Friday, December 21, 2012

A modest proposal to save our kids

Most of America, it seems, is lined up on one side or the other of what we're calling the new "gun control" debate. The fact is that we've been having this debate for decades, and it's pretty much over: Americans have - and will continue to exercise - a constitutional right to own guns. The rest of the shouting, over marginal things like "what's an 'assault weapon'" or "gun show loopholes" (Fact check: There's no such thing) are just a lot of noise.

If you want to stop mass school killings, here's how you do it: You post a trained, armed guard in every school in America. Let's think about the mechanics and cost of that.

There are approximately 99,000 schools in America. Across America there are currently about 800,000 trained police officers, along with tens of thousands of former military personnel as well. So finding 99,000 men and women to train as school guards is a snap.

And because we only want they very best guarding our children, let's make it a relatively high-paying job. Say, $70,000 a year. Would you be willing to work what would essentially be about a 7:30-3:30 job, about nine months out of the year, for $70K? I think we can find lots of qualified people who would say "yes," particularly when they understand they would be serving to protect the lives of innocent school children.

(I realize $70K isn't a big draw in a New York City public school, but there are thousands of rural districts where gun-toting talent can be had for a lot less. It will average out.)

So how do we pay for it? 99,000 schools at $70K per school is about $6.9 billion dollars, which seems like a whole big pile of cash. Let's round it up to $7 billion a year. Where can we find that kind of money?

Well, first of all, in the grand government scheme of things, it's almost nothing. The federal government spends $1 billion about every 2.5 hours. Multiply that times seven, and we're talking about less than 18 hours of federal government spending, in order to protect every schoolchild in America with an armed guard.

But that's overall government spending. Let's look at a few specific places where we might be able to carve out $7 billion to protect school children.

 - Let's start with everyone's favorite whipping boy, defense spending. We're going to be somewhere around $633 billion in defense spending this year. Could we drop that to $626 billion? It wouldn't be my first choice, but we could probably find the money.

 - The U.S. Dept. of Energy spends $27 billion a year. Of course, it's never produced a drop of oil or a kilowatt of electricity. All it really produces are regulations that drive up the cost and reduce the availability of energy. Could they continue to push paper for only $20 billion a year? I think so.

- Over at the Dept. of Agriculture, they're planning on spending $23 billion this year, and their web site says that their budget "invests $6.1 billion in renewable and clean energy." Hmmm...Couple of questions there:

 1) We've been "investing" billions in "alternative energy" firms like Solyndra (bankrupt), A123 Batteries (bankrupt), Beacon Power (bankrupt), Ener1 (bankrupt), Abound Solar (bankrupt) and many others. Should we maybe leave the development of these "alternatives" to the private sector? And are these "investments" really more important than the safety of our schoolchildren?

 2) If the Dept. of Agriculture is "investing" billions in alternative energy, what's the Dept. of Energy doing? So it probably seems reasonable to think we could find $7 billion - for the children - in the Ag budget.

 - We send out over 62 million Social Security checks a month, about 744 million a year. If we just take $9.40 or so from each of those checks, we've got our $7 billion. The average check is $1,240 a month, so $9.40 seems like a pretty small price to pay to prevent another Columbine or Newtown from taking place, doesn't it?

But maybe all of these programs are absolutely vital and need every nickel they currently get, and we should be looking for "new" revenue for our school guards. I can think of a couple sources:

 - Newspapers. The editorial boards of newspapers seem especially interested in protecting school kids, at least for a couple of weeks after any shooting, so let's give them a chance to put their money where their mouths are. On an average day, 55 million newspapers are sold in the United States. That's 385 million papers a week, just over 20 billion papers a year. Let's put a modest 35-cent per paper tax on each issue - we'll call it the "Save a child's life surcharge" - and there we have it: A fully-funded school guard program, and the editorial writers can have the satisfaction of knowing they actually helped solve a problem, rather than simply complain about it.

 - There's considerable research that shows violence in movies, television and video games encourage increased violence. U.S. box office receipts were about $12 billion last year, TV ad revenue was about $8 billion and video game sales were about $17 billion. There's nearly $40 billion in annual revenue, so just a 17% or so surtax on this revenue would protect every school child in America.

The overall point being that where there is a will, there's a way. I'm suspicious of most government spending, but this seems like a really good use of $7 billion, certainly better than most of what we currently spend on.

Or, of course, there's the Obama method: Just add another $7 billion a year to the national debt. Borrow the money from the Chinese and pass the tab on along to the children who, after all, will be the most direct beneficiaries. What's another $7 billion in a $1.2 trillion deficit? If it's a good enough way to pay for Solyndra, fighter jets for the Muslim Brotherhood or ag subsidies, it's certainly good enough "for the children."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Farewell to a great man

It was just over a year ago - Pearl Harbor Day, 2011 - that I blogged about my high school history teacher, Pete Finelli, (click HERE to read that piece) and the effect he had on me.

I don't really have much to add to what I wrote back then, but Pete passed away earlier this week, and I couldn't let that go by without trying to add a few words.

He lived to age 84, was married to the lovely Lucille for 61 years, and really lived a remarkable life. A gifted athlete, he was signed by the New York Yankees and pitched in their minor league system for a time. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and the same year I was born - 1956 - he became a history teacher in my hometown of Princeton.

As I wrote a year ago, our mutual love of history and sports helped us bond and he became more than simply a teacher; He was a genuine friend and mentor who helped my get my career as a sportswriter off the ground. He did play-by-play for the local radio station, and took me under his wing, first as a stat guy, and later as his color man, and we did broadcasts together across Minnesota, from Braham to Bloomington to New Ulm. I remember traveling many of those miles in his classic Ford Country Squire station wagon, listening to story after story after story and receiving a graduate-level education in sports history.

Later in life, he and Lucille took teaching jobs in Hawaii, and he served as a volunteer tour guide at Pearl Harbor, a site he loved and knew more about than almost anyone. I can only imagine what a treat it must have been for a tourist to get him as a guide.

They retired to Rochester, where he passed away Monday. He had been ravaged by Alzheimer's in recent years, and it was just a month or so ago that I asked his daughter, Pam, about coming down to visit him. She gracefully encouraged me NOT to do so, because the disease had taken such a toll on him, and she said I'd be better off remembering him in earlier times. I heeded her advice, but still feel badly about not getting a chance for a final good-bye.

Pam posted the news of his passing on Facebook, and it's a tribute to Pete's popularity that more than 80 people have left comments. What struck me reading the comments was this: While I feel fortunate and special to have had him as a friend, there are countless fellow Princeton grads who feel the same way. He taught history with a genuine passion, and thousands of us passed through his classroom and were touched by that passion.

Pete's family donated his body to Mayo's Alzheimer's research center, so even in death, he will continue to teach.

Farewell, my friend, and rest knowing that you leave behind many, many people who feel that their lives were made better by knowing you.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bo knew....

Last post I made reference to the fact that Bo Jackson and I share a birthday, and I referred to him as possibly the greatest athlete of all time. Fame being fleeting, there's probably a generation that doesn't know much, if anything, about Bo, so here's just a little reminder.

Six years younger than me, Bo came out of Alabama and was drafted by the New York Yankees ouit of high school. Instead, he chose to play college football for Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and rushed for over 4,000 yards. After his senior year, at the NFL combine, he was timed at 4.12 seconds in the 40-yard dash, to this day the fastest combine time ever.

He also played baseball at Auburn after his last year of football, batting .401 with 17 home runs. But he was still considered largely a football player, and that was reinforced when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

He chose, instead, to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals, and by 1989 he was the MVP of the All-Star game, launching a 440-foot home run in his first All-Star at-bat.

After the 1987 season, the Oakland Raiders convinced him to play football after the baseball season was over. The NFL became Bo's "hobby" (his word), and he scored 18 touchdowns over his four NFL seasons while becoming a Pro Bowler.

But the stats don't tell the story. The story became the stories about what Bo could do. His mammoth home runs. His cannon of a throwing arm. The way he ran over linebackers. The way he could break a bat over his knee, or over his helmet. Once, while batting, he turned to ask the umpire for time, but time was not granted because the pitcher was already into his delivery. Unfazed, Bo turned back toward the mound, saw the ball was on its way and hit it over the left-field wall for a homer.

My personal favorite moment came in 1990 in Baltimore, when Bo was tracking down a fly ball and finally caught it just a few feet from the wall. Instead of running into the wall as a mere mortal would, Bo just ran UP the wall, got his balance and came back down. (You'll see it about 1:05 into this video below.)

A hip injury suffered in an NFL game finally brought him down but as this video will show you, there was almost nothing Bo couldn't do. There's no doubt in my mind he was the best athlete of the 20th century, and I don't know if the 21st century will produce a better one. Enjoy the video.

Monday, November 26, 2012

You must remember this....

Today, of course, we begin the five-day celebration that culminates with my birthday on, just kidding. At this ripe old age birthdays are more tolerated than celebrated, but I've always taken a sort of odd pride in the fact that I share the November 30 birthdate with a number of historical figures - Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Gordon Liddy - a few show biz folks (Ben Stiller, Kaley Cuoco, Dick Clark) and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, Bo Jackson.

(The list goes on....Bill Idol, Jonathan Swift, Efrem Zembalist, Clay Aiken, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Guillaume, Bill Walsh, Shane Victorino, Elisha Cuthbert, Richard's quite a day).

But today I learned that I almost share a birthday with the greatest movie of all time: Casablanca.

Turns out that on November 26, 70 years ago, Casablanca was first screened at the Hollywood Theater in New York City, introducing the world to one of the greatest packages of romance, music, patriotism and physical beauty ever assembled.

I would estimate that I've probably watched it 40 or so times, and I feel as though I'm always picking up something new. Some subtle joke (and they're almost all subtle), some background character I hadn't noticed before, something that makes it worth watching again.

In case you haven't seen it (and if you haven't, really, what have you been doing with your life?) it's the story of former lovers Ilsa and Rick (Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart) separated by war, reunited under difficult circumstances in Morocco during World War II. Eventually they are forced to choose between their rekindled love and the need to do the "right thing" and help the resistance against the Nazis.

It's a beautiful movie, wonderfully written, with fantastic music that will appeal to the romantic in all of us. And I don't believe any movie star has ever looked more beautiful and alluring that Bergman did while playing the role of Ilsa. Watch this scene, when she and Rick see each other again for the first time.

I was smitten. Sometime in the 1980s I was watching a movie called Cousins starring Ted Danson and an actress I had never heard of, Isabella Rossellini, and I couldn't figure out why I found Rossellini so unbelievably attractive. Later I learned that she was Ingrid Bergman's daughter, and it all made sense.

Casablanca is usually listed among the top three films ever made (along with The Godfather, which you can make an argument for, or Citizen Kane, which is ridiculous) and if you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it in a few years, watch it again...and again and again. It's a treasure.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Orlando report

Five wonderful days in Orlando have almost washed the taste of the election out of my mouth, but only because the weather was beautiful, the courses were great and the service around Orlando was terrific wherever we went.

Pete and I theorized that there must be some sort of "Disney spillover" effect on the whole Orlando area. Disney is famous, of course, for world-class service at all of their parks and resorts and attractions. People in the service industry are often put through "Disney training" to learn how to do things the way they do in the Magic Kingdom.

That same level of service seems to have seeped into the entire local economy. At golf courses, restaurants, shops, anywhere we went, the people who waited on us seemed to be going out of their way to be helpful, chipper and welcoming. Very refreshing.

On to the golf....

Friday we first played something called Harmony Golf Preserve. (Link here.) It's designed by Johnny Miller, and markets itself as a certified "Audubon Sanctuary" with bunches of wildlife running around. We did see a few wild turkeys and sand cranes, but nothing more exotic. The course was nice enough, and it's operated by Troon Golf, which has a reputation as a high-end service provider. We didn't really find that to be the case. When we inquired about an afternoon replay (free with our pretty steep greens fee) we were told nothing was available until late in the day, and no advice about area courses was forthcoming. Finally a couple local in the parking lot turned us on to....

...Royal St. Cloud Golf Links (web site here) just 10 miles or so up the road, where a quick phone call reserved us a tee time and an afternoon rate of just $26. There are so many courses that like to call themselves "links" and promise a Scottish-type layout. Most of them fail, but Royal St. Cloud came through. Few trees, lots of mounding and great conditions. I've paid a lot more to play courses that didn't come close to delivering that links-style experience. First day verdict: Won't go back to Harmony, would go back to Royal St. Cloud if we were in the area.

Saturday was an absolute gem, mostly because it was so unexpected. The course was called Hawk's Landing, (web site here) but it is part of a large Marriott resort known as "Marriott World Center." We've had a number of bad experiences with golf courses attached to hotels, because they often seem to be run as kind of an afterthought. That wasn't the case here at all.

A par-3 at Hawk's Landing
The pleasant surprises began right when we pulled up and learned that we didn't even have to park our car. Complimentary valet parking was the norm, our clubs were whisked away and we were directed to the large pro shop/locker room to change our shoes and get ready. The pro shop folks couldn't have been nicer, directed us to the complimentary coffee and breakfast rolls, then showed us how to get down to our golf cart. Once there, our clubs had been loaded and we were sent on our way to the driving range, where another starter welcomed us, told us how much warm-up time we had and answered all our questions. Really world-class service.

It turned out to be a really good golf course, in great condition, with enough water to make it a challenge, yet still be very playable. We had a nice four-hour round and went into the clubhouse where we were welcomed with "Good to see you again, Mr. Droogsma," and asked if we were interested in playing an afternoon round. We were, and he gave us several available tee times, then directed us to the hotel's food court where we found a great lunch, then went back for our second round. At the end of the day our clubs were cleaned and loaded into the car (after the valet brought it to the front door) and Pete and I both left thinking it was the best service experience we've ever had at a golf resort. The November rack rate is $99, but we booked through a broker and paid just $74 with a free replay. Some of the best golf money we've ever spent, and if you're ever going to golf in Orlando, this is a must-play.

I spent a lot of time in Mystic Dunes bunkers
Sunday we traveled only about five minutes from our condo to a layout called Mystic Dunes. The course describes itself (web site here) as being nine holes of "Carolina low country" and another nine of "British links-style," and for the most part it lived up to the description.

Again, the service was impeccable, our afternoon replay was available - even though we shortened it to only nine holes - and we left thinking this was a track worth coming back to.

Monday we found another gem, just off the freeway south of Orlando at a big resort known as ChampionsGate. (Web site here.) The resort features two 18-hole tracks, both designed by Greg Norman. The "National Course" is described as a "Florida-style resort course" and features a lot of trees, small ponds and smaller greens. The "International Course" is another successful attempt at links-style golf. Almost no trees, huge mounds, massive greens and - on this day - non-stop howling winds that made it a beast to play. Another great golf experience.

So we got in 7-1/2 rounds in four days of play, and by using a broker known as Tee Times USA, our golf costs for those rounds worked out to $336, or a little less than $45 a round for courses that were all high-end, mostly included GPS on the carts and in a couple cases, came with really top-flight service, complimentary range balls and other amenities.

Schedule permitting, next year's trip will likely be back to Myrtle Beach, where the opportunity and variety of having 120-plus courses is really tough to beat, but Orlando has earned a spot in any future trip discussions. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stepping away from the wreckage

Regular readers know that almost every October my buddy Pete and I decamp for the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C. and five days or so of golf and relaxation. We usually play 36 holes a day, enjoy some fresh seafood and try to grab some sleep before the next early-morning tee time.

But for the second consecutive year, our schedules prevented an October getaway. I had a number of things going on here, and Pete always had a busy schedule - He's on a list of The Best Lawyers In America in some fancy-pants legal journal - so we again got pushed back to November. That means the weather can be a little iffy in Myrtle Beach, so we're headed for Florida.

Last year we tried Naples, and while the weather was beautiful, we weren't crazy about the golf options. So this year we're taking a shot at Orlando. The weather looks great, there are tons of courses and so we'll see how it competes with Myrtle Beach.

A day of flying tomorrow, then 36 holes a day Friday through Monday. I'll try to provide updates.

Given the election results, I'm looking forward to lots of Florida orange juice. Mixed with vodka.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Help end racism by defeating Obama

This will seem unlikely to my children, or almost anyone under the age of 30, but when I was in high school, one of the raging controversies in the world of sports was the question of when a black man would be hired to manage a major league baseball team.

By 1974 - 27 years after Jackie Robinson had become the first black player in the major leagues - there still had not been a black manager, and this was considered scandalous by some. One black player in particular - Frank Robinson - had it in his mind that he should be baseball's first black manager, and he got his wish when the Cleveland Indians hired him to be their player-manager for the 1975 season.

 Great, great player. Big flop as a manager
One of the perceived barriers to hiring a black manager was the belief that it would be very difficult to fire a black manager. Managers, after all, tend to have a shelf life of only 3-4 years, and virtually every major league manager gets fired at some point. Most organizations had at least a passing thought that if they hired a black manager, their hands would be tied when it came time to fire that same man.

One reporter - it may have been Jim Murray, Roger Angell, George Will....I'm too lazy to dig up the exact article - made the observation that Robinson's hiring didn't really mark any sort of milestone in race relations, and that the real evidence of equality would be when a black manager could be fired without controversy.

Robinson, indeed, turned out to be not much of a manager. Like many players with Hall of Fame talent, he had a hard time relating to the everyday struggles of the mere mortals under his care. He eventually managed four teams over 16 seasons, finishing over .500 only six times, and a 2005 poll of 450 major league players found him regarded as the worst manager in baseball. By the end of his career, any vestige of baseball's institutional racism had vanished, and Robinson and other black managers were able to be fired simply for being bad managers, without anyone noticing their race. Bravo, equality.

Which brings us to the case of Barack Obama. Four years ago, much of America was enamored with the idea of electing a black president. The candidate himself liked to encourage the idea that his election would be something historic, and would help bring about some kind of "post-racial" society. Voters lapped it up, overlooking the fact that he had not even finished one term in the Senate, had no executive experience and was less qualified to be president than any candidate of the past 150 years.

Predictably, he has failed. By any objective standard - unemployment, poverty levels, budget deficit, national debt - the Obama presidency has been one giant step backwards, both for the country, and for the idea of a color-blind society. Both the president and his supporters have fallen back on bogus cries of "racism" whenever he is criticized. Some of the clowns at MSNBC even cried "racism" when the president was criticized for playing too much golf.

(Because, you see, there's a golfer named Tiger Woods, and he's black, and he's had some embarrassing personal moments, and so if you mention that the president plays "golf," you're clearly using racist "code words" because he and Tiger Woods are both black. I wish I was making that up, but that was actually the position of MSNBC buffoon Lawrence O'Donnell. Watch the video here.)

Personally, I've always found the idea of affirmative action and other race-based preference programs offensive, because they are based on the premise that black Americans aren't capable of competing on their own. George W. Bush called it the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and he was exactly right. I don't know how anyone could help but feel humiliated and degraded when Harvard says, "You're not really qualified to attend our school, but we'll let you in anyway because of your skin color." How does that help anyone?

(A friend of mine once said that he would never want to go to a black doctor. Not because of racism, but because he could never be sure if the person had even been qualified to get in to medical school, or had simply been allowed in because of some racial preference program. That's the real, bitter, fruit of the affirmative action scam.)

Four years ago the country said to Barack Obama, "You're not qualified to be president, but we'll give you the job anyway because of your skin color." And we've continued that sort of condescension right through to this week, when any reasonable person would have to agree that if Obama were white, and the economy were in the exact same state it is now, he'd be 10 points behind in the polls.

Which is why we need to send a message Tuesday that says racism is totally over, and that we can now fire a black president with the same enthusiasm with which we hired him. Show the world that we can - as Dr. King dreamed - judge Barack Obama by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. It will be one giant leap for equality and a color-blind society.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You can't make money breaking things

Hurricane/SuperStorm/MegaMess Sandy provides us with another opportunity to educate the journalists of America, most of whom apparently never set foot in an economics class while they were slacking off in j-school. (Full disclosure: I was a journalism school slacker as well, but I always found econ classes edifying.)

Every time there is some large-scale disaster such as Sandy, some knucklehead will sit down at the keyboard and pop off a story about how the rebuilding effort can be good for the economy. I admit the idea has some superficial appeal: People have to buy materials, make repairs, pay workmen to do the jobs, and all this economic activity MUST be good, right?

Wrong, and the idea was disproven way back in the first half of the 19th century by a French economist named Frederic Bastiat, who wrote something called "The Parable of the Broken Window."

In the story, a shopkeeper is angry with his son, who has inadvertently broken a window in the store. "Oh, don't be hard on the boy," a bystander says. "The broken window is good business for the glazier who will replace the window, and the six francs you pay him will be spent on something else. All of us will benefit."

Again, the theory would seem to have some surface appeal. But Bastiat pointed out the the six francs spent to fix the window is only the "seen" economic activity. What is "unseen" are the other effects of the shopkeeper's glass bill. Because he has to pay six francs to the glazier, the shopkeeper now has six FEWER francs to spend on something else. He can't spend those six francs on a new pair of shoes, so the cobbler has lost business. He can't take his family out to eat, so the restaurant owner has lost business, he can't buy a new book, so the bookstore owner has lost business, and so on, and so on.

If the broken window could really make the economy grow, Bastiat said, then wouldn't it be wise to simply break all the windows in the city and REALLY create economic activity? Of course not. Here's the money quote from Bastiat:

"And if that which is not seen is taken into consideration, because it is a negative fact, as well as that which is seen, because it is a positive fact, it will be understood that neither industry in general, nor the sum total of national labor, is affected, whether windows are broken or not."

Once you look at things from Bastiat's perspective, it's easy to understand. But every time there's a disaster - Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, a major earthquake, whatever - you can count on some lamebrained journalist to jump right in with a story about how the "silver lining" of this tragedy will be increased economic activity.

And where better to look for lamebrained journalism than our own Star Tribune, which jumped right to the head of the line tonight with its Sandy coverage, and a headline that read:

Storm's cost may hit $50B; rebuilding could end up boosting economy

Brilliant. In fact, maybe once a year we should select a major city and just knock the whole thing down. Then we can rebuild it, and the economy will just grow by leaps and bounds! It's magic!

Such is the shallowness of journalism, and I have no doubt that long after I'm gone - maybe in the year 2075 - a huge earthquake will strike and my great-grandchild will read a story headlined "Quake rebuilding may stimulate economy." Some people just can't be taught.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Matt Schmit's DWI and media credibility

In 2010, a fellow named Tom Emmer was the Republican nominee for Governor of Minnesota. Tom had plenty of flaws as a candidate, and one that the media loved to dredge up was his history of drunk driving. Emmer had been arrested in both 1981 and 1991 (29 and 19 years before his run for governor) and charged with DWI.

A cursory Internet search shows that Emmer's DWI history was mentioned at least half a dozen times in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, and a number of times in the Winona Daily News. The Post-Bulletin even made the decades-old arrests part of its Emmer profile 10 days before the election.

I single out those papers because they are the two daily newspaper that cover Senate District 21 here in southeastern Minnesota, where we currently have a race between incumbent Sen. John Howe and challenger Matt Schmit. (Full disclosure: I have volunteered for, and made a contribution to, the Howe campaign.)

Regular readers will remember this post from a few weeks ago, when we discussed Schmit's DWI arrest and the Red Wing Republican-Eagle's refusal to mention it. Much like the R-E, the Post-Bulletin and Winona Daily News have yet to write anything regarding Schmit's DWI.

The problem for them is that this weekend, thousands and thousands of their readers learned about Schmit's DWI when a mailer arrived in their mailboxes, courtesy of the Republican Party of Minnesota. The party made an independent expenditure on behalf of Sen. Howe that contains Schmit's mug shot and details of his arrest, which happened just four years ago.

A reasonable person might ask the question: Why was Tom Emmer's decades-old DWI arrest considered news by the Rochester and Winona newspapers, and Matt Schmit's recent DWI arrest isn't? Why haven't either Heather Carlson of the Post-Bulletin or Mary Juhl of the Winona Daily News - the two reporters who have written the most about this race - bothered to include this in the stories they've written about Schmit? Both of them certainly know about it. Carlson and I discussed the arrest - and Schmit's other credibility issues regarding his residence and employment history several weeks ago, and a web site - - has been publicizing Schmit's various problems for the last month or so. So why haven't they written about it?

One pretty simple explanation: Emmer is a Republican, and Schmit is a DFLer.

That's the logical conclusion that thousands of southeastern Minnesota residents can now draw when they read the mailer about Schmit and realize that their local newspaper has been keeping this information from them.

As I've written before, the newspaper business is in trouble for a variety of reasons, one of which is that people simply don't find them credible anymore. Years and years of media bias on behalf of liberal candidates and causes have drained media credibility to the point where this study by Pew Research shows it cratering. And incidents such as this just help continue moving newspapers down the road to irrelevance.

In the spirit of fairness, I've reached out to Heather and Mary and offered them a chance to explain why Emmer's DWI was newsworthy and Schmit's DWI isn't. I'll be happy to pass along their thoughts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Devastating ad

The best moment from last night's debate has already been turned into an ad, and it's a real knockout punch to the President. Enjoy:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

This boggles my mind

Not that it takes much for my mind to be boggled, but today I came across this video of a game show that I remember from my youth, called "I've Got a Secret." The format of the show involved four celebrity panelists and a guest who had some kind of secret. As you'll see, the guest would whisper the secret to the show's host, Garry Moore. The panelists would then ask questions in an effort to learn the guest's secret.

This video (I think technically it's called a "kinescope" or some such thing...what we now know as digital or taped video had not been invented) is from early 1956, the same year I was born. The guest on this episode is a fellow named Samuel J. Seymour, who was the last surviving person in attendance at Ford's Theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot.

I often find myself thinking about the way generations can overlap and extend through time. For example, I remember spending time with my great-grandfather, Simon Droogsma, who was born in 1873. On the other end of the chain, my grandchildren - with normal life spans - will likely be around to see the year 2100. So you have a chain of three people spanning about 230 years. I can tell my grandchildren first-person stories of someone who lived before their were planes, cars or telephones.

This feels the same way. You can now see and hear an eyewitness to something that took place nearly 150 years ago. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


With so much going on, I've found it difficult to closely follow the baseball playoffs. What little attention I've paid has been focused on the Baltimore Orioles, for whom I have a soft spot after they became my "home team" during the years I lived in D.C., and for the Detroit Tigers, the first team I ever rooted for (as a 3-year-old...I was born in Michigan). Good friend Gary Russell is a great Tigers fan, and it would be terrific for him to see another Tigers' title.

What I've read a lot of, however, is how awful the TBS coverage of the playoffs have been. And tonight, as evidence that they really don't have a clue, they put up this graphic:

That's right, they misspelled the name of the greatest player of all time, Willie Mays.

Regular readers know that Mays holds a special place in my heart; My youngest son is Willie Mays Droogsma, and I will brook no argument against the idea that the Say Hey Kid is the greatest player ever.  You MIGHT be able to make a cogent argument for Babe Ruth, but some of the other greats....Mantle, Williams, DiMaggio, Jackson, etc....forget it. No one played the game like Willie.

And if the folks running your broadcast can't spell his name right, it's probably time to let another network have a chance.

UPDATE: I've been informed that earlier this week, the TBS graphics crew printed the name of their own announcer as "Carl Ripken, Jr."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kind of a grab bag...

Sorry...busy time of year in all sorts of ways, and it always seems that blogging is the first thing to take a hit when the schedule gets tight. But in the interest of getting something up on the ol'  interweb, here are a few random thoughts:

 -- Joe Biden is an ass. Most people already understood that, but his embarrassing effort last night against Paul Ryan showed it to everyone. During my Washington years, most of us on the Senate staff recognized Biden for what he was: A pompous, arrogant windbag who was universally considered a policy lightweight. In 1988, he ran one of the worst presidential campaigns in history, washing out early in the primaries after it was revealed that he was plagiarizing his stump speech from a British politician. Setting politics aside, here's what tells you a little something about his character: He's been on the public payroll for more than 40 years now, and it's made him a wealthy man, but when it comes to charitable giving, he makes Scrooge McDuck look like a spendthrift. From 1998-2008, Biden and his wife made more than $2 million, averaging over $200,000 a year. Good for them. Their average annual charitable giving, according to their tax returns? $369 per year. Tells you something about this "man of the people."

 -- The NHL lockout. Tonight would have been the beginning of the Minnesota Wild season. We would have beaten the Colorado Avalanche - because we've never lost a home opener - the fans would have gone crazy for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund, and it would have been a great time. Instead, the labor dispute rolls on and there's no NHL hockey. As most of you know, I do some work on game days for the Wild, and while it's not the most financially rewarding work, there's, you know, a little something for the effort. (You're welcome, Caddyshack fans.) Seven years ago, when the NHL lost a whole season to labor problems, I focused my wrath on goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was militantly outspoken on labor issues and ran around saying things like, "We'll never accept a salary cap." Later, after the players accepted a salary cap, I decided that if I ever met Roloson, I was going to tell him that he owed me $2,000 for the missing season. So be on the lookout: If you see Roloson, tell him he owes Droogs two grand. (Tampa Bay paid him $3 million last year for 13 wins and a 3.66 goals-against average, so he's got the cash.) I haven't decided who this year's villain will be. Apparently the Wild's representative to the union is some guy named Knopka that we picked up over the summer, and I couldn't pick him out of a police lineup, so it's hard for me to be mad at him. Yet.

(Side note: While the Wild pay isn't that big a deal to me, I work with a lot of good people - ushers, vendors, waitresses, etc. - for whom that $300-$400/month during the winter is important. Pays part of the rent, or helps make the car payment, or the heat bill. Not sure the owners or player's union ever think of that.)

 -- The (possible) return of the Vikings. In the '70s and '80s, few people loved the Minnesota Vikings like I did. There was no doubt that when the Vikings game was on, everything else stopped. Somewhere in the last decade, that slipped away from me. When Randy Moss left, I really fell off the bandwagon, and when he left a second time, I gave up. I probably hadn't sat through an entire Vikings game in 2-3 years. Then, a few weeks ago, I sat down to watch the Vikings play the 49ers, expecting a big San Francisco win. But the Purple played tough defense, showed some spark, and I wrote on Twitter at halftime that the game had the chance to bring me back. They held on to win, haven't lost since and I'm hooked again. The 4-1 record seems a little fishy since the schedule has been soft, but at least I care again.

 -- President Romney? There's a little over three weeks to go, and I don't want to jinx it, but all the momentum and direction of this campaign feels so right right now. Like America is waking up and saying, "Of course we can do better than this. Of course there's a better way." Now, 24 days is an eternity in presidential politics, and if there's something sleazy and underhanded to be done, the Obama folks will find a way to do it, but it just feels good right now.

That's it...a brief grab bag of semi-coherent thoughts. I promise to do better next time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe

Five years ago today my life changed dramatically, and I never saw it coming.

In August of 2007 the last of four kids went off to college, leaving the proverbial empty nest. Thoughts of babies and toddlers and all of the things that go with that were far, far away, even though there was another child on the horizon. And while it would be my first grandchild, the impending arrival didn't seem to have a lot to do with my world. Another kid, sure, but it would be the job of my daughter and her husband to worry about it, raise it, feed it, take care of it.

Then, on October 5, Annie showed up.

I like to think I'm pretty good with words, but I can't describe the way that little newborn just reached up and grabbed my heart. I was totally unprepared for the emotion of being a grandfather, and was blown away by the realization that the little bundle in my lap represented a whole new generation of "my people," another link in a chain that goes back to my great-great-grandfather making the decision to leave Holland and seek a better life in America.

Coloring easter eggs
Just a few months after Annie was born, I began working out of my home, and she was there most days for day care. Her napping room was next to my office, and I'd usually be the one to hear her wake up in the crib and began banging her legs against the side. Unlike most babies, she seldom cried when she woke up. Instead, she'd just lay in the crib until I came to get her, she'd smile at me as I picked her up and we'd have a few minutes together before Penny would show up with a bottle.

There are multiple sets of grandparents, and so my daughter gave us all different names. Penny and I are "Oma" and "Opa," and while I can't say that Annie's first word was "Opa," it was in the first five.

It became apparent - at least to me - right away that she was a bright child, and I began referring to her in this blog as "The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe." I was struck by the fact that, even before she could speak, she remembered people and names and things. She liked to sit in my lap and watch hockey, and when she was just two, I took a three-ring binder and made "Anne's Hockey Book," a collection of small felt pennants from all 30 NHL teams. All you had to do was ask, "Where are the Predators?" or "Where are the Blackhawks?" and she could pick out the right pennant.

Watching her beloved Minnesota Wild
A short time later, she was sitting on my lap at the computer, picking out keys and spelling her name. At every age, she's been doing things that it seems she shouldn't be doing for a couple more years. Although she's still in pre-school, she READS. Not the "I memorized the words" thing in a kid's book, but she can actually pick up a book she's never seen, look at it and start reading it. I have no idea what they're going to teach her next year in kindergarten.

Showing off her artistic side
She loves her Minnesota Wild and knows virtually all the players, loves her Mikko and P-Marc and Heater, and was heartbroken last year when Matt Cullen got hurt. Earlier this year the family was driving along I-94 through St. Paul when she looked out the window and recognized the Xcel Energy Center. She let out a loud scream, and immediately realized she had screamed too loud. "Sorry," she said, "I was just SO excited."

Taking care of her baby brother Cal
But even if she wasn't the Smartest Little Girl in the Universe, she absolutely owns Opa. My heart still leaps when I hear her footsteps coming down the hallway, and most of the time it's to climb in my lap, get on the computer and find pictures of horses, or princesses or fairies or something to color.

And for five years, she's been reminding me all over again how it's possible to love someone else so completely and totally and unconditionally, which is a lesson all of us need to be reminded of once in a while.

Happy birthday, Annie, and thank you for being there for Opa.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Demolition in Denver

Before we look at WHY President Obama got roughed up so badly in tonight's presidential debate, let's lay to rest any doubts that he DID lose worse than the Washington Generals do against the Globetrotters:

CNN Poll - 67% Romney won, 24% Obama won
CBS Poll of undecided voters - Romney 46%, Obama 22%
Democracy Corps (Democrat group) - Romney 42%, Obama 20%
Obama supporter and MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I don't know what he (Obama) was doing out there."
Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan: "You know how much I love the guy...but this was a disaster for the president."
Washington Times: "Not since Jimmy Carter faced Ronald Reagan has the U.S. presidency been so embarrassingly represented in public."
Star Tribune: "Our editorial board feels like a bunch of crack-addled chimps for ever supporting this president."

Okay, I made that last one up, but still, we can set aside any notion that the president performed adequately tonight. The question is why, and I have a few observations.

1) Thinking on his feet really isn't in his skill set. There have been plenty of jokes over the past few years about his reliance on teleprompters, but as with many jokes, there is a core of truth. Obama's reputation as a brilliant orator was based almost entirely on his ability to READ a speech. He's had fewer press conferences than virtually any president, because his handlers know that he can't think well on his feet. ("You didn't build that," being a great example of an unscripted Obama trying to talk off the top of his head.) The debate format exposes and magnifies the weakness.

2) He's been living in a media-built cocoon. Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani was on one of the cable networks, and he alluded to the above-mentioned lack of press conferences while noting that he had one almost daily when he was mayor. He mentioned that the give-and-take toughens you up and makes you able to articulate your points. The mainstream media has pretty much rolled over and played dead for Obama, never challenging him, never asking him to explain anything. And just like a house cat whose food is left in a bowl for him, the President has become soft. Throwing him out there tonight was like tossing a house pet into the wilderness and telling it to hunt. Stripped of a teleprompter and admiring reporters with their softball questions, he looked lost and alone, and incapable of fighting back against the bright, articulate guy on the other side of the stage.

3) He's trying to defend the indefensible. Forty-two months of unemployment over 8%. Forty-seven million people on food stamps. Four straight years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Record debt and ratings downgrades. American embassies attacked with impunity. Billions thrown away on bogus "green energy" boondoggles operated by his campaign contributors. Even if Obama were a competent debater, there's no way to defend four years of failure, and he seemed to realize tonight that there is no credible case to be made for continuing his presidency.

4) Romney was terrific. While Obama's failure was obvious, credit must be given to Romney, who carefully walked that fine line of being able to demolish the president's arguments without appearing rude or condescending. The best putdown line was when he talked about the billions wasted on green energy projects and he noted that the president "Doesn't pick winners and losers. He just picks losers." It was a devastating putdown, yet all Obama could do was respond with a smile. That was the mark of a quality debater.

I've read that as a businessman, Romney was very big on lists and organization. I've been told that if you wanted to pitch an idea to him, you had better come into the meeting ready to make points 1, 2, 3 and 4 and do it in a no-nonsense narrative. You could see that trait tonight in a variety of moments when he said something along the lines of "First, then second, then third...." It's the hallmark of a well-organized, well-trained mind, and it's a skill that is very handy in debate.

Does tonight guarantee a Romney win? Far from it, but it was a huge step. For millions of Americans, this was their first prolonged exposure to Romney and he obviously made a great first impression. The obstacle for any challenger at any level of politics is destroying the air of inevitability that frequently surrounds incumbents, and that's a particular challenge in this race, with the New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC and all the others doing their best to prop up Obama. 

Tonight Romney demonstrated that Obama's re-election is not only NOT inevitable, but it's not even desirable. That was a big, huge step with which to launch the final 33 days of campaigning.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Great moments in public education

I had the chance to run up to Red Wing High School today, where I haven't been much since my youngest child graduated. One of the features of the school is a "roundabout" in the front, and over the years it's been the habit of many people to park along the circle during sporting events, concerts, etc.

The school decided to put an end to the practice, so they purchased a half-dozen signs and placed them around the circle, all of which look just like this one:

That's right, they used the adverb "maybe" instead of the proper two words, "may" and "be."

Just a nice reminder to several hundred students every morning that the people running their educational institution don't have a great grip on basics like English grammar.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Republican Eagle covers up for a DFLer

I'll warn you right up front: If you're not from Red Wing, or interested in Minnesota legislative politics, then you might find this simply a long, boring blog post. Consider yourself warned:

I've written before (click here) about my affection for what was once a great newspaper, the Red Wing Republican Eagle. It was the first newspaper to hire me out of college, the place where I won my journalism awards and for years after I left the paper, I was proud to have it on my resume.

The editor/publisher was a tremendous fellow named Phil Duff, who took incredible pride in producing a high-quality daily newspaper in a town of just 15,000 people. Phil's commitment to journalistic excellence - and that of his co-publisher, Arlin Albrecht - was evident in every issue. The R-E was an important, vibrant part of the community and Phil delighted in having lively, involved opinion and op-ed pages in which local, state and national issues were discussed.

Its decline, to be fair, largely parallels that of the newspaper industry as a whole. First the R-E stopped Monday publishing, then it went down to two days a week, with delivery only by mail. Eventually it was purchased by a chain headquartered out of state, and it no longer has the resources to really function as a full-fledged newspaper. It's mostly now just a glorified shopper that also publishes obituaries and a local calendar of events.

It does, however, still have a letters to the editor section, which is where our story takes off. Last Saturday the section contained a letter from a local DFLer that contained a bald-faced lie about a local public official, State Senator John Howe.

(Full disclosure: I do some volunteer work for, and have made a financial contribution to, the Howe campaign.)

The DFLer said that Sen. Howe "received full pay and per diem" during last summer's state government shutdown. The fact is that Howe did not take any per diem during the shutdown, and he donated his pay for the entire month to the food shelves in Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona counties. Both these things are a matter of public record. So the accusation was a lie. But it was a lie about a Republican, so the R-E just put it right into print without checking anything.

This bothered me on a couple different levels. As I said, I'm a supporter of Senator Howe, so I don't like seeing him unfairly attacked. But more importantly, as a R-E alum, I'm embarrassed by the kind of sloppy, lazy editing that has become all too common in the paper. It was particularly disturbing because, in this campaign season, the R-E hasn't made any effort to investigate Senator Howe's opponent, a guy named Matt Schmit, who is a real piece of work. (More about him later.)

So I fired off this letter to the editor:

To the editor: 

On one hand, it’s very hard to understand the logic in Nona Nelson’s Sept. 15 letter. She criticizes Sen. John Howe for having his Legislative Update printed by the Senate – something that is perfectly legal and has been done by senators from both parties for years – and she criticizes him for answering a reporter’s question. 

The only way the letter makes sense is if you understand this: The DFL has chosen a horrible candidate to run against Sen. Howe, and the only way they think they can win is by trying to slime and attack an honorable public servant. 

In Matt Schmit, the DFL has chosen a candidate who: 

* Has lived outside the district for most of the last decade
* Has never paid a dime of property taxes in his life
* Has a recent criminal conviction 

The DFL understands that if voters know who Schmit really is, they’ll never win this race, so they are choosing to use lies and distortions to attack Howe’s record of bipartisan accomplishment, hoping voters are dumb enough to fall for their attacks. 

I’m sure more of these cheap attacks are coming in the next few weeks from a desperate DFL and Schmit campaign. Voters should recognize attacks like this for what they are: Slimy politics from a campaign that has nothing else to run on. 

Tim Droogsma
Red Wing, MN

Schmit, as I said, is a real beauty of a candidate. His web site says he is a "lifelong resident of Red Wing" even though he hasn't lived here in more than 10 years. He claims to be a small businessman since 2007, but the Secretary of State's office shows that he only legally organized the business last December. And in 2008, he was arrested and charged with drunk driving.

His arrest report is comical. He was pulled over on Hwy. 52 in Inver Grove Heights at 10:30 at night after weaving over both the fog line and center line, and when asked how much he'd had to drink, he lied to the officer and said, "None."  Schmit had to be told three times not to move his head during the field eye test. He had to have it explained twice how to stand to take the walking test. The report says he "missed heel to toe on all nine steps," and was unable to turn around as requested or stand on one leg for more than eight seconds. He tried three times to blow into the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) device, and was unable to successfully do so. The officer asked why he had lied about not having anything to drink, and Schmit said he "didn't understand the question."

Finally, the officers handcuffed and arrested Schmit, and took him to jail, where he finally managed to successfully provide a urine sample, which later showed him to have a .131 blood alcohol level, more than 60% over Minnesota's legal limit.

For reasons unknown - and I'd love to hear the Inver Grove Heights prosecutor's office explain why - Schmit was later allowed to plead guilty to "Careless Driving." He paid several hundred dollars in fines and was placed on probation, underwent chemical dependency evaluation, etc., etc.

Which brings us back to the Republican Eagle and my letter to the editor. Editor Anne Jacobson emailed back to say that she was unable to find any evidence of Schmit having a criminal conviction, and did I have any proof? I told her that it could be found on MN/CIS, the Minnesota Judicial Branch's web site. She wrote back to say that she still couldn't find it, and did I have a case number? So I gave her the case number and a copy of the MN/CIS summary.

(Just picture that: A private citizen having to do the newspaper's research for it. You would think an editor would be embarrassed to say that they can't undertake a basic search of public records, but I'm not sure modern "journalists" are capable of embarrassment.)

The next issue of the paper came out, without the letter, and then an email came from Jacobson, saying that they wouldn't run the letter without a couple of major alterations. First, they objected to the assertion that Schmit - who's never owned a home - had "never paid a dime of property taxes."

"He likely would pay taxes as a renter," Jacobson wrote, which is stupid on its face. Renters don't pay property taxes.

Secondly, they would only print the letter if the line about Schmit having a "criminal conviction" was softened to say he was convicted "for careless driving," as though he had simply been arrested for rolling through a stop sign or checking his cell phone.

It's an interesting contrast: The R-E printed a letter with a demonstrably factual lie in it, and when that letter was responded to with a letter that contained documented facts, they refused to run it.

Liberal media bias is such a given these days that it's not worth complaining about. But this instance strikes closer to home, because it illustrates again what a shallow excuse of a newspaper the Republican Eagle has become, and each instance makes me a little less proud of the countless times my byline appeared in it.

And it leaves one more question: Will the Republican Eagle ever getting around to doing a story on the real background of a candidate who, after all, claims to be a "lifelong resident of Red Wing" and who is running for a fairly important office? Given their efforts in the past few days to shield him, I doubt it.


9/22/12 UPDATE: In the spirit of fairness, I've emailed Anne and asked if she would like to respond, particularly to explain her assertion that renters pay property taxes. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

10/27/12 UPDATE: Anne never chose to respond, and to this date the R-E still has not written a word about Schmit's DWI, his residence questions or his employment history. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The peculiar lunacy of Mark Dayton

No one has ever accused Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton of being the brightest bulb on the tree. While his ongoing battle with mental health issues and alcoholism is certainly courageous, it is sometimes very hard to listen to him and not wonder if all the mental cylinders are firing in the right order.

Case in point: This week Dayton took to the stage at the University of Minnesota and essentially called the people of Minnesota selfish for not wanting to pay more taxes.

Mark Dayton
"This unwillingness to pay taxes ... is going to be the death of this country if it's not corrected," said Dayton, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Our legacy is going to be that we were not willing to raise revenues for what we know we need."

So, according to the Guv, all the taxes we pay - and Minnesotans currently bear about the 10th-highest per-capita tax burden among the 50 states - go directly to things we "need."

Now, reasonable people can differ about what society's "needs" are, but I'm pretty sure they don't include new stadiums for Mickey Mouse baseball teams.

The very day after blasting his constituents for their selfishness, Dayton held a press conference to announce a series of "economic development" grants. Leading the list: $25 million for a new ballpark for the minor-league St. Paul Saints.

The Saints, in case you've never heard of them, are a baseball team that emphasizes "fun" at their games. They have to emphasize fun, because the quality of baseball is abysmal. This isn't major league baseball, this isn't even AAA minor league baseball. Or AA, or Class A. Nor is there any affiliation with any major league baseball team. The Saints are an independent team that operates in something called the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. It's a higher level of baseball than your local high school team plays, but not much better than many of the amateur "town teams" that play around Minnesota.

The Saints are a cute little operation with gimmicks like using pigs to carry baseballs to the umpire and nuns giving massages in the stands, and the past couple of years they averaged about 5,000 fans per game. I'm sure they'd like a new ballpark to play in, but I have a hard time understanding why the people of Minnesota should foot the bill.

Consider this: Minnesota has about 5 million people, so when the Governor hands $25 million to a private business, he's doing so by taking $5 out of the pocket of every citizen in the state. A family of four, struggling to get by? Mark Dayton just took $20 out of your family budget and gave it to the St. Paul Saints. Without even a "thank you."

Next, Dayton handed out $8.5 million to Duluth to build office space and a parking ramp. Now, I'm sure it will be a spiffy new building, but according to Twin City Business magazine, Duluth currently has a 14% vacancy rate in its existing downtown office space, so it's not clear that another 15-story building is really going to meet any urgent need. And if the need existed, why wouldn't a private company build the building? But again, our struggling family of four has to cough up another $7 to pay for Duluth's new unneeded office space. 

(In what I'm sure is just a coincidence, Duluth historically has one of the highest Democrat voter turnouts in the state. I'm sure that had nothing to do with Dayton giving them the money.)

Then comes light rail. Light rail currently loses barrels of money in Minnesota and is a huge, unnecessary burden on the taxpayers. The more we build, the greater the losses, but Dayton gave $2 million to another light rail project. The list goes on: $4.2 million for a health facility destroyed by a tornado (what, no insurance?), $1.9 million for a recycling plant, a million here and there for different sewer projects, none of which were apparently important enough for the locals to fund themselves.

Then to top it off, he closed the press conference with a bald-faced lie about how he chose which projects to fund. He had asked his Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to rank the various project requests. DEED, according to the Pioneer Press, did not rank the light rail project. But Dayton stood up in front of the press and said, "I went strictly by the book with this DEED rating system because I didn’t want to be accused rightly or wrongly of being involved of the politics of it."

All of this comes after a legislative session in which the Governor jammed through a $350 million bill (about $280 from our family of four) to build another private business - the Minnesota Vikings - a new facility.

And with all these millions in spending going on for things that can only be considered "wants" rather than "needs," Dayton has the nerve to blast Minnesotans for not thinking their taxes are high enough and not being "willing to raise revenues for what we know we need."

Dayton has an unnatural obsession with raising taxes. In 2011 he forced a government shutdown, rather than accept a budget without tax increases. He backed down 20 days later, when he finally realized the Republican legislative majorities didn't share his enthusiasm for job-killing tax increases.

A year later, the lesson still hasn't sunk in. It might be time to adjust the infamous gubernatorial medication.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A fight worth watching

This attractive looking bunch of "education professionals" are members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), who walked off the job today, turning their backs on about 400,000 students.

Here are a few facts about the teachers of Chicago:

 - The average salary for their nine-month work year: $76,000 BEFORE benefits. (Average salary of a Chicago taxpayer: $47,000.)

 - They currently pay just 3% of their health care costs. If their family health care plan costs $1,200/month, they pay just $36 of that.

-  They went on strike after rejecting a pay raise that averages 16% over the next four years.

The school district that employs them used its fiscal reserves to plug last year's budget deficit, and is currently looking at a $1 billion budget shortfall for this year. The State of Illinois, which provides much of the district's funding, is on the brink of insolvency, with a budget deficit of more than $40 billion (worst of the 50 states). It's not clear where these teachers think additional money is going to come from, but then, they don't really care about that.

Perhaps these are an exceptional bunch of teachers, however. Maybe they are so good at their jobs and produce such amazing results that they are worth whatever amount of money they want. Well, let's look at a few more stats for the district:

- Just 15% of the district's 4th-graders are proficient in reading
- Only 56% of the district's freshmen make it to graduation
- 79% of the district's 8th-graders are not grade-proficient in reading
- And 80% of those 8th-graders are not grade-proficient in math

I understand that teaching in an urban school district is no piece of cake, but the Chicago Public School system is a disaster.This union stopped being about educating kids a long time ago, and has become just a tool for putting its members snouts into the public trough. Just as Wisconsin's public employee battles were critical to the future of the country, so too is this one. If the union can't be forced to back down, the future of public education is bleak indeed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's good to know who the enemy is

It turns out that - according to a sampling of delegates to the Democratic National Committee - the biggest problem in this country is that corporations are allowed to make money.

Listen as these delegates are asked whether a law banning profits is a good idea. And remember, these are NOT just random people on the street; These are folks who are leaders in their local Democrat Party organizations, elected by their fellow Democrats to represent them at the national convention, and they are stupendously stupid people.

I find it sort of chilling, particularly when you listen to those for whom simply "capping" profits is considered a compromise position, as opposed to outright banning of profits.

Nice work by radio host Peter Schiff.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Hello again, everyone...Sorry for the slow blogging pace recently. As some of you know, I do some work in conjunction with the Minnesota State Fair. It IS the nation's greatest fair, a 12-day spectacle that draws around 1.8 million people, but the fair schedule and other work commitments make it an exhausting time of the year, and blogging just seems to fall down the priority list.

But now the fair is over, and we have in front of us the spectacle of the Democratic National Convention, which is ripe for parody, commentary and just plain fun. There will be lots to talk about, but I want to focus first on the chair of the Democratic National Committee, the neither-lovely-nor-talented Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

We last visited DWS in this blog post last January, when she talked about her need to lie and exaggerate in order to generate attention.

Well, she must have been feeling particularly in need of attention this week, because she told a whopper of a lie to a group of Jewish Democrats. She told the group that she had been talking to the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, and that Oren told her " what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”

This would be a shocking thing for any diplomat to say, and so a reporter who heard the remarks got in touch with Ambassador Oren to ask why he would say that. Oren issued a very strong statement in which he denied making such a statement, saying:

"I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

So you have an Ambassador on one hand, and good ol' DWS on the other, saying absolutely non-compatible things. The Debster went on TV last night and was asked about what appeared to be a pretty bald-faced lie. Her response was to double down and tell another lie: She said she had been misquoted.

“That comment was reported by a conservative newspaper," DWS said. "It’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me.”

So that was her new story: She never said what the reporter claimed she had said. It's convenient to have a reporter to blame when you're caught in a lie, and that might have been the end of it. Except that.....

It turns out there's an audio tape of the meeting. You can listen to the tape here, and what you'll hear DWS telling the group is this:

“We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”

Gee, sounds like the reporter got the quote down pretty accurately. Like, word-for-word.

So, she first lied to the group about her "conversation" with Ambassador Oren, and when caught in that lie, she told another one in an effort to cover up the first lie.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise to learn that the Chair of the DNC is a pathological liar. After all, it was just last week that her party was calling Rep. Paul Ryan a "liar" for saying that a GM plant that closed in 2009 had been closed in 2009. The "fact checkers" in the media were quick to help the Dems spread that falsehood, but it's pretty tough to find any of them "fact checking" good ol' Debbie.

Because, after all, she needs the attention.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just another day in the "news" room

Media bias is a subject near and dear to my heart, in part because I used to be a denier.

When I worked as a reporter, and conservatives would complain about media bias, I would smile and shake my head and say something like, "Oh, some reporters lean Democrat, but we all work very hard to report things straight and fair," because that's what I did.

But after a few years, it became fairly obvious to me that I was wrong. I watched fellow editors and reporters go out of their way to include their political slants in what were supposed to be "news" stories. As I got older it became obvious that I was in a business where 90% or more of my colleagues had liberal biases, and weren't afraid to show it.

And it's gotten worse over the years. A once-great news organization like NBC News is tangled up with MSNBC, an electronic version of a children's playground, where pseudo-journalists like Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews are free to voice their personal bigotry under the guise of "reporting." And on and on it goes across CBS and ABC, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, etc., etc...Liberal "reporters" bending and slanting the news in an effort to create a narrative favorable to liberals.

Today it may have bottomed out when the former Political Director of ABC News and head of Yahoo News David Chalian made a tasteless, racist joke about Mitt and Ann Romney. Not realizing there was a live microphone nearby, Chalian watched video of the Romneys waving and smiling and - in an apparent reference to Hurricane Isaac - said the Romneys are "happy to have a party with black people drowning."

(You can hear the audio here.)

Once Chalian was identified, Yahoo quickly fired him. But what's important to remember about this incident is that if it hadn't been on tape, nothing would have happened. In the background you can hear others in the room laughing at his joke. Without the tape, it's just another day at the office for these folks, calling Republicans racist and laughing about it.

Over the years, I've been in enough newsrooms and hung with enough reporters for this to all sound so, so familiar. The news you hear every day comes through the same filter, one of bigotry and prejudice against conservatives and their ideas.

There's no doubt in my mind that David Chalian and his colleagues aren't disappointed with his "joke," they're just disappointed that he got caught.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Whores for Obama

Just when you think the Obama campaign couldn't look any less competent, the geniuses running the show manage to make themselves look even dumber.

Now it's a "Republican Women for Obama" ad, in which several women look into the camera and claim to be long-time Republicans who are now turned off by the party and so they are going to vote for Obama.

First of all, the premise doesn't even stand up to reason. What about the Obama administration would any long-time Republican find attractive? The record deficits? The push for higher taxes? "You didn't build that"? The assault on religious freedom?  The race-baiting? The increased regulation? Obamacare? The stagnant economy? Anyone who looks at the Obama record and says, "Yeah, I'd like four more years of this" was clearly never a long-time Republican.

Undeterred by the fact that they couldn't find any long-time Republican women who favor Obama, the campaign just made some up. Specifically, they found Maria Ciano. In the ad she says the Republican Party was "once in line with our views."

But if you got to Maria's Facebook page (before it was hastily taken down), you would find that she "likes" the following pages and/or links:

Democracy For America
Tar Sands Action
Amy Goodman
Barack Obama
Being Liberal
Bernie Sanders Tells You A Secret the GOP Would Rather You Didn’t Know
Miss Piggy Delivers the Best Takedown of Fox News We’ve Seen All Month
Think Progress
The Best Quote From Barack Obama We’ve Seen This Week
Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland
Climate Reality
The Amazing Victory Scored With Obama That More People Should Be Talking About
The Sierra Club
The Buffett Rule
Obama For America–Colorado
Denver Young Democrats
Latinos For Obama
Michelle Obama
Veterans For Obama
I Love It When I Wake Up In the Morning and Obama Is President
Obama Truth Team
Democratic Party

So, yeah, she's a pretty hard-core Republican.

But even though she's been registered as a Democrat in Colorado since 2006, she agreed to sit in front of a camera and tell bald-faced lies on behalf of her beloved Obama. There's a name for women like that.

It turns out that prostituting yourself for Dear Leader runs in the family. Maria's mother, Delia Ciano, is another one of the women in the ad. And she also has a long electronic trail of Twitter posts demonstrating her long-standing membership in the Democratic party.

It's NOT surprising that the Obama campaign could find a couple women willing to besmirch their own honor and credibility on behalf of The Chosen One, but it's surprising that they were stupid enough to think they could get away with it.

In this day of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, comment sections, chat boards, etc., most of us have left an electronic trail that makes it pretty easy to figure out where we stand politically.

And in a nation of more than 300 million people, the Obama campaign couldn't find enough "Republican Women for Obama" to make an ad, so they found a couple dim bulbs to make liars of themselves and put it up as an ad purporting to show how upset Republican women are with Mitt Romney, thinking that no one would ever find out. I mean, really, how stupid can you be?

Do you really want the people running this administration and this campaign to run the country for another four years?

Friday, August 24, 2012

A little hope for the future

My own lifelong relationship with golf is on the rocks right now, for reasons I'll probably get around to writing about later, but this summer I will play the fewest number of rounds of golf I've played in probably the past 40 years.

But if anything brings me back, it might be this: Grandson Sam, on his 3rd birthday, on the first tee at Red Wing Golf Club. This picture brings me a lot of happiness!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A sea change in the heartland

Take a close look at this picture.

Hardhats? Check.
Denim work clothes? Check.
Marching en mass? Check.

Is it a group of workers going on strike? Are they marching for higher wages and "social justice?" It's an election year, so maybe - like good, obedient union members - they're on their way to attend an Obama rally, right?

Well, none of the above.

What these coal miners - and about 2,600 of their co-workers, family members and friends - are doing is standing in line to attend a Mitt Romney rally near Beallsville, Ohio.

The Obama campaign loves to talk about "fighting for the middle class," but here is the middle class incarnate. Hard-working men and women who want to have a job, own a home, send the kids to college and have a retirement waiting for them.

And they understand that the Obama years have not moved them any closer to those dreams. Obama's open hostility towards oil, coal and natural gas - phantom "green jobs" in pie-in-the-sky wind and solar developments are the White House's preferred pipe dream - is a threat to their way of life.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 54-year-old miner Tim Wiles and many of his colleagues are excited about Romney.

“This election is his and Paul Ryan’s for the taking," Wiles said. "They need to be bold and remind people of what we stand for, that we are the backbone of this country. We make things. We provide energy for the state, food for our families, and businesses are sustained around the county because they make money from us."

You can read polls and splice numbers all you want, but this seems certain: If unionized mine workers are willing to stand in the hot sun, lined up to hear a Republican presidential candidate, Obama has serious problems.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

His friend, Leo.....

When I was growing up - and this is hard for my children to believe - the Twin Cities had FOUR daily newspapers. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul had morning and afternoon dailies, and in our household it was the afternoon Minneapolis Star that greeted me when I arrived home from school. Their page B1 columnist was a guy named Jim Klobuchar, who doubled as one of the Vikings writers during football season.

His columns seemed clever, worldly and insightful as he wrote about football and politics and growing up in Ely and current events in Minneapolis. I enjoyed his work, and it probably played a part in pushing me towards my journalism career.

Except he was a fraud. First the Star suspended him for making up quotes, and then they suspended him again for working as a speechwriter for Gov. Rudy Perpich on the side and by the end of his career he was not much more than a target of ridicule and pity.

About the time Klobuchar was slinking away (and afternoon papers were going the way of the dodo) my interest turned to a young Tribune columnist name Joe Soucheary. He wrote sports, became a sports columnist and then a general columnist. His column the day after the U.S. beat the Soviets in the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" game remains a classic more than 30 years later.

We met in the early '80s, after I reviewed one of his books in my own newspaper column. I can't say we were close friends, but we bump into each other from time to time and have a nice chat, most recently at a Wild game last year. "Sooch" has become more famous as a radio host - he is the Mayor of the small town of "Garage Logic" on 1500 AM, and also in syndication - but he has continued to write a column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press over the years.

And, as he wrote today, dozens - maybe a hundred - of those columns began with, "My friend Leo, who has a cabin up north....." They were always entertaining, full of homespun wisdom and tales from the lake. I once asked him if Leo was real - perhaps remembering all of the Klobuchar writing that turned out to be fraudulent - and he assured me that Leo was very real, and a genuine character.

Well, Leo's identity was revealed in today's column, but I won't spoil the surprise. Just click here, and you can learn all about Leo, and why Sooch spent so much time at the cabin. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The coming barrage of lies about Paul Ryan

Picking a running mate is often called the "first presidential decision" a candidate makes, and if that's the case, Mitt Romney hit a home run in choosing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I written about Ryan before, at a time when almost no one outside his district and Capitol Hill had heard of him.

He is best known as a "budget wonk," who knows as much as any human can know about the federal budget. But in addition to his knowledge, he is articulate and personable as well, and he put those talents to use creating a series of videos that explain - in terms virtually anyone can understand - the disastrous fiscal path we are on. They're brief, but insightful. Here's the first one:


The second one explains the coming crisis in Medicare. Here it is:

Now, here's what you're going to hear over and over in the next few weeks from the slimy folks running the Obama campaign: Paul Ryan is a heartless jerk who wants to balance the budget on the backs of old people by killing Medicare.

Here's the truth: If we don't fix Medicare very, very soon. It's not going to be there for ANYONE. Not you, no me, not anyone under the age of 50. There's an old fiscal adage that goes something like this: Anything that cannot be sustained, won't be.

Medicare cannot be sustained as it is, and anyone that says it doesn't have to be fixed is lying to you. The cruelest thing you can do is NOT fix Medicare, because if you don't, it's going to go broke.

And after three years in office - and seeing what the future holds - Obama has done nothing to fix the problem. And when Ryan had the guts to present a solution to the problem of our crushing debt, the administration sent Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner up to Capitol Hill to criticize Ryan's approach. As you can see in this clip, Ryan showed Geithner the mountain of debt in front of us and asked what HIS solution was. Hit the "play" button and you'll hear Geithner admit, "We don't have a solution. We just don't like yours." That's not only irresponsible, it's cruel and heartless.

The choice is this election has become very clear: We can re-elect Obama and continue down the path to fiscal ruin, towards a government that can't pay for Medicare, Social Security or any of its obligations, or we can put people in charge who recognize the problem and are willing to solve it. 

If the American voters decide to listen to the lies that are on the way from Team Obama about Paul Ryan and the federal budget, then the collapse of the nation's finances is on their head.

What can you do? Whenever you hear someone say "I don't know, the Republicans sound like they want to get rid of Medicare," you can tell them the truth, and show them the Path to Prosperity videos. Or you can say nothing, and watch things crumble.