Friday, December 31, 2004


From the list of headlines at cnn.com around 2:30 CST this afternoon:

• U.S. ups tsunami aid to $350 million

• Thousands of Americans missing | Video

• Sisters see spouses die; hard choice for mom

• Ukraine's prime minister resigns

• Sensors, choppers keep eye on Times Square

• Storms rock California, Nevada, North Dakota

• Paris Hilton misses own club opening


I feel the dreaded Coleman Fatigue beginning to set in, but before I take the cure I ought to give credit where it's due. Nick's column in today's Strib is based on actual reporting, it tells a compelling story, and it doesn't wield a hatchet!

Nick writes about one Mary Peek, who died Thursday after decades of battling the injuries she suffered when a bomb planted by a teenager in the women's restroom of the St. Paul Dayton's store as part of a plot to kill police officers exploded while she brushed her hair in front of the restroom mirror. Her life after the blast was imbued with an equanimity and a largeness of spirit, particularly toward the bomber (who spent only three years in prison), that I doubt many could muster in similar extraordinarily unfortunate circumstances.

One quibble: Coleman tells us that Peek had "a lifelong dedication to women's rights and social justice causes that would eventually lead to her recognition as one of the 'Founding Mothers' of the DFL Party's feminist caucus and her selection to the party's Women's Hall of Fame." I suspect that if she had been, say, a lifelong pro-life activist or a big-shot Republican, Nick would have had slightly less interest in her story.

But that really is just a quibble. Coleman's column today is a fine example of one of the many functions that local newspapers can still perform, and perform better than the blogosphere can. It's what an economist would call their comparative advantage. Anyone with an Internet connection and a functioning brain can provide analysis of and opinions on the news--newspapers no longer have a comparative advantage in that realm--but someone still has to do the hard work of reporting the news in the first place. Blogs are ill-suited for that role, and contrary to the views of some, I think almost everybody on the right side of the blogosphere, or at least anyone worth reading, would readily acknowledge this rather obvious fact. Now, if only Coleman and his ilk in the mainstream media would correspondingly acknowledge that merely possessing a newspaper sinecure doesn't make one's opinions impregnable, maybe we'd get somewhere.

UPDATE: Perhaps I was too hasty in complimenting Coleman. A little Googling reveals that today's column is essentially an abridgment of a longer column Coleman wrote about Peek in the Pioneer Press on August 30, 2002. It's not exactly plagiarism if you steal from yourself, I suppose, but it doesn't seem entirely above board, either. If the Strib's editors ever manage to track down those elusive professional standards governing Coleman, maybe they can give us a ruling on this one, too.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The blogosphere is about to get a 15-yard penalty for piling on Nick Coleman, but I can't resist passing on two nuggets from Nick's past work. (Big hat tip to my co-worker Chuck for finding these and passing them along to me.)

First, here's an excerpt from his farewell column as a TV critic for the Star Tribune way back in 1986, just before he jumped to the Pioneer Press (June 26, page 1C; available on Westlaw at 1986 WL 4790391):
Many times, TV personalities complained to me about something I'd written. It was unfair of me to scrutinize what they or their TV station was doing, they would complain. "How would you feel if we did stories like that about your newspaper?" they asked me. My answer was always the same: "I wish you would. Why don't you? I think it'd be a better newspaper if more people took the trouble to pay attention to what we did and point out our mistakes and failures. That's what criticism is all about."
Indeed, Nick. Indeed.

Nugget the second comes from a piece by Colin Covert in the January 1, 1988 edition of the Strib entitled "Minnesota Millstones," in which Covert rounded up local gaffes from the previous year (page 1E; available on Westlaw at 1988 WL 3212355):

St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch columnist Nick Coleman criticized a state Capitol rally for private-school aid, telling readers that his late parochial-school principal would never have approved of such demonstrations. Coleman's next column announced he'd learned that Sister Mary Genevieve was alive at age 78 and had, in fact, attended the school-aid rally.
I'll cut Nick a little slack on this one--after all, it was 17 years ago, undoubtedly long before he came to "know stuff." And it's not like he's had any issues with his school-related columns lately, right?


The corpse of Nick Coleman has been picked over so thoroughly today that there are almost no bits of flesh left to chew on. But here's one morsel I haven't seen digested: Hindrocket posted his response to Coleman's column at 12:51 a.m., less than an hour into the column's Wednesday date and several hours before the earliest of early risers could have fetched the dead-tree version from their doorsteps. Coleman had a full five days to craft his piece (plus his day off last Wednesday!), and all he could manage was a farrago of ad hominem attacks, delusional self-puffery, unsupported charges, non sequiturs, and penis jokes. Hindrocket calmly eviscerated Coleman's "argument" in minutes. Coleman gets paid handsomely to write three times a week; Hindrocket writes three or more times a day for free. This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the mainstream media.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Calling all Minnesota bloggers (and blog enthusiasts) to a blogabout Saturday, January 22, from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Keegan's Irish Pub (where else?).

There. Some bloggers have complained that the invite has only been publicized on the Northern Alliance radio show and not where you'd expect it be publicized: NA blogs. As we're technically members of that rude group, we take it upon ourselves to apologize and publicize. (Ignore that announcement behind the yellow curtain)


From loyal reader John:
This link is to a list of non-governmental charities that are doing immediate tsunami relief work. (At the Catholic Relief Services website listed, it took just a few seconds to make a specifically designated contribution for tsunami relief with a credit card. The other websites listed are undoubtedly the same.)
Please visit the link, as we did. The need is heartbreaking.

From Lileks, who donated to one of the organizations listed:
I tossed some money to the American Red Cross tonight (Amazon makes it very easy) and did so with a small amount of self-disgust. At least now I know the death toll that gets me to open up the wallet. From now on my guidelines will be “earlier” and “more.” It’s not for the dead we send the money, of course – it’s for those whose lives have been scoured down to the bone, but you can’t help but think that your contribution somehow mitigates the awful numbers. It doesn’t. And if your money makes its way to a small village, and ends up as a box of clean underwear and toothpaste and batteries and aspirin dropped in the lap of a man who watched his entire family scraped off the face of the earth and swallowed by the brutal, implacable and mindless hand of nature, well, know that it probably won’t make much difference. It can’t. But someone has to get him clean underwear and aspirin. You there, with the drawers full of Jockeys and Bayer: cough up.
I coughed, you cough, let's everyone cough up. Perhaps not the best slogan ever but let visions of the waves make amends and induce you to help.


After all, I have poor cleaning skills.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Many members of the American MSM may not take bloggers seriously yet but, sadly, Iran is. Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine passes on horrific tales of torture. Human Rights Watch has more.

Monday, December 27, 2004


On Christmas Eve the Warrior Monk got domestic. He tried to make Kellogg's® Rice Krispies Treats®. He dutifully melted the correct amount of butter in a saucepan. Then disaster struck: I took over.

I told him I would finish the recipe and asked he get me a beer. If you've ever made Treats® before you know we're dealing with a simple recipe: 3 ingredients, 3 steps. What could go wrong? Really, what on earth could go wrong? [hum some ominous music to yourself at this point]

The only explanation that makes sense to me now is that when I requested the alcoholic beverage the synapses in my brain instantly curled up into tiny tangles, as a sort of preparatory maneuver. I consulted the recipe and dumped in the (pre-measured) Rice Krispies. Then I consulted it again. Uh ... I was supposed to dump in marshmallows, not Rice Krispies. What I had was a warm pan of clumpy buttered cereal. Panic set in.

Mind you, the Warrior Monk had not yet brought me any beer.

Taking advantage of my stone cold sober state I re-read the directions and discovered, in tiny print, directions for the microwave. I grabbed a small bowl and tossed more butter into it. I started up the microwave and fortunately, before the butter was completely melted, remembered to add the marshmallows. No harm no foul.

The combo puffed up impressively in the microwave but retreated when I yanked the door open, neatly averting catastrophe. Next problem: how to fit the (pre-buttered) cereal in the tiny bowl I had selected. Answer: get a bigger bowl. Washing a pot, pan and two bowls for a 3 ingredient recipe is great fun!

What I learned:
(1) microwaves are your friend
(2) big is better
(3) work fast
(4) drink first (it hardly could have made things worse)
UPDATE I: Margaret of Our House would clearly have had no trouble with this task. Seeking a bigger challenge she trifled her Christmas dessert. Plus two kinds of cookies. But before you think to yourself "boy, I'd much rather snag an invite to Our House than Spitbull's hovel" know this: we're putting in a wet bar next month.

UPDATE II: Recipe here.

Friday, December 24, 2004


I'm conservative in the old sense of the word: I'm suspicious of change. I don't like folks moving my cheese, especially around "the holidays." I suspect I found this adaptation of "Twas the night before Christmas" jarring because of my change-allergy. Had I braved the crowds to go downtown I probably would have disliked the spiky-haired prince in Dayton's Snow White display (and yes, I still call it Dayton's too). But when it comes to holiday music, I suddenly seem to be footloose and fancy free.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers' Christmas Caravan had a lot to do with it. Indian Giver doesn't have typical Christmas lyrics, but I love it:
Well, I’ve got a friend
Who lives across town
Every year when christmas rolls around
He gives me my christmas presents in a paper sack
Two hours later he wants it back
He’s an indian giver!
The four year old has been singing the polka inspired Must Be Santa from Brave Combo's It's Christmas, Man! And yes I do play the music of my childhood Christmas: Ella Fitzgerald's Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.Frank Sinatra's A Jolly Christmas gets the Warrior Monk as sentimental as he is capable of. This year we added Los Straitjackets to the mix.

The CD player is set to shuffle for the next 36 hours or so. Then silence.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Old news apparently, but not to me: Giant squid are taking over the world. (Via Kesher Talk) Global warming has allowed them to flourish. Also over-fishing. Both tough problems to solve.

Spitbull's solution: calamari anyone?


The mysterious gothic Udolpho smacks both bloggers and professional pundits around a bit:
No one pays these weblog writers for the very good reason that their services aren't worth that much, and neither are those of the professional pundit class. (Keep in mind that pundits are incredibly shiftless creatures; most consider looking a word up in the dictionary "research". ...)
But bloggers, who have replaced pundit-style "research" with Google, do have some benefits. Udolpho thinks blogs are
an ideal platform for advancing debate and forcing news media to be more responsive. You don't even have to suck up to anyone on the local alternative weekly flyer editorial board (a hairy Lesbian, some angry black guy, and a dishevelled, brooding asshole with 15 Kerry stickers on the back of his 1995 Geo Metro).
No more sucking up. We recommending spitting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Today is Wednesday. Nick Coleman's column in the Strib normally runs on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. But there was no Nick in the dead-tree edition this morning, and no sign of Nick online, either.

Now, maybe he's just taking the day off. After all, it's Christmas week (oops, Happy Holidays week; wouldn't want to offend anyone), and as we all know, Nick's a real Christian. But the Strib usually runs a little blurb when their columnists don't write on their regular days, and I looked high and low for a "Nick won't be hectoring you today" notice, to no avail.

Curious, eh?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


At my kids' dance recital last Saturday, I got to sit through a reading of "Twas the night before ... the holidays" with the children miming "snug in their beds" and dancing to "visions of sugarplums." Each time the poem traditionally used the word "Christmas" the teacher substituted "the holidays." The holidays?

Yes, well I suppose holidays exist and many have now gussied themselves up and set up shop in December: Kwanzaa, Hanukah (however you spell it) and now ... Festivus. Festivus is a Seinfeld-popularized shindig for "the rest of us":

Those two rituals — accusing others of being a disappointment and wrestling — are traditions of Festivus as explained on the show by the character Frank Costanza. On that episode he tells Kramer that he invented the holiday when his children were young and he found himself in a department store tug of war with another Christmas shopper over a doll. "I realized there had to be a better way," Frank says.

So he coined the slogan "A Festivus for the rest of us" and formulated the other rules: the holiday occurs on Dec. 23, features a bare aluminum pole instead of a tree and does not end until the head of the family is wrestled to the floor and pinned.

Sounds like fun! You can get a list of grievances worksheet here, and a feats of strength challenge card here. E-mail cards are here and here.

An outfit called the "Church of the Rotate Your Envelope Stock" founded by The Late Very Left Rev. Oral Groove has adopted and extended the Festivus holiday, designating it a High Holy Day of Optional Observation:
Although Festivus will symbolize nothing in particular, it will give friends and family an additional opportunity to get together, once the weather gets nice. Airing of grievances is recommended prior to consumption of alcoholic beverages, including the ceremonial sip of Miller Genuine Draft. Suggested feats of strength include a friendly thumb wrestling tournament. CRYES proposes expanding the celebration into a full day of activities, adding such events as offspring achievement comparisons, sports team bashing and tire rotation relay races.
So King, it really is "the season" now. Go ahead and "get that special feeling during the month of December." I admit it doesn't have a great ring to it but we mean well ... or maybe not.

UPDATE: Tom at Functional Ambivalent says the force behind the politically correct generic holiday greetings is primarily "conservative Republicans whose compensation packages have been designed by other conservative Republicans to align the interests of employees and shareholders." In short, profit-seeking managers. Hmmm ... do I smell a candidate for this year's list of grievances?

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Frater Atomizer is discouraged by our progress on global warming:
I was a little disappointed with 2003's third place performance too but I figured that after a full four years of President Bush's personal jihad against Mother Earth, 2004 would come storming back with a vengeance...but fourth place?!?!? Come on people! Let's get our heads in the game!
We in frigid Minnesota, especially, need your effluence.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is a blogger's best friend. An endless fount of light blogging material. This week was a doozy. First, "A homeless crisis, and it's a scandal" (full of cheap rhetoric applied to a sad and complicated societal ill) then the angry followup: "The gospel truth about some readers" (full of bullying rhetoric applied to ungrateful recipients of Mr. Nick's wisdom).

Some of the NARN players dutifully stepped up to the plate: the Fraters (twice) and Powerline (twice). Local NARN friend the People's Republic jumped in too. But Craig Westover mostly resisted the temptation ("So, go ahead and rant, Nick. You’re preaching to the choir and no matter how loud they sing, it’s not going to house a single homeless person. If you can live with that, more power to you.")

I don't believe all that crazy talk about CF (Coleman Fatigue); the bloggers clearly slip Nick C. a $20 under the table from time to time to keep up the good, fiskable, work. Really, I can't think of any other good reason why he would write the silly way he does. Unfortunately, my theory doesn't solve the conundrum of why the STrib prints it...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Oops ... Minnesota had ten DFL (read: blue donkey) electors this year and one of them screwed up (or protested up) and cast his/her vote for John "Ewards" instead of John Kerry:
"It was perhaps a senior moment," said elector Michael Meuers, 60, a Bemidji marketing consultant for a health care firm, the second-youngest member of the Minnesota delegation to the Electoral College.
Flash from local blog Centrisity claims the alleged Dementor was NOT his mom (via Bogus Gold). That leaves nine suspects...

No Diebold shenanigans could have been at play. The ballots were handwritten.

UPDATE: Hep to this strategem, Oklahoma apparently fines its electors if they don't vote as promised.

UPDATE II: Perhaps it wasn't a senior moment after all. 63% of those who voted in the handwriting poll at Minnesota Democrats Exposed think Chandler "Harry" Stevens cast the wayward ballot. Yes! The very same Chandler "Harry" Stevens who once ran against John Kerry! The plot thickens...

Monday, December 13, 2004


The Village Voice decodes purse-talk for us: Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, all unhip. Marc Jacobs ("I went to college, but I'm still kind of arty") and Coach ("I went to college too, and I have a really good job!"), perhaps not unhip (the article is coy on this point). But apparently purses can make larger points too:
And then, of course, there are those who opt out of the status-handbag system all together, carrying their water bottles in a saggy cloth Channel 13 (shopthirteen.org) or Strand Books (strandbooks.com/nonbooks) tote. If these bags could talk they'd cry, "We want a recount! Ohio was stolen!" as their owners settle in for another four long years

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Apparently, "heroin" is the metaphor du jour now that the election is over (when "Hitler" was the comparator of choice). All the folks who know stuff have started analogizing the stuff they disaprove of to this scourge, revealed Radley Balko last week in Reason. Indeed, heroin has supplanted crack cocaine as the Worst Thing Ever.
... for bluenoses in search of that elusive high only a strained drug war analogy can provide, heroin’s clearly all the rage.
Alcohol, club "raves," corporate governance, obesity, technology, what do they have in common? They're like heroin!

And I still attribute all suspicious tastiness to surreptitious MSG addition. Gotta update my similes here for the New Millenium.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Spitbull is a BIG fan of local brewer the Summit Brewing Company. News that its founder, Mark Stutrud, will be interviewed by the Northern Alliance radio crew (at 2pm CDT) is almost enough to get us down to the studio to do a groupie dance. But we've decided to listen and admire from afar, albeit with a sample Summit brew in hand.

Oh yeah, they're also interviewing Ann Coulter (1pm CDT) and Jim Hake from Spirit of America (1:30pm CDT). There's a few days left in the Spirit of America Blogger Challenge; please go to the Northern Alliance Team page and donate to this very worthy cause.

Friday, December 10, 2004


As the Fraters reminded us yesterday: we've almost reached the one year anniversary of Hugh's Snowmobile Adventure. Girl in Right fears a repeat involving her local trees:
Apparently Hugh is "on vacation". The Department of Homeland Security is raising the Hewitt Threat Level with the upcoming first anniversary of the attack. The city of Boulder is all but evacuated, with every available tree hugger deployed to the foothills to wrap their arms around anything organic. The 12th Mountain Expeditionary Unit has been shipped out to the Rockies to make sure that the Hewitts aren't holed up in a cave outside the Vail Ski Resort. Complaints have been filed both by the Abominable Snowman, and a contingent of Dockers-wearing accountants, all of whom were detained at the New Mexico/Colorado border until it could be confirmed that they were, in fact, not Hugh Hewitt. No comment yet from the ACLU.
She's even written a "Haik-Hugh."

We're so pleased. As The National Association for Poetry Therapy's motto instructs:
In the deserts of the heart.
Let the healing fountain start.
(W.H. Auden). And those trees sure do need some healin'

Thursday, December 09, 2004


The Hatemonger's Quarterly was not nominated for the 2004 Weblog Awards. But they've learned a valuable lesson: whining
Sure, we may be shunned by fancy “Weblog Awards.” Sure, we may not even be nominated for such coveted prizes. Sure, we may be as popular as Denny Terrio, whilom host of “Dance Fever.” Sure, we may be as big as Danny Devito. Sure, we may…

Hold on a second, dear reader: Somewhere in the midst of that last paragraph we lost our train of thought. Oh yeah, we remember what we wanted to say: We suck.
just makes them feel bad. Plus, it prompts all manner of "constructive criticism" that must then be debunked ("'trackback' sounds to us like a crappy techno band."). The HQ gang finds elitism much more satisfactory:
“The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” is the Lamborghini of “weblogs.” It’s the beluga caviar of the Internet. It’s the kind of “website” men want to be, and women want to be with.
Maybe so. However, Spitbull (a co-non-nominee, we've discovered) believes the best course of action is to sulk in silent bitterness. Starting now.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I guess I should stop yelling at the kids when they salt their pizza:

Since 1995, 10 studies have reported on whether lower sodium diets produce health benefits. All 10 studies indicate that, among the general population, lower sodium diets don’t produce health benefits. In fact, not a single study has ever shown improved health outcomes for broad populations on reduced sodium diets.

Just last week, in fact, a coalition of six Canadian medical groups rejected a recommendation for universal salt restriction, choosing instead to make lifestyle recommendations for reducing blood pressure such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, and stress management.

Junk Science recently cited the Fed "Salt Assault," as they term it, as one of their Top Ten “Most Embarrassing Moments” of 2004. (Via Gene Expression).

The "general population" doesn't include African-Americans, who should reduce their salt intake.
But because the [National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine] panel didn’t think that singling out African-Americans was an effective public health strategy, it decided to “overcompensate” and make the recommendation for the general population ¯ thereby shifting the burden to the food industry to reduce salt content in foods. African Americans, then, couldn’t help but eat less salt.
Plus, the National Institutes of Health have been recommending reduced salt intake for more than thirty years; it'll take more than a few measly scientific studies to turn that ship.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Translation: the most hotly-anticipated blog since Wonkette has finally published its first post. The premiere discussion subject in what is promised to be a weekly series is "Preventative War." Becker comments here; Posner here.

Clearly, blogging has arrived! But one commenter to the inaugural post is concerned:
Wow, this will be like watching a couple of concert pianists blunder into a mosh pit. I wonder how long they will be able to stand it.
The mosh pit is beginning to roil. Sociology academic "Kieran" starts the sniping at group blog Crooked Timber:
The real Richard Posner is one of the preeminent legal minds of our time, so he can hardly be responsible for this. For one thing, parody of this quality is pretty difficult to write and I don’t think he has the time to devote to the task.
Wham! Bam! (well, maybe, more like a "thwat!") I can't wait for next Monday.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


I just got back from helping the Warrior Monk pick out a Christmas tree. Well actually, we got back about two and a half hours ago and no, the tree isn't fully decorated yet. It took about two and a half hours for the WM to bring the tree into the house, sweep up the fallen needles, and fret that we chose a dead or soon-to-be dead specimen.

At least half an hour was spent trying to get the tree in its stand and in a generally upright position. Suffice it to say that my idea of upright is not the Warrior Monk's idea of upright. Sawing ensued.

Then about fifteen minutes passed with Mr. WM sitting in chair bemoaning the inadequate green-ness of this tilted, needle-dropping aged specimen of a tree we stupidly chose. I suggested a drink. What a good idea!

Fifteen more minutes gone, but at least a better mood prevailed.

The three year old, the seven year old and one of her friends festooned the bottom half of tree with ornaments. The three year old has dropped four ornaments so far; luckily nothing has broken.

We adults called it a night. We'll move the ornaments higher some other day. Or not.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


The lefty blog daily Kos recently declared that your choice of operating system and browser can speak volumes about your politics ... and more:
There is a clear liberal/conservative divide in technology usage. You can find the data at any weblog with a public sitemeter, and the stats seem to hold true across the board. Liberals are more likely to use non-Microsoft products and [sic] conservatives.

Draw your own conclusions.
Of course, the overwhelming conclusion drawn in the comment section was that this shows liberals are smarter than conservatives.

The brilliant commenters praised Internet Explorer alternative Firefox. Typical post:
It's free, it's very good, it's fast, it's open source and no commercial corporation has control over it. Plus, it pisses off microsoft, one of the biggest republican donors.
Oh really?

Friday, December 03, 2004


A few years ago, the New York Times held up NYC for help that could total $100 million by claiming that a deal was the only way they could afford to stay in the city (pay up or we'll move to NJ!).

Sorta rival the Village Voice now reports the NYT sold their headquarters for more double the profit they claimed they would get when they strong-armed the city into the deal (state consultants had predicted the correct value but were ignored). In fact, the "unexpected" windfall likely equals the subsidies the NYT won from the city. So is the NYT giving them up? You know the answer to that dumb question:
Mathis, the Times spokeswoman, said the deal still makes sense as negotiated because the company's costs are rising. "Not only is there general inflation, but there is every reason to believe that we are facing rapidly rising prices, particularly for the interiors," she said, adding, "Our package was similar to incentives offered to other builders."
No wonder the NYT favors big (malleable) government.

(Via the excellent 2Blowhards).

Thursday, December 02, 2004


So yesterday the seven year old told me that numbers have colors. For example one is red, four is blue.

Apparently, she's been saying this for weeks but, inattentive mother that I am, I just found out yesterday. And watch this! said her dad: "What color is five?"
Seven? Green.
Eleven? Green.
Twenty-three? Green.
Forty-one? Purple and green.
I got very excited. Honey, I said, there's something special about all the numbers you say are green: they're all called prime numbers.

She thought about that for a minute.
Well, nine is green too. And it's not a prime.
So much for that theory then. Back to the drawing board.

But how does she know about primes in the first place?