Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two men, two concepts of honor

This week we got the not-too-surprising news that Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was switching parties, leaving the Republicans and becoming a Democrat.

Specter, frankly, has always been a pain in the butt. He got his start in politics by switching parties - from Democrat to Republican - back in the 1960s when he wanted to run for office in Philadelphia. Once he made it to the Senate he became the ultimate RINO. (That's "Republican-In-Name-Only," much like one of my former bosses, Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, who, like Specter, was a self-serving pain in the butt. But that's a post for another day.)

Specter's primary concern was always "What's best for Arlen Specter?", with actual policy concerns further down the list. The low point was 1987, when - as the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee - he teamed up with Ted Kennedy in the character assassination of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

The scuttling of the Bork nomination was one of the real low points in Senate history. Bork was perhaps the most brilliant constitutional mind in America, was extraordinarily qualified for the court and would have been an outstanding justice. But the Kennedy-led campaign of lies and distortion - aided and abetted by Specter - killed the nomination, and ushered in a new era of extreme politicization of judicial nominees that continues to this day.

Of course Specter got kudos for being "thoughtful" and "moderate" from liberals, and for him, that was the point. If what was good for Arlen Specter conflicted with what was good for the country, he would always take the path of self-preservation.

Which is what his latest move is. Six years ago, a Pennsylvania congressman named Pat Toomey - fed up with Specter's liberal voting record - challenged Specter in the Republican primary, and came surprisingly close, losing by just 1.7%.

This year, Toomey announced another primary challenge, and the latest polls showed Toomey leading Specter among Republican primary voters by as much as 21%. In other words, Specter's not leaving the party because he suddenly realized most Republicans were conservative, he's leaving because he was just a few months away from being voted out.

All of this made me think of another party-switching politician, a fellow from Texas named Phil Gramm.

Gramm was a Democrat congressman in the 1980s, but like many Texas Democrats, he was fairly conservative. A college professor with a doctorate in economics, Gramm was a strong advocate of tax cuts and free trade, and in 1983 his support for much of the Reagan economic plan found him at odds with his fellow Democrats, especially House Speaker Tip O'Neill. So Gramm decided to switch parties, and become a Republican.

But Gramm had a tremendous sense of honor. He reasoned that his switching of parties was unfair to the voters who had recently elected him as a Democrat. So in addition to switching parties, he resigned his seat and went home to Texas to run in a special election. Running as a Republican, he was sent back to Washington by the voters, who later elected him to the Senate, where he was a strong, effective voice from 1984-2002.

(In that special election race, Gramm made a famous TV ad that became one of my favorites. He was shown talking to Texas voters and said "I had to choose between Tip O'Neill and y'all, and I chose to represent y'all." I can't find it on YouTube, but if I do, I'll post a link. He was one of my favorite senators to listen to during floor debates...always funny and insightful, with that great Texas twang.)

If Specter had even a fraction of Gramm's sense of decency, he would resign his seat, let the Governor of Pennsylvania appoint a replacement, and then run in the next election. He'll never do it, of course, because it might not be in the best interests of Arlen Specter, and in his world, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu: Been there, done that.

It's hard for my children to believe, but there are a few advantages to being a little older. One of those is the perspective you have of various hysterias that come up from time to time.

The crisis du jour, of course, is swine flu, set to wipe out millions, just as bird flu was going to do last year, and SARS a couple years ealier.

Well kids, old dad is a veteran of the swine flu wars. Back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager and dinosaurs roamed the earth, swine flu was on the march. It was going to be worse than the black plague and disco put together, and kill more people a day than Ted Kennedy's driving.

Except, of course, it didn't. And maybe that was because of these super-cool, highly informative Public Service Announcements. Enjoy them here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are we special? Should we be special?

At some point in college a professor introduced me to the concept of "American Exceptionalism," which he described as the idea that there is something special and unique about America and its place in the world.

This professor wasn't advocating for the notion that America has a special place in the heirarchy of nations; In fact, he went to great lengths to try to convince us otherwise. In his view, the United States was nothing more than another name in the roll call of countries, somewhere between Uganda and Uruguay.

But the idea of American Exceptionalism stuck with me, and even seemed to reinforce some of the things I had felt, but had never really been able to express. American Exceptionalism, in my mind, came to mean the idea that America had a role to play as leader of the world, to be the defender of concepts like individual liberty, free speech and free enterprise.

I was never able to articulate that idea very well, and then along came Ronald Reagan, who pretty much nailed what I had been trying to say when he said:

"I've always believed that this blessed land was set apart in a special way, that some divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love for freedom and the courage to uproot themselves, leave homeland and friends, to come to a strange land. And coming here they created something new in all the history of mankind -- a land where man is not beholden to government, government is beholden to man."

It was exactly what I had been trying to articulate. Of course, to believe that America is part of a divine plan, you have to believe in a divinity. You have to feel as though God has a plan, and is at work in our world, and I recognize that many of my friends on the left will reject that idea. But that's a discussion for another day.

But that concept became the cornerstone of what I believed about America and its place in the world. It was American's unique place that helped hold the world together. When Nazis and Communists threatened, we were the "Arsenal of Democracy" that helped put them down. Whenever there was trouble around the world, it was America that was asked to help - and that always answered the call. Whatever the country's faults - and there are many - I found it easy to overlook them since our motives were pure.

And I realize that this sounds a bit naive, but I was always taken aback when someone else even questioned the concept. In debates with my lefty friends, I often posed the question this way: Would the world be better off if more countries were like America - with a democratically-elected government, a free enterprise economy and constitutionally-guaranteed liberties, or would the world be better of if fewer countries were like America?

After Reagan was diagnosed with the disease that would end his life, he wrote his good-bye letter and concluded it by saying "For America, there will always be a bright dawn ahead." And I agreed, and always believed it. The idea that American democracy and liberty would continue to be the dominant force in the world was something I never doubted.

Until recently.

While in Europe, President Obama was asked if he believed in "American Exceptionalism," and he was dismissive of the idea, saying, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

It was all part of the same message he's been sending around the world, apologizing for America, schmoozing up America-hating dictators and bowing down to an Arab king. (See April 2 blog post.)

Which has led me to think: How long can the idea of American Exceptionalism flourish when the leader of the country doesn't even believe in it?

During the Carter years - mercifully brief as they were - and during the Clinton years, I disagreed with various policies and positions, but I never doubted the future of America. I never worried that this nation of freedom and liberty and opportunity might not be there for my children and grandchildren. And perhaps I'm being an alarmist now - or just becoming a cranky old man - but for the first time in my life, I wonder: Can this "shining city on a hill" (more Reagan, of course, quoting John Winthrop) stand against Islamic nuclear weapons, North Korean missiles and the rotting-from-the-inside that happens when the people of a country no longer believe that country holds a special place in the world?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silver lining in a tragic story

I had a very hectic day Saturday, but all in working for a good cause: Getting a client some positive publicity.

One of my clients is a hockey league known as the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. It's a fall league for high school players, designed to give elite-level players an opportunity to play against other high-level players while staying in high school (as opposed to leaving school to go play junior hockey somewhere else.)

Among the many volunteers that help the league are a wonderful couple named Ken and Paula Gamer. Last Thursday the Gamer's home in Medina burned to the ground, taking almost all of their possessions in the process, including the hockey gear of their 11-year-old son, Charlie.

Charlie is playing in a spring hockey league, and was supposed to play in a tournament this past weekend in Bloomington. One of the fellows who helps run the Elite League, Bob Fallen, knew about the Gamer's fire and the fact that Charlie now had no hockey equipment. He also knew that Charlie's parents had other things on their mind than pee-wee hockey.

So Bob called the folks at Bauer Hockey - one of the league's sponsors - and said the Elite League would like to purchase new equipment for Charlie, and asked which retailer Bauer would recommend. Then the story got even better.

The folks at Bauer said they would be happy to take care of replacing all of Charlie's equipment, at no cost to the family or the league. Instead, they had the Gamers take Charlie over to Letterman's Sports in Blaine, and on Friday Charlie got new skates, gloves, helmet, shoulder pads, breezers, elbow pads...everything he needed to get back on the ice. On Saturday he was able to be back with his team, playing in the tournament.

It was a great story, and a great example of how the Minnesota hockey community takes care of its own, and when I learned about all of this on Friday night, I knew it was a story that needed to get out.

So I spent a good chunk of time Saturday writing a pitch and a press release, and working the phones, trying to line up some media coverage of the story. Several media outlets responded, and the story of the Gamers, the Elite League and the generosity of Bauer was told on local TV stations.

If you click here you can see WCCO-TV's story, which was the best of the bunch. Ken Gamer was very gracious about taking time to talk to the reporters, and we even got Charlie a little face time to make his TV debut.

Obviously it's a huge tragedy for the Gamers to lose their home, and replacing some hockey gear is miniscule compared to what they will be going through in the weeks and months ahead, but it was really nice to be able to work on a "warm, fuzzy" story and see it make it on air.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How much is $100 Million?

Let me open by saying there is absolutely nothing partisan about this post. I think the government has grown too large and too intrusive under administrations of every party. This is just math, not political science.

Yesterday the President held his first Cabinet meeting, and his PR folks announced that he had directed the various Cabinet secretaries to find, over the next 90 days, $100 million in budget savings.

Sounds impressive, right? After all, $100 million is a lot of money to most of us. Just mention the figure, and folks will start daydreaming about what they would do if they had a $100 million. (Personally, my first thought is that I'd like to buy an NHL franchise. Turns out I couldn't get one for $100 million...Not even the Phoenix Coyotes.)

With $100 million you could:

-- Feed 120,000 children for a year;

-- Buy yourself a new Rolls-Royce every day for six weeks

-- Provide health insurance for a year to 140,000 Americans

-- Buy your own fleet of 8 LearJet 45s

So it seems like we're talking about a lot of money.

But when you're talking about the federal government, it's important to understand that $100 million is NOTHING. And I do mean NOTHING.

$100 million is the amount of money the federal government spends EVERY 13 MINUTES!

$100 million is 1/260th of the budget of Massachusetts;

$100 million is ONE DAY of interest on the money borrowed for the "stimulus bill" that passed earlier this year;

$100 million is less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane;

Let's boil it down to personal terms. Let's say you make $80,000 a year. How much money would you have to cut out of your budget to equal the federal government cutting $100 million out of its budget?

Two bucks.

Yes, that's right. $2 is to $80,000 as $100 million is to the federal budget.

The day after the White House announced its $100 million cut, the President signed a new funding bill for AmeriCorps, the ridiculous program under which we pay young people to do volunteer work. (How is it "volunteer" work if the government is paying you for it? Different question, different blog post.) The cost of the bill? $5.7 billion, or 57 times the amount of budget cuts ordered by the President on Monday.

It's all just something to keep in mind the next time you hear a politician call for a tax increase, or insist that the budget has been "cut to the bone."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A lesson in left-wing hypocrisy, or, The President is so stupid he thinks Austrian is a language.

When I was working in the U.S. Senate back in the 1980s, the junior senator from Indiana was a fellow named Dan Quayle. He had a reputation as a bright, serious, earnest young up-and-comer, and then an unfortunate thing happened: He was elected Vice-President of the United States. I say "unfortunate" because few people come out of the office looking better than when they went in. (Although it's hard to see how we could think any less of Joe Biden in four years than we do now.)

The media and the left-wingers (forgive the redundancy) didn't like the thought of a bright, articulate, rising young conservative star, and they spent the next four years attacking him at every turn.

At one point, VP Quayle was visiting an elementary school. He was brought into a class that was conducting a spelling bee that day, and the teacher asked the Vice President if he would like to read a few of the flash cards he had selected and give the kids a chance to spell the word. The VP agreed.

One of the cards the teacher had selected had the word "P-O-T-A-T-O-E." That's "potato" with an "E," an older, less-common spelling. Up stepped a young man, and VP Quayle asked the young man to spell the word "potatoe." Which the young man did, writing it out on the board, except he didn't add the "E" on the end. Not wanting to undermine the teacher in whose classroom he was a guest, the VP had to tell the young man that the spelling "P-O-T-A-T-O" was incorrect and that it should have an "E" on the end of it.

The geniuses in the Washington press corps jumped on the story: "Look at this" they said. "The Vice-President can't even spell potato." Then Leno told a joke, and Letterman told a joke and before you knew it, it had become a "fact:" Dan Quayle couldn't spell potato. I have a friend - a committed Commie, but that's another story - who still loves to say "Dan Quayle was so stupid he couldn't even spell potato."

But of course, the whole story was a lie, an urban myth. Quayle was simply following the spelling on the flash card the teacher provided.

So, why bring this story up, almost 20 years later? Well, here's why:

Because the other day, while speaking in Austria, the President of the United States said this:

"It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing..."

(The video clip is here.)

That's right, folks, the President - the guy with the big Harvard education plus all those alleged "street smarts" - thinks Austrian is a LANGUAGE. Any dummy who ever sat through 'The Sound of Music" knows that Austrians speak German - and have been doing so for several centuries - and that there has never been an "Austrian" language.

And yet, I'm willing to bet that most of you never saw this clip or heard the story before today. Why is that? Gee, it couldn't be because the media buried the story, is it? It couldn't be because "Saint Obama" could never make a mistake in the media's eyes, is it? Why isn't Keith "Bonehead" Olberman cackling about this? Hmm, I wonder....

Go to the New York Times web site and search for the terms "Obama" and "Austrian" and you won't find a story about the incident. Then imagine for a moment the media frenzy that would have ensued if Sarah Palin or George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan had said "I don't know what the term is in Austrian."

So, now I have a line to use for the next 44 months whenever someone mentions Obama. I'm simply going to say "You mean the guy who is so stupid he thinks Austrian is a language?"

Perhaps on future trips he'll try to say something in "Australian" or "Canadian." Or maybe this week he'll try to speak "Mexican" while he's down there. Then later, in Latin America, he can try some of the Latin he learned at Harvard Law School.

Consider it Dan Quayle's revenge.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oooh, baby, baby it's a Wild world....

Havoc in St. Paul: Today we get word that the Wild have fired General Manager Doug Reisbrough, the GM who has been here since the team's inception. So in addition to missing the playoffs, we are now dealing with:

1) Replacing the only coach we've ever had
2) Replacing the only GM we've ever had
3) The upcoming draft, in which we have the #12 pick
4) The free agency period, which begins July 1, in which our biggest star - Marian Gaborik, see April 9 blog entry - is the biggest name on the market.

I've not yet met Craig Leipold, the man who has owned the Wild for about a year, but he's got a lot of big decisions on his plate right now, and if he's doesn't make the right choices he can set this franchise back a lot of years. Good luck, CL, we need to get these right.

And a special shout-out to Star-Tribune writer Mike Russo, who had the news about Reisbrough up on his blog almost half an hour before any other media outlet. He's one of the finest, and hardest-working, writers in the business, and a real bright light on what is otherwise an almost-useless fishwrap of a newspaper.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just to get it on the record....

The Stanley Cup playoffs start tonight, and before things really get rolling, I want to get my prediction on the record: Red Wings over the Capitals in the finals.

I absolutley HATE that the Wild isn't playing. I've been to a couple dozen NHL playoff games in my life, and there's nothing like the atmosphere. Intensity every shift, great moments, and now it's at least a year until I can see one again.

Great Moments in Political Marketing

I've always felt that some kind of "street theater" can be the most effective way to get a message across, and that's particularly true in the world of politics. Forget the high-minded op-ed piece in the New York Times, give me a stunt that really demonstrates your point.

For example, in the 1980s, when College Republicans were riding high, a chapter in New York would rent boats, then float out into New York harbor and anchor near cargo ships from the Soviet Union. With signs and bullhorns, they would encourage Soviet sailors to defect and offer them rides back to shore. It really demonstrated how the kids felt about freedom.

Likewise, on a number of campuses in recent years, young conservatives have held bake sales. But instead of setting one price for a brownie, for example, there was a menu that told you what your price was based on your membership in various demographic groups. (See photo.) It's a great way to shine a light on the nuttiness of "affirmative-action" quota programs.

(Needless to say, college administrators go absolutely out of their minds when these bake sales take place and several have been shut down. On most college campuses, "freedom of speech" is fine if you want to promote Islamic Jihad or NAMBLA, but it ends when you try to promote conservative ideas.)

Today, as various "tea parties" are taking place across America, we get word (hat tip to of another food-related offering that really gets the point across. Without any more comment, here it is:

"At the Greenville, S.C., Tea Party, "They will be selling the 'Obama burger' — you pay for one and they cut it in half and give the rest to the guy behind you for free!!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Taking down the pirates...and a book recommendation

By now, most have read the story of the rescue at sea of Captain Phillips, held by Somali pirates. The short version: Three U.S. Navy Seals killed the three pirates holdijng Phillips. One press account reads like this:

"The snipers could see two pirates peering out from the back of the enclosed lifeboat and the third pointing his assault rifle at Phillips. President Barack Obama had cleared them to shoot if the captain faced imminent threat of death.

When the order came to shoot, former SEALs said, the hard part was not the distance – about 75 feet, an easy range for an experienced sniper.

The biggest risk came from the many moving parts: the bobbing lifeboat, the rolling ship, hitting three targets simultaneously in darkness.

With deadly accuracy, the snipers fired their rifles in unison. They killed the pirates with exactly three shots."

Hitting them simultaneously, of course, was the important part. Hit only two of them, and the third one probably kills Captain Phillips. But SEALS being who they are, they got the job done right.

Which leads me to a book recommendation. Earlier this year a good friend loaned me his copy of "Lone Survivor - The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10."

It's by a wonderful Texan named Marcus Luttrell, who trained as a SEAL and later found himself in the middle of an incredible firefight in the middle of Afghanistan. I won't spoil any plot lines for you, but even if it wasn't a great war story (and it is) it's worth reading just to gain an understanding of the training a person has to go through to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. These guys go through a training regimen that most of us can't even imagine.

I enjoyed it so much that I've given several copies away as gifts. It's out in paperback now, and you can order it here. Enjoy, and sleep a little better at night knowing what kind of special men are out there protecting this country.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A little more Jacques

I don't want to overdo this, because on one level, it's just a hockey coach and there are a million hockey coaches. But as I said in the previous post, I really believe Jacques was special, and he proved it again today at his farewell press conference. As many of you know, the Wild markets itself as "The Team of 18,000" and constantily tries to reinforce the bonds between the fans and the team. Today, when Jacques could have spent time talking about his accomplishments, he found time instead to say this: (And it's even more fun if you can read it while hearing Jacques' unique style of broken English in your head)

“The most important are the fans. Fans in Minnesota, you guys are unbelievable. You start a new franchise – we travel a bit and go into other cities. And you know guys are playing hockey there and you look at the crowds, a lot of nights its half full. And we come here and you people came in game after game – exhibition games – for eight years it was packed. And you know it’s the best environment that we could get as coaches, as players and we got that here. And the lifestyle that we had here is – I feel that it was really close to Montreal in certain ways. And I felt really at home here and I don’t want to get into this (meaning he was getting a little emotional there). I just want to thank you again because I really felt your support. Thank you.”

No, coach, thank YOU.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sad day for Wild fans: Jacques Lemaire quits

The only coach the Wild has ever had, Jacques Lemaire, resigned tonight after a season-ending win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jacques was the definition of an "old school" coach who preached hard work first, defense second and responsibility all of the time. A number of players - Marian Gaborik among them - sometimes chafed under his heavy hand, but Jacques knew what he was doing. When fans at the X or my hockey friends would say something like "I think Jacques' getting a little old" or "I'm not sure they can win playing Jacques' way" I would always answer: "How many Stanley Cup rings do you have? Because I don't have any, and Jacques has 11. The guy with 11 probably knows more than I do."

He took the bottom-of-the-barrel material that expansion teams always get - remember Sergei Krivokrasov? Andy Sutton? Maxim Sushinsky? Sylvain Blouin? - and he made the franchise respectable right away. He gave us instant credibility, and in just three years he took us to the Western Conference finals.

In an ideal world, every player would want to play Jacques' way.

Merci, Jacques, pour nous montrer comment jouer au jeu correctement.

Thoughts on Easter v. Christmas

This is sometimes a difficult thing for me to properly explain, because so many people love to complain about Christmas, and how it's become too commercialized, we don't remember the "reason for the season" etc., etc., and I don't really agree with that.

Because over the years, I've actually come to enjoy the "social" aspect of Christmas as much as the religious aspect. I love the fact that during those last couple weeks of December most people are in a good mood. We find time to socialize with friends, families spend time together, we exchange Christmas cards that help us keep up with old acquaintences and I just find myself really enjoying life a little bit more during that time of the year. Just saying "Merry Christmas" to someone makes me feel good. And I LOVE the simple act of giving gifts. The look of pleasure on a friend or family member's face when you give them something really meaningful is precious.

And then there's the great music. Not just "Joy to the World" or "Silent Night", but I also get cheered up hearing "Silver Bells" or hearing Elvis churn out "Blue Christmas." Some people in my family could hear "White Christmas" a thousand times before they'd get tired of it. It's just a wonderful, happy, fun time of the year.

None of which is to denigrate the religious aspect of the season. Obviously the birth of Jesus Christ is an important celebration, but I find a lot of joy in the secular aspects of Christmas as well, and I don't feel a need to apologize for the "commercialization" of the holiday.

Because to me, Christmas is not the central point of Christianity. Easter is.

Christ's birth is just the starting point of the story, and by itself, it doesn't accomplish much. What makes salvation possible to you, me and everyone is the story of THIS week, when Jesus allowed himself to be put to death as punishment for our sins, and then demonstrated the absolute power of God by rising from the dead. It's the resurrection that brings us to eternal life, not the birth of the baby. Without the cross and the empty tomb, the manger doesn't mean much.

And so, as much as I love to sing "Silent Night," tomorrow morning when we sing "Christ the Lord is risen today," it will mean a lot more to me. Nothing in history - nothing in our own lives - is more significant than the events we celebrate this week. And while families do get together at Easter, just as they do at Christmas, we do it without the tree, the gifts, the socializing and all the other trappings of Christmas, allowing us a little time and solitude to reflect on the incredible sacrifice Christ made for each of us, and what it means for our place in eternity.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

End of an era? (Skip if you're not a hockey fan)

In a few hours I'll leave for the Xcel Energy Center to work what will most likely be the final Wild game of the year. As mentioned in an earlier post, it would take a minor miracle to get the Wild into the playoffs, and as Capt. Renault said in Casablanca, "The Germans have outlawed miracles."

And while it will be sad to see the season come to an end, for me it will be even sadder to see the Wild's Marian Gaborik make what will likely be his final appearance at the X in a Wild uniform. For those of you who don't follow hockey or the Wild closely, the story in a nutshell is this:

Gaborik was the first player drafted by the Wild when they became a franchise. A Slovakian, he made the team as an 18-year-old, and scored the first goal in team history. He was fast, he was exciting, he was dynamic. He's the last remaining member of the original Wild team, and holds virtually every team offensive record. He scored 18 goals his rookie year, then 30 in each of the next two years, and was considered a rising superstar in the NHL. In 2003, he became the first Wild player selected to the All-Star team.

Then the problems started. A contract dispute in the fall of 2003 caused him to miss the first month of the season and created some ill will between his agent and Wild management, as well as with some of the fans. A groin injury - groin injuries were to become his trademark - caused him to miss five games in January of 2004. In the 2005-06 season, he missed the first six games with groin problems, then missed another 11 games with a strained hip. In 2006-07, he missed another 34 games with a groin problem.

The next summer, he underwent hip surgery designed to fix the chronic groin problem, and he came back in 2007-08 ready to play, and everything seemed to be fine. He played 77 games, scored a career-high 42 goals and was at the center of one of the most exciting nights I've ever spent in an arena.
On December 20, 2007, at the X, he scored five goals against the New York Rangers. He had his hat trick midway through the 2nd period. He scored on the power play, he scored on a breakaway, he scored by knocking a waist-high puck out of the air an into the net. The atmosphere in the building was absolutely electric. Every time he jumped over the boards onto the ice you could feel 18,000 people anticipating his next move.

It could have been six goals. After the Rangers pulled their starting goalie, backup Steve Valiquette made a spectacular pad save to prevent another Gabby goal. It's one of the most amazing individual performances I've ever seen, and I'll never forget the feeling in the building that night. NEVER. It was like nothing I've ever experienced.

Then this year, it all fell apart. He played two games, then missed a month with another groin injury. He returned in December, scored four points in four games, then announced that he was going to have surgery on the other hip. He missed three months, and whatever patience the fans had was gone.

Gabby's contract is up at the end of this season, and last fall he rejected a long-term offer from the Wild that reportedly would have paid him an average of $8 million a season. The relationship between his agent and Wild management is reportedly very icy, and everyone expects that he will sign with another team sometime this summer. It's hard to ask a team to commit a lot of long-term money to a guy with his injury history, particularly when he doesn't always seem like he wants to be here.

As I said, most Wild fans long ago lost their patience. If you read the chat boards or talk to fans at the X, you hear a lot of "Get him out of here." "Good riddance." "He's a baby who can't play with pain." Things like that.

All of which I believe are wrong.

This is a guy who just turned 27 in February, the age at which most athletes begin to enter their prime years. Despite all of the injuries, he's scored 217 career goals, including eight in the nine games since he came back from surgery, and has 432 career points. He's now had two hip surgeries designed to cure the groin problems. He's fast, he has a devastating shot and world-class skill.

And after this weekend he's going to leave, and he's going to score another 300 or more goals in his career - all for other teams - and while the Wild will certainly rebuild and be successful again someday, I'm going to be haunted by the fact that one of the finest hockey players in the world should be wearing a Wild uniform, and isn't. And all of the memories he's going to create will be for the benefit of fans in another building, and when he goes into the Hall of Fame it will be as a Los Angeles King or a New York Ranger or a (heaven forbid) Vancouver Canuck, and when people talk about him they'll say "Didn't he play for Minnesota once?"

And that will make me sad all over again.

Why my kids aren't going to Ivy League schools

Well, there's the ridiculous tuition to start with, but even if I had $50 Grand a year to throw into the tuition pot, I would consider it money ill-spent, thanks to wonderful little stories like this:

In its latest exhibition of anti-Americanism, the faculty at Brown University voted to rename the “Columbus Day” “Fall Weekend.” Rather lacking in poetry, “Fall Weekend,” but from the perspective of the tenured elite that anodyne moniker has the advantage of ideological neutrality. “Fall Weekend” does not commemorate a European explorer. It therefore does not honor the memory of the settlement and cultivation of the American continent and, by implication, withholds approbation of the ultimate fruit of that settling and cultivation: the founding of the United States. As Fox News reported, the Brown faculty acted in response to the clamoring of students, hundreds of whom had petitioned the university “to stop observing Columbus Day, saying Christopher Columbus’s violent treatment of Native Americans he encountered was inconsistent with Brown’s values.”

The story comes to us courtesy of author Roger Kimball, who goes on to note:

Whatever barbarities European explorers visited upon the indigenous populations of the Americas pale in comparison with the barbarities the natives visited upon others. Moreover, the European settlers have this large achievement in the credit column of their moral reckoning: they brought civilization, spiritual as well as material, to the various backward populations they subdued. They also joined together to create a society that grew into the richest, mightiest, and freest country in the history of the world. I mean the United States of America. No, it is not perfect. But it remains, as Lincoln put it, “the last best hope of earth.” Recognizing that, of course, is really what is “inconsistent with Brown’s values.”

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A little hockey talk

Last night the Wild kept their miniscule playoff hopes alive with a 3-1 win over Dallas. Nashville lost to Chicago, which is good, but the the yellow-dog Phoenix Coytoes laid down and lost to St. Louis 5-1, which makes our path to the playoffs almost impossible.

The situation is this: The Wild need to win Friday night against Nasvhile, and Saturday night at Columbus. Then, either Anaheim needs to lose its two remaining games, or St. Louis can earn only one point in its two remaining games.

Confusing? Yes, but that's how it all works.

Friday night may be the last appearance by Marian Gaborik at the X in a Wild sweater. That's a sad thought that I'll write a litle more about later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We lose a giant

Late tonight comes word that Steve Cannon has passed away. The name won't mean anything to my children, or most folks under 30, but when I was growing up, Steve Cannon was one of the biggest names on radio, on one of the most important stations in the country.

He did the afternoon drive time show on "8-3-0, WCCO" for 26 years and his talent was enormous. He did the show without guests, or callers. It was just Steve, the microphone and the characters he created: Morgan Mundane, the sports know-it-all; Ma Linger, the racy (for those days) older woman, and Backlash LaRue, an effeminate character in the days before folks talked very openly about being gay. Cannon could hold four-way conversations, switching voices so quickly that you were certain there had to be other people in the room.

(L. to R. Backlash, Ma, Morgan)

Mundane, of course, was my favorite. On Fridays during football season (after the show opened with the dogs from the Eveleth Volunteer Fire Department barking out a song) Cannon and Mundane would discuss the NFL game for the weekend. Cannon would introduce Mundane as the "former sports editor of the Congressional Record." On my first day on the job in the U.S. Senate in 1987, I picked up an actual copy of the Congressional Record, and told my soon-to-be-leaving predecessor that when I was a kid, I wanted to be the Sports Editor of this publication.

Again, for a generation that knows only Rush Limbaugh as a big radio name, it's hard to describe what WCCO was like in those days. Charlie Boone, Roger Erickson, Cannon, Howard Viken, Franklin Hobbs, Joyce Lamont and other WCCO voices were some of the biggest celebrities in the state. To see them in person at the State Fair was a big thrill.

Go HERE for more about Cannon. There are audio links on the page that will let you listen to some show segments, including a Friday football pick segment with Morgan.

RIP, Steve-O. You got the money.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My new hero...

Meet Hazel McCallion, my new political hero and the 88-year-old mayor of Missassauga, Ontario. She has served for 31 years, runs the 6th-largest city in Canada (it's a suburb of Toronto) with no public debt, PLUS she still skates and handles a hockey stick. I think we should move her here and make her Governor!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This is too beautiful...

Most people already understand that the editorial boards of most newspapers are totally full of crap. Over the years, ivory tower knuckleheads like Kate Stanley, Jim Boyd, Dave Hage, Susan Albright and Robert J. White turned the Star-Tribune's editorial page into a nationwide laughingstock of left-wing gibberish.

Here is an example - courtesy of the New York Times - of not just the liberal lunacy that editorial boards produce, but a stunning example of their hypocrisy. Enjoy (and hat tip to National Review Online.)

New York Times Editorial, Dec. 28, 2008:

The argument against unions — that they unduly burden employers with unreasonable demands — is one that corporate America makes in good times and bad, so the recession by itself is not an excuse to avoid pushing the [card-check] bill next year. The real issue is whether enhanced unionizing would worsen the recession, and there is no evidence that it would.

There is a strong argument that the slack labor market of a recession actually makes unions all the more important. Without a united front, workers will have even less bargaining power in the recession than they had during the growth years of this decade, when they largely failed to get raises even as productivity and profits soared. If pay continues to lag, it will only prolong the downturn by inhibiting spending.

And the Washington Post, today:

In a striking example of corporate hardball, the New York Times Co. has threatened to shut down one of its journalistic jewels, the Boston Globe, unless the New England paper's unions agree to sweeping concessions.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More hockey talk

Getting home late tonight from the X, where the Wild won a "must-win" game, 4-0 over Calgary. The playoffs are still unlikely, but at least the dream is still alive. The next "must-win" game is Sunday in Detroit, where we usually get squashed.

But one of the gutsiest things I've seen in a long time is the ongoing play of Andrew Brunette. Bruno is 35 years old, and at some point in this season he suffered a partial tear of his ACL. Reporters who cover the team say that off the ice, it's a struggle for him to walk normally. But he shows up every night, laces up the skates and keeps playing because the Wild have needed him, and because the playoffs are still possible.

Tonight he showed up again, and scored his 21st goal of the season, the 26th game-winner of his career. If we're eliminated, I'm sure he'll shut it down, have surgery, and begin a long, difficult rehab that I hope will be over by next October.

I know that we throw around the word "courage" a little too much, particularly when it pertains to professional athletes, but what he's been doing the past two months really is courageous, and it's a great example for all the young guys on the team to watch. Bruno, this one's for you.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Photo of the day..

Here's a nice shot that shows you what can happen when you turn the Presidency over to a rookie.

The President of the United States is shown here BOWING DOWN to Saudi King Abdullah.

Yesterday, when meeting the Queen of England, to whom a bow IS ordinary protocol, Obama opted for the handshake. I've got no problem with that, but practically going down on one knee for the head of a country that was home to the majority of the 9/11 hijackers is a bit much, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day at the X

Lots of April Fool's Day pranks around the country, but my favorite took place in St. Paul. While some members of the Minnesota Wild were on the ice for an optional practice, some others were busy filling teammate Eric Belanger's beautiful Mercedes with foam packing peanuts. Have fun with that cleanup, Bella!

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Mixed emotions night

Last night was a really important game for the Wild, and they played very well, only to lose 2-1 in overtime to Vancouver, a.k.a. "Satan's Team." We get one point for the tie in regulation, but not winning the OT makes it even tougher to make the playoffs.

So I left the X feeling pretty down. It's hard to watch a hockey season die, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs just aren't the same when you don't have a team involved.

But then I got to my car, and there was text message from my daughter, Corrie, who is expecting our second grandchild and had undergone an ultrasound yesterday. It's a boy! Absolutely wonderful news, and suddenly the fact that the Wild lost a game didn't seem that important. Here's what I wrote on my Facebook page:

"With their first-round pick in the 2028 NHL draft, the Minnesota Wild select Sergei / Cal / Wayne / Mikko / Gordie / Pierre-Marc / Brian / Whatever Westphall."

Let's hope so! :)