Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A staffer's nightmare

Anyone who has been a staff person for a high-level elected official - governor, congressman, senator, president - knows the nightmare: Doing something that makes you or your boss look like a doofus.

And because I had one or two such moments over the years, I can sympathize with the person in the White House press office who put together the credential pictured here for the President's just-completed trip.

As you can see from the list of cities on the credential, the President visited the states of Washington, California and Colorado. The staffer who designed the credential decided to illustrate this by highlighting the three states in white.

The problem? They highlighted Wyoming, not Colorado. Next time, double-check the atlas before you okay that printer's proof.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Take the last train to Sharksville

Demonstrating once again that there is no "added value" in an Ivy League education, the President showed up on the Kentucky-Ohio border the other day and informed the crowd that America was the nation that built the "intercontinental railroad." (See a transcript here.)

Really? We built a railroad that runs from one continent to another? Was that the one between North America and Europe, or between North America and Asia?

It's just another sign that Barry isn't that bright a guy. We've enjoyed the other examples, noted here, here, here, here and here, that reinforce the notion that not only is he not the brightest guy in America, he probably isn't nearly as smart as Dan Quayle.

But at least some of the mistakes - the "Austrian" language, the inability to pronounce the word "corpsman" - could be written off as one-time gaffes. It turns out, however, that this was at least the fifth incidence of his using the "intercontinental railroad" phrase, (see examples here) which means the folks in his speechwriting shop aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer either.

Think there's any chance you'll read about this in the New York Times, Washington Post or Star-Tribune? Doesn't seem likely, because it would interfere with their already-established narrative of Mr. Hope-and-Change being a brainiac, although a quick glance at the nation's economic statistics would seem to tell you otherwise.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A new blog for Minnesota Wild fans

Actually, two new blogs. As many of you know, I work part-time for the Wild, and one of the things I do is prepare a set of game notes before each home game. These are distributed to the Guest Services and Security staff, along with some others, before each game. They provide the staff with a little background info, some historical notes, standings, etc., in part so that they can have a little extra insight when they talk hockey with the patrons.

Anyway, this year I've decided to put those notes up on a separate blog, so that staff can read them before they get to the arena, and so that they also have a place to direct some of the fans who have learned about the notes and often request a copy. So before each home game, you'll be able to find the notes at I anticipate that I'll also share some post-game observations and maybe a little discussion will take place.

The second blog belongs to my oldest son, Travis, who is a very shrewd observer of both the Wild and the entire NHL. He has started a new blog at:

and I expect it will be a lot of fun for hockey fans. Enjoy them both!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Line of the week

I'm not normally a big Jay Leno fan - his humor seems stuck in 1992 - but tonight he got off a really terrific line about the President:

"After saying the jobs bill is paid for, President Obama now says that it will be paid for by raising taxes over 10 years. I can’t figure out if he’s the kind of guy who makes infomercials, or the kind of guy who falls for infomercials."

It was said back in the '70s that people really knew Nixon was in trouble when Johnny Carson started making fun of him. I think it still holds true, and probably even more so for a Democrat: When Hollywood lefties like Leno think you're a buffoon, you're probably in big trouble.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Solyndra....get used to hearing about it

The White House predicated much of its economic recovery plan on the idea of "green jobs." The idea is built on the fantasy that there is some sort of available technology - solar, wind, biomass, whatever - that can be cheaper and more effective than our current energy sources.

That fact is that if such technology existed and could be properly harnessed, the private sector would be doing it. But liberals love to believe the fantasy that we can all slap a solar panel on our roof and a windmill in our backyard and fulfill all our energy needs without any byproducts.

It's a pipe dream, but it's a harmless one - until they start spending your money trying to fulfill it.

Which is where Solyndra comes in. Solyndra was a California start-up company whose founders claimed they could create thousands of jobs manufacturing solar panels, if only they could get a little help from the government.

And help they got. The company applied for a $535 million loan guarantee through a Dept. of Energy program. The application was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which had a number of concerns about the project, and one OMB staffer even said that according to the business model, the company would "run out of money by September, 2011." That warning turned out to be prescient.

But the White House was undeterred. E-mails released this week by congressional investigators show an unrelenting pressure from the Obama administration to approve the loan guarantees. OMB finally bowed to that pressure, allowing the president to travel to California (see the NBC clip below) to boast about all of the "green jobs" he was producing.

Except, of course, it was just another liberal pipe dream. Solyndra burned through half a billion dollars, then filed for bankruptcy and laid off all 1,100 workers. The FBI has raided the business, and the Treasury Department has launched a fraud investigation.

So why would Obama push so hard for this project? Well, as Deep Throat said in "All The President's Men," "follow the money."

It turns out that a foundation belonging to billionaire George Kaiser was a big investor in Solyndra. Who is George Kaiser? He's an Oklahoma business man who:

-- Personally donated more than $53,000 to Obama's 2008 campaign
-- Raised and "bundled" between $50,000 and $100,000 for that campaign
-- Encouraged Solyndra executives and board members to donate another $87,050 to that campaign
-- Was a visitor to the White House on 16 occasions

The House held two days of hearings this week on the scandal, which is explained well in the NBC report below. You'll be hearing a LOT more about this story in the coming weeks.

"If you love me, you got to help me pass this bill"

His Holiness, Obama the First (and soon to be last) actually said that to a crowd in North Carolina on Wednesday, reported here by AFP.

So that's what it's come to, eh? His popularity plummeting, his policies ruining the economy and his fellow Democrats deserting him (see that story here) Obama is down to the only card he thinks he has left: The cult of personality.

It got him to the Oval Office, where his inexperience and ineptitude have been exposed. It won't get his flawed jobs program passed, and it won't get him re-elected.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A remarkable 9/11 story

Everyone is writing about their memories of 9/11/01, and being a bit of a contrarian, I wasn't planning to write anything special, since my experience was quite similar to that of millions of other people. Shock, disbelief, anger, etc.

But today I found a story worth sharing. It involves a pilot named Heather Penney, who was a Lieutenant on 9/11, stationed at Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington. You can read the entire account here, but the story in a nutshell is this:

On duty as a newly-minted Air Force pilot, Heather and her commanding officer learned of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks much like everyone else. Then came the news that a fourth plane was in the air, and believed to be heading for Washington. The two of them were told to get in their jets and stop the airliner.

The kicker to the story is that there was no time to put ammunition or missiles on their planes. The two of them went up in the air, prepared to fly their planes directly into the airliner, sacrificing their own lives to bring down the plane.

Read the story for all of the details, but it's a remarkable story of heroism that Lt. Penney - now a Major - has not talked publicly about until now.

I remember being with some friends a week or two after 9/11, and we talked about how encouraging it was to see people flying the flag, singing "God Bless America" and the general sense of patriotism that was becoming part of more people's daily lives. I said that while it was uplifting to see people reacting that way, I wanted others to know that some of us felt that same way on Sept. 10, and that we didn't need to be attacked to understand how much we loved America.

Heather Penney loved America as well, and was prepared to give up her life in a war that none of us even understood we were fighting at that point. She went on to fly two tours in Iraq, and still flies for the National Guard. As long as America continues to produce men and women with her kind of courage, we'll continue to be the land of the free.

Enjoy her story.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

If you don't believe me.....

....then perhaps you'll want to listen to Michael Barone. While Barone might be considered slightly conservative, most political observers consider him a middle-of-the-road guy - he wrote for U.S. News and World Report for 18 years - whose opinions are worth listening to. He has been writing about politics for several decades, and is the editor of The Almanac of American Politics. Educated at Harvard and Yale Law, and a former George McGovern supporter, Barone is hardly a flaming right-winger.

You already knew I was not going to be impressed with Obama's "jobs speech" on Thursday night, so I won't bore you with my take. Instead, I'll treat you to Barone's response, which I consider a serious, thoughtful analysis. Enjoy:


Barack Obama looked and sounded angry in his speech to the joint session of Congress. He bitterly assailed one straw man after another and made reference to a grab bag of proposals which would cost something on the order of $450 billion—assuring us on the one hand that they all had been supported by Republicans as well as Democrats in the past and suggesting that somehow they are going to turn the economy around. He called for further cuts in the payroll tax (which if continued indefinitely would undermine the case of Social Security as something people have earned rather than a form of welfare) and for a further extension of unemployment insurance (perhaps justifiable on humanitarian grounds, but sure to at least marginally raise the unemployment rate over what it would otherwise be). He called for a tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed (unfortunately, these things can be gamed). He gave a veiled plug for his pet project of high-speed rail (a real dud) and for infrastructure spending generally (but didn’t he learn that there aren’t really any shovel-ready projects?). He called for a school modernization program (will it result in more jobs than the Seattle weatherization program that cost $22 million and produced 14 jobs?) and for funding more teacher jobs (a political payoff to the teacher unions which together with other unions gave Democrats $400 million in the 2008 campaign cycle). “We’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the country.” Yeah, sure. Like the screening process that produced that $535,000,000 loan guarantee to now-bankrupt Solyndra. And Congress should pass the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Except that Congress can’t, because Obama hasn’t sent them up there yet in his 961 days as president.

Obama assured us that this would all be paid for. But as far as I could gather, he punted that part of it to the supercommittee of 12 members set up under the debt ceiling bill. He now blithely charges it with coming up with more than its current goal of $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Oh, and he’s going to announce “a more ambitious deficit plan” that will “stabilize our debt in the long run”--11 days from now.

In the meantime, he called for higher taxes on “a few of the most affluent citizens”—as if this could pay for all the spending he’s been backing. What’s interesting here is that he seems to have left the way open for a 1986-style tax reform, cutting tax rates and eliminating tax preferences, or at least that’s how I read these words: “While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets [did he look up at his guest Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, which paid no corporate tax on $14 billion in profits last year?]. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary—an outrage he has asked us to fix [actually, Buffett could volunteer to pay more if he wants to]. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.” As I read it, he’s not insisting on higher tax rates, though he apparently is not ready to agree to a tax reform that is scored as revenue-neutral, as the 1986 act was. Also, if Obama wanted a 1986-type reform, he could have used the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s recommendations last December as a springboard; instead, he brushed them aside without a murmur. So on balance I don’t think he’s serious on this, but there is a glimmer of a possibility that he is.

Straw men took a terrible beating from the president. He assailed “tax loopholes” for oil companies, the chief one of which is that they are treated like other companies classified as manufacturers. The administration proposal is that the five largest oil companies shouldn’t be, because—well, because we want to get our hands on more of their money. Today’s Republicans, he gave us to understand, want to “eliminate most government regulations” and “wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.” And, he suggested, they would never have created public health schools or the G.I. Bill or research universities.

When Barack Obama says, “This isn’t political grandstanding,” you have a pretty good clue that that is exactly what it is. Lest anyone doubt that, consider this from the third-to-last paragraph. “You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of the country.”

In other words, this was a campaign speech. It might result in passage of some of Obama’s proposals, and some of them might even do some good. But of course we didn’t see the kind of change of direction on policy that Bill Clinton made in 1995 and 1996, which enabled him to rise above his party’s 45% level of support in the 1994 elections (that’s the Democratic percentage of the House popular vote) and with 49% of the vote win reelection in 1996. (Ross Perot won 6% that year; polls suggest two points of it would have gone to Clinton had Perot not run.) I don’t think these proposals have the potential to turn around the careening economy, I don’t think many of them will become law and I don’t think this campaign initiative is likely to prove successful. From the demeanor and affect of the unhappy warrior at the podium last night, I suspect he may feel the same way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "summer of sorrow"

That's how Star-Tribune NHL writer Mike Russo headlined his blog post today, announcing the death of former Wild center Pavol Demitra in a plane crash in Russia. An entire team was lost in the crash, including at least seven players and coaches with NHL experience, but Demitra's loss strikes the State of Hockey directly.

There have been a number of memorable nights in the first 10 seasons at Xcel Energy Center, but perhaps the biggest regular-season game was April 3, 2008. With just two games left in the season, the Wild needed a win over Calgary to clinch their first-ever division championship. That night, the player who best answered the call was Pavol Demitra.

The Wild had acquired Demitra in their first-ever "blockbuster" trade to play center alongside fellow Slovakian Marian Gaborik, and the two had instant chemistry. On that April night - as you can see from the highlights below - Demitra first set up Todd Fedoruk for the tying goal and then, with the score tied 1-1 in the 3rd period, he threw a beautiful cross-ice pass to spring Gaborik, who went in to score what would be the game-winner. The Wild had their first championship.

Demitra played two seasons here, scoring 40 goals and 118 points in 139 games, and was a thrill to watch.

The Wild have played just 10 seasons, and about 160 players have worn Iron Range Red. With Demitra's passing, we have now lost three of them, including Sergei Zholtok and Derek Boogaard. The odds of losing three athletes from one team before the age of 40 seem very high.

R.I.P., Pavol, and thanks for helping us hang a banner.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The dumbest thing you'll ever read in your life

Back in July I wrote about some of the failures of higher education, and this weekend the Star-Tribune printed what will now be exhibit "A" in the case for the diminished value of sending so many people to college.

I'm going to reprint the entire op-ed here, rather than simply link to it, because I'm afraid someday the link will no longer work, and this idiocy must be saved for posterity.

Under the headline "The subtle racism around us (even in a cup of coffee)", someone named Hinda Mandell serves up something so....well, I'll just let you read it for yourself:


What do you do when a favorite coffee shop features various coffee blends with racially tinged names?

This is probably not one of life's great questions. But it's one I've been pondering lately.

I was sitting in this beloved joint in New York recently, with its hipster-hippie ambiance, when I overheard a conversation. I'm convinced that the barista and customer, both white, were oblivious to the racially charged nature of their utterances.

Asked the customer: "What type of roast is the Jungle Roast?"

The barista, who looked on the younger side of 20, answered: "It's a darker roast."

I sat there flabbergasted. These two women were engaging in a practical conversation -- is the coffee a light or dark brew?

But because of the name of the roast -- and its richer flavor -- they were in fact reinforcing the notion of the jungle and its people as "dark."

Perhaps you think I'm making too much of a simple exchange.

But consider, too, that while eavesdropping I was sipping on a luscious coffee blend that the shop calls Jamaica Me Crazy. It's seasoned with fresh cinnamon. Maybe that's what they drink in Jamaica? I don't know, since I've never been there.

But I do know that if the coffee was labeled Protestants A Plenty, Catholics Be Crazy, Jews be Jivin' or Blacks Be Boppin', there would be an uproar. Of course, Protestants and Catholics, as part of the religious mainstream, do not typically face the brunt of prejudice in the United States.

And most know that intolerance against Jews and blacks is not publicly accepted. Blatant bigotry is easy to spot, while covert bigotry -- where an entire group is used to sell coffee -- can be easier to stomach and therefore ignore.

It's been nearly a decade since I learned one of my biggest life lessons. Difference is all about perception.

This lesson came in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, when I was riding a campus commuter bus with a college classmate into Boston. I was retelling a story I heard on the radio. It was about a teenager who had an African-American parent and an Arab-American parent.

The newscast covered this boy's life in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, since the boy's skin was dark, but not in a "familiar" way. As a result, he was often met with suspicion by people ranging from clerks to security personnel.

"He must have been interesting-looking," I said.

That's when a fellow student turned around in her seat, faced me and said, "Why? Because he's black?"

I don't remember my response. But I remember feeling knee-jerk defensive, as one typically feels when accused of racism or any other kind of "ism."

Yet it took me the better part of a decade, until I began studying communication messages for a living, to understand this student's point. The teenager who is half African-American and half Arab-American is "interesting" because he is different -- at least to me, a white person with two white parents who grew up in mostly white neighborhoods.

I should have known better than to use the descriptive term "interesting," which is really code for "different," especially since I grew up as a Jew in Minnesota.

One summer in high school, I attended an all-girls' basketball camp. I was the only one under 5 foot 7 inches. And the only non-Christian. One night, a girl who slept on the bunk above mine was complaining about her ex-boyfriend.

"He's weird," she said. And then, as an afterthought: "He's Jewish."

Uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, I spoke up. "I'm Jewish," I said.

My bunkmate then reached out her hand. "Give me five," she said.

I did. And I never felt like such an idiot, high-fiving a person because I was Jewish and therefore different -- to her.

It's this distance of difference that allows the coffee shop to offer its blends without protest. After all, what's the likelihood that someone from Jamaica -- or the jungle -- would walk into this cafe in upstate New York cafe?

People tolerate intolerance if it's not directed at them and if it's dished up in a cutesy format.

I have not been back to that coffee shop for a while. Not out of protest, but because it would force me to confront myself. Do I embarrass the cafe manager by saying something? Do I become complicit by ordering a medium Jamaica Me Crazy with steamed milk, please?

Deciphering these messages might be the easier part. Figuring out what to do with them afterward is a lot harder.


My first thought was that this had to be a parody. I had to make sure I wasn't at The Onion's website. No one could possibly be stupid enough to really think that calling a coffee blend "Jamaica Me Crazy" is "covert bigotry." But as you read on, it's impossible to escape the conclusion that she is totally serious. It's not a parody; She is actually "flabbergasted" that there is a blend of coffee called "Jungle Roast," and that people aren't ashamed to say the words out loud.

By her standards, there must have been incredible racism afoot in the land when people began selling Belgian waffles, French toast, Canadian bacon, German chocolate cake, Swiss cheese, Spanish rice and Swedish meatballs.

How did those poor people from a city in Germany ever deal with the racism and bigotry of having people across America eating Hamburgers? Should I now feel racial guilt for ever ordering Peking duck? And if you've ever eaten Chicken Kiev, Brussels sprouts or Irish stew, you're probably guilty of "covert racism" as well!

What about a Milky Way candy bar? Isn't that offensive to any would-be visitors to our planet from elsewhere in the galaxy? Was it the consumption of Polish sausage that make all those high school Polack jokes palatable? I probably have to apologize to Hank Hill for having ever eaten Texas toast. And everything Thanksgiving we must be offending the entire country of Turkey!

The rest of her silliness speaks for itself, but here's what I find really scary: She is described at the bottom of the column as "a 1998 graduate of Edina High School and an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York."

First off, if I'm running Edina High School, I'd revoke the diploma immediately. Who needs the bad publicity that comes from having a total nitwit claim to be a graduate of your school? Secondly, you really have to think twice before writing those large tuition checks to any higher education system in which someone like Hinda Mandell can become an assistant professor.

In all seriousness, the real tragedy is this: Sadly, there are still vestiges of racism and bigotry in the world. But when the name of a coffee blend is considered "racism," then the word "racism" has no meaning anymore, and it becomes more and more difficult to combat real racism. It's not just that Ms. Mandell is an intellectual featherweight, the fact is that her kind of thinking is a huge obstacle to the noble goal of a color-blind society.

And finally, the fact that an editor at the Star-Tribune found this piece of gibberish worthy of printing tells us a lot about the value of their judgments as well.

UPDATE: I don't know for sure that it's the same person, but there is a "Hinda Mandell" on Facebook who lives in Rochester, New York. She lists her colleges attended as Brandeis, Syracuse and Harvard, which makes you think mom and dad didn't quite get their money's worth with little Hinda's college fund.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The great Minnesota get-together

I admit it: I'm a state fair junkie. When I was a kid I loved it, when I spent hundreds of hours there working for Sen. Rudy Boschwitz and his flavored-milk stand, I loved it, and now that I spend 9-10 nights each year working at the Grandstand, I still love it.

The food, the people-watching, the same old familiar sights year after's always fun. Here's a quick photo essay of this year's activity.

Here's Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild, signing autographs at the Wild's booth. Judging from his biceps, I'd say he's been doing his off-season weightlifting.

Classic state fair scene: Minnesotans watching a gadget demonstration in the hot, stuffy grandstand.

If you want to be considered a "real" radio station, you have to broadcast live from the fairgrounds. Here's KFAN's Dan Barrerio interviewing Gopher basketball coach Tubby Smith.

And just a hundred yards or so away, Joe Soucheray of ESPN 1500 (formerly KSTP-AM) trades jibes with Governor Mark Dayton.

The Minnesota Twins now have a huge tent of their own, and out back they've set up a little whiffle ball field.

My daughter Corrie gave each set of grandparents their own nickname, and I'm "Opa" which is a Dutch variation of Grandpa. Imagine my surprise to find my own food/music/beer spot on the grounds. (I think Opaa is a Greek version of the same word.)

UPDATE: The valedictorian of my high school class (Princeton '74), Sandy Radeke, informs me that "Opaa" is sort of a Greek version of "Cheers" or some other celebratory word. Makes sense, and is further evidence (as if anymore were needed) that Sandy was paying attention in class while I was slacking off.