Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One big honkin' ring

One of my clients is the Upper Midwest High School Elite League, a fall hockey league for high school players. Every crowd includes a large contingent of scouts and college coaches, and tonight one of the scouts on hand was a fellow who works for the Chicago Blackhawks. Last week he received his Stanley Cup ring, and was kind enough to let me wear it for a moment. My camera phone picture is a little blurry, so I've also included a pic from the Blackhawks' web site that shows better detail. A few facts:

-- The ring is made of 14-kt white gold
-- It contains about 400 diamonds, seven baguette-cut rubies and two pear-shaped emeralds
-- The diamonds total about 8.0 carats
-- Each receipient's name is engraved inside the ring
-- Each ring is valued at about $30,500
-- Each player's wife received a similarly designed pendant, valued at about $10,500

I hope that when the Wild wins the Cup, the "gets-a-ring" list extends to the Guest Services staff.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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

Couldn't be in a better mood right now. In about seven hours I'll board a plane bound for Myrtle Beach and my annual golf trip with good friend and great all-around person Peter Thrane. By my count this is our 12th October jaunt to the Grand Strand, where there are somewhere around 130 golf courses within about an hour's drive of Myrtle Beach. Over the years we've played about 60 of them, and perhaps by 2030 we'll get them all done.

Last year there were no blogs from MB due to a malfunctioning wi-fi set up in the condo. We've been assured that it's corrected, and I hope to get a chance to post.

BUT...before I go to sleep with dreams of wide fairways and fast greens, I stop by the Star-Tribune web site and learn that the Vikings are trying to deal for Randy Moss. And suddenly my mood got EVEN BETTER!

There are a handful of athletes that I've loved over the years. Harmon Killebrew and Willie Mays were the idols of my childhood. Rod Carew and Neal Broten took those spots during the college years. And while Marian Gaborik was close, and Mikko Koivu is almost there, those four are in my pantheon, and the football player with them is Moss. He's the most talented wide receiver I've ever seen, with the kind of athleticism that makes you sit up straight on the couch and say "Geez, did you see that!?!" He HATES to lose, and seems to crave winning the same way Michael Jordan did. When things go wrong, he can bail, but that's the tradeoff for the fact that when he's engaged, he can do things on a football field that no one else can.

(The fact that he was willing to take a big, fat obnoxious Minneapolis "traffic control officer" for a ride on his bumper down a block of city traffic only endeared him to me. And anyone who's dealt with an officious, self-important cop knows just what I mean.)

His nickname is "Freak," and that about says it all. Nothing could increase my excitement about the Vikings more than having #84 returning home, and I hope that by the time I change planes in Atlanta tomorrow, Freak is coming back to the Purple.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Play Hockey!

Anyone who has been to the Xcel Energy Center for a Wild game knows that right before the start of the game, the arena announcer "directs your attention to the Fox Sports North stage for a special announcement." Each night someone - often a former player, local celebrity, a Twins or Vikings player, etc. - is there to say, "Okay fans, it's time to drop the puck. So everyone say it with me...Let's play hockey."

It's a tradition that links the Wild organization back to the days of the North Stars at Met Center, where rink public address announcer Bob Utecht would always call "Let's play hockey," at the opening faceoff.

Anyway, I was thrilled to get a call from the Guest Services staff today, saying that they wanted to round up a few of us who have worked at the X since Day One (Sept. 29, 2000, Wild vs. Anaheim) and have us do the LPH call. It was a real privilege to share the stage and microphone with these six colleagues, all of whom have 10 years in with the organization. Thank you to the Wild, and to "the greatest hockey fans in the world," for the opportunity, which I'll never forget.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A little muscle from New Jersey

I have to admit that I'm developing some sort of man-crush on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. This guys is exactly what you want in a governor: A take-no-prisoners conservative who is not afraid of anyone. His callout of the NJ teachers union is a thing of beauty.

This week he traveled to California to campaign for Meg Whitman, who is running for governor. When a heckler tried to interrupt Whitman, Christie decided he'd had enough. Enjoy the clip here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dayton's flakiness, instability on display

As mentioned before on this blog, Mark Dayton tends towards, well, let's be polite and call it "erratic" behavior.

*cough* He's nuts! *cough*

His goofiness was on display again Thursday night, as outlined by this TV station report. Enjoy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If you want to understand the "Tea Party"....

Peggy Noonan explains it perfectly in a WSJ column you can read here.

I don't consider myself a Tea Party guy. I'm a conservative, and the Republican Party has been the conservative "vessel" for most of my life. When the Obama administration's excesses began to give rise to the Tea Party folks, I found it encouraging that people were finding their voices, but I thought it would be a short-lived movement. Now I'm not so sure.

People are genuinely angry - as well as worried - and while they are REALLY unhappy with Obama, they are also suspicious of Republicans who don't want to be real conservatives. Delaware's senate primary was a great example. Four years ago, Mike Castle would have cruised to the nomination, but for many of us on the right side of political spectrum, it's no longer enough to call yourself a Republican and then vote with the liberals a good chunk of the time. If you want the Tea Party backing, you better be willing to say "no" loudly and often.

Conservatives, as Peggy explains, are looking for Republicans who don't start negotiating with the Democrats in the middle, and compromise halfway to the total liberal position. We want people who will start the negotiations on our end, and go no further than halfway.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Explaining a headline

A few people asked about the headline on the post below, so I thought I'd explain the reference.

In the early years of Monday Night Football, the broadcast team was made up of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and former Dallas quarterback Don Meredith. I was a big Cosell fan, and Meredith brought along this sort of southern, quirky, aw-shucks quality that was very endearing. Cosell and Meredith played off each other very well.

In Cosell's autobiography, he tells the story of one MNF game in (I believe) Buffalo, in which the home team was being blown out late in the fourth quarter and half the fans had left the stadium. A cameraman focused in on a solitary fan, sitting all alone in an entire section of seats. Somehow sensing that he was on camera, the fan looked up and made the same gesture Joe Fricke is making in the picture below...on live TV.

There was a moment of silence in the booth, and then Meredith drawled, "Howard, he just means that 'we're number one'."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Joe Fricke says he's #1

Hi all - Lots of work, including nine days of the Minnesota State Fair, have kept me away from my computer and this blog. I'll apologize for the absence, and also apologize for the slightly obscene photo below, but it's just too much fun.

The Mayor of Red Wing, John Howe, is running for the State Senate, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm doing a little volunteer work for him. John is on his way to winning because he's a terrific candidate, and because the guy he's running against is, well, NOT such a terrific candidate.

Joe Fricke is the guy's name, and he graduated with my oldest son from Red Wing High School 10 years ago. He just got out of law school this spring, and his first "career move" was to file for public office. His only work experience is summer laboring for the city, he's never had a permanent job, never owned a home, etc., etc. Most local DFLers considered him sort of a joke candidate from the start, but they had to put someone's name on the ballot.

As a campaigner, little Joey leaves a little bit to be desired. At a recent candidate forum, his response to the only question he was asked was "That's something I'd be willing to raise taxes for." Really sharp answer in the current political and economic environment: Let's raise taxes!

Anyway, he made the leap to the big time this week when a Minnesota political web site, http://www.minnesotademocratsexposed.com/, produced this Facebook photo from earlier this year of Joey in a candid moment. It's almost like he's speaking directly to taxpayers, and it sort of sums up the liberal mindset these days. The Rochester Post-Bulletin already took notice of it in this story. St. Thomas law school must be really proud to have him as an alum.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bobby Thomson, R.I.P.

In part because I was a nerdy little kid, I immersed myself in baseball history as a youngster, and parents and grandparents nurtured the habit by buying me great baseball books. Not too many six-year-olds in my neighborhood could discuss Don Larsen's perfect game, Pepper Martin's 1931 World Series performance or the Philadelphia A's scoring 10 runs in an inning to beat the Cubs 10-8 in the 1929 World Series.

And one moment that always fascinated me was Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run. I read everything I could find about the moment, watched it hundreds of time on tape and memorized everything I could about a homer that happened five years before I was born. The story in a nutshell:

In the 1951 National League pennant race, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a 13-1/2 game lead over the New York Giants, but the Giants went 37-7 over the last few weeks and caught the Dodgers on the last day of the season, setting up a three-game playoff for the pennant. Each team won a game, and the Dodgers had a 4-2 lead in the 9th inning of Game Three. In the bottom of the 9th, Thomson hit a three-run homer off of Ralph Branca for a 5-4 win that gave the Giants the pennant. You've probably heard the immortal call of announcer Russ Hodges screaming "The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant."

Across town, the American League Champion Yankees were waiting, and a week later they won the World Series in six games, but Thomson's homer had become a milestone in baseball history. For the rest of his life, he was known for that home run. He and Branca became friends, and spent a lot of time at baseball card shows, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

The above photo was signed by the both of them, and I've always liked this picture because it illustrates the short distance the ball had to travel to the left-field porch at the Polo Grounds. Home of the Giants, the Polo Grounds was sort of a bathtub-shaped stadium, and the dimensions were bizarre: 279 feet down the left-field line, and only 259 feet down the right-field line, but an incredible 483 feet to straightaway center field. (Much of Willie Mays' greatness was found in the fact that he could cover ground adequately in the massive center field.)

Thomson passed away today at the age of 86, and a great summary of the home run and his subsequent life is found in this AP dispatch here.

A few of my favorite little tidbits from the day:

1) Red Smith, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter for the New York Times (and IMHO, the greatest sportswriter ever) wrote this incredible lead for his account of the day:

"Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again."

They don't write leads like that any more.

2) A little bit of trivia: The on-deck hitter, who later admitted he was afraid he would be forced to come to bat with the game on the line, was a young rookie named Willie Mays.

3) Even more trivial: As all of this was going on, a thousand miles away in St. Paul, Minnesota, a young woman named Arline Winfield was giving birth to her son, Dave, who would grow up to be perhaps the greatest athlete Minnesota has ever produced (though a first-rate a**hole as a person) and later took his place in the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 minutes of happiness

Here, via YouTube, is 10 minutes of video that will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye. Enjoy.


Wow. The DFL voters think that now, in the midst of a huge fiscal crisis, the best solution is to put an alcoholic with mental health problems in charge of the state? Really?

I'm sympathetic to both those who struggle with alcoholism, and to those who face mental health challenges. Lord knows we all have our flaws and our shortcomings. But putting Mark Dayton in the governor's office sounds like an even bigger risk than taking a young one-term senator with no private-sector experience and putting him in the White House. And we all know how well that's worked out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Goodbye Target, Hello Walmart

Here in Red Wing, we have two of the great discount retailers - Target and Walmart - sitting just a few hundred yards apart on opposite sides of Hwy. 61. Local shoppers have a clear choice, with both stores offering ample selection and low prices. There is a general sense that Walmart's prices are generally a bit lower, but at Target you almost never have to stand in long, slow lines to check out, so there are tradeoffs.

Personally, I tend to go to whichever is most convenient. If I'm coming back into town and need to stop for milk or a couple items, I'll take the right turn to Walmart instead of waiting for a left turn into Target. If I'm westbound on Hwy. 61, Target is easier. I've never made much of a distinction between the two.

Until now.

Goodbye, Target. Hello, Walmart.

The decision could have easily gone the other way, but Target drove me away with this week's bit of political theater, and a lack of corporate backbone.

As you may have read, Target made a political donation of $150,000 to a group known as MN Forward. The group is supporting candidates - including GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer - who are dedicated to improving the business climate in Minnesota. As a high-tax, high-regulation state, Minnesota has long been hostile to business and job creation.

So far, so good. But a group of local fascists known as Moveon.org decided they didn't like the contribution, because Emmer has spoken out against same-sex marriage. Moveon.org and other gay rights groups said they might boycott Target, and a few flaming militants - according to the Star-Tribune - even went so far as to go into Target and tear up their charge cards in protest.

Now, consumers certainly have a right to boycott any retailer they so choose. Nobody can be forced to shop anywhere (except, of course, Obamacare is going to force you to shop for health insurance, but that's a story for another time.) But the hypocrisy of Moveon.org and the others is quite evident: They have no problem with teachers and other union members being forced to contribute to a union that makes political donations to causes the members oppose. But when Target exercises its right to become involved in the political process, the lefties throw a hissy fit.

So I should be happy with Target, right? They supported the right cause, and they backed it up with cash.

But then they backed down. CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued an apology to Target employees for making the contribution, saying he was "genuinely sorry" that some had been offended, and restated Target's strong committment to gay causes.

What he should have done - and what would have been best in the long run for Target's shareholders - would have been to say something like: "Anyone who wants to boycott us has the right to do so, but we won't be bullied or intimidated into giving up our First Amendment right to participate in the political process. We're here to provide service to our customers, jobs for our employees and returns for our shareholders, and this contribution is a way we feel we can accomplish our goals. If you don't like the way we do business, feel free to shop elsewhere."

Instead, he caved in to the bullying of the left-wing thought police, who have no respect for the rights of others.

And because of that, I have to take my business across the road to Walmart.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The most important column you'll read this month

Happy August, and one more apology for the blogging dearth. Really hectic time will all the normal summer stuff, plus a lot of campaign volunteering.

Rather than try to summarize this column, I'm just going to link to it so you can read it yourself. It's a description of Newt Gingrich's recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute. Gingrich understands what the real threat is to America and the western democracies, and lays out a powerful argument for facing head on.

Read it here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Suprisingly incompetent"

That's the view of National Review's Deroy Murdock as he reviews the first 18 months of the Obama administration here. Hard to argue with the assessment.

All the great moments are there. It's hard, but try to pick your favorite:

Terrorizing Manhattan with an Air Force One photo op
Returning the bust of Churchill to Great Britain
Saying the Cambridge cop "acted stupidly"
Appointing self-described communist Van Jones to a White House job
Flying to Copenhagen to win the Olympic games for Chicago, then returning empty-handed
The bumblings of Eric Holder (civilian trials for terrorists) and Janet Napolitano ("the system worked" after a would-be airplane bomber's bomb failed to explode.)

There's more, of course, and that's a lot of screwing up for only 18 months. The sad part is, there are 30 months left.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My maiden voyage to Target Field

Headed out to Target Field tonight for the first time, and I'm very excited. I did some work for the Twins while the ballpark was being built, helping with their sales brochures for some of the suites and premium seating, but I haven't yet been to a game.

Sitting between home plate and 3rd base, just 15 rows off the field. Will post pics later.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Love at 30,000 feet

No, it's not THAT kind of story. Instead, it's a touching tale of two U.S. pilots married to one another, who had a chance reunion in the skies over Afghanistan. Enjoy it here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The best day of the year

It's late, and I need to go to bed, but I couldn't let the best day of the year - the 4th of July - pass without a note. It started with a great mens quartet (including my son-in-law) opening our church service with a patriotic medley, and it ended with The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe sitting in my lap watching fireworks on the banks of the Mississippi River. In between there were two parades to walk in with the next great senator from District 28, the Red Wing Brass Band concert at the downtown bandshell and the thrill of seeing display after display of good old American patriotism in Cannon Falls, Wanamingo and Red Wing.
I could hardly have had a more blessed day. Thank you John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and all the others.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hang up and watch the game!

Great moment at Yankee Stadium the other night, when a guy blabbing on his cell phone - instead of paying attention to the game - takes one in the melon.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Cool lightning pic #2

As mentioned below, I love storms. In this shot from earlier this week, the Parthenon in Athens gets a bolt from above. Brave photographer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The death of Robert Byrd

Busy blogging day...Word now comes of the passing of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia at the age of 92. The longest-serving senator in history, Byrd was famous for bringing back federal dollars to his impoverished home state.

I had a chance to watch him up close, as he was President Pro Tempore of the Senate when I served as a staffer there. I was very much of two minds about him: I greatly respected his obvious love of the Senate as an institution, and I would try to listen closely when he made one of his frequent floor speeches about the history of the Senate. (He later turned those speeches into a four-volume history of the U.S. Senate.) And it was an education to be able to listen to him expound on Senate rules and procedure.

However, away from the cameras, he had a reputation as a small, petty, nasty, vengeful man. For those who claim to admire "bipartisanship," Byrd was not your guy; He was as vicious a partisan as the Senate has ever seen.

A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd also filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When integration of the Armed Forces was an issue in the 1940s, Byrd wrote:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side...Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt, never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

He claimed to be sorry for his racist past, but as recently as 2001, he used the term "white niggers" in an interview. He later apologized for that.

As I said, I greatly admired his love of the Senate, but there were large parts of his personality that were hard to reconcile with his public image

My former boss, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, used to point out that while Byrd was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was shoveling federal dollars back to West Virginia, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee was Jamie Whitten of Mississippi, who did the same for his state from 1979-1993. But despite the billions of dollars thrown their way, Mississippi and West Virginia remained two of the poorest states in the union. There's a lesson in there about the efficacy - or lack thereof - of federal spending to improve the economy.

Another observation: Someone asked me today if Byrd was the last remaining senator from my time in the Senate. I took a moment to look at the list, and, amazingly, there are still 23 senators there from when I left 20 years ago! That's almost one-quarter of the Senate still in place from 1990. It used to be said that there was more turnover in the Soviet Politburo than there was in Congress, and the pace of change does not seem to be accelerating.

Nicole Allan, religious bigot

Nicole Allan is an editor at theatlantic.com, the web site of The Atlantic magazine. Here's what she recently wrote about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:

"People are sometimes caught off guard by Huckabee's intellectual competence because of his rural Arkansas habits (he and his wife lived in a trailer while the governor's mansion was being renovated) and his outspoken evangelical views."

Her implication, of course, is that if you are either from a rural southern state, or an evangelical, it's quite unusual for you to display "intellectual competence."

Imagine if she had written of a black athlete: "People are sometimes caught off guard by his ability to speak in complete sentences, despite his skin color and lifelong emphasis on sports."

There would have been a huge outcry, and she would have quickly been fired by her employers for displaying such shocking political incorrectness.

But if you turn your prejudice and bigotry against southerners, or evangelicals, then everything's okay, because those people are clearly less intelligent than the intellectual giants at The Atlantic.

Starting them off young

I'm doing a little volunteer work for the Mayor of Red Wing, John Howe, who is running for the state senate. It's an open seat because of a retirement, and it's a fun race to work on.

Finding volunteers to walk in parades is always tricky, and my daughter Corrie has been kind enough to walk in a couple of them, pushing the stroller with the Greatest Grandkids in the World.

Also picked up a great quote from the late, great William F. Buckley this weekend while reading an anthology of his "Notes and Asides" column from National Review. Someone wrote to ask, "Is conservatism really fun?"

I loved his answer: "Yes, but it's very hard work."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Live blogging the NHL draft

Welcome to our second annual NHL draft. First pick coming up, and the question is: Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin? The Edmonton Oilers, who stunk up the league at historic levels last season, get the first pick.

Commissioner Bettman at the podium now...first time the draft has been held in LA, and I think half the crowd has just been hanging around the building since the Lakers won the NBA title last week.

Lots of speculation that the Oilers are trying to make a trade to get the #2 pick as well, so they can take them both. Boston, which has the pick, doesn't seem to be biting.

6:17 - Oilers brass walking to the stage...and the #1 pick is.....Taylor Hall of Windsor. A big, fast left wing, he's was rookie of the year in two junior leagues, and led Windsor to the Memorial Cup this year. Edmonton has a big rebuilding project in front of it, and he'll be a huge building block. Bruins are on the clock.

6:25 - Bruins should take Seguin....And they do....Another good-sized forward.

Pierre McGuire just made the first Alexander Daigle reference of the night. Daigle is the most famous #1 pick draft-bust of all time. He spent a year at the end of his career as a member of the Wild. TSN (the Canadian ESPN, who is providing the coverage tonight) has a panel of experts and they're not sure Seguin is NHL-ready just yet.

Panthers on the clock.

Florida GM Dale Tallon put most of the pieces together in Chicago before leaving last summer, so now he needs to do the same thing in Florida. He has two first-round picks (barring a trade) and he takes...Eric Gudbranson...huge defenseman, 6-4, 195 pounds...already being compared to Pronger. Hopefully he's less of a flaming jerk than Pronger. Panthers have missed the playoff nine years in a row, so there's nowhere to go but up.

Just saw my friend Gary Harker sitting at the Maple Leafs' draft table. Toronto doesn't have a pick until tomorrow, so the 10 or so guys at the table are just taking up space, unless the Leafs can trade Tomas Kaberle for a first-round pick.

6:45 - Columbus, which entered the league the same year as the Wild, but has made the playoffs only once, is on the clock...Ryan Johansen, a 6-2 center. Late blooming kid who grew late, he was ranked 10th on Central Scouting's list...might be a bit of a reach.

Islanders on the clock.

It's always interesting how poised these Canadian kids are when they get interviewed. Junior hockey get so much attention in Canada that these kids develop media skills by age 16. They always sound better than the American or European draftees.

Alyssa Milano being interviewed now...part of the stable of Hollywood hockey fans.

Islanders take....Nino Neidderreiter. Swiss kid who came over to Canada to play juniors. Also 6-1...size seems to be the key thing this year.

Wild are now four picks away, and six of Central Scouting's top nine are still on the board, including the Russian I like, Alexander Burmistrov.

Tampa on the clock, with new GM Steve Yzerman in charge. Yzerman, of course, spent his career in Detroit, and was considered a local icon, but he ditched for warm weather as soon as he got a change. Bright guy.

Everyone thinks Tampa needs a defenseman, but instead they take forward Brett Connolly. Was considered a can't-miss prospect a year ago, but injuries limited him to just 16 games last year. If he's healthy (has hip problem) he could be dynamite...or he could be Alexander Daigle.

The Wild need a center, and a goal-scorer, but now there are three big defensemen still available...Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley and Derek Forbort. Forbort is a Duluth kid who is committed to UMD, but he's already 6-foot-4 and has great hands.

WEATHER ALERT: Big storms moving in, so if the power goes out, the blog will end..sorry.

Carolina Hurricanes are next...and they take Jeff Skinner, the former figure skater who scored 50 goals in juniors last year, plus another 20 in the playoffs...Lots of mock drafts had him going to the Wild, but now it seems they are almost locked into taking a defenseman.

Thrashers next...then the Wild

Thrashers take Burmistrov, disappointing me....the Wild are up next.

The organization thinks it's deep in D-men, and needs scorers, but now the top four or five guys left on the board are d-men...Cam Fowler, Gormley, Forbort....Also out there is Emerson Etem, the former Shattuck kid.

And the Wild take...Another Finn! Mikael Granlund...will probably play another year in Finland...Allegedly a lot of offensive talent, but will probably take time to develop, like Mikko Koivu.

No Americans taken yet, in a year that was supposed to be big for Yanks.

Rangers at #10 take Dylan McIlarth.....tough guy, not a big skill guy...

The surprise so far: all these defensemen still out there.

Dallas at #11 takes the first American...and it's the goalie, Jack Campbell. Has won at every level he's played at, but still a curious pick.

7:47 - Cam Fowler's nightmare ends as the Ducks take him at #12. Could be the steal of the draft. Second American taken.

Anaheim's GM and staff is booed loudly in the Staples Center...I didn't think enough people in SoCal cared enough to actually have a rivalry.

Phoenix on the clock...needing defensemen...take Brandon Gormley...they have to be amazed that he was still available. He's 6-2, 185 and Central Scouting had him as the sixth-best North American player available.

At 13, the Blues take Jaden Schwartz, a center who was ranked 28th on the Central Scouting list....Another Canadian.

Also, the storm just knocked out my DirectTV signal....may be a while before I catch up.

UPDATE: Well, obviously this one didn't go so well. The storm took out the TV, the NHL's draft tracker on the internet was spotty, etc., etc....Sorry about that. The Wild appeared to have a pretty good draft, picking four of the first 59 players chosen. The first-round pick, Mikael Granlund, is described as a "Saku Koivu clone." Let's hope that's right on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a cool picture

My kids know that I love a good thunderstorm, although Erin is really the only one that ever embraced the idea of sitting on the porch and watching a storm roll through. I love watching lightning bolts as well, which is why this picture just jumped out at me. It's taken from the Hancock Building in Chicago, showing twin bolts hit the Trump Tower (left) and the Willis (used to be Sears) Tower on the right.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Media hypocrisy, volume 481....

I have no strong feelings about whether General McChrystal should have resigned over his comments, although I tend to think that anyone stupid enough to think Rolling Stone would write a fair profile is probably not bright enough to be leading troops.

But the one thing that's fun to notice is the media's reaction. During the Bush administration, practically anyone above the rank of corporal who disagreed with war policy was singled out by the media as a hero, profiled in Newsweek and interviewed on 60 Minutes.

But now, when a general is found criticizing the Chosen One, the media is suddenly offended by the idea that anyone is uniform should do anything but blindly follow orders. The New York Times, which provided classified information to Al-Qaeda during the Bush years, now apparently believes in strict military discipline and keeping one's mouth shut.

Also of note today, a federal judge pretty much called Obama a liar in the judge's ruling that blocked the offshore drilling moratorium. Not a good day to be a lefty.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does he understand he's not an emperor?

The President indicated tonight that he was going to "meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness."

This is laughable on its face, and it's amazing that anyone in the White House speechwriting opearation would write - or allow through the editing process - such a ridiculous line. Of course, he has no such authority to do this. He can ask BP to contribute to a fund - and they might agree for PR reasons - but he can't tell BP's chairman what he has to do any more than he could come to your house and tell you to paint it a different color.

U.S. law limits the liability of BP - or any petroloeum company - to $75 million for a drilling accident. If the president thinks that's too low, he can ask Congress to change the number for future accidents. The fact that he thinks he can simply commandeer the assets of a private company is testimony to both his ignorance and arrogance.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are you smarter than a liberal?

When it comes to economics, the answer to that question is probably "yes." Click here to read an interesting article about a study done by Zogby and analyzed by a professor at George Mason University.

The survey asked nearly 5,000 American adults a series of economcs questions, then asked for the respondent's political affiliation. You can read the story for the details, but the gist of it is this: Those who identify themselves as liberals were far more likely to get the answer wrong than were conservatives and liberterians.

Of course, that's no surprise to anyone with much common sense. When you have a core belief (as the Obama administration does) that you can take money away from people in taxes, then give them a percentage of it back as "stimulus" and magically fix the economy, it's clear you were sleeping through that Macro Economics 101 class.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where's Mark David Chapman when you need him?

I once read a piece by a music professor who felt the Beatles were among the most overrated groups in music history. His contention was that they were a cultural phenomena, not a musical one; They simply became trendy at the same time the self-involved baby boomers were looking for something to latch on to.

I don't know enough about music to know if the professor was right. Personally, I think Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow each recorded 30 or more songs that I would rather listen to than anything the Beatles ever made.

But regardless of the music, we learned this week that one of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, is a classless piece of crap. During a White House reception in his honor, he said, "After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president that knows what a library is.”

Set aside the irony of a guy who didn't go to college casting aspersions about the intellectual capacity of the holder of a Harvard MBA. What sort of graceless, neanderthal boob do you have to be to travel to a foreign country and hurl a baseless insult - during a non-political event - at someone who's no longer in office?

It's worth noting that in his recent divorce proceedings, McCartney's ex-wife, Heather Mills, complained that McCartney was "often drunk, smoked cannabis, stabbed her with a broken wine glass, pushed her over a table, and pushed her into a bathtub when she was pregnant with their daughter."

Classy guy. I can see why the Obamas wanted him to stop by.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

One of the real points of pride I feel about Red Wing is its Memorial Day service. Each year a crowd gathers alongside the river for a great ceremony that always includes the reading of Logan's Proclamation (the order that created Memorial Day shortly after the Civil War), a recitation of the Gettysburg Address, music from the high school band and a nice keynote speaker.

This is followed by a three-volley cannon salute, a 21-gun salute and the laying of memorial flowers in the river. Each year it's a well-done ceremony, and several hundred people always turn out for it.

We then usually travel to Bloomington, where Penny's family has a nice tradition of meeting for lunch, then visiting the nearby grave of her father at Ft. Snelling. Tom Kleinman served in the Navy in WW II, and died way too young, never seeing Penny get married or meeting our children. Today two of his great-grandchildren, Anne and Sam, were with us to visit his grave.

After the Kleinman family disperses, I go to the other side of Ft. Snelling, where my uncle, Vernon Peterson, was laid to rest in 2000. Vernon fought in heavy combat in N. Africa and Italy, earning a Purple Heart along the way. He returned to Minnesota, married my aunt and for years their lakeside home in Pine City was the gathering spot for the family on Memorial Day, Labor Day and other times. He had an incredible sense of humor - a Swede trapped among all the Dutchmen - and lived a remarkable life. It's a joy to be able to spend a few moments remembering him and to leave a flag with him.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two great hockey/music traditions

The Stanley Cup Finals start Saturday night with Chicago facing Philadelphia, which will give the casual hockey fan a chance to watch what I think are a couple of great traditions.

Normally I expect a crowd to be quiet and reverent for a performance of the National Anthem, but in Chicago they do it a little differently. At the first note of the song, they begin cheering their lungs out, and they keep it up all through the anthem.

It helps that Chicago uses both an organ and a singer with a big baritone voice, which is the way it sounds best. The above video is from the 1991 All-Star game in Chicago, but it sounds the same every game. It's been my privilege to be at a few Blackhawks games over the years, and the experience always leaves me with goosebumps. Enjoy the video.

The second great tradition will be renewed when the series shifts back to Philadelphia. Somtimes the Flyers use a video of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America," instead of the anthem. (It's a tradition that goes back to the '70s, when Smith happened to be in town and sang before a Flyer playoff game that the Flyers then won.) Other times they have a woman named Lauren Hart sing the anthem. I've been there to hear her, and while I usually favor a deep male voice, she is good as well. And for special occasions, they use the magic of video to produce the follow duet between Hart and Smith.

I hope NBC and Versus - the networks carrying the games - understand the importance of these traditions, and don't cut to commercial when it's anthem time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The face of union thuggery

Meet the goons of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU has a long history of violent protest, with a number of their members being arrested last year for becoming violent during the town hall meetings of various members of Congress.

Last week, the SEIU decided it had a beef with Bank of America - and other financial institutions - regarding the high number of defaulted mortgages and foreclosures. So where did they decide to protest? On Capitol Hill? In front of a Bank of America branch? At a shareholder's meeting?
No. They chose instead to invade the private home of a Bank of America executive. About 500 SEIU members pulled up in 14 buses outside the home of Greg Baer, deputy general counsel for B of A, in Washington, D.C. (And, ironically, a longtime Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration.)

As recounted here, the thugs swarmed over Baer's lawn, surrounding the house and chanting.

Sadly, the only person at home was the Baer's teenage son, who locked himself in the bathroom, terrified, and waited for help to arrive. His father finally returned from his other son's little league game, fought his way through the crowd and got his son out of the house.

Also covering themselves in glory were D.C. police, who finally arrived and then told a neighbor they weren't going to arrest anyone for trespassing because it might "incite" the crowd.

So why single out B of A for protest when so many other mortgage lenders are in the same boat with regards to foreclosures? Well, it turns out that B of A is the SEIU's banker as well, and the financially-troubled SEIU owes B of A more than $4 million in interest and fees (after spending more than $70 million on Democrat's campaigns in 20008.)

Wouldn't you like to wake up one morning and see a mob like this outside your house, particularly knowing that the police won't do anything? This is the new face of America's liberal left.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Capital of the free world...ummm, maybe not

Here's your Vice-President, the singularly glib Joe Biden, telling a European audience that American's whole "leader of the free world" status isn't really set in stone. Click here to see the video.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The New York Times finally gets it!

For years, European countries have been offering their citizens generous pensions, shorter work weeks and all kinds of protections from the "evils of capitalism." Which is all well and good, until the money runs out. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

Well, economic reality is smacking the Europeans right in the face, and even the group of economic illiterates that run the New York Times are sitting up and taking notice. As you can read here, lots of chickens are coming home to roost in Europe.

Let's hope someone in the Obama administration reads this...and can understand it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thank you, Pennsylvania

My thoughts about Arlen Specter have been well documented (See April 30, 2009 post) and I just want to thank the good people of Pennsylvania for sending the little weasal into retirement tonight. I hope Robert Bork is smiling.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My new hero

Meet Chris Christie, elected last November as the Republican Governor of New Jersey. A reporter asks the Governor if the Governor's style is too "confrontational." Christie talks to him the way more politicians should talk to reporters. It's a thing of beauty.

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It never gets old....

It was one year ago tonight that we watched the Vancouver Canucks bow their heads in shame as their season ended with another playoff loss. Tonight was even better, as they were forced to skate the handshake line in front of their neanderthal fans after losing their playoff series to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Down 5-1 in the 3rd period, the Canucks demonstrated their class when Mikael Samuelsson hooked a Chicago player, cross-checked him for another two-minute penalty and then drew a game misconduct. Trying to keep up with their heroes on the ice, the Canuck fans started a fight among themselves in the game's final minute, then live TV captured a Canucklehead throwing a cup of beer at a Blackhawks fan standing along the glass.

Just another loss in the city of losers. Enjoy the summer, jerks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Europe is a mess

We've all watched as the Greek debt crisis threatened to sink much of Europe's economy, and it's still not clear that the arranged bailout will calm the rough economic waters. But I have an idea of how they found themselves in this mess.

This quote comes from a French economist, who was recently part of a panel discussion about windmills that are being built and installed around France. Like all wind power schemes, these windmills - known as Eolienne windmills - are expensive, ugly and produce very little power. The economist was asked "Why would we keep using these Eolienne when they cost a fortune and are not profitable and can't produce much energy?"

His answer: "First, I would like to dispute the idea that Eolienne windmills aren't profitable. Once one adds all the subsidies and financial support the industry receives from the French government and the European Community, it is losing very little money."

Yes, that's how to build an economy: Have the government subsidize a bad idea so that instead of losing a lot of money, it only loses a little money. I'm sure that will help turn things around.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The end of a wonderful life

Baseball lost a giant Tuesday night when Ernie Harwell passed away at the age of 92. He spent 55 years as a baseball broadcaster, 42 of them with the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Free Press has a wonderful obituary here, and it captures what Ernie meant to the people of Michigan far better than I can. What I'll remember most about him was the wonderful, eloquent eulogy he gave when Twins announcer Herb Carneal passed away. Ernie was friends with almost everyone in baseball, it seemed, but he and Herb had been sharing pre-game dinners for decades, and Harwell made the trip to Minnesota just to give the eulogy.

A man of deep faith, he died at age 92, with his wife of 68 years at his side, having spent most of his life as the most popular man in Michigan. He told friends last year of his terminal cancer diagnosis and said, "Whether it’s a long time or a short time is all right with me because it’s up to my Lord and savior.”

It's hard to imagine a more well-lived life.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Classy guy....

It's always been my contention - based on my years as a sportswriter, along with other interactions over time - that hockey players are the most down-to-earth people among professional athletes. I think it's partly because they don't make the astronomical salaries that players in other sports make - no one on the Wild is getting a third of Joe Mauer or Kevin Garnett-type money - and in part because many of them grow up in small Canadian (and Minnesota) towns, in an atmosphere that helps to keep them humble when they hit the big time.

I've seen numerous examples of it over the years; NHLers who take time to stop and chat with folks outside the Xcel Energy Center, or visit with people at local restaurants. For example, I know the Wild's Brent Burns has had members of the arena staff over to his house to see his collection of exotic pets.

Now comes another great example. Thursdy night the Washington Capitals suffered a heartbreaking Game 7 playoff loss. After winning the President's Trophy for the league's best regular-season record, the Caps took a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against Montreal. Then Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak got hot, and Montreal won three straight games to take the series, including a 2-1 win Thursday night in D.C.

After the game, a mother and daughter - two Capitals fans on their way home from the game - blew a tire on the Roosevelt Bridge. They called AAA, and were told they could have a long wait. Moments later, a vehicle pulled over and the driver got out to ask if he could help. The driver turned out to be Brooks Laich of the Capitals, still in his suit. Laich ended up changing the tire while talking hockey with these season-ticket holders. The entire story, including a photo of Laich changing the tire is here.

Somehow I don't think you'd ever hear a story like this involving LeBron James or Chad Ochocinco.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Here's a comedy bit from Saturday Night Live. It's pretty well done, not great, but okay, but what's more important is the subtext: When the lefties at NBC feel free to ridicule public employees like this, it means liberals are losing control of the institutions that make up their support and infrastructure.


UPDATE: Lost the link...Sorry

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One of the greatest goals ever....

Today is the seventh anniversary of the greatest goal in Wild history, Andrew Brunette's overtime game-winner in Game 7 of the 2003 Wild-Avalanche series.

I've written here and elsewhere about my admiration for Brunette, who scored 25 goals this year as a 36-year-old coming off knee surgery. He's a tireless worker who is willing to go behind the net and take abuse from opposing defensemen along the boards in order to set up a play. Just a terrific player and a good locker room guy who has been a great asset to the Wild.

As most of you will remember, 2003 was the first time the Wild made the playoffs, and the Avalanche were heavy favorites who won three of the first four games. But the Wild won Game 5 in Colorado, then evened the series in Game 6 on Richard Park's OT winner. The next night Brunette's goal gave the Wild their first playoff win ever. To me it will always be the greatest Wild goal ever, until the year some Wild player scores the Cup-winner.

Three somewhat forgotten facts about the goal:

1) It wouldn't have happened except that a minute or two before, Manny Fernandez made an incredible save on Rob Blake. Blake had blasted a low, hard slapshot just inside the post, but Fernandez made a full-split glove save to keep the game going.

2) The assist on the goal went to Sergei Zholtok, who made the slick drop pass to Bruno. Sergei was another hard-working guy that I had the privilege to meet once. He had a son that played for Eagan, and one night the kid's team was playing in Red Wing. I was helping coach a bantam team that had practice afterwards, and when I went downstairs to put my skates on, Sergei was sitting outside the locker room. We ended up having a nice chat about Russian hockey history....Tretiak, Kharlamov, Yukashev, etc....which Zholtok knew all about, even though he was Latvian. During the lockout year, Zholtok went to play in Russia, where he suffered a heart attack and died in the locker room. It's a tragic story, and the Wild has a nice display honoring Zholtok near Gate 3 at the X. It chokes me up every time I walk by.

3) It was the last moment of Patrick Roy's career. He retired, and Bruno is the last guy ever to score on him in the NHL.

I had the chance to meet Brunette a couple years later, when he was playing for the Avalanche. A mutual friend introduced us, and I said, "You scored one of the top 5 goals of my life." He seemed puzzled that it wasn't the greatest goal, and I said "A fellow named Eruzione scored a bigger one in Lake Placid." Later Brunette was kind enough to sign this photo for me, which now hangs in my office. Here's the goal:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reagan and James Dean

Enjoy this recently-unearthed clip of Ronald Reagan and James Dean, appearing together on GE Theater. Dean had not yet done "Rebel Without a Cause" and Reagan had not yet launched his political career. A fun interaction between two iconic figures.

Really cool pics

Again, sorry for the blogging blackout...just lots and lots of things going on. My apologies, and I'll try to keep things up to speed.

I'm fascinated by the Icelandic volcano (the name of which no non-Icelander seems to be able to pronounce). I read a description the other day that said the ash cloud was so big it had its own lighting bouncing around inside of it. I couldn't really imagine that, but then came this picture, in which you can actually see some of the lightning.
More super cool pictures can be seen here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Amazing play...

The major league baseball season started over the weekend, and we already have a candidate for play of the year.

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle sticks his foot out to stop a grounder up the middle, deflecting the ball into foul territory. He chases it down, then flips it with his glove, between his legs, right to the first baseman. I can't figure out how to embed the video from the MLB web site, so just click here to see the play.

Of course, as an umpire, one of the things I enjoy most is seeing the first base ump hustle to get into the proper position, and then get the call correct even though it's a bang-bang play.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What is a "progressive?"

Ever since Michael Dukakis almost singlehandedly made "liberal" a label of derision, liberals have been trying to find something else to call themselves. A while ago they seemed to have settled on "progressive." When folks like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow go on the air to share the Democratic Party talking points, they refer to themselves and fellow leftists as "progressives."

Along comes Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who became one of the stars of the health care reform debate by demonstrating his deep knowledge of the subject, and by standing up to the President during the "summit" meeting a few weeks ago. Ryan spoke in Oklahoma this week, and had a few words to say about being a "progressive." He makes some great points, and I'll just hand the floor over to him:

"The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call “Progressivism.” Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck.

"The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette. Progressivism was a powerful strain in both political parties for many years. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, and Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, both brought the Progressive movement to Washington. Early Progressives wanted to empower and engage the people. They fought for populist reforms like initiative and referendum, recalls, judicial elections, the breakup of monopoly corporations, and the elimination of vote buying and urban patronage.

"But Progressivism turned away from popular control toward central government planning. It lost most Americans and consumed itself in paternalism, arrogance, and snobbish condescension. “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson would have scorned the self-proclaimed “Progressives” of our day for handing out bailout checks to giant corporations, corrupting the Congress to purchase votes for government controlled health care, and funneling billions in Jobs Stimulus money to local politicians to pay for make-work patronage. That’s not “Progressivism,” that’s what real Progressives fought against!"

Friday, April 2, 2010


It was a year ago this week that this blog sprang into existence. Thanks to everyone who drops by, especially those who leave comments. Much appreciated, and as the Wild season draws to a close, I promise the frequency of posting will increase.

First round of golf for the year today, and April 1 may be the earliest I've ever golfed in Minnesota. I'm a bit embarrassed by the 88, but it was inflated by an ugly 10 on one hole. I'm pretty sure that's the last 10 I'll have this season!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Okay, one health care bit.....

There are so many flaws in this legislation that it seems almost pointless to pick on just one of them, but I think this is a great example of how government minds think. This is a little complicated, so I'll explain it as best I can.

My daughter Erin got married last year, and her father-in-law works for Verizon. (I'll keep his name out of this, just to protect him.) Tuesday, just hours after the health care bill was signed, he posted on his Facebook page that Verizon employees got a communication from the company telling them that their insurance costs were likely to go up because of the new law.

I was intrigued by this, and yesterday I learned more when one of National Review's contributors got a copy of the Verizon memo and posted it. I'm going to focus on one part of it.

One of the nice things Verizon does is provide prescription drug coverage for its retirees. It's not really just a nice gift from Verizon to its retirees, because the federal government rewards Verizon (and other companies that do the same thing) with a subsidy. When the government added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare (called Medicare Part D) a few years ago, they were afraid too many retirees would sign up for the benefit, and so they created an incentive for businesses to give their retirees a prescription benefit.

The Medicare drug benefit costs, on average, $1,209 per person. So the government offered companies a subsidy of about $665 per person if the company would continue to offer a drug benefit. The government thinking was that it's cheaper to pay the subsidy than to have retirees enrolling in Medicare Part D. Verizon was one of the companies that chose to take the subsidy and continue offering the benefit.

But now, as they assembled the health care "reform" package, the Obamaniacs had to find some revenue so that they could claim the bill wouldn't increase the deficit. So they decided to put a 35% tax on the presecription drug subsidy for retirees. By doing this, they got the Congressional Budget Office to estimate that the government would receive $5.4 billion in new revenue.

As Verizon wrote in the memo, the new tax makes the subsidy "less valuable to employers, like Verizon, and as a result, may have significant implications for both retirees and employers."

In other words, Verizon and most other companies are likely to decide that its easier to stop offering retiree drug benefits than pay a 35% tax. It won't matter to the retirees if Verizon drops the benefit, since they can simply enroll in the Medicare Part D to get the same benefit. So now the government - instead of paying $665 per retiree in subsidy - will now pay $1,209 per retiree through Medicare.

And that $5.4 billion in new revenue? Gone.

Bottom line: This part of the bill, which Obama, Pelosi and Reid said would reduce the deficit, will instead add billions to the cost of Medicare while adding no new government revenue. Nice work, eh?

Tough month....

I'm sorry there hasn't been more blogging action lately, but March is a crazy, crazy month. So far I've worked 19 hockey games at the X this month, some of which have run late into the night, and I have five games left over the next eight days. Throw in some other business, and I'm just a little short of time at the keyboard.

Several regulars have written to ask about my reaction to the health care bill, so here it is in a nutshell: Forget about it. The courts are going to throw out huge chunks of it, and the next Congress is going to roll back some other parts, and in the end, a few years from now, we'll have some reasonable reforms that include serious tort reform, and this bill and the dishonest, cynical, back-door dealing that created it will be a distant memory.

I'm looking forward to reading the names of 40-60 defeated Democrat congressmen in November.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Better things...

On a day when Congress inflicted a grievous wound on the country, I'm choosing instead to remember a wonderful afternoon at the X as Corrie, Sam and the grandkids watched the Wild beat Calgary 4-3. Annie spent a moment with the Herb Brooks statue after the game.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Toyotas out of control? Not likely.

Sometime last year I wrote about the alleged "swine flu" epidemic that was supposed to be on its way, wiping out millions of us, and mentioned that it was really nothing new. We went through a swine flu scare back in the 70s, and it also amounted to nothing.

Now come reports of Toyotas zooming around out of control, the vehicles accelerating on their own. Again, it's nothing new.

Way back in 1986, 60 Minutes aired a story about a great little car called the Audi 5000. CBS claimed the Audi was haunted by "unintended acceleration," causing people to lose control of their Audis. Similar tales were told about Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Turns out it was all bogus. People were stepping the gas instead of the brake. Yes, if you happen to step on the gas pedal, your car will accelerate. It turned out that CBS has rigged their "demonstration," much like Dateline NBC did a few years later in an attempt to "prove" that Chevy trucks would blow up on impact.

Now comes similar accusations about Toyotas. We even had a hoaxster named James Sikes who claimed his Toyota Prius couldn't be stopped on a California freeway. As you can read here, Sikes is a veteran of phony insurance claims and a bit of a publicity hound. There's nothing about his story that holds up.

Gas pedals and brake pedals are, by necessity, close together. And it turns out that, as people get a little older and a little less nimble, they become more likely to confuse the two. That's why cars accelerate: People - mostly older people - stop on the gas pedal when they mean to step on the brake. (Read more about the excessive involvement of the elderly here.)

Of course, the media love to demonize large companies, and Toyota happens to be the current target. But when it's all said and done, we will find - just as we did in the case of the Audi 5000 - this was all driver error.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best weekend of the year

What might be the best weekend of the entire year starts Thursday morning, when the Class AA portion of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament gets underway in St. Paul. I've been attending the tournament since I was in high school myself (100 million years ago...before there was fire) and have seen every Class AA game of the tourney in person since it moved to the X in 2001.

Like the Miracle on Ice story (see Feb. 22 blog post below), this event is uniquely special to those who grew up playing hockey in Minnesota. When Herb Brooks said it was the biggest thrill of his life, he meant it.

But instead of trying to do justice to it myself, I'm just going to link to the best story about the tournament that I've ever read. Just click here, and you'll be taken to the 1983 story written for Sports Illustrated by the great E.M. Swift. He came out here for the event, and wrote a magnificant profile that still holds up 27 years later. Enjoy the story, and enjoy the tournament.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A modest proposal...

There are so many things about political correctness that bug me, but perhaps the thing that most bothers me is the emphasis on race. For the past few decades, scumbags like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have done their best to divide America along racial lines. Everyone of a certain skin color is a victim, they will tell you, which is exactly the opposite of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of a time when men were judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

We've become obsessed with race. Business feel forced by the government to meet quotas for both employees and customers. (One of the biggest reasons for our present economic situation was the burst of the real estate bubble, a bubble that was largely caused by banks feeling pressured to issue loans to unqualified borrowers, lest they be called "racist" by ACORN and the federal government.)

Schools reject more qualified applicants because they need to fill racial quotas. (Do you want to be treated by a doctor that had low MCAT scores and poor grades, but was accepted into medical school because of his ethnicity?)

It irks me every time I have to fill out a form and there are those little boxes asking for "race" or "ethnicity." I've always wondered if I could get preferential treatment by checking that "Native American" box, in honor of my maternal great-grandmother, who was a full-blooded Sioux.

But there's a bigger principal at work here than any individual possible advantage. The fact is that virtually all of us are descended from someone who left a different country in order to become an American. They left because they didn't want to be Italians or Swedes or Brazilians or - in my great-great grandfather's case - Dutchmen. They wanted to be Americans.

Now comes a little method for fighting the madness. In the next few weeks, most of us will get a census form in the mail. You can see what it looks like here, and if you scroll down to question 9, you'll see that you're going to be asked about the ethnicity of everyone in your household.

The explanation even tells you why you should be hesitant to answer. It says, "State government uses the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services."

Is that really what you want your government doing?

Now, providing false information on the census is a crime, and I would never urge anyone to break the law. However, what has been suggested by some - and what I plan to do - is this:

On question 9, there is a box for "some other race," and space to write the name of that other race. My intention is to check the box, and in the space provided for my race, write in "American."

Granted, it's a small gesture, but sometimes a small gesture is all it takes. And maybe if enough people do this we can make some bureaucrat somewhere begin to re-think this whole racial nonsense, and maybe our children and grandchildren can someday actually live in a color-blind society, free from the racial poison that Jackson, Sharpton and other have left us.

When a hockey season dies....

There's a scene in the movie A Few Good Men when the attorney, played by Tom Cruise, is trying to get one of his clients to accept a plea bargain that will result in the client spending six months in jail. "Come on, it's six months," he says to the client. "It's a hockey season."

Which, chronologically speaking, is true. Mid-October to mid-April is six months, but when you're up to your neck in a hockey season, it seems much longer. As most of you know, I do some work for the Minnesota Wild, and am at almost every home game. I've managed to make a few road trips with them as well, and it's pretty rare that I don't see a road game on TV.

Six months. That's 82 games, preceded by about three weeks of training camp and exhibition games. And the goal of it all is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's the reward for six months of attending, watching, reading and talking about your hockey team: To be one of the 16 teams that gets to play for the Stanley Cup.

Playoff hockey is amazing. It's intense, it's exciting and there's nothing like it in sports. Every best-of-seven series becomes like a novel, with protagonists, antagonists, plot twists and ultimately a memorable resolution.

And so we spend those six months watching the standings. We see winning streaks, losing streaks and those frustrating overtime and shootout losses. Injuries, hot goalies and bad calls all make up the tapestry of a hockey season, and it's all worthwhile for the chance to be in the building when it's playoff time.

Today the Wild lost 5-2 to Calgary, and the playoffs now look all but impossible. That makes two straight years without the playoffs, and it has now been seven years since we won a playoff series.

There were lowered expectations this year with a new coach, new GM and our first post-Gaborik season, but this team showed some signs. After a rough 3-9 start they played pretty good hockey, bolstered by the November acquisition of Guillaume Latendresse, who appears to be a star in the making, and strong seasons from Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat. Even four days ago they appeared ready to make a big push for the playoffs.

But an inexplicable shootout loss Friday in Edmonton, and today's flop against Calgary, make it a really steep hill. The Wild have 18 games left, and would need something like a 14-4 record to have a shot, which isn't going to happen.

Which I should be able to handle better, except that next October seems such a long ways away, and the past five months now start to feel like a waste of time. It wasn't, and I'll get over it, but tonight it hurts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My bad....

Apparently in my computer ineptitude I managed to accidentally turn off the comment portion of the blog. My apologies to all of you who made comments, and the situation has been fixed. Thanks for the comments, which are always appreciated.

The Democrats' idea of an improved economy

We've had fun at Harry Reid's expense before, and I'd like to stop, but it's just soooo easy. Here is a clip of him taking to the Senate floor to explain how much better things are getting in the American economy. Pure genius.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mixed Emotions

The U.S. Olympic hockey team plays its semifinal game this afternoon against Finland, and I have to admit my rooting interest is a little divided.

Of course, as a USA-born former hockey player, I should be cheering for the red, white and blue, and I mostly will be. But through the entire game, there's going to be this little voice in my head, reminding me that someone pretty special is on the other team.

And it's going to be all but impossible for me to root against Mikko Koivu. He is the captain of the Wild, our best player, our leader and he brings his high-level work ethic every night. I love watching him play because I know that his main focus in life is bringing the Stanley Cup to St. Paul, which would be one of those now-I-can-die-in-peace moments for me.

And rooting for the USA today means rooting against Mikko, and I'm not at all sure I can do that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Everything you need to know about Canadian health care

For more than 20 years, I've been hearing about the alleged wonders of Canada's government-run health care system. Advocates tell you how wonderful it is that the government pays for everything and no one is uninsured and care is readily available.

Of course, they never tell you about the long wait times for basic care, the disparities in availability across the country and all the other problems associated with the system, including a shortage of diagnostic equipment and the lack of medical research. You're not going to read too many news stories that begins "Canadian medical researchers discovered...."

But you don't have to believe a cyncial American. Look instead to the example set by the Premier of Newfoundland, one Danny Williams. A year or so ago, Mr. Williams was diagnosed with a leaky heart valve, and was told that it should be monitored, and perhaps surgically repaired "down the road."

Around Christmas, his condition was considered more severe, and surgery was recommended. So what did the head of this Canadian province do? He packed up and headed for Florida to have the surgery performed.

As you can read in this story, Williams told a Newfoundland TV station that the surgery wasn't available in Canada, although that is disputed by a number of Canadian surgeons. But regardless of the facts, Williams says the decision boils down to "It's my health, it's my choice."

The choice, of course, is only available if you have the means to travel to another country and pay for surgery. If you are one of the millions of Canadians without such means, you have no choice. You're sentenced to a bureaucrat-run system that gives you no choices or options and - in this case - would have required a waiting period of several weeks before the surgery was available.

Just a little story to remember next time you hear how wonderful the Canadian system is. Apparently it's good, just not good enough for the people who run it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

30 Years Ago Today...

NBC and Al Michaels did a terrific job yesterday with their look back at the 1980 Miracle on Ice game, when the young American hockey team beat the Soviets at the Lake Placid Olympics. I can hardly ever see a reference to that game without choking up, and the segment yesterday moved me to tears several times. (Just like the movie Miracle does every time. I'm just a little girl when I watch that.)

Most Americans have a couple of incorrect memories about the game. First, they think they saw it live on ABC Friday night. In fact, that was a tape-delay broadcast of a game that started about 4 p.m., Central time. ABC begged the International Olympic Committee to move the game to prime time, but the IOC refused.

The game was broadcast live, however, in Canada. Stan Hubbard, owner of KSTP-TV in Minneapolis and a huge hockey booster, arranged for KSTP radio to take the audio feed from the Canadian broadcast.

My close friend and teammate, Keith Jacobson, and I had season tickets for Gopher hockey, and we would usually meet Friday afternoons at the Varsity Bar and Cafe on University Ave. We'd have a couple beers, grab something to eat and then walk down to old Mariucci Arena for the Gopher game.

That afternoon we got there at 4:00 and the good folks at the Varsity had piped the KSTP radio feed into their PA system. So we sat there with a pitcher of beer, listening to the scratchy audio of the game as it was played in Lake Placid. By 6:30 it was over, the Americans had won, and we went down to Mariucci, where most of the crowd knew about it, and was buzzing.

The Gophers were playing UMD that night, which was always a special matchup for Keith and me. We had both gone to UMD for two years, then transferred to the U, so we had spent time watching former Bulldogs Mark Pavelich and John Harrington, who were on the Olympic team, and were classmates with all of the Gophers on the team as well. And while beating the Russians was certainly a national victory, that night in Mariucci it felt very much like a Minnesota victory.

So, while we were watching the Gophers-Bulldogs game, most of America was watching the taped broadcast of the game, which is why most people think it happened Friday night.

The other common incorrect memory most people have is in thinking the game was for the gold medal. It wasn't, and the U.S. still had to play Finland Sunday. If they lost that game, they faced the possibility of not medaling at all, let alone winning gold. Of course, they came through, won the gold and the rest is history.

But even 30 years later, it's hard to properly explain what that moment meant to a kid who grew up playing hockey in Minnesota. We were always made to feel inferior by the Canadians, and the Canadians were considered inferior by the Russians, so we knew we were a ways down the hockey totem pole.

But suddenly that wasn't true. It turns out that you could take a bunch of Minnesota kids, throw in a few Easterners, put them under the direction of Herb Brooks - the ultimate Minnesota "rink rat" - and you could beat the best team in the world.

On one level, it was just a sporting event, and I suppose you really can't compare it to life events like marriage, the birth of your children, etc.

But I still don't have any problem saying that it was one of the most significant moments of my life, and 30 years later I can still get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If you like great hockey...

I know that sitting up late watching hockey is not for everyone, but these games from the Olympic tournament are fantastic. The past two nights Slovakia - which has Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, among others - has been involved in two great games, both of which started after 11 p.m., Central time.

Wednesday night they lost 3-1 to the Czechs, then rebounded last night to beat tournament favorite Russia 2-1 in a seven-round shootout. Amazing hockey game, even if it left me going to bed around 2 a.m.

Some people complain that the long grind of an 82-game NHL season leads to dull, boring hockey. I don't necessarily agree with that, but if you feel that way, you should be watching the Olympics to see hockey at its very best, played with speed and passion and excitement.

Case in point: Gaborik, whom I love watching (see posts from last April), normally takes the night off if he has almost any kind of injury or soreness. But the last two nights he's been out on the ice, playing with 21 stitches just above his knee because it's that important to him to play for his country.

Sunday is the end of the preliminary round, a day they are calling "Rivalry Sunday." The U.S. will face Canada, the Russians play the Czechs (with a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr), and we also have the Scandinavian Super Bowl as the Finns (with three members of the Wild) take on the defending gold medalists from Sweden. It will be a great day of hockey, and THEN we get to the elimination rounds for the medals.

And for those of you who aren't hockey fans, tune in for some of Sunday's action, and you may begin to understand why some of us love this game.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A little hockey flashback

I'm sitting here late on Wednesday night, watching the Czech Republic take on Slovakia in hockey. Tons of talent in this game...the Hossa brothers, Gaborik (playing hurt for a change), Jagr, Demitra, Havlat and Zidlicky from the Wild, Vokoun, Elias, Kuba...lots of fun players.

Flash back a couple of years. The Wild - with Gaborik and Demitra - are facing Atlanta, with Marian Hossa. It's early in the day and the teams are going through morning skates. In the hallway between the locker rooms, the three Slovaks are chatting away in their native tongue.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire walks by, sees the three of them and says, "They must be discussing backchecking."

If that doesn't strike you as funny, you aren't watching enough hockey.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Warning: Cute baby photo ahead

We know his sister is the smartest little girl in the universe, and now we have photographic evidence that grandson Sam - a.k.a "The Slammer" - could be the cutest little boy in the universe. At 5-1/2 months, he posed in the high chair at lunchtime today.

The D.C. Blizzard

Here's my favorite photo from the blizzard that hit Washington, D.C. and much of the East Coast today. This is taken just a block or so from the Capitol.

In my Washington years, I was always amazed at how just 3-4 inches of snow could shut down the city, and there's really no doubt that they are weather weenies out there.

But what they've had the last week would crush almost any city. First they got 20+ inches of snow, and before that could even be adequately cleared, they got another 10 inches or so, accompanied by high winds that blew everything into drifts.

Generally D.C. snow is no big deal because the temps go back to 50 in a couple days and it all melts. That won't happen with this snow, and for all my friends back there, I wish I could send you my snowblower. Good luck.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Best Super Bowl Ad

The folks at Audi did us a favor here by giving us a glimpse of the future. The "Thought Police" are already here, chipping away at freedom throgh campus "speech codes" and other forms of political correctness. Here's what it's going to look like when the enviro-nazis get their way. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Gipper!

The greatest president of the 20th century was born 99 years ago today. Among the many differences between him and the current Oval Office occupant, Ronald Reagan would have understood the need to preserve Western civilization by winning the war on terror.

For a story about how Reagan was not just a great man, but a good man, click here.

I still miss him. God bless, Gipper.

How dumb is this guy? (Part 5)

I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, but, REALLY? This guy is considered smart? He got into Harvard? Holy affirmative action, Batman.

Here he is at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast, reading (again) from his teleprompter. He comes across the word "corpsman," which is pronounced core-man (as anyone who ever watched a war movie knows). Instead, boy genius pronounces it "corpse-man." And just to prove that (in his mind) it wasn't a mistake, he does it again a few seconds later.

If it's final Jeopardy and the players are this guy and Dan Quayle, my money's on Quayle every time.

Imagine that: The commander-in-chief of the mightiest army in the world doesn't know what a corpsman is, or even how to pronounce it, even though there are corpsmen stationed in the White House itself. Yeah, that helps me sleep better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Really? This guy is smart? (Part 4)

I know it seems like we just touched on this subject a few days ago (see January 19 post, and previous entries mentioned there) but I can't get over the increasing evidence that this president just isn't very bright.

Last year he managed to anger a large chunk of the Nevada electorate when he told a bunch of businesses that had taken federal bailout money that "You can't go take that trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on taxpayers' dime." The engine of the Nevada economy is tourism, and when the President of the United States starts telling people not to go to Las Vegas....well, let's just say that in a city with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates, Obama won't be the grand marshall of any upcoming parades.

But surely he learned a lesson, right? When the Mayor of Las Vegas, the Senate Majority leader and the Governor of Nevada are all angry at you, you wouldn't be stupid enough to make the same mistake twice, would you?

Well, our guy would. Yesterday in New Hampshire, he decided to lecture a group of town hall meeting attendees about their personal spending habits. "When times are tough, you tighten your belts...You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."

The quick response came from the President's own party. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leaders from Nevada said, "The President needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn't be spending their money."

Perhaps someone should sit the President down with a map and a crayon, circle the state of Nevada and explain to him that Reid - who has spent a year as the President's personal toady on Capitol Hill - is in an uphill battle for re-election, and that Nevada is a swing state that has gone Republican in eight of the last 11 presidential elections.

Or maybe they don't need to. The voters of Nevada will probably start explaining all of this to the president in about nine months.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Stupid things Canucks say

I don't think I've picked on Satan's Team since they were eliminated from the playoffs last spring, but the Vancouver Canucks are back in the news again.

The Winter Olympics start in Vancouver in a couple of weeks, and the hockey venue, of course, is GM Place, normally the home of the Canucks and their knuckle-dragging, foul-smelling fans. The building has to be extensively remodeled (for example, 14 locker rooms are needed for all of the different teams that will be competing) and then brought back to normal after the games, and all of this entails a lot of work that will keep the Canucks out of the building for an extended period of time.

The Canucks left home Thursday for a 14-game, 13-city road trip that will last 42 days. They will play eight games over the next 14 days, take a two-week Olympic break, then play another six games over nine days until they return home around March 11. Personally, I don't think it couldn't happen to a better team. Enjoy the road, slugs.

I wasn't going to write about it until the Canucks' Rick Rypien gave a reporter one of the dumbest quotes I've ever read. Granted, athletes say a lot of stupid things along the lines of, "Well, if we can score more than they do, we've got a chance to win," but this one really takes the cake. Here's Rypien on the subject of the road trip:

"I don't think people realize, with this road trip there's a lot of traveling, a lot of being on planes, a lot of jumping from one place to another right after you play and getting ready for the next game."

Ah, actually Rick, most people DO realize that road trips involve traveling, flying and playing in different cities. But thanks for the insight. The schoolteachers in your hometown of Coleman, Alberta, must be so proud.