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Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009

It's All About Making a Splash

I've heard people wonder why the latest would-be airplane bomber waited until the plane approached Detroit to try to set off his explosives. It would have been easier in the middle of the flight, over the ocean, they say, when passengers were sleeping and not paying attention.

But that misses the point of terrorism. It's not as though this specific airplane was some sort of tactical target that needed to be destroyed. It's all about getting attention, spreading fear and causing a panic -- making a splash, if you will, which in this case means NOT making a splash in the Atlantic Ocean.

Look at how much attention this event and its perpetrators garnered even though their plan FAILED. TV was ready to make them stars. A failed bombing on approach to Detroit may have gotten them more attention than if they had blown up the plane over the Atlantic. Suppose the plane would have simply disappeared from the sky, only to be discovered as wreckage later. There would have been no fiery TV coverage. No certainty as to what happened. But can you imagine the scene if the plan had succeeded? It would have been all over TV. Plus, there's the extra component that they could strike at the CENTER of the United States, not just the coasts. And that's what terrorism is all about. Spreading the fear that no one is safe.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a Package Deal

This is the first paragraph from a letter to the editor in the recent Highland Villager newspaper:

"With the holiday season, I find myself dreaming of an impossible Christmas present: a world without our invasion of Iraq. I envision life for thousands of families no longer caring for an injured loved one and for millions of displaced Iraquis now back in their homes. I dream of Saddam Huessein still in power, gassing more Kurds, conducting more genocide and torture, and committing and more crimes against humanity."

Okay, you got me. I made that up. Well... actually, I made up only the last sentence. The first part was verbatim.

But you can't have the first part without the sentence I added. The would come with it. Sure, it's easy to succumb to invaders' remorse and wish we hadn't ever moved into the neighborhood. The costs have been high. But we can't ignore Saddam.

That's the problem with playing the game of wishing for a "do-over" machine so that we could put things back the way they were: the way things were includes Saddam Hussein. And that's where it falls apart. Because where is Saddam now? That's right, he'd dead. Why is he dead? He was executed? By whom? His own people. Why? For crimes against humanity.

So if you find yourself wishing for an "undo," you're saying you support someone who was so bad that his own people executed him for crimes against humanity, including genocide (with poison gas) and torture. You're saying you want to overrule the Iraqi people, and put them back under Saddam's evil heel.

Is that really the side you want to be on?

I can hear you now: "I don't want Saddam back in power; I just don't want the U.S. to have invaded Iraq."

Sorry, it doesn't work that way. You're either with Saddam, or you're with the invasion. Neither choice is perfect, but I think one is definitely better than the other.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How About "Reclaiming" Thanksgiving Day?

This past week I read something curious: An opinion piece in the Pioneer Press written by two clergymen and a college professor, in which we are told that churches should "reclaim" Black Friday.

They want us to turn this day of shopping into a day of sharing and, apparently, appreciation for what we have.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, the odd thing is, I'm completely in agreement with their sentiments regardng the vulgarity of "Black Friday" orgy. But I think they themselves are completely missing the basic point. They say congregations should "reclaim Black Friday." How about reclaiming Thanksgiving Day as an actual day of thanks? (After all, the only reason we have this Friday "holiday" is because of Thanksgiving Day.) You can't "reclaim" something that was never yours, and "Black Friday" was not a creation of religion, nor has it ever had any part in religion tradition.

What the seem to be doing is trying to make a secular feast into a religious one, counter to the prevailing trend, which has been for us to let the secular destroy the religious significance of our holidays.

Thanksgiving Day is a religiously significant holiday. After all, to whom are you giving thanks? The turkey? The federal government? No, to the Creator.

But we've been doing a really bad job of observing Thanksgiving Day and actually taking time to be thankful. Maybe if we paused to be thankful, we'd realize how ridiculous the whole "Black Friday" thing is in the first place. But instead, Thanksgiving Day, by my observation, has become about gluttony (not that there's anything wrong with that ­ once a year!), with the rest of the day consumed by studying ads from the year's thickest newspaper bundle, and making plans for acquiring even more stuff. Meanwhile, the TV is on with the Thanksgiving Day football games, blaring ads for all the things that we must have/give so that our lives won't be meaningless. It's all secular and materialistic. Completely the opposite of what it should be. Thanksgiving Day above all others should be a day when we appreciate what we have and ask for nothing more.

But why relax, feel blessed and give thanks when you can feel inadequate and feed your anxiety? Maybe we should just be honest, and change the 4th Thursday in November to "Coveting Day." That's what it seems like. The Friday after I have personally renamed "Thorstein Veblen Day" in honor of the Minnesota economist who coined the term "conspicuous consumption."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's . . . September, 2001

The President's speech tonight sounded an awfully lot like a speech that could have been given -- heck, was given -- eight years ago. With one notable exception: President Bush didn't repeatedly tell us "It's not my fault." (Boy, can this guy pass the buck and the blame.)

So, what it comes down to is Obama's making a commitment to fight the War on Terror. Well, a less-than-two-year "commitment." He says the troops will leave Afghanistan by August 2011. How does he know that the mission will have been accomplished by then? And does it matter? Or will he just set up a stage for his "victory" speech, and for a backdrop he'll just hang a banner between those fancy Greek columns. The banner, of course, will read: "Mission Accomplished."

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Obama is fast learning that it's a lot easier to run against the president than it is to be the president.

Friday, November 27, 2009

400 Years and They Still Don't Get It

You've got to read this column by Bloomberg News columnist Caroline Baum. She tells how the Pilgrims finally quit starving when they got rid of their Utopian communal agriculture notions and made everyone responsible for themselves. And this isn't just her interpretation; she backs it up with the words of the Plymouth Colony's governor, William Bradford.

Why do people still not get it? Collectivist Soviet agriculture was a disaster. In 2009, many Americans continue to call for a socialist states of America. But it just doesn't work.

I'm a firm believer in capitalism and free markets -- they bring about the greatest good for the greatest number.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Black Man Can Be President...

During a Thanksgiving Day football game on TV, I saw some sort of PSA or promo that began with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, in very slow motion, throwing a pass. Then, very slowly, into the screen came the intended receiver, President Barack Obama.

Isn't that a stereotype? A black man can be president, but he still can't be the quarterback! (Even when he's the nation's play-caller.) He's got to be the wide receiver. Got to have black guys for those positions that require speed and jumping ability, right? But the guy who's in charge and has to "think"? That's got to be the white guy!

Made me laugh.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where Are the Critics Now?

Since all those experts who spent most of eight years criticizing everything the previous administration did have suddenly gone silent, I guess it's up to me to ask some questions:

- If they all hated us because of Bush, and the world loves Obama, why is Islamic terrorism only spreading? And why is it threatening to take over Pakistan -- an Islamic country?

- Why didn't Obama "connect the dots" to prevent the Fort Hood slaughter? (And has anyone else pointed out how heinous this crime was not just because he is an American citizen, not just because he is a soldier who has sworn an oath, but because he is a DOCTOR?! What happened to being a healer and "first, do no harm"?)

- Where's the H1N1 flu vaccine? Why wasn't Obama prepared for this emeregency?

- We heard criticism that Bush took too much vacation. What's with all this golfing by the First Duffer? It's been reported that he's already golfed more than Bush did.

- But there wasn't time to go to Berlin for the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Wall. What an insult to the rest of the world. (Guess he was tired after flying to Europe to lobby for Chicago to get the Olympics. That must have been more important.)

- If it was O.K. to "rush to judgement" about a "stupid" white cop, why isn't it O.K. when it's a murderous Muslim doctor?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who Would Mohammed Torture?

Today I spotted a bumper sticker reading, "Who Would Jesus Torture?" It's mate must have fallen off. You know, the bumper sticker reading,"Who Would Jesus Abort?"

No, you got me. I've never actually seen that one. That's because the person who asks "who" (shouldn't it be "whom"?) Jesus would torture is generally a person who thinks abortion is just dandy. And that person, in fact, doesn't actually care what Jesus thinks. She just thinks that people who do believe in Jesus must be evil people who love torture. After all, anyone who isn't just like her must be her complete polar opposite, and a stupid, evil person. (That's what passes for diversity in many narrow and intolerant "liberal" minds.)

This is one of those "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" things. It implies that Christians (aka Republicans) support torture. Who says that's the case? Jesus, of course, would not torture anyone. A more interesting questions might be: "Who would Mohammed torture?" You might come up with a very different answer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No. No way. Never.

Those would be my three choices on the ballot question of "instant runoff voting" in tomorrow's St. Paul election. This is a terrible idea.

The idea would eliminate primaries in future city elections, so that however many kooky candidates there were were all on the general election ballot. Voters would rank the candidates in order of preference. If no one got more than 50 percent of the vote initially, the last place candidate would be eliminated, and the votes of the people who voted for him/her would be reassigned to other candidates according to those voters' second choices. If still no one had more than 50 percent, the process would continue until someone did.

Now, there's some logic to this, but only if voters get to rank ALL the candidates. In that instance, it would be sort of like having the primary and general election all in one. Proponents also like to say that it ensures that someone gets the eventual support of a true majority. But that's not the way it's always done. It's not the way they will be doing it in Minneapolis tomorrow. In Minneapolis, voters will get to rank only their top three choices for mayor, out of something like 10 or 12 candidates. What if all three of your choices end up at the bottom? There's a chance you would end with no vote at all! That's right, the winner will get a majority, but not necessarily a majority of ALL voters, just a majority of the voters who are still left in the game because at least one of their three choices is still in play. (How many choices St. Paul voters would get in future elections if this passes isn't even certain. The ballot question is too general, and would leave the details up to the city council.)

A supporter wrote a letter to the editor that claimed instant runoff voting is like going to the ice cream store with a list of your 12 favorite flavors and being assured of getting one of them. That's totally. I propose, instead, a soup shop analogy:

You go into the soup shop with a list of 3 soups you would like. The proprietor looks it over. "Beef Barley. NO! Chicken Noodle. NO!"

Well, you got one left, right? You're sure to get something for lunch, right?

The proprietor studies your list. Finally, he looks you in the eye and says:

"Clam Chowder? HA! NO SOUP FOR YOU!"

Yes, with IRV we'd be creating the VOTE NAZI! NO VOTE FOR YOU!!!!!!

Yes, people are going to be DISENFRANCHISED. (And the left-wingers who popularized that word are the ones behind this. Does that make any sense?)

This whole thing seems to be about making sure that a wacky leftie like Ralph Nader can't ruin things for mainstream Democrats, like they say happened to Al Gore in 2000. But they forget something else. Remember all the complaints about how the Florida ballots were confusing, and some people voted for Pat Buchanan when they meant to vote for Al Gore? (I showed the ballot, printed in the newspaper, to my then first-grader. She had no trouble with it.) If that was too tough -- if that "disenfranchised confused old people -- how are they ever going to handle ranking multiple selections?

Below is a sample Minneapolis ballot, distributed by IRV proponents to show how "easy" it is. We spent six months recounting the Coleman/Franken election and disputing ballots, and now we are supposed to consider this progrss? They've got to be kidding!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Here's What Obama Should Say to the Nobel Committee

"I will not accept this award. It's obvious to everyone that this is intended as a shot at my predecessor in this office. What you obviously don't understand is that you are really taking a shot at the Office of the President and the United States of America.

"On a personal level, I'm insulted that you apparently think I am so shallow and conceited that I would believe I had earned even a nomination for this award within 12 days of taking office. I refuse to be your happy little puppet, willing to dance while you pull my strings and execute your own personal political vendettas.

"Are you so self-absorbed that you can't see the world around you? Have you forgotten that the forces of evil attacked the United States and killed 3,000 people? Are you unaware that two rogue nations are thumbing their noses at the lovers of peace, launching missiles and trying to develop nuclear warheads?

"Here's what you can do with your award: Give it to Osama bin Laden. That way, he'll have something in common to discuss with Yasser Arafat after the brave men and women of the United States military find him and send him to hell."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Put on Your Coat and Pass the Peace Pipe

I spent the day selling pumpkins. Felt like I should have been selling Christmas trees. If Barack Obama will have even half the success creating peace that Al Gore has had fighting "global warming," it's time to sell the Halliburton stock.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus Go Dutch

I read recently that Ticketmaster is trying out a "paperless" ticket system that allows the original ticket buyer -- and only the original ticket buyer -- to resell the ticket to someone else at a profit. Oh, and Ticketmaster gets another piece of the action, too, of course.

I thought, "It's about time," because what I've always found strange about these complaints that brokers have snapped up all the tickets and people have to pay scalper prices, is that the artists, the venues and Ticketmaster are obviously missing out on money they could have had, because they sold the tickets too cheaply in the first place. I guess Ticketmaster finally figured out that they need to get another piece of the action. And that's fine with me.

Anyway, here is something on the topic that I wrote last summer but never got around to posting:

It was announced recently that tickets will go on sale for a Miley Cyrus concert here in St. Paul. This is particularly "big news" because of what happened last time the teen's tickets were sold for a show here: ticket brokers managed to work the online system to snap up almost all the tickets almost immediately. They then resold the tickets for a substantial profit. Fans (and particularly their mothers, who were paying for the tickets) weren't happy.

Promoters say that new safeguards will prevent a playback of that same situation.

But I have a better idea for how to handle ticket sales for high-demand events: a Dutch auction.

When it comes to tickets being marked-up and resold by brokers, there's always a lot of complaining about what it costs the fans. But it surprises me that I never hear anything about all the money this has cost some other parties: the promoters and the artist.

Think about it, if brokers can buy huge numbers of tickets and successfully resell them at a profit, it means the tickets were underpriced. The promoter should have charged more. But how does the promoter know how much to charge? How does the promoter get the most possible dollars for each seat?

That's where the Dutch auction comes in. Most auctions start with a low price, and the merchandise goes to the highest bidder. But a so-called "Dutch auction" works in reverse. The price starts high and goes lower, until someone says, "I'll take it." If there are multiple items on the bid, the first taker gets choice. If there are some left, the price goes done until someone else bites. It's sort of a game of auction "chicken." You can wait for the price to go lower, but you might miss out.

With computerized ticket sales systems, this ought to be easy enough to figure. Let's say the announcement goes out: Hannah Montana tickets go on sales for $500 Saturday at 10:00am. On Saturday at 10:00am, the most dedicated fans (or most optimistic scalpers) start buying the best seats at $500.

At some point, sales will slow to a trickle. That's when the price drops. Let's say to $450. That should make sales pick up. If it doesn't, or when sales slow again, the price drops again -- $400 -- $350 -- $300. If all the tickets don't sell quickly, the price continues to gradually decrease. Eventually, all the tickets are sold. It might be at $200, or $100, or $50, but each ticket sells for what someone thinks it is worth to them. If the tickets don't all sell, and the concert nears, what then? Slash the price again! Maybe they go to $5, but who cares? We've maximized the possible sale price of each ticket. But with a concert such as this, it's not really a question of whether all the tickets will sell. They will. And ALL the money people are willing to spend goes to the artist, the venue and the promoter -- without a big chunk going to scalpers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vote for One from Column A and One from Column B. Then Settle for Whatever You Get.

"Instant run-off" voting will be on the ballot in St. Paul this fall. This is the ballot method where you vote for several candidates, "ranking" them in order of preference. The idea, proponents say, is to eliminate elections where the winner receives less than a majority of votes. After the first tally of the votes, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and his/her voters are reassigned according to the candidates that they listed as their second choice. If still no candidate has at least half the vote, the process continues, and candidates are eliminated until someone has a true majority.

I don't like it.

Why? I say, "Follow the motivation." Just like "Follow the money." And what is the motivation for this? The motivation is very simple: Liberals are upset that Republicans have won elections when the Left has split its votes. For instance, between Gore and Nader. Or Kerry and Nader. This has been an issue in local elections, too. The Extreme Left wants to be able to "vote their conscience" and vote for a socialist, green, communist, whatever, without jeopardizing the chances of the "mainstream" Democrat. I think they hope that once the Far Left candidates are "protected" in this way, they'll eventually gather enough votes that they start winning, instead of the Democrats.

Now, some St. Paul restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon by offering customers "instant-runoff" voting on favorite menu items, in order to "educate" people about how wonderful it is.

Aren't the restaurants afraid that they might cost themselves business by taking sides on a controversial issue? You know, like the way that a boycott was organized when the Whole Foods chief spoke out againstt nationalized health care? I guess not. I guess peoplle on the right are more tolerant and open-minded. They don't try to destroy everyone who disagrees with them.

What other ballot issues could restaurants promote? I know -- there have been a lot of ballot initiatives concerning same-gender marriage. How about this: The restaurants could offer "menu equity." No more tradition and discrimination. Here's how it would work. Most of the time, when you ordered a sausage and egg breakfast, you'd get sausage and egg. But sometimes, you'd get sausage and sausage, and sometimes you'd get egg and egg. But if you complained, you'd simply be told that there was no difference.

Now why'd I have to go making a joke like that? Someone's bound to actually do it.

Tuesday, Septebmer 1, 2009

It Just Don't Make Sense

Sometimes, things just don't seem to make sense. Just ask Bob Tammen. He wrote this letter that appeared in the Pioneer Press on Aug. 23, 2009:

The recent news that an American citizen showed up outside an appearance by President Barack Obama with both a rifle and pistol brings back memories of the Republican convention last September.

My wife and I showed up for the poor people's march with signs that had small aluminum handles. We were promptly surrounded by police and photographers. The police made me remove the handles, remnants of a salvaged lawn chair, as a threat to the peace and good order of St. Paul.

The Pioneer Press printed a picture of that law enforcement action, which ensured that I would never use my "Impeach Bush" sign as a weapon.

It's now apparent that I should have used an AR-15 as the handle for my sign. Or is the real policy to hassle progressive Americans but allow right-wing fruitcakes to intimidate anyone who disagrees with their Big foot, tooth fairy, wicked witch, black helicopter, jack-booted thug, pull-the-plug-on-Grandma delusions?

Bob Tammen, Soudan

That does sound ridiculous, doesn't it?

But is it really fair to compare the two? These were different events, at different times, and in different places. What would have happened if Mr. Tammen had indeed brought his AR-15 to the "poor people's march"? I suspect law enforcement would have objected. And what if he had brought his lawn-chair sign to the Presidential event at which rifles were carried openly? I suspect he would have been left alone.

Nonetheless, I agree with Mr. Tammen that this just doesn't make sense. But there are a lot of things that don't make sense in this world. Consider:

Steal a little money from a liquor store, and you'll go to prison for years. Steal millions via fraud, and you'll go to a country club prison for months. I'll bet Mr. Tammen and I would agree that that doesn't make sense.

Shake a baby to death and you're a murderer. Kill a baby before it's born and you're exercising your Constitutional rights. That doesn't make sense, either.

But Mr. Tammen might not agree. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't, I don't know. But I do know that people who tend to rally against Republicans and have "poor people's marches" also tend to support abortion. And a lot of people who can find a right to abortion written between the lines in the Constitution have no trouble at all overlooking the very obvious 2nd Amendment.

Again, some things don't make sense.

The truth is, the human animal is not a very logical or consistent thinker. Mostly, we take a position based on intuition, emotion, or gut reaction. Then, we try to reason a defense of our position, telling ourselves that we're simply being rational. (But the other guy isn't.)

Here's another thought I had just the other day: Doesn't it seem like the people most likely to be sympathetic to illegal aliens, saying "They're just trying to make a better life for themselves," tend to be the same people most concerned about the injustice and illegality of the European conquest of the Americas? Aren't they also the people most likely to complain about the Europeans taking land from the people "who were here first"?

But weren't the Europeans just looking for a better life for themselves and their families? I know my immigrant ancestors were.

Of course, when it comes to present day illegal immigration into the U.S., who really was "here first"? The Anglo-Americans? Or the native ancestors of many of the people sneaking across the border? Hmmm. That's the trouble with asking "who was here first?" How far back do you go? And don't archeologists tell us that the woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers were perfectly happy in North America until the first humans arrived and wiped them out? Maybe none of us should be here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Many Degrees of Separation?

Big, big news... Sherry Johnston will do time for Oxycontin shenanigans.

Who's Sherry Johnston? You don't know? She's a big-time celebrity. A major public figure. Or, as the Associated Press explains...

"The mother of the man former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol had planned on marrying has reached a deal in her drug case."

Mother of...former...daughter...had planned on... Basically, she's nobody. But somehow, this nobody from Alaska is national news. Can't miss any opportunity to try to make Sarah Palin look bad, I suppose.

Tueday, August 11, 2009

Where Have We Heard This Before?

Is it just me, or do others hear the president and his ObamaCare supporters pretty much saying:

1. "It's un-American to criticize the president and his health care plan."

2. "You're either for us or against us."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Hate People Who Aren't Tolerant Just Like Me

I'm writing this while PBS is airing one of those special pledge drive shows. You know, the ones they put on so that people who don't usually watch PBS will watch and give money so that PBS can "continue to bring you great programming like this," after which PBS will go back to the regular programming that their new donors don't watch.

This one is a concert celebrating the 90th birthday of Pete Seeger. It's been promoted as having all kinds of special musical guests, and I thought it was worth a look. Pete and I disagree on a lot politically, but I respect his lifetime of musicianship, so what does politics have to do with it, right? Besides, Bush is gone now, so they won't have to make this into a Bush hatefest, the way liberal entertainers always have to do.

I'm so naive. Just because I can respect people's differences and say "live and let live," that's no reason to expect a bunch of rich liberal entertainers to do the same. It didn't take long at all and they were going after Bush.

Some of the morons had rewritten the lyrics to Seeger's song "Dear Mr. President," in which Seeger said to FDR, basically, "Give me a gun so I can go get Hitler." (Lyrics) The new lyrics are a love song to Obama "and your beautiful family." And they fling hate at Bush, even though he's no longer the president.

And these morons are idiots. They sing about how they "sent him back to Texas." How do they figure? Bush was elected twice and served two full terms. Then his time was up and he left. He was not defeated. Yet, Obama's Lewinskis-in-waiting on the stage seem to think Obama defeated Bush. After all, Obama pretty much ran against Bush, not against McCain.

I wonder, if you polled people who voted for Obama and asked them who Obama defeated, what percentage would say Bush? I bet at least 20% would say that Obama defeated Bush.

And what makes these musicians think they are all public policy experts? Does anyone ever ask Dick Cheney to pick up a guitar and entertain them? And why is that? Right, because he's a politician, not a musician. So why do musicians think they are all experts in politics?

Part of the new lyrics included complaints about how those evil "corporations" are running everything, even "telling our radio stations what to play." But that same singer is too much of an idiot to realize that government-subsidized PBS is letting him broadcast his own ignorant, hateful views to the nation. Heck, he's probably getting PAID to do so!

Why are liberals so narrow minded and intolerant? They think everyone is just like them. They get up on a stage and spout off, and they love it when the crowd reinforces their narrow-minded, ignorant hatred. They think everyone agrees with them, because they don't know anyone who doesn't. (Maybe they need more diversity in their lives?) And no doubt there are people in the audience who don't share their views, but they know it's best to keep their mouths shut. You know, like Jews at a Hitler rally.

And these things remind me of that. How hard is it to stand on stage and say you hate Bush? It's like at certain times and places where someone could stand in front of a crowd and earn applause for saying how much he hated negroes or Jews. The hateful mob. Yeah, that's real intellectual and tolerant.


I was just about to upload this post when Pete Seeger came on and talked about how nice it is that people are glad that their towns are diverse. They used to be glad they didn't have "those people," he said, giving examples such as Jews and blacks. But now, we're so happy to be diverse.

Yeah, right, as long as everyone thinks just like us and hates Bush.

When it comes to liberals, diversity is only skin deep.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Book and Its Cover

Yesterday I stopped at Menards (a large home improvement store). Walking into the store, I noticed a car with an Obama sticker, an anti-Bush sticker, a pro-Al Franken radio sticker, etc. As I approached the store entrance, out came a woman and, for some reason, I thought to myself, "I bet that's her car." I turned to watch her walk to her car and... it was!

There must have been 80-100 cars in the lot. How did I know that? She just had "that look." Her shirt had some message on it, but I think it was simply a product name, not some statement.

Maybe you can judge a book by its cover.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Racist Double Standard

Without knowing the facts, a president immediately comes to the defense of his buddy, and blames it all on someone of a different race.

If it were President George W. Bush rushing to make excuses for Karl Rove, and blaming a black cop, would we (meaning the mainstream media) stand for that?

So why does President Obama get away with it?

And long ago we (meaning the mainstream media) forgot all about the racist Rev. Wright, Obama's "mentor" and pastor.

If this isn't a double standard, what is?

Professor Gates supposedly ticked off the cop by saying something about "your Mama." But then I've heard it said that that the ignorant white cop shouldn't take offense, because he should know that for black people, that's not any big deal. That's interesting, sort of like the St. Paul public employees who got in trouble for stringing up a stuffed monkey in a noose at their workplace. They were charged with being racist. They said they were just practicing tying knots, and the monkey was a prop that just happened to be at hand. They were told that was no excuse, because they should have known that to their black co-workers, this would be very offensive, because evidently some people (liberals, I guess) think of African-Americans whenever they see a monkey.

No, wait, it's nothing like that. It's just the opposite. If we were being consitent, Gates would be scolded for his ignorance of diversity and lack of sensitivity for not understanding how his words would be received by somehow of a different race.

Again, if that's not a double standard, what is?

While I'm at it, have you noticed how President Obama bullies the press, with them gratefully being on the receiving end? I heard the audio from his recent news conference where he tried to cover up his earlier statements in the Gates case. he was ordering everyone to sit down and shut up so he could set the record straight.

Remember that prime-time TV "town hall meeting"* of his recently, the one where he explained to us little people how his wonderful health care "reform" plan would work? I didn't see it, but I saw just a little of his encore later that evening on ABC's "Nightline." In contrast to the usual softballs they always throw at him, the newman (Charles Gibson?) started pressing Obama on some contradictions between what Obama is saying now and what he said during the campaign. I thought, "Now we're getting somewhere." But Obama knew where it was leading, so he interrupted the newman in a raised voice, not letting him finish the question. And he even grabbed the newsman's arm! Obama scolded him like a child!

And how did this veteran newsman react? He grinned at the camera! It was as though he was thinking, "I can't believe he touched ME! I can't believe he yelled at ME!" He was totally starstruck.

He's a condescending bully to the press, and they love him for it. Amazing. The bumbling Bush was said to be arrogant; the haughty Obama is not.


*As someone who actually grew up on a farm across the road from an actual town hall, all of this "town hall meeting" talk always puzzles me. What do these big, East Coast city people know about town halls, let alone "town hall meetings"? Yet, they always claim they're having one -- usually in a TV studio filled with a carefully-selected audience.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obama's War

We've had 5 Minnesota servicemen die in the past week. Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan has increased the fighting and the deaths. Now we're hearing that the Secretary of Defense wants to add another 22,000 troops to the military, because we need more people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How long until the president's disciples turn on him and start protesting "Obama's war"?

It was just last September when the protesters turned out by the thousands to march during the Republican National Convention here in St. Paul. They were marching against President Bush, and, specifically, against "his" war. I thought that was rather odd, since Bush wasn't up for re-election, his time in office was almost done, and he was working to wind down the war in Iraq. They were a little late.

Now, they've got their man. And what's he doing? Getting us further entangled in the Afghan "quagmire" and forcing the war into Pakistan ­ with its nuclear arsenal. Of course, for years they ­ and Obama ­ have been telling us that "Of course I support the war in Afghanistan; that's where the Taliban were. But Bush is neglecting that by focusing on Iraq." Now that young Americans are increasingly dying in Afghanistan and Bush is gone, do they still support that war? (As if they ever really did.)

How long before they turn on Obama?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frugal? or Cheap?

It's trendy these days to be thrifty. Yuppie conspicuous consumption is out; "green" thriftiness is in.

I recently read a newspaper story about "thrifty" brides, who put together weddings on the cheap.

I suppose I should be glad to read that, having been repulsed in recent years by the accounts I have read about the extravagances that have now become "essential" in a modern wedding. But are these "thrifty" brides really being frugal? Or are they being cheap?

Some time ago I came up with a definition for the difference between frugal and cheap: "frugal" is when you take your wife out for dinner with a 2-for-1 coupon; "cheap" is when you tip your waitress based on the cost of one meal, not two.

The defining characteristic is that being frugal is being wise in the way you spend -- or don't spend -- your money. In my example, you have chosen to take advantage of an advantageous offer that has been freely extended to you, and the restauranteur is glad to have your business. Everyone wins. But being cheap is being foolish with your money; when you're cheap, you hurt someone. In my example, it's the waitress, who did her job, and then got short-changed. (But often the person who's hurt by your cheapness is yourself.)

Now, let's look at those "thrifty" brides. "I hoped to spend less than $2,000," one said, "And it ended up coming in at about $1,100 -- and that's with food. But I don't think it looked like a budget wedding. It certainly didn't feel that way to me. Everyone complimented me on the deorations and the flowers and especially the food."

Sounds like she's working pretty hard to convince herself.

The story goes on to say that "the newlyweds then splurged on a Las Vegas honeymoon."

"We both have good jobs, we didn't need to save money on the wedding," the bride said, "But if we could spend the money on the honeymoon rather than the wedding, we'd rather do that."

Oh, I see, rather than spend money -- which you have -- on your friends and family, you'd rather save it all to spend on yourselves!

Ruling: CHEAP!

A second bride boasted about saving money on the wedding, then explained, "We'll use the extra money to go on a long European honeymoon that will give us so many more memories than just one day."

Don't forget to email your poor guests the photos.

Ruling: CHEAP!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Helpless Victims or Competent Adults?

A big reason we have a political divide is because people see the same world so differently. What I can't relate to is the way that so many people -- those identified as "the left" or "liberals" or "progressives" -- see people as, basically, helpless victims, whose fate rests in the hands of... the government.

Here's an example. This is from the "progressive calendar" email that I get.

Subject: Underground RR 6.29 6pm

There is an Underground Rail Road Volunteer meeting.

Monday June 29 6:00-7:00

Sabathani Community center room 126

The Underground Rail Road is project put together by founding PPEHRC members. The reasoning behind the foundation of the program is to let neighbors help one another where social service organizations fall short. So far PPEHRC has used the Underground Rail Road Project to find free storage places for families facing evictions, find house-hold items for those in need, short term housing, volunteers, transportation to name a few.

It's great that people are trying to help their neighbors. But what jumps out at me here is, first, the assumption that "social service organizations" should just automatically be taking care of people, and only if they "fall short" will neighbors help each other Secondly, I notice that these people seem to need a program -- maybe even permission -- to help their neighbors. What's wrong with an individual just taking the initiative to get off his butt and help his neighbor? To be fair, I'm sure the people involved in this do help their neighbors already; they're just trying to organize to do a better job of it. Still, I think the words they use to describe their program show how their minds work.

A second example comes courtesy of Nobel Prize winning eonomist and newspaper columnist Paul Krugman. In a column blaming President Ronald Reagan for the current economic climate, Krugman concludes by writing:

There's plenty of blame to go around these days. But the prime villains behind the mess we're in were Reagan and his circle of advisers - men who forgot the lessons of America's last great financial crisis, and condemned the rest of us to repeat it.

"Condemned" us to repeat it? Don't we have free will? Just because somebody doesn't prevent you from making bad (with 20/20 hindsight) decisions doesn't mean you have to make those bad decisions. You can make responsible choices.

But not everyone sees the world that way. Some people think we're all helpless victims.

Monday, June 22, 2009

History Repeats Itself

What's wrong with those nutty Iranian people? Don't they know we got rid of that "cowboy" George Bush and his nonsense about the "Axis of Evil"? Don't they know that under our new management, we realize that Iranian leaders love their children, too, and all we need is to sit down and talk? They'd better stop this protesting nonsense before someone gets hurt.

Can you imagine what would have happened if people in Eastern Europe had listened to that warmonger Ronald Reagan and rose up against their governments? Instead of accepting that they live in a workers' paradise of their own choosing? All hell might have broken loose in the Soviet bloc. Someone might have gotten hurt. Good thing left-wing American intellectuals knew better.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Boasting Infidel

President Obama wants to be everything to everyone. In his much-ballyhooed "Speech to the Muslim World," he pointed out that while he is not a Muslim, his father was a Muslim.

Is that something to brag about? By rejecting the faith of his father, isn't he disrespecting both his father and Islam? And doesn't that make him even more of an infidel than someone who had no family history of Islam?

Then it was on to Europe for D-Day commemorations. We heard that Obama has German ancestry. And that his (Caucasian) family members stormed the beaches on D-Day. That's great. It shows what a typical, mutt of an American he is, right? But wait a minute, I thought he was the "First Black President"? It's so bizarre, the way that most of the time he's unqualifiedly "black," but then all of a sudden we start talking about his European ancestry, and no one bats an eye. Very strange.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It Is "The Obama Administration"

I asked earlier whether the press would blame bad news on "the Obama administration," or pass it off on "the Treasury Department" or such.

Well, I've been hearing "the Obama administration" used quite a bit, the same way they attached any unflattering reports to "the Bush administration." So... no bias there after all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Blasphemous Conception?

According to this report, Apple has rejected a proposed application for the iPhone that would let people superimpose their own faces over images of religious figures, including Jesus. Now, you might expect me to say, "Sacrilege! That's outrageous! Good for you, Apple! Don't let those heretics get away with it."

But you know what? We don't have any photos of Jesus, do we? We don't even have a painted portrait. So any "image" of Jesus is just an artist's conception. If I put my face on that artist's conception, we don't have my face superimposed on Jesus body, we just have me dressed and tressed as I might have been if I have lived in the Holy Land 2000 years ago. "Hey, look! It's Dave with long hair and a beard, wearing a robe and sandals!"

I suspect Apple's real fear is that they'll offend someone other than Christians.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Crisis: The Earth Might NOT Be Warming!

After years of being told that the Earth is warming, which will cause great damage, melting ice caps, drowning polar bears, flooding coastal cities, starving people, etc., now it seems that a decrease in solar activity could counteract the alleged effects of CO2 emissions. Temperatures might not rise after all. Maybe the Earth will even get cooler.

This is the same type of sun cycle blamed for the Little Ice Age that cursed Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.

So that's good news, right?

Depends on whom you ask.

If the effect is to cool the Earth, as in the so-called Maunder Minimum, the Little Ice Age that ran from 1645 to 1715, some scientists worry it would mask the effects of global warming caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases.

"The problem is if the sun is, indeed, going into a minimum, which we don't know yet, people will think that we don't have to act on climate change," said Angela Speck, an astrophysicist at the University of Missouri. "The sun came back out of that minimum in the 18th century" - when the River Thames turned to ice - "and it will come back out of this."

"I'm inclined to think the effects are real," said Adrian Melott [a University of Kansas] astrophysicist. "But the evidence is nowhere as solid as it is for the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere" and climate change.

"My worry," he said, "is that it will lower temperatures and cause people to think it's OK to burn all that coal and oil."

One thing I've liked to write about over the years is examples of how those on the right and those on the left share a thought process, albeit over different issues. The thinking being demonstrated here reminds me of how some social conservatives reacted to the HPV vaccine that can now be given to girls. In that case, some critics said that giving this vaccine to girls (medical experts say it must be administered to minors to be effective) is tantamount to saying, "We expect you to start having sex any day now, so you might as well be protected. Now go and enjoy yourself!" The critics said girls should be told that they shouldn't be having sex outside of marriage, and the risk of contracting the HPV virus -- which can lead to cervical cancer -- is a good reason to remain chaste.

(A question that raises is, how would those on the left respond to an anti-tobacco vaccine that could be given to kids? Would they object because now kids would be more likely to smoke once they couldn't be threatened with tobacco-caused death?)

Better yet, there are those who think we shouldn't distribute condoms or try to find a cure for AIDS, because the threat of AIDS should serve as a reason for people not to participate in unapproved behaviors.

But if someone takes that stand, what do we call that person? Hateful. Homophobic. A zealot.

What then of someone who says they WANT the Earth to warm, and the polar bears drown, because that will serve as a warning to evil humans to repent and stop driving SUVs? What do we call that person?

A scientist.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Will it be "House Democrats"?

Maybe I could have been more specific in explaining my point in the previous post. What I was saying was that it seemed that it would always be "The Bush Administration today announced rising unemployment" or "The Bush Administration today announced record mortgage foreclosures." Will it be the same way now? Or will it suddenly be "the Labor Department" and "the Commerce Department"?

This goes for Congress, too. When we had Republican majorities in Washington, I noticed a lot of news reports that went like this: "Republicans today voted to..." whenever the reporter seemed to think the bill was a bad thing. Will we now get "Senate Democrats today voted to raise your taxes"? Or will we get "The Senate today passed a tax increase"?

Let's watch, listen, and find out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Not "the Obama Administration"?

There are some things I've been planning to keep an eye since we have changed presidents. One, as I reported on earlier, was to see whether the new president was referred to by newspeople as "Mr. Obama." I had noticed in recent years the tendency of reporters to say "Mr. Bush" rather than "President Bush," and I wondered if that was intended as a "he's not my president" message.

It turns out that I do hear reporters saying "Mr. Obama" in reference to the new president, so my suspicions were likely unwarranted.

But this Air Force One "photo op" fiasco over Manhattan that took place Monday offers an opportunity to test another one of my questions about how news coverage might change with a new president. Did you notice how this flap in New York was clearly blamed on "the Defense Department"? Even president Obama was able to express his shock and displeasure at the Defense Department for screwing up.

But what if this had happened while Bush was president. Don't you think he would have gotten the blame? After all, as president, he's in charge of all those federal departments. And if he had said he didn't know it was going to happen, that wouldn't have absolved him of blame. No, he would have been blamed for NOT knowing about it!

Getting around to my point, what I intend to watch for is the way that it seemed any bad news released by, or unpopular decision made by, a federal agency during the Bush years was always blamed on "the Bush administration." Rather than hearing that "the Treasury Department" or "the Commerce Department" had reported some bad economic news, it was always "the Bush administration." It seemed no chance was missed to attach Bush's name to anything negative.

Yet what about Monday's news? Read the news reports. It's not "the Obama administration" that gets the blame, is it? No, quite to the contrary. The evil "Defense Department" is to blame, and Obama gets to be just as ticked off at them as the rest of us.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Let's Keep Torture Safe, Legal, and Rare

In his "Best of the Web Today" on Friday, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto wrote:

In yesterday's item on talk of prosecuting former government officials for supposedly authorizing "torture," we quoted a blogger who despaired of the existence of "a substantial minority of crazy people" who, according to said blogger, stand in the way of "an anti-torture consensus." A new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press sheds some interesting light on public opinion about this matter.

Pew asked, and has asked several times over the past year-and-a-half, which word best completes the sentence: "Torture to gain important information from terrorist suspects is justified ___." The most recent results, which are essentially in line with earlier surveys: "often," 15%; "sometimes," 34%; "rarely," 22%; "never," 25%; "don't know," 4%.

One way of looking at this is that it is the so-called antitorture consensus that is "crazy," at least in the sense of being far out of step with public opinion. Only 1 in 4 Americans thinks that torture is never justified; fully 71% think that there are cases in which it is.

But it's just as accurate to say that at least 81% of those polled think that torture is wrong. True, the majority of those see it as justified in certain cases, but this is what is meant by "the exception that proves the rule." Were it not wrong, it would not need to be justified.

I can't be the first person to think of this, but reading about the "torture consensus," it occurred to me that much the same thing can be said about the "consensus" on abortion: a majority may want to keep abortion legal and available as an option, but a majority also doesn't "like" abortion, and wants it to be rare. Think also of how, just as Taranto describes about torture, people find the need to "justify" abortion when it does take place -- incest, rape, economic hardship, etc., not just for "convenience." Just as Taranto describes in his analysis of the torture poll numbers, it's the exception that proves the rule.

So why aren't the "pro-choice" people on the left also "pro-choice" when it comes to torture?

And wouldn't it seem that anyone who holds that torture is ALWAYS wrong -- the ends never justifies the means -- would also hold that abortion is always wrong, no matter how inconvenient the pregnancy might be?

People: Human beings, yes. Sentient beings, for the most part. But rational beings? No.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


If you've been reading me for a while, you will have noticed that I'm not one of those policy wonks who likes to spout a lot of numbers and statistics and details. Rather, I like to examine larger themes -- truisms, trends and connections in my observations of human nature, history and current events.

A couple of things jumped out at me in Pioneer Press news stories recently. This is an excerpt from a story about the idea of the state of Minnesota imposing sales tax on music downloads:

[Tax opponent Peter] Lindstrom [of the Minnesota High Tech Association] also contends a digital tax would undermine Minnesota's efforts to create a more energy-efficient economy.

"The environmental impact of sending zeros and ones up to a satellite and down to your iPhone is minimal," he said. "The environmental impact of making a CD, its plastic container and plastic wrapper and transporting it to the store is far greater than digital downloads.

"Encouraging digital downloads is much more green."

Okay, one question: How does he think that satellite got into orbit? A not insignificant amount of material and energy went into putting that satellite into orbit.

I'm not saying he's wrong (nor am I saying he's right), but the point here is that this is an example of how we only bother to enter "the devil we know" into the equation. If CD packaging and freight transportion are bad, then any alternative that does not include them must be better, right? But we totally ignore new factors that accompany the new product or procedure that we are adopting.

It's like margarine: Margarine was supposed to be better for us than butter. Why? Because it didn't have butter fat in it! Well, of course it didn't. But after several decades, we discovered it was loaded with something called "trans fat," which was actually worse for our health than butterfat. Why didn't we realize that decades ago? Because no one was looking for trans fat; we were just looking for something that wasn't butter.

There are many, many examples of this. We're always replacing something with something else that evenually we decide isn't so good after all. Babies bring us some good examples: Baby formula. Disposable diapers, what position the baby sleeps in. Then there are all those wonderful building products containing lead, asbestos or formeldahyde.

Second item: "Columbine taught police to shoot first."

That's the headline on a story that says the Columbine school shooting challenged everything that law enforcement officers had been taught about such situations. The common wisdom was to be patient, wait for the SWAT team. Then the SWAT team would take its time, methodically sweeping the building. But what happened in the meantime? More people were slaughtered.

So now we have the "active shooter" theory, which holds that when someone is actively killing people, the first order of business should be to stop (kill) the killer.

Almost seems like common sense, doesn't it?

The link here is to present-day terrorists and pirates. Do patience and negotiation work with such killers? Or do we need new tactics? "Active-shooter" tactics that mean shoot first, ask questions later?

Does President Obama recognize that we have a "new kind of enemy"? Maybe he does -- now. This is from a Wall Street Journal piece on "Obama's Gitmo," a detention camp in Afghanistan defended by the new Prez, which seems an awfully lot like the camp at Guantanamo Bay:

In an impassioned 2006 speech on the Senate floor on the right to habeas corpus, Mr. Obama declared, "I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy." During the campaign, his language implied that all we needed to settle the detainee issue once and for all was to shut down Gitmo.

As president, he is finding out that this very much is a new world, that we do face a new enemy, and that the problems posed by Guantanamo have less to do with the place than the people we detain there.

Welcome to the real world, Mr. Obama.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama, We Hardly Knew Ya

Wanting to preserve the memory of former president Barack Obama, a parents group in St. Paul is pushing to have an elementary school renamed in honor of the late Commander-in-Chief.

What's that? He's not quite dead yet? He's only been president for three months?

Nonetheless, here it is in the Pioneer Press. Parents at Webster Elementary want to rename the school the "Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary."

That's a really bad idea.

This isn't a partisan issue. It doesn't matter who the individual is, the St. Paul School District should not name anything after a "practicing" politician who, presumably, is not done running for election. Doing so implies an endorsement by the district. In time, I expect many schools across the nation will be named after Obama, but that should occur only after he has completed his time as president. Besides, he should be given a full 4 or 8 years to earn the honor without so totally fouling things up that no one wants to honor him anymore. The record's pretty short, so far. After all, did we start naming schools after President Bush when he was so popular on Sept. 12, 2001?

How would it look if the precinct caucuses -- or worse yet, the general election! -- were to be held at an "Obama" school in 2012? Can you imagine? "Your polling place is.... OBAMA ELEMENTARY." We'd have to have a Pawlenty Elementary (try saying that three times fast) just to even things out!

Naming a public school after a sitting president? Sounds like something a tin horn dictator would do in a banana republic.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The New President Bush

Everything President Bush did was wrong. Obama would be completely different. Obama would end the war. Obama would make sure the rest of the world didn't hate us anymore.

That's what we were told. But now that Obama is president, it seems that maybe the only thing Bush did wrong was to be Bush. The great Obama is now acting like Bush. Oh, sure, sometimes he changes the names of things and pretends it's now different, but he seems to be able to continue Bush policies without getting the same criticism. Here are a couple of examples:

Taliban vow frequent attacks

ISLAMABAD - A suicide bombing at a crowded Shiite mosque south of Pakistan's capital killed 22 people Sunday. A group believed linked to the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. The violence came as a senior Pakistani Taliban commander said his group was behind a deadly suicide bombing Saturday night in Islamabad and promised two more attacks per week if the U.S. does not stop missile strikes on Pakistani territory.

Earlier, I had read where a Taliban leader was threatening a large attack in the U.S., in retatilation for Obama's attacks on Pakistani territory.

Where are the people to say, "Obama is making the world hate us! He's making us less safe with his illegal war in Pakistan!"?

Then there's this one:

Obama gave his most unequivocal pledge yet to proceed with building a missile defense system in Europe, so long as Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. That shield is to be based in the Czech Republic and Poland. Those countries are on Russia's doorstep, and the shield has contributed to a souring of U.S.-Russia relations.

Obama previously had appeared to soft-pedal his support for the Bush-era shield proposal. But he adopted a different tone in Prague.

"As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven," Obama said.

Run against Bush; govern as Bush. Maybe Obama really is a genius! It seems the only thing wrong with Bush's policies is that they were Bush's policies.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The "Gateway" Candy

A group of youths here in St. Paul are asking the city council to ban candy cigarettes. Apparently, they think that candy cigarettes are a "gateway drug" to the real thing! (With that in mind, wouldn't it be interesting to find out whether some of the would-be banners ­ students or council members -- support the legalization of marijuana, perhaps arguing that pot ISN'T a "gateway drug"?)

Here's the story, as told by the Pioneer Press.

I think it's fine if a store decides not to sell candy cigarettes. And I think it would be great if the kids decided they would conduct an awareness campaign, and ask stores not to sell candy cigarettes. That would be a good learning experience for them.

But this running to the government to immediately ban something you don't approve of. Isn't that rather INTOLERANT? Aren't students usually the ones complaining when someone wants to protect them from themselves, and arguing that they have the right to make their own "choices" and learn from them? Don't they usually say that education and MORE tolerance on behalf of others are needed?

And the way they play the victim! "We're tired of being targeted." Well, if you know you're being targeted, then just ignore it. You're wise to the game, so what's the problem?

What other things could we ban so that kids don't grow up to do something harmful? Let's ban temporary tattoos so kids don't grow up to get real tattoos, look like thugs, and find themselves unable to gain employment. Let's ban video games in which kids steal, harm other people, or drive their cars recklessly. We don't want them to grow up to do those things for real. Ban toy cars, too, for good measure. You ever see how recklessly kids play with those? They don't even stop for Barbie when she's in the crosswalk! If we wanted to ban everything that's a bad influence on kids there goes Hollywood, TV, popular music, and on and on. (Not to mention the entire Internet.)

And don't you just love how the council backed away from the idea of banning tobacco ­ which actually kills people? Politicians just love a straw man ­ they'll take on candy cigarettes because they don't see any downside. But actually take action that would have consequences? They're scared to do that. And I'm sure a lot higher percentage of the population uses real cigarettes than uses candy cigarettes. The smaller the group, the easier to pick on it. But the less good you accomplish.

Council member Dave Thune says "Maybe we'll just reach a point where no one will smoke. We'll all be better off in a smoke-free society." With that laissez faire mentality, then why has Thune previously found it necessary to push smoking bans through the council?

And what lighters would we ban? Is a lighter with a Harley-Davidson logo on it a "toy"? How about those i-Phone apps that let you put an image of a lighter on the phone to use during rock concerts? Isn't that teaching kids that a lighter is a toy? That there is no danger to a lighter? That a flame is just a picture you look at?

Where does it end?!

I know it's just candy cigarettes ­ who really cares, right? But aren't there principles involved?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Peaceful Place

Driving by, I noticed that Planned Parenthood in St. Paul sports one of those "no guns allowed on these premises" signs. We certainly wouldn't want any blood to be shed at the abortion clinic, would we?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Body Counts

What's the total of U.S. military personnel killed in six years in Iraq? For a long time we were always hearing the updated daily count, but now we don't. It's more than 4,000 killed, isn't it? Maybe nearly 5,000?

That's a lot of good Americans who have died for their country. Please don't think I am trying to minimize the magnitude of their sacrifice.

But recently I read something that, when compared to the body count in Iraq, really blew me away. According to the New York Times, since January of last year -- that's little more than a year -- 7,000 people have died in Mexico from drug-related violence. Most of those are people connected to the drug trade and drug cartels, or the law enforcement people trying to stop them.

And it's starting to come across the border.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For

Doesn't it seem like just last year that people were complaining about the "lack of affordable housing"? And about "the growing gap between the rich and the poor"?

Wait, I think it was just last year.

Now, houses are more affordable. But the complaint now is that the government should have done something to keep the housing bubble from bursting. And the gap between the rich and the poor? it's been shrinking. That's because the economic bust has hit the rich the hardest. Don't believe me? Read this story from the Pioneer Press about Minnesota's billionaires. Members of the Cargill family, for instance, are estimated to have lost 48 percent of their wealth in the last 6 months. I'm now about $1.3 billion closer to being a Cargill than I was 6 months ago! The gap is closing.

So this recession must be good thing, right? No, of course not.

But just as I don't benefit from a Cargill losing $1.3 billion, I didn't really suffer either when their wealth was growing. But a lot of people don't understand that. They suffer from two character flaws: They are jealous of others, and they want something for nothing. How do you get something for nothing? By taking from "the rich" and giving to "the rest of us." But how are you going to do that if you don't have any "rich," because you've been trying to make everyone the same?

The truth is, when the economy booms, we all benefit. Some of "the rich" benefit a lot more than the rest of us. But they also have a lot farther to fall when things go bad.

And was it ever realistic to think that we'd all get rich just by buying houses and letting their worth skyrocket forever? Of course not. But that didn't mean we didn't delude ourselves as long as we could.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Lack of Interest, or It's the Principal of the Thing

Minnesota has a new program that helps Muslims buy houses without paying interest. This is necessary, because Islamic law prohibits the charging or paying of interest.

How does this work? Let's say the state wants to help someone buy a $100,000 house. The state marks up the price it charges the Muslim Minnesotan by the amount of a lifetime of interest charges, let's say another $100,000. So the state sells the $100,000 house for $200,000, and works up a "no interest, principal only" payment schedule based on the $200,000 price.

Voila! No interest is charged or paid! (Read the story in the Pioneer Press.)

That's ridiculous. Of course interest is being paid. It's just not being called interest. The homeowner is paying back more than the value he received up front. That's interest -- a surcharge for getting something now and paying for it later. It may not meet the IRS definition of home interest, but I don't think Islamic Law is based on the U.S. tax code.

If this is really a "no interest" loan, what else could we get away with? Hmmm. There's a law against prostitution. A woman may not sell sex, but she may give it away. How about if women working the streets stopped charging for sex? They could maybe sell flowers on the street corner, instead. And if with every $100 carnation they sold, they wanted to throw in a little "thank you" for the flower-buying customer, what would be wrong with that?

But the judge wouldn't buy it, would he? Because it would be clear that you weren't really paying $100 for a flower; you were paying extra for the flower to get around paying for the something extra. How is it different with this "no interest" mortgage? You're paying extra for the house to avoid paying for the interest.

Seems like the same "principal" to me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Surrender Gardens for a Defeatist America?

We had Victory Gardens during WWII. Isn't that something? People wanted victory. They expected victory. I recently saw a WWII-era SPAM ad that said "Save your keys or use a can opener; no more keys for the duration." (Remember when the SPAM can came with a little "key" you detached and used to roll up a strip of metal around the can, thus opening it?) Every little bit helps, so metal would be saved by not putting a key on each can. But most notable is that phrase "for the duration." People expected to fight and sacrifice until the war was over. And how would we know when it was over? When we had won.

I'm getting pretty far afield now; I was talking about gardens. A story in the Pioneer Press yesterday (and make sure you read the comments section that follows) said that the number of people planting their own vegetable gardens is up. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think there are a lot of overblown reactions and exaggerated claims made here. People think it will be so easy to grow vegetables. And they'll save so much money. Pretty naive, I'd say. The reason we don't all grow our own vegetables is that food is not expensive. Paying someone else to grow your food makes it cheap and easy. If people want to grow vegetables, it doesn't hurt me; I'm not saying they shouldn't. I just think it's amusing how so many people have to work their own political ideology into everything. Did you catch that bit about "cultural baggage"?

Some years ago I observed yet another corn field turned into a housing development complete with giant yards. I got to wondering, would we someday turn so much farmland into residential lawns that we'd run short of food and people would plow up their huge yards just to grow something to survive? it hasn't come to that, but this story makes me think of it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Talk Radio Gulag

Have you been following this story about how the national Democrats have decided to target Rush Limbaugh as the head of the Republican Party? I think this is bizarre. The Democrats own the White House. The Senate. The House of Representatives. Most of the state houses. So now they are going after a radio entertainer? I think it makes the Dems look small. They've won, but that doesn't seem to be good enough for them. They still need someone to pick on. And that's what it seems like, that they are making sport of bullying someone -- just because that's what they like to do. I know, Rush is a big boy, he can take care of himself. And if he's going to dish it out, then he's going to have to take it. It isn't my purpose to defend him. But in this story, whacko James Carville and other Dems seem gleeful about this new opportunity to gang up and attack the unpopular kid in school. And note that that is why they are attacking him -- they found a lot of the other kids already don't like him, so they'll try to make themselves more popular by picking on him. Talk about grade school!

Now Limbaugh has responded by asking for a one-on-one debate with Obama. If the Dems want to elevate his status, he's going to take advantage of it. He also has equated the White House's obsession with him to Nixon's "enemies list." I think it's making the Obama administration look silly.

Or worse.

Before the election, someone remarked to me that he had heard a lot of Marxist ideology coming from Obama. I thought that might be overreacting. But now we're six months in and we've got "redistribution" and talk of nationalization of banks, under pretty much one-party rule. Look back over the past century. What does a Marxist one-party state do once it has vanquished its formal political opponents? It seeks to silence any others who might speak out against it and encourage dissent: Academics. Writers. Artists. Talk show hosts?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't Try to Make a Monkey Out of Me

As I told you before, there are some things I intend to be watching now that we have a new man/party in the White House. I want to see whether the news media give equal treatment or not. As I reported before, one question was answered when I heard the new prez being referred to as "Mr. Obama." I had wondered whether the frequent references to "Mr. Bush" instead of "President Bush" were a subtle "He's not my president" message. I guess not.

Another question I had was whether any editorial cartoonists would depict the new prez as an ape, after eight years of drawing Bush as a monkey. (He has the ears for it.) My thinking was that no one would dare.

Then, last week, along came the Al Sharpton blow-up over the dead chimp cartoon to answer the question.

Or did it answer the question? After all, the cartoon shows a chimp, not the president with chimp-like features.

I'm not sure what to make of that cartoon. We can argue all we want whether the cartoonist intended to equate the prez with an ape, but the truth is, I'll never be able to know what my gut reaction to it would have been. That's because before I ever saw it, I had read about it -- and about what other people were saying about it. I'm sure it's the same way for most of us. The real test would be for me to open up the paper and see it without any previous knowledge of it, then see what my reaction was. But it's too late for that.

But here's my ruling: The dead ape is not the president. The artist is depicting the much-reported crazed chimp that was shot by police last week. The artist is saying that it would take a crazed chimp to come up with the bailout bill that Congress passed last week. That's what's going on here, in my opinion. (But, like I said, the real test would be my unprepared gut reaction, not a reasoned analysis.)

Some people say that, yes, President Bush was depicted as a monkey, but it's different with a (half) Kenyan-American president. That's because there is a history of slurring black people with monkey references.

Nice of them to remind everyone of that, here in Obama's post-racial America. But doesn't it seem like the people who want to focus on that are simply perpetuating a hateful stereotype? Teaching it to another generation?

True equality means treating everyone the same. Everyone gets the same respect -- or lack of respect, as the case may be. If we're going to have different rules based on the color of people's skin, we don't have equality. Just as we can't have single out one group for ridicule, neither can we say one group may not be ridiculed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tuvok Obama

Way back during campaign season, I kept hearing how Barack Obama was so cool under pressure, unflappable, he didn't get overly emotional. Plus, he was so darn smart and logical. And it occurred to me, maybe Obama was a Vulcan! He also has that whole "unique individual torn between two worlds" thing going, just like Mr. Spock, the half human, half vulcan hybrid.

But more recently, I realized that a more appropriate comparison might be to the universe's first African-American Vulcan, Tuvok, from "Star Trek Voyager." And when I did a photo search for Tuvok to check on the resemblance, I discovered that many others had had the same idea. Here's a sample "separated at birth" comparison that I found.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Euro-vangelists

Some people amongst us are obsessed with the idea that we need to be more like Europe. Now, there's nothing wrong with looking around -- whether it be next door, in another state or across the ocean -- for good ideas. But some self-described "progressive" types simply seem obsessed with the very idea of being more European. If it's how they do it in Europe, they think, then it must be better.

For a recent example, here's a Pioneer Press story about some people who want a "natural" swimming pool built in Como Park. This is described as a non-chlorinated body of water more like a man-made lake than a conventional swimming pool.

That might be a great idea -- I don't know. But what really jumps out at me in the story is the yearning to be more like European. It's almost evangelical. Here's an excerpt:

Claudia Daly, a member of the Como Park Alliance and a neighbor to the pool, said she hopes the city takes a thoughtful, long-term approach to the project.

"I think whoever designs it can't just look at the plot of ground they're designing for. They have to look at the larger community. It's a pool within a park within a neighborhood," Daly said. "I have a feeling if the city will go a few steps further and just open their hearts and minds to this, they'll understand what a glorious opportunity it is."

Notice that with the pool issue -- and this is typical -- we are told, rather generically, that this is how they do it Europe. That's the real tip-off that you are dealing with Euro-vangelists. We never seem to get specific information, along the likes of, say, "The city of Paris built such a pool in 1999 and it has worked very well. Some problems they have overcome include...." No, that would be actual empirical evidence. To the Euro-vangelists, taking our cue from Europe isn't a means to an end, it's the end in itself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Leftist Theocracy

I've written previously about how the Left likes to cry out, "Separation of church and state!" and "You can't legislate morality." Of course, they say that because they reserve legislating morality for themselves. Here's another example, from a Pioneer Press story about the Minnesota state budget:

Kicking off four days of testimony on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed health and human services budget, religious leaders argued Wednesday that the way the state spends money is much more than a financial issue.

"It's the shape of our lives together in this state that's at stake," said the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "A budget is fundamentally a moral document."

I see. A budget is a "moral document," and we should look to religious higher-ups to tell us what it should be.

Just look at that, would you? It's quite simple. That's the Left telling us that religious leaders should advise the government on how to impose morality.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Truth Is in the Funny Papers

This simple cartoon really got my train of thought chugging away. I thought, "What's more important than raising children properly?" And I thought, "If more people did a proper job of raising their children, we wouldn't have a lot of the problems that people think they need to go out and 'fight' against."

Then I had a sort of epiphany. I realized here was another one of those things that just doesn't make any sense. We have a lot of people (especially in the state legislature) who are always telling us that we must "invest" in our children, that a dollar spent on a preschool programs will more than pay for itself down the road in reduced prison costs.

Yet, these "progressive" types so intent on "investing" tax money in children tend to be the same people who don't think a woman should be "just" a mother -- she should be a lawyer or a businesswoman or a scientist... or a legislator.

Don't they know that "investing" begins at home?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Meet the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss

I love the way those old saying just continue to fit new developments.

"Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins."

"If you think it's so easy, you try it."

"The view is a lot different from the inside."

I saw just a bit of President Obama's news conference Monday night, but something jumped out at me: He sounded like president Bush!

When asked about a timetable for getting out of Afghanistan, he distanced himself from that, saying he wouldn't give one. (Not only that, but he is planning a "surge" for Afghanistan!) He vowed to give no quarter to Al Quaida. And asked about the policy of not allowing photography of the caskets of war dead, he replied that the policy was being reviewed but no immediate changes were planned.

Many Bush critics/Obama supporters believed that, simply put, EVERYTHING Bush did was wrong. If he did it, it was wrong. It was that simple in their minds. So they assumed that when Obama took over and brought change, well, EVERYTHING would change!

I think that Obama, to his credit, knows that many of the policies of the Bush administration were correct policies, so he will continue them when warranted. Of course he didn't let on that he knew that when he was campaigning against Bush (Whom, a lot of people need to be reminded, wasn't up for re-election.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Obama the Fashion Model

I love this story. It says President Obama is a role model who might be able to get young men to pull up their pants.

I haven't really bought into all the excitement about the "first black president." After all, his mother was white, and his father was sort of a visiting Kenyan sperm donor. And I don't really get the "Today, anything is possible!" sentiment. After all, as some have said, Colin Powell could have been elected eight years ago had he decided to run. But since so many do feel that way, I'm really hoping that President Obama can serve as an example and an inspiration to African-Americans. And, specifically, I hope he can serve as a positive role model to young black men. I'm hoping that he can show that dressing well, speaking well, getting an education, following the rules -- those things are not "acting white," but are a basic part of succeeding as an American.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Original Bringer of Hope

It's been mentioned often that President Obama sometimes borrows from the style and rhetoric of former President Ronald Reagan. But what I've never seen explicitly expressed is this: What was it that Reagan offered a dispirited nation? Hope. Hope... and change.


I was shopping for greeting cards today. I saw a card that had many photos of former President George W. Bush, paired with photos of chimpanzees. Evidently, we were supposed to see a resemblance.

Do you think the greeting card company will be updating that card to similarly "honor" the new president? I think we both know the answer to that question, no matter how prominent the presidential ears may be.

So I ask you this: If there are some ways in which it is acceptable to mock a white man, but you mustn't make fun of a black man (or a mixed race man) in the same way, then are there also some corresponding ways in which you may make fun of a black man, but you may not mock a white man?

I can't think of any.

Friday, January 23, 2009

America: Just Another Banana in the Bunch?

We used to look at other nations -- banana republics, tin horn dictatorships, warring middle-eastern states -- and ask, "What's wrong with those people? Why can't they be more like us." But lately, I fear our own nation is devolving to become more like them.

That's why I find this local news story (from Richard Chin of the Pioneer Press) so disturbing. It tells of a public inauguration viewing party held at a movie theater. Here are some excerpts:

Once inside, the largely partisan crowd - many wearing Obama T-shirts and buttons - responded to the coverage like it was an old-fashioned melodrama.

They cheered when their heroes such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale appeared on the screen and hissed and booed when the cameras turned to their favorite villain, outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney.

No one threw a shoe, but the face of the outgoing vice president on the screen prompted the crowd to break into a chorus of "Nah, nah, nah, nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah. Hey, hey, hey, goodbye."


When evangelist Rick Warren delivered the invocation, dozens in the audience stood up and turned their backs in protest of Warren's opposition to gay marriage.

There were cheers when the camera showed moving vans taking the Bush family's possessions from the White House.

The people described here behaved very badly, in my opinion. They acted very disrespectfully, from at least three different perspectives.

First, and most obviously, they acted disrespectfully toward President George W. Bush. But that's the least of my concerns. In the big picture, a few hundred people in Minneapolis jeering one man, even if he is an outgoing president of the United States, maybe doesn't amount to much. (I could make a point about a lack of respect for the Office of the Presidency, but I think that battle was already lost years ago.)

Second, this crowd showed a lack of respect for the system -- the Constitution. Did they not notice that there were no opposing mobs jeering Obama? Did they not notice that there were no Bush partisans -- armed or otherwise -- putting up resistance, demanding that Bush remain in office? That's not the way we do things. Once again, we had a peaceful transition. President Bush had served out the two terms to which he was elected, and he was a willing participant in handing over the Office of the President to Mr. Obama, who had won an election fair and square. There is no role in this for mobs. That's not how we decide things.

Third, and perhaps most important in a city where the bumper stickers proclaim "Think Globally; Act Locally," this crowd showed a lack of respect for their fellow citizens. What about diversity? What about tolerance? Clearly, they either assumed that everyone there thought just like them, or they didn't care what someone else thought, as long as they themselves were in a large enough, vocal enough mob to dominant the place and intimidate anyone who thought differently into remaining silent -- or away.

You might say, "Dave, you should have expected this. Anyone who didn't want to be a part of this didn't have to go." That's right. I was aware of this event, and I did expect it to attract a partisan crowd. That's one reason why I wouldn't have attended even if I had been able to.

But here's the problem. You could say the same thing about a lot of public events/gatherings/places. I mean, you could say to someone, "What did you expect? Didn't you know that someone of your (fill in any ethnic/preference/gender/etc. group) wouldn't be welcome and comfortable (pick one or fill in your own: at that lunch counter; in that neighborhood; in that profession; riding public transit)? You should have just stuck with your own kind and there wouldn't have been any trouble."

And that's particularly ironic when it coincides with this inauguration.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mr. Obama

During the Bush years, I told myself that when a Democrat next occupied the White House, I would be sure to pay attention to some specific examples to see if he (or she) was being treated the same way that Bush was treated. One of those examples was that for several years I've noted news people repeatedly referring to the president as "Mr. Bush," instead of "President Bush." I wondered if this was the reporters' way of indicating that "He's not my president."

Well, this very morning -- the very morning after the inauguration/coronation/royal wedding -- I already heard a reporter on the ABC Radio network refer to "Mr. Obama." He's the same reporter I wondered about when he said "Mr. Bush."

I guess maybe that wasn't a dig at Bush, after all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Betting on the Losers

There's a lot of talk about investing bail-out money in losers -- failing banks, failing auto companies, failing homeowners -- who have already demonstrated their knack for making poor financial decisions. Wouldn't it make more sense to give billions of dollars to individuals and companies that have shown their financial acumen by NOT needing a bail-out? Let those successful decision-makers put the money to good use and see what benefits might result for the nation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Iraq: "The Good War"

For years, opponents of the Bush administration have told us that Iraq is "the wrong war." It's a "quagmire," they say. It's "another Vietnam."

Meanwhile, to cover their backsides and not appear "soft" on terrorism, they've said, "Of course I support the war in Afghanistan."

Well, folks, get ready for things to change.

The war in Iraq finally appears to have an end in sight. Meanwhile, the situation is deteriorating in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have regained territory and control, and there is no way to control the border with Pakistan.

If you want "another Vietnam," just look at Afghanistan. In fact, didn't we used to refer to it as "Russia's Vietnam" after the Soviets spent a decade there to no effect? No one has ever been able to control Afghanistan peacefully. Yet, the incoming administration had pledged to send more Americans there to fight. Is there a plan for "victory" in Afghanistan?

A prediction: Someday, we will look back on Iraq as the successful war; Afghanistan will be remembered as "another Vietnam."

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Grass Is Always Greener While the Pendulum Swings

"The grass is always greener..." and "the pendulum swings both ways" are two old sayings that come to mind with this post. Here's a story about gym classes "just for girls." It's the hottest thing since gender equity.

"You can really teach them things that are appropriate just for them," [teacher Bridgette] Andrews said.

Girls - who rarely registered for elective gym before - suddenly felt comfortable talking about nutrition, their lack of exercise and eating disorders. Boys found the freedom to play harder, be more competitive and discuss health topics related to them, Andrews said.

Separate but equal? Or, separate... but equal to more than the sum of its parts?

I remember the good old days when separating the sexes was considered inherently "discriminatory." That followed the goode olde days when the sexes were usually separated just because "that's the way nature intended it."

So what gives now?

This is dangerous territory for a man, but what's going on inside the heads of women, whether "feminists" or not?

My only explanation is that women want to be the ones (and the only ones with this prerogative) to decide whether or not they will be separated from the men. They may not actually want to do everything with the men, but they don't want anyone telling them that they can't.

I'd connect this to the color pink. Remember when "girl stuff" was pink? Then, the feminists rebelled against it, saying women shouldn't be assigned some color that made them look weak.

Now, I see that pink is fashionable again, but in some new applications. Not just pink clothes or pink lunch boxes or pink streamers on bicycle handlebars. Now women can get pink hand tools, or pink guns.

I guess women do inherently like pink, but they want it to be their own choice. And who am I to argue with a woman who might be wielding a pink hammer or a pink deer rifle?

Monday, January 12, 2009

So Much for Change

Obama said last week that he thinks we should delay the digital TV transition. How's that for irony? You'd think he would be the last person to say that Americans aren't ready for change.

And what would be the effect on the economy? For example, while I'm not planning on getting a new digital TV right now (I'll get by with a converter box), I do plan to buy a new DVD recorder with a digital tuner, so that I can timeshift programs I'm not able to watch at broadcast time. But if the switch is delayed, my purchase will be, also. That's $300 Best Buy won't be getting. With the awful holiday shopping season retailers have suffered through, do they really need that?

There's a disconnect here. His words are all about "change" and "economic stimulus," but his actions speak otherwise.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Devouring Their Own

I've been suprised at how quickly Washington Democrats have started fighting amongst themselves, and that Congressional Democrats are already starting turf wars with Obama. The pre-election campfire sing-along is over.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's the nature of politics, and human nature. (And it could just as well be Republicans.) Everyone played nice while they were united against a common enemy at election time, but now that the Dems have won that battle,they are turning their sights on each other.

They think they don't have to worry about Republicans anymore. They're cocky. But what goes around comes around. The pendulum always swings back eventually.

Friday, January 2, 2009

I Made the List

I made the annual banished word list put out by Lake Superior State University with my submission "not so much." (Used when a simple "no" would do.)

Last year I never got around to making my submission, so when the list came out, all I could do was stare at my yellow Post-Note on the wall behind my monitor, on which I had scribbled the banished word "surge."

I've made the list at least twice previously, earning banishment for the TV news cliches "is dead tonight" (1998) and "shallow grave." (1992)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New York Times Reporters Who Forget What the New York Times Has Reported in the Past Are Condemned...

It's Bush's fault. Everything. He's so powerful, he even causes hurricanes.

And his powers aren't limited to the U.S. Banks have collapsed in Iceland. European car makers appear headed for bailouts. My relatives in England refer to people being glad to have a job in their Christmas letter.

And it's all Bush's fault.

For some time, I've sensed that all this Bush-blaming hints at schoolyard bullying. As more people bully the unpopular kid, others see "everyone else is doing it" and join in. Even the popular kids are doing it -- and are becoming more popular. No one is getting into trouble. Everyone becomes very brave and picks on the unpopular kid. "Bush has cooties!" No, but everything is Bush's fault.

Now look at this from the New York Times. According to this story, Bush is responsible for the mortgage crisis. Why? Because his policies encouraged minorities to become homeowners. Here's an excerpt:

But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush's own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent - and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Got that? It's Bush's fault, because he wanted more diversity in home ownership. Now, consider this story, also from the New York Times, that ran September 30, 1999 -- during the Clinton administration. Here's an excerpt:

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's. ...

Would it be too much to expect New York Times reporters to at least know some of the background information that has appeared in their own paper? Claiming that Bush "started it" is ridiculous. Their own paper told us nine years ago that Clinton was "starting it" then!

Now, let's look at a cute little graph that accompanies the recent story. It shows, according to the Times, that home ownership rates "hit historic highs" during the Bush administration, before dropping to about where they were when he took office. But let's look at more than just 2001-2008. The upward slope of that line is remarkably consistent ever since it started moving upward in about 1994. No spike is apparent during the Bush years. What the graph shows is that during Bush's first term, the existing trend in increasing home ownership continued along the same path it had already been on for about six years.There's no sign that anything changed during the Bush years.

In fact, if a story about this had been written a few years ago, when increasing home ownership was still seen as a good thing, the New York Times' graph would have been used as evidence that Bush didn't deserve any credit. I have no doubt that these same Times reporters would have "interpreted" the graph to show that Clinton deserved the credit for getting the ball rolling, and Bush merely inherited Clinton's miraculous policies.

This is professional reporting? For a newspaper that considers itself the best of the best? This is either a hatchet job, or incompetence. This is not journalism.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eating Ramen Noodles Off the Good China

Here in Minnesota last month the voters approved a constitutional amendment that creates a new sales tax, with the proceeds dedicated to funding the arts and the natural environment. I voted against it, because I think it's bad public policy. We elect legislators to make those funding decisions. If they don't vote "enough" for these programs, that's the decision they have made in light of the overall state budget. And we shouldn't lock ourselves into always spending a certain pool of money on certain programs, because we don't know what circumstances we might find ourselves in.

That's what has come about. Just weeks after the election, it was announced that the state of Minnesota is facing a big, big budget shortfall in the next biennium. Cuts will have to be made, and/or taxes raised.

Proponents of that just-passed amendment are getting defensive. "Don't touch 'our' money," they say. "This is dedicated for the arts and the environment."

Some people have suggested that with this new dedicated funding, it would be wise for the legislature to reduce some of the "regular" arts funding when figuring out how to balance the budget. That idea doesn't sit well with the amendment's proponents. Here's state senate majority leader Larry Pogemiller, quoted in a column by Pioneer Press theater critic Dominic P. Papatola:

"The best way to say it, is that if we need to cut the appropriation to the arts board, then we need to follow through on it. There could be separate legislation that might have money (from the amendment) going to the arts board, but that should not be for the same things that we just cut."

Let's think about that. Pogemiller is saying that, just because things are tight and we need to cut some of what the legislature had decided was important enough for them to fund -- the necessities -- that's no reason not to go ahead and instead buy some of the luxuries that were never deemed important enough for the legislature to fund.

I figure that's sort of like this: Imagine you just found out you've lost your job, and you've no money to buy food for your kids. But you get home and you find a birthday card from your rich aunt. She mailed it two days ago, and had no idea that you were in a bind. She's sent you $1,000 and has written that you should "buy yourself something nice" with it.

Do you use it to buy macaroni and cheese for the kids? Or do you go out and buy yourself that rare comic book you've always wanted?

We know which one Pogemiller would do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pro-Life for Moose

I've spotted yet another example of parallel thinking/behavior on the left and the right. The first can be noted in a Kathleen Parker column in which the syndicated columnist says that people of faith need to use reason, not just religion, when promoting their ideas in the public policy arena.

That echoes what I have written previously. Saying, for example that if you attend an anti-abortion rally, about the worst thing you can do is wave your Bible in the air or carry a big sign with a Bible verse on it. Why is that bad? Because it plays right into the hands of your opponents, who can easily dismiss you, saying, "Keep your religion to yourself."

But here's where the "other side" does the same thing: On his radio show Tuesday, Joe Soucheray talked about a news story that said the moose population is dropping in Minnesota. Soucheray noted that he was "pro moose," and he didn't want the moose herds to disappear, but he was skeptical about the report. Why? Because the decline in the moose population was being blamed on "climate change," and Soucheray is not a true believer in "global warming," "climate change," or any other doctrines of the church of St. Algore.

And that issue -- "climate change" or whatever they are calling it this month -- does often seem almost like a religion. So by raising it, the true believers immediately put the non-believers on the defensive. The religious aspects get in the way of an intelligent, reasoned discussion of the issue.

That's what Soucheray was struggling with, saying of course he was concerned about the moose, but did he have to swallow all the "climate change" stuff along with it?

It shouldn't have to be that way. We should be able to agree that we all like the moose, and that we want to prevent their demise. Helping the moose shouldn't be dependent on adherence to a political belief system.

Nor should protecting babies.

(Speaking of the unborn, here's an interesting story about how people are struggling to figure out what to do with unwanted frozen embryos. Just a "piece of tissue" or "a clump of cells"? People don't seem so sure after all.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Prosperity Broadcasting

An idea I've explored several times is that however we try to divide people into two groups -- left or right, red or blue, liberal or conservative -- the two groups are very much the same. Members of both groups exhibit the same basic human tendencies. And for every action or belief about which group A says group B is "stupid" or "irrational" or "hypocritical," it seems there's some sort of counterpart action or belief about which group A can be accused of the same thing. (As much as I love Dr. Seuss, I'm not going to say it's as simple as which side of the bread people butter, but it's something like that.)

Anyway, here's a recent example of two groups doing the same thing in their own ways. I thought of this today when I looked at tonight's public television schedule and realized it must be pledge week(s). (All the usual programming -- which I watch regularly -- has been pulled in favor of specials designed to attract the aging Baby Boomer demographic, who are guilted into giving money so that PBS can "continue to offer programs like this." After which, the regular programming comes back, and a lot of those people who just pledged money stop watching.)

One of the special programs tonight is called "Stay Rich Forever & Ever with Ed Slott." I kid you not. I also know that during past pledge drives, other financial gurus such as Suzy Orman have been featured. I had an epiphany: This is like those mega-churches I read about that pack in the people by preaching the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" that promises earthly wealth to those who follow what the preacher says.

And in both cases, the sponsoring organizations -- the TV station or the church -- are hoping that this brings in the donations that enrich them, as well.


This goes well with another recent thought about human nature that I've been mulling over: Everyone wants to believe there is something bigger, more important, and more powerful than them; and everyone wants to feel righteous while being able to look down on the "sinners."

But again, this applies to "both sides." It's not just about people who are traditional religious believers in God. It also applies to those who think, for example, that the environment or a political movement is their own higher calling, and that someone who drives an SUV or doesn't adhere to the same beliefs is a "sinner."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Has Thanksgiving Outlived Itself?

Why shouldn't someone die in a shopping stampede on "Black Friday"? That's what America is all about. We must have more stuff!

Really, I'm starting to hate Thanksgiving. No one seems to have time to give thanks. And then if they do, whom are they thanking? Their family and friends and so on. People have totally bastardized it.

And instead of taking a day off to feel thankful, it's eat like a pig, then start planning out the shopping orgy for 4AM the next day. Meanwhile, the TV is on, blasting ads telling us all the things we have to have.

It makes me sick. It really does.

Maybe we should get rid of Christmas, too. No one seems to remember what that is all about, either. For example, even this story in yesterday's Pioneer Press. The story is ostensibly about teaching kids that Christmas isn't all about getting stuff. It even says they need to learn the "reason for the season." But never once does it mention Jesus.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Global Islamic War

How can some still deny that's what is going on?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Buy Local -- When It Makes You Feel Good

One of the current trendy concepts of the "progressive" types among us is to "buy local." They are usually talking about food. They say that's a good idea, because it means less fossil fuel is being expended to get to food to the consumer. (Although when you add up all the gas burned to individually get all the consumers to the local farmers' market, there may be more fuel used per capita than if everyone bought produce delivered to the local grocery tore by a semi truck.)

That's fine with me if that's what people want to do. But don't expect much for produce to be available during a Minnesota winter. Our predecessors built root cellars to store, yes, root vegetables. That's what they had for the winter -- potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips. No avacadoes or grapes or bananas.

Another virtuous "buy local" concept I've read about was the "green" house with the floors and trim made from "local" walnut trees. Wouldn't you rather keep your local walnut trees alive? Get your walnut from somewhere else, or better yet, use some easily-replaced pine. Would nuclear power plants be "green" if we mined the plutonium locally and stored the waste locally?

Anyway, people are very selective about this "local" thing. Basically, it's just do what makes you feel good. People think it's fun and they feel virtuous when they buy local produce. But the odd thing is, these tend to be a lot of the same people who, for 30 years now, have been buying Japanese and European cars. What's wrong with the local vehicles? I walked the dog around the block this morning in my Al Franken-loving neighborhood. It being early Saturday morning, most people were still home and the street was full of cars. You know what? The majority were foreign makes.

Yet these are the same people who claim to stick up for union workers and "living wages." They complain about jobs leaving the country, and blame Republicans. Yet, they buy European and Japanese cars. (And among the American brands I saw, Saturn -- where the UAW is not as strong -- was well-represented.)

What's the difference? Local food is fashionable right now in the lefty crowd, just as foreign cars are. That pretty much sums it up. It's simply what's fashionable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The World Needs Editing

(This is a column by me that appeared today on the opinion page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the paper's website.)

UPDATE: Here it is online:

Has it really been 16 years since Bruce Springsteen sang his lament about "57 channels and nothing on"?

How quaint! Only 57 channels. These days, that makes you some sort of technophobe. (And me -- relying on "free, wireless video" -- a certifiable Luddite.)

Not to go all Andy Rooney on you, but have you ever noticed that thanks to advancing technology, there's too much information out there? Well, I've identified the problem: The world needs editing.

For instance, I don't want someone to email me a link to 500 vacation photos. I'd rather receive a few photos the sender knows will appeal especially to me.

And can't we be satisfied with a movie as it ran in the theater, edited for length by the director? On the DVD, we restore the deleted scenes. And we're no longer content with the director's determined denouement; we include "alternate endings." If it fits, it's included.

Time and materials used to matter. It cost money to reprint photos for our friends, so we made them judiciously. Writing letters took time and postage, so we didn't write to everyone about everything. Now, it's easiest just to email everything to everybody, and let them sift through it themselves.

Then there's "spam." Whether the unsolicited email goes out to one hundred or one hundred million addresses, the cost to the spammer is basically the same. But direct mail advertisers must weigh the costs of printing and mailing their materials, and have an incentive to limit their mailing lists to legitimate prospects.

Maybe there ought to be a "postage" charge on email. If spammers had to pay even one-tenth of a cent for each piece of spam, they'd exercise some discretion.

Read a newspaper lately? Newspapers operate in the physical world. Paper costs money. So decisions have to be made about what goes into the paper each day. Editors choose content based on its necessity and usefulness. They try to cover a variety of subjects and present a variety of viewpoints.

But the virtual world of the Internet has room for more than just "all the news that fits" each day. And that can be a good thing. Trouble is, when we leave the editing to ourselves, we tend to seek out only those topics we already know about, and only those viewpoints that reinforce our existing world view.

The Internet, for all its wealth of information, lacks organization. Back in third grade they taught us about how the Dewey Decimal System had solved the problem of organizing books in the library. Maybe some day a system will be invented to bring order to the Internet. But as long as it's based on computerized search engines and not human editors, I have my doubts.

Search engines do make it easy for today's kids to do their homework. Just type in a few words and the answer comes right up on your screen. But is the information accurate? You can easily "verify" misinformation on the Internet. In contrast, library books have been vetted by human editors and librarians.

Ironically, the easier it becomes to create and distribute information, the less permanent it is. Stone tablets? Hard to carve, but they last for millennia. The hand-penned Dead Sea Scrolls? Still with us. Gutenberg's books? Hanging in there. That email message I received last year? Let's see...was that before or after my hard drive crashed?

The more information there is, the less precious it becomes. Are shared MP3 files given the same loving care shown to vinyl records? Does anyone tie up text messages and emails with a ribbon and tuck them away in a shoebox?

I wonder if future historians will curse us because for all of our information, we left so little behind. Millions of people may have blogs, but will future generations find them as accessible as paper journals and diaries? A century from now, will someone find historic digital photos tucked away in a drawer, the way old glass plate negatives have been discovered?

I have computer files I can no longer open and read, because they were created with obsolete software. Will historians someday need the cyber equivalent of the Rosetta Stone to decode the mysteries of our time?

If so, don't count on the files surviving in a readable condition. They don't call it software for nothing; those files aren't written in stone.

Internet replace print? I don't think so. Did radio replace newspapers? Did Hollywood render radio redundant? Did TV put Hollywood out of business? The Internet and related digital technologies are additional useful tools, but they can't, and won't, replace everything else.

I could go on and on. Or rather, I can't. I have an editor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Organic" People?

I read a news story that said birth defects occur more often in children conceived through "assisted reproduction," meaning in vitro fertilization or something called intra-cytophlasmic sperm injection.

Should that be any surprise?

After all, those processes aren't "natural," and these days we know that natural is good, and something cooked up in a lab is bad.

At least it is when it comes to food.

That's the irony, here. This is another example of the disconnect in thinking that we can see in groups of people. When it comes to matters of assisted reproduction, it's typically been conservatives who sound the alarm about doing something that goes against the laws of nature (and God). Libs, meanwhile, say it is progress, and a good thing because it will help people who otherwise can't have children.

But then look at issues of food. It's the libs who are all excited about their food being organic and pure, about there not being any dangerous chemicals in baby bottles, etc. We should all eat "local" and "organic." It's a matter of faith that "natural" is always better. You want your food "the way nature intended." Modern agricultural practices with chemicals and synthetic fertilizer might make food cheap and abundant, so that the poor don't have to go without food, but too bad. They can afford their "safe" food, and that's all that counts.

Ironic, no?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama Bans Same-Sex Marriage

In his first accomplishment since becoming president-elect, Barack Obama has banned same-sex marriage in California.

OK, OK, that's not exactly true. But have you heard this? (And you might not have, because it isn't politically correct, so it isn't getting much coverage.) People have wondered why it is that so many people voted "liberal" for Barack Obama in California, but the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages also passed. The assumption is that an Obama vote was a "no" vote on the amendment.

So why the disconnect? Simple. Exit polls have shown that blacks overwhelmingly voted for the amendment to ban same-sex marriages, mostly on moral and religious grounds.

Now that's a king-sized irony biting the liberals on the butt. Let that be a lesson to the white liberal power brokers: the "little people" don't have to do everything you want them to do. You can lead a voter to the polls, but you can't make him vote the way you want him to.


Did you see Obama on "60 Minutes" Sunday night? I thought he was very impressive. The lack of BS was impressive. He came off as a real person talking straight, not a politician well-coached in the art of saying nothing. Maybe he's just so good at slinging the bull that he fooled me, but I think I'm a good judge of BS. It was 16 years ago on "60 Minutes" that I saw Bill Clinton for the first time. That was before the blogosphere and before I listened to talk radio. I didn't know anything about him at the time; he was just another guy wanting to be president. But there were "rumors" that he was a philanderer, and he and Hillary went on TV to defend themselves. And that was the appearance that "saved" the campaign and let him become a two-term president.

But that's not how I saw it at the time. I said to my wife, "He's done. I wouldn't buy a used car from that guy." I could tell that everything the guy said was a lie.

But I was wrong. Oh, I wasn't wrong that he was a liar, I was just wrong to not realize that almost 50 percent of the voters in this country are complete dupes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Mania

I didn't vote for Obama, but I'm willing to give him a chance to show that he can do the job. So I'm not going to bash him until he earns it. But what I am prepared to criticize is the Obama Mania that has taken over the world. People are nuts for Obama.

With friends like these... They say people in other countries love Obama. Here are some comments from Russia: "This choice will certainly be understood as indicative of the progress of the American society and democracy." (Ilya Utekhin, an anthropologist at the European University in St. Petersburg) "The choice of an African-American president in the United States overturns the whole idea of the stiff and conservative America. This means that America did wake up. This means that America is again open for free and democratic values." (Viktor Yerofeyev, a Russian novelist)

I don't know about you, but one thing I demand in my democracy is that it meets with the approval of Russians, who are known to be experts in the subject.

Art imitates life... Today's Pioneer Press carried a barrage of news coverage and paid advertising for an "American Girl" doll store opening at the Mall of America. That, coupled with all of the Obama-mania coverage, led me to this prediction: The next "American Girl" doll will be a black girl whose father is president.

Bush didn't lose... In the news coverage of the Obamas visiting the White House there seemed to be a suggestion that this was humiliating for President Bush, to have to meet and host the man who was "kicking him out" of the White House. But that's not the case. Do I need to remind them that Bush was not on the ballot? The Democrats seem to have succeeded in brainwashing everyone into thinking that this was Obama vs. Bush.

Bush already knew eight years ago that -- best case scenario -- he would be leaving the White House in January, 2009. He knew that he and his staff would begin helping to make a transition before then. McCain lost the election, not Bush. Bush wasn't "defeated" or "fired." He has served as long as a president can serve, and now he's "retiring," if you will. Where's the shame in meeting with his successor?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You Can't Fire All the Players

My guy didn't win Tuesday. But I don't think that the end of the world. I'm not going to be saying "he's not my president" for the next four years. We go back and forth between parties; that's the way it works. In the big picture and in the long run, I think that's best.

And while I definitely think McCain is more "right" on the issues than is Obama, this country probably does need a change. I'd liken it to a sports team. A lot of times when things aren't going well for a team, they fire the coach. It may not really be the coach's fault. The players may not be playing hard. They may not be following the coach's instructions. But it's the coach who gets fired. Why? As the saying goes, "You can't fire the entire team."

So the scapegoat coach gets fired, and everyone acts like now that the "problem" is gone, everything will be better. Sometimes the team starts winning simply because the players start trying harder and listening to what the new coach tells them.

That's sort of like the situation in the country now. President Bush is like a coach who has lost control of the team. Deserved or not, the voters don't respect him and the media don't respect him. You can't fire all the citizens. You can't fire all of the news media. So a change is needed at the top. The Dems successfully painted McCain as "just like Bush," so that means a fresh start with the other party.

Here's hoping good things are ahead for the United States. Let's hope the "he's not my president" crowd now has an attitude adjustment and starts worrying about the good of the nation, not just whether or not they got their way. Because if this nation has been "divided," it's not the fault of Bush, it's the fault of people who refuse to play nice with their fellow citizens unless they get to make all the rules. That's something that bothered me in Obama's speech election night. He said he'd unite the nation, which brought a roar from the crowd. But those same people are the reason the nation has been divided -- they have refused to support a president they didn't vote for.

That talk of "uniting" is really disingenuous. What they really mean is this: "We're in charge now; Republicans will have to do what we say." Those are the same people who think that "bipartisan" means Republicans should stay out of the way and let Democrats do whatever they want.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Not Logical

Boy, I just can't understand some of the "reasoning" being bandied about in the political campaigns. For example, a TV ad tells us that Michelle Bachmann "put party first" and sided with President Bush on an issue. But challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg, we are told, would work across party lines. But wait... wouldn't that then mean that Democrat Tinklenberg would... side with Republican President Bush?

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Biden tells us that we can expect some sort of serious incident -- a terrorist attack or such -- early in an Obama administration, as a test of the new President. Why would he say that? Isn't that a reason NOT to vote for Obama?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh, Brother, Don't Encourage the Enemy

1. Remember hearing about Barack Obama's brother living in poverty in a hut in Kenya? We were told that it was only his half-brother; that the two men merely shared a father, whom Barack never really knew, anyway. It was as though fathers didn't count for anything.

But on the other hand, we are constantly being reminded about how historic Obama's candidacy is, because he is black! It's as though his mother and the rest of his Caucasian relatives don't even exist. His Kenyan father -- whom Barack hardly knew -- is all that matters!

2. From a New York Times story by Edmund L. Andrews and Mark Landler:

Some experts said the delay in carrying out the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan has only hurt its prospects for success.

"Even if it was adequate before, it's not adequate now," said Frederic Mishkin, a professor of economics at Columbia University business school who stepped down as a Federal Reserve governor at the end of August. "If you delay and create uncertainty, the amount of money you have to put up goes up."

Why do I mention this? A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how strange it was that Congressional Democrats were blaming Republicans for not acting quickly enough to rubber stamp President Bush's plans in response to the Wall Street crisis. I thought that was bizarre, considering how much Democrats have based their 2008 campaigns on blaming Republicans for into war in Iraq at Bush's behest.

In the excerpt above, we see that those evil Republicans who did not want to act hastily in response to the economic are being blamed for "encouraging" the economic woes and making them worse. Compare that to the way that Democrats have said they are being "patriotic" by not presenting a united front against terrorism, and have denied that their actions have done anything to encourage the terrorists to keep up their fight.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Big State, Small World

Gov. Sarah Paliin has been laughed at for pointing out that Russia can be seen from Alaska.

I don't think it's a joke. I think it's food for thought.

When the elites on the East Coast talk about "international travel" and "foreign heads of state," you know what they are thinking about: Europe. They're in Washington D.C. or New York, with their eyes trained across the Atlantic on Europe. They forget that the United States is actually very, very close to (Asian) Russia!

Of course, that goes along with them not even giving any thought at all to Alaska.

But when you think about it, Alaska has a lot in common with a foreign country. It isn't even geographically connected to the rest of the U.S. It's waaaaay distant from Washington and New York. Alaska's neighbors aren't other states; they are Canada and Russia.

Considering all of that, who sounds better prepared to relate to foreign heads of state? The chief executive of Alaska? Or a senator from Deleware? I'll bet the governor of Alaska -- whomever he or she might be -- sometimes feels like a "foreigner" when dealing with Washington.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Enough, Already

I'm so sick of campaign ads. Used to be, ads were about the candidate who paid for them. Then, we "progressed" to where the ads were mostly about how awful the other guy was. Now, we've taken it a step further. I'm hearing ads that restate the bad things the other guy's ad said, and saying they aren't true.

That goes counter to the long-standing belief that repeating a lie, if only to deny it, only lends more credence to the lie.

We are so bombarded with accusations and denials that we don't know what's true and what's false. We can't even keep straight who said what. Did Al Franken say it about Norm Coleman? Or did Norm Coleman say that what Al Franken said isn't true?

And related to that, what's real and what's satire? Did Sarah Palin say it? Or did Tina Fey say it? Did a politician really say it? Or did a late-night comic say it? Do some man-on-the-street intertviews and you'll find out that the masses don't know the difference!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Well, Like, Duh!

A news report on what this "financial crisis" means says that:

"It seems certain that it will be harder for consumers to borrow money in the next year or two than it was earlier this decade."

Is that suppoded to be a bad thing? I thought the "crisis" was caused by it being too easy for people to borrow money.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Washington Through the Looking Glass

Which side of the looking glass are we on? Doesn't it seem that some of the same people (Democrats, even!) who blame President Bush for "exaggerating the threat" of terrorism and "blindly rushing" into Iraq are now the ones upset that not enough Congressman would follow Bush's direction and rush into a financial bailout bill with little discussion and little understood about the facts of the situation?

The Democrat strategy this fall seems to be to link all Republicans to Bush -- "He voted with Bush." or "He's just like Bush." Today, they are criticizing Republicans who don't vote with Bush, the way that the DEMOCRATS do!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is Free Speech a 'Hate Crime'?

The local open-minded and tolerant liberals sure can be nasty when it comes to people who aren't like them. I refer to letters-to-the-editor and comments in news stories about the Republican National Convention that took place here in St. Paul earlier this month. People aren't shy about expressing their hatred for Republicans. They don't think "those people" should be allowed to come to St. Paul. (Because, after all, Republicans are some sort of horned aliens; there couldn't possibly actually be some living amongst the St. Paulites.)

I often think that this hateful anti-Republican rhetoric is pretty much the same as that which might be directed against other groups of people, except that if it was directed at, say, gays or a certain racial group that wanted to hold a convention in St. Paul, it would be "hate speech," and the liberals would condemn it.

So what's the difference? I think the explanation is that you mustn't criticize someone for the way they are born -- with a certain skin color or sexual orientation -- but being a Republican is a choice, so it's OK to criticize that.

But not so fast. According to researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, our political orientation is in our genes!

I find that plausible. But I question the reasoning of the researchers, who found that conservatives were more easily frightened. My observation is it's the liberals who are always worried that the sky is falling, and demand government programs to remove all risk and danger from life, and to make sure that no one can ever fail.

Maybe what the researchers found is that conservatives are better at recognizing things that are real dangers.

Anyway, the question is this: If someone is born with a certain political orientation, then isn't it hateful and intolerant to criticize him or her for it? Just as it is to criticize people for their sexual orientation?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's in a Name?

When I first heard that this upstart named Barack Obama wanted to be president, I thought, "Tough break and poor timing. How can you ask people to vote for someone with an uncommon name that sounds like our nation's #1 enemy? That's like asking them to vote for Adolf Hipler."

Well, guess what? A lot of people apparently don't care. In fact, I think there's a large group backing Obama because of his unusual name.

But this is one for the "What are the odds...?" category.

Last night I saw some new campaign signs lined up in front yards in my neighborhood and I did a double take. "Why do they have 'Osama bin Laden' signs?" I wondered.

Then I realized what I was really seeing: signs that read "OBAMA" on the top line, and "BIDEN" on the second line.

This is too much. It wasn't enough that even some of his supporters slip up and call Obama "Osama." Now he's picked a running mate whose name is spelled with the first two -- and last three -- letters of "bin Laden." We recognize words partly by shape; that's why all caps is harder to read. When written in all caps, "BIDEN" looks a lot like "BINLADEN."

What are the odds?

And didn't anyone notice that when these signs were designed? I guess not.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama Sticks it to the Minority

I saw Obama on TV last week, saying that he plans to cut taxes for 90% of Americans, and raise taxes on the remaining 10%.

That sounds great. After all, this is a democracy, right? So if you benefit 90% of the people, it's got to be a good idea. Although there's something odd here... I just can't quite put my finger on it. Why does it seem we've already tried letting a majority benefit from the labors of a 10% minority group?


It's been reported that Obama says his qualification for the executive branch is that he has experience running a campaign that has raised a lot of money. If the qualification for the White House is that you can give good speeches and raise a lot of money from the masses, maybe we should elect a televangelist. Is Jim Bakker available?


Obama also reportedly said that he wasn't going to visit New Orleans as the hurricane approached, because his presence would be a "distraction." He's pretty full of himself, isn't he? He might have said he wouldn't visit because he couldn't do anything and would only get in the way. But that's not fitting of a "rock star," is it?


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dave's Big Adventure at the RNC

Boy, did I have a busy day on Labor Day. I went to downtown St. Paul at 8:00 am for a breakfast forum that ended at 9:30 am, but I didn't leave until after 3:30 pm. I just found too much to keep my interest. (I'm not a guy who is easily bored.) I ended up staying through the big protest parade in the afternoon.

I started out with a breakfast forum sponsored by the Pioneer Press, Politico, and Yahoo, the first of four consecutive days of "Convention Conversations.". (The "continental breakfast" was quite elablorate, making me think that I should have also signed up for the days I have to work, then just popped in long enough to eat before heading over to the office!)

We were at a downtown hotel. While we ate, word went around that the First Lady had been spotted in the lobby.

On the panel were some big names, including Peggy Noonan and Arianna Huffington. I knew who they were, and despite not having pay TV, I recognized the name of MSNBC's Tucker Carlson. The other two panelists were Mark Halperin of "Time" magazine and Rick Klein of ABC.

Left to Right: Halperin, Huffington, Carlson, Klein, Noonan.

There wasn't too much to report from the discussion. Peggy Noonan described John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as "a Hail Mary pass" -- a desperate, last-ditch attempt. Noonan said that most Hail Mary passes don't work, but when they do, it's "A thing of beauty and a joy for everyone." Noonan said that Palin has real potential, if she can answer the challenges and can gain traction. "If I'm the Democrats," Noonan said, "I'd be saying, 'We gotta kill her and we gotta kill her quickly.'"

Huffington spoke of how the media need to pursue the truth, not just do "he said, she said" reporting. Sometimes, one side of an issue can be judged superior, and it should be reported that way, she said. I pretty much agree with that, but the trouble is, it depends on who is doing the judging. Huffington's comments led to an energetic exchange with Carlson, because Huffington thinks global warming is an example of this. She believes it's fact, and there is no room to question it, which Carlson would like to do. This led to her scolding him about arguing that "the Earth is flat."

Afterward, there were a lot of people getting automotous autographs. That's really not my style. I like to actually talk to people, and if I get an autograph, if should be just the starting point to a story that goes with it. I did get a chance to shake Noonan's hand and tell her that I enjoy her writing (she currently writes a column for the Wall Street Journal). I also told Carlson that just like Huffington would have us believe that "everyone" knows that global warming is fact, it wasn't so long ago that "everyone" knew Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. And now here we were a few years later, with Huffington taking shots at that very same mistake. He lit up when I told him that, as though he'd just had an epiphany. "Yes, it's exactly like that," he said. So if you see him on TV and he uses that, now you'll know where he got it from.

After the forum, I decided to walk around downtown a little and see what there was to see. As I walked toward the Xcel Center, I started to see lots of public safety personnel, including the Ramsey County SWAT team, and lots and lots of cops in full riot gear. But the coppers seemed pretty relaxed. I snapped this shot of some tourists having their photo taken with one of the cops in riot gear.

I was put-off by the tall fence creating a perimeter around the Xcel Center. Is this still America? It was creepy. People attending the convention had formed a block-long line and were having their credentials checked one-by-one at a gate. Here's a view down Fifth Street.

I walked over to W. 7th Street, and passed Mickey's Diner. This sign showed that despite all the fences, barricades, and restricted zones, this city still has its priorities straight.

I walked down W. 7th as close as we were allowed to get to the Xcel Center. That's where the Dorothy Day Center is, an organization that serves the homeless. The place has an outdoor area where the "guests" can hang out, and it's surrounded by a wrought iron fence. But I noticed the fenced was lined with a screen material that made it hard to see through. Whose idea was that, I wondered? What was its intended purpose? A Dorothy Day Center staff person was standing watch, so I asked him about it. Had Dick Cheney ordered this so that his rich buddies wouldn't have to look at "those people"? No, I was told, the Center had put it up in order to give a little privacy to their guests. They didn't want all the tourists gawking through the bars, as though they were at the zoo.

Moving back to St. Peter Street, I saw that the door was open at the Original Coney Island Tavern. The place has been closed for more than a decade, but the family that owns it has kept it up, maintaining all the licenses. From time to time, I'd read about rumors that it might open again, and recently it was reported that it would be open during the convention. The building dates to 1853. It is said to be the oldest commercial building in the city. I had to get a look inside.

What a neat place! It's a time capsule -- old metal ceiling, old wood booths, and the beautiful, looooooonnnnnng mahogany and walnut art deco bar!

It was only 11AM, and I may have been the first customer of the day. In fact, the staff was out on the sidewalk and had to follow me inside. What the heck, it was a holiday, right? So it wasn't too early. I ordered a Summit Extra Pale Ale.

I met Louis and Mary Ellen Arvanitis, whose parents made the Coney Island a St. Paul institution. Mary Ellen has a real charm to her, a rather old-fashioned charm. (Despite her youthful appearance.) I could imagine her as not a bar keeper but a "saloon" keeper. I also learned that she had been the editor of a local history book that features the Coney Island. So I bought a copy and had her autograph it. (Now I've got a story to go along with that autograph!)

After a while, several cops in riot gear came in to use the rest room.

Well, by this time I was thinking that maybe I should just stay downtown for the big protest march at 1:00 pm. So I headed for Mickey's Diner for some lunch. On the way, I passed by someone who -- behind his sunglasses -- looked like Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, walking all by himself and fiddling with his phone. He caught me looking at him. I think he could tell I was wondering, "Isn't that...?" and he said hello to me. Yes, I think that was him.

At Mickey's, I spotted Tommy Mischke of KSTP-AM1500 talk radio. I was just about to order my food at 12:35pm (For those of you who are counting, I hadn't been in the bar for 90 minutes, I just left out some details.) when suddenly some marchers came down the street. Was this an early start to the show? No, just a small, unauthorized preview. I watched police putting on their gas masks.

I had the Cheeseburger Classic, which was a cheeseburger, hash browns, and a small bowl of Mulligan Stew. Odd combination. But when I see an odd combination, I try it. That's just the sort of guy that I am. While sitting at the counter, I chatted with a youngster on the one side of me, and a retired couple on the other side. The retired gent hadn't been to Mickey's in 44 years, since he had been in the Army Reserve putting in time at the St. Paul downtown airport. I asked him if he had put in any time on riot control back then. He said no, that duty fell to the National Guard, who are under state control.

After lunch, I went outside to wait for the show to start. There were lots of us curious tourists waiting with our cameras. Yellow-vested members of the "Peace Team" had advice, including what to do when we were gassed. Step away and breathe slowly, the man with the white mustache told us.

Saw some horses in battle dress. And something else you don't see every day -- bicycle cops wearing gas masks. Now that would be a tough one on a scavenger hunt list!

It looked like the show was about to start. Some marchers arrived on the scene. The leader, through his bullhorn, said that he and his were executing their Constitutional right to "petition the government for redress of grievances." Odd. The state government is based at the Capitol, which they had marched away from. The federal government is in Washington, D.C. The Xcel Center is hosting a meeting of a political party. In the U.S., at least, parties are not the same as the government. And hadn't he noticed that both houses of Congress are controlled by the Democrats, anyway?

He also said that thanks to evil Republicans, the damage to New Orleans from Gustav was going to be even worse than the damage from Katrina. He needs to keep up with current events. If he had just turned his head, he could have easily read the electronic news banner one block away at the Minnesota Public Radio building: "Category 2 hurricane delivers glancing blow to New Orleans."

Finally, it was show time! There were protesters, and a few-counter-protesters. Most of the protesters simply marched, waved their signs, and shouted slogans. Very, very few made any attempt to be rude to the police or any onlookers. This fellow is thanking the police for not being baited by some of his unruly colleagues.

I spotted Channel 2's Mary LaHammer, and StarTribune columnist Nick Coleman. I chatted with Nick a bit. He didn't know who I was, though I have met him a few times over the years. I should have asked him if he'd be stopping to buy a pumpkin from me again this year.

It was about this time that I realized the cops blocking the side streets weren't just containing the marchers, they were containing all of us. I couldn't leave if I wanted to! This was a bit worrisome. What if trouble broke out? I was stuck in the middle of it.

There were all kinds of things to see in the march, but I don't want to bog down this page with dozens of photos. So click here to see lots of my photos of the

After two hours, we finally were able to head down the side streets. I had to go only a block and I encountered a vandalized police car at 6th and Wabasha. The glass was broken all around, and a tire was flat. I was to learn later that while I was watching the peaceful march, masked thugs were creating pockets of havoc. What cowards. No John Hancock in that bunch. This gave me a new perspective on not being able to leave 7th St. The cops were actually protecting me and the peaceful marchers from mixing with the violent thugs.

At Wabash and 4th, I encountered these fruitcakes dancing in the street and blocking traffic. When a vehicle tried to veer around them, they ran right in front of it. After a while, they marched down 4th toward Lowertown.

It was time for me to go home.

If you haven't checked out the march photos yet:

Monday, September 1, 2008

How Many Others?

Just a quick thought about Gov. Sarah Palin's teenage daughter being pregnant: We have no idea how many other politicians' teenage daughters have been pregnant... but aborted the baby. It's only because of this family's consistent, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is anti-abortion stance that we know about the pregnancy. Exceptions? Not for a Down Syndrome baby. Not for a teenage pregnancy. Even when it's your own family.

They deserve credit for that, don't they?

dave ["at" ] downingworld [.com] -- If you'd like to know what I think about a particular topic, drop me a line: I may use it for a future blurb. But remember: I'm not really a know-it-all; I just play one on the Web. Thanks for tuning in, from your host David W. Downing.


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