Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
There may be more than that, though. A lot more. Gary Gross at Let Freedom Ring is all over the story here, here and here. Additionally, the redoubtable Lady Logician has more, much more, over at her place. I do not pretend to know how an attorney general's office should work, but I do know this much -- Rachel Paulose got run out of the U.S. Attorney's office for a lot less.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A year ago today, I was admitted to United Hospital with a diagnosis of a pituitary tumor. I spent the better part of two weeks in the hospital, eventually having surgery to remove the tumor in the first week of April. I wrote about my experience here and periodically throughout the following months here. Looking back on what I wrote then, the words appear a lot more calm, a lot more stoic, than I was actually feeling. I didn't put down the fear that I felt. Although I had every reason to be confident about the stellar team of doctors and nurses that worked on my case, I was scared as hell. The previous year had been filled with horrific, debilitating headaches, culminating in the big one that prompted the trip to the doctor that led me to United. As my vision blurred, as my words slurred, I feared the worst. As my children got on the bus for school that morning, I worried that I might not see them again. Even as my brain felt like it was exploding, it was impossible to turn it off.
One year on, it looks a lot different. The surgery was successful and while the rehabilitation period took longer than I would have liked, things are much better now. The debilitating headaches are pretty much a thing of the past. I've long since adjusted to the regimen of medication that is now part of my life. At the time of the surgery, I was unemployed and our financial situation was getting dicey. Since then I've been able to switch gears and have had steady freelance writing income for much of the past year. I've been able to coach, teach Faith Formation classes and increase the quantity and quality of my blogging. In the most visible manifestations, one year on my life is better in every way.
One year on, two things are clear. I am fortunate to have a wonderful family, especially a fantastic wife. When Mrs. D signed on for better or worse, she likely couldn't have envisioned the potential dimensions of "worse." There have been times in the past year where it would have been easy, and understandable, if she wanted to walk away from the challenges that were part of our life together. She never flinched. I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am that she has been willing to share her life with me.
The other thing that has become clear is the importance of faith. I have it on good authority that God received many prayers on my behalf in the past year and all of these prayers have been answered. One year ago, it would have been easy to lapse into despair, but it didn't happen because the people who cared about me shared their prayers, their support and their witness. One year on, I have a better (though imperfect) understanding of what faith can do and what it really means. Of the many gifts I have received in the past year, that is the most important of all.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Mass at my church was a little more uneventful than what happened at the Holy Name Cathedral auditorium in Chicago on Easter Sunday, where some unkempt moral exhibitionists who refer to themselves as "Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War" decided to stage a little street theater. They interrupted Cardinal George's homily by squirting fake blood on themselves and a few parishioners before they were arrested and led away. Word is they are being charged with felonies for their little morality play and my guess is that they aren't going to garner a lot of sympathy for their little stunt in the heavily Catholic Windy City. Oddly, none of these folks looked like any Catholic schoolgirls I ever knew. Generally speaking, most Catholic schoolgirls don't wear scraggly beards and in my experience the vast majority are likely to wash their hair on a regular basis. Also, actual Catholic schoolgirls tend to be female and only half of this troupe were, as far as I could tell. And none of them were wearing plaid jumpers, either. I suspect they are a little confused; perhaps they need to talk things over with this guy.
Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, they had a protest last week and some of the protestors offered the helpful suggestion pictured below.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
UW 72, Kansas State 55. Heartbreak on the other side as beloved MU falls to Stanford in overtime. The Badgers move on to the Sweet Sixteen, while KSU star Michael Beasley prepares to be a New York Knick. It's about time for the Knicks to get the ping pong ball again, right? No way a kid that talented will ever be a Woofie or a Milwaukee Buck.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This is simply a house rule that I'm imposing. I am decreeing the Dilettante Codicil to Godwin's Law, to wit:
Use of the name Hitler or references to Nazis, unless specifically addressing the Third Reich or the career of George Lincoln Rockwell and his acolytes, is out of bounds. Those engaging in such invective (a) automatically lose whatever argument they are in, and (b) are subject to whatever mockery their opponents choose to deliver and/or are required to spend quality time with Jonah Goldberg.
Calling your opponents "Hitler Youth" or similar is not only intellectually lazy, it's just a crappy thing to do. I don't want to see it here. I will not censor anyone, but I really want to see that sort of thing cease around here. 'Kay?
Back on Saturday!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
My first guess -- he may have saved his campaign. More soon!
My take remains the same -- Obama probably saved his campaign today. Here's why:
- He didn't take the bait on repudiating his pastor. As hateful as Jeremiah Wright appears to be, Obama can probably finesse a lot of that with the audience he needs to reach right now, the remaining Democratic primary electorate. If Obama had tossed Wright overboard completely, which is what I thought he was doing, it would have hurt Obama more than it would have helped him. My friend Rich cautioned me about this in the comments to that post. At this point, it would appear that Rich is correct and I was wrong.
- Of course conservatives don't believe Obama. In this case, that doesn't matter. Again, this speech wasn't for conservative consumption, even if my fellow conservatives did consume it and lay waste to the logic, reasoning and import of the speech. The scrutiny our side offers isn't going to matter to the people who will decide Obama's fate in the short term.
- The focus will be on Obama's eloquence. You have to give him the nod -- he's probably the best orator we've seen since Reagan. For all of Bill Clinton's mastery of the political process, oratory was hardly his strong suit. It's worth remembering that his initial appearance on the national stage at the 1988 Democratic convention, in a speech on behalf of Michael Dukakis, was a long-winded disaster. Mario Cuomo was good, too, but Obama blows him away.
- Race is still a huge issue and Americans do need to have an honest conversation. I'm hardly convinced that Obama is the guy to lead that conversation but I'd be hard pressed to think of anyone else right now who is as well-positioned to talk about the issues than Obama. In a better world, someone like Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams would be that person. We don't live in that world.
- The speech doesn't take the issue of Rev. Wright off the table, but it does kick it down the road. And the longer Obama stays on the road, the more likely it is that he will outlast Mrs. Clinton.
Earlier this year I expressed my view that big changes are in the offing, but that the changes don't necessarily have anything to do with the Obama campaign. I still have that sense.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
One thing to note - there's nothing in this collection that would be considered a "guilty pleasure." We're talking about some of the best and most important acts in the history of rock. What's interesting about these covers is how the varying artistic sensibilities change the songs, sometimes radically. Okay, that's enough rock-crit jargon. Let's just get to the music:
First, we look at a song from perhaps the greatest male soul singer of the 1960s, Otis Redding. Besides being a great singer, Redding was an excellent songwriter. While he is best remembered for his posthumous classic "Dock of the Bay," one of his greatest songs is "Respect." His performance was great, but the cover is more famous, done by perhaps the greatest female singer in any rock-related idiom, Aretha Franklin. When Redding heard Franklin's version, he simply smiled and said "That girl done stole my song." Indeed. But we'll turn it over to you:
First, from a performance only days before his death, Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays singing "Respect" with a bonus Spanish lesson in the subtitles.
Then, Lady Soul with her eternal classic, "Respect," in a strange video that includes what I think is an old SNL bit or something after; you can (and probably should) ignore the last 2-3 minutes of this after the song is done.
Vote two: three versions of the same song, all by major artists, all classics in their own way, but very different.
First, the jaunty original of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," by Gladys Knight & the Pips, from a 1972 performance that features some serious Pip action and a truly appalling dress on the divine Ms. Knight, along with more stage patter than is probably necessary.
Second, the eternal classic version from of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," by Marvin Gaye. The video presentation here is homemade and pretty minimal, but the song stands out. And since we are still using Chicago election rules, Mrs. D has already cast 10,465 votes for this version. I'm guessing the others are playing for second place.
Third, the Grapevine gets the swamp rock treatment in this version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, with some vintage picking from John Fogerty.
Finally, we look at how artistic vision can change everything. These last two are pretty much self-explanatory.
First, from a 1976 performance in Edinburgh, Sir Elton John performing a simple, elegant version of his 1972 hit, "Rocket Man."
Finally, from a 1978 performance at the Science Fiction Film Awards, we have the classic interpretation of "Rocket Man" by America's greatest living conceptual artist, William Shatner.
Cast your votes!
Friday, March 14, 2008
- Mike Ciresi dropped out, which means that Al Franken is probably going to get his shot to run against Norm. I don't have any particular view on Franken that hasn't been expressed elsewhere. What I do know is some things about the guy who was at the center of the scandal surrounding the birth of the Air America network that has been Franken's primary perch. The guy who was responsible for a lot of the shady dealings early on was a fellow by the name of Evan Montvel-Cohen, generally referred to as Evan M. Cohen in most accounts. As it happens, Mrs. D and I were at Beloit College at the same time Mr. Montvel-Cohen was a student there. I'm going to write more about this in the coming weeks; put it this way, nothing that EMC did in his Air America days surprises me, or anyone else who attended Beloit in that era.
- A lot has been written about the Override Six in recent weeks. I've written about the issue a number of times myself. But as usual, no one does a better job of explaining the underlying issues than Craig "Captain Fishticks" Westover. Go read this and learn something.
If you happen to be an aspiring blogger and want to improve your numbers, I have a tip for you. Write something about Eric Carmen. As part of my "Guilty Pleasures" series, I briefly discussed the career of Carmen and his 1970s band The Raspberries. Apparently an Eric Carmen fan chanced upon my post and put up a link on EricCarmen.com yesterday. Once that happened, my numbers took a huge spike and I received almost 150 visitors from the site yesterday, which essentially tripled my usual number of visitors. The visitors from the site were quite respectful; it appears that only one left a comment on my blog, which helpfully disabused me of a few notions about the relative merits of Mr. Carmen and his solo career, which I had termed "irritating." I also note that apparently the Raspberries are back in operation. That's good to hear – they were a lot of fun and were one of the better bands in what was an otherwise a pretty spotty era in rock history.
The few disparaging comments about my blog were left back at Eric Carmen.com, and they too were generally quite respectful. At least one Carmen acolyte was displeased that I had matched the Raspberries against the Bangles, and another looked askance at the comparisons that some of my other commenters had made about Carmen's appearance back in the early 70s, especially the one from SA comparing Carmen to Jaclyn Smith. No one seems to have objected to Rich's comparison of the Raspberries to a bunch of Century 21 realtors, though. Guess the housing market is even worse than I thought. Someone even noted my connection to my beloved alma mater, Beloit College.
Thanks to those who visited me; I appreciate your patronage. And a thank you to Eric Carmen for allowing me to borrow some of his audience, if only for a day or two.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Sturdevant begins her description of Antietam, also known as Edina's South View Middle School, as follows:
One vote was the elephant in the theater full of District 41 GOP elephants Saturday at Edina's South View Middle School. It was the vote cast Feb. 25 by Republican Reps. Ron Erhardt of 41A and Neil Peterson of 41B to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto, and put a tax-increasing transportation bill into law.
Tax-increasing? One has to enjoy Sturdevant's gift for understatement. Yeah, $6.6 billion is tax-increasing.
The punishment meted out to the two wayward representatives was stern. Endorsement for the fall election was not only denied them; it was bestowed with ease on their opponents, Keith Downey in 41A, Jan Schneider in 41B.
True. Downey and Schneider won easily, which should surprise no one. People who pass $6.6 billion tax increases typically aren't popular within the GOP. Or elsewhere for that matter.
Both endorsees took pains to say that their critique of the veteran lawmakers went beyond a single vote.
Again, true. But now watch how the adjectives start to shift.
But Schneider's abrupt emergence as Peterson's opponent in late February spoke louder -- as did a scourging seconding speech for Schneider by Marlene Overpeck, who said she "felt betrayed" by Peterson's vote. "I expect the Democrats to act irresponsibly, not our own representative," Overpeck said.
So Schneider's entry was "abrupt." Perhaps it was. So was the imposition of a $6.6 billion tax increase. And the seconding speech was "scourging." Heavens, we can't have that. Ms. Overpeck should understand that emotion is not allowed at the BPOU.
Downey has been running hard since last summer -- even taking a leave of absence as manager of a business consulting firm, the better to campaign. One look at the proliferation of his campaign's red ballcaps and T-shirts where 41A delegates were seated said it all. He didn't need heavy rhetorical artillery to wrest endorsement from Erhardt -- though he wasn't above some not-so-subtle references to age.
Age? Really? We can all safely assume that the Democrats will not say a word about Senator McCain's age in the upcoming campaign then, since mentioning it would be out of bounds.
"The stark choice we have today is, we can focus on the past or the future," said Downey, who is several decades Erhardt's junior. "We can embrace a DFL-lite agenda, or a Republican agenda."
Downey put the choice pretty clearly. Correctly, too.
Applying "DFL-lite" to Erhardt and his late wife Jackie would have been a local laugh line not long ago.
Since February 25, it hasn't been a laugh line at all. It's been fact. And Ms. Sturdevant can rest assured that none of us have been laughing.
A financial planner, Erhardt has been among the party's most prolific fundraisers and reliable foot soldiers for more than 30 years. He's run for the Legislature with party endorsement nine times, and has never won his seat with less than 56 percent of the vote. In 2006, he was the second-best Republican vote-getter in his district, behind only U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad.
The role of a financial planner is to help his clients keep and grow as much of their wealth as possible. Apparently Erhardt has a little trouble with the concept. As for his vote getting ability in 2006, it was probably pretty good. At that time he hadn't voted for a $6.6 billion tax increase.
That point begs a longer look: In 2006, DFL U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar took District 41 with more than 56 percent of the vote. Pawlenty won there too, but his percent of the vote barely cracked 50 percent.
Klobuchar ran an outstanding campaign, no doubt about it. But this is 2008. It would be interesting to find out whether Erhardt is still more popular than Pawlenty in his district now. That's a question Sturdevant would prefer not to beg.
And in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry carried District 41A with 51 percent. Rumor had it that there were rumblings under old Edina gravestones for days thereafter.
You'd think that those votes -- and not just the one on the transportation bill -- would have been on District 41 minds Saturday. It doesn't seem to be a propitious time for Republicans to be in purge mode.
Sturdevant is a political junkie and she thinks in these terms. That's her prerogative. The thing to remember is this: while Downey was actively campaigning for the endorsement, it was quite likely that Erhardt would have won endorsement if he hadn't decided to override the veto. Once he betrayed his supporters, Downey's already-active campaign gained all the traction it needed.
Peterson tried to remind the convention of events on the larger political stage.
"This district is trending blue," he said. Republicans aren't automatic winners anymore. A Republican has to be able to attract independent and even DFL votes to prevail. "I've done that before, and I can do it again," Peterson said.
Not without the support of your party, Mr. Peterson.
Those words were for naught, as was Erhardt's assurance, "I fit the district." He clearly didn't fit the convention.
The message here: these citizens couldn't possibly be representative of the GOP or of the district. Never mind that in 41, as was the case throughout the state, thousands of people participated in the caucuses and BPOUs for the first time. You might think that a political columnist would welcome the new faces and voices to the process. The Obama campaign is always celebrated for its ability to attract newcomers. Apparently 41 is different.
The legislators' defense of their transportation votes -- that they were needed to solve a problem that is as keenly felt in Edina and Bloomington as anywhere in the state -- also fell flat. Delegates were unpersuaded by reminders that the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership -- both important GOP allies -- supported the transportation bill.
Never mind that the transportation issues have been building for the past 30 years. Never mind that there were other proposals on offer to deal with the problems. The only solution in Sturdevant's world was a $6.6 billion tax hike. Our friends on the Left often instruct us about "false choices." This would be one. As for the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership, well, let Sturdevant tell the story.
Maybe that's because delegates could see for themselves how far the business community's support went. Former state Chamber governing board president Scott Thiss placed Downey's name into nomination for endorsement. Business Partnership lobbyist Jill Larson sported a Downey sticker. "I'm here as an individual," she said by way of explanation.
Just a guess - the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership have probably received a little feedback about their support for the bill, too. They know which way the wind blows, too.
And a House staffer whispered to reporters that Erhardt expected a letter of support from Chamber president David Olson. No letter arrived. ("We had members on both sides of that one," Olson explained. He spoke at the GOP District 48B convention on behalf of another override-backer, Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka. Abeler, too, was denied endorsement, but wasn't dumped in favor of an upstart.)
Do you hear that sound? Listen carefully. It's a tiny violin playing a plaintive melody for Erhardt. As for Abeler, Sturdevant doesn't mention that he had no opposition at his BPOU and still couldn't get an endorsement.
About half of the delegates at South View Saturday indicated that they were newcomers to convention politics. Then they likely don't know what a hard-fought primary battle -- or a November bid by a formidable independent -- can do to a party's prospects.
Just a guess. They did know. Sturdevant assumes that Erhardt and Peterson will definitely go forward and run. Perhaps they will, but without the support of the party and the party loyalists, they are doomed. And if 41 is trending as blue as Sturdevant asserts, they were doomed anyway.
If they knew, maybe they would not have looked so pleased with themselves at the convention's end.
Sometimes doing the right thing is reward enough.
Cross-posted at True North. Stop by and get your news!
Monday, March 10, 2008
When you consider popular music for the last 40-50 years, it would be difficult to find an act that is more universally loved and understood than the Beatles. My daughter was born fully 30 years after the Beatles completed their last recordings, but she knows their music. No other band has been able to match the combination of melodicism, intelligence and 50,000 watt personality that the Fab Four gave the world. There was something magic about them and about their moment, which became all too clear as the four went on to solo careers that rarely matched the excitement that the boys managed together.
Then there's my son Ben. He's decided to get into the polling business as well. If you are so inclined, give his blog a look and vote on who you think will be the new Packer quarterback.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
The news was too fresh for the local media have much more than news coverage in today's editions, but clearly the tone is that the unthinking mossbacks are in charge of the GOP. In the St. Paul Pioneer Press, reporters Bill Salisbury and Dennis Lien tell their readers that "Conservative Republicans detest tax increases. That's the main reason party activists disciplined the three wayward lawmakers."
Conservative Repubicans do detest tax increases, so I suppose that's true, as far as it goes. The problem is that sort of surface-level analysis doesn't go very far at all. One thing has been quite clear in 2008. The BPOUs have been getting much larger participation in this cycle than they typically do, and terming those attending these events as "party activists" is misleading at best. There is clearly enormous interest in this election cycle and many of the people who have been attending the caucuses and BPOUs are newcomers to the process. I would argue that those attending these BPOUs are far more representative of the voters in a district than they have been in the past. Party activists and party regulars are a pretty small subset of the overall population, but it's not really plausible to argue that a cabal of party hacks are controlling things. First-time delegates and newcomers to the process cannot be party hacks.
Erhardt scoffed at the verdict delivered by his BPOU, telling Laurie Blake of the Star Tribune "I can't let 123 people decide my fate. They don't represent the district." What Erhardt doesn't mention is that he took endorsements in his district in the past from much smaller delegations. Whether Erhardt chooses to acknoweldge it or not, those 123 people do represent the Republican Party in his district. And without support from the party, he will not win re-election. The DFL is not going to thank him for his vote and not field an opponent. Erhardt will still have to explain why his election is preferable to electing a full-fledged DFLer. Voters have consistently demonstrated that when a liberal Republican runs against a DFLer, there's not much reason to prefer the liberal Republican. Erhardt may want to believe that his political enemies within the party are simply persecuting him for his Profile in Courage moment. As Erhardt campaigns for the primaries, he may quickly get disabused of this notion. He may have thought that the Chamber of Commerce would provide political cover for him, but he's alone now.
Cross-posted at True North
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I'm just going to steal his idea and give a just a little twist. We got some excellent suggestions for the Barack Obama soundtrack thread that I posted earlier. So I want to do two things here.
First, I want your votes on who you prefer between two 80s Britpop dance numbers. Then, I want your suggestions for other "guilty pleasure" songs that we might put up for debate right here, on the big stage. By "guilty pleasures" I mean songs that might have been (or still be) considered uncool, but that are actually pretty good. If it has a cheesy (or vintage) video to go with it, even better. It's a wide canvas and of course there's a lot of room for debate on the topic. By way of illustration, I'll give you my eternal example of a "guilty pleasure" band.
The Sweet. If you're old enough, you'll remember these guys, a British pop band that had some rock power and wrote dumb but enjoyable songs that were hits throughout the 70s. They were responsible for such dubious but fun ditties as "Little Willy," "Fox On the Run" and, quintessentially, "Ballroom Blitz." Thirty years on, these guys are still dumb fun.
So here are the first contestants:
ABC: "Poison Arrow"
Scritti Politti: "Perfect Way"
And remember, this is a Chicago-style election. Vote early, vote often. Next contest will feature "University Marxist" bands.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
I know, I know, I know. Conservatives want to have the most conservative candidate possible, one who hits all our positions perfectly and makes the right decision 100% of the time. It would be a wonderful thing if we could get someone like that to run for every office.