Monday, October 7, 2013

Are we overheating, or are we freezing? I guess we're not sure.

Last week the singer/scientist/genius Bob Geldof announced that because of - of course, global warming - all of mankind was going to be dead by 2030, just 17 years from now. 

If true, of course, it would make it much easier to plan for my retirement, but I'm just not quite willing to take old Bobby's word for it. I've been able to live long enough to see environmental predictions come and go, and to realize that most of them - including those from Al Gore and the rest of the faith-based "climate change" community - are absolute hokum. To remind you of how useful "settled science" can be, here - courtesy of the Watts Up With That? blog - are some predictions from Earth Day, 1970. Lots of keen foresight here. Enjoy.

“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
• Kenneth Watt, ecologist

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
• George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
• Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
• Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
• Life Magazine, January 1970

“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
• Sen. Gaylord Nelson

And my personal favorite:

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Democrats hate you and want you to die

It was a big week for the forces of "tolerance" and "diversity" on the political left.

First comes the story of the Communications Chair of the Democratic Party in Sacramento, California. Allan Brauer feels really, really strongly about Obamacare. So strongly, in fact, that his wish for those who oppose Obamacare is that their "children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases." Sounds like a nice guy, eh? Read the entire sorry story here.

Meanwhile, at the University of Kansas, Journalism professor David Guth feels really, really strongly about gun control. So strongly, in fact, that after the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, his wish for those who support the Second Amendment is that "Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” You can read his story here, and his reward from KU is a paid vacation.

Good thing they're the party of "compassion."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hypocrite alert!

Sorry about the blogging blackout...vacation, work, school (I'm a student again...will tell the story later), State Fair and a son who broke his heel and needed surgery have all slowed me down.

The most comical event of the recent past is watching the President fumble, bumble and stumble his way around on Syria. One minute we have to attack quickly, then it doesn't matter if we wait a month and today's position seems to be that, hey, maybe we don't even need to do anything. It's all just a reminder that this guy is in so far over his head that he can hardly catch a breath. Serves us right for making a diversity hire in the nation's top job.

Almost as fun is listening to the deafening silence from the celebrities who trampled each other rushing to get to a microphone to denounce George Bush as an immoral warmonger, but who now have clammed up when their boy wants to start throwing Cruise missiles around. Click here for a nice gallery.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Someone with a worse job than yours

This would be the latest in the irregular series of "Videos that fascinate me for no obvious reason." The gentlemen in question  is named Pravit Suebmee, a 27-year-old from Thailand who makes his living as part of an alligator show. I'm gotten close to a few 'gators (and by "close" I mean maybe 30 feet away) on my annual Myrtle Beach golf trips, and there's nothing I could think of that would ever make me want to do what Pravit does in this video. I'm imagining the job interview went something like this:

Interviewer: So, you'd like to work with alligators, huh?
Pravit: Yes, they're magnificent animals, and I have a degree in Animal Science from UT-Bangkok.
I: So, we need someone who can clean their habitat area, make sure the 'gator is fed every day and lead them around a couple times a day for the tourists. Can you do that?
P: Certainly. Sounds like an ideal job.
I: One more thing. Twice a day we'd like you to get down on all fours and put your head in the gator's mouth.
P: Okay....Um, wait, what?
I: You know, just stick you head in the gator's mouth.
P:Why would I do that?
I: Well, the tourists seem to like it, and it makes for a great picture. Fun for everyone.
P: But these things have really powerful jaws, you know. Having them bite you is supposed to be like having a pick-up truck parked on top of you.
I: Yes, but it probably won't really bite you. You're not a bird, or fish or one of its natural enemies so it will probably just leave you alone. Probably.
P: I don't like the way you keep saying 'Probably.'
I: Well, nothing is totally foolproof, you know. 99.999 percent and all of that.
P: If you're absolutely sure it's safe...
I: Positive. So you'll take the job? Great, you can start Monday.
P: I forgot to ask...why is this job open? Did the last guy who had it get promoted or something?
I: Ummm....yeah, something like that.

Don't be alarmed; He was not seriously injured. I wonder if this is a Workman's Comp claim under Thailand law?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Taking the race card out of the deck

One of the hallmarks of dictatorships through the ages (think Stalin's Russia or Mao's China or Castro's Cuba) is that citizens cannot rely on any sort of consistent legal system or code of conduct. What those in charge find acceptable one day is subject to change simply by the personal whim of Dear Leader.

Wearing, say, a red shirt might be considered illegal. So, in order to avoid the wrath of the authorities a person could spend years wearing only blue shirts. Then one day, those in power would decide blue shirts were illegal, and poor Boris/Jose/Chang would find himself hauled off to the gulag based on the whim of a dictator.

Even today in Cuba, people are frequently arrested on charges of being a "Pre-criminal danger to society," which might just mean the cop didn't like the look on your face, or it might mean your neighbor reported you for saying something bad about the government. The average case results in a four-year sentence in a Cuban prison, which is not to be confused with the relative country club conditions at Guantanamo.

One of the hallmarks of a free society is a legal system devoid of arbitrary, capricious power, whether that power is wielded by an all-powerful dictator or by an angry mob.

With the Not Guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, America has taken an important step back from turning its legal system into a banana republic-like farce, and we can be hopeful that we are getting closer to the point where the "race card" is relegated to the ash heap of history.

To be clear: George Zimmerman should never have been made to stand trial, and would not have without the poisonous race-mongering of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and the complicity of an equally immoral and incompetent media.

(The idea of Sharpton, a man with considerable amounts of blood on his hands - click here - crying for "justice" is particularly sickening. The man is a cancer on American society.)

A number of cities have seen "protests" over Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and it's hard not to consider those protesting as simply a group of stupid people who are either A) Ignorant of the law, B) Ignorant of the facts of this case or C) So driven by irrational racial animus that they don't care about the law or the facts. And all along the way they've been misled by unethical journalists who are always happy to invent black/white conflicts, even if there isn't a white person involved.

The facts we know in this case are:

- Zimmerman was acting in his role as a neighborhood watch captain in a neighborhood that had seen a high number of break-ins and other criminal activity

- Zimmerman spotted Martin moving through the neighborhood and called police

- Zimmerman and Martin ended up having a confrontation. Anyone who tells you that Zimmerman "stalked" or "hunted down" Martin, or claims that Zimmerman initiated the confrontation, is saying something that they have no way of knowing to be true. The only evidence presented was Zimmerman's claim that Martin attacked and "sucker punched" him to begin the altercation, and no evidence to the contrary was ever presented. Or exists.

- The altercation resulted - according to the only eyewitness - with Martin on top of Zimmerman, repeatedly bashing his head against a concrete sidewalk, resulting in head injuries and a broken nose for Zimmerman. At that point, fearing for his life, Zimmerman was able grab his gun and shoot Martin in what seems to be a classic case of legal self-defense.

After the shooting, the local authorities investigated and cleared Zimmerman of any wrongdoing, ruling that he acted in self-defense. Given the facts, it's hard to imagine they could have done anything else.

This sent the racial grievance machine into high gear. Sharpton, Jackson and the others - who don't seem to care one whit when dozens of young black men are regularly gunned down in Chicago, Detroit or Washington, D.C. - saw a chance to get their mugs on TV and stir the pot by decrying the killing of a black teenager by a white guy.

Except they didn't really have a white guy for a villain. They had another member of an "aggrieved minority," a Hispanic, and that was kind of inconvenient to the narrative. So the media helped them along with a new term, "White Hispanic," to describe Zimmerman.

(One of the wonderful ironies of the situation is that because they each have one white parent, Zimmerman is just as "white" as Barack Obama is. The media began saying Zimmerman "identifies himself as Hispanic." I look forward to the day the New York Times says that Obama is the first president who "identifies himself as black.")

So even though Zimmerman had been cleared by an investigation, and even though there was not one single witness who could say that Zimmerman had begun the altercation with Martin, political pressure from the White House and Justice Department led to the Florida Governor appointing a special prosecutor, who decided to overrule the local authorities, bypass the traditional Grand Jury route and press charges against Zimmerman.

This is where we began wandering into banana republic territory. An innocent man was brought to trial - even though he had already been cleared of wrongdoing - by simple political pressure. When they wrote the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers were cognizant of the abuses that had taken place in Europe through the use of "Bills of Attainder," a method by which government would simply declare a person or group of people "illegal" and deny them their civil rights. That's why the U.S. Constitution - as well as the constitutions of all 50 states - specifically bans bills of attainder.

The Zimmerman prosecution came very close to that kind of abuse, and the remarkably unethical conduct of the prosecutors (click here to see what respected liberal Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz thinks of the prosecution tactics) left Zimmerman to defend himself against a moving target. First he was charged with murder. When the prosecutors realized they had no case, they asked to have a manslaughter charge considered, and amazingly the judge agreed. When they saw that case crumbling, they tried to add a "child abuse" charge, and even the judge that had been rolling over for them decided that was going a bridge too far.

And the complicit media - always on the lookout for "civil rights" violations - saw nothing wrong with an American citizen being dragged through a Kangaroo Court proceeding, based on political pressure from the White House and a corrupt Justice Department that even spent taxpayer money assisting anti-Zimmerman rallies. (Click here for details on that story, which the Washington Post and NBC News aren't anxious to tell you about.)

Recognizing that there was no evidence for a murder conviction, the media began cheerleading for a "compromise" verdict of manslaughter, as though "compromise" is a credible concept in a criminal trial. Imagine that you're driving down the highway at 55 MPH, and a cop mistakenly pulls you over and writes a ticket charging you with driving 75 MPH. Would you be satisfied if, when you contest the ticket, a judge said, "Let's just compromise on 65 MPH and have you pay that fine"? Would you consider that "justice?"

By the end of the trial, it was clear that despite all the bleatings of Sharpton and the media, there was no choice but to acquit George Zimmerman. The jury did its duty, and America backed away from the precipice of becoming a "nation of men, not of laws."

In the great 1990 movie Presumed Innocent, the judge dismisses the case against Harrison Ford's character by saying, "I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am that any of this has taken place. Not even the pleasure of seeing you free can make up for this, this disgrace to the cause of justice."

That seems a perfect epitaph for what happened to George Zimmerman, and one can only hope that Sharpton, Jackson and all the other race-baiters learn that the value of playing the race card has been dramatically diminished.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A feel-good story from the Wild's NHL draft day

As you may have read, the Wild recently signed (how to describe him? Pest, agitator, thug...I'm not sure) Matt Cooke. Cooke has long been considered a villian in these parts, going back to his days playing for Satan's Team in Vancouver, and it's going to take me a while - like, say, at least until he scores his first goal - to totally accept him as a member of the State of Hockey.

The Cooke signing came as part of a flurry of Wild activity that included the departure of fan favorites Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the trading away of Devin Setoguchi, the return of  Niklas Backstrom and the signing of defenseman (and former Gopher) Keith Ballard.

Couple all that with the recent NHL draft, in which the Wild selected possible future stud defenseman Gustav Olofsson with their first pick (which came in the second round) and there has been a lot of news vying for the Wild fan's attention.

By the time the NHL draft reaches its third round, most fans have stopped paying attention. The big names, the guys who might help your team immediately, have already been selected. Because the NHL drafts players at a young age - 18 to 20 years old - the guys selected later in the draft are not likely to come right to the big club. Most of them will go on to college (Olofsson is headed for Colorado College) or Canadian Junior hockey, where the NHL team that drafted them hopes that they will mature, develop and eventually compete for a spot in the NHL.

Most of them don't. For players chosen in the third round and below, only about half ever play even one game in the NHL, and only about 15% of them stick around long enough to play 200 career games (less than three full seasons.)

And while not all of those players chosen late on draft day have the pedigree of a first-round pick, they all have ability, they all have a dream and they all have a story. This year, in the third round, the Wild chose a 20-year-old kid named Kurtis Gabriel, who had been passed over in his first two years of draft eligibility. That's right; All 30 teams had a chance to take him, and none of them did, either in 2011 or 2012.

Gabriel has good size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds), but he scored just 13 goals last season for his junior team, the Owen Sound Attack, a stat that hardly screams out "future NHLer." So why am I writing about him? Well, as I said, every player has a story, and I find Gabriel's quite compelling. Rather than try to tell it myself, I'm just going to give you this story via the Owen Sound Attack's web site, written before the recent NHL draft, and then add some comments below.

(Story courtesy of


Kurtis Gabriel, the Wild's 3rd-round draft pick
The Kootenay Ice and Owen Sound Attack were skating in warm-ups at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., 25 minutes before the third-place tiebreaker game at the 2011 Memorial Cup. Fans were still filing in but the buzz had started long before the arena was half-filled, the buzz that went with the knowledge somebody’s season was going to end that night. Up on press row, Canadian Hockey League staff passed out the lineups to reporters: The Attack’s top two forwards, Colorado firstrounder Joey Hishon and captain Garrett Wilson, were both scratched with concussions.

Who was out was, for the media, the story. Who was in was not even a footnote, not with a stat line of one goal and two assists in 40 games. Nobody knew who Kurtis Gabriel was, at least nobody who started to pay attention to Owen Sound during the Attack’s improbable run to an Ontario Hockey League title. Those who followed the team all season knew that the 18-year-old had been a healthy scratch since January. They knew that, even when dressed at the start of the season, he saw only a couple of shifts a game. The coaches and players knew more. They knew all about his stint in purgatory: the miles he had skated after practice, the hours spent on the ice working with assistant coaches when others were in the dressing room, the tons he lifted in the weight room. “I could have quit every day, a hundred times,” Gabriel says. “It might have looked like I made a big mistake going to Owen Sound.”

He was finally going to be in the lineup but it wasn’t the first time he had walked in from the cold. If he went on to score the winning goal that night it would have been the end point of an amazing story. Didn’t happen: Kootenay, the Western Hockey League champs, rolled 7–3 and Gabriel was held off the score sheet. As it turned out, though, this was just the halfway mark of an impossible sequence of events.

This is a story about the longest of odds. Those who would splash cold water on a peewee or bantam who dreams of playing in the NHL would remind him that the odds are long for a kid in triple-A even making it to major junior and two or three kids out of every hundred in the CHL will land in the NHL, even for a cup of coffee. So what would a realist say to a teenager who never played triple-A hockey, who spent seasons playing in single-A? You’d laugh at a movie starring a kid who’s skating with a smalltown Jr. C team one fall and landing in an NHL camp a year later. But this isn’t a movie, so don’t laugh. Follow the story. Odds are it will never happen again in our lifetime.

Gabriel can’t recall how many times he had gone to triple-A tryouts. But he instantly recalls the number of times he had a sniff of interest from a team, a look past the first skate. “None,” he says. The biggest hole in his game was skating. He struggled to keep up and was pushed off the puck too easily. “There were times when I was out there and I couldn’t wait to get off,” Gabriel says. “I knew I wasn’t making it. I was a double-A player. There were 15 guys better than me every time I stepped on the ice.” But he didn’t know and the coaches who cut him couldn’t see what his best asset was.“The first thing I think of is his focus,” says Joe Pacione, Gabriel’s coach in double-A. “I had to push other kids but not him. Nobody was harder on himself than Kurtis. I went to him before tryouts one year and said that I thought he could play on our blueline. He looked me straight in the eye, dead serious, and said, ‘If I can’t make it as a forward, I don’t deserve to be on this team.’”

In his early- and mid-teens, hockey was just a game. In the summer, he was on the baseball diamond or soccer field. In the winter, he split time between the ice and the hardwood. At 15, it might have looked like his prospects were brighter in hoops than in hockey. He was a rangy forward with Denison Secondary in Newmarket, Ont., a provincial roundball powerhouse. Gabriel says he thought he would top out as a Canadian university player but his best friend and then-teammate disagrees and he’s entitled to his opinion. “Kurtis could have had a shot at a scholarship, maybe to a small school,”says Kevin Pangos, the former Denision star who has started at the point the past two seasons for Gonzaga University, one of the NCAA’s top-ranked schools.“I’ve never been around anyone who worked harder in the weight room. He just wouldn’t accept anyone going as hard as him. He’d just find another level.”

At 16, though, Gabriel made a decision to focus on hockey. He saw it as his best shot at an NCAA scholarship, but it was hardly a given. The first step was Midget triple-A, a no man’s land for hockey prospects. The top players in that age bracket have moved on to major junior. The second rank land in Jr. A, waiting for promotion. Midget triple-A is for those left behind. Gabriel went out and was cut by the York-Simcoe Express and had to travel to Markham to play with a weaker squad, the Waxers.

He showed enough for the Jr. A Newmarket Hurricanes to invite him to their training camp in the fall of 2010. The Hurricanes let Gabriel know about a tryout for a Jr. C team in Georgina, Ont.“They told me that if I wanted to get in a skate, I could go up there, get into a scrimmage,” he says. It ended up being a lot more than that. He racked up three goals, dropped the gloves with a guy who burned his toast and made a guy in the seats do a double take. “I saw him win all these battles in the corners and score. I asked the coach who he was,” Bryan Denney, a scout for Owen Sound, says.“I thought he was a 19-year-old.”

Denney went up to him when he came out of the dressing room and introduced himself, inviting him to the team’s tryouts. The 17-year-old Gabriel thought someone was pulling a prank on him until Denney showed him a business card. His mother, Kim, asked Gabriel who had been talking with him.“OHL scout,” he whispered, not wanting anyone else in the arena to hear it in case it all fell through.

Still, word leaked out.

The first to hear was a police officer—Gabriel was behind the wheel when the family car was pulled over as part of a spot-check. Next was Pangos, who remembers “just dancing around almost out of control, one of the happiest times of my life.” Then the Hurricanes coaches heard and tried to talk him out of the tryout, telling him he had a chance to be a big-time player with his hometown team, maybe even a chance to play for a national championship. The secret was completely out of the bag when Gabriel showed up to the tryouts, specifically when the players went through fitness testing. “It wasn’t just that he had the highest score there,” Denney says. “He set team records by a big margin and that includes guys at 19 and 20. Everyone was just sort of shocked by it. Eventually, there were guys just yelling, telling him to ‘go for it.’”

Gabriel’s story would be amazing enough if it had ended there, with him landing a spot on the Attack roster, or that season, when he spent all those hours in practice and in the gym while waiting for a spot, or that final game, getting a chance to play at the Memorial Cup. But, no, after that, the impossible happened.

The NHL called.

Gabriel wasn’t picked in the 2011 NHL draft. That just doesn’t happen for forwards with a goal and two assists. But Jeff Twohey, then a scout with the Phoenix Coyotes, phoned Gabriel and asked him if he would come out to the team’s rookie camp that fall. From a Jr. C practice to an NHL camp in a little less than 12 months after having played so few shifts in games that he could count them. Though the Coyotes liked what they saw, a league-owned team doesn’t have the pockets to sign projects. “I apologized to him because I didn’t think we gave him enough of a chance to show what he could do,” says Twohey, who’s now GM of the Oshawa Generals. And Gabriel didn’t get invited to a rookie camp last fall—they were scuttled by the NHL lockout. He might not have anyway, not off a 17-point second season in Owen Sound.

But he can count on at least that this fall. His numbers from this season won’t blow anyone away—13 goals and 15 assists in 67 regular-season games—but his is an exceptional case. “I’ve never had a player whose statistics tell you less about his value to the team,” Attack GM Dale DeGray says. “You have to see him every night, every practice, to see the energy he brings to the team. I don’t know where Kurtis gets it.”

Those who know him will hazard a guess. When Gabriel was 10 years old, he and his younger brother Iain were called out of class early and their mother was waiting for them. Kim told her boys that their father had died. Only that. No details. Kim would wait a few years before telling the brothers that their father had taken his own life. No further details. And not so long ago, she told them that he had left a letter but didn’t show it to them or get into what his last words had been.

Some might have questions but Gabriel hasn’t asked any. What he already knows he has pieced together from memories. He knows what he needs to know, he says. He has some memory of his parents’ breakup when he was seven. Some memory of his visits with his father. Of his father selling his car and guitar, his beloved possession, because money was tight. Of he and Iain having to walk everywhere. “I didn’t know at the time, but looking back there were signs that he was having trouble,” Gabriel says. He doesn’t see his father as a victim, doesn’t think life conspired against him. He thinks his father failed because he was “lazy,” a high school dropout who lacked ambition. Gabriel will tell you he’s moved past any difficult time. He’ll reject in the strongest terms possible that he’s a survivor. He will say that he’s his own man. And yet, others see his father’s suicide as shaping his character. “He has amazing inner strength,” Denney says. “His father’s death is a source of that strength. It’s a driving force in his life.”

Gabriel doesn’t know where he’ll be next season. He’s spoken with some NHL scouts and he hears that others have taken an interest in him. It goes week to week. “Thirty teams will probably hate to see this story,” DeGray says. “They think Kurtis is a secret, but just about everybody has asked us about him.”

Gabriel hopes his name will finally be called this June after having been passed over twice at both the OHL and NHL drafts. He hopes his story will play out like Andrew Shaw’s. An Owen Sound teammate of Gabriel’s, Shaw had gone undrafted twice before Chicago picked him in the fifth round in 2011. Failing that, he’ll hope to get another rookie-camp invitation. Maybe it will be a chance to sign on as a pro free-agent in the minors. Maybe he’ll go to the CIS and hope to follow the route Washington Capital Joel Ward took to make the NHL. He believes he still has room to grow. He just needs someone else to believe the same thing.

Kurtis Gabriel knows only one thing for sure. “I’ll work harder than anyone else,” he says. “I won’t quit. It won’t end here.”


To put this in terms a Minnesota hockey fan might more easily relate to, this is the kid that dreamed of playing for the Gophers, but couldn't even make his high school varsity team. So he played JV hockey, or club hockey, wherever they'd give him a jersey, and he kept working and working until someone finally noticed him and gave him a chance.

That kind of work ethic earned Gabriel the opportunity to have his name called in the NHL draft, and this week he'll be in St. Paul to take part in the Wild's three-day "Prospects Camp." He'll be there with guys like Brett Bulmer and Matt Dumba - who have already had a taste of life in the NHL -  Gopher star Erik Haula and Zack Phillips, the 2011 first-round pick who played last year for Houston in the AHL.

All of them have reached the doorstep that can lead them to the NHL, and while it's obvious that I'd like to see every Wild prospect become a full-fledged NHLer, it's not likely to happen. But I love a good story, and there's no doubt I'll always be rooting for a kid who says, "I'll work harder than anyone else," and then actually goes out and does it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Irony alert

It's been tough sledding recently for so-called environmentalists. A leading academy reports that the earth hasn't been warming for more than a decade, which pretty much drives a stake through the heart of the global warming crowd's scare tactics. Many of the "green" projects run by Obama's cronies - and bankrolled with tax dollars - have gone belly-up and cost taxpayers billions. The list goes on and on.

But none of those failures are quite as delicious as this story out of Scotland. It seems that this little fellow, a White Throated Needletail, showed up in the Hebrides, a group of islands off the coast of Scotland. There have only been four sightings of a White Throated Needletail in the United Kingdom since 1846. The bird - capable of flying over 100 MPH - normally hangs out in China and other parts of Asia, and speculation is that this plucky little guy got blown off course by some kind of monster wind.

His arrival was big news among the Brits and Scots who love bird-watching, and dozens of them flocked to the tiny Isle of Harris to revel in the sighting.

The treat lasted just a bit, however, as the gawkers watch the bird take flight....and fly smack-dab into one of those hideously ugly wind turbines, leaving it - as Monty Python might say - an ex-Needletail.

Bird after coming into contact with "environmentalists"
The notion that wind power - or solar, or virtually any other "alternative" energy - can contribute in any meaningful way to a modern society is a bit of a joke, but most of the time the joke is only on the chumps who put up the money to build "wind farms" and such. (Too often those chumps are taxpayers, but that's another story for another day).

"Progress" 1, Birds 0.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"I'm a born free American woman"

Meet my new hero, a wonderful woman from Alabama named Becky Gerritson. She is president of the Tea Party group in Wetumpka, Alabama, and her group was one of the many singled out by IRS employees for harassment when they applied for their tax-exempt status. Gerritson was asked to testify at Tuesday's meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is investigating the IRS' myriad abuses.

You can watch much of her testimony by clicking on the link below, but a couple of the passages (which begin about the 2:30 mark) in her testimony were absolute music to my ears, including (my emphasis added):

“In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans. We peacefully assemble. We petition our government. We exercise the right to free speech. And we don’t understand why the government tried to stop us.

“I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman. Wife, mother, and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well-being and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty, and you have faltered…

“What the government did to our little group in Wetumpka, Alabama is un-American. It isn’t a matter of firing or arresting individuals. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should, in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens. Many of the agents and agencies of the federal government do not understand that they are servants of the people. They think they are our masters. And they are mistaken."

In just a few courageous words, Ms. Gerritson summed up what should be a national rallying cry: The idea that we are NOT servants of the federal government, that we are NOT serfs or vassals and that government does not give us our rights, it exists to protect those rights.

It's not a particularly radical idea; The same notions are found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but the sad part of her testimony is that for many (most?) Americans, she may as well have been speaking Latin. Congress is full of ridiculous people like Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Keith Ellison for whom the idea of individual liberty is a threat. Like most liberals, they consider themselves enlightened elites, and they view government as a tool to shape their utopian view of the world without any regard for the rights of the citizenry.

(Consider the contrast between Ms. Gerritson, and the sad, pathetic Sandra Fluke, who became a liberal icon by testifying in Congress to her belief that government exists in order to provide her with free birth control. It's hard to believe the two of them are even the same species, let alone the same gender.)

Ms,. Gerritson closed her testimony by saying:

“I’m not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in. The America that people crossed oceans and risked their lives to become a part of. And I’m terrified it is slipping away."

I think it's a valid question to ask if it is "slipping away," or if we've already slid too far to recover.

God bless Becky Gerritson.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hit from the blind side

A few months ago, when we got tremendous footage of the meteor that crashed in Russia, I learned that we got that footage because a large percentage of Russian drivers have dashboard-mounted cameras. It seems that Russians are not particularly adept drivers, there are lots of accidents and in a society without a well-established rule of law (corrupt police, a patchwork court system, etc.), it is sometimes quite helpful to have video evidence on your side when there has been an accident.

Having said all that, I'm grateful for the video camera that recorded this little collision between a Russian vehicle and what appears to be a medium-sized brown bear. I'm not sure why it amuses me so, but I bet I hit the "replay" button 10 times after I first saw it. I particularly love how the bear walks away. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I may have to rethink my bias....

My mother is from Nebraska, and for part of my childhood, I had an uncle living with us who had attended - and later taught, I believe - the University of Nebraska. As a result, I had to listen to tons of "Go Big Red" crap when I was growing up. Rather than indoctrinating me, it had the opposite effect, making me a huge fan of the Oklahoma Sooners, who back then served as Nebraska's biggest rival.

Over the years, I just reflexively root for whatever team is facing Nebraska. Now that the Cornhuskers have joined the Big Ten, that's a bit of a problem, since they often line up against other teams - Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan - that I'm also conditioned to dislike.

But this might change my perspective. At the recent spring football game in Lincoln, the Nebraska coaches took time to insert Jack Hoffman into the game.

7-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman

Little Jack is a seven-year-old cancer patient, who apparently has an affection for Nebraska football. He suited up, trotted into the game and, well, you can watch the rest by clicking below.

Good job, 'Huskers. I can now root for you when you play Wisconsin.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

Every Memorial Day weekend, I've tried to write something in honor of those we need to remember, but this year, words fail me. I just read this article at National Review Online, and watched the video that it references. I'm not nearly a good enough writer to improve on the story, so I'll just leave it for you to read, and post the video for you to watch. Enjoy, and spend time this weekend remember those who died to keep us free.

By Lee Habeeb
National Review

It happens now and then. You hear a story so sad, so beautiful, so filled with loss and pain and grief and love, that it makes you cry. Really cry.

Two years ago, I was making a grocery run for my family on Memorial Day when a story came on the local NPR station in Oxford, Miss. It was about a father whose son had been killed in action in northwest Afghanistan. The father was Paul Monti; his son was Sergeant Jared Monti. Jared died in Afghanistan trying to save the life of one of his men. Jared was 30 years old when he died, and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism under fire. But that was small consolation to his father: The son he loved and admired was gone, forever.

We then heard from Jared’s dad. His grief was palpable, as he told the NPR reporter some stories about his son. Stories of how his son was always helping people, especially people less fortunate than himself. His father nearly choked up telling a story about how his son once took a brand-new kitchen set he and his buddies at Fort Bragg had just purchased for their home, and gave it away to a fellow soldier’s family.

“One day his buddies came home and the kitchen set was missing,” his father recounted. “And they asked him where it was and Jared said, ‘Well, I was over at one of my soldier’s houses, and his kids were eating on the floor, so I figured they needed the kitchen set more than we did.’ And so the $700 kitchen set disappeared. That’s what he did.”

His dad told the reporter that his son shunned any kind of notoriety or attention. “All of his medals went in a sock drawer,” Jared’s dad said. “No one ever saw them; he didn’t want to stand out.”
Then came the part of the interview that hit me hardest: It was the moment when Paul Monti talked about his son’s truck, and why he still has it, and still drives it.

“What can I tell you? It’s him,” Jared’s father explained, nearly choking on his words. “It’s got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day.”

I was already tearing up before that story about Jared’s truck. But as the details piled up — the truck was a Dodge 4X4 Ram 1500 with decals on it that included the 10th Mountain Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, an American flag, and a Go Army sticker — I lost it.

And there I was sitting in my car in a Walmart parking lot on a sunny Memorial Day in my hometown crying hard. Crying like a child. Crying as if I’d lost my child.

I wasn’t the only one in a car crying that day. It turns out that a Nashville songwriter named Connie Harrington was in her car, too, listening to the very same story. Moved to tears, she pulled over to the side of the road, scribbling notes as the story proceeded.

She wrote down detail upon detail, everything she could remember. When she got back home, Harrington couldn’t get that story of the soldier’s father and his son’s truck out of her mind. So she did what writers do, and turned the words of that grieving father into a song. With the help of two co-writers, the finished product found its way to singer Lee Brice, who recorded the song called, aptly, “I Drive Your Truck.”

Last month, the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The YouTube video has nearly 5 million views. If you watch it, bring a stack of Kleenex tissues. It is that moving.

But this remarkable story didn’t end there. It turns out that Jared’s father got a message on Facebook from a woman whose son had died in the same battle Jared died in.

“She sent me a message that she had heard the song,” Paul Monti told NPR last week, “and that I had to listen to it. She knew I drove Jared’s truck and she drove her son’s truck.”

Paul Monti told NPR that he remembered not being able to get through the entire song. “I’d get into it a few bars or so and kind of welled up,” he explained.

But he still didn’t know that it was his interview — his own words — that inspired the song. That the song was about him and his son and his son’s truck.

Meanwhile, Connie Harrington was doing everything she could to track down Paul Monti and let him know that he was the song’s inspiration. But she was having a hard time finding him. After many hours searching on the web, she finally found his name, and got his phone number. And earlier this month, Paul Monti flew to Nashville to meet the people who wrote that song, and to celebrate the song’s meteoric success.

“I Drive Your Truck” captures in painstaking detail the grief of Paul Monti, with the kind of emotional honesty that has made country music America’s music. If you don’t know them, here are the opening lyrics to the song about a truck that’s moved a nation:
Eighty-nine cents in the ashtray
Half-empty bottle of Gatorade
Rollin’ on the floorboard

That dirty Braves cap on the dash
Dogtags hangin’ from the rearview
Old Skoal can and cowboy boots
And a “Go Army” shirt folded in the back

This thing burns gas like crazy
But that’s all right
People got their ways of copin’
Oh, and I’ve got mine

I drive your truck
I roll every window down
And I burn up
Every back road in this town
I find a field, I tear it up
Till all the pain is a cloud of dust
Yes, sometimes, I drive your truck
If ever there were words written that captured the universal grief of a parent coping with the loss of a fallen son or daughter, that opening verse and the chorus contain them.

What the song does not do is describe how Paul’s son Jared lost his life in Afghanistan. In June 2006, Jared’s patrol came under fire from 50 enemy fighters. One of the soldiers who served under him was wounded and needed help. Despite the blistering firefight, Jared responded to the call not once or twice but three times. It was that last try that got him killed.

That was the way Jared was hardwired. His father explained that his son was the kind of man who never gave up on people and always tried to do the right thing. “The right thing was trying to save this young private who was alone, out in the open, injured and calling out for help,” Paul told NPR last week.

The subject then turned back to the loss of his son, and the truck he had talked about almost two years ago in that first NPR interview. He said this: “You know, I think it’s important for people to understand — or at least try to understand — what Gold Star parents go through. Your child is your future and when you lose your child you’ve lost your future, and I think one of the reasons so many Gold Star parents drive their children’s trucks is because they have to hold on. They just have to hold on.”

The grief Jared’s father feels will never go away. And he’ll probably drive that truck of his son’s for as long as it will run. And longer.

The last verse of the song says it all:
I’ve cussed, I’ve prayed, I’ve said goodbye
I’ve shook my fist and asked God why
These days, when I’m missin’ you this much
I drive your truck
On Memorial Day, this most sacred of all secular American holidays, gather your family around the computer screen and watch that video of “I Drive Your Truck.” Cry a little bit. Cry a lot. Cry together. And then reach out to a soldier. Reach out to the parent of a soldier. And thank them for everything they’ve done. And are about to do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."

Those were the charming words of this man,speaking into a video camera moments after stabbing and hacking to pieces a British solider on the streets of Woolwich, England. Armed with knives and meat cleavers (because the British, you know, have very strict gun laws to make everybody "safe") he and a partner attacked the off-duty soldier, killed him and then took time to pose for a video. According to the Daily Mail, he spoke in a "soft London accent," telling the people of London "You will never be safe."

England, of course, has been slowly committing societal suicide for years by encouraging the immigration of Muslim populations from Asia and Africa, without making any effort to ensure the assimilation of those immigrants. The surrender to political correctness has been so complete that there are entire Muslim areas of London where police dare not go, and where Muslims have been allowed to set up their own courts, governed by Sharia law.

It's lunacy, of course, to believe that Western culture can co-exist with the genocidal strain of Islam, and England continues to learn the lesson the hard way. Those who think the Atlantic ocean is a barrier that will prevent this type of jihad from coming to America should pay a visit to Dearborn, Michigan.

The great Jay Nordlinger once interviewed a Holocaust survivor, and asked him what he had learned from the experience. He said, "When someone says they want to kill you, believe them."

Instead, I suspect the West will continue to bury its head in the sand, and carry on with the fiction that Islam is compatible with Western civilization values such as free speech, freedom of religion, equality for women, gay rights, etc.

In the meantime, I'm anxious to read about the "meat cleaver control" laws that are sure to be introduced soon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't worry, the government only wants to know what you're praying about

The IRS scandal currently engulfing the Obama administration is, as fighter pilots like to say, a "target-rich environment." There are so many different abuses, so many lies and attempted coverups that it's difficult to single out which is the most egregious.

But I have a candidate for the worst offense.

A pro-life group in Iowa known as Coalition For Life of Iowa had applied for tax-exempt status. As we now know, the IRS' Cincinnati office was charged with reviewing such requests, and since at least 2010 the IRS was targeting conservative groups who made those requests, delaying their applications, asking illegal questions and harassing many of these groups to the point where they abandoned their applications.

Some IRS employee in the Cincinnati office reviewed the application of the Coalition For Life of Iowa, and decided they needed a little more information. They sent the Coalition a laundry list of requests, but one stands out above rest. It's the IRS response to the Coalition's mentioning that it held prayer meetings:

"Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings."

That's right, folks, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service thought it was absolutely proper to ask people what they were praying about.

Lefties love to sit around and laugh about what they consider right-wing tinfoil-hat paranoia about "big gummint," but when the government decides it has a right to know what goes on between you and God, there is no longer a Constitution, no longer a Bill of Rights, only a huge, tyrannical bureaucracy that wants you to only think thoughts the government approves of.

What we've learned this week only scratches the surface, and this scandal is going to keep on getting worse and worse and worse for all the utopians out there who believe that letting the government do everything for you is a nifty way to run a country. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here's a screenshot of the actual IRS letter:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Proud moment in Chicago

My grandfather - Henry Droogsma - was a very devout man who, with my grandmother Anna, raised eight children on a farm outside of Princeton, Minnesota. He spent his entire life attending the Christian Reformed Church of Pease, Minnesota - a place I wrote about here - and I'm told that he had hopes that someday one of his children might feel a calling to the ministry. That didn't happen, although I believe my father and all of his siblings served in various church capacities over the years....Sunday school teachers, board members, elders, deacons, mission trip leaders, etc.

Those eight Droogsma kids produced 30-some offspring - my first cousins - and again, while many of us have served the church in various ways, none of us ever went so far as to attend a seminary, obtain a divinity degree and enter the ministry. Sorry, grandpa.

Todd and Erin
The next generation, however, has done right by Grandpa Droogsma. My cousin's children - and I can't even generate an accurate guess as to how many people that encompasses - have found a remarkable number of ways to be involved in Christian ministry. My own daughter, Erin, graduated from North Park University in Chicago with degrees in both Youth Ministry and Bible and Theological Studies. But we've never had an actual seminary graduate - a Master of Divinity - until this past weekend.

Penny and I were able to go to Chicago this weekend and watch Erin's husband, Todd Spieker, graduate from North Park Seminary. A bright, personable kid from Colorado Springs, Todd graduated with honors, and he and Erin are currently in the process of interviewing with a couple of different churches that are considering calling Todd to be their pastor. I found the graduation ceremony to be a very moving experience, with about three dozen young men and women accepting their degrees and accepting a charge to go out into the world and preach the love of Christ. I admit to choking back a few tears, and having a lump in my throat, more than once.

 And while I realize that an "in-law" is not a direct descendant, I have to believe Grandpa Droogsma would have enjoyed the moment very much.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013, the day on which I make my triumphant return to the blogosphere

Hello everyone - First of all, an abject apology for what has become several months of blogging silence. I wish I had a great excuse, like I was busy in the lab curing cancer, or Bobby Hull called and wanted to hang out for a few weeks, or I was hot on the trail of Nicole and Ronald's real killers, but the fact is I have no excuse.

Despite my slothfulness, I continue to get emails and phone calls and friends poking their finger in my chest, all saying, "Start writing again." And so I will. I promise. But not until after I simply post this picture, which I stumbled on to tonight and which gives me great pleasure.

See you soon.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Jackson Family tree

Yesterday, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. pleaded guilty to converting campaign funds to personal use, and will likely face substantial prison time when he is sentenced in June. The list of things he bought with about $750,000 in campaign funds is almost comical - $7,000 for an elk head, $320 at a Build-A-Bear store, $4,600 for one of Michael Jackson's old hats - and you can read more of the details in this New York Times account.

But I'm not here to revel in the failings of another. Instead, the story of Jr.'s downfall reminds me of a story I was once told about his wretched father, the "Rev." Jesse Jackson. The old man has been poison in the American political system for decades, a race hustler of the worst kind who has conned and extorted businesses and organizations out of millions of dollars over the years by threatening boycotts and demonstrations, all in the name of "civil rights."

I came to know a businessman who had a number of successful stores in the Chicago area in the 1970s. (I'm not going to use his name because I've never asked permission to tell his story.) One day he was approached by the "Rev." Jackson, who claimed to be very "disturbed" that my friend was running a successful chain of businesses, but didn't have enough black managers or employees to make Jesse happy. Jesse intimated that this situation would need to change, or else there could be "trouble" ahead.

My friend - not well-versed in the Jackson shakedown method - took Jesse at his word, and set to work designing a plan that would make it possible for a number of black would-be entrepreneurs to enter the business. My friend would identify possible locations, make a personal loan to provide a down payment, and work with a local bank to guarantee loans that would allow the individuals to open a franchise. It was a pretty ambitious plan.

He summoned Jesse to his office and laid out the plan, which would have allowed for black ownership of successful businesses and increased black employment in the Chicago area.

Jesse had no interest in the plan. What he wanted, he said, was a substantial cash contribution to his organization - PUSH, or the Rainbow Coalition, or whatever scam he was currently running - and all of the problems would go away.

About that time, the light bulb went off over my friend's head as he realized that Jesse's agenda had nothing to do with improving the lives of blacks; The only agenda item was lining Jesse's pocket. He more or less told Jesse to get lost - essentially calling his bluff - and Jackson slinked away.

Years later, Jackson's methods were exposed in the book "Shakedown," which documented the many ways Jesse leveraged alleged racial grievances to steal money from the government, businesses and
charitable organizations. The book is still in print, and is a terrific read.

(Fun part of the book: Jesse loves to tell the story of how he wanted to play quarterback at the University of Illinois, but says he was told by the coach that "blacks can't play quarterback." Except that it turns out that Illinois DID have a black quarterback that year, just one who was more talented than Jackson.)

(Another fun part of the book: The morning after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Jesse flew to Chicago to appear on the "Today" show, wearing a shirt that he said was stained with the blood of Dr. King, who "died in my arms." The fact is that Jesse wasn't even on the balcony when King was shot (he was down below, in the parking lot) and he never got close enough to have been bled on by Dr. King. But he created his own myth, and told the lie over and over again until he probably even believed it.)

(For a great interview with the author of "Shakedown," click here.)

Which brings us back to Jesse Jr., for whom it's hard not to have a little sympathy. If you spent your formative years watching daddy lie, extort and steal his way into Democratic Party prominence with race hustling, that probably seems like normal behavior. Now the kid will go away to prison for being an only slightly different kind of grifter than his father was. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One of my favorite days of the year

Every day there are fewer and fewer people alive who can say they've been around for every Super Bowl, the 47th of which will kick off in a few hours. I'm happy to be one of them and, obviously, I hope I'm still able to say that when Super Bowl LXX rolls around.

The first Super Bowl wasn't even called the "Super Bowl." On January 15, 1967, the champions of the National Football League - Green Bay - and the champions of the American Football League - Kansas City - met in what was called "The AFL-NFL World Championship Game." In 1966, the two rival leagues had agreed to a merger, but the entity wouldn't become a single league until the start of the 1970 season. In the meantime, they would operate as separate leagues, but would each send a representative to this new-fangled "Championship Game."

(Some time later, the story goes, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle's young daughter was playing with a toy known as a "Super Ball." Rozelle heard the name of the toy, and decided the championship game would be known as the "Super Bowl." If you go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, you can see young Ms. Rozelle's Super Ball on display.)

What I remember most is that the game was broadcast on two channels. CBS (Channel 4 in the Twin Cities) had the NFL broadcast rights, while NBC (at that time Channel 5) had the AFL rights. With no agreement in place, both networks decided to carry the game, and 10-year-old Tim Droogsma thought it was great fun to switch back and forth between channels and see the exact same thing happen from different camera angles. (Though I had to kneel in front of the TV and manually turn a knob to change the channel, remote controls having not yet been invented. Yes, kids, I'm THAT old.)

That sort of dual-track approach applied to a number of aspects to the game. When Kansas City had the ball, they used the AFL football, made by Spalding, and when the Packers had the ball, the NFL football, manufactured by Wilson, was put in play. The officiating crew was partly NFL refs, partly AFL.

It was close for a while, but the Packers eventually pulled away. Played at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the game wasn't even a sellout.

Over the years, of course, the NFL's popularity exploded, as did that of the Super Bowl, which grew to become the global event it is today. I can't say that I've watched every minute of every game, but I've certainly watched parts of every one. The only one I attended in person was Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, at the Metrodome. A friend arranged for me to work for UPI that week, so media credentials got me into good parties - I met both Donald Trump (with Marla Maples on his arm) and Jill Goodacre that week - and on Sunday I was assigned the job of writing the story on whomever was selected as the game's MVP. The Washington Redskins trounced Buffalo, and midway through the 3rd quarter Washington led 24-0 and it was obvious that Redskins QB Mark Rypien would be the MVP. The story practically wrote itself, and all I had to do was plug in a couple post-game quotes. The halftime show included Dorothy Hamill skating little circles on some synthetic ice, and Gloria Estefan doing some singing. I sometimes still wear my Super Bowl XXVI sweatshirt, much to my family's chagrin.

But what I've grown to love about the Super Bowl is not so much the game itself as it is the spectacle of it all. I see the Super Bowl as a celebration of everything American. Sure, other nations can compete with us in baseball or basketball or hockey, but football is the uniquely American game. And when the Super Bowl rolls around, 110 million or so of us sit down to watch in the closest thing we have to a communal national event. We eat tons of nachos, drink oceans of beer, wager millions of dollars and watch to enjoy the commercials as much as the game. It's the ultimate example of wretched American excess, and I love every minute of it.

Everything is overdone, from the multi-hour pre-game shows to the gaudy player introductions to the coin flip, and I take great joy in all of it. When they roll out the big flag, strike up the anthem and the flyover comes roaring by (the effect of which is somewhat diminished when the game is played in a dome, as it is this year), I'm not ashamed to say I choke up for a moment. The Super Bowl is America's moment, doggone it, and while the Chinese are buying up our economy, the Japanese and Koreans make better cars than Detroit  and we still need to import most of our great hockey players from Canada and Europe, none of them have anything to compare to the Super Bowl. It's our day, our moment, and it trumps your World Cups, Grey Cups, Tours de France and everything else put together.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Journalists behaving badly (part 1)

Over the years that I have held a job or two that, in retrospect, I find embarrassing. For example, my sophomore year of college I worked for PBS. My defense is that I was young, naive and it was the job assigned to me by the folks running the work study financial aid program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. "Public broadcasting," I now know, is a gigantic fraud, a wasteful black hole of government spending and I stopped putting my stint on the liberal plantation on my resume years ago, lest my shame be more widely known.

Lately, however, I've begun to believe that what I should be even more embarrassed about is having once been a journalist.

It's been a tough few weeks for journalists, partly because of the way the issue of guns causes knee-jerk bedwetting among reporters and editors.

Example #1 is NBC's chief clown, David Gregory, who hosts "Meet the Press" every Sunday. In late December, National Rifle Association vice-president Wayne LaPierre appeared on the show to discuss gun control. Gregory thought he would play "gotcha" by waving a high-capacity rifle clip in LaPierre's face and asking why such clips shouldn't be banned.

But it turns out that in Washington, D.C., where Meet the Press is taped, it's illegal to possess such clips. It's a stupid law that does nothing to improve public safety, but it's still the law. And it turns out the Gregory knew it was illegal to possess the clip, his staff having asked D.C. police if it was okay. They were told no, but went ahead anyway.

Gregory clearly should have been prosecuted for a willful, blatant violation of the law, but NBC lawyers found a prosecutor who was a social acquaintance of Gregory's, and got him to decline prosecution.

The message is clear: Big-time journalists consider themselves above the law, and can pull strings to avoid punishment for their crimes. The tiny shred of journalistic integrity NBC had - this is the network that faked a truck explosion to attack General Motors, and that altered a 911 tape to make George Zimmerman sound racist - was demolished by Gregory's action.

About the same time, a suburban New York newspaper called the Journal News rounded up the names and addresses of everyone in their area that had a legal gun permit, then posted an interactive map on its web site allowing anyone to identify the homes of those permit holders. It was an unconscionable invasion of privacy, and put lives at risk. Among those who had their names and addresses published were - just to mention two groups - such folks as:

  -- Law enforcement officers, who could now be found by criminals they had arrested;
  -- Women who were hiding from abusive spouses or partners, and had a gun for self-defense;

Some enterprising bloggers responded brilliantly, tracking down the home addresses and phone numbers of the Journal News publisher, editor and staff and publishing them on the Internet. That resulted in a number of very direct complaints to the paper's employees, and the anti-gun paper responded in the most hypocritical way possible: Hiring armed guards for their offices.

Predictably, a number of area homes were burglarized by criminals looking for guns, who - thanks to the Journal News - no longer had to guess where their best chance of finding guns was. Yesterday, after a barrage of criticism, the paper finally took the map down.

It was a cheap, tacky bit of "journalism" that put lives at risk, and the newspaper's only defense for doing it was "we could."

It's enough to make me think I need to get those years as a broadcaster and newspaper reporter off my resume.