Monday, August 31, 2009
Reid stumbled into the Majority Leader job when Tom Daschle of South Dakota was defeated a few years ago and it is generally agreed that he's in over his head. He's up for election next year (seeking his 5th term) and a recent poll showed him trailing both of the potential Republican opponents, one by a 49-38 margin, the other by a 45-40 spread.
The pressue must be betting to ol' Harry, because last week he violated one of the laws of public relations, which says "Never get in a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel."
As you can read here, Reid was at a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lunch last week, doing the politician's meet-and-greet with some local business folk. At one point he was introduced to a fellow who is the Director of Advertising for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. An advertising guy, remember, not someone who writes editorials or covers political stories. An advertising guy.
And how does Reid greet his hard-working, taxpaying constituent? "I hope you go out of business," he said.
Stay classy, Harry.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Way back in 1857, the Red Wing Daily Republican began publishing. The growth of Red Wing later spawned a competitor, the Daily Eagle. The two papers ended their battle in 1940, merging to become the Daily Republican Eagle. It stayed that way until 1969, when the word "Daily" was dropped from its masthead, but there are still oldsters in town that call it the "D-R-E."
My call from the Republican Eagle came in the fall of 1980, and I was very excited to go to work there. There were a number of small-town dailies in Minnesota, but Red Wing had a reputation as one of the better ones. It was owned by two very good newspapermen, Arlin Albrecht and Phil Duff. Arlin had more of a head for business, but Phil was a newspaper guy through and through, and he had very high expectations of the paper, and the people who worked for it.
Phil believed the paper had an obligation to not just tell the stories of Red Wing, but to expose the 15,000 or so residents of the area to all different kinds of viewpoints. He insisted that the paper have two full editorial pages every day, with syndicated columnists from around the world. The paper leaned conservative editorially -and had "Republican" in the name - but the editorial and op-ed pages were very balanced. You could often find Cal Thomas and the New Republic's "TRB" column running side-by-side.
I was hired for two half-time jobs. Half the time I was the wire copy editor and a page designer, the other half of the time I wrote sports, helping out the full-time sports editor. After just a few months, they liked my work enough to create a second full-time sports position for me, and give me a weekly column as well. It was a genuine honor to have Phil Duff say he liked my writing. When one of my pieces won an AP award, Phil was the first one to tell me and congratulate me.
In 1980 the daily circulation was about 10,000, in a town of only about 15,000 people. We sold papers in smaller surrounding towns such as Cannon Falls, Goodhue, Zumbrota and Kenyon, plus a couple of Wisconsin communities just across the river, so of course we had to cover their sports teams as well. For nearly five years I trekked around the area to every football field, basketball gym and hockey rink to cover games, write features and meet the kinds of wonderful people you meet in small-town athletics.
As a daily paper, we could also get credentials for the Vikings, Twins, North Stars and Gophers, and because the sports editor was a fairly sedentary fellow who didn't like to leave town, I took advantage of the opportunities and learned a lot about covering big-time sports.
It was a great training ground for a young journalist, and it was a lively, vibrant newspaper that won a lot of awards, produced some great journalism and was deeply involved in the community. I left in 1985 to go to work in the Minnesota legislature, and it was shortly thereafter that the paper began its decline, though my departure had nothing to do with it.
First, Phil Duff retired. We didn't always see eye-to-eye politically - he became much more liberal as he aged - but Phil had a great curiosity about the world that was reflected in his writing. I remember driving Phil and my then-boss, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, in about 1990 or 1991, talking about the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union. We had a great discussion about whether the Soviets had collapsed from their own internal decay, or whether the collapse had been forced by Reagan and the U.S.' Cold War stances. When Phil retired, a great deal of the R-E's energy went with him, even though he wrote a column for some time before his death.
The paper had also moved its offices from an old building in the heart of downtown to a new plant on the outside of town, a move that largely isolated the staff from much of Red Wing.
Albrecht - demonstrating very shrewd business acumen - sold the R-E and his other papers to Forum Publishing, meaning the paper no longer had local ownership.
By the late '90s, - as the entire newspaper industry was trying to understand how to deal with the advent of the Internet - the quality of the publication was in serious decline. You could take any issue at random and pick out a handful of typos or grammatical errors. The low pay of small-town dailies contributed to a revolving door that robbed the paper of its institutional memory, and created a dearth of quality writing.
The handwriting has been on the wall for some time. A few years ago they dropped the Monday edition to cut costs. I remember the parent of a Red Wing high school hockey player saying - after a Saturday afternoon game - "That was a good game. I can't wait to read about it in Tuesday's paper." That reflected the way the paper had become irrelevant to most of Red Wing. There was a time when you could start a conversation by saying, "Did you see the story in the R-E....." and most people would nod their head. Today you are more likely to hear, "Really? You still get the paper?"
Even the paper's attempt at joining the Internet age was flawed. Its web site was slow, hard to navigate and remained so even after a recent update. Circulation has dropped to about 6,000, less than half of what it was about 30 years ago. Now they will publish only twice a week, and with only local content.
Red Wing is a wonderful city in so many ways, and one of the things that made it special was having an involved, vibrant daily newspaper. And while I understand that the Internet has dealt a mortal blow to much of the newspaper business - and deservedly so, in most cases - it tugs at my heart to see the R-E die. It gave me my first full-time paycheck, helped me become a better writer and will always have a special place in my heart.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
It wasn't supposed to be unveiled until Saturday at the State Fair, but pics of the new Minnesota Wild 3rd sweater leaked out today. My first impression is that I'm very underwhelmed.
I confess, I never liked our green sweater back in the early days when we had just the green and white. I've always been a huge fan of the red sweater, which was the original "3rd" sweater and then became our regular home sweater a couple years ago. I didn't mind that they dropped the original green version.
It looks a bit like the Western Conference sweaters from the NHL All-Star Game that was played at the X back in 2004. We should see it for six or seven home games this season. Perhaps it will grow on me, but for now, I'd rather stick with the red. Red is a much better color, and a number of NHL teams use red as a primary or secondary color. Outside of Dallas, I don't think a Stanley Cup has ever been won by a team wearing green as a primary color.
(Brent Burns is the model. Hope the concussions have healed, big guy.)
UPDATE: Here are a couple of the "concepts" that were being thrown around for the 3rd sweater. If they had to go green, I would have been much more excited about this one, with the diagonal lettering, but I really would have liked the white one (technically, the color is "Minnesota Wheat") with the round logo. I love our round logo, which made its debut along with the red 3rd sweater back in 2005.
They were the team of Brooks Robinson, (left) the best 3rd baseman ever. They were the team of Frank Robinson and Boog Powell and Mark Belanger. They had the only pitching staff with four 20-game winners (Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson, 1971) and when their first generations of stars moved along, in came superstars like Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken (below). In addition to breaking Lou Gehrig's "ironman" record, Ripken may be the classiest person ever to wear a major-league uniform.
Angelos' meddling set the club on the path to mediocrity, and the end of "The Oriole Way." The last winning season they had was 1997. In the last eight seasons, their BEST finish was 21 games out of first place. They have failed to win more than 70 games in their last three seasons, and attendance at Camden Yards - which peaked at 3.7 million in the 1990s - dropped to under two million last year.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
At the other end of the spectrum is Ted Kennedy. I realize we shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I'm not sure that rule applies to the near-dead, so I'm going to take another swing. Ted has spent years being one of the most reprehensible humans on the planet. From the time he left Mary Jo Kopchne to drown in the back seat of his car in 1969, to the character assassination of Robert Bork in 1987, right on to the present day, he's been a bastion of hypocrisy and an enemy of decent society.
The "do as I say, not as I do" attitude is all over his life. He calls himself Roman Catholic, but advocates abortion on demand. He considers himself a champion of women's rights, but has been a serial user and abuser of women his entire life. He wants to send the American economy back to the stone age by mandating wind and solar power, but has waged a decade-long fight against wind generators off the cape of Nantucket.
His latest outrage comes in the form of a request to the Massachusetts legislature regarding the rules for replacing a vacant Senate seat. Each state may create its own process for replacing a senator who dies or leaves office, and most states allow the governor to appoint someone until the next election comes around.
In 2004, however, Ted and his Bay State democrats thought Senator John Kerry was going to be the next president of the United States. (That alone says a lot about their judgment.) But if Kerry had won, the law would have allowed Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to appoint a replacement. Since Romney was a Republican, that outcome was unacceptable to Ted and his cronies, so the (overwhelmingly Democrat) Massachusetts legislature changed the law, prohibiting the governor from appointing an interim senator, and requiring that the seat be left vacant until a special election could be called "145 to 160 days after a vacancy occurs."
Now, with death around the corner and the Democrats holding 60 votes (the filibuster-proof number of seats) in the Senate, Ted's had a change of heart. He wrote a letter to the governor and legislature this week, expressing his concern that, in the event of a vacancy, it "concerns me deeply" that Massachusetts could go 145 days with only one senator.
He even is able to - with a straight face - write “I strongly support that law and the principle that the people should elect their Senator," while at the same time urging the repeal of a law that provides for just that.
It's typical of the entire Kennedy clan: There is no law or principle that can stand in the way of political expedience.
Regardless of who eventually fills this seat, the country will be better off without a Senator Kennedy.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The White House insisted that she was a "law-and-order" judge, and even trotted out Joe "Pinnochio" Biden to tell a law enforcement group "she has your back."
Well, she cast her first vote yesterday, and we now know the White House was lying. A convicted hitman from Ohio, Jason Getsy, asked the Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence. In 1995 Getsy tried to kill - in a murder-for-hire plot - an Ohio man named Charles Serafino. Getsy shot Serafino seven times, and though Serafino lived, Getsy killed Serafino's mother in the attack.
Getsy's lawyers never denied that he had done the crime: Their defense focused only on getting Getsy life in prison, rather than lethal injection. Even Ohio's liberal governor, Ted Strickland, was repulsed by the crime, and refused to stop the execution.
So Getsy appealed to the Supremes, and Sotomayor voted to stop the execution. Fortunately, most of her colleagues disagreed, and the court voted 5-4 to deny his appeal.
The people of Ohio rid themselves of Jason Getsy at 11 a.m. today, via lethal injection. You can read the Chicago Tribune's account of the case here.
Unfortunately, the people of the United States will have to put up with Sotomayor for many more years. It's just another price we pay for putting a diversity hire in the White House.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It worked again a few weeks ago, when driving across Nebraska. I wanted to see the inside of the University of Nebraska's football stadium, and stopped in Lincoln to do so. People who asked the security guard if they could see the stadium were told that no tours were available. Instead of asking, I just walked over to an elevator like I was supposed to be there, punched a button and in just a couple minutes I was taking pictures of the stadium from the press box.
But nothing I've ever done has matched what Ryan Kraft accomplished. The Dayton, Ohio, resident is a lifelong Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and drove up to Detroit in June to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After his Penguins won, he managed to get out on the ice simply by "acting like he was supposed to be there," and the reward was an incredible series of pictures, including this one of him holding the Stanley Cup in the Penguins' locker room.
It's a great story that you can read here, and the rest of his amazing photo gallery is here.
I really admire this guy! So remember, it's always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Which got me thinking about THE biggest upset in golf history. It came in the 1913 U.S. Open, when a 20-year-old named Francis Ouimet defeated two great British players - Harry Vardon and Ted Ray - in an 18-hole playoff. The event was later immortalized in the 2005 movie "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
You can read more about Ouimet's life here, and Yang's win today reminded me of it. Great day for golf, great day for Yang, not-so-great day for Tiger.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
"...we will be restricting further attendance to residents of the 29th Congressional District and verifying residency by requiring photo identification.”
Here's the fun part: In 2006, Congressman Green voted against the Federal Election Integrity Act, which would have required anyone wanting to vote to produce a government-issued ID before receiving a ballot.
In other words, it's okay to vote without any ID, but if you want to speak to his holiness the congressman, you better get that ID card out.
Sometimes congressmen are beyond parody.
UPDATE: This might be even loonier....From the Detroit News:
Detroit, Mich. - Michigan just experienced its coldest July on record; global temperatures haven't risen in more than a decade; Great Lakes water levels have resumed their 30-year cyclical rise (contrary to a decade of media scare stories that they were drying up due to global warming), and polls show that climate change doesn't even make a list of Michigan voters' top-ten concerns.
Yet in an interview with the Detroit News Monday, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) - recently appointed to the Senate Energy Committee - made clear that fighting the climate crisis is her top priority.
"Climate change is very real," she confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry - at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."
To which Henry Payne of the News added: "And there are sea monsters in Lake Michigan. I can feel them when I'm boating."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) co-authored an op-ed piece in USA Today in which they called such opposition "Un-American." It's funny that during the Bush years, the left told us that "Dissent was the highest form of Patriotism." Now, apparently, dissent is Un-American, and in St. Louis, union thugs were rolled out to try to quash the dissent. (See video of the union member's arrest here.)
But I thought it was sort of fun to note that this sort of revolt against members of Congress is nothing new, and has a rather honored place in American history. In 1816, members of Congress voted themselves a pay raise that DOUBLED their salary. In his book, An Empire of Liberty, historian Gordon Wood tells what happened next:
Now the people had a chance to make their resentment felt. Throughout the country public meetings composed of both political parties denounced the law that had raised the salaries of congressmen. Several state legislatures along with Fourth of July orators bitterly condemned it. Glasses were raised in criticism; the compensation law, noted one New York editor, was “toasted until it is black.” In Georgia opponents even burned the members of Congress in effigy.
Critics of the raise were especially incensed at Congressman Wright’s indiscreet comment about not being able to enjoy a good glass of wine and cited it over and over to great effect. Popular outrage was unprecedented, and the reputation of Congress was severely tarnished. Even congressmen who had voted against the law had to promise humbly to work to repeal it and to return the salary they had already received. In the fall elections of 1816 nearly 70 percent of the Fourteenth Congress was not returned to the Fifteenth Congress. In January 1817 a chastened lame-duck Fourteenth Congress met to debate the issue of exactly what representation meant, and by and large it determined that the people had every right to instruct their congressmen.
Imagine 70 percent of congressional incumbents being defeated. Gives us a goal for next year, eh?
(Hat tip to Rich Lowry, National Review.)
Friday, August 7, 2009
The city of Chicago, baseball, a great car, resisting authority, Ben Stein, even Cameron's Gordie Howe jersey; The movie was full of great little touchpoints for me. I always try to remember that "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
My daughter Erin went to college in Chicago, and one night when I was down there, I took the family for a little drive after dinner, and wouldn't tell them where we were going. Finally I pulled up in the parking lot of a suburban high school and asked them, "Look familiar?" Erin figured out right away that we were sitting in the same parking lot where Ferris had picked up Sloan, looking at the steps of the school where Ed Rooney tried to comfort Sloan after the "death of her grandmother."
So as you can see, we're pretty big Ferris afficianados in our house. And one of my favorite Ferris lines never made it into the movie. It was in the screenplay, but either didn't get filmed, or got left on the cutting room floor. It goes like this:
FERRIS:My uncle went to Canada to protest the war, right?
On the Fourth of July he was down with my aunt and he got drunk and told my Dad he felt guilty he didn't fight in Viet Nam.
So I said, "What's the deal, Uncle Jeff? In wartime you want to be a pacifist and in peacetime you want to be a soldier. It took you twenty years to find out you don't believe in anything?"
(snaps his fingers)
Grounded. Just like that. Two weeks.
Be careful when you deal with old hippies. They can be real touchy.
Good advice. Thanks, John.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Personally, I don't need an AK-47, but I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of Mr. Muller. I admire even more the way he absolutely refuses to be cowed or bullied by this nitwit CNN interviewer. She keeps trying - in a smug, condescending manner - to get him to admit that he might be doing something wrong. Her own biases come through loud and clear, even though they are cloaked in questions like "Some people might say....blah, blah, blah."
Instead of being intimidated by this "journalistic elite," he comes right back at her with some good midwestern common sense. It's always fun to see someone stand up to the media, and this guy does a great job of it. Enjoy.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
For example: In 2000, someone paid about $20,000 for a brand-new Mercury Sable. It's a beautiful car, with leather seats, a power moonroof, premium stereo, CD player, bigger engine and pretty much every luxury option available on that model.
That original owner drove it for two years, put about 30,000 miles on it and then decided to sell it on e-bay. That's where I first saw it, and in October of 2002 I paid $9,200 for it. Subtract $9,200 from $20,000, and you'll see that the original owner paid about $5,400 a year ($20K, minus $9,200 equals $10,800, divided by the two years of ownership) for the privilege of driving a new car.
The car now sits in my driveway, still running strong with about 96,000 miles on it. I've had it for seven years, so my capital cost is about $1,300 a year ($9,200 divided by seven years). That's $4,000 less per year TO DRIVE THE SAME CAR. And that cost will decrease if, as expected, I keep driving it another few years.
(And if the original owner had kept it this entire time, their costs would still be higher. $20,000 divided by nine years is still $2,222 per year.)
The same scenario plays out over and over again, everywhere in the country. Almost any vehicle can be purchased - two years after being sold new - for 60% or less of its original price. And with most cars now built well enough to run to 150,000 miles or more (General Motors products excepted), those first 30,000 miles just don't make much a difference in the amount of time a car can continue to function for you. I may never experience that "new car smell," but I also don't experience the "new car payment." It's a trade-off I'm happy to make.
Which brings us to the "Cash for Clunkers" program currently underway, in which the government gives you a chunk of cash - $3,500 or $4,500 - to turn in your old vehicle and buy a new car with better gas mileage. This is economic folly on a number of levels, the simplest of which is the fact that the government doesn't just "have" money to give these new-car purchasers. That money was either taken from you and me in taxes, or worse yet, it was borrowed as part of this year's $1.8 trillion deficit.
Secondly, the program requires all of these trade-ins to be destroyed. So, instead of 500,000 or so used cars hitting the used car market, they'll go to the junkyard instead. Basic supply-and-demand tells us that a decrease in the number of available used cars will drive UP the price of the remaining used cars. That makes it more difficult for the people who can't afford a new car - low-income families, college students, two-worker families that need a second vehicle - to purchase one.
Bottom line: We're going to spend about $3 billion of money that is either borrowed, or taken from one taxpayer and given to another, to help people make a purchase that is most likely detrimental to their own financial health, while at the same time making it more difficult for those on the lower economic rungs to afford their transportation needs.
And even the car manufacturers and dealerships who are loving the selling spree aren't really being helped in the long run. By artificially accelerating consumer's buying cycle with "free" money, almost every sale made this year is a sale that WON'T be made next year.
Makes you wonder if any of the people who came up with this program studied basic economics in school.