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.


Dave's Latest Thought....

Friday, October 27, 2006

Playing with the Sharks

I find newspaper obituaries to be some of the most interesting reading in the paper. You may not have heard of Tommy Johnson, but unless you're hearing-impaired, I'm sure you've heard him.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on No Room for White People

Here's some more on the St. Paul Public School's neglect of its white constituents (Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 posts.)

On Oct. 4, I emailed school ombudsman Dan Rodriguez with this message:

Dear. Mr. Rodriguez:

I received the flyer telling me how eager the new Super is to meet with everyone and hear our ideas, concerns and suggestions. But something was missing. Some people were being left out. Fortunately, a brief report in the Pioneer Press told me that American Indians hadn't been forgotten after all. But there's still one minority group in the St. Paul schools that is being left out.

White people. Like me.

When do I get to meet the new super?

I'm writing to request that the district schedule and advertise a "White Community Conversation." Isn't being inclusive and treating everyone the same, regardless of race, supposed to be a goal of the St. Paul Public Schools? It sure doesn't seem right to single out one group for discrimination.

On Oct. 13, I received this reply:

Mr. Downing:

I am responding to your earlier email message.

Thank you for your concern.  We always want to be aware of the way our communications are viewed by our parents.


To give you some background, even prior to being hired, Dr. Carstarphen attended public forums and board meetings that were open to the public.  Interpreters were provided for those who did not speak English.  

Since she became superintendent, she has also been invited to speak to chambers of commerce and other groups whose meetings were not open to the general public, but were promoted to the membership of those organizations.

Similarly, she has been invited to numerous meetings to associations whose meetings are open to the public.  Those meetings are posted on the district's web site at www.spps.org.  In September, for example, she accepted invitations to attend an American Indian pow wow and a meeting of the Network of Education Action Teams (NEAT), which is a St. Paul-based education advocacy group.  That meeting was well publicized, promoted through the media, and open to the public, as was the pow wow.

As a new superintendent, she will continue to meet publicly with the community in a variety of venues.  In November, for example, she will meet with Site Council leaders and other groups whose meeting dates and times are yet to be scheduled.  


Regarding the flyer sent out to promote the October meetings, our mistake was not including additional information noting previous public meetings that the superintendent had participated in and the fact that additional meetings have yet to take place in November and December once those groups and meeting dates are confirmed.  Flyers announcing the November and December meetings will include this information.

Meanwhile, the information is available on our district web site at http://www.spps.org/Meet_Dr_Meria_Carstarphen.html.

I hope this information is helpful.  If you desire to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me at the phone number below.

Thank you for contacting the Saint Paul Public Schools.


Daniel A. Rodriguez


Saint Paul Public Schools

I then sent him this:

Thank you for your reply. I'm glad to see you recognize that a mistake was made. I'm just not sure that you understand exactly what the mistake was. I have no complaint about holding meetings that cater to certain groups. I think that's a good idea. Necessary, even. My complaint is about the specific flyer I received, which would have been funny if it were intended as a parody of the politics of racial identity and political correctness run amok. But unfortunately, it wasn't a bit in "The Onion" or on "Saturday Night Live," it was a real-life case of my tax dollars at work.

As I see it, the flyer could have gone two ways, either of which would not have earned a raised eyebrow from me. The flyer could have billed itself as a list of specialized meetings, in which I would have said, "Doesn't concern me," and tossed it into the recycling. Or, the flyer could simply have included one or more meetings that were not identified with a specific racial/ethnic group. Then, I would have seen I was being included.

But the way it was done... well, it does seem like almost a deliberate attempt at comedy.

But here's a question for you: Would the district ever in a million years hold a "White Community Conversation"? I think we both know the answer is no. In fact, if such a meeting were announced, it would be called an example of "racism." Why should that be, when every other ethnic or racial group gets its own meetings? Does the district not think that white parents might have concerns of their own? Because they do. Like, how will my children be affected when so many of their classmates speak English as a second language? Or, is my child -- a member of only the third largest minority group in the St. Paul schools -- being ignored or taken for granted by the district? This flyer would seem to prove that white kids are indeed being overlooked.

It's good that the SPPS District tries to reach out to all parents and overcome language barriers. But let's not get so obsessed with being "inclusive" that we start excluding people.

I'll let you know if I hear any more.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Philosophy of Intelligent Design

I loved this very interesting Pioneer Press guest column in defense of the philosophy of intelligent design. And it came from a source that surprised me: Jeremiah Reedy, a Macalester College professor of classics emeritus. (Macalester, right here in St. Paul, is known as a very left-wing college.)

Reedy writes that intelligent design is neither religion nor science. He explains that it belongs to a field called "natural theology." I found his take on the current debate very interesting.

Reedy was responding to an earlier opinion column, by Paul Hanle.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

When Is a Weapon Not a Weapon?

When you don't identify it as such, I guess, No mind what sort of bodily harm it could easily inflict.

I thought of this today when I entered the local ice arena and encountered a sign indicating -- in pictures -- that no weapons were allowed. The sign showed a gun, a knife, some sort of martial arts throwing star, some thing that looked like a shotgun shell, and some nunchuks.

You mustn't bring any of those things into the arena, because they could hurt somebody.

Meanwhile, all day long young men (and women) stream into the arena, each carrying at least one sturdy wooden spear/club and a pair of hardened steel blades.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hail to the Victim

In some circles, it seems that the highest calling a person can aspire to is to be a victim. Where once upon a time people aspired to be "heroes" or "successes," now they want to be "victims."

These circles, of course, are on the political left.

Here in Minnesota, the Dems have made victimhood the focal point of their campaign strategy. I realized recently that they are running "victims" in several races:

In the Sixth Congressional District, the Dems have nominated Patty Wetterling. Her sole qualification is that her child was abducted 18 years ago and hasn't been seen since. We're supposed to vote for her because we feel sorry for her. She's a victim.

In the Second District, the Dems have nominated Coleen Rowley. She's the FBI "whistleblower" victim of the evil Bush administration, which could have prevented 9/11 if only they had listened to her, and searched that computer in the name of national security. (This is the same Bush administration we are being told is taking away our civil rights -- of course, banning gun ownership and limiting free speech by calling it a "hate crime" never concerned them.)

In the Fifth District, Keith "X-or-whatever" Ellison was nominated on the basis of dual victimhood. He's black. And he's a Muslim.

Victimhood has even been dragged into the Senate race, where Amy Klobuchar's campaign has made sure we know that when Amy had a baby, the evil insurance company made her go home from the hospital before she wanted to.

"Vote for me! I'm a victim!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stop It Walt, I'll Talk Already!

Walt Huemmer of St. Paul writes:

Dave, certainly you've heard people make the statement "torture doesn't work." Not discussing the moral aspects of whether or not torture should ever be allowed, do you think this is a correct statement? If someone really believes in this in absolute terms of this not working, then John McCain must be lying when he said he broke under torture.

Personally I think in most cases torture does work and that is why the enemy uses it. Most people have a limit of pain tolerance, but I think a small percentage of some people with an incredibly strong will can accept torture to the death.

Then people say "well, if we torture, then what's to keep our enemies from torturing us?" Gee don't they already cut our heads off anyways?

Any thoughts on this?

I'm no expert on this topic, but since when do I let that stop me? Walt, I think you're on the right track. Torture does work. At least when it is done correctly.

That may be the problem, if Americans think that torture doesn't work. Maybe Americans don't torture very effectively. Maybe our revulsion at the idea of torture keeps us from being effective conductors of torture. Our American hearts aren't in it.

Most likely, when Americans try torture (And they must have, right, or they wouldn't be able to claim that it doesn't work.) they don't go far enough. That would be the same problem we have in conducting wars. We don't want to go all out, because we'd really rather not be at war in the first place. Basically, good people aren't as good at being bad as bad people are.

Whether or not torture should be used is a separate question, as you note. And it's a tough one. It's easy to take the high road and say, Never! But if torturing one bad man can save a million good men, isn't it worth it? That's the big question.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

MacArthur: "These Truths Shall Return Long After I Am Dead"

OK, the general didn't say that. But that's what I got out of reading his farewell address to Congress, from April 19, 1951.

Check out this excerpt, and consider how apt it is 55 years later.

Indeed, the Second Day of September, 1945, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:

"Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be 'by way of the crucible of war.' The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out, this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all the material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.

In war there can be no substitute for victory.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Love You Billy, Oh Yes We Do !

Here's a doozy. In a letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press, one Steve Hack blames President Bush for everything. Hack explains it thusly:

"Clinton had North Korea boxed in with its nuclear program dismantled and had a major strategic plan to attack al-Qaida and eliminate bin Laden. The Bush administration ignored all this, resulting in the mess we are in now."

Yeah, right. And Chamberlain had Hitler "boxed in." And Nero had a plan to put out the fire just as soon as he got done fiddling.

I've never understood how so many people can be so in love with Bill Clinton. The first time I saw the guy was when he and Hillary appeared on "60 Minutes" following the Super Bowl in 1992. I knew nothing about him. I didn't even know anything about the gossip about his sexual improprieties. (This was pre-Talk Radio, pre-blog, and I just didn't follow political gossip closely.)

So, I saw Bill Clinton that day with no preconceptions. But after seeing him talk for just a little bit, I said -- I literally said out loud to my wife -- "I wouldn't buy a used car from that man. He's lying to us. He's finished."

But what did I know? He wasn't finished. Enough people fell in love with his BS that he was elected President -- twice! And even after he was impeached -- for lying! -- people continue to defend him, believing all his BS about his plans for North Korea (give them nuclear technology) and bin Laden (let him go).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh No, Bono! Liberal Hypocrite or Good Steward?

Rock star Bono of the Irish band U2, who wants governments of the world to contribute more to helping the Third World, has taken steps to ensure that government gets less of his money for that purpose. The band has moved its music publishing business from Ireland to the Netherlands, and its lower tax rates.

I see two ways to look at this. One, Bono is a hypocrite. He tells others to share, but wants to keep as much as he can for himself. U2 is just another big, multinational corporation, taking advantage of an off-shore tax haven.

On the other hand, if Bono keeps more of his own money, he can make sure that he personally directs it to charities that will efficiently and effectively use it for the causes he supports.

Could Bono be a closet conservative after all?

Don't bet on it. My money would be on "greedy hypocrite."

Or as my brother Dan explains it, it shows once again that while a conservative thinks EVERYONE should pay less in taxes, a liberal thinks HE should pay less in taxes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Abortion "Logic"

Hard to find time to write, with pumpkin-selling season in full swing and work on another business venture I'll be letting you in on soon. But here are some thoughts I had jotted down:

You hear abortion advocates say that they want the "procedure" to be "safe, legal and rare." Why rare? Is there something wrong with it? Does anyone say they want wife-beating to be "safe, legal and rare"? You don't hear the NRA say that guns should be "safe, legal and rare," just safe and legal. Interestingly, the same people who want want abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" tend to be the people who want guns to be simply illegal. Why don't they extend the same logic and say they are "pro-choice" on guns, and that they want guns to be "safe, legal and rare"?

I don't like the way news people report on South Dakota's (not actually in effect) abortion ban, saying that it would ban abortion "EVEN in cases of rape or incest." That's editorializing. It implies a judgment that it SHOULD be allowed in such cases. Can you imagine a reporter saying, after passage of an anti-domestic abuse law, "This law bans wife beating, EVEN if she burns dinner or cheats on her husband"?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Great Society" a Footnote to History?

The Robert Taylor Homes project is almost a memory. Once home to 27,000 poor people living in 28 towers, the Chicago public housing project will be gone by spring. The last tenants of the last remaining tower are being evicted this month. (news story: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/nation/15705441.htm )

These public housing projects were a disaster. What did the great liberal thinkers of the 1960s do? Look at how well it had worked out to put Native Americans on worthless land with no jobs, and decide to do the same for African-Americans by creating "urban reservations"?

I think there's such a parallel between the "War on Terror" and the "War on Poverty." So much of what critics say about the former could be applied to the latter -- only multiplied several times. With the former, people say that to "stay the course" is lunacy. Three years in Iraq and still the war is not won. Time to give it up. Don't keep wasting money on something that isn't working. It's a quagmire.

Yet, 40+ years of the "War on Poverty," and what do the same people say? Stay the course! So what if we are creating more poor people and more urban terrorists? We should just spend more money on the same things.

Talk about your quagmires!

I found one ray of hope in the news story: The reporter thought it necessary to explain what the term "Great Society" means. Maybe that means it's been consigned to the dustbin of history. Or at least that name has been.

Monday, October 9, 2006

More On White Slight

Last week I wrote about how the St. Paul public schools had mailed me a flyer inviting me to meet with the new, over-paid superintendent. I was given the choice of four meetings, each one named for a specific ethnic/racial group. None of which includes me -- a guy with pale skin who doesn't speak Spanish.

Blogger LaShawn Barber picked up on it after I sent her what I had written. She agreed with my point that the district would never hold a "White Community Conversation," even though white students are only the third largest group in the district. LaShawn is a rarity: a young, conservative, Republican, black woman. She likes to point out what she thinks are ridiculous examples of racial politics and political correctness. But as an example of how bizarre blogs can be, the issue has garnered a huge number of reader comments, many of whom go off topic with their own pet issues, but also others who say that I'm wrong to think there is something amiss, and that this is perfectly reasonable. One even said I should attend the one at the MLK center, unless I'm afraid to. Is that a threat?

(You can read what LaShawn wrote at http://lashawnbarber.com and scroll down to her 10.05.06 post. There's a link to read the comments at the end of the entry. LaShawn has a fairly high profile in the "blogosphere." She has even appeared on TV news shows.)

I tried posting a couple of comments myself, to help people understand my point, but I think that's hopeless. An unwinnable battle. It shows how impossible it is to talk about anything involving race. I think the flyer stands alone as an undeniable gaffe by the school district. It says "you're invited," then excludes me with every available meeting. Would the district ever advertise a "White Community Meeting"? I don't think so. Would there be an uproar if no meeting had been included for one of the groups that was included? I know so.

Those are the points I was making. I thought all-Americans, regardless of what precedes their hyphen, should be able to look at this and see how ridiculous it is.

But, no. For some of the commentators on LaShawn's blog, it was about what some white person did to some black person 200 years ago. (Never mind that this wasn't a BLACK issue, it became one!) Someone said I should just attend one of the scheduled meetings, because an item in the newspaper the next day said they were open to the public and anyone could attend. OK, then why have specific meetings at all, if people outside the group the "community conversation" is named for should attend it anyway? That argument suggests that we should just have non-specific meetings, and not bother to attempt to target them.

Others seemed to think that I said the over-paid Super shouldn't have any meetings targeting certain groups. I didn't say that at all. I thought it comical that the district could go to so much trouble to be "inclusive," yet so easily overlook my own group. Having specific meetings with interpreters is fine. But those shouldn't be the ONLY meetings.

One commentator wanted to know why the "white community" is in an uproar. First of all, there isn't a "white community." Again, that plays to the point I'm making. Second, there isn't any uproar. That's because the mainstream media haven't made an issue of it. Why? Because there is no "white community" filing lawsuits or marching about it!

(Compare this to the Sandy Stephens "scandal" http://www.downingworld.com/DW8-05.html#D081105 of last year, when the University of Minnesota misspelled the name of a former star quarterback when past stars were being acknowledged. "It's because he's black!" went the cry. Never mind that other black players had their names spelled correctly. This was a racial slight, the self-appointed "spokesmen" for the "black community" cried in the easily-available media coverage.)

Others wanted to get into a Clintonian argument about whether these "community conversations" were geared toward "races" or "ethnicities." As though that mattered! The district didn't have a "white meeting," or an "Italian-American" meeting, either.

I think this flyer demonstrates that while the district is trying so hard to be "inclusive," it is overlooking -- or taking for granted -- what is now just another minority group they are supposed to serve. I want the district to own up to it, admit that they made a mistake, and learn from it. Say "Oops! Our bad!" and get on with it.

Otherwise, I've been "disenfranchised," as goes the popular refrain these days. Guess I won't be able to vote for that school referendum then, will I?

Friday, October 6, 2006

Pumpkin Season Starts Saturday

Pumpkin season starts tomorrow. I'll be selling pumpkins at Ford Parkway and Snelling Ave., in good old St. Paul. I'll be there weekends through Halloween, and some days leading up to the spook night, too. To learn about the Downing Family Farm and our pumpkin business, go to http://www.downingpumpkins.com

Friday, October 6, 2006

No School Shootings in the 'Hood?

In yesterday's post, I said that if one of these all-too-frequent "school shootings" took place at an urban school with primarily black students, the media would not call it the "black school" shooting. That got me to thinking. Aren't all of these tragedies taking place in either the suburbs or rural settings? They aren't happening in the inner city. Which is interesting, because they are happening in places where the people would probably say, "I'm not going to the inner city. It's not safe there. I might get shot."


Thursday, October 5, 2006

Do the Amish All Look Alike?

I think this sort of goes along with the last topic I wrote about. It's another example of the blind spots (hypocrisy?) of those who practice political correctness.

I noticed yesterday that a radio news reporter, talking about the awful shooting in a school at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, kept referring to the school simply as "the Amish school." It was "the Amish school shooting." As the day went on, I noticed this was consistently how the media were referring to the school.

Now, maybe this particular school doesn't have a name on a big sign -- it may not be "Susan B. Anthony Elementary," or "The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Academy for Excellence." Maybe the people who use it simple call it "the school." But it's not the only Amish school in the country. Couldn't the media make a little effort to recognize that "the Amish" aren't all just one group of indistinguishable people? There are Amish communities in many different states, and certainly, just as with any other group of people, all the individuals aren't the same, either. (Talk radio callers the other day were trying to tell us what "the Amish" are like, based on their own limited experience. Well, guess what? I don't even know any Amish people, but I've no doubt that Amish people are individuals, just like the members of any other group. Some are just great, some are jerks.)

So couldn't they at least talk about the "Nickel Mines Amish school," for instance? If a shooting took place at a Roman Catholic school, would the news media call it the "Catholic school shooting"? Or would they call it, for example, the "St. Mary's school shooting"? Or the "Nickel Mines Catholic school shooting"? If a shooting took place at a school for black students, would it be the "black school shooting?" Definitely not on that one. They'd refer to the name of the school, or the city it is located in.

Here's an example: Last year, a student went nuts and shot-up the high school on the Red Lake (Minn.) Indian Reservation. This was not reported as the "Indian school shooting," was it? Of course not. It was the "Red Lake school shooting." Everyone in the media was very careful not to report anything in anyway that might be taken as a slight to Native Americans.

But with this latest tragedy, it's just "the Amish school shooting." You know those Amish. They're all the same. They dress the same. They look the same. They all act the same. Yeah, of course they do.

Why not report this as simply the "Nickel Mines school shooting"?

The media are doing to the Amish the same sort of things they bend over backwards not to do to any other group. Or at least, not to any group that doesn't have pale skin and adhere to the Bible. I think your typical Mainstream Media person thinks the Amish are freaks, and they report accordingly.

The Amish are just "those people."

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Follow-up on "Whitey Stay Home"

Some more information has come to light about all those "community conversations" I told you about yesterday. It turns out American Indians weren't forgotten, after all. According to a brief news story, their "community conversation" already took place last month.

But where's the love for the white minority?

In a blurb in a local news round-up, the Pioneer Press reports that "The meetings came about because of requests from community groups, said Dan Rodriguez, senior ombudsman for the district, and additional requests are welcome."

Hmm. Maybe I should contact Mr. Rodriguez and make a request for a "White Community Conversation." And I'll request that they advertise it as just that, a "White Community Conversation." Can you imagine such a thing! But what's so strange about that? It would be simply treating everyone the same, regardless of race. Isn't that supposed to be our goal?

Here's the flyer that started this all.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Whites Need Not Apply

Yesterday I received a mailing from the St. Paul Public Schools. It came addressed to "Saint Paul Public Schools Family." It reads:

"You're Invited

"Community Conversations with Saint Paul Public Schools' new superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen.

"She will be available to share her goals and vision for Saint Paul Public Schools and to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions.

"Meet Dr. Meria Carstarphen at one of the following events:"

Oh, boy, the new Super wants to hear from me! Let's see which "community conversation" will work best for me. What's first on the calendar?

October 9: "African American Community Conversation"

Hmmm. Refreshments will be served. Tempting, but I guess that's not me. What's next?

October 11: "Somali Community Conversation"

Childcare, interpreting, and dinner. That sounds good. But it's still not me. Question: Aren't Somalis also African-Americans? (With a hyphen, which the school district left out.)

What's this next one? I can't read it. Oh, it's just the same event. I can tell from the times and date. Must be written in Somali. But here's another one. Maybe this one is for me.

October 16: "Latino Community Conversation"

No, still not me. There will be refreshments, childcare, and translators, though. Sounds good. One more to go, this one must be "inclusive" of people like me, right?

October 30: "Hmong Community Conversation"

Still not me. Translators provided, but no mention of child care or food. Don't Hmong people need to eat, too? They're holding the event at supper time.

What's going on here? Someone's not being reached out to. Yes, American Indians have been ignored. But look again. Is anyone else being ignored? That's right. White people. Don't white people get to meet the new Super, too? I can guess the response: "This is a special attempt to reach out to minority groups that might not feel included otherwise." (Then what about those American Indians?)

But the numbers don't bear that out. Students in the St. Paul schools are about 30% Asian, 29% black, 28% white, 11% Hispanic, 1% American Indian, and 1% something else. (That's as I remember it. Sorry, I've been trying and trying to find the exact numbers on this written down somewhere, but I'm coming up empty.) Not only are whites not a "majority," they're not even a plurality! If this mailing is an attempt to include minority groups, they've left a very important one out!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Outside the Law?

An NFL player has been suspended for five games, after he stomped on an opponent's head and kicked him in the face. Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth attacked Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode during Sunday's game in Nashville.

I heard mentioned on the radio today that Nashville authorities were considering charging Haynesworth with assault, but that Gurode didn't want to press charges. That raises an interesting question, one that has come up before, and at least a couple of times when one pro hockey player has attacked another. Are athletes competing under the rules of their sports also subject to the "civilian" legal system? Or should punishment for their crimes be meted out by authorities within their own leagues?

Because if we adopt that way of thinking -- that people can willingly involve themselves in an activity that is somehow outside the realm of the law -- then where does it end? If an assault is not an assault because it occured during an organized sporting event, then is an assault still an assault if it involves people willingly participating in organized violence?

So if one gang member assaults another, should the police department let it go? "They'll handle it themselves," we could say. "They have their own rules to penalize that sort of behavior." And so maybe the perpetrator would receive a long-term 9mm "suspension." After all, all parties were willingly members of "teams" participating in this "competition."

Sounds ridiculous? Sure. But why do we let athletes operate outside the law?

Monday, October 2, 2006

This War Creates Domestic Terrorists

Some people want us to believe that the War on Terror has created terrorists.

With that sort of thinking, then we'd also have to say that the War on Poverty (40+ years of taxpayer-funded quagmire!) has created the local terrorist thugs shooting up North Minneapolis. Public housing and welfare programs that have helped destroy the nuclear family have proven themselves effective breeding environments for new generations of American urban terrorists.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Working Poor? How About the "Playing Poor"?

What would you call it if a business reported record sales, the owners were billionaires, the workers were millionaires, and the industry still demanded hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidies every year?

You'd call it Major League Baseball.

Yes, Major League Baseball was pleased as punch to announce over the weekend that they've set another attendance record this year, breaking last year's record.

Shouldn't they be able to afford to build their own stadiums?

Friday, September 29, 2006

"Vision" Good; "Beliefs" Bad

Here's a good column from blogger and Pioneer Press "hobby columnist" Craig Westover. Craig writes about how some people wish to disqualify Christians from public policy debates, crying "this isn't a theocracy!" (Unless, of course, the Christians align themselves with liberals.)

Liberal want to impose their "vision" for the "community" through government fiat. They want to impose their "values" because they think they know what is good and right. But let conservative Christians express an opinion based on their own Bible-shaped world view, and it's, "don't impose your religion on me!" and "separation of church and state!"

Liberals often get cause and effect backwards. (For instance, people who are financially successful may be more likely to vote Republican. But while Democrats will say those people vote Republican because they are greedy and want more money for themselves, I think that's getting it backward. I think those same people tend to be financially successful because they have adhered to conservative, Republican values all along. Those values are a prescription for success.)

In this case, what they get backward is the notion that the church is telling people how to vote, and thus those people's votes are somehow invalid. Do people vote a certain way and take certain stands on public issues because their church tells them to? Or do people belong to the churches they belong to because that church also supports their own public policy beliefs?

For instance, I belong to a church denomination that opposes abortion. Is that why I oppose abortion? Heck, no. I figured that out on my own. So when I was looking for a church to join after I moved to St. Paul, I darn sure wasn't going to join one that said abortion was acceptable.

People can choose which church to belong to. Liberals, too. That's why they join "social justice" congregations. Whether liberal or conservatives, people tend to seek out a church that will tell them they are right.

It might not be good theology, but it's the reality of politics.

Craig Westover's blog can be found at http://www.craigwestover.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nice Lear Jet, Father

Two Florida priests are accused of stealing millions of dollars:

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Two Roman Catholic priests stole millions in offerings and gifts made to their parish over several years, authorities said Thursday. Prosecutors say Monsignor John Skehan, who was arrested Wednesday night, and the Rev. Francis Guinan stole a total of $8.6 million from the church, using the money to buy property, vacations and other assets, investigators said. Guinan has disappeared and was being sought, authorities said.

Maybe no one noticed the money was missing, but unless the stolen money was actually being funneled to some other charity, wouldn't it be hard for a priest to hide his new-found wealth? When Father starts taking his own Lear Jet to vacation on his own island, it's time to check the books.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Linkage of Islamism and Nazism

Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations also links Islamism and Nazism. Read his column from the LA Times.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rise of the Fourth Reich

A German opera house has cancelled a scheduled performance after police warned that there could be a violent backlash from Muslim fundamentalists (terrorists).

The Deutsche Oper decided that the show -- an avant-garde remake of Mozart's "Idomeneo" -- must not go on.

Gosh, why might Muslims react with violence? Could it be because they've been taught that is the way to get what they want? Now the very threat of violence is enough for them to get their way. Spain, the Netherlands, France, Germany -- careful! don't rile the Muslims, they might throw a tantrum.

And it really is just like a kid who uses the threat of a tantrum in the grocery store to get what he wants. And the people who give in to that blackmail are just like bad parents who let the kids be in charge.

But the scariest part of this story can be found in the final two paragraphs:

Germany has a strong tradition of free speech developed largely in response to the censorship policies enforced by the Third Reich.

In fact, the Nazis took control of the Deutsche Oper after they came to power in 1933.

Got that? The Nazis told the Deutsche Oper what to do, now the Islamic terrorists are telling the Deutsche Oper what to do.

The Islamafascists are following in the footsteps of the Third Reich.

Next thing you know, they'll be trying to kill all the Jews.

And people claim that President Bush and the Republicans are "Nazis"?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bluegrass Concert Friday Night

Friday night we'll be having a bluegrass and gospel concert at my church in St. Paul. It starts at 7:00 pm, at Calvary Lutheran Church, 341 Hamline Ave. So. Church phone is 651-698-6138. Admission is free; your donations support the local Birthright crisis pregnancy center.

The band is a St. Paul group called Pocahontas County. You can hear a sample of their sound on their web page: http://myspace.com/pocahontascounty

Get complete concert info, and view a map to the church, at http://www.calvarystpaul.org/concerts.html

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How Dumb Are People?

Pretty dumb.

How dumb are Democrats?

A poll claims that 42 percent of Americans think President Bush is manipulating oil prices so that gas is getting cheaper in advance of the election. Two-thirds of those people are registered Democrats. Joe Soucheray has a good column on the topic.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Democrats are ga-ga over their Fifth District Congressional Candidate, Keith Ellison, he with the anti-Semitic past. I read one apologist "reason" that it doesn't matter, after all, we have other hateful bigots in elected office, like Sen. "KKK" Byrd of West Virginia. Oh, I guess it's OK, then. At least since Byrd is also a Democrat. I guess the party of "tolerance" is "equal opportunity" when it comes to bigotry. If you're a Democrat, it's OK to hate Jews or Blacks!

How dumb is the U.S. press?

Pakistani President Musharraf says the U.S. threatened to bomb his country back to the stone age, then declines further comment, because the publisher of his upcoming book doesn't want him to talk about it. What a tease! But the press jumps all over it. Better they should tell him to buy an ad if he wants to sell books.

How dumb are Middle Eastern terrorists?

We're being told that the U.S. being in Iraq is creating terrorists. But the reason the U.S. is still in Iraq three years after toppling Sadam is because the place is full of terrorists. It's pretty simple: If they want the "infidel" to leave, all they have to do is stop blowing things up and stop killing people. The U.S. wanted nothing more than to leave again after toppling Sadam. But those who claim they fight in order to make the U.S. leave have instead forced the U.S. to stay.

If they would stop the violence, the U.S. would leave and they could have their Arab/Muslim paradise. But they don't really want that, do they? Not the ones who are causing all the trouble. When the U.S. leaves, they'll just keep killing people anyway. The "inconvenient truth," as Al Gore might say, is that we're dealing with a subgroup of uncivilized people acting out their uncivilized belief system. That's not politically correct, but it's true.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another Take on Klobuchar Ad Theft

Fellow St. Paul blogger Ken Martin offers his thoughts on the theft of un-aired Mark Kennedy campaign ads by an Amy Klobuchar partisan.  

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Utopia Doesn't Work

I bet the cartoonist didn't even realize just how profound this cartoon is:

This is why Utopia is impossible. This is why Communism fails.

You'll never get everyone to cooperate and do what they should -- or refrain from doing what they shouldn't. That's simply a fact of human existence.

It's why "peace" is so hard to come by. World peace requires 100 percent cooperation. Every nation must want peace. If just one nation doesn't, then there is war. And the reality is that there are always some bad apples out there who see most of the world wanting peace, and see it as their opportunity to use force to get what they want.

We can look closer to home for another example of how it's impossible to get everyone to do what they should. In the Twin Cities, we have some "ramp meters" that regulate traffic wishing to enter the freeways. People complain about the ramp meters, because they object to having to wait on the entrance ramp for their turn to go.

But we wouldn't have the ramp meters if people would just drive how they should.

The trouble is that without the meters, traffic tends to flow down the ramp in a bumper-to-bumper slug of cars, creating a sort of "train" of automobiles, all trying to merge into traffic at once. This creates a shock in the high speed traffic already on the freeway, as people hit the brakes and try to change lanes to avoid the merging vehicles. This creates a shock wave that slows traffic for miles back.

Yes, if everyone just did what they should, and spaced themselves out as they entered the freeway, there would be no need for ramp meters.

But they don't. And they never will.

This is another of those things that doesn't really change from childhood. Think of the school teacher or principal who ends up taking away everyone's privileges because some of the kids couldn't control themselves. "We wouldn't have to police you if you could police yourselves," is the explanation.

But it's entirely predictable. You'll never get complete cooperation from a large group of people. Some individual always decides that he will break the rules to gain himself some sort of advantage. In the end, everyone loses.

[More "The Buckets" cartoons: http://www.comics.com/comics/buckets/html/email_comic.html]

Friday, September 22, 2006

Amy Klobuchar, a Virgin, and the Devil

No, they didn't walk into a bar together to begin a joke. (But if you can work a joke around that set-up, send it to me! It does illustrate the importance of proper punctuation, in the vein of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves.") Rather, I've got some comments on the news of the day -- and the people involved.

Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota, is in the news over, well... I'm not sure exactly what the story is. To sum it up as best I can, a liberal blogger with no official connection to the Klobuchar campaign was sleuthing online and found an as-yet-unaired TV ad for Klobuchar's Republican opponent, Mark Kennedy, on the website of an agency working for the Kennedy campaign. The blogger viewed the ad and forwarded a link to it to Klobuchar's communications director, who viewed the ad herself, and may have shared it with others. The communications director, Tara McGuinness, resigned (was fired) Monday.

The blogger claimed he didn't "hack" into the website to view the Kennedy ad, but rather, accessed it in a private area by guessing the correct password.

So was what he did wrong?

In the new age of Al Gore's Internet, this is one of those things that is not so clear.

Generally speaking, anything posted on a website is assumed to be there for public viewing and use. If some areas are not for public use, then they need to be protected with passwords that aren't easily "guessed." But does that mean if someone can guess a password, they win a prize, so to speak, and are entitled to what they unlock?

I don't think so. Suppose the door to the Klobuchar campaign office is protected by one of those push-button combination locks I've sure you've seen. If I go up to the locked door and correctly guess that the code is "666," am I then entitled to go inside and take whatever I want? Of course not.

It will be interesting to see if this case will set some sort of precedent.

Some Democrats, even Bush critics such as U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, have been grabbing any available microphone in order to denounce Venezuelan dictator Hugo "Boss" Chavez for calling President Bush "the devil."

It's nice to see this, but are these Democrats really coming to the "defense" of the Commander-in-Chief? Don't be so sure.

I think I know what's going on here. Rangel and the others saw and heard Chavez and suddenly had an epiphany. It was as though they were looking in a mirror. They realized that Chavez was trying to jump on the bandwagon that they themselves are pulling. They suddenly realized -- though they would never admit it, even to themselves -- that their own critics are right, they've gone to far in criticizing our president, and have been aiding and encouraging the enemy. So much so that Chavez now feels comfortable coming here and attacking Bush the way that he did. Chavez probably thinks Americans will rise up and follow him in an overthrow of Bush, because he has bought into the Dems rhetoric and the mainstream media's anti-Bush coverage.

So Rangel and the others aren't protecting President Bush, they're looking out for their own political backsides.

I also question Rangel's choice of words. The Rep. from New York said that no one should come to the U.S. "and think because we have a problem with our president" that they can insult our president and think that Americans will not be offended.

What does he mean by "because we have a problem with our president"?

I wonder what Rangel would think if President Bush responded to some racist's speech by saying, "just because we have problems with Black people doesn't mean you can come here and insult them."

Can you imagine that!

Couldn't Rangel have been more diplomatic? How about saying something like, "just because we don't all agree with the President"?

Of course, not everyone get it. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa had this to say -- in defense of Chavez: "Let me put it this way, I can understand the frustration, ah, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush's policies."

Whose side is he on? I think "You're either with us or against us" extends to U.S. Senators, too.

Billionaire Richard Branson made the news by pledging to use $3 of his profits from his Virgin Airlines to fund research into ways to fight so-called "global warming." Advocates claim "global warming" is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, largely in transportation vehicles including JET AIRLINERS!

Hello, anyone home?

I get tired of wealthy do-gooders trying to save the environment. The simple truth, inconveniently for Al Gore, is the more money you have, the more you abuse Mother Earth. Jetting around the globe, building huge mansions, acquiring lots of expensive goods, all those things use up Earth's resources.

But the wealthy hypocrites think they can buy their way out of that fact. If they were sincere, they would swear off their jet-set lifestyles and live simply. But instead, they talk big and throw their money around, feeding their already morbidly-obese egos and assuaging their guilt. They get to feel really good about themselves. I'm reminded of "Obvious Song" by Joe Jackson, from his 1991 album "Laughter and Lust," on -- get this! -- Richard Branson's Virgin Records.

There was a man in the jungle

Trying to make ends meet.

Found himself one day with an axe in his hand.

When a voice said "Buddy can you spare that tree

We gotta save this world -- starting with your land."

It was a rock 'n' roll millionaire from the USA

Doing 3 to the gallon in a big white car.

And he sang and he sang 'til he polluted the air

And he blew a lot of smoke from a Cuban cigar.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Watch Your Tongue... All the Time

Minnesota Twins TV announcer Bert Blyleven was suspended this month after using a very bad word during a pre-game show. Bert misspoke, then uttered the profanity (in a couple of well-known variations) and asked to start over. At which point he was told they were not taping the segment; he was on live TV.


I suppose Bert will think he "learned his lesson." But will he really?

Because the lesson isn't "make sure you're not on live before you use bad language." No. The lesson is, DON'T USE BAD LANGUAGE. Especially if you're a broadcaster. If you're a broadcaster, you should assume everything you say is going out to the public. The same way an electrician should assume every wire is hot. Or a hunter should assume every gun is loaded.

A broadcaster really shouldn't try to have an "off mike" self and an "on mike" self. That's sure to get him into trouble. Think of the truck driver who risks losing his livelihood if he drives drunk -- even when not "on duty." He has to control himself whether he thinks he's on the clock, or not. In the same way, a broadcaster should control his language at all times. Otherwise, accidents will happen.

I've been out in public with my kids, let's say standing in line for a movie, and someone will let fly with some pointless profanity. Then maybe the guy sees my kids and says, "Oh, sorry, I didn't know there were kids around."

That's not the point. He's out in public. He doesn't know who is or isn't around him. So he shouldn't use language like that. Period.

I also think of the infamous "Love Boat" sex party that the Minnesota Vikings football team held last year. I don't think everyone learned the right lesson from that. I heard too many people talk about how they should have had their party in a hotel, instead of on a boat, or that the mistake was in letting people find out about it.

Too many people seemed to think the lesson was: Try harder not to get caught.

But that's not it. The lesson should be: Don't be having sex parties! You're overpaid entertainers, living off of the public through ticket sales and public stadium subsidies. You've got a good thing going. Now behave yourselves.

(If you want to see and hear just what Bert said, it's on www.youtube.com. What isn't these days?)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Did you know that today, Sept. 19, is "International Talk Like a Pirate Day"? And I'm not making that up. Here's the official website about the "holiday." http://www.talklikeapirate.com/

In honor of the BIG DAY, I've penned my very own


10. Black Sideburns

9. Roger the Reconciler

8. Black-Eyed Susan

7. Yellow Soul Patch

6. Matt the Mensch

5. Red Comb-Over

4. Mary Kay the Pink

3. St. Francis of the Sea See

2. Salt & Pepper Beard

1. Peachfuzz the Pirate

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dependent on the Kindness of Capitalists

There was a story in the paper over the weekend about an unusual estate sale. The estate being liquidated was that of Webster Martin, a man who had apparently collected just about anything he could get his hands on for many decades. He was said to have frequented every thrift store in the state looking for "finds."

But my mind working the way it does, this quote was what jumped out at me:

"Socialism. We are looking for socialism," said Justin Schell as he squeezed between racks, carrying two bags of books. Schell, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, was helping gather about 400 left-leaning books for the Book House in Dinkytown.

Isn't there some irony on display here? Here was a socialist looking to get a good deal on books, but he had this opportunity thanks to capitalism and market forces. Consider the "life story" of these books: Someone originally made the choice to spend money to purchase them. They were apparently deemed no longer very valuable, and went to thrift stores. Where Mr. Martin purchased them with his own money and of his own free will. And now they were being sold in a public sale.

All along the way, people made choices about how much the books were worth to them, and acted accordingly. Without the government making the decision for them.

That sounds like capitalism. And it's getting the socialist what he wants. Do you think he sees the irony? No, me neither. If he could see the obvious, he wouldn't be a socialist, would he?

This sort of reminds me of those stories you read about people who want to make a statement and "drop out" of the system by going without a car. They depend on walking, biking, public transportation. Of course, they'll take a ride from someone else, or borrow a car if they need to. But the most important point I'd make is that the "drop out" can take the bus to his well-paying white collar job only because not everyone "drops out." If everyone did, the economy would slow, and the standard of living would drop. He can "drop out" only because he's the exception. In a way, he's a freeloader. The mainstream economy that depends on cars and trucks generates the tax money to subsidize his bus.

I think this qualifies as a "fallacy of composition," in which one incorrectly infers that what is true for one person is true for everyone. As economics columnist Ed Lotterman likes to explain it, just because one person at a ballgame gets a better view if he stands up, that doesn't mean everyone should stand up.

Which reminds me of the 1970s BBC comedy "The Good Life" (titled "Good Neighbors" in the States), in which a couple "drop out" of the rat race to become self-sufficient by farming their backyard. The "drop outs" succeed to an extent, but with lots of help from hand-outs, hand-me-downs, and the generosity of neighbors. If everyone in the county tried to do what they did, well... they'd all be queing up to sign up for the dole.

Which brings us to a real-life group in San Francisco (where else?). "The Compact" has pledged not to buy anything in 2006 unless they can get it secondhand. (Well, they are making exceptions for food, health and safety items, and I hope, underwear.)

Again, this only works because not everyone does it. If everyone tried it, where would all the used goods come from? Someone has to buy them new in the first place!

I agree with the group's belief that American consumerism could use plenty of toning down, but c'mon:

"I didn't buy a pair of shoes today," said Compacter Shawn Rosenmoss, an engineer and a San Francisco resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They were basically a $300 pair of clodhoppers. But they were really nice and really comfortable, and I haven't bought new shoes for a while. But I didn't buy them. That's a big part of the Compact -- we show that we're not powerless over our purchasing."

That's something to be proud of?! I'd never buy a $300 pair of shoes, anyway. I've tried to moderate my consumerism all along. It sounds like these people were so far off the shopaholic deep end that now they've decided they have to go cold turkey. Like they say, there's no true believer quite like a convert. Seems like they are trying to make up for the past "sins" of their previous lifestyle of conspicuous consumption. Now they're going to be "holier than thou" about their new, austere lifestyle. It's to the extreme one way or the other for these folks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Watch Out for Bones... or Maybe a File?

Here's another great story I learned about while listening to BBC Radio Cornwall:

At a school in South Yorkshire, England, some students are unhappy with the lunch service. They don't like the food offerings, or having to wait in line so long to be served. ,But the students are locked onto the school grounds and can't leave at lunch time to get something else. So some parents are taking orders in the morning (through the bars -- like a prison or the zoo!), then coming back at lunch time with fish and chips and passing the packages through the bars of the fence to the kids!

Check out the full story. And whatever you do, DON'T overlook the video clip! There's a "watch" button on the right hand side of the page. The video of the students reaching through the bars of the fence is so bizarre, it could be a Monty Python sketch.

(FYI: "Jacket potatoes" are baked potatoes, and "chips" are French fries.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

UK Sisters Claim "Discrimination" Over Same-Sex Marriage Law

When the push for same-sex marriage really gained momentum a couple of years ago, I asked, Where will it end? Once marriage becomes purely a financial/legal arrangement, and all pretense of it being a natural/biological/procreative arrangement is dropped, then who can't get married?

I suggested that all sorts of "couples" might pursue this new type of marriage, just for the financial benefits. For instance, I said that two elderly bachelor farmers might get "married" if one had a pension or good medical coverage.

That time has come.

In England, two elderly sisters, who have never married but have lived together all of their lives, are claiming "discrimination" because when one of them dies, the other will be hit with a huge inheritance tax bill, based on their shared property holdings. Under relatively new law in the UK, if they were a married lesbian couple, the sisters wouldn't be subject to the inheritance tax. But they can't get married, because they are sisters.

Once you start recognizing "discrimination" in one case, how do you not recognize it in all cases?

And if there are going to be same-sex marriages, why can't siblings get married anyway? The issue of inbred children doesn't apply.

The sisters had a hearing before the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday. I'll let you know if I learn more.

(I learned about this story while I was listening to BBC Radio Cornwall online. If you want to take an overseas vacation without leaving your desk, tune in to the live webcast. Go to this web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/ and click the "listen live" button.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Patriot Day! Some Recommended Readings

Oh, you didn't know that today is Patriot Day? I'm not surprised. Far be it from the media to mention it. "Patriot Day" sounds too positive and pro-America. No, they insist that today must be spent as a day of hand wringing, feeling sorry for ourselves, and blaming George W. Bush.

I think there's something strange about "observing" or "commemorating" the 9/11 attacks while the war is still being fought. The time to mourn the dead is after the victory has been won. It's fine now that we should remember Pearl Harbor and shed tears for the men and women who died there. But what was America doing on December 7, 1942? Not crying about Pearl Harbor, that's for sure. Americans were too busy being united in winning the war that America had entered on that day.

In 2002, as the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, I was bothered by this same thing. I wondered at the time how America had "observed" the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Much differently, I guessed. I wasn't blogging at that time (hadn't even heard of "blogging"), so I passed along the idea to opinion columnist Doug Tice, then at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, now at the cross-river Star Tribune. He wrote a great column based on my idea. I can't find an online link to it, so I'll see if I can find it in my file and show it to you.

Aha! Found a clipping. I've scanned it, and here it is as a PDF. (Hope the Pioneer Press appreciates all the plugs I give them, and doesn't object to me posting their archival material.)

While looking for the clipping in my file, I also found another very interesting piece on the same topic. This one from Jennifer Harper, and appearing in the Washington Times. And we're in luck, I found an online link. Please read this one, you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Discretion May Be the Better Part of Progress

Do you remember an episode of the original Star Trek series, in which Spock is infected with some sort of parasite, and Doctor McCoy says the parasite can be killed by exposing Mr. Spock to intense light, but the treatment will render Spock blind? Then, after Spock has been blinded, McCoy discovers that he could have killed the parasite with just a narrow spectrum of light, which wouldn't have blinded Spock?

This topic makes me think of that.

The St Paul Pioneer Press reports today that a local company will be showing off their line of stem cells next week at a conference at the Vatican. With all the controversy over stem cells and embryonic research -- and the Roman Catholic church's concern about the matter -- how can this be?

It's because BioE's stem cells are derived not from embryos, but from umbilical cord blood.

Other companies and researchers have also been working on ways to get the useful stem cells they need without involving embryos. Such advances could render the embryo-research debate moot.

And isn't that something everyone should be able to hope for? Proponents of destroying embryos to obtain stem cells have argued that they need to do so, so that they can potentially make medical advances. The end justifies the means, they argue. But maybe if they'd just been more patient, we could have skipped that controversy entirely, by waiting until stem cells could be obtained in other ways.

There are some good environment-related examples, which is something embryo-destroying proponents should think about, since they tend to be on the same side of the aisle as the environmentalists. Think of how loggers used to clear-cut forests, leaving behind denuded, eroding land. We needed that timber! But then people wised up and said, Hey, we can still harvest timber, but we don't have to destroy the whole forest. Sure, it may have been more work, it may have cost more, but it didn't destroy the whole forest. How about strip mining? Eventually, we learned how to mine and restore, instead of mine and destroy.

Now we have an ongoing controversy over drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness. So far, the environmental interests have prevailed, arguing that we don't need the oil badly enough to risk damaging that environment.

The environment must be protected at all costs. But when it comes to destroying human embryos -- human life -- it's "the end justifies the means."

It seems odd when it's put like that. But then, what would you expect in a country where killing your unborn child is a Constitutional right, but Congress votes to outlaw the slaughter of horses for food?

Think about that one!

Maybe researchers "need" stem cells. But that doesn't give them carte blanche to do whatever they want. As I mentioned Thursday, the American South argued that they needed slavery, or their economy would collapse. But that didn't make slavery right, and finally, after much harm was done to fellow human beings, the South had to find a different way of running its economy.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Guest Post from Michelle Young: Hard Work and Saving

I wrote a bit back about how immigrants came to America to seek either land or wages. (Yes, I know I'm not addressing those who were brought here in slavery.) That inspired reader Michelle Young to send the following, which I found interesting.

I've just been reading about life in the middle ages, and found it interesting that the lives of peasants greatly improved after they started earning wages for day-labor. Rather than being tied to the land, in service of their local lord, they more and more became itinerant workers, trading work for money, and then saving that money until they could afford to buy their own land. Thanks to primogeniture combined with the Black Plague, more and more land became available for purchase, as the older families died out. Wages were the means to the preferred end of owning land, a more sure form of wealth. But people who worked for wages WITHOUT the goal of buying land soon faded into obscurity.

The European population had been in a state of decline before the Black Death, due to the fact that younger sons could rarely afford to marry, and usually wound up fighting all the wars and dying young, or else joining monasteries. With the advent of day wages, however, younger sons found it possible to make their own fortune, and even, eventually, to found dynasties of their own, thus having more children, and increasing the population. Also, the fertility rates of individual women skyrocketed after the Black Death. Why? They had lost their children to disease, found themselves childless, and realized the dangers of mortality. No more content with having "an heir," they had "an heir and a spare," as a matter of course, and many had up to 20 children, just to be sure that at least one would survive to continue the family to the next generation. Every time there was an outbreak of Black Death, there was a baby boom directly afterward.

There was a fascinating story of a peasant who, by working hard, saving his money, and investing wisely in land, was able to rise to the level of gentry. His son was educated, and became a lawyer, and by that means made some very helpful family connections. HIS son also became a lawyer, working for a more prominent lord who died childless, and made his most trusted confidant (you guessed it) his sole heir. Thus the powerful Paston family became aristocracy, and fabulously wealthy. For a generation, they defended that wealth against attacks, both physical and litigious, expanded it through investments and marriage. The heir who inherited it, without having to work at all for it, however, became complacent, and the family fortunes faded. In fact, the heirs along the way of this climb all married relatively young, and had many children. The complacent heir never bothered to marry, at all.

In the end, only the ones who actually worked for their fortune, either by trading physical labor for day wages, or by trading intellectual labor for alliances and good connections, were able to build and hold onto wealth. The ones who figured they'd be taken care of wound up losing it all because they didn't understand its value. In other words, only the ones who worked, in some form or another, were able to hold onto what they already had, let alone grow their fortunes.

Whether it's work for wages or work for land, WORK, and taking responsibility for yourself and your own future, is what causes growth, both of the economy and the population.

Have you noticed how our population has been declining? We are shrinking as a people, not even replacing our older population, becoming top-heavy with elders and not enough children, and why? Because we're being taken care of. Why should we work for our families, why should we raise up children to care for us in our old age, when the government will take care of us? We don't need children and grandchildren to carry on the chain, the older teaching the younger, and the younger supporting the infirmity of age, in turn. We have welfare and social security.

Thanks, Michelle. Wasn't it Aesop who wrote thousands of years ago about the ant and the grasshopper? Some things are true through the ages. You need to work to get ahead. Fiddling all summer won't cut it. When I was in England last year, I saw a once-grand estate. There was a great stone entryway to the estate -- like a building, not just a gate. But it didn't look very good. It wasn't being kept up. I heard comments about the heirs of the estate being not good for much. They spent their inherited money living it up. Wasted it, really. So I guess that still goes on today.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Afghanistan Flip-Flop in the Offing?

I've written before about how some people want to have it both ways by criticizing the war in Iraq, but showing themselves tough on terrorists by saying, "Of course I supported going into Afghanistan. That's different. That made sense."

How long before they change their tune? I've just heard on the radio that a suicide car-bomb in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul has killed 16 people, including two U.S. soldiers. How many such attacks will it take before the "tough on terror" Bush-critics who say they backed the Afghanistan campaign start denying that they ever did so? Many critics of the Iraq war backed it when it started. Now they pretend they knew better all along.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Simple Solutions Ignored by "Modern" World

It's out-with-the-old for the "progressives" of our "post-modern" age. If our forebears did something for centuries or even millennia, it must be wrong. We must replace it. They didn't know anything.

(Well, it's not quite that simple. Anything done by dead, white males must be thrown out, that's for sure. But if the Apu-pu people of Bonga-Wonga have done something for millennia, then we should, too! Especially if it can be translated into some over-priced consumer product sold at yuppy boutiques. After all, if they did it this way for so long, it must be good. We should benefit from their wisdom!)

Sex is no exception. The Clinton generation says we must shed our inhibitions. Drop our prudishness. We must stop "imposing our religion" on people by suggesting that it's not a good idea for everyone to be having sex willy-nilly with everyone else. And throw away that old "double standard." Females should be just as sexually irresponsible as males historically have been. That goes for teenage girls and boys, too. Age is no factor.

But maybe our traditional societal mores existed for a good reason. To serve and protect us, not just to spoil our fun. Here's an example in the "Dear Abby" column:

Dear Abby: My boyfriend (age 17) and I (age 14) are having "issues." Lately, he's always pushing me around, telling me what to do and exactly how to do it. I try my best, but sometimes it doesn't cut it for him -- and I just don't know what to do.

So, why don't you dump him? And why doesn't he dump you?

I want to salvage our relationship, so sometimes I try talking about it. But he either doesn't want to listen or blames everything that goes wrong on me. The only time he's ever actually nice is when he wants to have sex or think about it or talk about it. ...

Aha! Sex!

Here's this girl's problem: She's only 14 years old, and she's having sex with a 17-year-old jerk.

First of all, she's 14! She should not be having sex with the nicest guy in the world. She should not be having sex, period. But there's another principle here that applies to females of all ages: Don't have sex with a guy until you know he's there for you EVEN WITHOUT THE SEX.

Traditionally, that meant he cared enough to marry you. You know the saying, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" It means why should he marry you if you'll have sex with him anyway? In the case of the 14-year-old girl, it means why should he be nice to her if she'll have sex with him anyway?

But it's bigger than that, even. I think it's likely this guy doesn't even like the girl much. So why is he hanging around? Sex. It's that simple. He's 17, and he's got a girl putting out for him. He's not going to leave until he finds a chance to "trade up" to another model. And he will, as soon as he gets the chance. (Unless he tries to keep two cars in the garage.)

Ladies, here's a simple truth: If you start putting out for a guy, you won't know if he really cares about you, or if he just wants sex. That's the reality. Many guys are that way. Especially 17-year-olds. Do you really think a 17-year-old boy is going to say, "The sex is good, but I'm not really comfortable with where our relationship is going, so maybe we should take a break from one another"? Of course not. He's getting what he wants, and he'll keep stringing this girl along until something better comes along.

That's a harsh truth, but it's a harsh world.

If this 14-year-old would have refused to give this creep what he wants, I'm confident he would have moved on by now, and she wouldn't have this problem. She would have learned what he is like before it was too late.

It really is that simple.

Girls, Grandma knew what she was talking about. Don't give him the milk for free.

Alas, the modern "Abby" doesn't get it, either. She tells the girl to break up with the creep, but she never points out that having sex with the guy is what got her into this mess in the first place. This story should be a lesson to other girls, but this post-modern "Abby" drops the ball. I miss the original "Abby." She would have set this girl straight.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Immigrants, Slaves, and Unintended Consequences

An interesting economics column from Ed Lotterman today, who writes about the fallacy of "fixed lump" thinking about the labor force. The labor force is not of a fixed size, Lotterman writes, but varies depending largely on what level of pay is being offered. Lotterman goes on to discuss the ways that the labor force is influenced by various factors. He also disputes the claim that immigrants are necessary to do jobs that "no one else will do." Someone else would do those jobs, Lotterman says, but employers would have to raise the wages.

When I hear the claim that our economy is dependent on cheap, imported labor, I can't help thinking of one of the claims made by those who defended slavery in the United States. They said that the economy of the South was dependent on slavery, and it would collapse without it.

Presumably, without slaves plantation owners could have found people willing to pick their cotton for them, but they would have had to PAY THEM! That would have affected the cost of producing cotton, thus the price of cotton, the amount of cotton used, etc., etc.

Things would have changed in many ways, not all of which are easily predictable.

It makes me think of when I go to Wendy's, for example, and no one but the manager seems to speak English. They could find better educated, native-born workers if they wanted to, but then I'd have to pay more for my burger. Rising fast food prices would have repercussions, and soon fewer people would be employed in that sector, as fewer sales were made in fast food joints. But maybe more people would be working at grocery stores, instead.

There are always consequences.

History seems to show that as a civilization advances to a high standard of living, it needs to look outside its borders for cheap labor. (All the natives are too well-off to do jobs serving each other.) That's been true since the times of the Egyptians and the Roman Empire. Slavery has been common throughout world history; slavery in the American South was nothing new. Immigrants who'll work cheaply -- whether they've entered the country legally or illegally -- seem to fill much the same role as slaves have in history.

A mistake people make repeatedly is in thinking that change begins and ends with their own, personally desired change to the status quo. They ignore the law of unintended consequences. Lotterman touches on that when he points out how French attempts to increase employment by shortening the work week were ineffective.

Closer to home, the paper today has another example of unintended consequences, or "Be careful what you wish for." The closing of the notorious Payne Reliever on the Eastside of St. Paul is now being blamed for the decline of the Payne-Arcade Harvest Festival. It turns out that pull-tabs sold at the strip bar funded the festival through the local business association! The community celebrated the closing of the bar, now they are finding the flip side.

With the new smoking bans affecting bars in the Twin Cities, other community groups have voiced their concerns that they will suffer from a loss of pull-tab sales, as well.

Unintended consequences.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

War Hero Guy Gabaldon Dies at 80. He Single-handedly Captured More Than 1,000 Enemy Troops

Wow, here's an unbelievable true story. I can't believe I didn't already know about him. Guy Gabaldon died Aug. 31 at the age of 80. As an 18-year-old Marine, he captured more than 1,000 Japanese troops and talked them into surrendering.

C'mon. That can't be true!

But it is. I first saw mention of him in this easily-overlooked obit in the "deaths elsewhere" section of Wednesday's Pioneer Press. He deserved better billing than that.

Here's a website that tells Gabaldon's story, and includes a section where Gabaldon tells his story in his own words. This is required reading for anyone with an interest in WWII history. Hollywood even made a movie about him in 1960. I can't believe I didn't know his story!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

What, Did You Think Jesus Was Adopted or Something?

News from the Associated Press:

LA CROSSE, Wis. - A hospital has asked an artist whose paintings portray Jesus as a rabbi to take them down because they could be controversial... (full story)

I haven't seen the paintings, so I really can't issue a Downing World ruling on this, but I find the subject interesting. Just who is it that the hospital thinks will be offended? Christians? Jews? Art critics?

Let's see if we can establish some facts. Jesus was/is a Jew. His disciples call him "rabbi" or "teacher" in the Christian Bible.

The concept of depicting Jesus as a rabbi is intriguing. It should give Jews and Christians both something to think about -- about how much they have in common. Remember, fellow Christians, Jesus never said he had come to establish a new religion -- one in opposition to Judaism. Jesus said he had come to fulfill the prophecies of Judaism.

He seems to have seen himself as a rabbi. It might be good for all of us to see him that way, too.

(If you know of any website showing the paintings, please email and let me know.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Down (with) the Hatch

The kids are back in school today. Maybe I'll be able to get back to regular posting. Hope I haven't lost anybody. Maybe you all needed a late summer break, too.

We went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Many units of state government had booths in the Education Building. That included several constitutional offices. The state auditor had a booth, with a banner declaring "Office of the Minnesota State Auditor" (or about that). Another booth was bannered with "Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State." I think the State Treasurer had a similar generic banner.

But what about the Attorney General's office? Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch wants to be governor. In fact, it seems he's always wanted to be something else. The guy is either an ambitious, hard-working public servant, or a self-serving egomaniac, depending on your personal view. He's often been accused of using his office to try to promote himself.

So what did that booth's banner say? "The Office of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch." Yes, he had his own name on the banner. But he's running for governor this year, and his term as AG is expiring. The taxpayers will get to pay for a new banner next year.

Way to go, Mike!

If you'd like to know what I think about a particular topic, drop me a line: dave ["at"] downingworld [.com]. 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.


dave ["at"] downingworld [.com]


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