134/365 – Keillor threatens to join GOP

Seems everyone is taking a poke at the Republican Party, from Time magazine to Garrison Keillor.  I outlined a premise about how I thought that Bush 2 and Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich had made the word “Republican” toxic, and nearly took “Conservative” with it, thanks to Limbaugh the Clown. (See #49 back in mid-Feb.)

Keillor wrote that it he might consider becoming a Republican because it would be “a whole lot more satisfying to be part of a militant righteous minority than to be in the anxiety-ridden confused majority — to be a nightrider and ambusher rather than one of the people in the long wagon train — to be free to juke around and say wild stuff and know that it doesn’t make a dime’s worth of difference.”

Tempting indeed. He quoted part of former Vice President Cheney’s recent talk about the meaning of Republicanism, how there are certain things Republicans believe in, and how maintaining their loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to their success.  He added, “A good thing to say, and many a president of the Elks, the Odd Fellows, the Moose, the Knights of Pythias, and the Ancient and Mystic Order of Hoot Owls has said something similar: We will not bend our principles so as to please people we didn’t like in the first place.”

I still want to explore what ideas and principles the GOP has that might be worth defending, perhaps under a different name.  But meanwhile, it’s kind of fun to see the elephant stumble around in confusion.


Moon over Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Capitol Square, Madison

Moon over Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Capitol Square, Madison

115-116/365 – Weekend special: Eric Frydenlund

eric-in-boatPundit Eric Frydenlund gets a lot of inspiration from nature. I had the privilege of crossing the Mississippi River in his boat last Memorial Day.  That’s where the picture was taken.  One day he will be my brother-in-law.

Those disclosures aside, I started reading and enjoying his columns before I met his sister, although I must admit (and have told him) they seemed to jump all over the place in terms of style and focus.  I guess he was experimenting, and I am with this blog, and lately he has stuck with his winning formula of relating national and international events to his daily life in a quiet corner of Wisconsin along the Mighty Mississip.

As we all shall come to know, there is nothing quiet about the human heart, and our minds work fine no matter where we are, perhaps even better when traffic and long commutes and over-achievers and just plain released-too-early street performers almost prevent us from reflecting.

Eric has reflection down to an art form.  From today’s column: “Out here in the Driftless area of southwest Wisconsin, we’re less concerned with competition than what works. As one of the poorest areas in the state, we understand the value of hard work, hiking from dawn till dusk tending crops and harvesting our labor. … The topography lends itself to a fierce independence, as the neighbor on the next ridge might as well be on another planet. As business falls in the winter and floods rise in the spring, the landscape levels and we find ourselves, sometimes literally, in the same boat.”

So far, the Wisconsin State Journal is the only place to read Eric’s work, but I’m confident it will catch on.  All it takes is more thoughts like this: “The environment does not surround us, but includes us. Independence begins with interdependence. And in Darwin’s nature, there are just as many examples of cooperation as competition.”

To read today’s column, click here.  You can also pull up plenty more from 2009 in the archives, once you figure it out.  Good reading.

113/365 – Introducing Gary E. “Garrison” Keillor


 Why am I not surprised he changed his name? “Garrison” surely does resonate better than “Gary” if one has literary pretentions.  And Mr. Gary Edward Keillor is nothing if not pretentious, droning on the way he does in that feather-bed voice about people he doesn’t really know who seem realer than any real people could be.  But that’s his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion (even the name is pretentious!), and that’s not really where I connect with him as a pundit (although I do love “Guy Noir, Private Eye”).

No, it’s his weekly newspaper column that began running in our so-far-surviving daily, the Wisconsin State Journal, that brings me to the mind of Keillor.  His wry, self-effacing observations are priceless, albeit a bit populist and ultra-lib – even there, he’s liable to make fun of those views.

He writes like a man in constant search of himself, humanity, and a way to live in peace while not denying we are all surrounded by wolves – even the wolves have something to fear.

In addition, I find him funny, a rare thing in these strident days of ironic relativism when most comics get their materials by ridiculing anything of value and truth.

As an intro, here are quotes from one about a ridiculous incident that he then ties into the way the world is changing, “Save our national sense of humor!:

[Have you heard about] “the Domino’s Pizza hooha in which an employee … shot a video of another employee making a salami sandwich, farting on it and adding some cheese he had pulled out of his nose — which was posted on YouTube and promptly viewed by millions of slackers and mouth-breathers and apparently had such an effect on Domino’s business that its president, Patrick Doyle, made his own YouTube appearance defending the brand.

“This is the world turned upside down, in which satirists finally have some power to step on the big boys’ toes and make them squeal. Two minimum-wage employees with a cheap videocam are able to make such a stir that a man who earns almost half a million a year has to stand up and say that the Conover store has been closed and sanitized, that the two “team members” are charged with felonies, that Domino’s makes a delicious and hygienic pizza, and that the company is now reexamining its hiring practices so as not to admit to its team the sort of person who would pull cheese out of his nose and fart on the salami. ‘It sickens me,’ he said.

“In the real world, the booger video is piffle. A joke. It doesn’t require the company president to make an official statement — Matt the night manager just says, “Hey, you guys, cut it out and go clean the toilet. … [But] it isn’t the real world anymore… It’s an electronic world that keeps you in the loop as you zoom around … [and] shower the world with your e-mails and check your Facebook friends to see what they ate for breakfast and download anything you care to look at.

“I call on all Americans to stand up for the Conover Two and for our national sense of humor that has served us so well for so long boopboopbadoop. People have been grossing each other out for centuries and this is no time to stop. Is this a felony? No, it’s snot.”

For all 334 columns Gary has written for Salon.com since 1997, click here.  Be warned, the first couple hundred were as Mr. Blue, giving advice on writing, love, erotica, and, well, NOT public radio sort of stuff!


The pig reminds me to stick to my diet.

The pig reminds me to stick to my diet.

106/365 – David Brooks


I read David Brooks’s column in my local paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, but I was introduced to him as a Friday commentator on Newshour with Jim Lehrer on public TV.  I think my basic affinity for his thinking stems from the fact that he graduated from the University of Chicago (’83), and worked as a police reporter in the Windy City (my birthplace).  I wasn’t a police reporter in such a glamorous place (Waukesha County, Wis.) but I know the beat and have a Midwest education (Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

Brooks has been appearing on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times since September 2003. He was op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal in the ’90s, and does stuff from the Weekly Standard, whatever that is.

So on the News Hour, Brooks plays the conservative, always paired with a pundit from the Left.  So he’s often cast as a Republican apologist, but to me his thinking goes much deeper than that. For example:

“What shapes moral emotions in the first place? The answer has long been evolution, but in recent years there’s an increasing appreciation that evolution isn’t just about competition. It’s also about cooperation within groups. Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don’t just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators.” [More of this column here.]


Not sure of the species, but they're some of the first blooms I've seen.

Not sure of the species, but they're some of the first blooms I've seen.

105/365 – Peggy Noonan


Peggy Noonan currently resides (as a columnist) at the Wall Street Journal.

[Now I want to stop for a moment and examine the look on your face when you read those words: Wall Street Journal.  Is that a sneer?  Do I see thoughts of death and taxes and investment mumbo-jumbo blanching your countenance?  Are you dismayed at any mention of Wall Street?  Well get over it, please – it’s a newspaper to me, plain and simple.  A well-written, impeccably researched, fair-minded, almost encyclopedic newspaper.  Yes, it stresses the role of economics and business in the affairs of the world, but guess what?  So do Democrats, Communists, Socialists, and just about everybody who doesn’t have their entire head up Marx’s ample ass.  Without business, you have no taxes to collect, just some bushels of corn from the peasants.  Enough on that rant.]

Ahem, her work appears weekly in the Journal’s “Weekend Edition” and on OpinionJournal.com.  I guess I first noticed her words as they were spoken by the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan.  She came to the White House through a stint as a producer at CBS News in New York.  She’s deeply religious, but like me, doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but rather lets her beliefs infuse her prose with grace, humility, and meaning.

Speaking of Wall Street, Noonan’s most recent column is about that tiny chunk of alley now made grandiose:

“Wall Street, or what remains of it, has dealt a catastrophic blow to its reputation in the past eight months of bonuses, bailouts and bankruptcies. What its current leaders, and the young who are lucky enough to be entering business, have to do now is begin rescuing and restoring that reputation.”

Maybe, but why?  Isn’t capitalism the real evil behind all this trouble?

Noonan continues:  “At stake is the standing of a free-market system that has flourished since America’s founding and made it the wealthiest nation in the history of man. In his classic The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, the philosopher Michael Novak noted that capitalism is good because, of all the economic systems devised by man, it is the one that lifts the greatest numbers out of poverty.  Capitalism is itself not selfish, exploitative, unequal; it wants to grow and produce, bringing more services, more creativity, more opportunity, more ferment and movement-more life. It is not just an economic system, it is a public good.”

See?  Wow, what a gift for wordsmithing!


"May I take your fries?" asked the momma mallard at the McD drive-thru

"May I take your fries?" asked the momma mallard at the McD drive-thru