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We had a well-attended Zoom session for our VIP members last night. John led the discussion in which we looked back on our hits, misses, and mission over the past 20 years. Our long-time publisher, Joe Malchow, participated and made valuable contributions to the festivities. We went for an hour. After we concluded the discussion, however, I had a few thoughts that would have completed points I was trying to make in response to John’s prodding. I want to append three footnotes.
1. I discussed our coverage of the Norm Coleman versus Paul Wellstone/Walter Mondale Senate race in the fall of 2002. I doubted the Star Tribune’s infamous Minnesota Poll showing Wellstone with a big lead over Coleman. Coleman campaign manager Ben Whitney shared the results of their internal polls that I posted along the way on Power Line. Looking back after Coleman’s victory, I documented this aspect of the race in “The Trouble With the Star-Trib Poll.” The Star Tribune subsequently killed its infamous poll.
2. We conceived of the site as supporting the Bush administration’s efforts opposing Islamic terrorism after 9/11. John asked how it is that Islamic terrorism has not manifested itself in the United States to the extent that we feared in those years. I credited intelligence. John credited American Muslims.
John’s comments prompted me to think back to the trial of the three “Minnesota men” in Minneapolis before Judge Michael Davis in the spring of 2016. Charged with material support of terrorism, the three young Somali Minnesotans on trial had sought to join ISIS in Syria and to wage jihad as good Muslims. Six others were charged and pleaded guilty before trial. I covered the trial every day on Power Line and in four Weekly Standard articles that are accessible in the archives maintained by the Washington Examiner.
The three on trial were bright, charismatic, and taking advantage of educational and employment opportunities in Minnesota. To outward appearances, they appeared to be a tribute to the power of assimilation.
Via an informant, the government introduced recordings of the defendants talking among themselves. They seethed with hatred of the United States. They burned to return to the United and carry on the jihad here after they did their thing in Syria. I wrote about the evidence at trial in the Star Tribune column “Somali-Minnesota terror recruitment: What I saw at the trial.”
The point, and I do have one, is that the FBI had been monitoring the nine young men for a long time before they were arrested and charged. It wasn’t clear where the FBI picked up on them. I infer that the FBI had a window onto the doings at two of the mosques they frequented, one in Minneapolis and one in Bloomington.
3. A few of the VIPs in attendance floated notes about my Sunday Morning Coming Down series. John asked me to talk about it and I fumbled a few comments. I wasn’t prepared for the question.
I would like to add that I conceive of the series as a fan’s notes. I love American pop music in just about all its various branches. I only write about music, musicians, and songwriters that ring my chimes. If I don’t have something good (i.e., positive) to say, I don’t write about it.
Thinking back, I recalled that in our early days I posted an excerpt of Jimmy Webb’s Wall Street Journal review of Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball’s Reading Lyrics (“Singing the praise of song” in February 2001), I think, and made a few comments of my own. Webb’s review concluded:
This is not a book to be read quickly. The wise reader will want to savor lines like Yip Harburg’s “when I can’t fondle the hand I’m fond of I fondle the hand at hand” (“When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love,” 1946). In a more poignant vein, “Lost in the Stars” (Maxwell Anderson, 1944), “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” (Fran Landesman, 1959) and “Lush Life” (Billy Strayhorn, 1938) deserve special attention for their depiction of the stoic cynicism that accompanies disillusionment…
Scholars and trivia hounds will no doubt find this volume to be an invaluable reference. For younger readers, it will serve as an introduction to a world of fascinating imagery and emotion, much of which existed long before they were born but still throbs with rhythm and passion. For others of us, “Reading Lyrics” will be a companion, like an old friend often consulted for inspiration and solace.
There are good lyrics here from the ’60s and ’70s, including “The Way We Were” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman, 1973), “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (Lesley Bricusse, 1961), “People” (Bob Merrill, 1963) and “Misty” (Johnny Burke, 1962). But as this year’s Grammy nominations demonstrate, we have regressed at light speed through the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Ages of lyric writing and are well on our way back to the Primeval.
Yet we can still find a reminder of the grace, charm and warmth of which talented men and women of good will are capable in “Reading Lyrics.” This wondrous and magical concoction is hatred-free and highly recommended.
We happened to go to dinner that weekend with John and Loree. John told me he enjoyed the post and encouraged me to do more off our beaten path. Since then, YouTube has become an ever richer resource on which I could draw to share my enthusiasms. I wanted to add this footnote to credit John’s encouragement way back when.