Friday, August 31, 2012

The Mitt Show

Sat down like a good amateur pundit and watched most of the festivities from Tampa last night. A few comments:

  • Maybe I'm a cynic, but some of the background stuff about Mitt Romney verged on hagiography. That's part of the deal with a campaign, but it seemed a little too thick to me. What will be interesting is to see if the Democrats and their flying monkeys in the media decide to "fact-check" some of the claims that were made about Romney's past, especially the personal anecdotes. It almost seemed like the Romney campaign is daring them to do so.
  • I don't know if Mitt Romney will be president. After watching Marco Rubio last night, I think it's a good bet that Rubio will one day be standing at a similar platform, accepting the GOP nomination. It may not be for a while, but he'll get a chance. He's an impressive fellow.
  • I'd never realized that Clint Eastwood was a performance artist before yesterday. I understand that Eastwood and Bob Newhart are good friends. I hope so, because Eastwood pretty much was doing a Bob Newhart bit last night. Some of the stuff he said was hilarious and he probably took more good shots at Obama/Biden than anyone who appeared this week. The early spin I've seen on is that Eastwood's appearance was somehow "sad" or "rambling." I'm guessing that the rambling approach was purposeful. If the meme persists, watch for Eastwood to reappear at a campaign event at some point and deliver a more standard address, though.
  • Using the Olympians was a smart move, given Romney's biography. Getting Mike Eruzione was a masterstroke. If you are old enough to remember the Miracle on Ice and the role Eruzione played on that team, you'll know why. If you don't, stop by my house sometime, because there are times it seems like "Miracle" is on 24/7 around here. And if you didn't pick up on it, I'd also point out that having Eruzione on stage was another subtle way of making the 2012/1980 comparison. 
  • As for Romney's speech, it was good, but not great. I don't know that it had to be great, but it would have helped him a little more if it had been. I'm not sure Romney can give a great speech, though. Oratory is a tough art; we remember great speeches because they are rare. Obama is probably in the White House today because of the speech he made in 2004 on behalf of John Kerry -- he certainly wouldn't have emerged based on the strength of his legislative resume. 
  • The larger subtext of last night was making the comparison between the Man of Words (Obama) and the Man of Action (Romney). I think that, all in all, that effort was successful. What I wonder about is this; was anyone really paying attention? It's much more difficult to get a mass audience now than it was when Ronald Reagan was making his pitch some 32 years ago. Obama gets his chance to respond next week. What will be interesting to watch is this; will anyone tune in to that extravaganza?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Conventional Wisdom

I did sit down and watch part of the RNC convention last night. It's good to get a sense of things. A few comments:

  • C-SPAN is the best way to watch a convention if you actually want to see what's happening. Gavel to gavel coverage without someone trying to spin you.
  • I tuned in when John Thune was ending his remarks. He's the senator from Central Casting. Made his points and then walked off. I wish more politicians did that.
  • I was impressed with the governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, who gave an impassioned speech that I doubt many people watching on the nets would have seen.
  • T-Paw got the lounge act warmup slot and he delivered his one-liners adequately, although it's really not a role he's comfortable with, which seemed evident to me. He's always the good soldier, though, and if Romney/Ryan wins he'll be rewarded with at least a Cabinet slot. It became pretty evident later on why he and Rob Portman, who also spoke, did not get the VP nod.
  • Mike Huckabee is an excellent speaker, but he's always given me the creeps in a Robert Mitchum/Night of the Hunter sort of way. Nothing he said yesterday changed that impression.
  • Condoleeza Rice is always impressive, although I only saw a little of her speech, since I had to take a phone call during her remarks. It will be interesting to see if she returns to Washington.
  • Probably the biggest surprise of the evening was Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, who gave a very impressive speech. I hadn't seen much of Martinez before and she did get a little buzz as a potential Veep. Now I know why. It will be interesting to watch her progress in New Mexico in the coming years. I fully expect we haven't seen the last of her on a national stage.
  • I've been watching speeches at conventions since 1976 and Paul Ryan's speech last night was one of the best I've ever seen. He's always had the "smartest guy in the room" persona about him but he was able to soft-pedal the wonkery and still get his points across in a measured, forceful way. And he might have had the line of year when he said this: College graduates should not have to spend their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, looking up at their fading Obama posters and wondering when they will be able to get going in life. That's perhaps the most important shot across Obama's bow that I've heard so far in this campaign. Young people played a major role in the Obama campaign in 2008 and it will be interesting to see if they are still looking up at their Obama posters four years on. More importantly, will they be willing to leave their childhood bedrooms and get out to campaign for Obama? Perhaps they will, but you have to wonder.
  • There was one problem with Ryan's speech, however -- it's going to be a very tough act to follow. I will be quite curious to see how, or even if, Mitt Romney tries to top it. I wonder if he'll seem like a disappointment when the comparisons are made, and they will be made.
  • The takeaway of the evening -- the Republicans have a pretty deep bench. One thing I've noticed about the Democrats is that they don't seem to have many younger faces to offer the cameras, other than Barack Obama himself. I mean, seriously, do you consider Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to be a credible talking head? I'll be curious to see who the Dems trot out next week at their shindig in Charlotte. If you see a lot of Chuck Schumer, or Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi next week, you'll get a sense of the problem the Democrats might be facing.

22 Years

It's now been 22 years since the day my father passed away. I've reprinted my memories of the day twice before in this space, so I'll just give you the link if you're interested. My sister Carol wrote something nice about Dad on Facebook this morning, and I'll quote it here:

22 years is a long time... But every day you've been gone I have thought of you, and of course missed you. What I choose to remember most is your laugh and mischievous ways... that's what gets me through 22 years. Love you Dad, saw some sky blue pink, so I know you're looking out for us yet...

Carol is right about that -- Dad did have some mischievous ways. He was a very funny man and he was an optimist. The second trait matters a lot.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bad Amateur Pundit

Sorry, I didn't watch any of the GOP convention last night. Watched "Duck Soup" with the kids instead. You can actually learn a lot about politics from watching that particular movie. But this scene is still magic:

And there's more than a little bit of wisdom in this musical number:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not Your Average Huckleberry Hound

Yeah, this is a story of a famous dog
For the dog that chases its tail will be dizzy

The invaluable James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal:
The thing we adore about these dog-whistle kerfuffles is that the people who react to the whistle always assume it's intended for somebody else. The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you're the dog.
Or as George Clinton once posed the musical question:
Why must I feel like that
Why must I chase the cat
Nothin' but the dog in me
So if you were "offended" by this:

I'd suggest you watch this:

Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yeah.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Supremes Spank SecState II -- What We've Learned

As we mentioned earlier today, the State Supreme Court shut down two lawsuits that were intended to hinder or remove the constitutional ballot questions that the legislature put on the ballot for this cycle.

The first measure is the Photo ID amendment, which was under a two-pronged attack. First, the allegedly nonpartisan League of Women Voters, along with ACLU-MN and other groups, attempted to have the Photo ID amendment pulled off the ballot. This got shut down 4-2, with the court concluding that “The proper role for the judiciary, however, is not to second-guess the wisdom of policy decisions that the constitution commits to one of the political branches.”

That's exactly right, although the courts have often failed to heed that advice.

The second ruling was equally significant in that it shut down Mark Ritchie, the activist DFL Secretary of State, who tried to rewrite how the Photo ID amendment and the marriage amendment would appear on the ballot. The legislature sent up specific titles to appear on each ballot, which Ritchie changed in a fairly tendentious manner.

Legislators had called the Photo ID amendment: “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” Ritchie changed the title to read: “Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots.”

On the marriage amendment, legislators used the title: “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.” Ritchie’s rewrite was: “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.”

I'll be honest with you -- the Photo ID amendment matters a lot more to me. We've been round and round on gay marriage and as I've written before, this is a battle that ultimately conservatives are going to lose, mostly because young people are being taught that it is a civil rights issue, especially in the public schools. While I don't agree with that, the view will prevail and most of the constitutional amendments that are passing in the various states will eventually go away, probably within 10-20 years. At that point we'll begin the unwitting longitudinal study that will eventually reveal, years after most readers of this feature are pushing up daisies, whether or not gay marriage is a good idea or not. My future grandchildren and great-grandchildren (God willing) will get to suss that one out.

The Photo ID amendment is much more important, because it goes the integrity of elections. Voter suppression is the usual charge you hear, but as a practical matter the real issue is multiple votes and illegal votes. The challenge is getting local election officials and prosecutors, who are partisans, to take such things seriously. Minnesota Majority identified 1,099 cases of felons voting in the Franken/Coleman election and over 200 cases have been either adjudicated or are in the process of being investigated. The rest aren't going to see the light of day because the local prosecutors can't be bothered. Franken won the election by on 312 votes.

The other important thing is this -- if you ever had any doubt about it before, the claims of nonpartisanship from the League of Women Voters are preposterous. The LWV is a left-wing advocacy group. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they stop pretending to be something other than what they are.

Now the amendments go for a vote. I expect Photo ID to win easily. The marriage amendment will be close. Opponents of both amendments will have ample opportunity to state their case. They just can't depend on Mark Ritchie to keep his thumb on the scale this time.

Supremes Spank SecState

Mark Ritchie gets his thumb pulled off the scale:

The Republican-controlled Legislature won a pair of battles over proposed constitutional amendments before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday.

In a pair of 4-2 decisions, the court ruled:

-- Against a petition from the League of Women Voters and other groups that the ballot language of the photo ID amendment was so unfair that the amendment should be taken from the ballot.

-- In favor of petitions from the Legislature that their proposed titles for both the ID and marriage amendments should be used on the ballot, and not titles written by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
This is big news. More later.


WaPo tells us that antibiotics ain't what they used to be, or something:

Between 1945 and 1968, drug companies invented 13 new categories of antibiotics, said Allan Coukell, director of medical programs at the Pew Health Group.

Between 1968 and today, just two new categories of antibiotics have arrived.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved one new antibiotic, which fights one of the many bacteria, Clostridium difficile, causing deadly hospital-borne infections.

“What kept us out of trouble for the last 60 years is that every time drug resistance caught up to us, the pharmaceutical companies would go back to the drawing board and develop the next generation of drugs to keep us ahead of the game,” said Brad Spellberg, an infectious diseases physician in Los Angeles who heads a microbial resistance task force for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “That’s the part of the equation that’s changed. Drug companies are no longer trying to get one step ahead.”

But why is that?

Experts point to three reasons pharmaceutical companies have pulled back from antibiotics despite two decades of screaming alarms from the public health community: There is not much money in it; inventing new antibiotics is technically challenging; and, in light of drug safety concerns, the FDA has made it difficult for companies to get new antibiotics approved.

As a result, only four of the world’s 12 largest pharmaceutical companies are researching new antibiotics, said David Shlaes, a drug development veteran and consultant.

The first reason is certainly true enough -- bringing a new drug to market is an expensive proposition and you can get screwed up a number of different ways before it ever gets there. And if one thing goes wrong, the lawyers will take you for millions. The second reason is true, but we've never shied away from technical challenges if there was enough reward in it, so it's more a problem related to the first. And as for the third reason, well, that would be easy enough to change except that bureaucrats are even more ferocious than personal injury lawyers where turf is involved.

So how do you solve the problem? Either you let the pharmaceutical companies make more money and simplify the regulatory process, or you drive them out of business and turn things over to the feds. Which one do you think will work better? And which one do you think the respective presidential candidates will choose?

On such considerations elections turn. Or should, at least.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just a reminder

Any time you hear someone complaining about "birthers," it's worth remembering that Barack Obama was being marketed as a Kenyan native by his literary agent.

And as Jim Treacher points out at the Daily Caller, this went on for a long time:

This was the author bio Obama provided to his literary agent in 1991, and it was uncovered months ago by our friends at Obama used this bio for over 15 years, and it was revised a number of times. But he only changed it to indicate his true place of birth, Hawaii, once he decided to run for president.

He has yet to explain why he lied in the first place, but he doesn’t have to. He lied because he’s Barack Obama, and that’s what Barack Obama does.

And it's also worth remembering that Barack Obama has had no trouble marketing himself in other ways as well, as this old poster from his Chicago days indicates:

Yep -- it's none other than "Baraka Obama" on the ol' discussion panel.

So what do these things mean? I've argued before that they don't mean as much as some of my more excitable brethren would have you believe. I'm a copywriter by trade and the first thing you learn in my business is that you have to address the concerns and conceits of your target audience. And in the case of Barack Obama, he was trying to sell himself as a radical to the sorts of people that Tom Wolfe effectively skewered some 42 years ago:

. . . and now, in the season of Radical Chic, the Black Panthers. That huge Panther there, the one Felicia is smiling her tango smile at, is Robert Bay, who just 41 hours ago was arrested in an altercation with the police, supposedly over a .38-caliber revolver that someone had, in a parked car in Queens at Northern Boulevard and 104th Street or some such unbelievable place, and taken to jail on a most unusual charge called “criminal facilitation.” And now he is out on bail and walking into Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s 13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue. Harassment & Hassles, Guns & Pigs, Jail & Bail—they’re real, these Black Panthers. The very idea of them, these real revolutionaries, who actually put their lives on the line, runs through Lenny’s duplex like a rogue hormone. 

Barack Obama couldn't be a Black Panther, but he could be the son of an "American anthropologist and Kenyan finance minister." He could market himself by borrowing the name of the poet Amiri Baraka. He could be whatever you wanted him to be, a more polite version of a rogue hormone. But he could also be the embodiment of Hope and Change. He'll tell you one and one makes three:

The problem with Barack Obama isn't how he's chosen to market himself over the years. The problem is the product. And the most amusing part? One of the enduring themes of the Obama '12 campaign is that his opponent is somehow weird and inauthentic.

Some day, many years on, we'll look back on the audacity of the Audacity of Hope. And we'll shake our heads in amazement in the scope of the delusion.

Friday, August 24, 2012


So Lance Armstrong loses everything:
With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Beware the bureaucracy with vengeance on its mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

St. Therese and St. Mary

When I went to St. Anna this week, it made me realize that one thing I missed in my own childhood was the continuity of growing up in a single parish. I had two primary childhood parishes; the first was St. Therese.

St. Therese Church and School
This is the parish where my parents were married, in the winter of 1963. The school is to the left and I was a student there from 1st to 4th grade. It's a big complex and takes up over two city blocks when you include the playground that sits behind and beyond the left edge of the picture I've posted. I received my first communion at St. Therese. The school has been closed for a long time now and the parish itself is one of the few in the Green Bay Diocese that offers Mass in Spanish, which is a blessing for the small but growing Latino community in Appleton.

After we moved across town, I spent two years going to public school but eventually I ended up being a parishioner at St. Mary's, which is on the edge of downtown Appleton.

Church of St. Mary

St. Mary's was one of the first parishes in town. It had been traditionally the Irish church in Appleton; when Appleton was established in the late 1840s, the Irish were arriving in large numbers from the coffin ships, escaping the famine. These were the families that built St. Mary's.

The German immigrants began arriving in the 1850s, many of them Bavarian Catholics who were trying to avoid conscription by the Prussian Kaiser, who favored Bavarians for cannon fodder in the seemingly constant wars against the French. The German immigrants who arrived in Appleton attended St. Joe's, which was built only two blocks away:

St. Joseph
By the 1970s, the ethnic distinctions had largely faded away, but the two parishes remained very different places. The kids from St. Mary's and St. Joe's shared some of the same neighborhoods. We grew up together and were often bitter rivals, which was something I learned once I got to St. Mary's. We joined forces with the St. Joe kids by the time we all got to Xavier High School, but the basketball games in each other's gyms were pretty tense.

St. Mary's was my home parish during my later school years and I attended the school for 7th and 8th grade.  A number of my St. Therese friends ended up at St. Mary's at the same. While there was continuity in the Catholic education I received at these two different schools, there were definite differences. As we entered the mid 1970s, Vatican II was well established and some of the old school teachings my parents had experienced were fading quickly. St. Mary's had a retired priest named Father Nicholas Gross, who had been ordained in 1921.

 He would have been about 85 years old, but he still came in periodically to teach religion classes to the students. I'm almost certain that Father Gross baptized my mother, since Fr. Gross was pastor at the parish her family attended. By the time I met him, he was fading quickly and we had little idea what he was trying to tell us. He was an old school priest and pretty severe in his manner, which didn't work well with a bunch of kids who spent most of their days listening to Top 40 radio and wondering if it were possible to break into the sacramental wine. And truth be told, he smelled a little funny. We thought Fr. Gross was, frankly, a little gross. We liked our lay teachers a lot better and while we continued to encounter religious in our studies, going to Catholic school in Appleton wasn't substantially different than going to public school. To the extent that religious instruction was offered, it tended to be humanistic. The catechism was something that existed but never really came to life for us. In truth, while Fr. Gross had an important message to share, there was no way we were going to hear it. Now, 35 years on, I recognize that I missed an opportunity.

St. Anna

If you were to look up the word "bucolic" in the dictionary, the illustration could easily show St. Anna, Wisconsin. The old church sits on top of a hill and dates to 1896. It's filled with beautiful statuary and religious iconography. On the inside, it's very much like my childhood parish, St. Mary's, and the church where Mrs. D and I got married, St. Adalbert in Frogtown.

St. Ann's Church

The countryside is beautiful in the classic Wisconsin style -- gentle rolling hills that are verdant in the late summer. It's a wonderful place to visit during the late summer, even if you are saying goodbye.

My Uncle Frank and Aunt Judy settled in this region, ran a dairy farm and raised a family. They had recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary when my aunt Judy passed away last week. She was 77 years old. Frank and Judy had seven children. The first two, Paul and Mary Alice, died shortly after they were born. After those early tragedies, five other children arrived and took their place in the world -- my cousins Dan, Steve, Lois, Gerry and Sarah.

Those are the basic facts, but life doesn't reside in simple recitations of such details. Life happens in places like the farm where Frank and Judy made their life. I was a city kid and we would make the drive through the countryside to the farm a number of times. Uncle Frank would regale us with tales about how he had a man who worked for him named Clarence, who we were told lived in the silo. We were gullible enough to believe it for a while and even after we figured things out, we still wanted to see how Clarence was doing. Uncle Frank never hesitated to hook up a wagon for a hayride and eventually he let Dan, Steve or Gerry drive the tractor. We had family reunions at the farm, with the cousins playing wiffle ball all afternoon long while the adults enjoyed a cool beverage.

We didn't get to St. Anna that much after we started to grow up. My cousins eventually had other agendas besides farming and Frank and Judy decided to sell the farm and retire. They stayed in the area and lived in the nearby town of New Holstein. Family reunions, when they happened, took place at Dan's home in the city. We had returned to St. Anna four years ago to celebrate Frank and Judy's 50th wedding anniversary. That was a great event and it was a great opportunity to see family that I hadn't seen in a while. It had been over 20 years since I'd been back to St. Anna.

August is a problematic time in our family. Both of my parents died in the month of August, and we've marked those grim anniversaries each year. Now we had another milestone to add. As my brother and I approached town, we drove by the old farm, which was as tidy as we remembered it, although the tractors had been replaced by the plows and horses of the Amish family that had bought the farm. It's nearly a six hour drive from the Twin Cities to St. Anna and my brother and I had plenty of time to talk about the family, the farm and many other things. As we climbed the hill on School Street and approached the church, we realized that for the memories we had shared and all the questions we had considered on the long drive across the state, there were still a lot of mysteries to solve and questions that we needed to ask. And we knew that the people who might know the answers were continuing to disappear from the scene.

Gauthier is Gone

Good thing, too, because the guy had had a few, ahem, issues::
A Duluth legislator who admitted to police that he had oral sex with a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop has bowed to relentless pressure from DFL leaders and will not seek a second term.

"I am done," state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, told the Star Tribune late Wednesday. "I just need to take care of myself right now, and I am not really up for that kind of fight."

Gauthier infuriated DFL colleagues earlier in the day when they learned he intended to seek re-election. They had spent days urging Gauthier to bow out of the race in a district that is a longtime DFL stronghold.
Infuriated colleagues are problematic, but that appeared to be the least of his problems:
As authorities made the report public, Gauthier said he took several muscle relaxants and was taken to a local hospital after being found unconscious.

Gauthier said he has been recovering from chemical addiction for 30 years. He said he relapsed about a year ago and briefly started drinking again. Gauthier said he'd remained sober until last week, when he overdosed on pain pills prescribed for back pain.
"I reverted back to the bad habits of last year," he said.

Any similarity to the political career of other high-ranking Minnesota officials is strictly coincidental and must not be mentioned, of course. And there's this little tidbit:
Before joining the Legislature, Gauthier was a licensed social worker and alcohol and drug counselor. A background check turned up no previous criminal record.
On the bright side, he still has no criminal record.

One other point -- on the local news, I heard it mentioned that there are concerns about Gauthier coming back to St. Paul tomorrow for the planned special session on flood relief for the Duluth area. Given the timing, he's going to have to come back, because a resignation would not allow the seat to be filled in time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Plenty to say, but

Not a lot of time to say it. As you've probably figured, life trumps blogging for a while. Might have a post up tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, feel free to use this as an open thread.

For the record

Todd Akin is a moron.

Kerry Gauthier is a moron.

And that's all that needs to be said about either of them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Diogenes Mushnick

The light goes on:

As a registered but less-than-loyal Democrat, I long scoffed at the long-held notion that the news media have a left-leaning, anti-Republican bias.

I didn’t believe it, primarily because I chose not to believe it. Plus, the media confirmed for me that mine was the noble side. Heck, there was no other side.

But I now know — and have for some time — that I was pulling my own leg. The notion of such a bias is not merely a notion; it’s true.

Our news media, especially as seen and heard during nationally broadcasted news, engages in highly selective story-choosing, story-telling and subsequent indignations and outrages that are first weighed on political scales.
Preach it, Phil Mushnick! Here's more:

Early this month a spectacular story was given tiny attention, and none, as far as I watched, on nightly national newscasts.

In December 2010, David Plouffe, soon to be reappointed a senior adviser to President Obama, gave two speeches in the desperately poor country of Nigeria.

Speeches for which he was paid a total of $100,000.

Holy moly! What did he have to say in Nigeria that was worth 100 grand? He must have revealed the cure for a country ranked 158th among 177 in economic development, a country in which an estimated 70% of humanity live — barely, and not for long — in severe poverty and in the mortally unhealthy conditions that accompany nothingness.

But, no, that wasn’t it.
So what was it? Click the link and find out. Here's a hint -- it's yet another example of the most ethical administration in history performing at its usual level.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Boy Like You

I'm getting tired of writing obituaries/tributes. Turns out I have to write another one.

I got word this evening that Dennis Heimermann passed away today. Technically speaking, Dennis is my cousin, the only son of my oldest aunt on my mom's side of the family. Dennis was born near the end of World War II, the fruit of the union of my aunt and a soldier who went away to battle. I don't know the particulars, but they aren't especially important to the story. A lot of scenarios of this sort happened during the war and Dennis was raised as a son by my grandparents, so I always knew him as Uncle Dennis.

Every kid should have a cool uncle, a guy who does the fun stuff. When I was little, Dennis was my cool uncle. He was about 12 years younger than my mother and during the late 1960s, he was a strong presence in my life. He had a cool car and he would take me to the A & W Drive-In on the north side of town for burgers and milkshakes. He would play rock music on his car radio and we would cruise around town. I thought it was neat and I always looked forward to seeing him pull up to my grandmother's house. Sometimes he'd take my brothers along too, or my cousin Brian. But I always remember the music and how he was interested in what I had to say.

I had always heard that Dennis was a musician himself, but I really never heard the story. Turns out there's quite a story. I found a blog this evening with a fascinating post about some early rock and roll bands in my hometown. And sure enough, Dennis Heimermann was part of a band called Jerry Williams and the Rockets. I'm reprinting a picture of the band from 1961, which was a few years before I was born:

Jerry Williams and the Rockets
Dennis is in the back row on the left, with his bass guitar. Joe Knapp, the author of the blog in question, tells the story:
In 1958, the band regrouped under the name The Rockets and started performing across Wisconsin. Jerry Van Dynhoven added his first and middle name to dub the band Jerry Williams And The Rockets. Later Jerry's brother Donnie joined the band and began using Williams as his last name. Jerry Williams started out playing drums, but switched to sax and guitar later on. Other members that contributed their talents later included: Jerry Starr, Tom Gebheim, Gary Laabs, Ricky Leigh, Dave Hermsen, Jim Kobs, Dave Yokeum, Pete Miller, Brother Don Van Dynhoven, Dennis Heimermann, Bobby "Bryll" Timmers, and Mike Pluger. The group backed Danny And The Juniors at the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton on March 16, 1958. They also appeared with Fabian in March 1959 at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay. They also backed up other bands like Johnny Cash at the Eagles Club in Oshkosh, and Johnny And The Hurricanes at the Riverside Ballroom.
I would guess than Uncle Dennis didn't play these early gigs, because he'd have only been a teenager at the time, but they were a fixture on the local music scene. They even recorded a record in 1962:
Jerry eventually got over his early troubles with WAPL, later letting a station dee-jay named Bob Falkner produce his group's only record. which they recorded on January 6, 1962 at the WAPL studios. It was produced by the Gold Star Recording Company in Appleton and released in June 1962 on Rocket 001 (above) and featured an instrumental cover of Blueberry Hill (called Blueberry Lane) on one side, with A Boy Like You, sung by Jerry's wife Carol (formerly Carol Bosman), on the other side. A Boy Like You was a female "answer" cover version of a Gary Stites song from 1959 called A Girl Like You.
You can hear embedded MP3 copies of the song at the link. The songs are pretty much straight ahead rock of that era, expertly rendered. Jerry Williams and the Rockets never made it big, but there's a sweetness to their moment that's still palpable from the distance of a half-century. The rest of the essay is well worth your time as well.

As happens to most aspiring rock-and-rollers, Dennis had to move on. He took a job in town, got married and began raising a family of his own. We lived only a few blocks apart, but I didn't get see as much of him as I got older and started pursuing the details of my own life. Eventually he was disabled and could no longer work, so he and his wife Marianne eventually moved to Clintonville, a small town about 40 miles northwest of Appleton, where they ran an antique store. I don't know that I ever told him how much those early moments meant to me, but I suspect that my lifelong love of music might have something to do with him.

We don't always know, and often only dimly appreciate, the ways in which our interactions change lives. While I regret that I can't tell Uncle Dennis how I feel about those early moments, more than 40 years ago, I suspect he knew. And there's solace in that.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Radio D

I assume that many of you are already regular listeners to my friend Brad Carlson's radio show, "The Closer," which airs on Sundays from 1-3 p.m. on the Patriot. If you aren't, you really should be.

Brad has been nice enough to let me invade his studio tomorrow to help him out. We'll be discussing a number of topics, including recent political events and a preview of the upcoming NFL season, from a NFC North perspective. Tune in to AM1280 if you're in the Twin Cities or you can listen here. I'll do my best to maintain a minimum level of coherence.

Aunt Judy

My Aunt Judy passed away last night. I was fortunate to see her, for what turned out to be the last time, a week ago at our family reunion back in Wisconsin. She'd been through a lot of health problems in recent years, but her mind was sharp until the very end.

She was the younger sister (and sometime tormentor) of my father when they were growing up in Kimberly, Wisconsin. It's a role younger sisters play and she was good at it. Aunt Judy was good at most anything she set her mind to doing. She was smart, resourceful, generous and always patient. She was a schoolteacher, a farmer's wife and the mother of five talented children, who have all done very well in life.

She and my Uncle Frank took me and my brothers into their home when we were young, at a time when my mother was struggling with illness. These events happened over 40 years ago, in the spring of 1969, when we were too young to understand what was happening. I was five years old at the time and I remember romping around the farm with my cousins. My brothers and my cousins, for reasons that are clear only to five-year-old boys, started calling ourselves the "Generosity Boys." We didn't exactly know what it meant, I think, and only later did I understand the amount of generosity we were experiencing at the time. I also remember Aunt Judy taking the time to explain why Walter Cronkite was telling me that President Eisenhower had died, and why that mattered. She could be a teacher any time it was necessary. It wasn't the last time Aunt Judy helped me understand why something mattered, either.

When things were tough, her advice was that we should "storm the gates of Heaven" with prayer. Now she's on her way to the gates of Heaven and I suspect she's arriving with plenty of momentum. My thoughts are with my Uncle Frank and my cousins -- Dan, Steve, Lois, Gerry and Sarah. They have a journey to complete as well, but I know they'll manage it with grace. Aunt Judy taught them well.

Friday, August 17, 2012

And now for something completely different

Back in my college days I used to write poetry. I hadn't really tried to sit down to write a poem in nearly 25 years, but lately I've been trying to exhume the muse. A lot has gone on in the last month and as I tried to sort it out in my mind last night, a poem struggled to emerge. I present it here, with the hope that Blogger doesn't completely mess with the intended formatting. I hope you enjoy it. If this doesn't work for you, remember that we often have a more prolific poet in the house:

August 16

It began with a month of windshields and detailed observation of cornfields in various states of distress,
 indicating less than one would hope in
    the 102 miles between suburban St. Paul and Danbury, a town you pass through on the way
       to your initial destination

First, the joy of the children as they complete their disco Jesus hymn singing among the tamaracks
   in the small church by Webb Lake, with the meander of the county highway that leads to towns you’d barely noticed
   as the time approaches to retrieve your son some 52 miles away, who is clean and reverent despite the condition of his overnight bag, containing a merit badge for camping and a dozen tales of derring-do

You’ve marked these paths before – Augusts in ten-year increments have
  brought you back to your ancestral home to eat fried fish and digest mortality –

Dad clenching his hands in literal death grip on the hospital bed some 22 years before, not ready

 Mom fading a decade later, the cancer removed but with less than a week to enjoy the cure

  August arrives in warmth and often leaves with a hint of chill, a cold taste that you’ve sensed every time a telephone rings, because the voice on the other end of the line is hushed, again, beneath the              
    plangent tone

  The morning paper reports a missing girl, 3, has drowned in a canal in Danbury, the town you passed through just weeks before without a second thought, her tale complete before it begins

We’ve said goodbye before in August

The phone rings during your 3 p.m. meeting to discuss alternative website presentation of portable generators
   and when the number comes up on the screen, it’s your sister and you fear another goodbye is

The meeting ends and you duck into an empty cubicle to return the call – a massive cerebral
   hemorrhage has struck and felled your Aunt, nearing 80, though she’s kept alive long enough
     so her family can assemble and say goodbye, her tale complete

Tears flow in Danbury and St. Anna, two Wisconsin towns six hours apart, for lives separated by 347 miles
         and three quarters of a century
   We say goodbye in August, sensing the chill

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bye, Tony

If you've ever spent time around GOP events in Ramsey County, chances are you've seen Tony Bennett. He has always made the point of claiming to be a Republican, but during his tenure on the Ramsey County Board, he's always been happy to spend more money. He recently got his moment in the spotlight as the primary face of the effort to bring the Vikings to Arden Hills.

On Tuesday, he got his reward:

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett lost his bid for re-election to the County Board in Tuesday's primary election, after serving 16 years in office.

Bennett faced three challengers in the nonpartisan election, and he came in third by a narrow margin. The top two vote-getters, Blake Huffman and Frank Mabley, advance to the November general election. The fourth candidate, former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, came in last.

Bennett understood what happened to him, but his explanation shows he lacks understanding in other ways:

Bennett was a champion of the failed effort to locate the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills. He said that may have factored into his loss.

"When you've been involved as much as I've been, as long as I've been, sometimes you do things that some people don't like," Bennett said. "It wasn't the stadium that was the issue, it was cleaning up a property that needed to be cleaned up, it was putting some people back to work. The stadium just happened to be the vehicle we used."
This is nonsense. The stadium was the issue. Bennett saw it as a capstone of his long career. And as it turns out, it is the capstone -- just not the way Bennett thought it would be.

Huffman will do a better job of protecting the interests of his constituents than Bennett has. If he gets Sue Jeffers as a colleague, things will change for the better on the County Board.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dullard with Sharp Elbows

I'll say this much for Joe Biden -- at least he didn't plagiarize this bit from Neil Kinnock:

"Look at what they value and look at their budget and what they're proposing," Biden said of the Republicans at a campaign stop in Danville, Va. "Romney wants to let the — he said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules."

Then it happened. Biden began waving his right hand, palm up, and he adopted what he must have thought was the accent of a black minister.

"Unchain Wall Street," said Preacher Joe, reaching to the heavens, "They're going to put y'all back in chains."
John Kass of the Chicago Tribune asks a salient question:
Is that how people in Delaware talk? Or is it how white Democratic politicians speak when they're using dialect to talk down to black voters? What's next, Preacher Joe? Spirituals? Or are you going to carry around copies of "A Raisin in the Sun" and "To Kill a Mockingbird"?
It's a fair question. I don't know what Delawareans sound like. I'd be willing to wager they don't sound much like Amos and Andy under normal circumstances, but one never knows.

As I've written about the increasing string of nastiness that has emanated from Team Obama, I suspect that I've confused a few of my regular readers. At least one, Ace Commenter Rich, seems to think that I'm outraged by the behavior of Team Obama. He offered the following observation a while back:

You all seem upset that Obama forgot to act like Michael Dukakis or John Kerry. Or maybe it's that you guys are stuck with the horrible candidate from Massachusettes this time. Better get used to it. Obama, and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi all have some pretty sharp elbows. Thank God!

Actually, that's not it. I'm not upset; actually I'm amused by the way Team Obama is flailing around these days. I suppose Harry Reid deserves credit for at least knowing not to use bad dialect.

Biden understands that he needs to be an attack dog, but he's not very good at it. No reason to be outraged about it. The proper response is to laugh at people who are laughable. At this point Biden is pretty much a combination of Spiro Agnew and Pete Puma.

And the best part? Obama is stuck with him. Who would want to replace Biden on the ticket right now? Hillary Clinton? Not likely. Back to Kass:

Should Hillary Clinton come to Obama's rescue? Why should she? When she and Obama faced off for the 2008 presidential nomination, Clinton and her husband, the former president, had the race card played against them by Team Obama. Bill had dared to suggest that Obama's Democratic primary victory in South Carolina was similar to past victories there by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. For daring to state the obvious, the Clintons were savaged. Bill Clinton said it was Obama's campaign that injected the race issue.
"I think that they played the race card on me," a still furious Clinton said in a radio interview after the campaign was over. "And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it all along. I was stating a fact, and it's still a fact.
For all his vulgarity and faux-preacher dialect and smarmy pol tricks in Virginia, Biden showed the American people what they can expect from the Obama campaign in the months ahead. And he distilled the Obama re-election effort down to its basic elements:
Class war and race.
That's all they have. They certainly aren't going to run on their economic record. Maybe they can trot out the dog strapped to the car story again or something. As a certain radio guy in town likes to say, I always love that one. So here's my advice -- follow the wisdom of Elvis Costello. Don't be disgusted. Be amused.

On to the general

Primary results are in for both Minnesota and Wisconsin and now we can move forward to the general. A few observations on last night's results:

  • The most consequential result was Tommy Thompson holding off three other competitors for the Republican slot in the United States Senate race in Wisconsin. Thompson essentially dominated Wisconsin politics during the 1990s and will now face Tammy Baldwin for the seat. I'm of two minds about this development. While there's no question that Thompson is a competent politician and a proven vote-getter, he is 70 years old and has been in the game since 1966. He will likely be the favorite against Baldwin, who is about as pure a Madison liberal as one might imagine. The always astute First Ringer has some thoughts about this race over at Shot in the Dark and I commend them to you.
  • Speaking of old dudes getting back in the game, Rick Nolan has emerged as the DFL candidate who will take on Chip Cravaack for the 8th CD in Minnesota. Nolan served in Congress in the 1970s but has been out of Washington for over 30 years. Nolan is a contemporary of Jim Oberstar, who represented the 8th for what seemed like a thousand years (actually 36). Nolan used to represent a rural district in southern Minnesota, but is now trying to claim the Iron Range. We'll see how he does against Cravaack, who won big in the exurban areas of the district in the last election. I think Nolan's last GOP opponent was Wendell Willkie.
  • Since Nolan has advanced, that means that Tarryl Clark is out. Clark, as you might recall, ran against Michele Bachmann last time around and decided that she needed to find a constituency that would send her to Washington, so she moved to Duluth to run in the primary. Clark blew through a lot of Emily's List money and her failed campaign has given Cravaack some good ammunition to use against Nolan. At some point GOP Chair Pat Shortridge really ought to send Taxin' Tarryl some sort of lovely parting gift, since few Minnesota politicians have provided more direct benefit to the GOP than the hapless Clark. Now that Clark has been rejected by two different congressional districts, it will be interesting to see what she does next. My guess is that she can park herself at the Humphrey Institute and hang out with her male equivalent, Steve Kelley.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Primary Day

A reminder that you should go to the polls today, whether you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin, as it is primary election day. This blog is based in northwest Ramsey County, Minnesota, and for residents of this area the most consequential matter on the ballot today is choosing which two candidates go forward to the general election for the Ramsey County Commission.

If you want to see actual reform, Sue Jeffers is the obvious choice. Sue has been a prominent voice in Minnesota politics for the better part of a decade, both as a primary challenger to Tim Pawlenty and as a successful talk show host. She is fearless, smart and would help to transform the logrolling culture that has long been in play at the county level. Ramsey County collects a lot of tax money and they like to dole it out to politically connected people, particularly to the commissioners themselves. It's a nice deal if you can vote yourself a 25% raise, as the commissioners did in 2007. Sue will put a stop to this sort of thing.

Her two opponents are Mary Jo McGuire, who lost the musical chairs game in legislative redistricting and wants a new sinecure; and Mary Burg, who just wants a sinecure. Both would be willing to keep things status quo. When the status quo stinks, that's not acceptable. Sue Jeffers is the obvious choice.

Over in Wisconsin, there are four Republican candidates who are vying for the ballot spot for United States Senate. It's an open seat in Wisconsin, as longtime nonentity Herb Kohl is stepping down after 24 utterly undistinguished years. The challengers include Tommy Thompson, who once dominated Wisconsin politics as a popular governor; Mark Neumann, a former Congressman; Eric Hovde, a successful businessman who is attempting to emulate the success of Ron Johnson; and Jeff Fitzgerald, currently the speaker of the Wisconsin assembly. Thompson is probably a slight favorite, but it's possible any of the four could emerge. All are certainly preferable to the Democrat in the race, Cong. Tammy Baldwin, who is the Madison candidate from Central Casting when it comes to politics. I've been in Wisconsin a fair amount in recent weeks and the campaign among the four Republican contenders has been a little edgy, if less so than what folks there have recently had to endure. Under normal circumstances, Thompson would have had little trouble with his opponents, but we are not living in normal circumstances these days.

Get out and vote today.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shut Up and Get in Line

I've been a bad, bad boy:

So what about Republicans and other Romney supporters who don’t think much of the pick?  What should they do?

How about this: Shut up.

No criticism you mount now can change anything, and you simply are piling on not just to bury Ryan but to bury Romney.

These are not policy positions where there is a gradation.  It’s all or nothing on the Ryan pick.

Your either are with Ryan or against him.  And if you’re against him publicly, then you’re with Obama.

Free will is overrated, I guess.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Thoughts on Paul Ryan

Having had a day to think about it, I'm still not sure I'm sold on the idea of Paul Ryan as the ideal running mate for Mitt Romney. I think Ryan is great, but I suspect having him in the VP slot will be more beneficial for campaigning than it would be for actual governance, should Romney win the election.

Ryan is very well situated in his position as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He's really set the policy and intellectual tone for the Republican Party for the last three years. If Ryan goes to live in the Naval Observatory, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee would likely be Scott Garrett, a congressman from New Jersey. Garrett is about as reliable a conservative as a New Jersey congressman could be, but he's not exactly a high-profile fellow. I think Ryan's leadership would be missed.

Every president swears that they will find a substantive role for their vice president, but veeps usually end up getting sidelined. Dick Cheney was an éminence grise for George W. Bush, but Joe Biden has been more typical -- a guy who goes to funerals and serves as a punchline for Jay Leno jokes. In this model, the buffoonish Joe Biden is perfect -- Biden has been a combination of Spiro Agnew and Shecky Greene. It would be a shame if Ryan found himself in that position. It will be important to pin down specifically how Romney would deploy Ryan.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan

Is Mitt Romney's running mate. Guess I'd better opine:
  • He was probably my second choice; on balance I'd have preferred Bobby Jindal, who brings executive experience. Ryan brings something else, which is intellectual candlepower. He's one of the smartest dudes in Washington.
  • Obama and his campaign will now go on full bore Mediscare and heartless bastard mode, but they were going to do so anyway. Better to have the architect of the House Budget plan explain it himself.
  • Joe Biden will have a very different experience in the vice presidential debate this time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Onion Previews the October Surprise

The Onion is often hit-or-miss these days, but this is perfect:

With campaign rhetoric becoming increasingly heated and both presidential nominees releasing more attack ads, a new 30-second spot from the Obama campaign this week accuses his opponent Mitt Romney of committing the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey.

Titled “He Did It,” the advertisement asks if anyone can truly remember where Romney was the night of the child’s murder, and whether the U.S. populace wants a president capable of strangling a little girl and dumping her body in her parents’ basement.

President Obama appears at the end of the advertisement to approve the message.

“I think this is a fair ad, and I think Mitt Romney owes an explanation to the American people as to why he murdered JonBenét Ramsey,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who called the commercial’s black-and-white reenactment of Mitt Romney carrying a kicking and screaming child to her death “accurate.” “Ultimately, voters need to know who they’re getting with Mitt Romney: a job- and child-killing businessman who is so deceitful he won’t release his tax returns or admit to a senseless murder that shook the nation to its core.”

Romney better come clean on the Lindbergh baby, too.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The latest from Team Obama

They say this Mitt is a bad mother--
The Story So Far: two days ago, the Obama administration – using the fig-leaf/cutout of Super PAC Priorities USA – accused Mitt Romney of being a murderer because a company that Romney used to own closed down a steel mill (several years after Romney left that company) and that meant that the wife of the husband who lost his job at that steel mill (one Joe Soptic) didn’t have any insurance after the wife left her job several years after the layoff and several years after all of that the wife was diagnosed with cancer and then died. 
Emphasis in original. This is an interesting theory and potentially good news. You see, I have a former employer who closed its operations in Minnesota a number of years ago, which caused me to lose my health insurance. My wife had insurance available from her employer, though. We all seem to be in good health lately, but if that changes I'm pretty sure I can find some way to blame Mitt Romney for it and the Obama campaign would probably put me on television, too.

The funny part is when the Obama campaign denies knowing anything about the falsity of the ads its sock puppets are running, even Politico is calling them out on it:

When President Obama’s aides said they weren’t familiar with former Missouri steelworker Joe Soptic’s life story, all they had to do was check their own campaign archives.

Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign.

Asked about the Priorities spot on MSNBC Wednesday morning, Robert Gibbs said he doesn’t “know the specifics” while Stephanie Cutter said on CNN: “I don’t know the facts about when Mr. Soptic’s wife got sick or the facts about his health insurance.”
How would they know? Well,

And Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One that “we don't' have any knowledge of the story of the family,” according to Yahoo! News.

But Cutter hosted an Obama campaign conference call in May in which Soptic told reporters the very story featured in the Priorities spot.

"We" don't know anything about the manure we package up and put on the airwaves. No, we're a bunch of Sergeant Schultzes around here.

This sort of thing is not new, of course. Remember this charming message from the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign?

Mitt Romney gives people cancer. Tom Emmer causes drunk driving. My goodness, the Republicans are a bunch of rat bastards.

So what do we conclude from this? Two things, I think. First, the Obama campaign is a lot more desperate than they care to admit. And more importantly, if you ever hear someone complaining about Willie Horton or "Swiftboating" again, feel free to laugh in their face.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Point of exhaustion

It's been a very busy few weeks and I don't have much to offer today. But I'd suggest you read this piece from the always-reliable Chad the Elder over at Fraters Libertas.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Another DFL Careerist

One of the hallmarks of the collection of DFL politicians in my area is careerism. Yesterday we discussed the career paths of two DFL candidates running for the Ramsey County Board. Today, let's look at another one, Connie Bernardy, who would like to get back in the game as the new representative for District 41A.

Bernardy served the better part of three terms in the legislature representing the old District 51B. She claims that she chose not to run in 2006 to spend more time with her family. It's tough to be spending a lot of time in St. Paul, I suppose, but she hardly left the game, since she resigned before her term was complete and immediately took a job elsewhere. The job? A lobbyist for Education Minnesota. The state lobbyist records indicate this as well.

This is a predictable pattern in St. Paul. Legislators leave and cash in as lobbyists, then try to come back. The question is whether such patterns are desirable, especially where Education Minnesota is concerned. Bernardy's opponent, Dale Helm, would argue otherwise. From his website:

There are two competing models for education in our state - one is "pro-union" the other is "pro-people". The union model supports a more bureaucratic and centralized form of control for our schools.

In my opinion this model is dangerous because it restricts the voice of parent, teacher, and school board from having a more direct impact on the education of our children. Also, if you do not like a policy or program you are far less able to create change. Remember, you can't elect or vote out a bureaucrat.

My opponent supports this model - and has been a fulltime lobbyist for the Education Union to promote and expand this model even further. This is why she resigned in her third term - to become a fulltime lobbyist for Education Minnesota.
Helm is correct that there is a disconnect between the particulars of Bernardy's career and what she claims on her website about her history:

Connie entered into the public arena in 1999, when she saw the funding crisis that was threatening the schools her daughters attended in the area. With a non-partisan group of parents, administrators, teachers and others, she founded S.O.S. (Save Our Schools). S.O.S worked successfully to restore funding to our schools.

A funding crisis means different things to different people, but for Education Minnesota the crisis is (a) only related to compensation for its membership and (b) eternal. It's worth asking if sending Connie Bernardy back to St. Paul will help education generally, or simply give more power to Education Minnesota.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sue vs. the DFL Careerists

I've been doing a lot of traveling over the last few weeks and it's been difficult to keep focused on the local elections, but we are now only a week away from the primary elections in Minnesota and there are specific races where a vote matters. One of the more important ones the race for the District 2 seat Jan Parker is vacating on the Ramsey County Board.

There are three candidates in the race and only two will move forward to the general election. One of the candidates is strongly preferable to the other two. Sue Jeffers first made a name for herself in politics when she chose to primary Tim Pawlenty. In essence, she was a Tea Party candidate five years before there was a Tea Party. She's a successful businesswoman and has been a strong voice for the taxpayer. She's also one of the most tough-minded people I've ever known -- an indomitable spirit and a ceaseless advocate for keeping the long reach of government out of people's wallets and lives.

There's no question that Jeffers would shake up the self-dealing honey pot that is the Ramsey County Board. She'll look at every dime that the board bids fair to spend and will challenge the logrolling culture that has developed there. It's illustrative that the most "conservative" member of the county board is District 1's Tony Bennett, last seen trying to spend a billion dollars to build Zygi Wilf a stadium in Arden Hills.

Sue's two opponents are both careerist politicians of different sorts. Mary Jo McGuire lost the game of musical chairs for her state senate seat and is looking at the Ramsey County board as a nice, soft landing spot. Although she's well known in St. Paul, she's not especially well known in District 2, since she has generally represented areas to the south of the district. From what I can tell, McGuire's only guiding principle is that she should be in political office, spending other people's money because she knows better.

Also in the race is Mary Burg, who is currently a member of the New Brighton City Council. Burg has been part of the taxing and spending faction there for her entire career and is looking at the job as an opportunity to spend a different revenue stream. Since the New Brighton City Council is officially nonpartisan, Burg isn't really identified as a DFLer, but one look at her record indicates that she fits the model well.

Jeffers would change the culture at the board, while either McGuire or Burg would simply continue the pattern that Jan Parker has established -- spend the money and try to stay out of the headlines. We need reformers and you won't find a better reformer than Sue Jeffers.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Gino lays it out

Let's begin at the end, with Gino's conclusion:

What passes for marriage anymore is a far cry from the institution my grandparents took part in. There really is nothing Holy about government sanctioned matrimony anymore, so lets stop pretending there is.

Same Sex Marriage will always be a contradiction. That said, government by nature is corrupt and run by whores... renaming something to it's liking doesn't make it so anymore more than calling a cat a dog will.

My guess is that Same Sex Marriage will be the law of the land a lot sooner than anybody thinks. I don't mind.
How he gets there is what makes clicking the link well worth your time. Read the whole thing, but consider these insights:

I'm willing to bet that it would difficult to find anybody among the Chick-Fil-A-tionists of the past week who would be OK with the public hanging of Gays.

Yet, at the same time, it's easy to see why a segment of the population would be just a tad peeved with some of the bully tactics employed by the Gay Marriage supporters...

This peevedness goes beyond a few big city mayors, and extends to the past several years of antics the Gay side has been guilty of.

From Judges redefining the English language in California, despite the will of the voters to decide the meanings of the words they use...

To death threats delivered to openly anti-Gay Marriage churches.

Yes, death threats... from the liberal progressive tolerance crowd who oppose hate.

People flocked to Chick-Fil-A as a way of saying 'We are tired of your shit already!', not because [of] hatred.

Not everybody who opposes Gay marriage is acting out of hate, just like not all Gay marriage supporters endorse acts of terrorism. I think sensible folks can at least agree this much.

You'd like to think so.

Friday, August 03, 2012

You Didn't Build That. . .

But you did finance it:

As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.

Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.

The restructuring went forward, but within months Solyndra failed anyway, leaving federal taxpayers on the hook for much of the half-billion-dollar federal loan. Now, a year after the company’s collapse, debate continues over whether the refinancing plan was legal or a wise investment. Last week, Solyndra’s final liquidation plan estimated that the government will recover just $24 million of the $527 million that taxpayers lent to the company.
In an article full of tidbits, here's the most interesting one:
The House energy committee is expected to release the results of its 18-month investigation into Solyndra this week. Its report, parts of which were obtained by The Washington Post, suggests that then-OMB Director Jack Lew let the refinancing move forward without intervening, even though some OMB analysts thought a refinancing plan that favored private investors might violate the law. Lew is now White House chief of staff.
Emphasis mine. Makes sense. Competence like that ought to be rewarded in BizzaroObamaWorld.

One question: so who were the "private investors" who got in front of the line in the bankruptcy? Here's a hint:
Two of Solyndra’s largest investors are Argonaut Ventures I, L.L.C. and the GKFF Investment Company, LLC. Both firms are represented on the Solyndra board of directors by Steven R. Mitchell (see Solyndra S-1 page 119). Both are investment vehicles of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And why would George Kaiser's opinion matter?

Kaiser personally donated $53,500 to Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. Ben Bierman, executive vice president of operations donated $5,500 to Obama, and Karen Alter, senior vice president of marketing gave $23,000, just to name a few.

Follow the money.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

More than a sandwich

I didn't bother with the Chick-fil-A "buycott" yesterday, but a lot of other people did, all over the country. And there's a message in that, although I'm assuming you might not hear what it really is if you rely on the mainstream media.

If you've spent any time near a school in recent years, or had a child in one of those schools, you've heard more than once about an anti-bullying initiative. It's easy to understand both the rationale and value of such initiatives. Unless you live in a cocoon, you will at some point encounter a bully. Most people initially run into them on a playground, but you will find them throughout the course of your life. Intimidation often works, so the temptation to use intimidation is strong, both for a bully on the playground and in other arenas.

There is also little doubt that, at least on the playground, the kid who is most likely to feel a bully's wrath is someone who is different, especially a boy who might come across as somehow effeminate. I saw it happen plenty of times when I was growing up. I was initially bullied in 5th grade, because my family had moved across town and I became the "new kid" at my new school. Eventually I had to fight the kid who was bullying me and after I won the fight, most of the bullying stopped.

That's how it works -- you have to fight back. Anti-bullying initiatives are helpful in schools because they teach kids that using intimidation and threats is, in the end, counterproductive.

Which brings us back to what happened yesterday, all over the country. Following a spate of nastiness from various politicians in Chicago, Boston and elsewhere, Chick-fil-A found itself on the defensive because of the stance of its owner, Dan Cathy, regarding traditional marriage. The chain and its franchisees have been told that they need to get their mind right before they can do business.

So what happened yesterday, when hundreds of thousands people stood in long lines to get sandwiches? It was an anti-bullying initiative. Blogger Bob Owens explains it well:

Clearly, this is more than a “buycott” over gay marriage. If the smattered of people I’ve talked to are representative, homosexuality is a side issue.

This strikes a much deeper, more foundational chord.

The massive crowd reaction locally and nationwide are driven by a loathing of arrogant politicians like those in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco who feel they have the power and the authority to tell a businessman like Dan Cathy what personal opinions he can and cannot hold if he wants to do business in “their” towns.

They trampled on his religious beliefs. They trampled on his freedom of speech. They attempted to deny him and his franchisees the rights to start small businesses, merely because a free American dared to share what he believed.
I think that's right. We're going to get gay marriage in this country eventually. In the greater scheme of things, it's actually not that important an issue, especially right now when the country is essentially bankrupt and headed for a fiscal disaster decades in the making. What is much more important is retaining the right to disagree. I fully support the right of people to act like a guy Owens saw yesterday:
Cars lined up for the drive-thru stretched out of the parking lot, down the access road, and up the street to the main highway. I tried to get a quick count of the cars, but had to be content with an estimate of 40-60 as they stretched out of sight behind Applebee’s. A solitary driver laid on his horn as he went by the traffic jam, middle finger extended defiantly from the window of his CR-V, his “coexist” bumper sticker mocking those he left in presumably smug satisfaction.
We can choose to "coexist" in any number of ways.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Bridge

We're already five years on from the collapse of the old 35W bridge. I wrote about it here. An excerpt:

The images, now ubiquitous, are horrifying. The twisted green metal superstructure, tangled and jutting out at bizarre angles, providing a reminder of the incredible force unleashed. The slab of concrete blocks the river flow, with equally large slabs jutting out from the shoreline below, pointing toward the hazy, August sky. The cars, buses and trucks are scattered throughout the site, with unknown numbers of late model vehicles submerged under tons of steel and concrete.

It’s a horrifying thing, the collapse of a major bridge. The rumble of death will reverberate here for a long time. This is the stuff of disaster movies, a Jerry Bruckheimer image writ large and real. We’ll live with the consequences of August 1, 2007 for many years.

Still, there is beauty if you look for it. The performance of the first responders was magnificent; the death toll could have easily reached 100, maybe 200 people, but most likely will be far less. The police and fire departments of Minneapolis, so often the well-deserved targets of invective and ridicule for their petty corruption and silly political correctness, performed with grace, professionalism and amazing calm, given the extent of the calamity they found. The paramedics and doctors arriving on the scene were ready, moved quickly, and saved dozens of people. The Red Cross, whose Minneapolis headquarters sits nearby the scene, provided valuable services and comforted the victims and their families. 

What do you remember about that day?

Harry Reid's Hope and Change

As you read the following quote, remember this -- the man speaking is the majority leader of the United States Senate:

Reid suggested that Romney’s decision to withhold tax information would bar him from ever earning Senate confirmation to a Cabinet post. Then, Reid recalled a phone call his office received about a month ago from “a person who had invested with Bain Capital,” according to The Huffington Post.

Reid said the person told him: “Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.”

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Reid told HuffPo. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”
I got a phone call, too, from a person who gave Harry Reid a campaign contribution. He told me that Harry Reid's mother was a hamster and that his father smelt of elderberries. His father smelt of elderberries! No, do I know that's true? Well, I'm not certain. But obviously Reid can't cover the odor of his father with the copious amounts of Hai Karate that he wears on the floor of the Senate. How would it look?

So here's the question for you -- what's more despicable? The majority leader of the U.S. Senate throwing out baseless charges, or the Washington Post dutifully passing them along? As you think about answering that question, ask yourself this -- how would a conveniently unnamed "investor" in Bain know what Mitt Romney paid on his personal income tax?

And of course there's this charming observation from Mr. Reid:
“Where the problem is, is this: Because of the Citizens United decision, Karl Rove and the Republicans are looking forward to a breakfast the day after the election,” Reid said. “They are going to assemble 17 angry old white men for breakfast, some of them will slobber in their food, some will have scrambled eggs, some will have oatmeal, their teeth are gone. But these 17 angry old white men will say, ‘Hey, we just bought America. Wasn’t so bad. We still have a whole lot of money left.’”
Actually, "17 angry old white men" would be a good name for a band. I'd also assume that if these also unnamed 17 angry old white men are rich enough to have "bought America," they can afford better dental care than Reid seems to think they have.

The amazing part of all this -- we're only at the beginning of August. Imagine the ugliness to follow.