Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lotsa Baseball for the Brew Crew

It's American League Mid-Season Classic time and the mighty Brewers play on after splitting a pair of games today at Sitzer Park in Shoreview. The day began on a grim note with an 11-1 loss to the Mets, but the Brewers righted the ship and knocked off the Phillies 3-2 in the afternoon to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.

Games in the tournament are only 4 innings, so Ben only batted twice during the two games, but he singled both times and also fielded his position flawlessly, playing mostly at 2nd base. The Brewers resume action at noon tomorrow against the Giants, again at Sitzer Park. If the Brewers can win that, they will assure themselves of at least a 3rd place finish in the tournament. A nice development in what's been a somewhat rough season.

As always, if you want the best coverage of Shoreview Area Youth Baseball American League action, keep it right here.

Where did I put that thing?

So, I was planning to do another "Guilty Pleasures" today but I seem to have misplaced it. Hey Maria, have you seen it?

Dad, you're too slow! I did it myself! You snooze, you lose! All right people, click on this link and get over to my blog for some music. C'mon, let's get moving!

75 years ago (again)

Back on May 19 I wrote about my Dad, who would have celebrated his 75th birthday. Today is my mom's 75th birthday. I wrote the following about Mom two years ago and I don't think I can improve on it. So here it is.

Today is my mother’s 73rd birthday. Mom died six years ago, following complications from a mastectomy. The last years of Mom’s life were difficult for her physically, as she suffered the after-effects of a 40+ year, pack-a-day smoking habit. Toward the end of her time, she spent a large amount of her time in a wheelchair and was residing in an assisted-living facility at the time of her death. But that was only part of it.

Mary Jane Heimermann was born May 31, 1933, in Center Township, Outagamie County, Wisconsin, about 6 miles north of my hometown of Appleton. Mom was blessed with enormous talent and cursed with unfathomable demons. She was an accomplished singer, lead vocalist in a Sweet Adelines barbershop quartet that performed throughout the Midwest and in Canada. She came of age at a time when women generally were not able to reach the executive suites unless they were secretaries. She became one, serving as a top admin for senior management at Kimberly Clark Corporation. She could type over 100 words a minute on a manual typewriter and would regularly help her bosses craft correspondence and maintain complicated business records. She met an army veteran turned college student, Edward Heuring, and married him in January, 1963. Her husband graduated from the University of Wisconsin that spring and took a job with a large, Chicago based insurance company. The young couple then moved to a small apartment in Cicero, a Chicago suburb best known as the redoubt of Al Capone, where your faithful correspondent arrived at the end of that year, 10 days after shots rang out in Dallas.

Even then, the demons started to appear. Mom grew increasing apprehensive about raising her young son in the big city, so the family moved back to Appleton the following summer. A total of six more children arrived between 1965 and 1976, including a daughter who died shortly after being born. Meanwhile, the sweet, talented and poised young wife and mother began to slide into bouts of mental illness. She grew increasingly estranged from reality, regularly raging against her husband, her neighbors and the world at large. As her rages would escalate, she would be periodically hospitalized at mental health facilities in the area. She was provided medications which would help, but the side effects would eventually cause her to “go off her meds” and the cycle would begin anew. Mom would be confined several times to such facilities. Meanwhile, her husband and children struggled to understand the demons. Dad eventually left in 1977, no longer able to deal with the rages and abuse she heaped upon him when she was sick. The children remained with Mom in the family domicile for six years, during which time Mom would do the best she could to raise her six children.

My siblings and I turned our attentions outward, becoming involved in school activities and friendships. After graduating from high school in 1981, I left for college and returned home only infrequently. My siblings continued to live in the house until Mom was hospitalized in 1983. At that time my father and his new wife took the remaining kids into his home, where they lived the rest of their respective childhoods. My father passed away in 1990, following complications from surgery. After the family left, Mom lived in various apartments and facilities. She watched as another woman completed raising her children, a task that she ached to complete but was unable to do. She lived the last few years of her life as essentially a ward of the state, with her older sister serving as her conservator.

During the last years of her life, she remained on her medications and was able to be a proud grandmother. She greatly loved her children and saw them as the fruits of her life’s work. Unfortunately, she left too soon.

So why am I writing all this? There are a lot of reasons. You cannot choose the circumstances of your birth, or who your parents are. You can try to run away from the circumstances, but they are integral to the person you become. Mom suffered a lot in her life and I believe she is in a better place now, but I sense that she would have accepted the physical pain to remain here and watch her grandchildren grow up. Most young women coming of age in mid-century America did not have a lot of choices available. I can never really understand what my mother’s life was really like. But it is a conundrum that will eternally draw my attention. And it should.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Betty's Getting Nervous

Although the dawn often breaks quite slowly among the great minds of the DFL, it's finally starting to occur to them that having Al Franken at the top the ticket may not be such a good idea. Even my representative, Betty McCollum, seems to have figured it out based on this AP report (via Breitbart):

Rep. Betty McCollum, who supported the comedian's rival Mike Ciresi until
he dropped out of the race for the party's nomination for the Senate, complained
Thursday that she and other Minnesota Democrats will be on the same November
ballot as a candidate "who has pornographic writings that are

"Do they spend all of their time defending him, or do they spend their
time talking about issues that are important to this election?" McCollum told
The Associated Press in an interview. "The whole story was a shocking

What she's talking about is a 2000 article that Franken wrote for Playboy. It featured some of Franken's typically subtle prose, including this charming chestnut (again, from the AP dispatch):

At one point in the Playboy piece titled "Porn-O-Rama!" Franken called the Internet a "terrific learning tool," writing that his 12-year-old son was able
to use it for a sixth-grade report on bestiality.

"As a parent and an aunt, and talking to other parents, people are very concerned about the type of internet use that's out there, and how it has a potentially harmful effect on children," McCollum said. "Sexually explicit material is one of the things that parents are very concerned about, and want to make sure that they're steering their children away from."

I dunno. My son Ben is 12 and he has used the Internet in the past couple of days to do a sixth-grade report on Yankee Stadium. Guess my kid and Al's kid simply have different interests.

I have to admit - I find all of this very amusing. No one should be surprised about any of the things that have been coming out about Franken. He's never made any bones about being anything other than a professional smartass and the idea that anyone would have considered him a potential Senate candidate was always ludicrous on its face. You would have thought that the poobahs in charge of the DFL would have had the wit to do oppo on their own candidate, or at least a Google Search or something. They might have realized that there were some, well, issues here. Perhaps Ciresi will get back in the race, but it's going to be tough now. Somehow I don't see the DFL wanting to send Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer into battle against Norm, either.

Meanwhile, back in the fighting 4th, Betty has been hoping to get through this election without having to open her mouth. She has a highly credible challenger in Ed Matthews and I'm guessing that she would rather not have to engage anyone this time around, because she likely understands that any head-to-head comparison between the candidates will be highly disadvantageous to her. She essentially ignored her 2006 challenger Obi Sium and was able to get by with it, but that's not likely to happen this time around, because Mr. Matthews won't allow it. Betty is capable of lobbing highly scripted partisan attacks but she hasn't had to explain why she deserves votes in a long time. She might face that obligation this time around and that's not a happy prospect for her, especially if it means differentiating herself from an addled court jester on the top of the ticket.

Cross-posted at True North

Introducing the Blueberry Bombers

Maria's first year of fastpitch softball began this evening in the rain at Turtle Lake School. Maria is playing in-house ball in the Mounds View softball association and is on the "blue" team, a/k/a the Blueberry Bombers. They played their first game against the Purple Panthers. At this age range, the score isn't that important and I don't even know what the score was. But I do know that Maria played well, fielding her position well and slapping two singles.

I have coached Maria's teams the past couple years but this time I'm taking a back seat. I'm a baseball coach and softball is a different (if similar) game. Her coach is very smart and knows softball much better than I do. Maria is in good hands and we're going to have a lot of fun. All her games will take place at Turtle Lake School on Thursday nights and the season will run most of the summer. It's going to be great watching her improve.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty - Palindrome Year

A palindrome is a word or phrase that is the same either forward or backward. Otto and Anna are palindromes. "Madam, I'm Adam" is a palindrome. And so is 1991, the focus of today's feature. It was a time when a lot of us weren't sure if we were going forward or backward. Things were happening, though. That much was certain. And in my life, most things were very good indeed.

I was living in Oak Park, Illinois in 1991, a suburb of Chicago. Mrs. D and I were married in September and it was, for the most part, a very joyous time in our lives. We were making decent money and we didn't have a lot of responsibilities beyond paying the rent on our apartment. It was the tail end of a 3-year stretch in which many of our friends got married as well, including the respective 1990 weddings of my great friend Mark Miller and the Anonymous Truck Driver, who comments here from time to time. Nearly 20 years on, it's pretty impressive to note that all of these marriages are still intact. But that's not why you're here.

It was an odd time in history - the Cold War was essentially ending and the Soviet Union was in its death throes. Meanwhile, the U.S. had its first war with Saddam Hussein. It was a time of excitement and uncertainty and in some respects the popular music of the time reflected that. The four songs I've chosen here are I think pretty emblematic of what the world felt like at that point - waffling between major and minor keys, boisterous and searching at the same time.

The first song was a big hit on dancefloors worldwide. It featured a West Indian singer who would become one of the biggest pop stars of the coming decade. And to my ear, it's his best work. It's Seal, with hair, reminding us that we never will survive unless we get a little

Next was the song that was the culmination of a steady 10-year rise to international fame for a quartet of odd ducks from Athens, Georgia. R.E.M. had emerged from the college radio ghetto a few years earlier but their 1991 album Out of Time was the one that finally put them over the top. And the biggest hit from that album was a moody meditation with lotsa mandolin. While that doesn't sound the most promising formula for a pop hit, it was one of the biggest of the year. Oh no, I've said too much:

Next was a British dance band whose initially officially stood for the Epsom Mad Funkers, although they encouraged other possible interpretations. The scene in Manchester was still going on at this point, but these Gloucestershire lads weren't really part of that. The song featured here was about their only great succcess, but for a one-shot it's one of my favorites and it really fit well in the context of 1991. It's EMF, with:

Finally, we end up with a totally emblematic song from the year, from another British band that had only limited success in the U.S. but hit #2 with this song, written about the fall of the Berlin Wall. It really did feel that we were watching the world wake up from history in those days and it was happening:

So here's the deal - if you care to comment, I'm curious about two things. First, your choice of these four songs. And second, where were you in 1991? The polls are open!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

J. Danforth Obama

Update: There's more. Apparently Obama's uncle was in the Red Army because he helped to liberate Auschwitz. See this and keep scrolling.

Now I know that Democrats are smart, telegenic, witty, urbane and have exquisite taste in clothing and that Republicans are slack-jawed morons. I've heard this for my entire adult lifetime so it must be true. I also know what Emerson said - a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. So it's quite possible that maybe some of this is escaping me and that I'm being foolish and small-minded in thinking this, but I'll say it anyway.

Do you suppose that if Barack Obama were a Republican, he would get by with some of the dumb stuff he's said in recent days?

In recent days we've seen the Savior of the Nation make a few pretty amusing stumbles. Earlier in the month he seemed to get confused about the number of states in the Union. A little later, he repeatedly greeted the citizens of Sunrise, Florida by referring to their community as "Sunshine." Then yesterday, he seemed to get confused on a number of levels about what holiday it was, as this quote would indicate:

On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen
heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of
patriotism is particularly strong.

I'm curious how precisely Barack Obama saw the fallen heroes in the audience. Memorial Day is meant to honor the dead. Perhaps he's channeling Haley Joel Osment. The surviving heroes in any Memorial Day gathering are there to honor their fallen comrades, of course, as is everyone else. Although Memorial Day is a fine day to thank veterans for their service - every day is, truth be told - we specifically honor living veterans in November. When certain evil Republican operatives, including John McCain himself, pointed this out, Obama spokesman Bill Burton set people right about things:

“Memorial Day is a day to honor our nation’s veterans, not a day for political posturing.”

And of course Obama completely rejects the idea of political posturing on Memorial Day, which is why he lit into President Bush yesterday:

Obama said President Bush is asking the troops to do too much with too
little, such as interacting with civilians without the necessary translators and
handling nation-building tasks that could be done by the State Department and
other agencies.

"We're asking them to be teachers, social workers, engineers,
diplomats. That's not what they're trained to do," the Illinois senator said
during a town hall-style meeting at the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las

Heavy use of private contractors, such as Blackwater, also hurts
troops, Obama said. Contractors are paid many times what U.S. personnel make,
but they aren't subject to the same rules and their misconduct inflames
anti-American sentiment, he said. And when troops return home, the Bush
administration doesn't do enough to help those suffering from combat stress or
to help them get civilian jobs, Obama said.

So the question becomes this -- is Senator Obama, dumb, dishonest, tired or intellectually lazy? I know, this is a harsh and typically mean-spirited Republican way of looking at things. I remember well how gentle and understanding that our portside friends have been with the malaprops of Mr. Quayle and Mr. Bush. Since they are Republicans, J. Danforth Trustfund and Chimpy McHitlerburton deserve the gimlet eye; it's just wrong for me to dwell on such things in the case of the man who is here to bring needed change to America.

Somewhere Dan Quayle sits quietly, waiting for an apology that will never arrive.

Brewers Continue to Struggle

Another tough night for our intrepid Brewers, who fell to the first-place Mets 13-5 this evening at Wilson Park in Shoreview. Things looked good early but a few defensive lapses in the 3rd inning proved costly as the experienced Mets took advantage of every opportunity.

Ben had a tough night at the plate, taking the collar, but he did make some good relay throws from the outfield, including one that initiated a rundown that eventually retired a runner. We continue to see progress overall but it just didn't happen this evening.

The Crew returns to action on Friday evening for a grudge match against the White Sox. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Sitzer Park. When you want the best in Shoreview Area Youth Baseball action, you know where to look.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our great fortune

We owe a debt to those who have served this nation, a debt greater than we know sometimes. I did not wear the uniform but my father and grandfather did. Dad served in the late 1950s, between WWII and Vietnam; he was too young for Korea and had completed his four-year stint by the time things started heating up in Southeast Asia. My grandfather did see action in the Great War; my understanding is that he was in France in 1918 but managed to get through it without suffering any injuries, which was pretty amazing considering the carnage of that war. The picture I've included here is of the American cemetery at Somme; over 1,800 Americans died there.

Dad once told me that he and his father had served because they had to, but that I was fortunate enough to come of age at a time when I didn't have to serve. But he also told me that I would be foolish to think that we were past the time when young men would have to die on battlefields. He also told me that I should thank veterans for their service. Dad was right about all these things.

So today I thank everyone who has worn the uniform and especially thank those who gave their life to defend my freedom. It is our great fortune that so many have been willing to answer the call.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Very sad news from Hugo, a Washington County suburb about 20 miles northeast from us. A pretty devastating tornado struck there late this afternoon, killing a 2-year old child and severly injuring the child's sibling and parents, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The accompanying photo, taken by Star Tribune photographer David Brewster, shows the devastation quite clearly.

It's odd how it works - here in New Brighton we barely had a storm at all; it rained like mad for about 15 minutes and that was it. Earlier in the day Mrs. D and I took the kids to the Science Museum of Minnesota to see the movie The Alps at the Omnitheater (worth your time if you get a chance, by the way) and to tour the museum. The SMM has an extensive exhibit devoted to weather and the kids spent time looking at cloud formation, forecasting and the like. Less than two hours after we'd toured the museum, we got a first-hand glance at what weather can mean.

What happened in Hugo today is the sort of sudden, horrifying tragedy that scientists can explain in technical terms but is beyond our ability to understand. It is one of the reasons that I pray and I'd encourage everyone else who reads this to say a prayer, too. The people of Hugo will need many things in the coming days but prayer is always a great place to start.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Iowahawk is a Genius, Volume XXXVIII

Just read it. Good satire always hits deserving targets and Iowahawk never misses.

Update: And here's another one.

Textbook Gaffe

Getting through the minefield of social niceties is tough enough for most of us, let alone people who are vainglorious enough to actually presume they should be President of the United States. Every person I know says something he (or she) regrets. Hillary Clinton had one of those moments yesterday.

She was chatting up the editorial board of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader (what a thrill that must be, by the way) when she let these deep thoughts loose:

This is the most important job in the world. It’s the toughest job in the world. You should be willing to campaign for every vote. You should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere. I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition where we find ourselves and you know, I have been willing to do all of that during the entire process and people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa and I find it¬¬-

EB: Why?

Why?I don’t know I don’t know I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.

EB: You don’t buy the party unity argument?

I don’t, because again, I’ve been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June

EB: June

We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don’t understand it. There’s lots of speculation about why it is.

As Uncle Ben put it recently, land sakes! We could stipulate that what she said is absolutely true. We could also stipulate that she is facing a lot of pressure to get out of the race now and that some of the pressure is a little unseemly. But this was an amazingly dumb statement. You simply can't invoke the specter of assassination and expect to get by with it. Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday in a column that appeared before Clinton let fly at the Argus Leader, made an especially prescient comment. Discussing Clinton's penchant for blaming sexism for her travails, Noonan wrote this:

One wants to be sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton at this point, if for no other reason than to show one's range. But her last weeks have been, and her next weeks will likely be, one long exercise in summoning further denunciations. It is something new in politics, the How Else Can I Offend You Tour.

Guess we found out, huh?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Familiar Result for Hard-Luck Brew Crew

Another late rally falls short as the intrepid Brewers fall to the Giants 12-7 this evening at Sitzer Park in Shoreview. The game started out tight but got away a little bit in the middle innings and then a furious five run rally in the final at-bat for the Brewers turned out to be too little, too late.

Ben was officially 0-1, scoring a run and stealing a base following a walk in the middle of the late rally. The Brew Crew are now 1-8 and will resume action on Tuesday against the Mets at Wilson Park in Shoreview. Game time is 6:30. Count on Mr. Dilettante to keep you posted.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Déjà vu

During the internet boom of the late 1990s, we saw amazing amounts of money being thrown at internet companies. AOL was going to take over the world back then; they had enough money and chutzpah to take over media giant Time Warner. Ten years on, AOL still exists, but it certainly hasn't taken over the world; in fact its business model has essentially disappeared.

Five years ago, the real estate market started to go nuts. People were flipping houses and making huge profits and the demand seemed insatiable. Mortgage lenders were making loans to anyone who could fog a mirror. I was working at Bank of America during this time and they had a small army of people that they were picking up off the street to scrub applications and process the paperwork. My cube was in a big room that had an unbelievable buzz of voices. Hardly anyone even knew that B of A was operating in the Twin Cities but at the peak probably 300 people were earning good money from the real estate manna that was falling from the sky. The touts on CNBC and Bloomberg were saying that the market had changed forever and that the trend would continue for years to come. Three years later, B of A closed their office and except for a handful of people who moved to Oregon or Virginia, everyone was gone, including me.

Today oil prices have doubled in a year's time. The demand seems insatiable and the speculators have descended on the market. You hear voices predicting oil will double again and that we'll have $12 a gallon gasoline in the very near future. The solons on Capitol Hill are dragging the oil company executives before them to browbeat them over their obscene profiteering. The news reports show hapless SUV drivers stuck with $25,000 car loans and dealerships reporting that they are offering $2,000 in trade for a fully loaded Yukon Denali. The touts on CNBC and Bloomberg are saying that the market has changed forever and the trend will continue for years to come.

I believe all of it, of course. Don't you?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Nineteen - WHBY Edition

I agree completely with Joan Jett. I love rock and roll. But that doesn't mean that I got to hear that much of it when I was little. As difficult as it is for my kids to imagine in an era where the gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon, one of my enduring early childhood memories was piling into the big ol' AMC Ambassador station wagon with my brothers Pat and Paul and my sister Carol (my younger siblings Margie and Mike the Stinger weren't born yet) as Dad took us out for a Sunday drive. Our car looked something like the one in the picture, although I think Dad's was a 1972 model and this one is a 1974.

Anyway, as we would cruise the highways to exotic locations like New London or Wild Rose or Shawano, Dad would have the radio on. And the station of choice was Appleton's own WHBY, which was a small-town version of WCCO or WGN. It was the station you listened to if you wanted the latest commodity prices, or to hear the venerable Bob Lloyd broadcasting the local high school basketball clashes. Bob even tried to broadcast girls' games later on, but he'd get confused ("here comes Maureen Riopelle down court for the Hawks - two men are on her"). But most of the time WHBY played music. And it wasn't rock and roll. No sir. It was all standards, all the time. WHBY was the place to hear Jerry Vale and Hugo Winterhalter. When they wanted to get exotic, they might break out Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66. But most of all, it was the kind of station that made Burt Bachrach rich.

Ah, Burt Bachrach. The consummate songwriter of the 1960s. His songs were all highly melodic and usually featured a complicated lyric from his partner Hal David, generally discussing the vicissitudes of l'amour. Dad loved it. Me? Not so much.

Thirty to forty years on, some of the stuff sounds better to me. Bachrach usually had ace singers and producers performing his stuff and a lot of the songs are standards now. Here are four examples for your pleasure this evening:

First, from 1964, a very young Dionne Warwick in an indelible performance while traversing a stage weirdly filled with a bunch of office chairs, with:

A year later, Bachrach offered his largesse to a young singer/songwriter from Kentucky, who had written a big hit for the Searchers with "Needles and Pins." But she would gain lasting fame by singing a Bachrach song. It's Jackie DeShannon with something short of go-go dancing going on behind her with:

Lord, we don't need another mountain. But three years later, Bachrach supplied trumpeter Herb Alpert with his biggest hit. This video is especially interesting because of the frankly alarming eye makeup the young lady accompanying ol' Herb is sporting. Despite the Tammy Faye on steroids look, Herb insists that:

As the 60s came to a close, Bachrach and David found their best vehicle, a brother/sister combo responsible for some of the biggest hits of the era. Roundly reviled by the rock intelligentsia, their stuff has actually held up pretty well over the years, in large measure because the voice of Karen Carpenter is such a pure and powerful intstrument. So here they are, the Carpenters, with Karen sporting a frightening vintage look, informing us that, like all the girls in town, she longs to be:

Just close your eyes, imagine an open two-lane road and rolling farmland, and you're there. Then cast your vote and, if you're lucky, maybe Dad will pull over at the Dog 'n Suds in Hortonville and get us a treat.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Say a prayer

For Sen. Kennedy. A brain tumor is an awful diagnosis, especially a malignant one. I fervently hope that they caught it in time to help him. The good news is that he has the services of some of the best doctors in the world. Trust me on this - it makes a big difference.

65-30 in Kentucky

Clinton wins again, huge. Still won't matter. But it would probably be a good idea for Obama to stop losing elections by more than 2-1 margins. Especially in his own party's primary, doncha think?

More Heartbreak for the Heartbreak Brewers

Another game, another excruciatingly close defeat as the Brewers fell to the first place Devil Rays 9-8 at Perry Park in Arden Hills. Our Brew Crew led most of the way but a furious Devil Ray rally in the bottom of the final inning proved too much.

Ben was officially 0-2 but stole a base and scored. The loss brings the Brewer record to 1-7. Next, it's the Giants on Friday evening. Game time is 6:30 at Sitzer Park in Shoreview.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mindy Greiling, Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone

Speaking of high dudgeon, there's the matter of Representative Mindy Greiling, who represents my neighbors in St. Anthony and Roseville.

Representative Greiling recently called on the Star Tribune to dismiss metro columnist Katherine Kersten for a piece she wrote about about the Tarik ibn Zayad Academy TiZA), an Inver Grove Heights charter school. Kersten used her column to report on activities at the school that were explicitly religious in nature and included an eyewitness account from a substitute teacher. Rep. Greiling's response:

Kersten’s reckless journalistic standards have diminished this paper’s
credibility. Worse, they have threatened the safety of the children and staff at
the school, which has been forced to take extra security measures in the wake of
recent death threats. While I value a broad range of opinions from a variety of
perspectives, I value the facts even more. Kersten’s gross distortion of the
facts in this case should compel Star Tribune management to ask for her

In other words, shut up, she explained.

So far, Kersten's job is safe. Meanwhile, the story continues and KSTP-TV kept digging on the story. And today it got really interesting.

First, the Department of Education ordered changes at TiZA because it was offering religious instruction, which is a no-no for charter schools. This is what Kersten's column said. So, apparently, Kersten didn't grossly distort the facts after all.

Then, something even more important happened. A KSTP crew went to the school looking for a response to the ruling from the Department of Education. And the cameraman was attacked.

I was planning to light Rep. Greiling up for abusing her authority. No need to do that any more. The dude who knocked the KSTP cameraman to the ground makes my case more eloquently than I could. Congratulations, Representative Greiling. You may slink away now.

You Don't Tug on Superman's Cape

You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't criticize Obama's wife

Senator Obama laid down another Line That Must Not Be Crossed today on Good Morning America. As it turns out the Tennessee GOP posted a video mocking Michelle Obama's statements in a speech she made in Madison earlier this year.

Today Obama went into high dudgeon mode:

“If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful, because that I find unacceptable — the notion
that you start attacking my wife or my family,” he said.

“For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways
that are unflattering to her I think is just low class and I think they — most
of the American people would think that as well,” he said. “I would never think
of going after somebody’s spouse in a campaign.”

I would agree with Obama if his wife had not been out on the hustings. But she has been. Certainly Obama's opponent was the subject of plenty of scrutiny while her husband ran for president and remained so throughout his presidency. And I'm certainly old enough to remember all manner of attacks from the portside concerning the deportment and demeanor of Nancy Reagan, culminating in the infamous book that Kitty Kelley wrote about about her a full four years after she'd left Washington. It's a little late now for the Sir Walter Raleigh stuff.

Sen. Obama needs to understand that he's not going to be able to proscribe the debate. I certainly understand the impulse - it's a hell of a lot easier if you don't have to face tough questions or suffer the strafing that comes from the media, blogosphere, etc. And I certainly understand the desire to protect one's family from attack. It gets rough and if you're not willing to subject your family to scrutiny, you shouldn't run. That's why Colin Powell is a private citizen today. And Sen. Obama needs to understand one other thing - the Tennessee GOP's attacks are nothing compared to what he'll face should he actually get the office he seeks. He won't be able to whine to Robin Roberts about Kim Jong Il or Hugo Chavez or Ahmedinejad.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

75 years ago

May, 1933 was a pretty grim time in our nation's history. The Great Depression was in full swing. On the 10th of the month, a monstrous tornado tore through the town of Beatty Swamps, Tennessee, killing 35 people. The Saturday Evening Post cover I'm including here had a hint of glamour that was largely lacking for most people. It was in this milieu, on May 19, 1933, my father was born in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Dad was the 4th child of Joe and Julia Heuring. He was to grow up in Kimberly, Wisconsin, a small town on the banks of the Fox River just to the east of Appleton. The fame of Kimberly rests with the paper industry and the village's name lives on in the name of Kimberly-Clark, which is most famous for Kleenex. Dad's father was a millwright and worked for the Institute of Paper Chemistry, which served as the training ground for many of the people who made the Fox River Valley the paper capital of the world. Dad had a fairly normal childhood in Kimberly and graduated from Kimberly High in 1952. After a few years of harmless young adult shenanigans, Dad went into the service and served in Europe during the late 1950s. He then came back and got his degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1963. In between all that, he managed to meet and marry my Mom in January, 1963; I arrived at the end of 1963.

Unfortunately, Dad isn't here to celebrate this milestone birthday, as he died in 1990. Dad's generation came of age at an interesting time in our nation's history - he came of age a few years before rock and roll arrived in earnest and his generation wasn't considered part of the "greatest generation." Like most people his age, Dad simply went about his business and tried to provide a good life for his family. For the most part, he was successful.
You don't get to choose the circumstances of your birth and while Dad came around at a tough time, he was a tough person in part because of it. Happy birthday, Dad.

Brewers Lose Another Heartbreaker

Despite strong pitching and excellent overall play, the Brewers again came up a little short this evening, as the Braves rallied to beat them 7-4 at Wilson Park in Shoreview. Our kids continue to improve their overall play but just couldn't string together enough hits at the right time to pull it out.

The loss leaves the team's record at 1-6. Two games this week; the first is Tuesday evening against the Rays at Perry Park. Game time is 6:30 p.m. When you want the best coverage of Shoreview Area Youth Baseball American League, look no further than Mr. Dilettante.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Maybe this year

It's been 30 long years since we had a Triple Crown winner in horse racing. There have been a lot of very good horses in recent years (War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones) that have gotten close, but not one has been able to pull it off. This might be the year.

If you watched Big Brown's dominant performance at the Preakness this afternoon, you saw something that we haven't seen in previous years. Not only is this horse a very good horse, there sure doesn't seem to be much competition. All of the horses that lost out in the Belmont have had tough competitors to face. I don't see one this time around.

And I'd sure like to see something good happen for thoroughbred racing. I'm not a bettor; I've only been to the track once in my life, but racing is a thrilling sport. The deaths of Barbaro in 2006 and the filly Eight Belles this year have really hurt the sport. I don't have any intellectual reasoning behind any of this; I just like watching the races and my kids do, too. I'll be pulling for Big Brown to win the Belmont in three weeks. I think a lot of other people who enjoy the sport will be, too.

Marty says it well - just read it

Martin Andrade Blogs#links#links

Nothing to add

Another smart takes on the "appeasement" issue from the best columnist in the world, Mark Steyn.

H/T: Powerline via True North

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

I'm supposed to be despairing right now. That's what I keep reading all over the internet. Today it was the Wall Street Journal's turn. Peggy Noonan, a writer I have long admired, is convinced. As always, it's always worth reading her whole piece, but here's the money part:

The Democrats aren't the ones falling apart, the Republicans are. The Democrats can see daylight ahead. For all their fractious fighting, they're
finally resolving their central drama. Hillary Clinton will leave, and Barack Obama will deliver a stirring acceptance speech. Then hand-to-hand in the
general, where they see their guy triumphing. You see it when you talk to them: They're busy being born.

The Republicans? Busy dying. The brightest of them see no immediate light.
They're frozen, not like a deer in the headlights but a deer in the darkness,
his ears stiff at the sound. Crunch. Twig. Hunting party.

Meanwhile, Noonan's colleague Kim Strassel also is like the horse that walks into the bar:

This anger is the best way to describe today's political landscape. Ever
since Republicans were routed in 2006, and more recently with their loss of
three special elections, the party has been in a debate about what changed in
the country and what to do in response. In the primaries, as Mike Huckabee
pitched to evangelicals, Rudy Giuliani pitched to fiscal conservatives, and Mitt
Romney pitched to anything that moved, some went so far as to declare the
"death" of the Reagan coalition.

Encouraging this panicked discussion has been a new theory that the
nation is experiencing a seismic political shift. A few short years ago, we were
supposed to be on the verge of a lasting conservative majority. Scrap that.

Do you think this is a little bit over the top? I sure do. It's quite possible that 2008 will be a big year for the Democrats. I'm going to do what I can to prevent it from happening. But I'm not convinced yet that it has to be. In fact, I think there's reason for optimism. Why? Plenty of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • The Democrats aren't really any smarter than before. While Republicans have a well-deserved reputation for not learning from their mistakes, especially at the national level, there's no evidence that Democrats have learned anything, either. Tactically, they have done some smart things in terms of framing debates, but a lot of the candidates who are winning elections are running as moderates or even conservatives. Once these candidates get to Washington, they won't be able to pretend to be something they aren't, especially when they start taking marching orders from the Pelosis, Reids and Murthas of the world. When these solons return to their districts and their constituents, they will, like Lucy, have a lot of 'splainin to do.

  • The headlining Democratic candidates aren't going to look as impressive in the fall as they might now. Barack Obama may be able to bluff his way through November, but he's shown real trouble dealing with anything approaching actual scrutiny. Here in Minnesota, the likely Senate nominee is Al Franken, who will bring to his campaign a very unflattering paper trail and lots of video antics that will flood YouTube and anyplace else that Republican operatives can place them. One well-connected blogger, Michael Brodkorb, has staggered the Franken campaign several times already. Norm Coleman, for all his faults, will be smart enough to bring in the operatives he needs to finish what Brodkorb has started. And Jesse Ventura won't change the equation this time. (Side note: you may have heard about Jesse's appearance the other day at the Mall of America, where he was signing copies of his book. Ol' Jesse was barking about how he wanted to take on Norm again. The MOA and Jesse had elaborate crowd control procedures in place, including issuing wristbands in advance to control an expected throng. From what I heard, they didn't need wristbands to control this throng.)

  • What happens at the local level will be just as important as what happens at the national level and there are good candidates to support. I've been writing a lot about the race here in 50B and we have an excellent chance to elect Lori Grivna this fall. Incumbent Kate Knuth is no longer the fresh young face; instead, she's part of the DFL team that has already jammed the largest tax increase in Minnesota history down the throats of her constituents. And she wants to do a lot more of the same. And Lori is quite prepared to explain precisely what more of the same would mean.

  • Even if the worst-case scenario takes place, there will be opportunities in the ashes. Suppose the most dire predictions come true - Obama wins and wins easily and brings 5-6 new Democratic senators (including, egad, Franken) and 20-30 new Congresscritters. What would happen? Well, you can assume that the emboldened Democrats will try to ram through their entire agenda - taking over healthcare, global warming, whatever the hell the teachers' unions want this time, etc., etc., etc. They might even get some of it passed. People will notice that, though. And people will notice that a lot of unsavory people will be wielding a lot of power; they'll notice that by giving the keys to Barack Obama, they've also unleashed the Murthas and Pelosis of the world. We can try to explain that to people all we want in this cycle, but most likely the message won't get through. Sometimes you have to experience something to learn from it. A very large percentage of the electorate doesn't remember what life was like in the 1970s. An Obama administration with large Democratic majorities in both houses would set up a replay of that time. Who thinks it will turn out better this time?

Bottom line? We have work to do. The key for those who believe in conservative ideals is to campaign forthrightly and with vigor in this cycle. We have good candidates to support and many reasonable arguments to make. It may not go our way. But if we make honest arguments and still lose because people aren't accepting the message, we'll have laid down a marker. And we'll have established something for the next campaign. As the wise man said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. And if, like Peggy Noonan, you're worried about the hunting party, don't forget that some hunting parties are led by Elmer Fudd.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Please read

What the Lady Logician has to say about the latest controversy surrounding Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten. We need to talk about the actions of Komissar Mindy Greiling (DFL-Smolensk, I mean Roseville), but I haven't gotten to it yet. LL is on the case, as always.

At a minimum, Greiling should be ashamed. More anon.


So George Bush said this today at the Knesset in Israel:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We
have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in
1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to
Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this
what it is –- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly
discredited by history.

We don't know specifically the identity of "some," of course. Based on what I can tell, the some could apply to hundreds of American politicians, thousands of European politicians and millions of people around the world.

For some reason , Barack Obama thought that George W. Bush meant him, and responded this way:

It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. It is
time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and
failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no
action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of
American power -- including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to
pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never
supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary
politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure
the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.

Just a couple of things:

Obama is wrong, of course. Reagan never negotiated directly with countries like Libya or North Korea. Neither Kennedy, Nixon nor Reagan ever directly negotiated with Cuba. Nor have any of their successors. If Obama believes that we should directly negotiate with all nations, regardless of how heinous the governments of those nations are, he can certainly pursue that should he get elected president. But he'll be the first president in a long time to do so. Maybe the only president.

Second, Obama has one definite credibility issue on the matter of talking with Hamas. One of his advisers, Robert Malley, was in regular contact with Hamas. Once word of that got out, Obama fired him. Apparently Obama was shocked, shocked that this sort of activity was going on in his establishment.

Finally, we know how George W. Bush feels about this issue. Nothing he said today is any different than anything else he's said previously. Lots of people have already discredited anything Bush says on this issue, or any other for that matter. So here's a question - why should Obama, or any of his supporters, care what George W. Bush thinks? If Bush is wrong and they are right, stuff like this should make them serene. Right?

Brewers Fall Just Short Against White Sox

Despite the team's best overall performance of the year, the Brewers lost another heartbreaker this evening, falling to the White Sox 5-4 at Perry Park. It was a tightly played contest and despite notable heroics by one of our kids (who had a triple and a home run), the lads fell short.

Ben was back in the lineup and was 1-2, scoring on the subsequent home run. Lots of good things happened, but it just wasn't meant to be.

The loss puts the Brewers at 1-5 heading into a Sunday contest against the Braves. Game time is 6:30 at Wilson Park in Shoreview. When you want the latest in Shoreview Area Youth Baseball American League action, look no further than Mr. Dilettante.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighteen - Republican Despair Edition

UPDATE: Our friend Leo has also added a few other tunes in the comments section if the choices here don't float your boat. Thanks, good sir!

So the Republicans lost a special election down in Mississippi last night, which has led to a lot of sackcloth and ashes on the starboard side and glee on the port side. It would appear that there's no reason to even have an election and we should simply concede power to the mighty Democrats and our next president Barack Obama, who conclusively demonstrated his inevitability yesterday in West Virginia.

Well, Mr. Dilettante is always ready to be the on-deck deejay for the Titanic dance party. So in honor of our inevitable, impending doom, here's a selection of happy songs to brighten the mood of Republicans everywhere. Pick your favorite from among the following:

First, the pride of Rockford, Illinois gives Republicans some good advice. From Budokan, it's Cheap Trick, with:


Next, it's native son Robert Zimmerman explaining it all to the despairing masses, with:

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Next, resplendent in a sequined red velvet dinner jacket designed to assuage despairing red state partisans, Marvin Gaye gently suggests a potential strategy for Republicans in the fall, with:

Got to Give It Up

Finally, daring young modern Beck provides the anthem that will lead the GOP to victory in '08, including extensive footage of the recommended Republican transportation option, with:


Vote early and vote often - it works for the Democrats!

Good Heavens, I've Been Memed Again!

Dan S. (a great guy with highly questionable taste in sports teams) has tagged me with a meme. To wit:

The "Message to the World" meme states: You have 150 characters to send a message to the world. Punctuation doesn't count. Well, all righty then. Ahem....

The golden rule works. Love your family. Tell the truth, especially to yourself. Learn something from mistakes. God is there for you. Laugh. Rock on.

Brought it in under 150.

And so we pass it on. That means you, Stinger and Heidi.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

51 years ago in my hometown

This picture shows the funeral procession for Senator Joseph McCarthy, who died in May, 1957. The picture shows the procession entering St. Mary's Catholic Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. The building in the background is St. Mary's School, the school I attended 20 years later. I might add that I received the sacrament of Confirmation at St. Mary's as well.

No particular significance, just thought it was an interesting picture.

Dead Cat Bounce

As expected, Hillary Clinton wins the West Virginia primary easily. It won't change the overall results much, as Hillary is simply too far behind now. What is striking is her margin of victory, or, more importantly, the margin of defeat for Barack Obama. If Obama wants to be president, he will have to win states like West Virginia. Let's just say he has a lot of work to do.

Brewers Struggle Early, Rally Falls Short

Our intrepid Brewers fell into an early hole and weren't able to recover, falling to the Cubs 13-5 at Perry Park in Arden Hills. Once again a slow start doomed the lads, as they were behind 11-3 after just two innings. Things stabilized after that and they did mount a rally in the final inning, but steady fielding and strong pitching by the Cubs foiled their plans.

The loss leaves the team's overall record at 1-4. They take the field again on Thursday, this time against the White Sox, also at Perry Park. Game time is 6:30. Trust Mr. Dilettante to provide you with up-to-the-minute coverage of Shoreview Area Youth Baseball American League action.

Monday, May 12, 2008

"I'm Kate Knuth for the Sioux Falls Development Council"

I hear the commercials just about every day during my commute. For years the voice belonged to the avuncular Dan Scott, but he's retired now and these days we're hearing his adenoidal sounding successor, Dan Hindbjorgen. These two gentlemen represent the Sioux Falls Development Council and for over a decade now they've been extolling the virtues of their home town, which sits just over the border from Minnesota in lovely, windswept South Dakota.

Their message has been consistent - South Dakota generally, and Sioux Falls in particular, have far lower taxes and business operating expenses than exist in Minnesota. For years they have been telling us that a business could save up to "a million dollars a year by moving to Sioux Falls," and they always assure us that they have the facts to back it up. And for years, they have talked at length about the predations of the political class in Minnesota, particularly the bien pensants who currently run the Legislature.

I'm not sure how much the Sioux Falls Development Council pays these gentlemen to spread their message, but my sense is that they could spare a lot of expense by simply broadcasting the deep thoughts of my representative in 50B, Kate Knuth. Ms. Knuth managed to get elected as a fresh new face in the 2006 election. She is very young and she shares the certitude that many young people have about the decency of their beliefs and the efficacy of their plans to fundamentally change the corrupt world they've inherited.

While it's difficult to get much of a sense of the scope of Ms. Knuth's vision from the sketchy information on her campaign's issues webpage, this week it was her turn to attach her name to one of those DFL press releases that reliably run each week in the local newspapers, in this case the Sun-Focus. (It's always interesting to note the similiarities in writing style that Kate Knuth, Bev Scalze, Paul Gardner, Mindy Greiling and other north suburban legislative deep thinkers share, by the way.) And Kate Knuth has big ideas:

I support an innovative plan to transform the way Minnesota schools are
funded - one that would significantly moderate skyrocketing property taxes and
provide every Minnesota student access to a top-notch education. The
groundbreaking proposal, which will be in play next year, begins increasing
school funding starting in 2010 and can be phased in over the course of several
bienniums as economic conditions allow. It simplifies state school funding,
reduces property taxes and lays a foundation for every student to succeed when
they graduate from high school.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want to "moderate" their property taxes? But since schools are a local matter under the jurisdiction of local school boards, how would she fund it? You know the answer, of course -- by making the rich pay their fair share, that's how. And that means by shifting the burden to the state, which gets the money from income taxes.

As we said, Kate Knuth is young. She hasn't spent a lot of time in the business world; in fact, I'm not sure she's spent any significant time in the business world, as she's pretty much spent her adult life splitting time between academe and her current perch in the legislature. As a result, I suspect she doesn't quite understand how people who don't travel in her circles live. There are many bright, productive people who earn a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes right now. Many are high-level executives of small or large companies, or entrepreneurs who build their own enterprises and whose innovations lead to good jobs for their fellow citizens. Because such people are bright and productive, they are in demand and they have highly transferable skills. Such people have options. And the Dan Hindbjorgens of the world are more than happy to provide enticements to get such people to leave Minnesota. And when the Kate Knuths of the world start braying about fairness, smart and productive people well understand what fairness implies. And when the braying gets loud, the dulcet tones of Dan Hindbjorgen start to sound better and better.

Kate Knuth could understand all that some day. Anyone who earns degrees from the University of Chicago and Oxford has demonstrated that they can learn. It's quite possible that if Kate took the initiative, she could build her own business or rise to an executive position with a Minnesota company. And perhaps some day Kate may raise a family and learn the impact that well-meaning governmental ministrations have on individuals and families. In other words, she might understand the things that her opponent, Lori Grivna, understands well. If Kate Knuth values education, she ought to concentrate on her own education a little more. And the voters of 50B should not hesitate to offer a new syllabus in November.

Cross-posted at True North.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stinger Celebrates the Sesquicentennial

My contrarian brother casts a sidelong glance at the suprisingly low-key sesquicentennial celebrations underway (rumor has it, at least) over at his place. Among his bon mots:

150 years ago today, President James Buchanan made the biggest mistake ofhis presidency (which is saying something given the US split under his watch),and granted Minnesota statehood. He had one last chance to get with the British and re-attach it to Rupert's Land, but instead he made Minnesota a state. And the rest of America has been paying for it ever since.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Moms and Pentecost

Since Easter was exceptionally early this year, today is Mother's Day and the day that the Church celebrates Pentecost. While I'm sure these two celebrations have fallen on the same day before, I don't recall the last time. They work together well, I think.

We all have a Mom and she is the most important person in our life for a long time. My mom passed away almost 8 years ago now and at our house most of the Mother's Day attention goes to Mrs. D, who is, among her many other fine attributes, a wonderful and loving mother to our children. Ben and Maria may not always realize or appreciate how fortunate they are to have the mother they have, but some day they will.

I still think about my own mother all the time - she was a remarkable woman in many ways. I wrote about Mom at some length on this blog two years ago and I'm not going to rehash the details of her life here, except to say that she somehow raised six children even though she suffered from various demons throughout most of her life. She managed to send us out into the world and all six of her children have generally done well. There is no gainsaying the importance of that.

Going out into the world is the central theme of the Pentecost, too. As we learn in the Acts of the Apostles, the Twelve are filled with the Holy Spirit and find themselves able to tell the assembled crowds in Jersulalem about the mighty works of God. They were simple folks from Galilee, but through the intercession of the Holy Spirit they were able to be understood by everyone there, even though the people came from many lands and spoke many different languages. At that moment, as much as any other, the modern Church was born. Father Sean Magnuson, who celebrated the Mass I attended today, talked about that in his homily and about how we too are called to speak about God and that we should let the Holy Spirit flow through our lives.

That can be a challenge for all Christians and American Catholics in particular have a little trouble dealing with the evangelistic nature of our faith. It's not surprising - during the course of the year we hear Scripture readings where Jesus instructs his disciples to spread the Good News, yet at other times Jesus seems to have little use for ostentatious public displays of faith, especially in the account of Matthew 6:5-7 (discussed here) where he tells us to pray privately.

We all struggle to understand such conundrums as we travel this journey. What I do know is that my journey began because my mother (and father) loved me enough to bring me into this world. And that is worth celebrating every day, not just on the second Sunday in May.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Say a prayer

For our good friend Gino, who lost his sister in a traffic accident on Thursday. God has a plan for all of us, even though on some days it's awfully difficult to understand.

Free Association Veepstakes - Seriously, This Time

I had a little fun last night throwing out some ridiculous ideas for a potential running mate for Sen. Obama, but his actual running mate will tell us a lot about what Obama really intends to do and how he views the presidency.

First things first - I think the chances are almost nil that he'll select Mrs. Clinton. Besides all the rancor that has emerged in the campaign, her Machiavellian nature guarantees that Obama would spend the foreseeable future worrying about getting a shiv in the back. My friend Strolling Amok has suggested that Obama will offer HRC a seat on the Supreme Court, but I don't see that happening, either. My guess: she'll fade into the background and hope that McCain wins so she can go after it again in four years.

Way back at the beginning of the year, SA suggested someone who would be an excellent choice for Obama: James Webb. Webb has the military background that Obama lacks and is significantly more moderate politically; as an old Reagan hand (former Secretary of the Navy) he would have the chance to moderate some of Obama's sillier diplomatic ideas. He might also bring somewhat purplish Virginia into play electorally. If Obama can take the flak that he'd get from certain quarters in his party over the choice, he'd be hard pressed to find anyone better. Another individual with similar credentials would be former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.

If he bypasses HRC, there will be a lot of pressure to pick a woman. The thing is, at least to this observer, most of the distaff choices in the Democratic Party aren't especially impressive. Nancy Pelosi may be Speaker of the House, but she's not well-regarded right now and rightfully so. Most of the female senators available would be poor choices as well -- Dianne Feinstein, who has supported Hillary, will be 75 this year and is too old for the job. Her California colleague Barbara Boxer is an uber-liberal and has an especially annoying persona. There's no way he'll pick Barbara Mikulski (too old and irritating), Patty Murray (uber-liberal with bad soundbite history) or Mary Landrieu (product of a corrupt, dying political machine). He might want to take a flyer on Claire McCaskill, but I don't see that. Nor do I see him looking at our distaff Senator, Amy Klobuchar (a/k/a Senator Hotdish), whose tenure thus far has featured Alphonse D'Amato-style small bore initiatives mixed with the sensibilities of a WCCO "consumer reporter" (lead toys and swimming pool drains).

That leaves governors and there are two that Obama might consider. First is Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. She brings two advantages - a record of accomplishment both in the governor's office and as a U.S. attorney and, perhaps more importantly, she's from the same state as John McCain. Since Veep candidates tend to have an attack-dog role in a campaign, her critiques of McCain might have more trenchancy since she's from the same place. The other possibility is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, whose photo appears at the beginning of the post. She's managed to get elected and re-elected in a conservative state and (sorry if this seems sexist) presents herself better than Napolitano. Either would be a smart choice.

Two other male governors have been mentioned as well. The first is former candidate Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Richardson's endorsement of Obama was a big story earlier in the campaign and he has perhaps the best resume of all the potential choices. But his campaign was singularly unimpressive and while he definitely helped Obama with his endorsement, the transparency of it will probably hurt his chances. The other name you hear a lot is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. I don't see him at all, though, and not only because he supported Clinton. Rendell is the quintessential big-state political machine politician that Obama's campaign has used as a counterpoint from the beginning. If he were to embrace someone like Rendell as his running mate, it would signal that much of the loftier rhetoric from Obama was simply that.

If I were Obama, I would be choosing between Webb and Sebelius. What do you think?

57 States!

Obama was tired the other day when he gave a speech in Beaverton, Oregon and said that the U.S. has 57 states. I know he doesn't think that. Had McCain said it, it would be a bigger story, which of course is part of the problem. But we'll leave that aside.

This is funny, though - one of the great things about America is that there's always a chance for entrepreneurial wiseguys to have a little fun with it. If Obama gets one of these pins and wears it on his lapel, given his much-discussed disdain for wearing flag pins, I would definitely give him the nod. Make sure you click the link -- the angry responses from Obama fans in the comments section are just a hoot.
Update: Then again, maybe we shouldn't cut Sen. Obama any slack. Leo explains why.

(H/T: LAT via Instapundit)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Free Association Veepstakes!

As the primary season wheezes to its conclusion, it's time to start thinking about the vice presidential nominees. All the pundits speculate on who is on the "short list," but what fun is that? I think we need long lists. Really, really long lists. So let's put one together.

This week, we'll turn our attention to Senator Obama, who must now pick a running mate. Everyone wonders if he'll ask Mrs. Clinton, but I honestly believe that's a non-starter. Since Senator Obama is hailed as a visionary, out-of-the-box thinker, let's posit some out-of-the-box choices. And yes, the tongue will be quite firmly in cheek here. Some names will be familiar; others that might not be as familiar will get a link attached.

Potential candidates who wouldn't help Senator Obama much:

Jeremiah Wright

Tony Rezko

Paula Abdul

Barry Bonds

Rachael Ray

Rosie O'Donnell

Bud Selig

George W. Bush

Al Sharpton

Arianna Huffington

LaToya Jackson

Jerry Springer

Alec Baldwin

Noam Chomsky

Andrew Sullivan

Paris Hilton

Art Bell

Bill Ayers

Bernardine Dohrn

Evan Montvel-Cohen (another proud Beloit College alumnus!)

Harry Carson

O. J. Simpson

Homer Simpson

Ed Gein

I suppose I could offer some helpful suggestions. But maybe that will be next time. Meanwhile, feel free to offer yours!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventeen - Ben's Picks, Strange Dancing and Random Harmonica

So we've had the assistance of my lovely daughter Maria on a number of these contests, but my son is feeling left out. Ben loves sports and, to be honest, isn't necessarily all that interested in music. But he wanted to run a contest and since he feels like we owe him a couple, we've devised two contests in one for this evening.

First, we have to start with the songs that Ben likes. It's an interesting collection. Ben's favorite song is a Beatles classic. So here, from deep in the 60s, with Ringo at the helm, we have:

Next, we travel forward about five years to the dawn of the 70s. Motown's hot new act was taking the nation by storm. Here, in a clip from their 1971 "Going Back to Indiana" special, with

Bill Cosby and Tom Smothers appearing, weirdly, is the Jackson 5 with:

Then, we have a harbinger of trouble. Ben is 12 now, but he's apparently thinking ahead to his 16th birthday, based on this choice. He's already asking me about when he'll get to drive. I'd rather not think about it. But ultimately Ben will not be denied because, as Tom Cochrane reminded us in 1991, with lotsa guitar and harmonica,

We now reach the transition point. The next tune is part of both contests. We go back to Cali, 1964, before things got weird. The Beach Boys were selling their version of the American Dream, well represented here with:

And now, since we're in back in the 60s, it's time to look at one of the sillier manifestations of the 1960s - dancing. On the last clip, you see plenty o' bikini-clad beauties dancing away. But these lovelies weren't the only ones dancing.

A regular feature of many 1960s performances were go-go dancers. More than 40 years on, some of them look a little, well, silly. Maria is here and she agrees with her dad about this. For example, check out what develops about 50 seconds in on this one, featuring a bunch of Texas boys pretending to be part of the British Invasion (and fooling absolutely no one). From 1965, it's Doug Sahm and his buddies in the Sir Douglas Quintet telling us that:

A year later, something was emerging from a garage in San Jose other than Dionne Warwick and Hewlett-Packard. It was the Count Five, a classic one-hit wonder band with a little more wailing harmonica and again, some really strange poolside dancing going on. It's time for a:

Now of course, not all the dancing in the 60s was strange. Some people knew how to dance. Like the Godfather of Soul. From a 1966 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, it's James Brown with:

So, if you've managed to make it this far, you get to vote. Here are the rules.

Contest 1: pick the Ben song you like best, from songs 1-4.

Contest 2: pick the dancing song you like best, from songs 4-7.
The polls are open!

Good Advice From the Nightwriter

As if you would expect anything other than good advice from one of the wisest bloggers around. . . .

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lori Grivna In Her Own Words - Transportation

Continuing with our series on Lori Grivna's candidacy to restore common sense representation to District 50B, here is where Lori stands on transportation issues. Lori's positions on the issues are italicized, with my comments interspersed.

I will advocate for solutions that address the congestion in our district.

1. Transportation basics (roads and bridges) should be funded first to relieve bottlenecks before sinking millions of dollars into rail projects serving very limited geographical areas or as a convenience to visit a casino up north! While the current transportation budget of nearly $5 billion will expand due to the tax increases passed by our legislators, the fact is that transit earmarks have taken away revenue for roads and bridges.

We've talked about this issue repeatedly and the difference is pretty simple. Lori's vision for transportation policy is that it serve people as they actually live their lives. Kate Knuth and her DFL friends would prefer to have us reorder our lives to live on a more "sustainable" model. By this they mean cramming more people into less space, along rail lines, and forcing people from their cars whenever possible.

So you work in Minneapolis, but you'd like to live in the suburbs, or (gasp!) out in the country? You selfish person! Free-flowing highways aren't desirable because they allow people (meaning you and me) to live in the profligate manner that we currently do. Everyone knows that the light rail service currently contemplated will do nothing to relieve congestion in 50B; in order to access the pending Central Corridor, a 50B resident will have to drive to a station on the line (an average of 8-10 miles) or take a bus to downtown Minneapolis (the 4 and the 25 routes will get you there, but it takes around a half hour). How valuable is your time? And if you are driving 8-10 miles to get to the line, how much gas are you really saving? See, the solution for you is to cram yourself into a townhome built along the line. And if you like a little space and would prefer not to live cheek-to-jowl with your neighbors, tough luck.

2. The Metropolitan Freeway System 2007 Congestion Report by the Department of Transportation indicates increased congestion on the main arteries going through our district: 694 and 35W.

If you live in 50B, you don't need a MnDOT report to know how the traffic on 694 and 35W complicates your life. It's not only the time wasted on roads that don't have enough lanes, but the spillover onto parallel roads that plays havoc with life in our communities.

Consider the cost of traffic on 35W. Do you have some spare time? Try making a left-hand turn from Foss Road onto Old Highway 8 in New Brighton during evening rush hour. You can wait at this intersection for 3-5 minutes some days. I know - I've experienced it repeatedly. Traffic can be just as bad on Cleveland Avenue on the Arden Hills side of 35W, especially near County Road E-2, where hundreds of vehicles play musical chairs each day.

Then there's the carnage on 694 betwen 35W and 35E, where a major expressway thins to 2 lanes in each direction, with a complicated interchange with U.S. 10 to boot. Say you have a meeting in White Bear Lake; it should be about a 10-15 minute drive. Go during rush hour and the time can quadruple. MnDOT is well aware of the problem, but nothing will happen to relieve congestion until 2012, which is when the multi-year project might begin.

Lori Grivna will pay attention to these issues. Kate Knuth wants to build trains.

Is there a role for transit? Of course. And Lori identifies something that will actually help.

3. In conversations with district residents, the need for bus service between suburban cities has shown some support. Bus lines retain the flexibility for ridership needs and can be adjusted accordingly to serve our community residents.

Yep, buses. Unhip buses. They are a far better investment than trains. Why? A bus can go places trains cannot. As I mentioned before, you can take a 4 or a 25 from New Brighton to downtown Minneapolis. Those routes have decent ridership. But you could also route buses from New Brighton to the new Medtronic facility in Mounds View. We could also design a route that serves the array of employers (Medtronic, Deluxe, Land O'Lakes, Boston Scientific, Fair Isaac) along the 694 corridor. And we could send buses toward Maple Grove, or the 494 strip, or any number of places where people work. And we could do it for much, much less money than will be spent on light rail infrastructure. A well-designed, augmented bus service with nicer buses running at sensible times could make a huge difference in congestion. It's not going to happen, though. Instead, we're going to get a train that won't help 50B, or 53A, or any of the other districts in the north metro. But we will get to pay for it.

Lori Grivna is thinking about the issues and because she lives in the real world, she is proposing real-world solutions. What does Kate Knuth have to say about it? From Knuth's website:

Transportation: Minnesota is enjoying a growing economy and population, which need smart transportation systems. In addition to maintaining our transportation systems, we must invest in increased public transportation networks as well as access to them.

Lori Grivna is talking about district-specific issues. Kate Knuth is talking about platitudes. Just another reason why Lori Grivna deserves the support of the residents of 50B.

Cross-posted at True North