Sunday, July 29, 2012

My first (and maybe only) Olympic post

Just a simple shout-out here to my fellow Dutch peeps, the Netherlands' Olympic field hockey team. This group has already been singled out by Yahoo as the "Most Attractive Olympic Team" competing in London. Just more confirmation of what many of us have known for years, that we Dutch - in addition to being bright, industrious, friendly and capable of dancing in wooden shoes - are just an extraordinarily attractive people.

More importantly, these ladies can play. They won the gold medal four years ago at Beijing (defeating the Chinese on their home turf in the finals), and opened this year's campaign by beating Belgium today 3-0. Japan is the next opponent, on Tuesday, but in the meantime, just enjoy the beauty that is Dutchness. Team photo here, more pix can be found by clicking here:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Out of bullets?

Ronald Reagan had a great collection of Soviet Union jokes that he loved to tell, and one of them involved a Russian man who was sent by his wife to the store to try to buy some meat. At the store he encountered the long line, short supplies and terrible service that were hallmarks of the Soviet economy. He began complaining loudly about standing in line, and soon a policeman wandered over.

"Comrade, what is the problem?" the policeman asked.

And so the man began relating all his grievances, that there was no selection in the shop, the lines were long, the service was terrible.

"Comrade," the policeman said, "It's probably best to keep quiet about all that, otherwise......" And the policeman held his finger up and pointed it like a gun at the man, then pulled an imaginary trigger and said, "Bang."

Chastised, the man left the store and went home. There he encountered his wife, who saw that he had no meat from the store. "What, are they out of meat?" she asked.

"It's not just meat," he answered. "They're out of bullets."

I was reminded of that story today when news came from Washington that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has decided it wouldn't provide any emergency assistance to homeowners affected by the recent floods in Duluth.

Duluth, of course, is one of the most purely DFL cities in Minnesota. The city government is practically communist, and the ivory-towered academic eggheads of the University of Minnesota-Duluth have an oversized influence on the local conversation. Obama beat McCain 65-32 in St. Louis County in 2008.

So ponder for a moment what FEMA's denial of assistance means: A DFL governor (Mark Dayton) and two DFL senators (Klobuchar and Franken) were unable to get discretionary money from a Democrat president for one of the most DFL cities in Minnesota, in an election year.

Perhaps they finally realize they've run out of money.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why is it their business?

First off, someone is going to want to twist what I am about to write, in order to make it sound that I am somehow defending what went on at Penn State, so I have to make this clear right up front: The events at Penn State were horrendous. Jerry Sandusky was a monster, and the decision by Coach Paterno and others to try to shield him is inexcusable. There is a mountain of shame and blame to be shared here, and I'm perfectly fine with the university deciding to tear down the Paterno statue.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I still find myself wondering what the NCAA has to do with any of this.

Imagine that you're a basketball player. Your game is over and you're out in the parking lot afterwards, stowing your gear in your car and getting ready to leave. Suddenly the person who had just refereed your game comes over and says, "Looks like you've got a cracked windshield. I'm going to have to write you a ticket."

You would, of course, tell the guy to get lost. It's none of his business. His authority exists on the court, not in the rest of your life.

That's the situation we have now, as the NCAA has fined Penn St. $60 million, reduced the number of scholarships available and banned the football team from any post-season appearances for four years. Always self-important and sanctimonious, the NCAA said Penn State's actions go "against our values."

Well, yes, they went against pretty much everyone's values. How does that involve the NCAA?

Established in 1906 - partly in response to high levels of brutality in college football - the NCAA is designed to ensure fair competition among collegiate athletic programs. It was formed to establish uniform rules of competition and safety in athletics. Later, it began to conduct national championships, and its role is to make certain athletic programs abide by the rules. The NCAA investigates things like illegal recruiting tactics, cash payoffs to players, academic cheating by student-athletes and other things athletic departments might do to give themselves an unfair advantage on the playing field.

But the horrific events at Penn State had nothing to do with what happened on the field. The fact that a member of the football staff was a serial child molester didn't help the football team in any way.

If Penn State had been committing academic fraud to keep players eligible, it's the NCAA's business. Likewise if Penn State was providing no-show jobs to athletes, or if players' parents were getting payments, then the NCAA needs to step in. If Penn State had been cheating in some brazen fashion, like hiding a microphone in the opponent's locker room or bribing game officials, then it's the NCAA's business. They are there to ensure fair competition and to make certain that no school has an unfair competitive advantage.

I don't see how the sickness of Jerry Sandusky or those who covered up for him are within the purview of the NCAA.

There's a parallel of sorts in the NCAA's long-running feud with the University of North Dakota over the Fighting Sioux nickname. There is no competitive advantage in UND calling itself the Fighting Sioux, so why does the NCAA care? As a Minnesota alum, of course, I'm conditioned to dislike UND, but I would have gained some respect for them if they had just told the NCAA, "Screw off. What we call ourselves is none of your business."

Likewise, I think Penn State should have said, "The people who committed these horrible acts are being dealt with by the criminal justice system. We have fired others who enabled or covered up the behavior. We are accountable to the NCAA for complying with the rules of competition, but you have no right to punish  our current students for things that happened years before they arrived on campus. Back off."

The NCAA isn't a court of law and it isn't a church. It isn't designed to be a political correctness police force. It's a referee, and someone needs to remind it of that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The utter incompetence of government

If you want to know why some of us are exceedingly suspicious of every new "big government" idea, or even of the very concept that government can improve our lives, there are two wonderful examples in today's Sunday newspapers.

First, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has gotten around to taking another look at the tragic death of Clarisse Grime earlier this month. Clarisse, as I wrote about here, was killed by illegal immigrant/drunk driver/serial speeder/unlicensed driver Carlos Viveros-Colorado.

The PP story shows that Viveros-Colorado - who had been "voluntarily deported" after a 2001 DWI conviction but then again illegally entered the U.S. - had pretty regular interactions with law enforcement, including:

- July 19, 2011: St. Paul police stopped him and cited him for speeding and for driving without a license
- March 8, 2012: Newport police stopped him and cited him for driving without a license
- April 19, 2012: Minnesota State Patrol stopped him and cited him for speeding and driving without a license

Three violations in the year before he killed Clarisse Grime, and yet in exactly NONE of those incidents was Viveros-Colorado asked about his immigration status, nor was the information that he had been deported and illegally re-entered the country available to officers who ran a check on him. St. Paul, of course, proud of its status as a "sanctuary city," prohibits its officers from inquiring about immigration status. For the other two officers, no information was available because there was "no warrant from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for his arrest," according to the story.

Think about that for a moment. With all of the money, people and technological resources at their disposal, the federal government, State of Minnesota, Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul were unable to determine that a previously deported illegal alien and convicted drunk driver, driving around town without a license, was in their grasp.

It seems like a pretty basic function of government. St. Paul City Council member Don Bostrom - the only member to vote against the 2004 ordinance that gave St. Paul its "sanctuary city" status - said, "We have a responsibility to protect our citizens." think so?

The IRS will hound you if you forget to report a few hundred dollars of income. The city will send someone around to give you a ticket if you don't shovel your sidewalk and the State of Minnesota has computer systems that will reject your drivers license renewal if you have an unpaid ticket in another state. Yet no one at any level of government could be bothered to note Viveros-Colorado's immigration status, a simple step that may have saved Clarisse Grime's life.

The same issue of the paper informs us that another state government bureaucracy - the Department of Education - routinely hands out waivers so that high school students can get their diplomas even if they haven't met the requirements for graduation.

Minnesota has a law that requires high school students to pass a basic math skills test before graduating. About 57% of Minnesota students pass it on the first try.

Those who don't pass, however, aren't really deterred from graduating. They can take the test again. If they fail, they can take it again. And if they fail a third time, their school district can just waive the requirement.

And it happens, according to the PP, thousands of times every school year. In the Minneapolis school district, more than a third of those receiving diplomas can't pass the test. In St. Paul, we can't even get an accurate number because the district doesn't track the number of waiver-dependent diplomas it issues!

Seems like that might be some pertinent information, doesn't it? Ironically, the same issue of the PP has a column by Joe Soucheray in which he notes that the St. :Paul school district has about 39,000 students and a $655 million annual budget, which works out to about $17,000 per student per year. And yet they just can't figure out a way to record how many students can't pass a basic math test.

The money quote in the story is from the Commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Education, one Brenda Cassellius, who defends giving diplomas to those unable to comply with the law. ""When you have about half the kids not passing, you know you have to do something," Cassellius said. "You cannot just deny diplomas."

Really? You can't deny a diploma to someone who hasn't met the requirements for graduation? What value is there in a diploma, then, if it doesn't represent meeting those requirements? Why don't we just hand out satisfactory attendance certificates and leave it at that?

This is your government in action, folks, performing two of the most basic functions - public safety and education - in a manner that screams incompetence and failure.

Really makes you eager to have them in charge of your health care, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"President Obama, you're killing us out here"

It's just a campaign ad, I realize, but this video is a great summation of the problem with the Obama presidency and re-election campaign. When you attack the people who build businesses, and help foster envy and resentment against them, you are throwing sand in the gears of the American economy, and the American dream itself. Enjoy:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The power of Powerline

I'm being very honest with you when I say that this blog is mostly for me. I started writing it a few years ago with no expectation that I would ever build any kind of large, steady audience, and it serves as sort of a therapy for me.

I write for a living, which means that almost all of the writing I do is driven by what someone else wants written. It has to be done in their style, on their terms and on their timetable. All of which is fine, and I'm grateful that God gave me a thimble-full of writing talent, or at least enough to help me make a living.

But the blog is different. I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want, without the pressure of clients or deadlines. If I want to put some thoughts down about my unbelievably brilliant grandchildren or the lunacy of the President or my horrible golf game or the beauty of a Myrtle Beach sunrise, I can do so. Writing like that - pretty much for my own fun - is relaxing.

If you wanted this option 30 years ago, about all you could do was keep a diary, which most people didn't want anyone to read. Until you were dead, at which time friends or family might find the diary and wind up surprised to learn that you either deeply loved or heatedly despised several of them. But now, thanks to Al Gore's invention of the interwebs, any monkey with a keyboard (I'm looking at you, Paul Krugman) can throw his thoughts, spelling mistakes and prejudices out there for the general public to pick apart.

The outfit that provides the template and bandwidth for Tim Droogsma's Blog provides a little tool that counts the number of visitors to my site. In the first few months, I was thrilled when I would get 50 visitors in a month. Imagine that, four DOZEN people reading something I wrote!

Over the course of a couple of years, the number climbed. More relatives found out about the blog. A few fellow conservative travelers checked in once in a while for bits of politics. And eventually the day came when I was getting 300-400 readers a month, which really was about all of the expectation I had. This year, however, a couple of things happened.

First, the folks at a little online publication called MinnPost started picking up some of my blogs. They have a daily feature called "Minnesota's Blog Cabin" and the editor sometimes linked to this blog. It was flattering, and it helped move the needle on the visitor counter a little.

Then back in about April, I wrote a long post about the upcoming Amy Senser trial, and it seemed to strike a nerve. A few hundred people found their way to the blog, and for a short while the counter - which records the number of visitors on a rolling 30-day basis - was up over 1,000. Suddenly, at least for one month, I had more readers than did the Red Wing Republican-Eagle, which I used to work for.

On the eve of the Wisconsin recall election, I wrote another post about the slimy U of M professor who was trying to peddle a tall tale about Governor Scott Walker. In just a day, nearly 1,000 people showed up to read the post. An unfortunate number of those readers were knuckle-dragging, paint thinner-swilling, foul-smelling Wisconsin leftists who weren't likely to become regular readers, but hey, eyeballs are eyeballs, right?

But then, on July 5, came the tragedy of Clarisse Grime, the St. Paul girl killed by an illegal immigrant. The story angered me, and I wrote a post (read here) about the broken-down government that had failed her so badly. It helped me to vent, and I hoped that my handful of readers might be moved by her story.

Then Powerline came along. 

Powerline is the wonderful political blog that is based here in Minnesota, but reaches all around the world. Founded by Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker - fellow Republicans that I have never met - Powerline rose to fame in 2004, when they helped expose the phony reporting Dan Rather did in an effort to smear President Bush. It's become a must-read blog in political circles, and they get somewhere around three million hits a month.

The fellows over there write a number of blog posts each day, and at the top of their home page they provide links to other stories. Usually those stories are from well-known publications like the Washington Post, New York Times, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Real Clear Politics and others.

On July 9, they chose to put a link to Tim Droogsma's Blog and the story about Clarisse at the top of the page, and the counter started spinning. In the first 24 hours, more than 3,000 visitors made their way to the blog and read the story. Many of those people then linked to the story from their own blogs. A radio station called to talk to me about the story and I was denounced on liberal web sites, which I always consider a badge of honor. There were an amazing couple of hours when my Powerline link sat right next to a link to a Thomas Sowell article. Rare air for a guy from Red Wing.

I am under no illusion that the traffic was generated by my writing. Clarisse's compelling story, and the incredible reach and influence of Powerline are what created my 30 seconds of attention.

A couple of follow-up posts generated some good traffic, and my counter currently stands somewhere over 7,500 visitors. That's a huge number for me, but barely a drop in the ocean that is the blogosphere. I have little doubt that the number is headed back down eventually, and will likely settle back into that 300-400 range made up of mostly of friends and family, but for a couple of days it was kind of fun to have a little extra attention. Thanks, Powerline guys.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The end of the innocence

I was 11 years old when the 1968 Olympics were held, marking the first time that the Olympics were really on my radar. The Winter Games were held in Grenoble, France, and the highlights were the three gold medals won by the dashing French skier, Jean-Claude Killy, and the figure skating medal won by the long-legged, uber-cute American Peggy Fleming.

Later that year, the summer games (yes, they used to have winter and summer games in the same year) were held in Mexico City, where Bob Beamon stunned the athletic world by shattering the long jump record by nearly two feet. Al Oerter won his fourth discus gold medal. Dick Fosbury won gold while high-jumping backwards - The Fosbury Flop - which immediately revolutionized his sport.

For young Tim Droogsma, already dreaming of becoming a sportswriter, the Olympics were a feast. So many stories, so many colorful figures, so many different events. Even now it's hard to explain just how much I loved sitting in front of the TV watching all of it.

And then there was a four-year wait for it to come back. Leap years, presidential elections and the Olympics all took place together every four years, and when the 1972 games came around, I was ready. In February, the winter games in Sapporo, Japan, were a bit of a letdown. The U.S. won a silver medal in hockey that was unexpected, but there weren't many Americans who did much. The summer games, I was sure, would be better.

Now 15 and just starting my junior year of high school (yes, I was a four-year-old kindergartner with a November birthday.....pretty much the youngest kid in every class I was ever in) I was glued to the TV for the first 10 days of the Munich Olympics. A couple of American distance runners - Dave Wottle and Frank Shorter - won gold medals. A tiny Russian named Olga Korbut won three gymnastics golds and charmed the world. Mark Spitz did the unthinkable and won seven gold medals in swimming. A kid from just down the road in Iowa, Dan Gable, won a wrestling gold without having a single point scored against him. I was loving it all.

A Black September terrorist at the Munich Massacre
And on September 5, it all went south.

We awoke expecting more competition, and instead we saw terror. A group of Palestinian terrorists calling themselves "Black September" had sneaked into the Olympic village and stormed an apartment housing Israeli athletes and coaches. Two of the Israelis were already dead, nine were being held hostage, and the games had been halted.

I'd like to say that at age 15 I had a deep, profound understanding of the issues in the Middle East, but I'd be lying if I did. I asked my parents about it, and my high school history teacher, and it probably was the first time in my life that I had any kind of exposure to, or understanding of, the existence of virulent anti-semitism and hatred of Israel.

There are a number of great places to read the rest of the story - this Wikipedia entry is particularly good - but in a nutshell it ended like this: After some negotiations, the terrorists and their hostages were taken by helicopter to a local air base, where they thought they were getting on a plane and flying to Egypt. Instead, the German authorities tried to ambush the terrorists. But their plan was both poorly conceived and poorly executed, and in the end most of the terrorists and all of the hostages were killed. ABC announcer Jim McKay's sobering "They're all gone" call (click on it below) is an iconic moment in broadcasting.

The entire ugliness was made even worse the next day, when 80,000 people filled the Olympic stadium for a memorial service. The Olympic flag, and the flags off all the competing nations, were lowered to half-staff, but 10 Arab nations objected, claiming that dead Jews were nothing to mourn. Their flags were raised back to the top of the flagpoles.

I'd like to say that the opinions I formed in those two days were based on my new insights into giant geo-political struggles, but the truth is that mostly I was just mad that the games were interrupted and tainted, and I blamed the thoughtless jerks who perpetrated the atrocity. My mind was immediately made up: Israel/Jews = good. Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims = bad.

Admittedly it was a simple formulation, but in the ensuing 40 years nothing has happened to alter my viewpoint very much. As I learned more of the Middle East over the years - eventually working for a U.S. Senator who sat on the Foreign Relations Committee - I found that simple insight to be a solid compass point when pondering any Middle East question.

And just in case I wasn't disgusted enough by the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims and their thirst for innocent blood, they went out of their way over the years to remind me: The Achille Lauro, the barracks in Beirut, the Tel Aviv disco, the seemingly endless parade of suicide bombers and, of course, the 9/11 attacks. They seemed, at every turn, to remind us that the only way they could express themselves was in mindless violence and the killing of innocents.

When Yasser Arafat - who knew of the Munich attack in advance and approved of it - was embraced by Jimmy Carter, it sickened me. When Arafat was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, the Nobel ceased to have any credibility.

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, you'll read more about the ways in which the International Olympic Committee has disgraced itself over the years in regards to the massacre. It has refused Israeli requests for a moment of silence at this year's ceremony to remember the dead. It has rebuffed the construction of any permanent memorial to the dead Israelis, with one IOC member quoted as saying that such a memorial would "alienate other members of the Olympic community." Yeah, especially the ones who get their kicks killing people.

The Munich games took away any innocent ideals I might have had about the Olympics. A few years later they abandoned the idea of amateur competition, then became both hyper-commercialized and hyper-politicized. African nations boycotted the 1976 Montreal games. The U.S. refused to go to the 1980 Moscow games, and the Soviets retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles games.

The entire Olympic "movement" has lost its luster in many ways, but much of the tarnish can be traced directly back to Munich, and I suspect there are very few, if any, 15-year-olds who are filled with anticipation of another Olympiad the way I was 40 years ago.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Family and friends say goodbye to Clarisse, Star Tribune ignores

On July 2, five-year-old Nizzel George of North Minneapolis was buried. Little Nizzel was sleeping on a couch when he was hit by a bullet apparently intended for someone else, part of the gang warfare that is all too common in Minneapolis. It's a horrible, tragic story.

The Star Tribune's story of the funeral carried two bylines and the paper's web site contained about a dozen photos of mourners and the funeral. Virtually every day from June 27 to July 8, the "Newspaper of the Twin Cities" carried a story, or its web site had a staffer's blog post, about the death of little Nizzel and the aftermath.

Wednesday was burial day for 16-year-old Clarisse Grime, killed last week by an illegal immigrant who lost control of his vehicle and ran her over in her schoolyard. It's another horrible, tragic story, except that in this case, the Star Tribune couldn't be bothered to show up at the funeral, which was held in Minneapolis.

Clarisse's death is an uncomfortable story for the Star Tribune. As we've written before, the man charged with her killing - Carlos Viveros-Colorado - was an illegal immigrant who had no driver's license and a series of traffic violations - including a 2001 DWI - in his past. He went through a "voluntary deportation" a few years ago but quickly returned to the United States.  The Star Tribune's "reporters" have done their very best to minimize these facts, and the headline writers have chosen instead to focus on the vehicle, as if the type of vehicle were relevant to the story.

A search for "Clarisse Grime" on the Strib's web site reveals three stories, one photo gallery and one video about Clarisse's death. Here are the five headlines:

Out-of-control SUV kills 16-year-old St. Paul girl
Students mourn girl killed by SUV
Teenager killed by SUV
Driver of SUV that killed teen in St. Paul had no license
SUV driver is charged in St. Paul student's death

Got it? Clarisse wasn't killed by an illegal immigrant who shouldn't have been driving, she was killed by one of those evil SUV's! It's a good thing Carlos wasn't driving a Prius or the story might not even have made the paper.

Over at the Pioneer Press, where the budget cuts of the last few years have reduced the reporting staff to about the same size as that of your local shopper, the coverage was better. Clarisse's funeral was a front-page story and the headline at least acknowledged that she was killed by an "unlicensed driver," even though it took 16 paragraphs before the reader was told of Carlos' status as an illegal immigrant.

(Another sad irony of the story: Clarisse's mother, a widow, met and married Clarisse's step-father in Italy in 2008. Clarisse and her mother, however, didn't come to the U.S. until 2010 because they couldn't legally do so. Instead, they waited until they obtained permanent legal resident status. Both Clarisse and her mother were in the process of becoming citizens, a process her mother said she will continue.)

Besides the tragic end of a young, promising life, I fear that the other tragedy will be that the story of Clarisse and her killer will soon be forgotten. Minneapolis and St. Paul will continue with their "Sanctuary City" policies that provide a safe harbor and breeding ground for illegals like Carlos Viveros-Colorado. The media will continue to ignore the issue of the illegals in our midst and in a few weeks no one outside the Harding High School neighborhood will remember the story of a family that came to this country to pursue its dreams, only to find a government and media elites that had no interest in their protection.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The immigration "Catch and Release" program

We continue to learn more about Carlos Viveros-Colorado, the accused killer of young Clarisse Grime (see previous post) and the role our immigration system played in keeping him around the Twin Cities and available to create mayhem.

I opined yesterday that Viveros-Colorado should have been deported after his 2001 DWI conviction, or possibly after subsequent traffic violations, including a conviction for driving without a license. Turns out that he was. Sort of.

According to the Pioneer Press, after the 2001 conviction, the Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered him deported, and he elected to "voluntarily" leave the country. Of course, like a baserunner tagging up on a fly ball, Carlos went back to Mexico, tapped his foot on the soil and came back into the U.S. Apparently none of his subsequent brushes with the law were enough to trigger another deportation hearing, possibly because St. Paul's "Sanctuary City" ordinance ties the hands of law enforcement when it comes to dealing with illegal immigrants or reporting the immigration status of criminals.

None of which is a problem, according to CV-C's attorney, Alberto Miera, who painted a pretty flattering portrait of his client at Monday's court appearance. Although he broke our laws twice by entering the country illegally, never got a drivers license and had numerous traffic violations in addition to the DWI, Carlos "has tried to be as responsible as he could under the circumstances," the Pioneer Press wrote.

Try that approach the next time you're pulled over for speeding, or the IRS says you owe more in taxes, or the building inspector says you don't have the right permit. "But I was just trying to be as responsible as I could under the circumstances." If you're a citizen, that's not likely to be a successful defense.

But give the Pioneer Press credit for at least presenting some information about Viveros-Colorado's checkered immigration history. Over at the Star Tribune, reporter Anthony Lonetree managed to write a 14-paragraph story about Monday's court appearance without even mentioning the fact that CV-C was in the country illegally. The Star Tribune's editorial position, of course, is that there is no problem with illegal immigrants, all of whom allegedly show up here, work hard, obey the law, pay their taxes and add to the rich tapestry of "diversity." So Lonetree was just toeing the company line. Nothing to see here, folks, just a little car accident, move along.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A young life sacrificed to political correctness

16-year-old Clarisse Grime
I realize that whenever someone dies, particularly someone young, there is often a rush to engage in a little hyperbole about the departed. It seems that when we pass on, we're all "great people" who were "always kind" and "wonderful to be around."

Even accounting for those kinds of excesses, it seems that there was quite a bit to like about young Clarisse Grime, the 16-year-old junior-to-be at St. Paul Harding High School, whose life was snuffed out Thursday when a driver - and we'll get to him in a moment - lost control of his car and ran her over as she sat with her boyfriend, waiting for a bus.

Clarisse had apparently survived quite a bit to make it to St. Paul. She was born in Ethiopia, a place where nearly 20% of children don't make it to age five. That's where she learned to speak Amharic, and when her family got out of Ethiopia and moved to Italy, she picked up Italian. In the U.S. for nearly three years, English was her third language, and she was fluent enough to become an honor roll student at Harding.

"I could see her as Secretary of State or, who knows, she could have run for Governor," a Harding teacher told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Clarisse was attending summer school and after Thursday classes, she and her boyfriend of two years were sitting near the football field, waiting for a Metro bus, when her tragic destiny came calling.

It came in the form of a 2001 Ford Expedition, driven by one Carlos Viveros-Colorado, a 50-year-old man who, according to witnesses, was speeding and lost control of the car. It crossed the street, ran over a sign, ran over a fire hydrant and hurtled towards the young couple, who tried to get out of the way. Clarisse's boyfriend was hit and injured his hip, while she was struck and died with minutes, all the promise of her life erased in not much more than the blink of an eye.

The one person left uninjured was Viveros-Colorado, who was quickly taken into custody, and there's a story to his life as well. That story includes:
  •   Entering the United States illegally more than a decade ago;
  •   Being convicted of drunk driving in 2001
  •   Never obtaining a Minnesota drivers license
  •   Receiving a series of speeding tickets
  •   Being convicted and fined $100 this past April for driving without a license
  •   Using a false name and stolen Social Security number to maintain his employment
All of which begs the question, "What was he DOING here?" How do you spend more than a decade in this country without gaining citizenship, have multiple run-ins with the law, illegally obtain a job while 13 million American citizens are looking for work and NOT get thrown out of the country?

Because when it comes to illegal immigration, your government has stopped bothering to protect you, bowing instead to political correctness and the alleged value of "diversity."

We're not immune from the problem here in Minnesota, but in border states like Arizona and California, it's even worse. California professor Victor Davis Hanson has written often and eloquently about the problem (click here for one example) of illegal immigration, and this basic summary of his will ring quite true to most rational people:

"The simple fact is that once someone chooses to enter the U.S. illegally and remain here illegally, breaking the law, either deliberately or through indifference, becomes easier and habitual: obtaining false IDs, avoiding normal bureaucratic requirements, violating zoning laws, etc. And when the host, whether federal, state, or local government, sends a message that the issue is now entirely political rather than legal, often the illegal immigrant senses that he is (and should be) generally exempt from the mundane laws that others must follow."

That's exactly the Viveros-Colorado story. The U.S. government, the State of Minnesota and the City of St. Paul sent him signals every step of the way that said, "We don't really care if you're breaking the law because you're a member of a politically protected minority, so do what you want." Minneapolis and St. Paul are proud to call themselves "sanctuary cities," where law enforcement personnel are told NOT TO NOTIFY the federal government or cooperate with the feds when they find illegal aliens living in the city.

We devote more government resources to making sure Grandma doesn't carry 5 ounces of shampoo on to an airplane than we do to arresting and deporting people like Viveros-Colorado. That's why Obama's uncle Onyango felt comfortable living and working illegally in Massachusetts for a couple of decades before his DWI conviction earlier this year. And did that conviction get him deported? No. In fact, just weeks after the conviction, Massachusetts gave him his license back (click here for details) so that it wouldn't be inconvenient for him to get to work.

In 2008, after an illegal immigrant drove into a school bus and killed four children near Cottonwood, Minn., then-Gov. Pawlenty offered a series of proposals that would have made it easier to identify and deport illegal aliens. But the DFL-controlled legislature never acted. Even today, if it were up to DFLers like Gov. Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Vivero-Colorado wouldn't even have to produce an ID to vote. Why should he have any respect for the laws of this country?

One final irony. Little Clarisse had already learned three languages and spoke English after just 2-1/2 years in the U.S. But when Viveros-Colorado was arrested Thursday, he needed an interpreter to talk to police.

Clarisse's family doesn't have the money for her funeral. Contributions to the Clarisse Grime fund can be made at any Wells Fargo bank branch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The rays of ravishing light and glory....

Every 4th of July, I'm drawn again to John Adams. While all of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence deserve our eternal gratitude, Adams earned a slightly larger portion.

It was Adams who pushed for the resolution on independence, Adams who convinced Jefferson to write it and Adams who pushed and prodded and advocated for independence so strongly and eloquently. He suggested the forming of the Continental Army, and pushed for George Washington to be named commander.

And when the work was over, and the Declaration was written, approved and published, Adams looked at what had been done, and the inevitable war that lay ahead, and wrote:

I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

He never did rue it, the end was worth all the means and we all live free today because of his vision. Enjoy your parades, picnics, family times and fireworks today, America, and take a moment to remember the men at Philadelphia that made it all possible.

(The best telling of Adams' remarkable life is found in David McCullough's book, John Adams, which was later made into an  HBO miniseries. Through a fortuitous connection, I am able to have a first edition of the book, inscribed to me by McCullough, in my bookcase. Needless to say, it's one of my most prized possessions.)

Bonus story: I had the privilege once, on a trip to Boston, to get down to Quincy and visit the church where John and his equally remarkable wife, Abigail, are buried next to their son, John Quincy Adams, and his wife, Louisa. The church is still in operation, and while it is open for tourists Memorial Day to Labor Day, I was there in October and the sign on the door said "Closed." However, I knocked on the church door, and when the church secretary answered, I begged my way into a quick tour.

She took me downstairs, then down a hallway and through a narrow door into the crypt, where John's and Abigail's tombs look like this:

After standing over John's resting place for a few moments - and not wanting to impose any more on this kind woman's time - I began to walk out. "No," she said. "You have to say something to Abigail." She explained that "Abigail gets cross" if she doesn't receive adequate attention, and that the church will find books tossed on the floor, windows left open and other supernatural occurrences when Abigail felt snubbed. I don't know if she really believed it, or it was just a fun tale to tell a rube from Minnesota, but she seemed quite sincere about it. So I said a couple of complimentary things, and we headed out. If you're ever in Boston in the summer, I highly recommend the jaunt down to Quincy where you can also see Adams' home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

She's learning...

As I've mentioned in previous posts (click here and here and here) the Fourth of July is my holiday. As a youngster I fell in love with the fireworks, and when I grew and came to understand what the day was all about, it became my favorite holiday.

My kids were never big fireworks fans like me, but they learned to indulge ol' dad on the Fourth. So my next challenge is the grandkids, and I had a chance to begin the indoctrination Saturday night when we went over to Menomonie for a great evening with my son Will's in-laws, Steve and Kelly Redmann. They live on a nice spread outside of Menomonie where they keep a few horses and - for the past four or five years - they've been having family and friends over around the Fourth for a cookout and some big-time fireworks that Steve puts together.

Thanks to last August's wedding, we're now family, so this year we got our first invite, and it was a treat. About 40 or so people were there, Steve did a masterful job of grilling and when the sun set behind the pines, it was time for fireworks.

(To digress for a moment: In Wisconsin you are allowed to buy real fireworks. A shell that you can put in a tube, light a long fuse and then watch a high launch followed by a big explosion and bright colors. In Minnesota, you're only allowed by tiny firecrackers and sparklers. This year the Legislature voted to allow bigger and better fireworks in Minnesota, but our afraid-of-his-shadow Governor vetoed the bill, which means the jobs, tax revenue and fun generated by the fireworks industry will continue to stay out of our state. Nice work, Guv.)

Come fireworks time, my choices were limited. Seven-week-old C-Jack, of course, is not ready for the show, and grandson Sambo has decided it's too much noise and still too scary, so he wanted to stay in the house.

Annie, however - The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe - decided to set aside her fears and go outside with Opa. So we found a nice lawn chair and settled back for the show. 

The noise of the first shell startled her, but then she saw the colors and decided it wasn't too bad. She still didn't like the noise, but that got a little easier to take when Kelly kindly brought out a pair of ear protectors for her. Annie settled back in my lap and started to enjoy it a bit more. Still a little scary, still a little too noisy, but she was willing to hang in there, so I decided it was time to mix in a little instruction.

"Do you know why we shoot off fireworks?" I asked her.

"Because it's the Fourth of July," she answered. I asked her what was special about the Fourth of July, and she said she didn't know.

"It's America's birthday," I explained. "The Fourth of July is when America became a country, and we celebrate by shooting off fireworks."


Pretty basic stuff, and I wasn't sure that her four-year-old mind really grasped it, but I felt like that was enough for one night. She still didn't like the noise, but she began offering a little applause after each shell went off.

A while later, when the show was over and it was time to head home, we loaded up in the car and began the ride back to Red Wing. Traveling down the highway, we suddenly saw the lights from another fireworks display off on the horizon, illuminating the sky above some treetops a couple miles away.

"See those fireworks?" she asked everyone in the car. "That's where America is!"

Close enough for a four-year-old, and up in the front seat, Opa choked up just a little bit. There will be time later for John Adams and Philadelphia and Jefferson and John Hancock and King George and self-evident truths and our sacred honor, but I think we've got the first building block in place.