Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Terrorists or criminals?

In the previous post, I observed that the Obama administration views the war on terror as something less than a war. To them, it's a simple matter of law enforcement. It's almost like the President was trying to make that point for me when he came out Monday and said:

"Here's what we know so far: On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit. As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire."

"Allegedly?" Does anyone, anywhere, doubt that was what happened? Obama then went on to refer to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab four times as a "suspect," as though he had just been pulled over for possible drunken driving or something.

This is the language of law enforcement. When an American citizen is observed doing something that might be illegal, that person is a "suspect," and they are only "alleged" to have done something until it is proven in a court of law. The words represent basic constitutional rights of Americans.

Citizens of other countries, who train in terrorist camps and try to commit mass murder on an airplane, and NOT entitled to these rights, no matter how many crybaby ACLU lawyers come out of the woodwork.

Instead of treating Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant, and taking him to a military base for interrogation, we are treating him like a suspected burglar, or some such thing. According to today's Washington Post:

"Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials. Authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe, the officials said."

Isn't that beautiful? We've made sure he has an attorney, and now we are "holding out hope" that he might decide to talk. Think about the message that sends to all of the other would-be bombers training in al-Qaeda camps: "Don't worry, you'll either blow yourself up and go to paradise, or you'll get a nice warm jail cell and a lawyer, and at your trial you'll be able to tell the whole world about the greatness of Allah and the need for jihad. And don't worry about ending up in some detainee camp like Guantanamo, because Obama already promised to close that up."

Until this administration decides we are at war, not just policing the neighborhood, more and more American lives will be at risk.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The system worked?

I just saw video of Janet Napolitano saying what may be the dumbest thing I've ever heard from a public official.

Napolitano heads the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. As we now know, on Christmas Day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit and tried to blow up the plane with a bomb he smuggled on board. A couple hundred lives were saved when the bomb malfunctioned.

In just the first 48 hours since the incident, we've learned that Abdulmutallab:

-- Was already on a terrorist watch list;
-- Was thought by his family to have "gone over the edge" of radical Islam, and his father went so far as to contact the U.S. Embassy and warn them about his son;
-- Had been spending time in Yemen, an al-Qaeda hotbed;
-- Was able to apply for, and get, a U.S. visa;
-- Smuggled his bomb through security;
-- And failed in his plot only because of the poor quality of the bomb.

Despite this incredible list of breakdowns and failures, Napolitano went on CNN Sunday and proclaimed "the system worked." See the clip HERE.

The Obama administration view seems to be this: None of our tools - terrorist watchlists, airport inspections, etc. - can prevent someone from smuggling a bomb onto an airplane. We know that's their view, because that's what happened, and Napolitano said "the system worked." So apparently the only difference between the system working, and the system NOT working, is whether or not the bomb really goes off, the plane crashes and people die.

This reflects the Obama Administration viewpoint that fighting terrorism is really a law enforcement matter. When things happen - like Major Hasan shooting up Ft. Hood after spending months trading emails with a terrorism advocate - you simply bag the bodies and prosecute those responsible.

I liked it better in the 88 months after 9/11, when the Bush administration decided that we would focus on preventing attacks, rather than reacting to them. They monitored terrorist conversations, they sent special forces to kill terrorist leaders, they set up a terrific detainee system at Guantanamo Bay to hold enemy combatants, and they established military tribunals to deal with those combatants. They forced countries with lax banking laws to stop hiding terrorist funding channels. And in those seven-plus years after 9/11, we had no successful terrorist attacks on the country.

Of course, Obama and his people called this "shredding the Constitution" and "abandoning our values," because they wanted to score cheap political points. And as soon as Obama was elected, he announced he would shut down Guantanamo, and he has since decided to give confessed mass murderers like Khalid Sheik Muhammad a civilian trial in New York City.

And now, in less than a year after Obama taking office with this new "sophisticated" approach to fighting what Napolitano likes to call "man-made disasters" - rather than terrorism - we have had the Ft. Hood massacre, and a fellow with a bomb in a plane over Detroit.

Listen to Napolitano tell us that "the system worked" and then ask yourself how safe you feel with this administration running the country.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A little Christmas story

During the early years of the Wild, a fellow named Wes Walz was among my favorite players. Wes had exceptional speed, and an even more exceptional work ethic that allowed Coach Jacques Lemaire to ask Walz to be responsible for lining up against the other team's best scorer. Walz was a terrific defensive-minded forward, who also had enough skill to score 82 goals between 2000 and 2008.

Walz is now an assistant coach for Tampa Bay, and the St. Petersburg Times ran a great story about the Walz family Christmas that you can read here. It just reinforces the view I always had of Walz as a straight-shooting, stand-up kind of guy. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blast from the past

A few posts ago I blogged about the afternoon I had Al Gore in the back seat of my old 1970 Mustang convertible. Now, courtesy of buddy Keith Jacobson, comes an actual photograph of the vehicle. Here I am, styling big-time in 1987. The mismatched hubcaps are an especially nice touch.

Keith also sent along this photo of the two of us in March, 1983. The "Cattle Congress" was the name of the old hockey arena in Waterloo, Iowa, where we would go every March for a tournament with our Rochester team and beat up on Iowijans. It was a rickety old arena that smelled badly from the cattle auctions they held in it every summer. Perhaps some day I'll blog about "The Greatest Iowa Face-Off Story Ever Told." In the meantime, I'll apologize for the hair, and I'm sure Keith would like to apologize for the beard and the Ronald McDonald bib. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

To Marty, the Alexanders, Dickman, Winky and all the others: Thanks for making me the greatest goalie ever to perform in the State of Iowa (as far as anyone knows.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Worst. President. Ever.

No, not Obama, who has a ways to go to surpass the ineptitude of peanut-boy himself, Jimmy Carter.

The 39th president is near the bottom of most historian's presidential rankings, and with good reason. His mistakes are too long to list here, and I'm only bringing him up because he got himself in the news again, in a way that serves to make people even more cynical about politicians.

Carter - as president, and even more so once he left office - has been an enemy of Israel. Historian Douglas Brinkley has written about Carter's love for the terrorist Yasir Arafat, and the way Carter rushed to the Middle East in the 1990s in an effort to smooth things over between Arafat and Saudi Arabia. Again, I don't have time to go through all of Carter's shortcomings, but National Review's Jay Nordlinger once wrote an outstanding piece about Carter that you can read here.

So what got ol' Jimmy back in the news? Well, turns out he now feels bad about his shabby treatment of Israel (the only democracy in the Middle East) and wants to apologize.

"We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter said in a message to Israel. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het (a plea for forgiveness) for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."

Now comes the cynical part. Why would Carter - after 30-plus years of opposing Israel's interests - feel the need to apologize? Feelings of guilt? A change of perspective? A desire to simply do the right thing?

No, no and no.

It turns out that Carter's grandson is now running for Congress, in a district with a large Jewish population. So in order to help the boy, Jimmy's decided it's now time to set aside his lifelong dislike of Israel and try to make nice.

Just when I thought my opinion of Carter couldn't get any lower, he manages to drain a little more water from the tub.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Try to have a little class, eh?

The travails of auto mogul Denny Hecker have been well-documented in the media, and even though I know a bit about the auto business, I don't have any real insights into why his business empire collapsed, nor do I know him personally beyond a couple of cursory introductions at various functions.

In addition to the failures of his business, Hecker has been in the news because of his bankruptcy filing, and the messy divorce proceedings between Hecker and his wife Tamitha. The two were granted a divorce Thursday, and here was the quote Denny gave to the Star-Tribune:

"I am just tickled pink to untie the rope from the anchor."

I know divorces can be ugly - even those between 57-year-old millionaires and 42-year-old bleached blondes - but isn't the mother of two of your children entitled to something a little classier than that? Like maybe saying "No comment" for once in your life?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Put "Cap" and "Trade" get "Crap"

Imagine for a moment that you are a farmer, and on your nice plot of land you grow potatoes. Every year you grow 10,000 pounds of potatoes, sell them on the open market and make enough of a profit to keep you in business another year.

Across the road from you is another potato farmer, on a similar piece of land, but he's kind of a lazy guy. He scatters a few seeds around, doesn't fertilize, lets the weeds grow, and each year his crop fails.

Then one year the government comes along and announces that they believe there are too many potatoes on the market, and they find it necessary to "cap" the number of potatoes being produced. They will give each farmer a permit to produce 5,000 pounds of potatoes, but if the farmer wants, he can sell his permit to another grower.

So the lazy neighbor comes over one day and offers to sell you his permit for a few thousand dollars. Since you need to continue producing 10,000 pounds of potatoes to stay profitable, you buy the permit. Of course, you now have to recover the cost of buying the permit, so you raise the price of potatoes to cover that cost.

Net result: There is no increase in the number of potatoes being produced, the cost of potatoes to consumers has risen and a chunk of your wealth is now in the hands of the non-producing neighbor. The only person who wins in this scenario is the non-producing neighbor, who now gets something for nothing.

Now, replace "you" with "Developed countries," replace "neighbor" with "underdeveloped countries," and replace "potatoes" with "energy," and you will understand what the underdeveloped countries of the world are trying to accomplish at the "climate summit" in Copenhagen.

Third-world countries - mostly African dictatorships - are using the make-believe threat of "global warming" to try and guilt the developed countries into agreeing to a cap-and-trade scheme that will give each country permissible amount of carbon emissions (the "cap"), which would then force developed countries to buy the permits from poorer countries (the "trade") in order for the larger countries to maintain their energy output and continue to grow their economies.

Of course the underdeveloped countries remain underdeveloped, in large part, because they are reluctant to embrace concepts like democracy and free enterprise, which would put them on the path to growth, prosperity and peace. It's more fun to run a dictatorship, oppress the people and then come up with ways to get bigger, more successful countries to transfer some of their wealth to you.

This same "cap and trade" concept is behind the bill passed earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives, except it applies to businesses in the United States. The government would auction off carbon emission permits, which could then be traded among various industries. So if you are Xcel Energy, for example, you might have to buy a permit from another company in order to continue to produce energy for your customers. Of course, the only way to recoup the permit cost is to raise rates on your customers. There won't be any fewer carbon emissions, you'll just end up with a higher utility bill each month.

Fortunately the proposal is so stupid, the Senate hasn't even considered it. But when you hear "cap and trade," it's time to guard your wallet, because the only thing these schemes are designed to do is separate you from your money.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why I love Sarah Palin

A week ago tonight I was contemplating getting up really early on Monday morning, say, about 4 a.m., and traveling to Mall of America so I could stand in line and wait to get my copy of Going Rogue signed by Sarah Palin. Eventually I decided that was a little too early, and the lines would likely be too long, and I decided not to go.

As it turned out, it was a pretty orderly process, more books were signed than were expected, and I wish I would have gone, although I expect I'll have other opportunities in the future to get the book signed.

I'm a big fan though, and I've read a good chunk of the book already. I was at the Republican National Convention in 2008 when she spoke, and the atmosphere in the Xcel Energy Center was absolutely electric that night. I can say that it was like having a rock star in the building, because I have been in that building many times with actual rock stars, like Paul McCartney, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Elton John, and others, and there has never been an atmosphere like that night. Everyone wanted to see this relatively unknown Governor of Alaska, and she didn't disappoint. She gave a knockout speech and had the crowd - and much of the nation -in the palm of her hand.

Since that night, my appreciation of her has only grown, for two reasons:

1) She destroyed liberal feminism. Ever since high school, I've had to listen to my liberal friends talk about: a) The importance of electing more women to office, and b) How feminism was all about "expanding opportunities" and "respecting choices." I was sympathetic to both points of view. From an electoral standpoint, a gender that is more than 50% of the population maybe SHOULD have 50% of elective offices. And if a woman happens to have an aptitude for anything in particular - math, science, engineering, whatever - there's no reason she should be denied an opportunity to pursue those interests because of gender stereotyping.

Given that philosophy, Palin should have been a feminist's dream. Here is a bright, talented woman who had won high political office and was seeking an even higher office. Early in her career she broke into a male-dominated field - television sportscasting - and she could hold her own hunting moose and racing snowmobiles, two other areas usually left to the men. Juggling a challenging family and a rising career, Palin should be considered the very embodiment of female empowerment.

But no! Turns out that ever liberal feminist I know immediately - and I mean within 72 hours of Palin being introduced - already hated her. Turns out that some of the choices Palin made in her life weren't the choices liberal feminists would make. Like being pro-life. Like choosing to give birth to a Down syndrome child. Like supporting the military. Like believing in American exceptionalism.

All of these things were utterly unacceptable to the left. And in those same 72 hours, I realized that the feminists had been lying to me for 40 years. They didn't care about electing women, they only cared about electing liberals. Gender was just a tool to hide behind, and to use for leverage. There are no "sisters" in feminism, there are only fellow liberals, who are required to march in line and follow orders from the feminist elites.

When I realized that a "feminist" could love Ted Kennedy - a misogynist, serial abuser of women - and despise Sarah Palin, I realized the feminist ideology had nothing to do with benefitting women, and that the ideology was dead.

(Fun thing to do: Next time someone starts ranting about how unfair the world is to women, just say, "You must have been really disappointed that Sarah Palin didn't win." Shuts them up like a mute.)

2) I love the fact that she makes liberals NUTS. She drives them absolutely crazy. Any sense of fairness or decency goes right out the window when they discuss Palin. They'll call her names, spread vicious lies, tell barbaric jokes about her children, cut-and-paste her face on pornographic pictures. Nothing is too low for a Palin-hater.

There are a million hateful quotes out there, but one of my personal favorites is this one, from someone named Wendy Doniger, a religion professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, who wrote for the Washington Post that "Her (Palin's) greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman." Imagine that coming from someone whose job is to instruct
future teachers of Christianity.

(Here are Palin and Doniger. You can decide for yourself which one is really a woman.)

Criticize Hillary Clinton's position on the Middle East, and the lefties will call you a sexist, fascist, woman-hating, neanderthal pig and maybe charge you with a hate crime. But say that Palin looks like a "slutty flight attendant" and you're simply "talking about the issues."

Palin has turned large portions of the political left into absolute moonbats, simply by being herself. And I love it when the left goes nuts like this, because when they get this way, they do really stupid things.

George W. Bush did the same thing to them. They hated him - just absolutely HATED him - so much that they were willing to do whatever they could to defeat him. And when they lost twice to him, their hatred made them so nuts that they ran out and grabbed a naive, inexperienced, not-too-bright guy to be their presidential nominee, simply because they could leverage his skin color into the election win they so desperately wanted.

Their hatred of Bush led them to Obama, and Obama is going to set them back 20 years, just like Jimmy Carter did.

Will Sarah Palin ever be president? I doubt it, for a variety of reasons, but she doesn't have to be president to have performed a valuable service to the nation. The thousands and thousands of people that are turning out for her book signings are evidence that there is a great untapped reserve of political energy in this country that will be the scourge of liberals for the next generation, and we'll have Palin to thank for it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Al Gore and I chat about global warming

Since the climate alarmists are gathering in Copenhagen - many arriving via private jets, which really cuts down on "carbon footprints" - to flap their gums about supposed "global warming," it seemed a good time to share my up-close-and-personal experience with the fledgling climate change movement, way back in 1990.

In 1988, a year or so after I had become Press Secretary to Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, Rudy got interested in the then-relatively unknown subject of man-made global warming. For a fellow who grew up just outside of New York City, Rudy always had a pretty keen interest in environmental issues, in part because he made his fortune selling lumber (he founded Plywood Minnesota - now called Home Valu - a chain of home improvement stores) which helped him realize the importance of responsible resource management.

That summer President Reagan appointed Rudy as a congressional representative to the United Nations, and so for a six-month period we would occasionally hop the shuttle up to New York, where Rudy would speak at the UN on various topics. He decided he wanted to speak on global warming, and addressed the UN on that subject that summer.

As one of the people in charge of helping shape Rudy's image, I have to admit that I loved the topic, but for very cynical reasons. First of all, it helped shore up Rudy's environmental credibility, which was important to voters in Minnesota. Secondly, no one was really sure it was a problem - and there was no way to prove that it was. Finally, if it was a problem, it was waaaaay off in the distance, and we wouldn't have to step on anyone's toes to deal with it. From a PR standpoint, it was ideal: A vague problem with no concrete solution that allowed Rudy to highlight his legitimate environmental interests without ticking off anyone important.

(Let me emphasize that that was MY position on the issue, not Rudy's. He was the statesman; I was the cynical political hack. At the time he genuinely believed there was a threat, although he has since moved 180 degrees on the issue and has become a big supporter of the Hudson Institute's debunking of the global warming scare. For more on the Hudson Institute's important work, click here.)

Rudy's interest in the issue caught the attention of the junior senator from Tennessee, one Albert Gore. And in early 1990, a relatively new group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held one of its first meetings in Washington D.C. To add a little credibility, they decided to round up some senators to be listed as "hosts" for the event. Gore jumped to the head of the line, and easily signed up a couple other Democrats (I forget who, but I think Bill Bradley was one of them), but he needed a Republican to create the appearance of balance, and he approached Rudy, who agreed to be a host.

And so, for three days, Rudy went down to the J.W. Marriott on Pennsylvania Ave. for the conference, and listened to the doomsayers talk about all of the evils that were about to fall upon the world if we didn't stop eating meat, driving cars, etc., etc. By the third day, I think Rudy was beginning to understand that this group wasn't interested in real science, it was just a bunch of environmental wackos who were shoving all of their socialist, Walden Pond dreams into a vessel called "global warming."

Whenever a senator had to go to a meeting away from Capitol Hill, it was normal procedure to have a staff person drive them there and pick them up. Washington is crowded, there's limited parking, and it was just a more efficient way of doing things. For staffers, it was a chance to have some "face time" with the senator, and I often had the duty of driving and picking up Rudy for a couple of reasons. First, I could bring along any work that I wanted him to review, and he could make his comments while I was driving.

Secondly, Rudy had a perverse sort of affinity for my car, which was a badly beat-up 1970 Mustang convertible. Dents, scratches, faded paint, ratty interior...this car had it all. Rudy liked to ride in it because, in his words, "Anyone who sees this car knows that Republicans aren't all rich fat cats." A little Jewish humor at my expense.

On the final day of the conference, I drove down to the Marriott to pick up Rudy. My car, as usual, was a mess. On a normal day, the back seat would have my golf clubs, my dirty softball pants and gear, a pile of empty fast-food wrappers, maybe a change of clothes or two and who knows what else. It didn't really matter, because seldom did anyone ever ride in the back seat because it was so tiny. And if someone did, it was probably some intern who would just shove the mess to one side and make room. Suffice it to say that Rudy was used to it.

I rolled down Pennsylvania Ave. and pulled up in front of the Marriott, and there was Rudy, standing next to Al Gore. Rudy opened the door and said, "Al's ride hasn't shown up, could we take him back with us?"

"Not a problem," I said, "But he'll have to make a little room."

So Rudy flipped the front seat forward, making way for Al to climb into the back seat. I'll never forget the look on his face as he peered into the tiny, cramped seat and realized he was going to have to sit on what was basically a pile of dirty laundry, sporting goods and trash.

I reached back and started frantically pulling the pile over to one side, trying to create some space, while Al was trying to stretch his 6-foot-1 frame into the car, slide behind the front seat and find a perch amidst the rubble.

He finally got in. Rudy climbed in front and right away said to Al, "I'll move this seat up and give you some room."

To which I answered, "I'm sorry, the seat is stuck in that position."

"That's okay," Al said, with his knees almost up to his chin. "Where's the seat belt?"

Again, I had to apologize. "There aren't any. But don't worry, I'm a careful driver."

Al didn't look too reassured, and he seemed even less so when I pulled a quick u-turn across Pennsylvania Ave. to get us headed back up to the Capitol.

"So, how was the conference?" I asked.

"It was excellent," Al said. "You know, Rudy, we should look at co-sponsoring a bill on some of this."

As I said, I was already pretty cynical about the whole idea, but I wanted to be polite, so I said something like, "Yeah, things could be a lot different a few hundred years from now."

Al didn't like that at all, and said something along the lines of "Oh, no, the problem is right now. We have to stop this now before it's too late."

Which led to a kind of uncomfortable silence. As I said, Rudy was beginning to have his doubts, and I was only paying attention because of the potential political benefits, so I decided on a quick change of subject.

"Senator, I'd really like to get down to see that University of Tennessee football stadium sometime. It must be great to hear all those people sing 'Rocky Top.' "

Which got Al off of the subject of global warming, and on to the subject of the University of Tennessee, which occupied the couple of minutes it took to drive back to the Capitol. Rudy got out, flipped the seat up and extended a hand to help lift Al out of his tiny, filthy compartment. "Thanks for the lift," Al said, and I answered, "Anytime, Senator."

It certainly wasn't a monumental moment at the time. Al was just the junior senator from Tennessee, only in office about three years, but soon he was ready to hit the big time. Just over two years later, Bill Clinton would tap him as a running mate, and suddenly the guy from my back seat was Vice-President of the United States. Then he published Earth in the Balance, and pretty soon he was the world's biggest global warming scold.

After losing the 2000 election, he figured out how to get rich off of environmental doomsaying and flies around the world in a private jet so he could tell people how to reduce their "carbon footprint."

The world is quickly catching on to the junk science and beginning to see that "global warming" is little more than a fraud and a hoax, as evidenced by the recently released e-mails from a British university, in which the "scientists" talk about manipulating and suppressing climate data that didn't fit their pre-supposed notions, and how they can't explain why the world hasn't been warming up at all for the past decade or so.

A while ago I mentioned that afternoon to Rudy, and said, "If I had known Al was going to become such a nut, I wouldn't have given him a ride back from the conference."

Ruefully, Rudy said, "Al took that conference very seriously."Link
What still strikes me about that day was the absolute certainty Al had about the problem. That was almost 20 years ago, and today there is no proven science that demonstrates the problem even exists, but in 1990 Al was already prepared to sacrifice the global economy and sentence millions of third world people into permanent poverty on the basis of junk science. I still find that a little frightening. (See the November 19 blog post here to learn more about my thoughts on Al.)

As for the Mustang, it didn't last much longer. I junked it, replaced it with a beat-up Volkswagen Cabriolet, and by the time that car was finished, two senators and a governor had ridden in it. The Smithsonian has not asked for permission to display either vehicle.

(UPDATE: A picture of the Mustang in question has been unearthed. See it here.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

When did WCCO radio become irrelevant?

The Wild played at home Tuesday night, and one of the things I like to do on the drive home after the game is listen to Coach Richards' post-game press conference on WCCO radio.

The good ol' 8-3-0 has been around my entire life, of course, and there was a time when it was one of the premier radio stations in the country. A "clear channel" station, its nighttime signal could be picked up over wide swaths of the nation, and it had a well-earned reputation as a great source for breaking news. When something big happened, there used to be a sort of automatic reflex to turn to 'CCO and find out what was going on.

On the drive home I listened to Richards, then listened to the post-game chatter between Wild studio guy Kevin Falness and 'CCO nighttime "personality" Dark Star. After the hockey talk ended - about 10:30 - I would normally have switched the channel or plugged in my MP3, but right about then I reached Hastings.

What I saw was a sea of police lights. Cop cars were blocking Hwy. 61, forcing us over to the side streets. TV trucks were parked all over, and clearly something big had happened. After a few blocks on the side streets, I cut back to Hwy. 61, and went only two blocks before finding another big area blocked off by police cars.

Having no idea what had happened, I decided to leave the radio tuned to 'CCO, where I assumed I'd get the story. Instead, I got about 20 minutes of Dark Star chatting with some buddy of his who apparently owns a restaurant where Dark Star likes to eat. They chatted about the economy, the President's laughable speech on Afghanistan and a couple other things. Dark Star's buddy had no real insights to offer, but then, he's not a news guy, he's just Dark Star's buddy.

I put up with the gibberish because the top of the hour was coming up, which generally means the CBS network news break, then local news. 11:00 p.m. came, we went to CBS, and at 11:05 we went to local news. Nothing about Hastings. Whatever event had happened that was big enough to close chunks of U.S. Hwy 61, bring out dozens of police cars and attract TV news trucks wasn't a big enough deal to mention on WCCO Radio.

So I thought, well, either it wasn't that big a deal, or it just happened in the last 15 minutes and 'CCO hasn't had time to get someone on the story. Wrong on both counts.

Turns out that police had a felony arrest warrant for a guy, who was suspected of stealing a truck, and when they tried to stop him, he started ramming into squad cars. Police started shooting, and when they were done the suspect was hauled away in an ambulance and bystanders said there were more than 20 bullet holes in the car.

And all of this happened between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., more than two hours before I drove through Hastings. But, again, it didn't merit a mention on WCCO radio news.

If the news-gathering capability of this once-great station has fallen that far, there's pretty much no reason for it to exist except to bring us the fabulous Wild hockey broadcasts of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid, along with Coach Richards' press conferences. The other 280 or so days of the year they may as well shut it down. Which is kind of sad.

Monday, November 30, 2009

As my head explodes....

....Just for my birthday, Marian Gaborik scored tonight to become the first player in the NHL this season to reach 20 goals. Then, just for good measure, he scored his 21st later in the period. See the magical hands in action here.

That's 240 goals in his career...just five more and he will already have scored more than 10% of his career goals as a New York Ranger, despite playing for them just two months. As mentioned in the post last April 9, in 10 years no one will remember that one of the best players in history was ever a member of the Minnesota Wild.

It's killing me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have they turned a corner?

The first 20 or so games of the Wild season didn't give us much to cheer about, nor much optimism about the season. It wasn't just that they had the second-worst record in team history after 20 games, it was also the fact that they didn't look energetic, they didn't look cohesive and on most nights the on-ice product was downright ugly.

There were some injuries - most notably the concussion that has kept Pierre-Marc Bouchard out of the lineup for all but the first game of the season - and there obviously was going to be a period of adjustment to the system of new coach Todd Richards. But none of this seemed to explain the dull, listless team that blew a lead and lost at Tampa, lost three days later in Carolina, and lost again three days after that at home to Phoenix. There wasn't much energy inside the X, and there was even talk of the benefit of having a horrible record so we could get a high draft choice.

But after that Phoenix loss - which was one of the most unwatchable games ever played in the Xcel Energy Center - something seemed to happen. On Friday the 20th, they earned a gritty win over the Islanders, when Owen Nolan scored late in the game. Over the next couple of days, they picked up center Andrew Ebbettt off of waivers from Chicago, and then traded away Benoit Puliot for Guillaume Latendresse. Also, Chuck Kobasew came back from an injury. And something about the chemistry of the team seemed to change.

We'd been hearing since training camp that the Richards system encouraged aggressive forechecking, with all three forwards free to go after the puck-carrier, as opposed to the Jacques Lemaire system of the first eight years, which relied more on a single forechecker and tried to disrupt the other team's attack as it moved through the neutral zone. But for 20 or 22 games, we didn't see much of that.

But over the past four games, it's starting to happen. Wild forwards are crashing hard in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers and creating chances. The defensemen are getting more integrated into the attack and the Wild have had long stretches of puck possession in the offensive zone, something we saw little of in the Lemaire years. Ebbett scored in his first game. Kobasew had a hat trick against Colorado, and Latendresse scored the tying goal tonight in Denver. Suddenly the team is creating a lot of quality chances.

And yet the defense isn't suffering. The night before Thanksgiving, they held Boston to just seven shots through two periods, and tonight they held Colorado to 22 shots in a shootout win at the Pepsi Center. They have three wins and an OT loss in their last four games (seven out of a possible eight points) and suddenly there seems to be a good vibe around the team, even though Martin Havlat, Brent Burns, Petr Sykora and Marek Zidlicky are all injured right now.

It might just be an illusion - we tend to do well against the less-physical Eastern Conference teams, and the Avalanche are having struggles of their own right now - but I think there's a chance this team is much better than it showed the first six weeks of the season.

December's schedule is brutal - 16 games in 30 days, nine of them on the road - and so we'll do another reality check around New Year's Day, but right now I'm cautiously optimistic that this group can climb back into serious contention for a playoff spot.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Now THAT'S a promise!

Perhaps I didn't realize just how much was at stake in the Senate health care debate. Now, thanks to the Sen. Harry Reid (D-Candyland), I finally understand why everyone should be supporting this bill. This is from his Saturday night floor statement:

"Today we vote whether to even discuss one of the greatest issues of our generation - indeed, one of the greatest issues this body has ever face: whether this nation will finally guarantee its people the right to live free from the fear of illness and death, which can be prevented by decent health care for all."

Imagine that: The United States Senate can make it possible for all of us to live free from the fear of illness and death. Had I known about the immortality option when I worked in the Senate, I would have signed up for it right away.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Birthday(s)!

I just learned that the first issue of National Review was published 54 years ago today. At that time it was an invaluable tool in the fight against communism, and today it remains a fascinating source of news, opinion and entertainment, arriving in my mailbox every two weeks. If you don't subscribe, you should, and you can read the daily offerings at

This means my favorite magazine shares a birthday with my youngest son. William Mays Droogsma turns 21 today, and I'm pleased to report he's a brighter, harder-working and more responsible 21-year-old than his father was (although that bar isn't set particularly high). I have no doubt he'll stay that way.

An Inconvenient Clown

Unless you've been living under a rock the past eight years you've probably been subjected to the girly shrieks of Al Gore, warning us that the planet is about to boil over, the seas are drying up (or flooding the planet...the message seems to change) and polar bears are being forced to live in public housing, or something like that.

Alarmism has been a good racket for Gore, who stands to become the world's first "carbon billionaire," as outlined in this New York Times article.

Al had a few moments last week to face the challenging questions of noted scientific expert Conan O'Brien, and the two of them got off on a little exchange that demonstrated the depth of Al's knowledge of the earth. Conan asked about the possiblities of geothermal energy - harvesting the heat from the earth's core - and Alvin jams enough mistakes into the discussion to make a middle school earth science teacher cringe. First, he asserts that the temperature of the earth's interior is "several million degrees:

AL: People think about geothermal energy - when they think about it at all - in terms of the hot water bubbling up in some places, but two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, 'cause the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees, and the crust of the earth is hot...

Then he agrees with Conan's assertion that two miles down is "drilling deeper than we've ever drilled before," and expresses wonderment about new, state-of-the-art drill bits that "don't melt in that heat."

You can see the segment here.

First of all, the earth's core temperature is nothing near "several million degrees" hot. Most scientists estimate the core of the earth to be at about 5,000 degrees, while some say it's cooler, and some groups assert it may be as hot as 9,000 degrees. For comparison's sake, the surface of the SUN is about 6,000 degrees (though it reaches millions of degrees near its core).

Quite a stretch from "several milion degrees."

(Imagine for a moment that George W. Bush, Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney had asserted that the earth's core temperature was "several million degrees." A snarky story would be on the front page of the New York Times the next day.)

Secondly, there is nothing magical or cutting-edge about drilling two miles deep into the earth. The deepest hole ever drilled is something called the Kola Borehole, a Soviet project that managed to drill more than seven miles into the earth's crust. That was in 1989 - TWENTY YEARS AGO - even before we put a goofball like Gore a heartbeat away from the presidency.

And, appropos of this discussion, the temperature seven miles below the surface was about 356 degrees. Not quite "several million degrees."

That Gore is taken seriously by anyone is amazing;, That he was given a Nobel Prize for his "work" would be even more amazing, but of course we've recently learned that Nobel Prizes can be won by almost anyone, for almost anything, as long as they hold politically correct viewpoints.

Coming on a future blog post: The day Al Gore and I discussed global warming while he was riding in the back seat of my car. (Really, it happened. You're going to love the story.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A peculiar sense of "justice"

Great Britain is an interesting study these days because, frankly, the country seems to be falling apart, and doing so because of so many self-inflicted wounds.

What makes it interesting to watch is that so many of the things that are ripping British society apart are things that we think could never happen here. Yet, that's exactly what the British thought 20 or 30 years ago, but here they are, with political correctness run amok and chapter after chapter of silly laws that are turning British society into a laughingstock.

There are areas of the London suburbs - called "Londonistan" because of the dense Muslim population - where British police will not go, and where they have been told by the local Islamists to stay out because they, the Islamists, will govern that area under Sharia law.

Last March I linked to the story of a British grocer, who gave his customers the option of making their produce purchases in metric measures - liters, grams, etc. - or buying them in gallons, ounces, quarts, etc., also known as the "British" system of measures. He was prosecuted and convicted because it's been made illegal in Britain to use British measurements.

Now comes a case that would be even sillier if it weren't tragic.

In March, a former solider named Paul Clarke looked down from his balcony and saw a garbage bag on the ground in his garden. He went down and got it, opened it and found a sawed-off shotgun with two shells.

The next morning, in an attempt to do what he considered his civic duty, he called the local police and asked if he could stop by. He came into the station with the gun and shells, laid them on a table and reported his find.

Upon which he was promptly arrested, and charged with firearm possession. It's against the law in Britain to HAVE a firearm without a permit, and it is considered a "strict liability" offense, which means there is no acceptable excuse. And because the Brits have a mandatory minimum sentence for this law, Mr. Clarke was sentenced to five years in jail after a jury spent just 20 minutes deliberating before returning a guilty verdict.

A complete story of the case is here.

The moral is that it's a very small step from what might seem like a sensible law to a tyrannical, overreaching government that can take away your liberty on a lark. I'm sure that if you had described this case to a British citizen 20 years ago they would have said, "That could never happen here."

Which is what most Americans would say right now. But do they really KNOW that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh, Canada

I admit to a sort of love-hate relationship with our Canadian friends to the north. On one hand, they love their hockey, they have a national anthem that is 10 times cooler than ours (a subject I've been meaning to blog about and will get around to in a few days) and they have all those great Tim Horton's donut shops.

On the other hand, they've grown very politically unreliable in the past couple of decades. The political correctness that infects American society is even worse in the Great White North, with their absurd "Human Rights Commission" that attacks free speech (here is a great example) and the bankrupt (morally and financially) socialist health care system, similar to the one Obama and Nancy Pelosi are trying to impose on us.

But here's the tie-breaker that comes down in Canada's favor: They remember - and honor - their veterans.

Today is Veterans Day here in the U.S., and chances are that the only way most people will notice it is when their mail isn't delivered and their bank branch isn't open.

In Canada, they call it "Remembrance Day," and it's more than a day, it's a week or so of honoring military veterans, and it seems like everyone up there remembers.

The symbol of Remembrance Day is the poppy flower (pictured here), immortalized in the poem 'In Flanders Fields," and it seems as though everyone in Canada wears their poppy the week before and in the days after Remembrance Day.

"In Flanders Fields" was written by a Canadian World War I officer, Lt.-Colonel John McCrae, who saw poppies growing alongside the gravesites of fallen comrades.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

The lines, "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high" are painted on the wall of the Montreal Canadiens locker room.

When you watch a hockey game in Canada this time of year, every TV commentator, every coach and - it seems - every fan in the stands has their poppy on their lapel. Last night the Wild played in Toronto, and the pre-game ceremony took almost 20 minutes as five different war veterans were introduced on the ice and received standing ovations.

Then Johnny Bower, the Maple Leafs Hall of Fame goalie, read "In Flanders Fields," and a young Canadian officer sang one of the most stirring renditions of "O, Canada" that you will ever hear.

(Bower, by the way, joined the Canadian Army at age 15, having lied about his age, and spent four years in Europe during World War II. He returned to Canada after the war and still had a year of junior hockey eligiblity left!) Here he is as a Maple Leaf (he won four Stanley Cups), and today:

It was an incredibly moving ceremony, and both teams stood on the ice the entire time, tapping their sticks on the ice in that great hockey applause way as each veteran was introduced.

The day clearly means more to most Canadians than it does to most Americans, but try to take a moment today - the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month - to remember that every freedom we enjoy was made possible by millions of brave men and women, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Really? We shouldn't jump to any conclusions?

I heard the President on Friday saying that we should not jump to any conclusions about Nidal Hasan, the militant Islamist who killed more than a dozen American soldiers last week at Fort Hood.

(Keep in mind that Obama is the same guy who - less than 24 hours after the incident, and knowing almost nothing about the facts of the case - announced that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly" when they arrested his buddy for disorderly conduct up in Massachusetts. So his advice about not jumping to conclusions has a sort of "do as I say, not as I do" ring to it.)

But, in deference to the President, let's not jump. Let's just see where the evidence takes us. Here's what we know so far:

1) Major Hasan attended the controverial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001, at the same time as two of the 9/11 hijackers.

2) The preacher at the mosque at that time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar who - last August - was banned from addressing a meeting in London because of his support for attacking troops, and his support of terrorist organizations.

3) Hasan's eyes "lit up" when he mentioned his deep respect for al-Awlaki's teachings, according to a fellow Muslim officer at Fort Hood.

4) While attending a Maryland graduate military medical program, Hasan's fellow students complained to the faculty about Hasan's "anti-American propaganda," but said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal complaint.

5) Before opening fire, Hasan screamed "Allahu Akbar," meaning "God is Great," and then killed at least 13 Americans.

But, just to be clear, we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that this incident has anything to do with Islamic hatred of Americans. In that same spirit of fairness, I am refusing to jump to the following conclusions:

1) I refuse to believe that the Yankees' recent World Series win is in any way connected to their ability to score more runs than their opponents.

2) I refuse to believe that the earth's eastward rotation contributes in any way to the direction in which the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

3) I refuse to believe that the trial lawyers' hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to Democrats in any way explains the total lack of tort reform in the health care bill passed this weekend.

4) And, finally, I will not jump to the conclusion that we elected a naive, inexperienced, socialist junior senator to be our president just because of his skin color.

I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Another big day for the "religion of peace."

Imagine my surprise to learn that the fellow who started the shooting at Ft. Hood that left 12 people dead and 31 wounded was a practicing Muslim named Nidal Malik Hassan, and that he had pinned his hopes of avoiding deployment on a belief that President Obama would withdraw forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reading the New York Times, Washington Post and the Star-Tribune all these years had conditioned me to believe that only political conservatives, evangelical Christians and Rush Limbaugh listeners commited these kinds of acts.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How did this guy get elected? Oh, wait, he didn't.

Meet Roland Burris. He's the corrupt Illinois politician who was appointed to Barack Obama's senate seat when Obama became president. Like Obama, he was a diversity hire, and like the president (see June 4 and April 18 blog posts) he has a little bit of trouble with basic facts.

Burris recently told an interviewer that Congress is authorized to force everyone to buy health insurance by the Constitution. This suprising bit of Constitutional intepretation comes from Burris' understanding that Constitution authorizes the federal government (in Burris' words) "to provide for the health, welfare and defense of the country."

In fact, the word "health" is nowhere in the Constitution. The preamble reads: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America."

It's scary that Illinois would put a guy in the Senate whose understanding of the Constitution would get him flunked out of law school.

You can read the whole shoddy interview here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The return of Gabby

If you go back in the archives to last April, you can read about the feelings I had when Marian Gaborik played his last game at the X as a member of the Wild. I didn't want him to leave, and nothing in the ensuing months has made me change my mind.

He's supposed to be back tonight as a member of the New York Rangers, but he injured his leg Monday, missed Wednesday's game and will likely be a game-time decision here against the Wild.

But of course, he's ripping things up for the Rangers. Ten goals and 18 points so far, both among the league leaders, and he's the toast of Broadway. I understand the business of hockey, and I know why it was necessary for him to go elsewhere, but that won't make it any tougher to see him out there on the ice sheet where he should have played for the next dozen years.

It's been a tough Wild season so far, and if he comes in and scores a goal or two and the Rangers win, it's going to be really hard to take.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One that hits close to home...

One of my high school classmates - Princeton High School, class of 1974 - was a fellow named Randy Bergquist. We mostly interacted through sports, though we were never teammates. His sports - football and wrestling - were not mine, but what I really admired was his work ethic. He wasn't a big guy, playing football at about 150-160 pounds in high school, but he still played offensive guard, and he survived by being quick and strong. Whenever we watched game film, you always saw Randy firing out of his stance a half-count ahead of the snap. Great anticipation, great quickness.

In the winter he would drop down to wrestle at 138 pounds, and used that same strength and quickness to succeed.

After high school, he went straight to the U.S. Marine Corps, where he quickly stood out and at one point was selected as an embassy guard, a prestigious post in the Corps. He learned to fly, and later went to work for U.S. Customs Service, flying drug interdiction planes.

After retiring from the service, he went to work flying for a private company that provides military and government flights. In 2007, he began flying in Afghanistan for what were called "Counter Narcoterrorism operations." According to his wife Pam , he went back this year for a third tour because, he said, "We can't let the bad guys win."

On October 13 his plane crashed during a NATO surveillance mission, and Randy's body - along with that of two others - was recovered last week.

Gone at age 53, he leaves behind his wife of 27 years, an 18-year-old son and a heroic legacy of loving and serving his country. RIP, Randy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Warning: Proud grandpa ahead....

On one level, I realize that no one really wants to see pictures of other people's grandkids. But on a whole different level, I think "How could anyone not want to see my adorable granchildren?"

So, here is The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe and her nine-week-old brother Sammy, dressed up in their Gopher finest. Class of 2029 and 2031, I believe, although it seems obvious to me that Annie's ACT scores will get her into an even better school, and Sammy will likely just skip college and go straight to the NHL.

"Reunion week" for the Wild

I can't take credit for the headline, since the Strib's Mike Russo already called it reunion week, but it's an interesting few days for the Wild.

Monday night they play in Chicago, which means it is Martin Havlat's first regular-season game in Chicago since he left there to sign with the Wild. On Wednesday, the Wild host Nashville, where defenseman Greg Zanon played the past couple of years. (It's also the franchise Wild owner Craig Leipold used to own.) On Friday, Marian Gaborik comes back to town with the Rangers, and on Saturday the Wild travel to Pittsburgh, where GM Chuck Fletcher (former GM) and Petr Sykora will receive their Stanley Cup rings from last year. Strange days indeed.

Goofy start to the season. The Wild are 0-7 on the road, 3-0 at home (all three in OT or shootouts) and I'm not sure what to make of this team yet. It seems to me that the talent level is high enough that we should expect a playoff spot, and we just need to fight through an early injury bug and adjust to the new coach's system, and things should be all right. But then I look around at all the teams that seem to be playing well in the Western Conference, and I realize it's going to be tough to dig out of the hole they've created with their slow start. You know Detroit, San Jose, Chicago and Calgary are going to be up there, but now we're looking up at teams like the Kings, Avalanche and Stars. Things have to turn around pretty soon or it's just not going to happen this season.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

There may be hope for this country...

Sorry there were no blog posts from Myrtle Beach. Seems the condo we rented, which advertised "free wi-fi," really meant "you can sometimes poach a wireless signal from the neighbors." Except the neighbors all have secured wi-fi, so nothing was happening, internet-wise.

Or much else-wise. The weather was frigid, as most of the southeastern U.S. was having an incredible cold snap. It's hard to get excited for golf when it's 45 degrees and the north wind is kicking up around 20 mph. We fought our way through 7 rounds over five days, but very little of it was much fun. Oh well, after 11 trips, we were bound to have one that was something less than perfect.

On my flight home, however, I had a great moment that improved my mood. I was sitting in a window seat, reading National Review, and the poor fellow trapped in the center seat of our row pulled out a Glenn Beck book to read. The woman to his left said, "Oh, I just read that, and it was great. I'm not always very political, but he really made me think." Then the guy reached into his bag and said, "You might like reading these as well," and handed her two copies of Imprimis, the great conservative idea journal published by Hillsdale College. So there we were, three strangers on an Atlanta-to-Minneapolis flight, each reading and enjoying conservative material. I said to the two of them, "There may be hope for this country after all."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In my mind, I'm gone to Carolina....

I once worked for a fellow who loved to deer hunt. He used to say that the other 51 weeks of the year were just preparation for deer hunting week.

Well, I feel the same way about my Myrtle Beach golf week. For 11 years, my buddy Pete Thrane and I have gone down to Myrtle in October and spent 5-6 days on the many courses (about 130) in the area. Over the years we've played about 60 or so of them. This map shows about 100 of the courses...there are others. (Sorry that it's a little on it for a better view.)

We usually play four days of 36 holes, then on getaway day, we play one of our favorite courses, Oyster Bay, and catch an afternoon flight home. In between, we enjoy eating fresh seafood, southern BBQ and going to sleep early so we can make those 7:30 tee times that are necessary this time of year if you want to get 36 holes in. It's golf heaven, and I'll try to provide blog posts while I'm there, but no guarantees. Enjoy the early winter!

Monday, October 12, 2009

What does Joe Mauer dream about?

First, let me say that I have no special insight into what makes Joe Mauer tick. My only real contact with him was when he was a sophomore in high school, and I umpired a game behind the plate with him catching. He was already becoming something of a high school legend, and it was obvious after just an inning or two that he had special talent.

But as the Twins bow out of the playoffs again (3-16 in their last 19 post-season games) and Mauer enters the final year of his contract, I find myself wondering what his goals and dreams are.

Obviously, the life he already has far surpasses the dreams of most people: Playing for your hometown major league team, winning three batting titles, becoming a perennial all-star, making millions of dollars and serving as a hearthrob to the young ladies of the Upper Midwest. Nice work for anyone, let alone someone who won't turn 27 until next April.

And if that's all he wants out of life, he can continue to have that by staying here. Target Field appears to be a good park for hitters, he can continue to be the most popular man in Minnesota and as long as the Central Division is comprised of Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City and Chicago, the Twins should be able to compete on a regular basis. He can play here another 10 years, make $150 million or so in that time, and keep living the life he leads.

But what if other things matter more? What if the chance to win a few World Series titles is what really motivates him? What if he wants the REAL money, the $250 million or so that the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Mets and, presumably, a few other teams will be willing to throw at him, money that is probably not available in the Twins' budget? Is he content with the amount of fame he garners here in Minnesota, or does he want to be on the bright stage of New York or Los Angeles, with the increased business opportunities that would bring?

I don't know the answers to any of those questions. But he seems to have a bright competitive spirit, and if winning is what matters most, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that his opportunites are better elsewhere.

The Twins didn't lose this series to the Yankees because of the payroll disparity; They lost because they didn't pitch well in the clutch and they didn't run the bases very well. But long-term - say, over the next 10 years - I think it's hard to find anyone who believes that the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers will have fewer post-season opportunities than the Twins. And these are clubs that can spend the money when it's needed.

I love to watch Mauer play. But if I'm in his shoes, and I look across at the Yankee dugout and think about catching a pitching staff with guys like Sabbathia and Pettite and Rivera, and then I look down the Twins' bench and bullpen and see guys like Pavano and Crain and Mijares and Keppel, I have to wonder where I'm going to have the best chance to earn a World Series ring.

As I said, I don't know what goes on in Joe Mauer's mind, but we're going to find out sometime in the upcoming months.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The wave of the future

I think this is the first pictoral appearance on this blog of future NHL star and six-week-old grandson Samuel Roman Westphall. I think he's smiling because he's thinking about when he'll be old enough to golf with Opa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Strange Night at the X

Last night was one of the oddest nights I can remember at the Xcel Energy Center, and one I won't soon forget.

For Opening Night, the normal 7:00 game time had been pushed back to 8:00 to accommodate television, but then the Wild decided to open the doors at 4:00 so people could come in to watch Twins in their playoff game against Detroit. Only a handful of fans were there at 4:00, but by 6:00, the crowd was coming in pretty steadily. Pretty soon there was a good crowd sitting in the arena, watching the Twins on the scoreboard jumbotron.

And it would have been a great night if the Twins game had followed a normal arc. They would have been done around 7:00 or so, and people could have mentally transitioned from baseball to hockey, enjoyed the Opening Night festivities and watched the game.

Except the Twins game, as you know, became an epic. It went into extra innings, and meandered through a series of remarkable plays that kept everyone intensely interested right through the 12th inning. Which was great, except that it ran past the start of the hockey game.

As the 9th inning began, the Wild put a message on the scoreboard that said that, beginning at 7:20, the scoreboard jumbotron would begin carrying Wild-related messages, and that the Twins game would be on the televisions in the concourse.

The Wild are used to coming out of their locker room and being greeted - even for warmups - by a noisy group of several thousand people. Last night they hit the ice for warmups about 7:35, and they must have looked in the stands and wondered if there had been a bomb scare. No more than a few hundred people were in their seats, because virtually everyone had gone out to the hallways and concourses to watch the Twins.

And they stayed out there through the warmups, through the pre-game ceremonies and even through the start of the game. At the first puck drop, there were about 17,000 people in the building, and my guess would be that 10,000 or more were watching the Twins on TV. In a building that is famous for its sellout streak - and the noise level of its fans - it was very strange.

There were only a couple minutes left in the first period when the Twins finally pushed the winning run across, and it produced a loud roar that traveled from the outside hallways into the arena. Wild coach Todd Richards said later that it was so loud he began looking all over the ice to see what he might have missed, until it dawned on him that everyone was cheering for the Twins.

Everyone then flocked into their seats, to see the last 90 seconds or so of the first period, then returned to the TV sets during intermission, watching replays of the Twins and their locker room celebration.

With the start of the second period, it seemed that things had returned to normal. People were back in their seats, the focus was on hockey and all seemed right with the world.

Except that the Wild stunk. Herb Brooks used to tell his players - when things weren't going right - "You look like a monkey trying to hump a football." That expression passed through my mind during the second period as I watched the Wild give up three goals in a six-minute span and fail to generate any offense at all. It was wretched hockey, and the fans booed the team off the ice at the end of the period, with Anaheim leading 3-0.

Lots of people left, and even more left after the first five minutes of the third period, when things didn't look much better.

And then came John Scott.

With Derek Boogaard out for a while with a concussion, the Wild have converted the 6-foot-8 Scott from defense to wing, and sent him out to bang bodies a little bit, and be available to fight. Early in the third period, with the Wild still trailing 3-0, Scott decided to taken on George Parros, one of the real heavyweight fighters in the league. It was no contest, as you can see here.

It ignited the crowd, and the Wild as well. A bit later, Mikko Koivu scored to make it 3-1. Then Petr Sykora got his first goal as a Wild player. And Eric Belanger blasted a shot through J.S. Giguere to tie the game. Finally, Andrew Brunette scored in overtime for a 4-3 win, the first time the Wild has ever overcome a three-goal, third-period deficit at the X.

Crazy night. The Wild has still never lost a home opener (eight wins and a tie), the Twins are headed to the ALCS and I had a truly memorable night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday!

The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe - my granddaughter Anne - turns 2 years old today, and I was able to spend part of the morning babysitting while her mom and baby brother went to the doctor. She's a huge fan of "watching the kid," which means watching video of the 4-year-old who does the Herb Brooks pre-Soviet speech (see Sept. 21 blog post.)

She's watched it enough that she's beginning to retain parts of it. If you say "Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them" she will respond with "And we shut them down, because we CAN."

Two years seemed to have flown by since she came into our lives, and she is an indescribable blessing. I've had a few different job titles in my life, but "Opa" is the very best one.

Happy Birthday, Annie.

Friday, October 2, 2009

There's ego, and then there's EGO!!

I had no strong feelings about Chicago's bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics, because hosting the games is, at best, a mixed blessing. But as I read about Chicago's failure to even make the second round of voting (the games eventually were awarded to Rio), I came across this paragraph in a story from Chicago's CBS affiliate, talking about the history of Chicago's bid. Last summer the Chicago organizers held a rally to build excitement for the city's bid, and CBS2 recalled the appearance by candidate Obama:

"At a rally in Daley Plaza five months before the election, Obama drummed up enthusiasm for the bid. He said: "In 2016, I'll be wrapping up my second term as president, so I can't think of a better way than to be marching into Washington Park alongside Mayor Daley, alongside Rahm Emanuel, alongside Dick Durbin, alongside Valerie Jarrett as President of the United States, and announcing to the world, 'Let the games begin!"

I've been around a lot of politicians in my career, which means I've been around a lot of giant egos, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone cram as much ego, presumption, arrogance and self-aggrandizement into one sentence as he did that day. That kind of hubris explains a lot of this administration's problems.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Dumbest Woman in America, Part 2

Well, she's at it again. As we noted last July, Whoopi Goldberg might be the dumbest woman in America. Back then, she was questioning whether the moon landing ever happened.

This week, she's coming to the defense of convicted child molester and noted filmmaker Roman Polanski. If you're not familiar with the story, here's a quick synopsis:

Polanski, in 1977, brought a 13-year-old girl to his home under the pretense of photographing her for Vogue magazine. Once there, he gave her champagne, fed her a Quaalude and then repeatedly raped her. The details are here.

Polanski was charged with rape, and held in custody for 48 days before pleading guilty to a lesser charge. The judge in the case wasn't happy with the plea agreement, and Polanski's lawyers suspected the judge was going to send Polanski back to jail for another 42 days (for 90 days total). Instead, Polanski fled the country, and has been living in Europe - mostly France - for the past 32 years. Last week he was arrested upon arriving in Switzerland, and may be deported to the United States, where California authorities still have a warrant out for him.

Enter Whoopi, never afraid to display her stupidity. This week on The View, she excused Polanski's crime by saying, "I know it wasn't rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don't believe it was rape-rape."

So, feeding a 13-year-old champagne and drugs, then having non-consensual sex with her while she begs to be taken home isn't "rape-rape?" I guess "No" doesn't mean "no" anymore, according to Whoopi.
We're anxious to hear what the National Organization for Women and other feminists have to say about Whoopi's comments.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How do they line up?

The always-excellent Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune has an excellent analysis of possible Wild line combinations here, as the team prepares for its final preseason game tonight in Philadelphia, and then opens the regular season Friday night in Columbus.

For the first time in several years, the team has a bit of depth at center. The Wild were caught short in December of 2007, when Wes Walz unexpectedly retired, and former GM Doug Risebrough failed to address the center position through two trade deadlines and an entire off-season, which probably contributed to his dismissal last spring.

This year, with the addition of Kyle Brodziak, the Wild will have four legitimate centers in Mikko Koivu, James Sheppard, Brodziak and Eric Belanger. It's also possible that Pierre-Marc Bouchard could move from wing to center, but I like him better at wing, so I hope it doesn't happen.

This is also the first time Wild fans can really engage in this kind of line combo speculation, since Jacques Lemaire very rarely kept lines together for very long. It didn't matter what combo started the game, Jacques was always juggling lines, which was an irritant to some fans - and, reportedly, to some of the players.

(Personally, I never questioned Jacques. My feeling was this: He has 11 Stanley Cup rings, and I have zero. If there's a difference of opinion, always defer to the guy with 11 Cup rings.)

One ancient hockey theory says that a line should have one good playmaker, one good scorer, and one physical forechecker. With that in mind, I think I'd like to see:

1st: Koivu centering Martin Havlat and Owen Nolan.
2nd: Brodziak centering Petr Sykora and Cal Clutterbuck
3rd: Sheppard centering P-M Bouchard and Andrew Brunette
4th: Belanger centering Antti Miettinen and Benoit Puliot

Bouchard and Brunette were together quite a bit last year, and seemed to develop some chemistry. This chart relegates Belanger to the 4th line, and that's unfortunate, because he's a real pro who has done solid work here. But Sheppard has to learn to play: He's 21 now, and the Wild probably made a mistake by keeping him as a 19-year-old instead of letting him develop, but we can't help that now. Another year of 4th-line minutes is going to stifle his development further, and we have too much invested in him to not find out if he can play.

It's been an odd training camp, with a lot of injuries and a team struggling to learn the new Todd Richards system, and I spoke to a number of people at the last preseason game who have very low expectations for this season. I'm usually too optimistic, but I disagree. I think this is a team that can compete every night, and challenge Vancouver for the division title. We'll all start to learn more on Friday.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Get ready to love Martin Havlat

Anyone who goes back through this blog's archives to last April knows that I was quite upset about the Wild losing Marian Gaborik. When they signed Martin Havlat on the first day of free agency, it seemed like it could potentially be an adequate replacement for Gaborik.

Now, after seeing him twice in the preseason, I think the Wild have upgraded. While he doesn't have Gaborik's speed - virtually no one does - Havlat does things with the puck that Gaborik could only dream of. He has a great scoring touch, but I've already seen him throw a half-dozen remarkable passes. It's obvious that he sees the ice well, knows how to create passing lanes and makes the people around him better players.

By December, Wild fans are going to love this guy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A political philosophy in just 10 words

"We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom."

That was Sarah Palin yesterday, speaking in Hong Kong, and it sums up everything you need to know. What a spectacular woman!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I LOVE this kid

Greatest. Home. Video. Ever. Someone taught their 4-year-old Herb Brooks' pre-game speech to his team before they faced the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics, and put it up on YouTube. I don't know many other details, except apparently the kid's name is "Rizzo" which I assume is short for Eruzione, which would indicate this is likely an east coast guy who made the video. Enjoy it, share it, tell people about it and let's make this kid famous!

(Just below is Kurt Russell as Herb in the movie Miracle. It was my pleasure to know Herb a bit, and Kurt Russell does him so well that I now think of Russell as Herb. If I see the movie "Overboard," my first reaction is "Why is Herb on a boat?" If I see "Backdraft," I think "Why is Herb a firemen?" Russell just nailed the part.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

First night back at the X!

It was like Christmas morning for me today, with the Wild back at Xcel Energy Center for the first time since April 10.

2-0 win over Columbus, and here are just a few random observations:

-- In new coach Todd Richards' system, defensemen are allowed - even expected - to jump into the rush when possible. Brent Burns was made for that kind of system. He was all over the ice tonight, assisted on a goal and looked fantastic. He could really thrive in this system.

-- Cal Clutterbuck's rookie year wasn't a fluke, and he's ready to contribute. Two goals tonight, #1 star and a great presence.

-- Goaltending, of course, is solid. Backstrom and Harding split the game, and the shutout, tonight. Harding will likely be traded soon, and it will hurt a bit to see him go.

-- There were already #17 Petr Sykora jerseys on sale in the Hockey Lodge. Lots of fans wearing Havlat #14 jerseys already.

-- Kyle Brodziak is going to be a nice addition to the team. Good skills, skates well.

-- Colton Gillies didn't help his bid to make the team when he biffed a breakaway after Antti Meittinen set him up beautifully.

Fun night, back there again on Sunday afternoon against the Blackhawks...Hope we get to see some Havlat, Sykora, Koivu, Brunette.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amateur hour

Last April, President Obama went to Prague, in the Czech Republic, and promised the people of that republic that the United States would help protect the Czechs - and the Poles - from possible nuclear attacks by Iran. Here's what he said:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven."

Today, five months later, he notified the Czechs and Poles that he was pulling out of any agreement to provide a missile defense. To make it worse, today we learned, via the International Atomic Energy Agency, that:

"Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press."

Now every potential ally of the United States has learned that the President's word is no good, and every potential enemy of the United States has learned that the United States will cut and run if pressured.

Putting this group of amateurs in the White House is making the world much more dangerous.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A really good guy

For several years now, one of my favorite Wild players has been defenseman Brent Burns. He came to the team very young, and has grown up right in front of us. He's always had a bit of a quirky streak, a reputation as a bit of a prankster and just always sounded like a fun guy. His house is also home to dozens of tropical fish, snakes, a loud Macaw and a pair of Huskies that are big enough to pull Brent around the neighborhood on rollerbalades. He's become one of the league's best defenseman, and has some terrific offensive skills that we may see more of under new coach Todd Richards.

I also liked him because he wasn't afraid to talk about how much he respected the military. Burnsie's grandfather, Patrick, lived with the family while Brent was growing up, and the young Burns brothers loved to listen to Patrick - an artilleryman in World War II - tell stories about the war.

Brent and his brother, Brad, have identical tattoos on their left arms. The tattoo features a cross and Canadian military helmet. In the background is a Bofor artillery gun, shooting over the hills of Sicily, and below the picture it reads, "Patrick Joseph Burns, 1911-1998."

Now here's another reason to root for this good guy: According to a Tuesday story by ace reporter (see Sept. 2 blog entry below) Mike Russo, Burnsie has purchased a suite for the 2009-2010 season, and donated it to the National Guard. For each Wild home game, Burns will host veterans and their families in the suite. They will all get "Burnzie's Battalion" shirts, and meet him after each game.

Anyone who has spent time around professional athletes will tell you that hockey players are far and away the friendliest and most accessible. Most of them don't make the huge money that baseball, football and basketball players make, and lots of them come from small-town backgrounds that help keep them humble. Burns has always been a classy guy, and this latest gesture increases my esteem even more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years ago today.... was a beautiful day in the Twin Cities, and even a better one in New York City. Clear skies, warm sun, low humidity. At 8 a.m. all seemed well, and by 11 a.m. about 3,000 Americans were dead.

Because 19 muslims hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Inside the World Trade Center, it became so horrible that some people - like this person - chose to leap to their deaths rather than die in the flames....

...and brave firemen like Mike Kehoe never again saw their wives or children....

....and when it was over, they celebrated across the Arab world, because the "Great Satan" - the United States of America - had been hit.

And here we are, eight years later, still not taking seriously the threat to our country. The political left seeks to appease those who hate us, as if those who proclaim jihad against us could someone be appeased if we were just "nicer" to them.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we said we'd "never forget," but half of the country has already. In the name of "diversity" and "tolerance" we let those who hate us and work for our destruction continue to make their plans, while the current administration focuses on prosecuting the very people who help keep us safe. We allow a fundamentalist islamic regime in Iran to come closer to its dream of owning nuclear weapons.

A Holocaust survivor was once asked what lesson he learned from his experience, and he said, "When someone says that they want to kill you, believe them."

Do we still believe that someone wants to destroy America, and what are we willing to do to stop them?