka" Blue Swede version, not B. J. Thomas)

Are you wincing yet? It was a strange and wondrous time, when novelty artists like Jim Stafford and Ray Stevens, who are now safely confined in Branson, ruled the airwaves. It was a time when a Catholic nun (Sr. Janet Meade) could ride the charts with a bad, discofied version of the Lord's Prayer, followed immediately on the WNAM playlist with "Having My Baby" and, if you were lucky, the "Bertha Butt Boogie." I remember getting on the phone with my brothers to call the WNAM studios, pestering the d.j.'s to play Cheech & Chong's "Sister Mary Elephant," because, apparently, we weren't satisfied that the music they were playing was sufficiently strange.

It would be worth studying, I suppose, the convergence of forces that turned an entire summer over to an ocean of novelty tunes. And it is worth remembering that 1974 was also the year of Eric Clapton's comeback album, 461 Ocean Boulevard, and Dylan's masterwork Blood on the Tracks, among other things. Sometimes the Zeitgeist blows strangely. Sometimes, it just blows.

The Lollipop Guild

Even though the action in the presidential election campaign has been centered in Pennsylvania, plenty of talk has centered on Kansas. Not necessarily the state of Kansas, but Kansas as metaphor.

Kansas sits pretty much in the middle of the 48 contiguous states geographically and is more or less equidistant from Pennsylvania and California. Pennsylvania is where Barack Obama has had to attempt to explain the comments he made in California, where he expressed ideas that were part in parcel of the Thomas Frank book "What's the Matter With Kansas."

So in the old metaphor search, I started thinking about "The Wizard of Oz." I don't know how Barack Obama would look wearing a gingham dress, but his campaign has essentially dropped a house on Hillary Clinton. The Clintons have commanded power in the Democratic Party through essentially Machiavellian means for the past 16 or so years. While many prominent players in the party owe much to the Clintons, I think many of them would like to be rid of the Clintons.

Like the Munchkins in the story, people are starting to emerge from the shadows. There was an especially interesting piece in the New York Times about some of these people, including two Minnesota figures, "superdelegate" Nancy Larson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Both of these women have come out for Obama in recent weeks, as have a number of other political figures of varying pedigree, from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (a major beneficiary of Clinton fundraising), 2004 Dem nominee John Kerry and former Clintonites such as Gregory Craig and, crucially, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. They have presented Obama with endorsements, enconia and perhaps soon enough, the red slippers of the nomination.

So it's seems likely that Obama will be going down the yellow brick road soon enough. Will he find intelligence, heart and courage along the way? Here's a suggestion that might help him. Rather than taking his understanding of Kansas (both as state and metaphor) from Thomas Frank, he might try Frank Baum instead.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

First Communion Day at St. John's

For such a special day, it's always a cattle call. Eighty-two children received their First Holy Communion this morning at St. John the Baptist. Maria was one of them.

The girls always look better than the boys, partially because their options are so limited. All the girls pretty much show up in variations of the same thing - a fancy white dress, white tights, white shoes and usually a veil of some sort. There's no such uniformity among the boys - some of them wear ill-fitting polyester suits, others a shirt and tie, still others in polo shirts and khaki pants. If you can get an 8-year old boy to comb his hair you've accomplished something, so I guess that's not surprising.

Since I taught a Faith Formation class this year, I had an interest in all the kids in my class. Teaching kids at this age about faith, the life of Jesus and all the mysteries and miracles that are part of our beliefs can be tough. Six of my eight students -- Maria, Rachel, Lauren, Brady, Joey and Skye -- made their First Communion this morning and I hope that they were able to understand the magnitude of the event. They are a good group, if a bit rambunctious, and I hope that the gift they received today will help them as they develop and deepen their faith.

Maria was outfitted as she should have been. She had the nice white dress, the veil, the gloves, the shoes, even a cute little matching purse. She looked great, and pretty much identical to about 50 other girls milling around the big church. Since I was one of the parents responsible for watching the kids in the front pews, I was able to sit next to her during the Mass. Maria is rarely at a loss for words, of course -- not too many kids her age have two blogs. But as we sat there and listened to Father Skluzacek, she was quiet and pensive. I suspect she was nervous -- even though she was taking this journey with so many other children, I'm certain she felt that all eyes were upon her. Just before the Lamb of God, I turned to her.

"Are you ready?" I asked.

"I don't know, Dad," she replied, a little hesitantly.

"Well, Jesus is ready for you, Maria," I said.

She smiled a little bit, sighed a little and then smiled a little bit more. That's the memory I'll take away from this day. Jesus was ready for Maria, of course. He's ready for all of us.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Danny Federici, RIP

Danny Federici, who was with Bruce Springsteen pretty much from the very beginning, died today. He was a heck of a musician. Mitch Berg has the words. Here's the music.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirteen - Actual Guilt Edition

Since I started this feature, a few alert readers have pointed out that in some cases, I've picked songs that most reasonable observers enjoy without feeling any guilt. As the redoubtable Strolling Amok pointed out, Queen (one of last week's contestants) was a very good band.

I take the point. So let's break out some b-list stuff and see what happens.

This time we're back in the 1970s, that weird and wonderful time. Schlock was everywhere, especially on Top 40 radio. It was a time when people like Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (of "Billy Don't Be a Hero" fame) and the Starland Vocal Band (of "Afternoon Delight" fame) could get on the radio. We could go on for days regaling the horrible stuff, because it was legion, especially in 1974, the nerve center of bad novelty songs. But that's another post.

But I have to admit it - I like some stuff that doesn't have the best pedigree. Stuff like this:

First, from 1975, what I consider the quintessential Guilty Pleasure band, the Sweet, with "Fox On the Run," which also explains where Michael McKean got his hair style for his Spinal Tap performances.

Next, a old family favorite, the ever-cheerful former Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne frontman Jay Ferguson offering a lusty reminisce about the nights in the cool sand out on "Thunder Island."

Third, a band that wasn't necessarily well-loved during its heyday but whose reputation has improved over the years, making this probably the least guilty selection. It's the missing Celtic link between Van Morrison and Bono, Phil Lynott, at the helm of Thin Lizzy, discussing his laundry issues in "Dancing In the Moonlight."

Finally, long-time hitmakers who are probably less well-regarded now than they were back in the day, Daryl Hall and John Oates, with "She's Gone."

The window is open!

What did Joe Louis say?

He can run, but he can't hide.

After last night, Sen. Obama is finding out what Joe Louis meant. The tag team of George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson from ABC asked Obama some tough questions last night, which Obama struggled with. And today, the message is: the debate moderators were bad!

Here's a real simple question - if George Stephanopolous intimidates Obama, what the heck is going to happen if he's across the table from Putin, or Chavez, or Ahmedinejad?

He can run, but he can't hide.

I put the question to the Obama supporters who read this blog - do you agree with the folks at the Huffington Post? If so, why? I'm genuinely curious about how Obama supporters feel about this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Benedict and the Sheep

The post immediately below is a long one and includes a lot more of what the Pope had to say today, but I'd like to return in this post to what I thought was a key theme of his visit today.

This is what Benedict said:

In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.

As an American Catholic, I see this as a huge challenge. My sense has long been that those who are especially public about their faith are viewed with great suspicion in some quarters. While we have wide religious tolerance in this country, we aren't very tolerant of religiosity. In our society, it usually isn't cool to be Christian.

I was thinking about all this as I was driving over to St. John's tonight to teach my last faith formation class of the year. I've had the privilege and challenge of trying to help 8 second graders grow in their faith, including my daughter. Second grade year is a big one for Catholic kids in our diocese; they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the fall and then prepare for the Eucharist in the spring. My students will be receiving their first communion this weekend, as a matter of fact.

Since it was the last class of the year, I wanted to try to sum up everything we'd discussed over the previous months, to tie it up into a nice little package for the kids, but in a way that they might understand. So I turned to two of the most familiar passages in the Bible, Psalm 23 and John 3:16. And I talked about sheep.

Kids understand sheep. I talked about the Lord being our shepherd and what that meant. But I wanted them to think about what it means to be part of a flock. Calling someone a sheep is usually a pejorative term, but I wanted them to think about what sheep really are. And the word I came up with was "useful." I tried to get the kids to understand that they are called to be useful, too, to serve others, that as Christians we are called to witness our faith through the work we do for others.

The Church assumes that kids at this age have reached the age of reason. When you're trying to get a bunch of second graders to pay attention, it's easy to doubt that is true. But I hope that if I taught these kids anything this year, it is to be useful in the world, to bear witness, to share their faith. It was heartening to have Benedict underscore that message today.

Benedict in Washington

Two things that I noticed about the Pope's day in Washington.

The Pope made one thing very clear: he does not view faith as a private matter. During the question and answer session with the bishops, he was asked about "a certain quiet attrition" caused by Catholics distancing themselves quietly and gradually from attendance at Mass and identification with the Church. His answer was pretty interesting. I've given you the full answer, which makes this a pretty long quotation (and post), but I've highlighted the "money quotes."

Certainly, much of this has to do with the passing away of a religious
culture, sometimes disparagingly referred to as a "ghetto", which reinforced
participation and identification with the Church. As I just mentioned, one of
the great challenges facing the Church in this country is that of cultivating a
Catholic identity which is based not so much on externals as on a way of
thinking and acting grounded in the Gospel and enriched by the Church's living

The issue clearly involves factors such as religious individualism and
scandal. Let us go to the heart of the matter: faith cannot survive unless it is
nourished, unless it is "formed by charity" (cf. Gal 5:6). Do people today find
it difficult to encounter God in our Churches? Has our preaching lost its salt?
Might it be that many people have forgotten, or never really learned, how to
pray in and with the Church?

Here I am not speaking of people who leave the Church in search of
subjective religious "experiences"; this is a pastoral issue which must be
addressed on its own terms. I think we are speaking about people who have fallen
by the wayside without consciously having rejected their faith in Christ, but,
for whatever reason, have not drawn life from the liturgy, the sacraments,
preaching. Yet Christian faith, as we know, is essentially ecclesial, and
without a living bond to the community, the individual's faith will never grow
to maturity. Indeed, to return to the question I just discussed, the result can
be a quiet apostasy.

So let me make two brief observations on the problem of
"attrition", which I hope will stimulate further reflection.

First, as you know, it is becoming more and more difficult, in our
Western societies, to speak in a meaningful way of "salvation".
Yet salvation -
deliverance from the reality of evil, and the gift of new life and freedom in
Christ - is at the heart of the Gospel. We need to discover, as I have
suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a
thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring. It is in the Church's
liturgy, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist, that these realities
are most powerfully expressed and lived in the life of believers; perhaps we
still have much to do in realizing the Council's vision of the liturgy as the
exercise of the common priesthood and the impetus for a fruitful apostolate in
the world.

Second, we need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete
eclipse of an eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian
societies. As you know, I have pointed to this problem in the Encyclical Spe
Salvi. Suffice it to say that faith and hope are not limited to this world: as
theological virtues, they unite us with the Lord and draw us toward the
fulfillment not only of our personal destiny but also that of all creation.
Faith and hope are the inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the
coming of the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely
private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body
and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our
love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the
extension of his Kingdom.
To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.

Let me conclude by stating the obvious. The fields are still ripe
for harvesting (cf. Jn 4:35); God continues to give the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6).
We can and must insist -- even in our own time and for our own time -- as the
late Pope John Paul II did, that God is preparing a new springtime for
Christianity (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86). What is needed above all, at this
time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic
zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up
those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing
(cf. Ez 34:16). And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking based
on a sound diagnosis of today's challenges and a commitment to unity in the
service of the Church's mission to the present generation. Thank you.

Emphasis mine. There's a pretty strong challenge from the Pope, don't you think?

The second thing I noticed was the choice of music for the liturgy - "The Battle Hymn of the
Republic." In particular, consider the final verse:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on!

[chorus]Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps.
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on!


I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."


He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on!


In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

I think there's a challenge back to the Pope in that particular musical selection, no? I will be very interested to see how Benedict responds.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2, 4, 6, 8 - Now It's Time to Ruminate

Haven't done a bullet post in a while. And this will be Obama-free!

  • Libertas is reporting that the NFL is involved in making a biopic about Vince Lombardi. This is the first time the NFL is directly involved in a motion picture. I'll be very curious to see how this turns out. And by the way, I wanted to give Libertas a shout-out. It's a site that looks at film from a conservative perspective. It's very well done and well worth a visit. Hit the link and see for yourself, or visit my sidebar.

  • We finally were able to get outside and have a decent practice with the Little League team that I'm coaching this evening. It has been a long winter here in Minnesota (just ask Leo)and the kids were happy to actually take the field, even if it meant dancing around an ungroomed infield with an absolutely astonishing amount of goose poop. I'm cautiously optimistic about the team's chances: we have some talented kids this year and so far the attitudes are very good. Coaching youth sports is probably my favorite activity and baseball is such a wonderful game. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to help.

  • Pope Benedict arrived today and will be very busy in the next few days. The headlines have related to Benedict's statement that he is "deeply ashamed" about the sex scandals that have rocked the American church in recent years. I'm glad he's talking about this issue up front, because you know he'll be asked about it repeatedly while he's here. For the sake of the Church and for the sake of all Catholics, we need to start repairing this breach. And if that means some of the Church hierarchy needs to go, especially here in the United States, so be it.

  • It's tax day and it looks like we'll be okay for the year. Other people, not so much. But since we're all Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota, guess we can't complain. Maybe tomorrow I'll go and take a subsidized light rail train ride to celebrate.

  • If I've seemed cranky in recent days, there's been a good reason. I managed to get through 40+ years of life with my wisdom teeth intact, but had to get them pulled last week. I've tried to be my usual self, but blogging and painkillers don't really mix well. What a drag it is getting old....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama and the Hutterites

Way back in the winter of 1982 I took Sociology 101 at Beloit College. The professor was a kindly, somewhat detached fellow who spent the first few weeks of the course talking about an obscure Anabaptist sect called the Hutterites, describing their social structure, mores, religious beliefs and history. We learned a lot about the Hutterites during those few weeks, but what the professor was really doing was teaching us how social scientists, especially sociologists, look at groups of people. The presentation he gave was dispassionate, even clinical.

Like many college freshmen, it didn't immediately occur to me that perhaps something was missing in the presentation I was receiving in that lecture hall. When I went home for the summer, outside of the academic bubble, I thought more about what I'd learned and started to realize that something was missing. What was missing? The actual voice of the Hutterites themselves. What would a Hutterite say about what I'd learned? Did I understand their history, their world-view, their prospects as well as I thought? Or was I missing something?

As I've tried to make sense of the furor involving Barack Obama's now-famous statements about blue-collar Pennsylvanians, I've been thinking about the Hutterites. It's long been clear that Sen. Obama tends to affect a professorial style; of all the politicians who have recently trod the national stage, he has been the most didactic. I get the impression that he's always in teaching mode. I think this is one reason why he has been so wildly popular in certain highly educated circles.

Obama's presentation of the matter, like what I heard in that lecture hall, hangs together pretty well as long as you accept the central premise - that by looking at the data that social scientists consider, you can understand large groups of people. And certainly there's a lot of truth in that. While we are all individuals, as we aggregate together we tend to follow certain patterns. Sociologists, demographers and pollsters understand these things quite well and I sense that Sen. Obama's circle contains many people who view the world that way.

As anyone who has spent much time analyzing data comes to understand, the big question is the simple one: do the data really mean what they appear to mean? Or do we tend to put filters on the data and come up with false conclusions?

My sense is that Sen. Obama hasn't really heard the voices of the people he so clinically described in his San Francisco remarks. If he really understood the way blue collar Pennsylvanians live their lives, he wouldn't have said anything like what came out of his mouth that day.

I've seen Obama described as arrogant, hubristic, patronizing, disdainful and elitist in recent days. All of those things may be true. But what I really sense is this: while Obama's knowledge and intelligence may be vast, his understanding is not. Just as Hillary Clinton is famous for undertaking listening tours where she does all the talking, Obama may have listened to the voices of the people he purports to explain and hopes to serve. But I don't think he's really heard them. If he really hears the people his campaign may survive. But if he continues to view people in the same detailed yet ultimately unsatisfactory way that I was taught to think about the Hutterites, he won't. Nor will he deserve to.
Cross-posted at True North

Things I Know But Likely Shouldn't

HT: The Night Writer -- don't know if I could have aced it if I wasn't playing a CD in the background, but given the subject matter acing this test is probably a badge of dishonor. Really, not knowing the next line of some of these songs is no crime....

I scored a Far Out
90% on the

Quiz by SheGoddess: Lose Weight Fast

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Who's bitter? We're not bitter at Mr. Dilettante. There's too much good stuff going on. Way too much. So as this guy would say, here are some reasons to be cheerful.

Strolling Amok has some kitties

Just like Gino's, very pretty

There's no reason to despair

Just when you think the gloom's enhancing

I'm back coaching baseball, as fun as it gets

The Brewers just took 2 of 3 from the Mets

After several false starts, it seems spring's finally coming

My brother's doing well and his blog's really humming

Chin up, people! Life is good.

Gino and The Lumberjack

explain it to you right here. We now return you to regular programming.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Who Will Save Your Soul?

The blogosphere continues to be afire with commentary on Sen. Obama's recent statements. Some of the commentary defending Sen. Obama's comments are pretty revelatory in their own right.

My two cents -- the problem with what Obama and his supporters believe is two-fold. First, there's the cultural condescension on display. There's nothing new in that. While it's remarkable to have the notions that Obama put forth being stated so plainly, anyone who has paid attention to politics in the last 40 years understands that this is part of the game.

The larger issue is the one that goes to the real conceit of certain liberals. It's this -- because liberals intend to use the apparatus of government to make your life better, the citizenry should let them do it. That's why today we're hearing the following message from Obama and his acolytes: well, of course people are bitter, because the government in Washington hasn't made people's lives better in the last 25-30 years. Those nasty Bushes and Clintons aren't listening to people's concerns. And that nasty McCain is the same. Again, apparently the last president who was listening was Jimmy Carter.

And here's the problem with that particular conceit; in my experience, people understand that the federal government isn't particularly well-equipped to deal with what are individual concerns. And people learn that is true irrespective of the party that happens to hold power in Washington, D.C.

The reason people "cling" to religion, or guns, or other traditions is really pretty simple; it's because those things matter more to people's lives than government does. I don't expect Barack Obama to make my life better; it is beyond his ken. He can complicate my life if he becomes president, but he won't hire me or fire me, nor will he ultimately have much say in how the next 8 years of my life proceed, whether he is president or not. My own faith and my own efforts will matter much more than anything he and his minions do, as will the relationships I have with family, friends, colleagues and others in my immediate community.

Maybe I'm wrong about all this. Maybe I'm a victim of false consciousness and don't understand that I am merely a pawn in a larger game. But I doubt it. The federal government certainly has a role to play in our lives, but it is necessarily secondary to the role that other people and institutions play in our lives. Sen. Obama doesn't see things that way. That is his right and he can certainly try to become president and then attempt to assume a pivotal role in my life. But I am duty-bound to push back against his efforts in that regard. And as more people come to understand the conceits by which Sen. Obama and his campaign operate, he's going to find more and more opposition. We cling to what we value and I value many things more than I value Sen. Obama's heartfelt offers to improve my life.

Hmmm Part Deux (Updates with new links and more)

Simple question for the audience. Does this get Obama off the hook?

HT: Mickey Kaus, who says no.

Update: The original video was pulled. See how this works for you. Apparently Obama is now doubling down. It's not he who is out of touch; it's his opponents, natch.

First rule of holes, Senator: when you're in one, stop digging.

Even more: watch and learn as CNN bien pensants Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Toobin and Jack Cafferty explain why Obama is right. Especially enjoy Cafferty's reasonable analysis comparing the economic sufferers in Pennsylvania to the sorts of people who train to join Al Qaida. I'm sure this is the kind of support that Senator Obama really appreciates. They've got yer back, Senator.

Friday, April 11, 2008


So here's a quote from Obama that's making the rounds on the Internet today (HT - Instapundit).

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

It's a pretty remarkable statement, really. If we go back 25 years, we're going back to the first Reagan administration. We are also back in 1983, which is precisely when things got better, pretty much everywhere. If things were better in the Pennsylvania towns of Obama's imaginings more than 25 years ago, then we must assume that the Carter era was a time of great economic progress. No one seriously believes that, of course.

Then we have the image of people "clinging to guns." What do you suppose Obama means by that? Are there a lot of hunters in rural America? Of course - I knew plenty of hunters growing up in a small Midwestern town. I'm not aware of any compelling reason why people who like to hunt and who are responsible shouldn't "cling to their guns."

And they also "cling to their religion." Why on earth is that a bad thing? Obama seems to imply that their religion is wedded to "frustration." How would he know that? Did Pastor Wright tell him that?

And their supposed "antipathy to people who aren't like them"; is Obama able to look into the hearts of people and know these things?

And "anti-immigrant sentiment"; is sentiment somehow actionable? If so, which sentiments?

And then the money idea - "anti-trade sentiment." Gee, last time I looked, the enitre Democratic Party apparatus has been quite vocal in opposing trade agreements. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have contests condemning NAFTA pretty much on a daily basis. Meanwhile a potential treaty with Colombia, our most consistently reliable ally in South America, languishes in the Congress. The construction of the sentence implies that "anti-trade sentiment" is somehow less than desirable. If so, why is Obama on record opposing trade agreements?

One of the obvious premises of the Obama campaign is that we need to get past our prejudices and move on to a better understanding of the world. As the campaign unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that what Obama actually wants is to replace one set of prejudices with another. Maybe he'll succeed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twelve - Unsavory Stadium Rock/Unsavory College Deejay Edition

Have you ever noticed this? A lot of the songs that get played to fire up the crowds at professional sporting events are a little, shall we say, dubious?

It's a constant source of amusement to me that one of tonight's contestants is played at stadiums all over the country - "Blitzkrieg Bop," by the Ramones. Now the Ramones are great, of course -- pure dumb fun, almost the poster boys for the Guilty Pleasure aesthetic. And they played a role in one of my all-time favorite memories of being a college radio deejay, about which more after the vote. But the line that you don't hear at the stadium is crucial to the song.

Hey ho, let's go

Shoot 'em in the back now

That hardly seems sportsmanlike, now does it?

Another nominee for tonight is a truly odious fellow, Gary Glitter. But his song "Rock 'N Roll Part Two" still gets played all over the place.

Go figure. Oh well, on to the contest:

First, live from CBGB's in 1977, the Ramones offer "Blitzkrieg Bop"

Next, from back in 1972, Gary Glitter's "Rock 'N Roll Part Two"

Then, from 1977, Queen's "We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You," featuring the late Freddie Mercury in two very different guises and all his theatrical glory.

Now, back to the Ramones. One lonely Saturday afternoon in 1985 I found myself at the helm of WBCR-FM, the Beloit College campus radio station. The sky had started to darken and suddenly the ancient UPI teletype machine in the back office began going berserk. The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Rock County and a funnel cloud had been spotted about 2o miles northwest of Beloit. So what did I do? I immediately went back to the stacks, pulled out "I Don't Want To Go Down To The Basement" and put it on the air. Then I said the following:

"It's 3:25 and you are listening to commercial-free 90.3, WBCR-FM in Beloit, Wisconsin, your stateline alternative. That was "I Don't Want To Go Down To The Basement" by the Ramones, but I suggest that you consider going down to your basement because the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Rock County."

Good thing no one ever listened to WBCR. And another reason why people generally don't trust the public airwaves to 21-year olds.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Just stay away

Let's stipulate that Brett Favre is the greatest Packer of them all. Let's also stipulate that he's made my beloved Packers worth watching for a decade and a half. And let's also stipulate that he certainly has enough gas left in the tank to continue playing.

But he's retired. And once he made that decision, he should stick to it. It's not fair to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers or Packer fans to keep this dance going on, which Favre did again yesterday by hinting he might come back if the Packers need him.

Brett, we all love you. Always have, always will. But now you need to stay away. Come back in September and we'll retire your jersey. And if you're ever in New Brighton, feel free to stop by. But please stay retired. This stuff is getting tiresome.

Stinger's Epiphany

My younger brother (a/k/a the Stinger) recently started blogging. He's a very smart guy and he has an interesting take on things. In a recent post he was talking about the controversy surrounding temporarily changing the bar closing time in St. Paul during the upcoming Republican Convention. This has been a bone of contention in St. Paul and has led to some, er, uncharitable comments about our future guests. Stinger asked an interesting question:

Are Republicans big partiers? Are people like James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, and the like going to be kicking it at Billy's on Grand until 4 AM? I guess we just might see.

Personally, I don't expect to see any of these gentlemen out carousing. I'm not even sure that they will be in St. Paul. Dobson is lukewarm at best about McCain. Leave that aside, though, because Stinger concludes with something else that's far more important.

Actually, the really interesting thing to potentially see will be if drunk GOPers and drunk lefty protesters will have any drunken brawls at 4:30 in the morning....

And there it is, hiding in plain sight. The actual reason to oppose the late closing time. It's not besotted GOP operatives that could pose problems. While there will be ample opportunities for Republican-style fun at the convention, these folks will be coming to St. Paul to work.

But what of the trust fund anarchists? If reports are true, thousands of what P. J. O'Rourke called the "Perennially Indignant" will be descending on our fair city. And here's the dirty little secret about these people -- they have money, in some cases boatloads of money. Truly poor people don't have the disposable income to travel to places like St. Paul, Minnesota. The ideologically-addled spawn of the idle rich? They have money. These are the patchouli-drenched, self-congratulatory hordes that will be coming to town.

And once they get here, they are going to be frustrated. They may get to have a few marches, but they won't have any real effect on what goes on at the X. St. Paul's finest will see to that. But they will be running loose on the streets of St. Paul, in the neighborhoods, the parks and elsewhere. And as a general rule, it's never a good idea for frustrated people to be out drinking, especially frustrated people who take a dim view of social niceties.

Dave Thune may profess to be concerned about drunken Republicans vomiting on his property. But whether he wants to say it or not, he knows that any technicolor yawns that mar his impatiens will be coming from the port side.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Love Train

You can hear the howling from St. Paul all the way out here in the suburbs. Gov. Pawlenty used his line-item veto to axe $70 million of funding for the Central Corridor light rail project. And the solons are livid.

"Our solution was on the table," mewled Sen. Steve Murphy. Apparently, the solution was playing chicken with a governor who had just had his butt handed to him a few weeks back on the transportation bill. If Murphy thought T-Paw was going to play nice, he doesn't understand much about human nature and even less about T-Paw.

The ever-subtle Betty McCollum is aghast. "Yesterday Governor Tim Pawlenty killed the Central Corridor light rail project with his veto pen," she thundered. Betty has been so invisible lately I'd almost forgotten what her voice sounded like. It's almost reassuring that when it comes to high dudgeon, she still has perfect pitch.

Is the Central Corridor really dead? Well, Betty, that's highly unlikely. For once, however, I wish you were right. If ever a project needed killing, it is this bloated monstrosity, with an announced price tag of $909 million and a likely actual cost of well north of a billion. For that kind of money, you could pretty much buy a late model Toyota Corolla for every regular rider on the 16 bus, which runs essentially on the same route as the train is supposed to go. I know, the solons would prefer that we be environmentally conscious, but if we buy every 16 rider a Prius, it would require an operating subsidy. You know, kinda like the Hiawatha line has.

Now the solons could try to override T-Paw's veto, but this time enough legislators have been effectively bought off so it will be tough to muster a similar effort.

It's almost impossible to have a rational argument about trains in this town, because the supporters aren't interested in having such an argument. You can point out over and over that the Hiawatha line hasn't done a thing to relieve traffic congestion. You can remind people that the 16 line does everything the Central Corridor does, but a lot cheaper. You can point out that even in the places where light rail is highly celebrated, like Portland, it doesn't make money and doesn't improve traffic. I know this because I've been to Portland and was strongly considering relocating there because of a job transfer a few years back. The beloved MAX trains run, everyone gets all oogly about it, and the traffic is mind-numbingly bad anyway. Try driving the Sunset Highway between Portland and Hillsboro during rush hour sometime; you may as well walk.

None of that matters, because support for the trains is emotional, not rational. None of the rail lines currently under consideration will do a thing to solve traffic. They are all based on an outdated model, where everyone commutes into the central city. We don't have a central city here. We have two large, distinct urban centers. We also have the 494 strip, massive development in places like Maple Grove and Woodbury and even some backfill in places like Fridley and Mounds View (thanks to Medtronic). Major employers are scattered over a vast geographic area. If you work at Medtronic in Fridley, or Starkey Labs in Eden Prairie, or Best Buy in Richfield, or Cargill in Minnetonka, or 3M in Maplewood, or United Health in Edina, or even one of Target's many non-headquarters locations, light rail will not help you. If you're going to work in any of those places, chances are excellent that you will be commuting via automobile. I live in New Brighton, which by Twin Cities standards is centrally located. I know people who live in New Brighton who work for each of the employers I've mentioned. They all get to their jobs by car.

We are not New York or Philadelphia, cities that grew up along the rail lines. We are not London or Paris. It's never made any sense to pretend otherwise. Pawlenty has said that he wants to take another look at the costs of the Central Corridor project. Good idea, Governor.

Cross-posted at True North

Monday, April 07, 2008


To Michael Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. For lots more good stuff, see his archive at IBD.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Eleven - Nin Edition

I remember thinking it a bit weird at the time. There was a time in the 1980s and on into the 90s, where it seemed like there was always a song on the radio called "Spy In the House of Love." But what was funny is that each of the songs were different.

I didn't know about Anais Nin until later on -- good Catholic boys from Wisconsin are usually a slow on the uptake when it comes to erotica. I think I still have a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer in the house someplace, but it really wasn't my thing. But let's be honest here; rock and roll is quite often about Topic A. And so the idea of a title like "Spy In the House of Love," which is cribbed from one of Nin's works, makes a good title. And, in a few cases, some good songs.

So it's time for a little cloak and dagger d'amour. Here are four different songs with the same basic title. I will say that I have a very strong preference for one of these over the others, but I won't tip my hand.

First is this one, from a very good 80s pop band that never got much traction:

"Spy In the House of Love," by the dB's, from their mostly forgotten 1984 album "Like This."

Next, with the dapper Sweet Pea Atkinson at the helm, we have:

"Spy In the House of Love," by Was (Not Was)

Then, we have something completely different:

"Spy in the House of Love" by Animal Logic, featuring Deborah Holland on vocals and ex-Policeman Stewart Copeland on the drum kit.

Finally, a few years later, we go back to dapper:

"Spy In the House of Love," by Steve Winwood, with his patented sleek pop gloss and high-end production values.

The polls are open - vote early and often.

An Antidote to Betty's Bitter Batter

Some jobs are just difficult. Managing the Tampa Bay Rays. Bringing coals to Newcastle. Doing PR work for John Birch Society. Marching into a bayonet.

A similarly difficult task is running for Congress as a Republican in the 4th CD. Regimes have changed more recently in Cuba and the PRC than they have in the 4th, which has been in DFL hands since 1948. The 4th, which is primarily Ramsey County, is almost impossible ground for Republicans due to the enormous DFL contingent in St. Paul itself.

Because it's so easy for the DFL to take the 4th for granted, it has over the years. The quality of representatives carrying the DFL banner in the 4th has declined over time, from Clean Gene McCarthy to Bruce Vento to the current officeholder, Betty McCollum.

If Betty were running for Congress in many of the other districts in the state, she'd have been hooted off the stage long ago. Betty managed to best a primary opponent in 2000 after Vento died and has held the seat without a serious challenge ever since. Since that time, about the only thing she's managed to do is regularly issue especially shrill denunciations of the president. Her list of legislative accomplishments is slight.

An example of Betty's legislative prowess and judgment came a few years back, while Arden Hills was negotiating with the federal government to gain control of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP). Arden Hills had a number of ideas ready to go and the feds were working with local officials to get things done, in the usual painful bureaucratic way. Enter Betty. Betty had a brainstorm -- why not use the land, which when developed has enormous potential, to build a giant post office processing facility for the Twin Cities?

There were a few problems with this idea -- it would have scuttled any plans that Arden Hills had; it would have inundated an already truck-clogged area with many more massive trucks; and, most importantly, the postal service didn't want to build in a location that is across town from the airport, preferring instead to expand their existing facilities in Eagan. In other words, Betty's plan had zero support from anyone who had an interest in the future of the TCAAP site. Eventually Sen. Coleman quietly got invovled and stopped McCollum from pursuing her ridiculous idea any further. Those of us who live in the area haven't heard much from Betty since, except for the shrill denunciations of Bush she sends periodically by franked mail. I guess we can count that as a benefit.

The upshot of all this is pretty simple -- if the Republican Party could field a qualified, intelligent candidate, he might have a shot at beating ol' Betty. And this time, the Republican Party has found just such a candidate. Ed Matthews is his name. Ed is a practicing attorney and has an extensive financial background as well. He's young, smart and understands the issues very well. I suspect that Betty will do everything possible to avoid sharing a stage with Mr. Matthews, because she would suffer greatly from any direct comparison. I met Ed briefly at the 50B BPOU and was very impressed. My guess is that you will be, too.

Cross-posted at True North.

RIP, Charlton Heston

You'll be able to read all manner of enconia to Charlton Heston, who died yesterday, if you search the internet. I don't have a lot to add to what's already been said (but if you want more, try Mitch Berg, for starters). I will say this -- Heston was awfully good at everything he did. And he left enormous footprints. The poster above is from my personal favorite Heston film, which he did with Orson Welles, "Touch of Evil." If you haven't seen this one, go get it.