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?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The guy who saved my golf game

I've been playing golf since about age 9, and am virtually self-taught. My dad had no interest in the game, and my high school golf coach's only qualification was the ability to drive a van to and from meets, so I was sort of on my own when it came to learning.

I picked up lots of instruction books, listened to guys on TV, watched other golfers and over the years managed to cobble together a halfway decent swing without ever having taken a formal lesson. It was good enough to let me shoot in the mid-80s pretty consistently, and even drop down into the 70s once in a while.

When my children came along, my time for golf diminished, and my meager skills did as well. But the time William was 10 and was interested in learning to golf, it was a real struggle for me to break 90. I couldn't seem to find the swing of my youth, and didn't understand the mechanics of the swing well enough to fix it myself. I was frustrated, and didn't always enjoy the idea of going to the course.

And then along came Harvey Penick and "Harvey Penick's Little Red Book."

Harvey was a club pro in Austin, Texas, who toiled in relative anonymity for most of his life. He was a bit of a guru among teaching pros, and later in life he gained a small bit of fame when two of his pupils - Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw - became great pros. But until he was past age 80, few people outside Austin had heard of Penick.

During all his years of teaching, he had been making notes in a small red notebook that only a few people knew about. Sometimes someone would mention that he should write a book, but he pretty much kept the notebook to himself.

Finally, in the early '90s, he allowed a Texas writer - Bud Shrake - to see the notebook, and asked if Shrake could turn it into a book. Shrake talked to a publisher, and came back to Harvey to say that, yes, it could be made into a book, and he threw out a dollar figure. "I'm not sure I can raise that kind of money," Penick said, not understanding that it was the amount to be paid TO him.

In 1992, when Penick was 87 years old, Harvey Penick's Little Red Book was published, and it took the golf world by storm. It quickly sold a million copies, and became the best-selling sports book of all time.

It's not designed to be read cover-to-cover. It's full of little one- and two-page tidbits of folksy wisdom, all of which lead back to Harvey's biggest piece of advice, "Take dead aim."

I got a copy in about 1994, and started soaking in the wisdom, and it made all the difference in the world. Using a couple of Harvey's tips that especially spoke to me, I shaved 6-7 shots off my average score, and lowered my handicap to about an 8. More importantly, golf was fun again. I was able to help William develop into an all-conference golfer in high school, and began to really cherish my time on the course.

At some point last summer, I sort of lost my swing, and the problems got worse this year. In May I played in a tournament and shot 90 on both days. My handicap ballooned to 13, then 15. When my club championship came around in August, I could manage only an 83 and 84, good for fifth place in my flight.

And it was about that time I remembered the Little Red Book. I dug through the bookshelves, drawers and closets, trying to find it, before William finally mentioned that he had seen it on a shelf in the basement.

It was like finding gold. I started flipping through the book again, found the pages that had straightened me out in the past, and went to work on several things. The change was immediate. Within a week, I shot a 74, tying my best round of the past several years. In the past month, I've played several rounds in the 70s, and my handicap is headed back to single digits. Golf is fun again, and I owe it all to Harvey and the book.

The fame that found Harvey lasted only a couple of years. In 1995, at the age of 90, he passed away. On a Wednesday in the second week of April, Crenshaw flew to Austin to serve as pallbearer for Harvey, then returned to Augusta, GA to compete in the Masters.

It had been a tough year for Crenshaw. He had missed three of the last four cuts, and hadn't broken 70 in a tournament in two months. He took to the 1st tee at Augusta less than 24 hours after burying the man who had first put a club in his hand at age 6.

For the next three days, Crenshaw hung in there, and on Sunday he shot a 68 and won his second Masters, breaking down in tears on the 18th green in one of golf's most memorable moments.

Harvey Penick touched millions of lives with his book, and I've given it as a gift to a number of friends. If you want to save some shots - and really learn to enjoy the game - find a copy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Van Jones, we hardly knew ye

Since PR is my business, I know a little bit about news cycles and how best to leverage them. And I have to admire the way the White House played the Van Jones story, aided and abetted by their friends in the mainstream media.

Jones was the White House advisor on "green jobs" who just started to become famous this past week, for all the wrong reasons. A quick look at his past showed Jones to be an avowed communist, a horrible racist and a 9/11 'truther," meaning he repeatedly expressed the belief that the U.S. government brought about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Even for an administration filled with radicals, Jones was way, way out there, and his presence was an embarrassment to the Obama administration because they either a) hired him, knowing all of the ridiculous, stupid things he had said in the past and thought they were acceptable, or b) hired him without bothering to check his background. There was no good way to spin Jones' presence as a White House advisor.

By Friday, it was obvious they had to cut Jones loose, but the PR guy in me really admires the way they did it. They released the news late on Saturday night of a holiday weekend, too late to make the Sunday newspapers, and on a holiday weekend when most big cable anchors are off-duty and won't be back until Tuesday, at which point the Jones story will be considered "old news." Give them an "A" for media spin, and a "F" for the hiring practices.

Here is one of many great Van Jones moments. He explains that "White polluters and white evironmentalists are steering poison into the people of color community." Yeah, that's what those white environmentalists do, they steer poison.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A quick economics lesson

New unemployment numbers came out today, and the news was not good. Unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.7%. It's worth noting that the Obama administration - back in January - said that if we didn't pass its "stimulus" bill, unemployment might go as high as 9.0%.

But to me, that wasn't the most interesting number in the report. Further down, you read that unemployment among teenagers is even higher, at more than 25%, even when you make a seasonal adjustment to allow for those returning to school.

Why is that? It would seem to make sense that in tough economic times, some employers could use younger, lower-skilled workers to cut labor costs. So why are teenagers finding it tougher than ever to find jobs?

It turns out that the August labor report is the first one compiled since the recent increase in the minimum wage, which increased to $7.25 at the end of July. That means that businesses made decisions that some jobs available to teenagers at $5.50 or $6.00 an hour would no longer be cost-effective at $7.25. So they stop hiring, or even eliminate those jobs.

Effectively, Congress voted to eliminate thousands of jobs for teenagers and others who are lower on the skill and education ladder. As economist James Sherk reminds us, the real minimum wage is always $0. If the cost of labor exceeds the benefit of having the work done, the employer simply doesn't hire.

For example, a golf course might decide it's worthwhile to hire a couple of kids at $5.50 an hour to clean and park golf carts throughout the day. When government mandates these kids be paid $7.25, management decides that one kid can just be asked to work harder, or someone else on the staff - the groundskeeper, the pro shop guy - can just have those duties added to their job description. Either way, some kid is out of work.

If we'd require every high school student to read Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, or at least have some basic understanding of economics, we wouldn't have - or tolerate - so many economic illiterates in Congress.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great hockey reporting

This is the time of year when the blog turns much more towards hockey and the NHL. As some of you know, I do some part-time work for the Minnesota Wild, and am at virtually every home game. (I've got about a 105-game streak going, and haven't missed a game since February of 2007. I think I've only missed 13 games since the team started in 2000.) So if you're only here for the keen, insightful political commentary, or cute pictures of my grandkids, the next few months might be a little bleak.

But before the season really gets going, I have to single out my favorite hockey writer. We're blessed in the Minnesota hockey market to have one of the very best beat writers in the NHL covering the Minnesota Wild. Mike Russo came to the Star-Tribune a few years ago from Flordia, where he covered the expansion Florida Panthers. He grew up on Long Island, watching the great Islander teams of the '80s, and has a great enthusiasm for hockey.

From my sportswriting days, I know that covering professional sports on a daily basis requires balancing a number of concerns. A reporter's first duty is to the readers, of course, who have the right to expect more than just stories about the games. The good reporter writes about tension - or lack thereof - in the locker room. He writes about trade opportunities the front office may be consdering, or opportunities they have missed. He writes about contract negotiations and draft strategies.

And to do all of that, you need to have access to players, front office personnel and sources in other NHL cities. Maintaining that acesss, while sometimes needing to be critical of decisions that are made on and off the ice, is very tricky. Russo manages to do all of that and give his readers great stories, without seeming to aggravate too many folks. (Thought it's fair to say that he and former Wild GM Doug Risebrough probably won't exchange Christmas cards this year.)

In addition to his great reporting in the Star-Tribune, Russo maintains the Russo's Rants blog, which you can read here. There's lots of great behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn't make it into the paper. Today there are two great blog posts. The first is an update on former Wild player Mark Parrish, who is not yet signed, and is trying to catch on with an NHL team. Mark is a great guy that I've gotten to know the past couple of years when I did the publicity for his annual charity golf event, and I hope he finds a team.

The second post is a Q&A with Wild defenseman Nick Schultz, who is the Wild's representative to the NHL Player's Association. The NHLPA just fired its executive director this week, and Russo asks Schultzie some tough questions about the status of the union and its approach to the next collective bargaining agreement.

If you're only going to read one blog, of course you'll want to read this one. :) But if you want to know more about what's going on with the Wild, you'll want to bookmark Russo's Rants.