Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How liberals view free speech

Meet Karen "Largemouth" Bass. She is the Speaker of the California Assembly, which makes her the most powerful Democrat in the Golden State.

California, of course, is in the worst fiscal condition of all the states, due in part to the ridiculous spending habits of the past 10 years. California's government spending has far outpaced the rate of inflation, largely because the public employee unions (huge contributors to Ms. Bass and her fellow Democrats) exercise powerful control over the legislature.

This past session, Bass led the way for the liberal knee-jerk response to a crisis: Raise taxes. Despite having one of the highest tax rates in the nation - and a business tax structure that is driving hundreds of thousands of jobs out of the state - she saw a tax increase as the only way out.

In response, California conservatives - including a number of talk radio hosts - opposed the tax increases, and let their legislators know that they would not accept tax hikes. Ms. Bass was asked about the role of talk radio in opposing the proposed tax hikes, and here's what she told the Los Angeles Times:

"The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: "You vote for revenue and your career is over." I don't know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it's about free speech, but it's extremely unfair."

Got that? Letting your representative know you are against tax increases equals terrorism. Producing obscene art with a government grant is "free speech," of course, but if you dare to question the need for higher taxes, you are a terrorist.

Note to Ms. Bass: Here's the text of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. I've bold-faced the points of emphasis you should make yourself familiar with. The Constitution remains in effect, even under the Obama administration, and even in the People's Republic of California.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Life Well-Lived

Those who know me know how much I revere military veterans, and over the weekend the remarkable story of Kenneth Reusser came to my attention. I don't have much to add to this AP story, except to express my incredible admiration for what Mr. Reusser, and my my renewed pride in a society and culture that produces men like him. Here's the story, and RIP, Colonel Reusser.

Most-decorated Marine pilot dies at 89

CLACKAMAS, OREGON (AP) — Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser, called the most decorated Marine aviator in history and was shot down in three wars, has died at age 89.

Reusser flew 253 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was shot down in all three, five times in all.

His 59 medals included two Navy Crosses, four Purple Hearts and two Legions of Merit.

In 1945, while based in Okinawa, he stripped down his F4U-4 Corsair fighter and intercepted a Japanese observation plane at a high altidude. When his guns froze, he flew his fighter into the observation plane, hacking off its tail with his propeller.

In 1950 in Korea led an attack on a North Korean tank-repair facility at Inchon, then destroyed an oil tanker almost blowing himself out of the sky.

In Vietnam he flew helicopters and was leading a rescue mission when his Huey was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35 percent of his badly burned body.

Reusser, who lived in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, was born Jan. 27, 1920, the son of a minister.

Reusser raced motorcycles to help pay for college and earning a pilots license before WWII.

After retiring from the Marine Corps he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. He remained active in veterans groups.

Reusser died June 20 of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, Trudy; and sons, Richard C. and Kenneth L. Jr. Interment was Friday in Willamette National Cemetery.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Live blogging the NHL draft

Welcome, everyone...Just minutes away and we already have our first deal. Defenseman Chris Pronger is apparently on his way to the Philadelphia Flyers (assuming, of course, that his wife approves!) which gives Philly one more cheap-shot artist who's afraid to fight. Just what they need.

Also a possible surprise at #1. Late rumors have the Islanders passing on BOTH John Tavares and Victor Hedman to take Brampton's Matt Duchene. We'll know in a few minutes.

6:11 pm. - Islanders are on the clock, and it would be a real shock for Tavares if he isn't taken #1, which has been the expectation ever since his great performance at the World Juniors last Christmas. Personally, I like "building block" defensemen a lot, and Hedman seems to be that kind of d-man.

6:14 - 20,000 Islander fans in the Nassau Coliseum, most of whom want Tavares.

6:16 - Early Wild news: Petr Kalus is coming back. He's the Czech player we got in the Manny Fernandez deal. He was upset when he didn't make the roster last year, and left Houston for Europe after a couple weeks. Apparently that didn't work out well, and now he's coming back. I was very high on him, and hope it works this time.

6:17 - Here's Garth Snow....and the pick is.....John Tavares! Islander fans love it, and it seems like the safe pick. What strikes me about Tavares is how mature he seems for an 18-year-old. Great players in Canada start getting media attention early on, and so he's already comfortable in front of the microphones. Very poised.

Tampa on the clock. Hedman seems like a no-brainer.

6:26 - It's Hedman. This is a guy you can build a franchise around. Avalanche on the clock.

6:37 - Avalanche take Matt Duchene, so Wild fans will get a good look at him the next few years. Thrashers on the clock.

It's ironic that Chris Pronger got traded today. The Tavares/Hedman discussion mirrored the 1993 draft, when forward Alexander Daigle and defenseman Chris Pronger were the clear top two. After much debate, the Ottawa Senators chose Daigle, who turned out to be a big bust. (He did a little time with the Wild at the end of his career.) Pronger turned into a big jerk, but a pretty effective player, and Hartford was happy to take him at #2. It could turn out that Hedman is the better player.

TSN just showed a cute picture of Duchene is his room as a 15-year-old, wearing an Avalanche jersey, with framed Roy and Sakic jerseys on the wall. Now he's a grown-up Avalanche.

6:45 - Evander Kane goes to Atlanta....Big, strong player. He was named after Evander Holyfield.

6:50 LA Kings are on the clock. Brayden Schenn is next, a player Toronto is known to covet (they pick #7)...Possible deal?

6:55 - This draft is ticking me off because everyone feels obligated to pass along everything in both French and English, in deference to the ridiculous Quebicois. Enough of the Pepe LePew show, just pick the players!

The Kings, who have good young players AND available cap space, coiuld be scary next year. Now they added Brayden Schenn. His brother went #5 last year to Toronto.

The Phoenix/Hamilton/Mars Coyotes are on the clock.

7:03 - The Desert Dogs take Oliver Eckman-Larson, a talented Swedish forward who probably won't be here until the 2010-2011 season. Now come the Maple Leafs.

There are a number of talented Europeans available, but Toronto GM Brian Burke isn't always very high on Europeans. He has said - and I admire this - that he wants "kids who grew up dreaming about the Stanley Cup," which of course means Canadian kids. Burke is a former Edina guy, and has a reputation as a bit of a pompous ass, but he has won wherever he goes.

7:10 - Nazem Kadri to the Leafs...TSN had good audio of Burke talking to Ottawa's Brian Murray, and Murray looks unhappy now that Kadri is gone.

I have a good friend, Gary Harker, who is a scout for Toronto and is sitting at the draft table. He was with the Kings when they drafted a Japanese goalie a few years ago, and now he's there for the Kadri pick. I think that makes him the first scout in NHL history to have the Japanese/Lebanese Daily Double on his resume.

7:20 - Dallas takes Scott Glennie, meaning there's some European offensive talent available. If the Wild are going to make a deal to move down, it should happen pretty soon.

7:27 - The Euros are falling. Senators take Jared Cowen, a big physical d-man, and yet another Canadian.

Now we're moving into the territory where Gopher Jordan Schroeder could be chosen. He's a talented player, but there are questions about his size, (5-foot-8, 175) even though he was one of the strongest players at the combine. I wouldn't mind seeing the Wild take him, although he's similar to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and most teams only need one small playmaking-type player. I would hate to see P-Marc go - he's maybe my favorite Wild player - but if we could make a deal for him, I could live with it.

7:33 - Oilers on the clock, and Magnus Pajaarvi-Svennson is still there. Fast, big player, and Edmonton has a history of Europeans.

7:35 - Yes, they take him. Predators up next, Wild after that.

7:44 - Ryan Ellis to the Preds, good defenseman. Wild are on the clock, and the two local boys - Schroeder and Nick Leddy - are available. I'm not one of those people who thinks we need to have Minnesotans - I'd be happy to win the Cup with 20 Lithuanians - but here's a chance to take a good one. (Unlike Parise, Okposo, Kessel and others who were chosen before we drafted.)

7:51 - Looks like the Wild are trading the pick...Less than a minute to go.

It's a trade...We move down to the 16th spot and give the Islanders the 12 pick...we also get the 77th and 182nd pick. Islanders take Calvin DeHann, which means the Wild could have their pick of Zach Kassian, John Moore or Schroeder.

8:04 - Oops, Kassian goes to Buffalo. Would have been nice to have.

The Wild trade now gives them nine total picks in this draft. New GM Cliff Fletcher is trying to restock the cupboard after the previous regime traded away draft picks like popcorn.

8:08 - Florida takes Dimitri Kulokov, the 1st Russian taken, and a kid who fell from an expected top-10 position. Hard shot, good size and he's already been playing Canadian juniors, instead of staying home among all the intrigue that seems to go along with Russian players and potential problems with the Kontinental Hockey League.

Ducks up next, then Wild. Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune thinks the Wild are hot for Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie. If that's true, they could keep trading down several more picks, because he'll still be available.

8:18 - Ducks take Peter Holland, who was the 24-th ranked player on Bob McKenzie's draft board. (McKenzie is the Canadian Mel Kiper, Jr. and a broadcaster for TSN.) The ever-provincial TSN reports that 11 of the first 15 players taken are Canadians.

Wild brass moving towards the podium, holding a jersey...no trade of this pick. TSN thinks Wild are feeling pressure to take Schroeder.

8:21 - Nick Leddy!! Last year's Mr. Hockey from Eden Prarie. Won't be a Wild for a couple of years, or at least one...Headed for the Gophers.

He's also the first player taken from the Upper Midwest High School Elite League, one of my clients.

Last time the Wild chose a Minnesotan in the 1st round, he became the biggest bust of all our first-round picks, A.J. Thelen. I hope this works out, but I'm not excited about it. John Moore is still out there, Louis LeBlanc as well...some pretty good talent on the board.

Jordan Schroeder is also now in position to be the biggest "fall" of the 1st round. Again, it could be his size. I don't think ANYONE thought Leddy would be the 1st American chosen.

Blues take David Runblad, the 4th Swede to go in the 1st round. Home-town Canadiens are on the clock.

8:35 - Canadiens made their local folks happy by taking Louis LeBlanc, a Montreal-born player and the first Frenchie taken in the draft. He's been playing in Omaha of the USHL, and is headed for Harvard next year.

8:45 - Rangers take Chris Kreider, another college-bound player (Boston College). He's the first Massachusetts player in six years to go in the first round. Great skater. Schroeder still waiting.....

8:53 - New Jersey trades up to take Calgary's pick....Lou Lamoriello likes college kids, and has as many American players as anyone...

Nope...Jacob Josefson, another Swede, goes to the Devils.

9:00 - Columbus takes John Moore, who has signed with Colorado College. Three hours and counting for Schroeder.

9:08 - Satan's Team is on the clock, and they roll out Roberto Luongo (Montreal native) to make the pick. Luongo mispronounces Schroeder's last name, but it's the end of Jordan's nightmare..He's finally selected, even if he now will have to play in front of toothless, illiterate fans every night.

9:14 - Calgary takes Tim Erixon...ANOTHER Swede. Big night for the Three Crowns.

9:20 - ANOTHER Swede, Marcus Johanson becomes the 7th Swede in the 1st round. And the one I really like, Carl Klingberg (see the post from earlier this week) is still on the board.

9:28 - Peter Chiarelli, GM of Boston, just took a nice shot at the Montreal fans, saying that the entire organization was "excited to return to Montreal." The last time they were there was in April, when they completed a four-game sweep of the Canadiens. The Bruins then took Jordan Caron from one of the best-named junior teams anywhere, Rimouski Oceanic. (Sidney Crosby played there as a junior.)

9:35 - Kyle Pamlieri goes to the Ducks, 4th American chosen. He was kicked off the US Junior team last year, allegedly for having a girl in his room. Imagine that: An 18-year-old kid trying to spend time with a girl! He's off to Notre Dame, where he may have a girl or two in his room.

9:40 - Hurricanes on the clock. Philippe Paradis, perhaps the hardest shot in the draft, goes down to NASCAR land. He wasn't ranked that high (40th) and looks very surprised as he walks on stage.

This thing has now taken nearly four hours, and we could all have been off drinking Molsons now if it wasn't for the time wasted pandering to the Frenchies in the crowd.

Chicago is up next. It's not so easy picking a Kane or Toews when you're drafting in the 28th spot, is it?

9:46 - Dylan Olsen, a UMD signee, goes to Chicago. Two picks left, and Simon Despres, Carter Ashton and Landon Ferraro (Ray's kid) are all still on the board. At least one of them will have to wait for tomorrow.

9:48 - Tampa has someone they want, and just switched their 2nd round pick (#32) for Detroit's #29. I think Detroit is going to take my boy Klingberg, and they know they can get him tomorrow.

9:54 - It's Carter Ashton, a big 6-2 forward that a lot of people thought would go much earlier. The Penguins will pick next, and the evening will be over.

9:58 - Simon Despres goes to Pittsburgh, ending the first round. It all starts again at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

There was a lot of talk this week about the Wild making a deal, moving Harding, trying to get Heatly, etc. So I guess right now I feel a little let down, but there's always tomorrow. We've obtained a couple draft picks, and maybe the boys in the front office can leverage that into something. Good night for now.

All the money in the world can't buy class

The Los Angeles Times reports (see story here) that John Kerry - you remember him, the guy that lost to George W. Bush even worse than Al Gore did - made a little attempt at humor the other night.

The talk at a Capitol Hill party was about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose whereabouts at the time were unknown. (Though it later turned out that he'd been in South America with his mistress....another day, another story.)

Trying to be funny, Kerry said "Too bad if a governor had to go missing, it couldn't have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin."

Yes, John, we know who the governor of Alaska is. First of all, if you have to explain the joke, it's not funny. Secondly, what a tasteless joke for a U.S. Senator to make about another public official.

Since I am not a senator, or any other public official, I feel free to make a parallel "joke," which is this:

"Too bad if a senator from Massachusetts had to get brain cancer, it had to be Ted Kennedy."

UPDATE: I was alerted by my good friend and former Gopher hockey great Brian Zins that Palin had already responded. At the end of this video she says she heard the joke, saw John Kerry on TV and thought, "John, why the long face?" Great line! The lady can take care of herself!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just so I can say "I told you so"......

Because it's 90 degrees and muggy outside, my thoughts naturally turn to hockey. Actually, it's because the NHL Draft is this weekend, with the first round Friday night and the final six rounds on Saturday.

It promises to be an exciting weekend for our Minnesota Wild. With new GM Cliff Fletcher and new Coach Todd Richards in place, the team is reportedly looking to make some deals, which may or may not include trading down from our #12 draft position in the first round.

Ottawa sniper Dany Heatly is reportedly available, and there's still the melodrama around Marian Gaborik (see April 9 post...I still want him back), but it seems likely that the Wild roster will look much different by Monday morning.

It's easy to pick out the first two or three players in the draft, but the main reason for this post is that I wanted to be on record in saying that the steal of this draft will be a Swedish winger named Carl Klingberg.

Most projections have him going late in the first round, or maybe even early in the second, but I have it on good authority that this kid is the real deal. He's huge: 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, skates well and has a hard shot. He started the year playing in juniors, and by the end of the season played 10 games with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League. He won't be a big name this weekend, but when he scores 35 goals for someone in 2012 and everyone says "where'd he come from?", then I want to be able to point back to this post and say "I told you so."

Here's a picture of young Mr. Klingberg. How is it that a socialist society like Sweden has been able to resist the political correctness fascists and can still call a team the "Indians" and have this logo?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More great moments in government spending

As reported here, the New York City school system is spending about $65 million a year to pay a few hundred teachers NOT TO TEACH.

Turns out that union rules make it very, very difficult to fire a teacher accused of misconduct, so instead, the teachers simply report to what is known as the "rubber room" and do what they want for eight hours a day. Play games, surf the web, chat on their cell phones...whatever gets them through the day.

The story says stints of "two to three years are common," and that some teachers have been pulling down their paychecks for five or six years, at a rate of $70,000 a year or more. Of course, as teachers, they get to go home for the summer.

According to the story, Los Angeles does the same thing for a couple hundred teachers, and it's not unheard of in other cities as well.

Just another something to keep in mind the next time a politician tells you taxes have to be raised because the budgets have been "cut to the bone."

Your tax dollars at "work."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day, 2009

The day began with the start of the second round of the 2009 Red Wing Invitational Golf tournament. I played poorly on Saturday, and only slightly better on Sunday, and finished in a tie for 5th, which frustrates me to no end.

The day got much better, however, as I got phone calls or visits from all four of the kids, who looked like this in about 1990:

and now look like this today:

There was also a visit from the Smartest Little Girl in the Universe. Anne is now 21 months, and hard at work on her piano skills.

Just a good day all around.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rhymes with "witch"

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has always had a reputation as an arrogant diva, and she enhanced that reputation yesterday during a committee hearing, when she instructed a Brigadier General to stop calling here "Ma'am" and instead address her as "Senator."

It's especially noteworthy that she doesn't have the common courtesy to address the General as "General." She simply interrupts him to demand the title that she "worked so hard" for.

It reminded me of the first day I went to work for Sen. Rudy Boschwitz. I had spent the previous six months working in the Minnesota State Senate, and all of us on staff were under strict orders to address all of the senators - a collection of farmers, insurance agents, grocers, etc. - as "Senator."

So, on my first day with Rudy, I addressed him several times as "Senator." After the third or fourth time, he pulled me aside and said "You can do what you want, but I really prefer to be called 'Rudy.'"

When you have genuine class, you don't really need a title, which is a lesson lost on Ms. Boxer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That was then, this is now.

At this moment, Iran is experiencing its "Tiananman Square" moment as millions of its citizens take to the streets, enraged by the recent fraudulent election that left President Ahmadinejad in office.

To most Americans, the face of Iran is that of the Ayatollahs and other hard-line Islamic clerics that enforce a thuggish, repressive rule over its people. But beneath that facade is a citizenry that would like to see the country step out of the 19th century and embrace western values like democracy and human rights. The ruling Mullahs - and their puppet, Ahmadinejad - want no part of that, and they are responding to the street protests in the same way the Chinese did to the students at Tiananan, with brutality, bullets and death. (Below is the picture of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue built by the students at Tiananman Square.)

In the past, people who found the courage to rise up against dictators have usually experienced support from the United States. But sadly, the Obama administration seems determined to sit this one out.

When the Communist Polish government imposed martial law in 1981, trying to crush the Solidarity movement, here's what President Reagan had to say:

"As I speak to you tonight, the fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance. For a thousand years, Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed by their own government.

The men who rule them and their totalitarian allies fear the very freedom that the Polish people cherish. They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force, killings, mass arrests, and the setting up of concentration camps....By persecuting Solidarity the Polish Government wages war against its own people.

I urge the Polish Government and its allies to consider the consequences of their actions. How can they possibly justify using naked force to crush a people who ask for nothing more than the right to lead their own lives in freedom and dignity? Brute force may intimidate, but it cannot form the basis of an enduring society, and the ailing Polish economy cannot be rebuilt with terror tactics."

In his 2nd innaugural, President Bush again stated our commitment to those fighting tyranny:

"And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. And we are ready to lead once more."

From the current White House, however, we only get things like "My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place."

Oh, well then...as long as the dictators are going to look into things, I guess it's okay for the United States to just look the other way.

For an even better take on this whole matter, take a moment to read Jonah Golberg here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A great customer experience

I've been known to complain loudly when I feel I've had a bad experience with a retailer or service organization, so I think I should probably say something when I have a great experience with a company.

For the past couple of years, I've done the PR for the charity golf tournament run by former Wild (now Dallas Stars) player Mark Parrish. At last year's tournament, the gift bag for participants included a pair of shoes from one of our sponsors, Crocs.

Crocs have been around for a few years, and are the rubbery, vented, one-piece shoes (For those of you unfamiliar, here's a picture) that I always thought looked kind of goofy. Actually, I still think they look kind of goofy, but I've gotten over it. The first time I tried them on, I was amazed at how comfortable they were. I've gotten in the habit of wearing them whenever I think I can get away with it. They make a great summer shoe, when you can wear them with shorts, or even with a pair of khakis for a picnic or other casual event.

A couple of weeks ago, I was carrying some things down a flight of stairs and the strap got caught on something along the wall. When I tugged my foot loose, the plastic rivet that holds the Croc strap to the shoe broke and the strap popped loose on one end. I was upset at the thought of having to actually go purchase another pair.

But first I went to the internet to look for a solution. As with so many other things (car repairs, recipes, golf course recommendations, etc.) chances are that someone out there has had the same problem and decided to write about it. I assumed someone would have figured out how to repair or replace a Croc rivet.

What I was pleased to learn was that the good folks at Crocs were WAY ahead of me. Turns out that if you break a Croc rivet - or even if you break the Croc strap - all you have to do is visit their web site at http://www.crocs.com/, give them your style, color and size, and they will send you replacements absolutely FREE!

So I keyed in my information, and a few days later a package arrived at my house with a dozen replacement rivets. The new one snapped right into place, and my Crocs are good as new.

I also learned from the web site that Crocs is now producing a Crocs golf shoe. Same comfort, same style, with golf spikes set into the soles. Thanks to their great product - and even greater customer service - I'm ready to order a new pair today.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back home again

Finally arrived back home late Saturday night after attending the wedding of a friend's son in Decorah, Iowa. The trip was wonderful, but it felt good to be back in my own bed. Got our for a round of golf today, and shot a season-best 81.

An amazing coincidence at the wedding reception on Saturday: I saw a friend who used to live in Red Wing, but who has retired up in the Wisconsin woods. I started telling him about my Colorado trip, and referenced the 10th Mountain Division (see post below). Turns out his father was one of the those 10th Mountain Division soldiers! He knew all about their training near Leadville, CO, the battles in Italy, etc. At one point a German artillery shell fell near his father's foxhole, and while his father was knocked unconscious, he recovered and went on to fight. Years later, when his father was in is 60s, he visited a dentist to have a toothache treated. A dental x-ray revealed a piece of shrapnel in his mouth that had been in there for more than 40 years!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Still learning after all these years.

Greetings from beautiful Vail, CO, where I'm spending a few days of R&R before heading back towards Minnesota. But what I had intended as a slow, lazy day turned into an educational one.

Out on a morning walk, I came across this statue, honoring the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who fought in World War II. I had a vague recollection of reading about a division of skiing U.S. soldiers, but knew virtually nothing about them. I admired the statue for a moment and moved on.

Later in the day, I took off on a drive that my former boss, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, had recommended. (Rudy was gracious enough to let me use his Vail residence this week.) The drive first went through spectacular Glenwood Canyon, west of Vail, then turned up towards Aspen on Colorado Hwy. 82.

At Aspen, Hwy. 82 turns back towards the east, and becomes a long, winding two-lane road, climbing towards Independence Pass, which is at just over 12,000 feet of elevation, positioned near Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, two of the highest peaks in the lower 48 United States. I'm not always the best guy when dealing with heights, particularly on a narrow road that didn't always have guard rails between me and fall of several thousand feet, and it was a difficult drive. I crawled along the road, trying to keep my eyes from looking over the edge.

I finally reached the pass, took a moment to enjoy the view and headed back down the other side of the mountain. After another 30 or 40 minutes of white-knuckle driving, I ended up in Leadville, Colorado, a former mining town that appears to have fallen on tough times. The drive had been pretty tiring. After a brief stop in Leadville, I headed north toward the interstate, on the road back to Vail.

Just north of Leadville, I slammed on the brakes as I saw a sign for the "10th Mountain Division Monument." Just off the road I found this large tablet, honoring the 990 men who lost their lives as part of 10th Mountain Division. Next to the tablet was a history of the Division, and here's what I learned:

"In November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Finnish soldiers on skis annihilated two tank divisions, humiliating the Russians. Charles Minot (Minnie) Dole, the president of the National Ski Patrol, saw this as a perfect example of why the U.S. Army needed mountain troops. Dole spent months lobbying the War Department to train troops in mountain and winter warfare. In September 1940, Dole was able to present his case to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, who caused the Army take action on Dole’s proposals to create ski units.

The 10th Mountain Division was activated on July 15, 1943 at Camp Hale, Colorado as the 10th Light Division (Alpine). "

In the display was this picture of the 10th Mountain Division training. They are traveling - on skis - from Camp Hale, near Leadville - over the Independence Pass and down to Aspen, a trip that took them 3-1/2days.

That's right, the same trip I had just made in a car, and considered a difficult drive, was a trip they made ON SKIS simply as part of their training!

Once they completed their training and were sent to Europe, these soldiers quickly made their mark in the Italian Alps. Their first battle came at a place known as Riva Ridge. The story:

"The division entered combat on January 28, 1945 in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy. The division faced German positions arrayed along the 5 mile long Monte Belvedere-Monte della Torraccia ridge. Other divisions had attempted to assault Mount Belvedere three times, even holding it temporarily, but none had succeeded. To get to Mount Belvedere the division first had to take a ridge line to the west known to the Americans as the Riva Ridge. After much scouting, it was decided the assault would be at night, a 1,500-vertical-assent. The Germans considered the ridge to be impossible to scale and manned it with only one battalion of mountain troops. The attack on February 18, 1945, was a complete success and an unwelcome surprise to the Germans.

Mount Belvedere was assaulted next. Belvedere was heavily manned and protected with minefields. Again the surprise of the assault was successful and after a hard fight, the peak was captured. Realizing the importance of the peak, the Germans made seven counterattacks over two days. After the first three days of intense combat, the division lost 850 casualties to include 195 dead. The 10th had captured over 1,000 prisoners. The 10th was now in a position to breach the German's Apennine Mountain line, take Highway 65 and open the way to the Po Valley.

On April 14, 1945, the final phase of the war in Italy began. The 10th Mountain Division attacked toward the Po Valley spearheading the Fifth Army drive. The fighting was fierce with the loss of 553 mountain infantryman killed, wounded, or missing in the first day."

The 10th Mountain Division took part in several other battles before major hostilities ended in Italy in May of 1945. They were being redeployed to Japan in August when the Japanese surrendered, effectively ending the war. The unit returned to Camp Carson, Colorado, and was disbanded on November 30, 1945.

Clearly these men were heroes, taking part in heavy combat, and doing it all of it on skis and snowshoes, in cold weather, at high altitude. I cannot imagine the bravery and dedication it took.

Even after the war, they continued to serve their communities. From the division's history:

"Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division were in a large part responsible for the development of skiing into a big name sport and popular vacation industry after World War II. Ex-soldiers from the 10th laid out ski hills, built ski lodges, designed ski lifts and improved ski equipment. They started ski magazines and opened ski schools. Vail, Aspen, Sugarbush, Crystal Mountain, and Whiteface Mountain are but a few of the ski resorts built by 10th Mountain veterans."

This morning, I barely knew of the existence of the 10th Mountain Division, and tonight I feel honored to have learned their story, and I'm grateful for their service. That feels like a pretty good day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spacious skies, fruited plains. Up next: Purple mountains majesties.

I drove across most of South Dakota yesterday, on my way to Erin's wedding reception in Colorado Springs, and last night I had the privilege of being at Mt. Rushmore for the nightly lighting ceremony. It's not the first time I've been to this wonderful spot in the Black Hills, but every time is memorable.

The ceremony starts promptly at 9:00 p.m., with a 10-minute talk by one of the park rangers. Then a short film is shown (The park has a wonderful amphitheater, complete with a huge move screen on the stage) telling the story of the monument's construction and providing brief bios of the four presidents. When the film is over, the lights are turned on, and the audience is invited to stand and sing the National Anthem.

Once that is complete, the ranger invited every former and active member of the armed forces to come to the stage for the flag-lowering ceremony. I counted 79 men and women who made their way down, and stood at attention as the flag was lowered. Then the ranger passed the microphone to let every one of them say their name and service branch. The few hundred of us in the crowd gave them a huge ovation.

It was a wonderful night of unabashed patriotism, and a celebration of the American story. I know the Black Hills aren't the most convenient place to get to, but it's well worth the journey.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Math is hard" said the Barbie doll, and it's true for this guy as well.

It was just a few weeks ago that we had the President believing that people in Austria spoke "Austrian," which - (See April 18 post) - is easily as stupid as anything Dan Quayle ever said.

Now comes the genius' assertion that the United States is "One of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

So I guess we can add math to the list of subjects he has trouble with. Estimates vary, but the most credible consensus is that there are somewhere between 1.8 and 2.8 million Muslims in America. (And not all of these are Americans...a large percentage are nationals of other counties.)

So let's take the top number and round it up, so we'll stipulate to three million Muslims in this country. Does that make us "One of the largest Muslim countries in the world?" Well, let's look at the list:

The top five countries by number of Muslims

Indonesia 200 million

India 196 million

Pakistan 165 million

Bangladesh 132 million

Egypt 75 million

The list goes on....Iran, Morocco, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia...and there's more...Mali, Niger, Senegal......Tunisia, Somalia, Guinea. Even a country most Americans have never heard of, Burkina Faso, has more than seven million Muslims.

Finally, somewhere around 52 on the list - below such well-known Muslim counties as Thailand and Germany - comes the United States and its three million or so Muslims.

So, obviously you can see why the President would call the U.S. "One of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

Again, let's imagine that Dan Qualye, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin or any conservative had said something this stupid. The laughter at the Washington Post, New York Times and The Daily Show would have been defeaning. But when you're a diversity hire, you get a free pass.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

First wedding photo

The pictures are a little slow coming in...apparently we don't get the ones from the professional photographer for a while, and the ones taken by friends and family are not getting to me very quickly.

But here is one of the wedding party, taken at the great spot on Memorial Bluff in Red Wing where we spent about 90 minutes taking about 10,000 pictures. Fortunately the weather was great, the breeze was gentle and it was all a lot of fun.

Todd and Erin are currently honeymooning near Breckendridge, CO, and will be having a reception in Todd's hometown of Colorado Springs on Saturday. I'll try to report from the road.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Returning Soon...

Hi gang - Sorry for the lack of posting, but it's been a hectic few days. My daughter Erin was married on Saturday, and what with the wedding, the rehearsal, picking up - and dropping off - people at the airport, picking up tuxedos, etc., I just haven't found time to write. Lots to talk about though, and I'll get right back on it tomorrow.