archives: October -- November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Too Much Stuff
Americans have too much stuff. Maybe there ought to be a movie about it. A story by John Austin for the Knight Ridder News Service reports that the self-storage industry is now a $15 billion a year business in the U.S., surpassing Hollywood's annual $9 billion.

Part of the story makes me think of the ancient Egyptians, who filled their tombs with earthly goods. One woman, who instead of renting a storage locker, bought a bigger house so she and her husband can keep their stuff close at hand:

"Our material possessions are like an extension of us," Sherry Knutson said. "It reminds you that even though it's just the two of us, we're not alone," she said. "The past keeps me moving forward. It keeps me company."

Hmmm. Maybe those pyramids were really just storage units.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Biology 101: Life's Not Fair
Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker offers her take on the case of the Catholic school that fired a teacher for getting pregnant while unmarried. I'm not going to analyze that case, I'll let Parker do it.

I'd like to comment on just one point that comes up in this case. The fired teacher has filed a discrimination suit, which points out, among other things, that the policy under which she was fired unfairly targets women.

Well, I suppose it does. But that's basic biology. What are you going to do about it? Women have always been "unfairly" affected by all things pregnancy-related. That's why, until quite recently in our cultural history, the onus has been on women to resist the desires of men so that they don't find themselves in an undesirable situation, pregnancy-wise. Women disproportionately "pay the price" for pregnancy. Women have had "more to lose," so they've been more reluctant to take risks.

Fair? Of course not. But while I'm not excusing irresponsible men, really, what are you going to do about it? We can't change it. So it behooves women to not take chances. Ladies, look out for yourselves.

Unfortunately, today's girls and women aren't getting that message like they should. Instead, it's "equality," women should be just like men -- whether or not that's an improvement. No more "double standard." Females can act just as irresponsibly as males.

But who pays the price?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Low Expectations: Why Fight It?
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. writes that in the Northern Neck school district of Virginia, high school athletes no longer line up and shake hands with their opponents after the game.

Too many rude comments were made, too many people got spat on, too many fights broke out. So the principals of five schools in the Northern Neck District agreed to end the policy of having opposing high school athletic teams line up single file to shake hands after the game.

Pitts does a great job of explaining why this is bad. Give him a read. Another excerpt:

...I'd be lying if I said I was not struck by the ban in Virginia. If the lack of sportsmanship is not a new wrinkle, perhaps you'll agree that this acquiescence to it is.

Granted, there's no way to quantify that observation. But can you imagine a principal, a coach, a parent or some other adult authority back in the aforementioned day backing down from an important principle simply because young people resisted it?

That is not to lay blame for the decline and fall of Western civilization at the feet of a few school administrators who are, after all, liable for the misbehaviors of students in their care. It is only to suggest that perhaps it is not, in the long run, the smartest thing in the world to change the rules to accommodate that misbehavior. Maybe it would be better to leave sensible rules in place and instead exact a price when students get out of line.

But increasingly we don't "exact a price." Instead, we lower our standards. We don't worry about what the smartest thing in the long run; we take the easy way out today. The Virginia handshake ban is just another example of the defeatist attitude that says we must accommodate bad behavior, not correct it. It sends the message that we EXPECT these kids to fight unless adults keep them apart. If they run into each other later at the mall, with no coaches or referees around, then what? How will they know how to conduct themselves then, if we aren't teaching them on the playing field?

We have this defeatist attitude in so many other areas, not limited to, but noticeably when it comes to raising children. For example, there are the parents who buy their kids booze, as long as they'll drink it at home, because "they're just going to drink anyway." Or there's sex. Too many people have given up even suggesting that kids shouldn't be having sex. Some parents even allow their kids to have sex at home, because it's "safer."

In the case of the post-game handshake, Northern Neck school officials who think the handshake is not worth the trouble are missing the point. The handshake is not an end in itself. It's not done just for the sake of having a handshake. Rather, the handshake is a means to teaching sportsmanship and something even bigger -- maturity.

The Northern Neck administrators aren't just abandoning the post -game handshake, they are abandoning their responsible to teach and help raise children into responsible adults.

Here's a radical idea: Any player who spits, fights, or acts unsportsmanlike is off the team. That would "exact a price," and teach a lesson.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What Goes Around, Comes Around
Last Wednesday, I wrote a post inspired by Mark Yost's Pioneer Press editorial page column on NFL finances. Today, Yost writes a follow-up, and mentions yours truly!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Heretic! Blasphemer! Bow Down Before the Mighty God Science!
In a guest editorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Scott Lanyon, director of the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota, claims that the U.S. is deficient in science education. Can't argue with that.

But I do take exception to some of his conclusions. Once again, we see the arrogance of science.

A high percentage of Americans ignores, or actively denies, the outcomes of scientific studies -- most notably when they don't like the conclusions. It's as if denying that the global climate is changing will somehow alter the fundamental reality of scientific facts. People can debate all they want whether or not human activity is the primary cause of climate change, but it doesn't change the scientific fact that ocean water temperature has risen, tropical storms have become more violent, and annual rainfall patterns have shifted dramatically.

Mr. Lanyon misses the whole point. The key is indeed whether or not "human activity is the primary cause of climate change." If it is not, then why are we trying to alter our practices to prevent it? Maybe we'll just make things worse.

And just the fact that ocean temperatures are rising doesn't necessarily mean that we need to do something about it. Maybe it's just part of a natural cycle. It is a fact that this time of year the days are getting shorter. We know, of course, that this is a natural cycle, and that it will soon reverse itself. And we know that we don't need to do anything about it.

But it is easy to imagine a primitive culture thinking that the shortening periods of sunlight were being caused by the gods being mad at them. They would make sacrifices to the gods, to atone for their errant ways. Eventually, they would see that their sacrifices had worked. The days were getting longer again! Armed with this new "knowledge," they would be prepared to begin the sacrifices again at the first sign that the days were shortening.

In the same way, there are those today who wish us to "sacrifice" our SUVs to atone for our evil ways. You can easily detect the sense of moral outrage -- not just supposed science -- in the rhetoric that comes from the anti-SUV crowd.

Lanyon also writes:

The philosophical and religious arguments about the role God plays in human and Earth's history has a rich tradition and will likely continue for as long as humans exist. Science, however, is -- by definition -- mute on the subject of God. When the discussion of intelligent design reaches from the sociology classroom to the biology lab, we can't afford to allow the debate to overshadow the critical subject of how we teach science in our schools.

There it is, the arrogance of science. Thou shalt not consider any possibility other than what we have told you to believe. We are the all-knowing scientific community. Do not commit heresy against us.

In a gigantic role reversal, it's as though the scientific community has taken over the role of the Renaissance church. An open mind, inquiry into the unknown, considering that there may be more than what we think we already know, is considered blasphemy. Thou shalt not go against the pillars of scientific belief. Even if scientific observation finds new information that doesn't match with what the church of science has been teaching, that doesn't mean that science has been wrong. Science knows all.

Just as the church once upon a time called Galileo a heretic for his (accurate) theories of planetary movement, now those who dare question "the word" on the origin of the universe are branded heretics.

With its focus on global warming, evolution, the depletion of natural resources, Lanyon's column is a clear example of how the arrogance of science becomes the most dangerous -- when it is tied to a liberal political agenda. Lanyon worries about someone's religion becoming intertwined with science. Yet, he freely ties science to his own politics.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Intelligent Design and the Common Cold
Looks like what grandma told you was right: getting cold can lead to catching a cold. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales have determined that test subjects who sat with their feet in cold water caught more colds than test subjects who sat with their feet in empty bowls.

This, despite the widely and generally accepted scientific "fact" that not dressing warmly had no connection to catching a cold, which was solely dependent on being exposed to a virus. (Indeed, in searching the Web for the Cardiff story, which I had heard about on the radio, I found several scientific and medical resources telling me -- in no uncertain way -- just that very thing.)

This is another example of what I've previously called the arrogance of science. Modern science seems to have no room for uncertainty or doubt. The latest theory simply has to be the final word on the subject. Then, out of nowhere, comes a revelation that doesn't fit in. No matter, everything else we believe is still right, the modern scientist thinks. No room to ponder anything else.

That's the link to Intelligent Design theory. "Science" can't even consider the possibility that there might be some unknown, unspecified intelligent force at work in the universe. No, science knows all. There's nothing new left to discover, except for details that will support what we think we already know.

So what's a scientist to do when it is discovered that dinosaurs ate grass 65 to 71 million years ago? Science thought grass hadn't evolved until 55 million years ago. Ooops! Well, I'm sure that's the last new discovery, right? There won't be anymore. Science knows all.

(I found this while looking for a link to the dino dung story. It fits in extremely well with what I'm saying. It's about deep space discoveries that cause real trouble for the Big Bang theory. I really love this quote attributed to cosmologist Geoffrey Brubidge, who recently received the British Royal Astronomical Society's highest award, the Gold Medal for Astronomy. When asked about the findings in this story, he "...indicated they didn't surprise him. He admitted: 'As you get older, you realize that you really don't know very much. Cosmology has progressed very slowly. Mainstream cosmological theory is like the emperor who had no clothes.'" Finally, some humility in science!)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Some Insurgents Turning Against al-Qaida
Here's a ray of hope out of the Middle East. Hannah Allam reports that some Jordanians who went to Iraq to fight "foreign invaders" -- as well as the folks who supported them back home -- are now questioning which side they should be on.

Today's insurgency in neighboring Iraq is unfamiliar to Jordanian villagers who said they simply wanted to defend fellow Muslims from foreign invaders. Now they're trying to figure out how blowing up innocent Arabs at a hotel wedding reception -- as suspected Iraqi bombers did in Amman, the Jordanian capital, earlier this month -- became an accepted means of resistance. The pride they took in sending two of their own to Iraq is mixed with confusion over whether their holy warriors may have become terrorists.

That sounds encouraging to me. Here's more:

The change of heart by these once-enthusiastic supporters of jihad -- holy war -- suggests that Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for the hotel bombings, has miscalculated. While Bush administration policies in the Middle East remain deeply unpopular, al-Zarqawi's tactics are soiling his image among potential foot soldiers. If Hikmet and Badran are any example, the region may not provide fertile ground for the radical Islam and terrorism that Americans fear most.

Sounds like we're winning!

But not so fast. Just as the Arabs are finally figuring out who are the bad guys and who are the good guys, more and more Americans are convinced that we are the bad guys, and are calling for us to give up in Iraq and go home.

Patience is not the strong suit of contemporary America. Just like we "Live Now, Pay Later" when it comes to personal credit card debt or government spending, many Americans want to "Live Now, Die Later" when it comes to national security. That's the thinking of the appeaser, who lives in denial of the fact that ultimately the bill comes due -- with interest.

How did the Americans of the 1940s do it? How did they have the fortitude to stick it out, and make real sacrifices to win that war? There was real sacrifice on the homefront, and more than 405,000 gave their lives on the battlefield. You read that right. More than 405,000 DEAD AMERICAN TROOPS in WWII. Plus the dead from all the other nations involved.

Consider that, if you will. Recently our media's precise tally of the dead in Iraq reached 2,000. More American troops than that died IN ONE DAY on several occasions during WWII. Figuring that America's involvement lasted roughly 1,340 days (you do the math more precisely if you like), that averages out to 302 dead American troops EVERY DAY. Can you imagine it?

Maybe the Americans of the 1940s were tougher. They'd endured real hard times. They didn't expect life to be easy, to have everything given to them. Now, we're soft and spoiled. We demand instant gratification, and we'll worry about paying for it later.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Politically Incorrect in Austria
I've often criticized political correctness, which tells us which thoughts are "appropriate," and hate crimes, which actually make certain beliefs themselves criminal, if they can be tied to criminal action.

But we haven't gone as far as Austria.

The Associated Press reports that British historian David Irving remains in custody in Austria on Holocaust denial charges. He denies the Holocaust ever happened. In Austria, that is reason enough to lock someone up.

Irving is clearly a kook. I'll make no effort to defend his views. But it shouldn't be a crime to be a kook and espouse unpopular views, no matter how wrong those views are. Better to let the kook expose himself as a kook in the light of day.

Fortunately, we haven't yet gone as far as Austria. It's hard to imagine that in America it could ever be a crime to simply say you don't believe something actually happened. Well, maybe unless that something is evolution.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

DOWNING NEWS NETWORK News Best Taken with a Grain of Salt

Learn From My Mistakes

The Associated Press is reporting that disgraced former FEMA director Michael Brown, "heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job."

In an exclusive, Downing News Network has learned some more details of Brown's plan. The former FEMA director plans to open his office in the Duazisay-Notazidu Professional Building. Other tenants in the building include:

-- Icarus Aviation Adhesives

-- Chevy Chase's School for Talk Show Hosts

-- Bonaparte's Belgian Vacations

-- Les Steckel's Head Coaching Academy

-- Custer's Institute of Military Preparedness

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Greed Is Good
If you've been reading Downingworld for awhile, you know that I'm a firm believer in the power of the free market, and the way it benefits the many even as each pursues his own self interest. Mark Yost gives us another example -- even though that wasn't his point -- in a St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial yesterday. Yost was writing about the National Football League "revenue revolution" that began in Green Bay, with the creation of exclusive, high-priced club seats and suites. This trend began, Yost notes, due to the NFL's revenue sharing policy, under which all 32 teams evenly split the league's ginormous television revenue. Yost writes:

Over the past decade more than 20 of the NFL's 32 teams have built new stadiums or renovated old ones. That's because team bean counters figured out that revenue from premium seating, which isn't shared with the rest of the league, is the best way to increase team profitability. Before this construction boom, stadium revenues accounted for just over 10 percent of the average NFL team's total income. Today, that figure is closer to 25 percent and still rising.

Note that most of the league's teams have now increased their revenues in this way, while many of the remaining teams are trying to do the same. In the end, if all the teams eventually do it, it might seem that the result is the same as if the teams shared this premium seating revenue, as well.

But it's not.

You see, if the teams shared this revenue, no team would have had the incentive to be the first to invest in premium seating (Ignoring, if you will, that it's often actually the public that does the "investing.") If the Green Bay Packers had had to share their premium seat revenue -- keeping only 1/32 for themselves -- they would have never bothered to try to improve themselves in this way. It wouldn't have been worth the bother.

But because they could reap the rewards of their own efforts, the Packers made this investment. Other teams, acting in their own self-interest, soon followed suit. As I already noted, eventually almost every team will have added this amenity to its stadium, and will have added additional revenue to its bank account.

Acting independently, in their own self-interest, all the teams end up better off than where they started. But if they had had to share the rewards, well, no one would have bothered.

That's a great example of why it is in fact capitalism that results in the greatest benefit to the greatest number. Free to try to better themselves relative to their neighbors, individuals work hard, make investments and take risks. This sort of economic "arms race" results in a higher and higher overall standard of living.

But in a socialistic or communistic system, where the hard worker or innovator has to share his gains with everyone else, the attitude becomes, Why bother?

It's a basic lesson, both of economics and human nature, that I learned only too well in college. Living in a house with four other guys, the place was always a mess. But why bother to clean it up? I could do all that work myself, everyone would benefit, but soon it would be all messed up again. What did they care? They weren't the ones cleaning it up. It's a basic lesson that applies to economic systems, and to social welfare policies. The connection between work and reward is the cornerstone of prosperity -- on both the individual and societal level. We remove it at our own risk.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ivy League Mommys
Some of the Ivy League elites have their undies in a bunch, because it turns out many of the young women attending their schools have "radical" ideas about their futures. Many students say that they expect to put their Ivy League-educated careers on hold in the near future for a controversial reason -- they want to stay home and raise children.

As the New York Times reports, this shocks the Ivy League elites, who think all of their female graduates should become "leaders," and should be obsessed with fulfilling their destinies as captains of industries, activist attorneys, or other elite leaders. The liberal elites are very upset. They are disappointed. But here's the bit that really jumped out at me:

For many feminists, it may come as a shock to hear how unbothered many young women at the nation's top schools are by the strictures of traditional roles.

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."

Wexler makes it sound like children are some sort of disease in need of a cure, like they are a problem that needs to be "solved." And who should do that? The government, I imagine she has in mind. The government should raise the children, so that Ivy League co-eds are all free to move to a state where they can get elected to the Senate as a springboard to the White House.

Raising children well is the most important career any of us will ever have. That's real leadership. Too bad the leaders of our supposed best institutions of higher education aren't wise enough to see that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How About Those Saved by Fossil Fuels?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the World Health Organization have decided that 150,000 people per year die as the result of climate change caused by humans. This includes warmer temperatures from "global warming" they say is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and also from the design of urban landscapes, which creates urban heat islands.

Now wait just a minute. How about the other side of that? How many people are SAVED every year by air conditioning, powered by electricity generated by the burning of fossil fuels? And how about the people who don't freeze to death every winter, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels? And how many people didn't freeze to death in the winter, because winter is a little warmer than it used to be?

It seems sort of like counting (on your fingers) the people who die from reactions to vaccines, and totally ignoring all those who live, thanks to the vaccine. You've got to look at the whole picture.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reading the News: Choice of Headline Sets the Tone
Here are some more thoughts on bias, how newspapers work, and the need to be careful when interpreting the news.

My paper today has a front page headline reading: "Iraqis join call for U.S. pullout." [I cannot find the story on the St. Paul Pioneer Press website, so I am unable to provide a link. It is credited to Hassan M Fattah and the New York Times. Here it is on the Times website.]

Oh, no! I thought. Things are really going against President Bush. Now the Iraqis themselves are joining with Cindy Sheehan and the Democrats, ganging up and piling on Bush!

But not so fast. A reading of the story reveals positive news for the Bush administration.

The story comes out of an agreement reached by Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, meeting in a reconciliation conference in Cairo backed by the Arab League. The very fact that these rival factions can meet and reach some sort of consensus is a positive for Bush's Iraq agenda.

But there's more. Despite what one might infer from the headline on the story, the Iraqis are not calling for an immediate pullout. Rather, they are calling for a pullout, on a scheduled timetable, and only when Iraq's own security forces are ready to take over.

Gosh, that sounds to me exactly like what President Bush has been saying all along. Yet rather than a headline saying, "Iraqis back Bush plan," we get a headline that suggests just the opposite.

Other details in the story also suggest positive news for the Bush administration, with several notable agreements and compromises reached between the Sunnis and the Shiites. All in all, this story reads as good news for President Bush and his plans for Iraq.

But I would never have guessed that from the headline.

It's a lesson that we must be careful to interpret the meaning of news for ourselves, not rely on what may have been a hastily-written headline, chosen to fit the available space, by someone who may have simply glanced over the first few paragraphs of the story. The facts may be the facts, but what those facts MEAN is often open to interpretation. A newspaper, in deciding which fact to highlight in a headline, may not always give us an accurate interpretation of those facts.

In a case such as this, I was able to read the story, and reach my own conclusions. But most people don't read the newspaper. A lot of people get their news from very brief newscasts on music-oriented radio stations. A lot of those radio news readers get their news from the daily newspaper headlines. That means many people today are hearing simply that the Iraqis want the U.S. to leave. They will think that means "now." They won't know the true story. In that way, a little thing like a newspaper headline can snowball, and really shape how people perceive what's going on in the world. And on a little thing like that, the success of a presidency may balance.

If you checked out the story on the New York Times website, you may have noticed it carries a different headline, with a different connotation: "Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout." To me, that headline carries a much more positive connotation, as it suggests progress is being made -- in line with Bush's plans -- rather than opposition to the U.S.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Media Bias? Maybe Not
I was all set to cry "Liberal Media Bias!" last week, but I decided to hold my horses and check into it first. After some thought, I'm ready to write about it now.

Thursday's paper had a front page story, leading to a detailed analysis inside, of how the Bush administration is "rewriting history," while defending itself against critics who themselves have been "rewriting history" while attacking Bush.

The use of the word "too" in the headline ("Rewriting history? Bush, aides tinker, too") seemed to acknowledge that both sides have been "rewriting history." The front page story said "The administration's overarching premise is beyond dispute..." But then only the Bush administration's distortions were broken down and analyzed. Where was the accompanying analysis of how Bush's political foes have been "rewriting history"? I don't recall seeing such a story appear previously.

Since the Bush administration's "rewrite" was coming in response to critics' "rewrite," exposing the administration's distortions but not the other side's distortions seemed to me to be not just sloppy journalism, but also just plain unfair. It seemed rather like the kindergartner who gets punched by the bully every day, then one day he punches back, and he's the only one sent to the principal's office!

But instead of flying off the handle and writing all that, I decided to check into it. So I contacted the St. Paul Pioneer Press and talked to editor Thom Fladung. I asked him about how the decisions are made for running a story like this, and whether there shouldn't be a balancing story.

Fladung concurred that Bush's opponents have also distorted history, but he said the paper has reported that when it happens. However, it's been a piecemeal process. The reason this "spotlight" was being put on the Bush administration this day in this story was that the KnightRidder reporter was analyzing several statements that Bush had made in a single speech, on Veteran's Day.

So, in a way, you might say that Bush is just not as adept as his opponents at bending the truth and getting away with it. He made the mistake of putting all his distortions in one basket, they hit critical mass, and a feature story came of it.

Still, I couldn't help feeling like the story cried out for some sort of balance, in the form of a sidebar detailing the opponents' fibs.

But that's not quite the way the daily newspaper business works. Newspapers report on events as they happen. Each day, the editors look over the stories available to them and make decisions about what is important enough and timely enough to include. That means the "whole story" may play out over a period of time, it doesn't all appear in one day's paper. A newspaper isn't a history book, which is able to take an overview of a longer period of time.

Verdict: I inferred too much. Not bias.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

First Ellen Goodman, Now the ACLU?
Is it possible I could be in agreement with the ACLU on a case involving the Bible? Let's see. Here's the lead from an AP news story on the case:

ATLANTA - Acting on behalf of a metaphysical bookstore owner, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit arguing that a state law exempting only the Bible from sale taxes is "discriminatory" and should be extended to all publications dealing with the meaning of life.

"If they're not taxing someone's holy scriptures, they shouldn't be taxing anyone's," said Candace Apple, who owns the Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore in the north Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. "I'm not willing to stand at the counter and tell someone, 'Oh sorry, your religion is wrong.'"

Apple and Thomas Budlong, former president of the Georgia Library Association, sued State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham in federal court Monday, asking that the tax break be suspended until the law -- which they say is unconstitutional -- can be reconsidered by state lawmakers. The law was enacted in the 1950s.

Boy, I can't argue with that. This sounds like a good example of what our First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom are all about. While some have distorted the Founders' intent so much with their "wall of separation" rhetoric that they would say it is unconstitutional to give a tax break to any religious book, that's not what the First Amendment is all about. Rather, the First Amendment says that government may not favor one religion over another. Given that, then I agree with the ACLU and Ms. Candy Apple, no matter how nutty she may otherwise be. It's not right that the Bible should be the only religious book to earn a tax exemption.

But wait. There's more to the story. It seems it's been over-hyped, because the Bible isn't the only book to gain the sale tax exemption. According to the story, the Georgia law exempts not just the Bible, but also "similar books commonly recognized as being Holy Scripture regardless of by or to whom sold."

That's a big difference. So what's the big deal? If all scriptures are exempt, everything should be fine.

But not so fast. Ms. Apple argues that the phrasing of the law is too vague. She thinks it's too limiting.

"What about 'A Witches' Bible?" Apple said, referring to a book she sells for Wiccans, practitioners of a fast-growing polytheistic religion.

Apple and Budlong's attorney Maggie Garrett, with the ACLU's Atlanta office, said the lawsuit aims at ending discrimination toward religious currents outside the mainstream and all publications that deal with issues of good and evil, being and nonbeing, right and wrong.

"There's nothing wrong with exempting the Bible, but they need to broaden the law for it to be constitutional," Garrett said.

Apple said that defining which books would fall into a broader category could turn out to be impossible, so the easiest way might be to eliminate the tax break.

Yes, that might be the most practical solution. No sales tax breaks for any religious books. (Of course, Georgia lawmakers could repeal the sales tax on all books, religious or not. But what are the odds of that?)

But there is a problem with that, too. Sure, lots of religion-related items are subject to sales tax, and we think nothing of it. But there's a very important principle at work. The power to tax is the power to regulate. That's why historically the taxman has been kept away from churches in this country. If a church must pay property taxes, what's to keep government from making those taxes so high that an out-of-favor church -- or all churches -- can't pay the tax bill, and have their property seized? That sort of thing is happening right now in Estonia and Latvia, where churches are trying to emerge again after the end of Soviet rule.

What if a government decided that not only would it tax Bibles, it would tax them at 1,000 percent? I like to think that couldn't happen in the United States. Courts wouldn't let such a law stand, if other, non-religious books weren't also taxed at 1,000 percent. Right? I hope so.

Because that's what our First Amendment religious guarantees are all about, making sure that the government doesn't tell people what religion to practice, and making sure that the government doesn't prevent people from practicing their religion. It's all about the government treating all religions equally, and also treating the religious and non-religious equally.

What that means, to me, is that as long as Georgia taxes religious books at the same rate as non-religious books, everything is OK. As Apple argues, it may be impossible to really define what is a religious book and what isn't, so giving a tax exemption is impractical.

Of course, there is another option, which I mentioned earlier. Georgia could repeal the sales tax on all books. After all, we do have freedom of the press. And just as I said about churches, the power to tax is the power to regulate. Maybe books shouldn't be taxes at all. Because what if the government decided, OK, you may have freedom of the press, but books will carry a 10,000 percent tax!

Yikes! I'm opening a real can of worms here. You know, courts have already ruled that you are being deprived of your right to something if you can't afford it (abortion), so I'd like to think that an unreasonable book tax would be declared unconstitutional. But who's going to define "unreasonable"?

This could go on and on...

Friday, November 18, 2005

More on HPV Vaccine
Following up on the previous post, Michelle Young emails to say that she supports teaching abstinence, but she also supports making the HPV vaccine a childhood standard. Michelle points out that no matter how disciplined and virtuous a girl or woman is, she remains vulnerable to contracting the virus from a rapist or an unfaithful spouse.

In that way, the HPV vaccine resembles an HIV vaccine, should such a thing be devised. Some people might argue that they don't need the HIV vaccine, because people who become infected with the AIDS-causing HIV bring it upon themselves, and people who conduct themselves properly don't have any need for a vaccine. But again, that's not completely true. People have died of AIDS after becoming infected through blood or tissue donations, or from needle sticks or other accidents. So whatever your personal values and standards of behavior, wouldn't it be better to be vaccinated and know you are safe against circumstances outside of your own control?

(Regarding the people who lament losing the fear of cancer as a tool to promote abstinence, I am reminded that fear has been a factor in the campaign against AIDS, too. But it's been a double-edged factor. In brief, if AIDS is portrayed as a "gay disease," it's hard to get the majority of the people concerned. But if AIDS is portrayed as a disease that anyone could easily catch, that makes gays pariahs, as people worry that they might contract AIDS if they have any contact at all with a gay may. So political correctness has hampered the fight against AIDS. I wrote about this a year ago, in response to the World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. Read my thoughts on that in the archives.)

Finally, apropos my agreeing with Ellen Goodman on something, I read a Ruben Navarrette, Jr., column today in which he writes, "With our politics so polarized and partisan, it is tempting to buy into the idea that you have to agree with people 100 percent of the time to respect their opinion about anything. But that's just not so." It's a good column on the discussion of race issues. Give it a read.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ellen Goodman: Evidence that Hate is a Liberal Value?
It's not often I can agree with anything syndicated Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman writes. But in a recent column she made a good case, and I found myself generally in agreement with her. And I think that's why it stood out so much that Ms. Goodman really has a lot of hate for everyone -- and this would include me -- who isn't just like her. While I was nodding my head to agree with her, she kept hitting it with a verbal 2x4. When, as a reader, you are treated like that, it's almost enough to make you change your mind just so you can disagree with the person who is assaulting you.

The topic was a new vaccine, which is said to be 100 percent effective against the virus that causes most cervical cancer. Sounds good, right? The controversy arises because the vaccine must be given before people (children) become sexually active. To be really effective, therefore, it will be necessary to vaccinate children as preteens. Critics say that sends the wrong message, telling children that we expect them to have sex. Critics also correctly point out that there is no need for the vaccine if people practice abstinence outside of marriage. There is no need for a vaccine for such people, they say, as transmission of the human papilloma virus is easily preventable with proper personal sexual behavior.

I understand where the critics are coming from on this. Yet, the fact is, people do have sex outside of marriage, and at shockingly young ages. And with this vaccination, as with any other, there is a public health issue. Vaccinations aren't just about protecting the individual; they are about protecting an entire population. For vaccination programs to be most effective, as many people as possible must be vaccinated. Only then will the targeted virus disappear completely from the population.

So, it seems reasonable that, if this vaccine is everything they say it is, it be added to the standard list of childhood vaccinations. No judgements, no expectations, just a standard vaccine for every child. That seems reasonable.

But it's not that simple. As Goodman notes, some opponents of the vaccine are lamenting the fact that eliminating the fear of cervical cancer will remove a weapon from their pro-abstinence campaign. Goodman goes on to say how awful it is that someone would use "fear-mongering" as a public health tactic.

But I wonder, is that a hard principle, or just a useful position based on one issue?

For instance, what if it were to be announced that another vaccine had been perfected? A vaccine against the cancerous effects of tobacco! But it had to be administered in childhood.

Would the anti-smoking forces -- generally those on the political left -- react the same way as the abstinence-only forces on the political right? I wouldn't be surprised at all if they acted exactly the same way. "You're encouraging children to smoke!" they'd say. And they'd worry about how they would be able to convince people not to smoke, with the threat of death-by-cancer removed.

Would they oppose vaccinating children against tobacco's effects?

I believe they might. As I've written several times before, those on the left and those on the right are perfectly capable of exhibiting the same type of thinking and behavior, but regarding different issues.

So, why my references to "hate"? If you read the Goodman column, I think you'll see. She's just so snide and condescending. (She's a perfect example of the "blue state" liberals thinking they are so much smarter than the knuckle-dragging ignoramuses in the "red states.") And she's a name-caller. Here's an excerpt:

I always thought it was a bit much to talk about a "Taliban wing" of the Republican Party. After all, the real Taliban stoned women to death if they had sex out of wedlock. What sentence would our Taliban choose? Cancer?

The Taliban? Stoning women to death? Let's get real, Ellen.

There's a bumper sticker you may have seen. It's on liberals' cars. It reads, "Hate is not a family value."

No, no it's not. I suppose that's why the family values crowd doesn't practice hate. They leave it to the liberals. Think about it. Isn't that bumper sticker itself hateful? My brother Dan likes to say that people accuse other people of what they themselves do. If you want to know how a person thinks, what dark thoughts and deeds lurk in his psyche and tempt him, just listen to his suspicions of others. I think that bumper sticker is a good example.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Market Forces Back on Track
A story in my Sunday paper told about a program for railroad conductors at a local technical college, and reported that graduates are very much in demand for high-paying jobs.

Who knew?

As a youngster in the 1970s, I was very interested in both model trains and real railroads. That was a tough time for railroads, as they struggled with the changes brought on by deregulation. The railroads were hampered by high wages and employee numbers demanded by union contracts. One way the railroads found to deal with this was to shed unprofitable lines, and concentrate on more profitable lines. As that happened, some of the unprofitable lines were sold off to start-up "short line" railroads, which were able to make ends meet by operating free of the labor agreements that hampered the "legacy" railroads. The short lines paid lower wages, and used smaller work crews. They also provided only the services that would make them money; they didn't attempt to provide service everywhere, all the time.

Remind you of anything? That's right, the airline industry is now going through much the same thing, unable to deal with the consequences of deregulation, and hampered by old labor agreements (or the expectation that new agreements will resemble the old ones). As the railroads before them, legacy airlines have spun off some feeder routes to new, smaller airlines, which operate with lower labor costs and a leaner business model.

As the airline industry goes through this tough time of adjustment, with all the bankruptcies (including Minnesota-based Northwest), I often think about the parallel to the railroads' situation 20-30 years ago.

But in recent years, the railroads have bounced back. After years of adjustment to a new business model, they are profitable again. Freight tonnage is up. And after years of paying unneeded employees for whom there was no work, the railroads are hiring again.

But here's the really interesting part of this story: Among 18 students in Dakota County Technical College's railroad conductor class, seven are striking Northwest Airlines mechanics! Additionally, the story reports interest among some low-seniority airline pilots, who see the need to make a career switch.

I think this is a great example of how the market works. It may take a long time. Years. Decades. But the market eventually gets both capital and workers to the places they are needed most. Trying to prop up ailing industries or guarantee jobs is counter-productive. We have to be willing to take our lumps in the short term, and market forces will sort it out in the end.

Who'd have ever guessed, years ago, that workers would someday be moving from the airline industry to the railroad industry? No me. But the market knew.

What's next? Someday, will IT people be retraining as airline pilots? Don't ask me. Only the market knows.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Like Christopher Columbus, Rosa Parks Not Really the First
When Rosa Parks died, I wondered why others hadn't been brave enough to do what she became famous for -- refusing to move to the back of the bus. Turns out others had, we just don't hear about them.

According to this very interesting story, at least two other black women were arrested in Montgomery for refusing to move to the back of the bus, prior to Rosa Parks. Claudette Colvin, just 15 years old, was arrested March 2, 1955. Mary Louis Smith, 18, was arrested Oct. 21, 1955.

Rosa Parks wasn't arrested until Dec. 1, 1955.

So why haven't we heard of Colvin or Smith? According to the news story, Montgomery civil rights leaders were waiting for just the right person to get behind. The plaintiff had to be someone of unquestionable character. But the young Colvin became pregnant shortly after her arrest, and Smith's father was rumored to be a drinker. It was feared those matters would cause the young women to come under attack, and weaken their standing as sympathetic victims.

So that's the story. Verrrrrry interesting. As Paul Harvey might say, now you know, the rest of the story.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day
Hug a veteran today. Or at least say "Thank You."

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Like Grandma Said, "Why Buy the Cow...?"
As I was writing recently, young people these days are not getting the message that the key to success in life is following an age-old sequential pattern: education, work, marriage (and sex), children. Deviating from this sequence makes success difficult; but following this sequence usually results in success.

Why are we so reluctant to point that out?

I like to read the advice columnists in the daily paper. It gives me some perspective on what life is like for the underprivileged -- those without a proper upbringing in functional families, regardless of how much money may have been at their disposable. Unfortunately, the quality of advice has gone downhill. Where you could always count on Ann and Abby to slap some sense into people and tell them to straighten up and fly right when they were the cause of their own problems, the new generation of advice columnists seem to think their role is nothing more than a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

For example, here's this doozie from a recent Harriette Cole column:

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, and we are the proud parents of a beautiful 18-month-old. We have been going through our ups and down for a while now, and they seem to get worse as the baby gets older. For example, at first, my boyfriend was always around, helping out with the baby, making sure I was OK, etc. Now, I literally have to beg him to help out around the house. He's always coming in late, and I barely see him much anymore. What can I do to get him to be more responsive, the way he used to be? -- Reed, Baltimore

What will Harriette say? Maybe she will say, "What do you expect? You've never demanded anything of him before. You sleep with him. You move in with him. You have his baby. But you never demanded that he marry you. Now, you're surprised that he's nowhere to be found when playtime is over and there's work to be done? Let this be an example to all the rest of you young women out there."

Yeah, right. Instead, here's what Harriette has to offer:

Reed: The addition of a child to a relationship always brings stresses with it -- along with great joy, of course. Before too much time passes, you need to rekindle your loving relationship with your boyfriend. You say that he's not around much these days, staying out late and more.

While you probably don't have much energy left over to do what I'm going to propose, it may work. You need to make it interesting and appealing for your boyfriend to be at home with the family. When was the last time that you and he had quiet time together? Have you had a date, just the two of you, since your child was born? Believe it or not, many couples find all of their free time absorbed by taking care of their child, working and just getting by. Don't let the time drain end up destroying your relationship.

I just read a great book by Mira Kirshenbaum that may help you. It's called "The Weekend Marriage: Abundant Love in a Time-Starved World" (Crown Publishing Group, 2005). This book, that's dedicated to married and committed couples, suggests specific ways that couples can reconnect and make their unions strong. You can do it. And you can even get him to help you out around the house!

Yuck! First, she makes no mention of "you brought this on yourself, when you didn't insist that he marry you" -- which I suppose would be the "old-fashioned" response. But strangely, she does slip into some sort of pre-feminist mode, telling the "little woman" that it is her own fault if her mate would rather be out drinking with the guys than staying home and fulfilling his family obligations: "You need to make it interesting and appealing for your boyfriend to be at home with the family." And then she suggests a book!

Very, very strange. Harriette evidently doesn't hold very high expectations of men, either. Here's what I would say:

Wake up and smell the coffee, honey. You hitched your wagon to a loser. He's an irresponsible bum. Why does he stay out late drinking with the guys instead of taking care of his family? Because he can. You've never demanded better of him. You gave him your body. You became his housekeeper. You had his baby. Yet you never insisted that he hold up his end of the bargain -- by marrying you. And why should he now? He already has everything he wants. Sex. A housekeeper. No responsibility. It's great deal for him. The rest of you young women, listen up. Don't end up like Reed. Learn from her mistakes. If he's worth having sex with, living with, making babies with, he'll marry you -- FIRST! If he won't do that, how can you expect him to stand by you and pull his weight when play time is over and diaper time arrives? It's as simple as grandma used to say, He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.

Reed never put her boyfriend to the test, by demanding that he marry her and give her a commitment. She never required him to prove his intentions, his maturity, his level of responsibility. Now, he's showing his true colors -- he's a bum. Now, she's raising a baby mostly on her own, and she's trapped as his housekeeper. What did she expect?

Why are some men such jerks? Because women let them get away with it. That's what I intend to teach my daughter.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Party Trumps Race"
Great piece by Ruben Navarrette, Jr., on "liberal racism" and how the Democrats don't really give a hoot about blacks, they just hold them captive and expoit their votes. (Why does that sound so familiar?)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Non-partisan Pipe Dream
Following my Monday "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" post, last night I attended the Chris Coleman for mayor election night party. After all, I reasoned, this is officially a non-partisan race (no parties listed on ballot), and if he is going to be my mayor, I might as well get with the program.

But I must have been naive, idealistic, or just plain dumb, because I got more than I bargained for. What I thought would be simply a celebration of Chris Coleman's mayoral victory turned out to be a DFL rally of such thoroughness and partisan enthusiasm that I thought someone must have died and I'd stumbled into a memorial service.

But seriously, just about every DFLer who holds office, has held office, or wants to hold office was there, and was either mentioned to much applause, or was given a turn at the microphone. It was very much a partisan rally.

The really bizarre aspect was the anti-Republican rhetoric -- when there was no Republican in the race! After hearing how Coleman's victory was some sort of victory over Bush, and that "we" were winning in other states, as well, we were told "But this isn't about Bush; it's about St. Paul." Then why bring it up?

Methinks thou protests too much.

So much for being inclusive. I was willing to accept the DFL-endorsed candidate's victory and move on. But I sure didn't feel very welcome.

By the way, I did not vote for Coleman. I went ahead and cast my vote for Kelly. I thought that was the most honest, ethical thing to do. I have no shame in saying that I voted for Kelly, but I accept the outcome and I'm willing to work with it. If I had voted for Coleman just because I thought he was going to win, I would not be true to myself.

You might say I gave Kelly my "Wellstone vote." When Paul Wellstone first ran for the Senate back in 1990, I initially thought I would give him my vote to reward him for being a different kind of candidate. He was a non-politician, he was not slick, I felt he was true to his own beliefs, and he meant what he said and he said what he meant.

But that was when I assumed he would lose!

When it became apparent that Wellstone actually had a chance, I couldn't vote for him, because I didn't want him to actually get elected. While he had his good qualities, I knew that once he was in office he would vote contrary to my wishes.

In the case of the mayoral race, I knew Kelly would lose (as I originally thought Wellstone would do), but I wanted to give him something for the effort. I wanted to show him some support in recognition of his almost Wellstonian, do-what-you-think-is-right-and-don't-apologize support of President Bush, the very same support that doomed his chances with most of the electorate.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Bean-eating Vegetarians and Natural Gas: Is There a Connection?
Mark Yost opines in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today about the connection between Greenpeace and high natural gas prices. While the left-wing environmentalists have long encouraged us to become more reliant on domestic sources of energy, and they have advocated natural gas as a cleaner-burning alternative to coal and oil, when it comes right down to it, the environmentalists won't let us implement what they have called for all along. Actually drilling for or transporting natural gas is seen as too much of a threat to the environment.

This seems to be another example of how people on the left and the right exhibit the same kind of behavior -- the same kind of behavior that they criticize each other for. One well known example is the issue of sex education. Some on the right say "abstinence only," because kids shouldn't be having sex. Some on the left say it doesn't matter what kids should be doing, the fact is they are having sex, and we need to deal with that reality. Besides, they argue, proper use of birth control can reduce the incidence of abortion, which should please those on the right.

But in the case of energy issues, we seem to have a role reversal. The left says we shouldn't be using so much energy, so just say no to drilling for any more. The right counters that it doesn't matter what people should do, the reality is people are using energy, and will continue to use energy, and we need to deal with that reality. Besides, they argue, you yourself have said natural gas is preferable from an environmental standpoint.

Same type of reasoning, but the players have changed sides. Aren't humans something?

Monday, November 7, 2005

Randy, We Hardly Knew Ye
The writing is on the wall. Unless the polls are supernaturally wrong, St. Paul will elect a new mayor tomorrow. Challenger Chris Coleman is out polling incumbent mayor Randy Kelly by more than 2-to-1.

As you know, I've been a Kelly supporter. I think Kelly has guided the city in the right direction. Kelly has also endeared himself to one of St. Paul's minority groups -- Republicans -- to which I belong, both with his policies and by his endorsement of President Bush for re-election.

But I don't have any connections to the Kelly campaign. I don't even have a Kelly lawn sign, though I would have put one up if one had been offered to me.

People I respect support Coleman, and maybe they know more about it than I do. I've tried not to be anti-Coleman. But due to the nature of campaigns -- and human nature -- it's hard not to become so. Negative campaigns may influence undecided voters, but with human nature being what it is, the natural human tendency, faced with attacks on "your" guy, is to dig in your heels, defend "your" guy and attack the opponent in response. It's a shame that it has come to that.

And the Coleman campaign has done its best to alienate St. Paul Republicans, attacking Kelly as "Republican Randy," as though "Republican" is some sort of slur. (Remember, BOTH Kelly and Coleman are Democrats; there is no Republican in this race.)

Still, I'm going to overcome my own stubbornness and face reality. If Coleman wins, then he will be my mayor. I accept that. None of this "He's not MY president!"-type nonsense for me. I won't pretend he didn't win. And who knows? Maybe Coleman will turn out to be an even better mayor than Kelly. I won't close my mind to that possibility.

I want St. Paul to succeed, and I don't plan to spend the next four years trying to undermine the Coleman administration. I want a voice, and I want to be part of the solution, as they say, whomever the mayor may be.

So it looks like it's time to join my friends in the Coleman camp, if they'll tell me where the party is election night.

Who says we conservatives aren't open-minded?

Monday, November 7, 2005

Whose Side Are They On? The Left Breeds Hate and Violence
Catching up on the weekend's news, I see a photo on the front page of Saturday's paper depicting violence in Argentina as President Bush visited that nation for the Summit of the Americas. A "protester" (not criminal or terrorist) is shown kicking in a bank window, while wearing a "Stop Bush" vest.

The American Left tells us we need to do more to win friends around the world. Yet, just as they fuel the Iraqi insurgency with their anti-war rhetoric, they encourage the type of violence taking place in Argentina, with their "he's not my president" attitude, and continual blaming and vilifying of President Bush. Know-nothing thugs in Argentina figure if the American Left and their media lap dogs say Bush is the devil, he really must be.

We have to remember that it's natural for people in other nations to hate America. They're jealous. I'll bet that thug kicking in the bank window doesn't know anything about "Bush's policies" which the caption says he is "protesting." He just hates America, because America is more successful than Argentina.

That's why Latin America hates Yankees., for the same reason baseball fans outside of New York hate the New York Yankees. Jealousy. That's human nature.

And it's nothing new. I recently saw a PBS program about the ancient Phoenicians. During their heyday, they dominated trade in the Mediterranean, and prospered greatly. But their rivals spread terrible stories about them. Eventually, the Phoenicians fell from the heights. And they've been largely forgotten, except for the histories written by their conquerors -- who depict them as terrible creatures. The PBS program said the Phoenicians don't deserve the reputation they've been given; the bad things were written out of jealousy. Everyone else wanted to be prosperous like the Phoenicians.

There's little new in the world. We need to know history, so we can better understand the present.

Friday, November 4, 2005

What's Good for the President Oughta Be Good for the Cartoonist
A series of old "Doonesbury" cartoons is being re-run in my paper this week. Why? Here's the note the paper is running by the strip:

"Garry Trudeau has canceled this week's series of comics about Harriet Miers and is substituting these previously published ones."

What's wrong, Garry? Didn't everything work out the way you planned? Was your intelligence bad?

It's interesting that someone who has made a career out of second-guessing presidents doesn't want anyone to be able to see his own mistakes. They say doctors bury their mistakes. I guess cartoonists pull theirs.

I think Trudeau ougtha be a man about it, run those no-longer-relevant cartoons, and admit his mistakes. Things don't always turn out the way we plan, Garry. The rest of us just don't get a chance to hide our mistakes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A Nation Divided
I sold some pumpkins to a pleasant enough fellow yesterday. But as he drove off, I saw what he had written across the rear window of his minivan:


What possesses someone to do such a thing? And did this fellow even know who Scooter Libby was two weeks ago?

It never occurred to me to write an anti-Clinton message on my vehicle -- even when the man was IMPEACHED! And I certainly couldn't tell you the name of any of Al Gore's staff people.

It seems that some people are so consumed by their hatred for President Bush that they will make some sort of public campaign out of berating an assistant to the vice president. It's crazy.

And it's not healthy. Not for the individual, but more importantly, not for the nation as a whole. It feels more and more like we are two nations, battling for control. But especially with the liberal side, if they are not in charge, they refuse to acknowledge and concede that fact, and continue what appears to be some sort of civil war. They may not be bearing arms (guns are dangerous and should be banned, you know), and they may not be killing people, but in many ways their actions resemble a guerrilla war or an insurgency, in the way they refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the current government. "He's not my president!"

We're losing sight of the American way. It's going way beyond the realm of simple political discourse. Are we going to abandon over 200 years of American heritage and become like so much of the rest of the world? How far are we from one side taking machetes to the other, in a bout of ideological cleansing?

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

It's Not O'Connor's Seat
I get tired of talk of filling "the Sandra Day O'Connor seat" on the Supreme Court. The seat isn't hers. There are nine seats. Other than for who is Chief Justice, they are not assigned or apportioned in any way.

And then there are the people who say she must be replaced with someone just like her. If that's the case, would someone please tell me what "swing voting" white woman O'Connor replaced on the bench?

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Popular Kids
Polls indicate that Democrat challenger Chris Coleman is likely to defeat incumbent Democrat St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly in the election Nov. 8. (The mayoral race is non-partisan, that is, no party designation appears on the ballot, and the top two finishers in the primary advance.) St. Paul Democrats (who did not endorse Kelly four years ago, either) are mad at Kelly for supporting President Bush last fall.

I don't know how having a mayor with a good relationship with the President of the United States could be anything but good for a city, but most St. Paul Democrats don't seem to see the value in that.

Today, the St. Paul Pioneer Press front page carries a story headlined "Artists on the fence as St. Paul mayor vote nears. Many like Kelly, but Bush ties plague him." The story begins:

Photographer Ann Marsden says Randy Kelly has made a huge contribution to the arts in St. Paul during his first term as mayor. She thinks he was smart to make improving the city's cultural landscape one of the top priorities of his administration. She says Kelly "has done some great things and is very well respected in the arts community."

But when she heads to her polling place in the Mounds Park neighborhood, she won't vote for him.

Marsden, like most of the artists who live and work in the capital city, is faced with a dilemma. Kelly's list of arts accomplishments over the past four years is deep and varied - from spearheading the creation of an arts high school downtown to helping stabilize the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts to supporting the creation of a number of new performance venues throughout the city.

But artists, who generally lean to the left of center politically, are weighing that steadfast support against what many consider to be an unpardonable sin: The Democratic mayor endorsed Republican George W. Bush in the last presidential election.

This is nuts. The best word to describe it is "childish." This is childish behavior by St. Paul Democrats. They say Kelly does a good job, but they can't vote for him because of who his friend is!

It's just like a bunch of junior high kids who refuse to vote for the best-qualified kid for class officer, just because he's friendly with the nerdy (black, Jewish, gay) kid no one else wants to play with!

It's childish!

And narrow-minded. And here I thought artistic types prided themselves on being open-minded, tolerant, and free thinkers.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Stem Cells and Ham?
Now, we all know that a legitimate, big-time reporter for a legitimate, big-time newspaper such as the Washington Post would never inject any bias into a story. So how do we explain Rick Weiss' choice of words in a story about a new development in stem cell research?

Until now, however, the only way to get these cells was to destroy young embryos -- which, though smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, are deemed by some people as "the youngest members of the human family" and deserving of human rights.

"Though smaller than...," "some people," the quotes, I think we get the point.

Remember, upon this nation's founding and for the next 90 years, people were considered less than human and not deserving of human rights just because their skin was darker than the period at the end of this sentence. Now we look back on that, click our tongues, and say how terribly unenlightened our forefathers were.

I'm reminded of the words of Horton the elephant, in the Dr. Seuss classic "Horton Hears a Who." Horton discovers an entire world existing on a speck of dust, and protects it from harm, because "A person's a person no matter how small."

But not if you're an unborn person, apparently.

I wonder what Dr. Seuss had to say about abortion? It would be tragically ironic if the author of "Horton" was a pro-abortionist.

(I Googled "Dr. Seuss + abortion" and found that others have discussed this. A pro-life group has been sued by the Seuss estate for using "A person's a person..." in their materials, and some liberal Dr. Seuss fans are trying to explain this away because they have lionized the late Dr. for his other liberal views. Some serious cognitive dissonance going on. Meanwhile, Dr. Seuss' widow is said to have hosted a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. Hmmmm, very interesting.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is It Worth 2,000 Lives?
How many more must die? Is it worth more than 2,000 dead just to maintain our love affair with the automobile? Is our car culture worth 330,000 injured? Are our cars our castles? Will we pay any price to keep our automobiles sacred?

I refer, of course, to people using cell phones while driving.

According to a story by Damien Cave in the New York Times, a 2002 Harvard study estimates that drivers using cell phones cause 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in this country EVERY YEAR, while transacting such important business as speculating on who's sleeping with whom on "Desperate Housewives," or finalizing their draft picks for the fantasy football league.

Meanwhile, 2,000 brave troops die over a period of more than two-and-a-half years, while deposing a genocidal despot, bringing freedom to people who have never before known it, and battling an international terrorist network that vows to kill us all, and we hear "It's not worth it!"

It's a good thing Americans have their priorities straight.

Elsewhere in Cave's story on distracted drivers is this example of Things You Should Never Say to a Reporter.

Nancy Neumann, a 40-year-old mother of three, said police should not be able to penalize drivers for eating, drinking or talking to people in the back seat. "You can grab a soda without even looking, and you can swat your kids in the back seat without even looking," Neuman said.

Great, she's an expert on swatting kids without even looking. Well, look on the bright side, at least she doesn't have four kids.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks: "He's Naked!"
With the passing of Rosa Parks, the woman who had the courage to do what no one else dared do, one question comes to mind: Why hadn't anyone else done what she did? Why hadn't thousands of people, years earlier, refused to go to the back of the bus?

Maybe it's a naive question. Maybe it was never that simple. But what was so special about Rosa Parks, that she could do what no one else would do? She was like the child in "The Emperor's New Clothes," the one who doesn't care what everyone else says or does, but believes her own eyes.

I think that story applies to so much in real life. In the case of Rosa Parks, we see that all it took was one voice saying "He's naked," and the facts could no longer be ignored.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Despite What You've Always Been Told: Mass Transit Created Urban Sprawl!
Not much time to write these days, with pumpkins season in full swing (click on the cow pumpkin logo at the top of the web page for more info, http://www.downingpumpkins.com). But I'll share this item, for which we could create a category called Despite What You've Always Been Told.

We often hear that the automobile has created the suburbs and urban sprawl, with people travelling great distances to work. We are told by right-thinking "progressives" that this is a bad thing. We have been told that with modern zoning, business, industry and residential development have been separated, and this is a bad thing. We have been told that we should have "new urbanism," in which business, industry and residential development are intermixed. We have been told that we should build light rail trains and use the bus system, because public mass transportation is a good thing, and it is the key to bringing about the "progressives'" utopian vision.

I reiterate: the message is that cars are bad, and we must return to mass transit -- on rails, especially -- so we can reverse the current trend.

Well, have I got news for you.

I joined the Ramsey County Historical Society last spring, and along with that I get a publication called "Ramsey Country History." The Spring 2005 issue has a feature on the history of the streetcar system in St. Paul. Here's an excerpt from John W. Diers' article:

"The streetcar left its mark on St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Cities didn't have to be a hodgepodge of factories piled on top of shops and homes. Land use could be planned and zoned with residential neighborhoods organized near open spaces -- parks and lakes -- and industry and manufacturing near transportation -- the river or railroad lines. People could buy homes located away from commercial activities and travel to their jobs."

Do you see what I see? The streetcar -- public, mass transit on rails! -- created urban sprawl. It let people build houses outside the city proper. It let people live far from work. It let there be zoning to separate commercial and residential areas. It created the commuter culture. It brought about everything that the modern day "progressives" and "new urbanists" rail against!

The automobile didn't create urban sprawl or the suburbs; the automobile only furthered a process that was set in motion by the streetcars -- the same streetcars that today's light rail proponents so fondly point to as a symbol of their version of a modern utopia.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Men Need All the Help They Can Get
Religion is women's work. That's what a lot of people (men) seem to think. Writing in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal today, Christine Rosen writes about David Murrow's book "Why Men Hate Going to Church," and about how women dominate the pews and, increasingly in the so-called "mainstream" (liberal) denominations, the pulpits.

Interestingly, men remain more involved in the Roman Catholic Church, and in conservative protestant denominations.

I was raised in the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which does not have woman ministers, and I now attend a church of The American Association of Lutheran Churches, another conservative denomination that does not ordain women.

And I have some thoughts on this.

In church, as in other aspects of society, the feminist movement worked from the mindset that if men did something, and women didn't, it wasn't fair. Women were being excluded. So women should be allowed to do the things the men were doing. The women thought the men were having all the fun, and not letting the women join in.

So, the women joined in. But a funny thing happened. Once the women started to do the "men's work," the men dropped out. They didn't have to do these things anymore, so they didn't. They just let the women take over. Let the women run the church council. Let the women be the pastors. Let the women take charge of religious matters in the household. If the men didn't have to do it, they didn't.

As it turned out, the women were rather like Tom Sawyer's victims, who paid him to paint the fence.

The truth about men is, they're a lot like children. If you want them to be helpful, you have to give them some responsibility and make them feel special. They have to feel that they are the only ones who can do something, or they'll gladly let someone else do it. If something is identified as "men's work," they'll do it. That feeds their egos. It makes them feel important.

The truth is, despite all the feminists with chips on their shoulders and suffering from inferiority complexes, men often times can't -- or won't -- compete directly with women. If women want in on the action, the men will just find something else to do. This applies to career fields and other activities beyond church. For example, roughly twenty years ago women sued for the right to join the Jaycees. They won their case. Now, from what I've seen, that organization is dominated by women. Young men who once participated because that was the thing young men did, now don't bother, because there are plenty of women willing to do it.

So, think of reserving the pulpit and certain responsibilities for men as a sort of affirmative action program, helping to keep men involved in the church, and showing the men of the congregation that faith is a manly pursuit, and not "women's work." With the way our society so often sees fathers as unnecessary, our churches don't need to send out the same message.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Your Thoughts Aren't Worth a Penny
It bugs me when people say things that don't make any sense. Then it really bugs me when the senseless saying catches on, and I hear it more and more. The latest example is this, which we've been hearing a lot with the rash of natural disasters that have struck recently:

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this disaster."

What is that supposed to mean? Your prayers go out TO the victims? What good is that going to do? If they were supernatural beings worthy of praying TO, they wouldn't be victims. You should be praying FOR the victims.

I suppose this comes about because praying isn't sophisticated enough for our modern world, so we no longer assume that everyone will pray. Instead, we give people the option of THINKING about the victims.

What good does that do? Sitting by the fire, drinking your pinot noir and THINKING about some poor hurricane victim in Mexico isn't going to do him any good. You need to DO something for him. Donate money, go be a volunteer worker, or even PRAY! All those things are DOING something that can help.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Buyer Beware!
More Friday Fun from Downingworld.com


The Minnesota Vikings' on- and off-field troubles have erupted in a public dispute between new billionaire owner Zygi Wilf, and former billionaire owner Red McCombs.

Wilf says he was deceived, because while the team's image had been "cleaned up and polished" on the outside, the team was actually in terrible running condition when he bought it.

McCombs, who made his first millions as a car salesman, insists that the team was a real cream puff when he sold it to Wilf. There are no warranties and no refunds, says McCombs, adding that Wilf bought the team "as is."

While McCombs acknowledges it's not strictly true that the team was previously owned by a little old lady who only drove it on Sundays -- "there was that Christmas Eve game, but that's a church day, too, right?" -- the misunderstanding is understandable. McCombs said the confusion arose because the team had a player who only played on Sundays he felt like playing, and the rest of the time that player moved about as fast as a little old lady.

Meanwhile, Wilf has pledged to prevent the team from further embarrassing itself with what has apparently been an annual sex party, but which only came to a head when party organizers held it in a not-so-private venue. Wilf will call upon his real estate expertise, instructing the team that the first three rules of sex parties are: location, location, and location.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Is It Hypocritical to Write a Letter to the Editor When You Can't Reason?
I see the latest Democrat "talking points" are being circulated among the apparatchiks. I read some letters to the editor today with the theme that President Bush and Republicans are hypocritical (way overused word, by the way, "inconsistent" is usually more appropriate) because they said Democrats shouldn't block a Supreme Court nominee based on his or her religious views, but now are talking up Harriet Miers' religious beliefs as a plus. Michael La Fave writes:

Isn't it hypocritical for Republicans to complain about the Democrats putting a litmus test on Supreme Court nominees while Karl Rove is assuring James Dobson that Supreme Court nominee Miers is qualified because she is a born-again Christian?

No. No, it's not.

Liberals and Democrats consistently fail to understand the distinction between government and non-government. For example, if the government says a book can't be published or sold, that is censorship. But if Wal-Mart decides not to sell a book because they think it is in poor taste (or for any other reason, or no reason at all, for that matter), that is NOT censorship.

Likewise, if Senate Democrats -- as THE GOVERNMENT -- reject a Supreme Court nominee because of his or her religion, that may fall under the heading of an unconstitutional "religious test." But if the administration assures a private group of political supporters that the nominee will be to their liking, because he or she is in sync with them, that's something completely different.

Consider this, I think we can all agree that the color of someone's skin should not be a "litmus test" for a Supreme Court nominee. If a group of Senators said they would block a nominee because they didn't like the color of his or her skin, that would be wrong. But if a Democrat president were to assure the Reverend Jesse Jackson that his (or her) nominee was properly qualified because he or she was attuned to the black community and committed to civil rights, would LaFave have a gripe with that? I'm sure not. Nor would I. That would be perfectly fine, and completely expected.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Do Conservatives "Lack the Necessities"?
Columnist John Tierney nails it:

I am in debt to liberal scholars across America. After I wrote about the leftward tilt on campus, they sent me treatises explaining that the shortage of conservatives on faculties is not a result of bias. Professors helpfully offered other theories why conservatives do not grace the halls of academe:

1. Conservatives do not value knowledge for its own sake.

2. Conservatives do not care about the social good.

3. Conservatives are too greedy to work for professors' wages.

4. Conservatives are too dumb to get tenure.

I've studied these theories as best I could (for a conservative), but somehow I can't shake the notion that there just might be some bias on campus.

It's been 18 years since Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis was fired for saying that Blacks "lack the necessities" to be managers and general managers. But liberals now seem to be saying that conservatives "lack the necessities" to be college professors.

Tierney goes on to explain the reason that college faculties are becoming more and more imbalanced. He says the liberals have become so dominant (inbred), that they can't recognize any viewpoint other than their own.

Social scientists call it the false consensus effect: a group's conviction that its opinions are the norm. Liberals on campus have become so used to hearing their opinions reinforced that they have a hard time imagining there are intelligent people with different views, either on campus or in politics. Last year professors at Harvard and the University of California system gave $19 to Democrats for every $1 they gave to Republicans.

I think we can extend this myopic group think to the mainstream media, as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Do White Hoopsters Need Affirmative Action?
The National Basketball Association is implementing a dress code. Management decided that millionaire players who dress like slobs and gang members were not presenting a good image to the fan base.

Of course, we've already heard that this is "racist." Why? "Because most of the players are black," and the white guys in management are telling them they have to deny their culture and "dress like white people."

Hold on a minute. You say most of the players are black? Why is that? Are white players being discriminated against? No? It's just that the black guys have proven to be better players?

Well, if it's possible that black guys are better at playing basketball than white guys, isn't it also possible that middle-aged white guys might be better than young black guys at determining how to dress to present yourself well to the industry's customers?

If this dress code is racist, because it requires blacks to "dress like whites," then maybe the NBA is also racist against whites for requiring its players to be able to jump!

This is simply business. If players are dressing in a manner that threatens or turns off their customers, that's bad for business. If as a practical matter it means black people have to dress more "white" because most of the customers are white, so be it. It works both ways. White people catering to black customers should pick their style of dress based on their customers' expectations and comfort level, as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Uncourtesy Call
The phone rings. I answer. A voice says, "Can I talk to (first name of Mrs. Downing)?" I reply that she is not home and ask who is calling. "This is a courtesy call. We'll call back later," I am told before the caller hangs up.

It was someone who wants our money, I'm sure. But they must have no idea what "courtesy" means. Asking for someone by first name? Refusing to identify yourself when calling? Then saying you'll call back, regardless of whether we would like you to bother us again? Where's the courtesy in all that?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Brett Hull Retires After 20 Seasons in NHL
What does the retirement of the NHL's third-leading lifetime goal scorer has to do with me? It's another sign that I'm not young anymore.

I attended college with Brett Hull at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I'm not claiming he is a close personal friend of mine; in fact, I'm sure he couldn't even pick me out of a line-up as a fellow Bulldog. But our tenures overlapped, and it wasn't such a big school, at least back then. Plus, I know someone who does know him well, so I've heard news of what he's been up to off the ice over the years.

Hull was a freshman scoring sensation on the Bulldog team that went to the Final Four in 1985, my senior year. Many players from that team and the Final Four team of the previous year went on to play in the NHL. Hull was the last one left active. Now he has retired, too. I'm old.

Hockey fans may take interest in an observation I made many years after college. While the goal scorers get all the attention, Hull was the only UMD forward of that era to achieve real NHL success. Even Hobey Baker winner Bill Watson didn't have much success in the NHL. Meanwhile, four defensemen from those teams made it to the NHL, and three had lengthy NHL careers: Jim Johnson, Tom Kurvers, and Norm Maciver. What does that tell you? Like they say in football, defense wins championships.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The "Good War" in Afghanistan
After hearing someone say, for the umpteenth time, "I oppose the war in Iraq, but of course I support the war in Afghanistan. That's really about the war on terror," I have a question:

What if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq?

Would the liberals and Bush-haters be saying, "Way to go, President Bush. Take it to 'em. Don't back down. You're making us safer with the war in Afghanistan"?

Or, would they be saying, "Bush lied about Afghanistan. It's just like Vietnam. When will you bring the troops home? Give us a timetable for withdrawal," while the media gave daily updates on the death toll in Afghanistan? And would a mother who had lost a son in Afghanistan be a media heroine in the place of Cindy Sheehan?

I think it would be the latter. I know it would be.

When people claim to oppose Iraq but support Afghanistan, it's generally not because they've carefully weighed the two fronts and found them so different. Rather, they're just trying to have it both ways. They can attack Bush by opposing the war in Iraq, but at the same time, they embrace the war in Afghanistan, in order to show that they really do care about national security.

If there were only one war, they'd have to make a choice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don't Disenfrachise Me!
I received a phone call last night. The woman said it was a poll, and she wanted to know who I would vote for for St. Paul mayor. When I get a call like this, I like to ask, Who hired you to call me? That's because these "polls" generally aren't from a news organization or a university researcher; rather, they're actually being conducted by or for a candidate's campaign, with the goal of getting out the vote for that candidate.

In this case, there was no need to ask. From the wording of the question it was obvious. I was asked whether I would vote for mayor Randy Kelly, or "DFL-endorsed Chris Coleman." Seeing as how the St. Paul mayoral race is officially non-partisan (no party designation on the ballot), and Kelly is also a Democrat, I knew this call was coming from the Coleman campaign or the DFL party on his behalf.

I declined to answer.

All parties and candidates play this game these days. They try to identify those people likely to vote for them, so on election day, they can call back and remind those people to go vote. If I had said "Coleman," I could expect them to call again on election day and remind me to vote, maybe even ask if I needed any help getting to the polls. But if I had said "Kelly," they would have crossed me off the list, not called to remind me to vote, and then hoped that I didn't remember to or bother to go vote.

Think about that for a moment. All candidates tell us how important voting is. How they want us all to get out and vote, even if it's not for them. But they don't mean it. If I'm not going to vote for them, they hope I don't vote. And while they are busy doing a "public service" reminding their likely supporters and even helping them get to the polls, they won't do the same for those deemed likely to vote for the other guy.

If you think about it, they are trying to "disenfranchise" anyone who isn't on their side. Considering what a hot word "disenfranchise" has become for the Democrats, this sort of tactic is especially hypocritical for them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Biased, and Incompetent?
There's a news organization that claims to be "Fair and Balanced." You can decide for yourself whether they live up to their claims. But increasingly, I'm building a case that the old-line, mainstream media is "Biased and Incompetent."

I've documented many examples of the liberal bias of the MSM. I've grown to expect and accept that. But I can't accept incompetence. And here's an example of that.

On the ABC Radio news broadcast yesterday, the reporter said (I'm trying to get this as exact as I can remember) that conservatives have been assured that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers "will vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make abortion illegal again."

This is terrible reporting, if you expect reporters to deal in truth and facts.

Regardless of what Harriet Miers may already think of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court can not make abortion illegal. If Roe vs. Wade were to be overturned, it would not mean abortion became illegal in this country. It would mean that the question of abortion would be returned to the states, where it was decided prior to Roe vs. Wade, with some states allowing abortions, and some not. Each state legislature would again take up the debate of whether to allow abortions in that state.

But that's not the way the MSM tell it. They want to get people all worked up that Harriet Miers will make abortion illegal. She can't do that. The entire Supreme Court can't do that. Yet the MSM tells people that Harriet Miers will make abortion illegal. Could it be..... liberal bias in the MSM? I'm shocked! Shocked, I say!

But here's the bigger question: How can any prospective justice say whether they would vote to overturn or uphold Roe vs. Wade? Doing either is dependent on a specific case being brought before the court. I'm totally opposed to abortion. I think Roe vs. Wade was a poor decision. But until I see the specifics of a specific case, I can't say how I would rule on it. I wouldn't uphold an unconstitutional law, for instance, just because a side effect was that it overturned Roe vs. Wade. It is possible, however, that I would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, if presented with a case that directly went to the reasons Roe vs. Wade was a bad decision.

Unfortunately, there are those on the other side who are less open-minded, pledging that they would uphold Roe vs. Wade no matter what argument was placed before them.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Whose Side Are They On?
Like many, I've often wondered that about the mainstream American media. When it comes to the war in Iraq and the bigger war on terror, whose side are they on?

Over the weekend, I kept hearing radio news reports about the Iraqi constitutional referendum. I wanted to know, Yes? or No? But all the MSM seemed to care about was finding some incidents of violence to report. (And they couldn't find many, but what they found, that was the lead story.)

Now I read this headline over a story at the bottom of the front page of today's paper:

"New Iraqi constitution apparently a winner"

"Apparently"? What's the significance of that word? It sounds like someone is disappointed, or at the very least, surprised.

This is another example of how the MSM keeps missing the big picture in Iraq. Sadam has been deposed. A successful election was held in January. Another successful vote took place over the weekend. Yet all the MSM sees, day after day, is, "Two more Americans killed today in Iraq."

If John Kerry were President, the MSM would be hyping this vote as a resounding success of the Kerry administration. Since Bush is still President, they pretend it is no big deal.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Another Thought on Intelligent Design
Come to think of it, for years I've been hearing evolutionists say that just because they believe in evolution doesn't mean they don't believe in God. Many have said they think evolution is just a mechanism that God used to create the world.

Wait a minute. Aren't they describing Intelligent Design? Aren't they saying that evolution is Intelligent Design?

So why so much opposition to Intelligent Design Theory, when some evolutionists have been telling us all along that Intelligent Design is just part of evolution, and vice versa?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Defending "Science"? Or Just Anti-Christian Bigotry?
Is it just me, or is most of the mockery of and opposition to Intelligent Design Theory really anti-Christian bigotry? Just take a look at this editorial cartoon which ran in my newspaper today.

I'm no expert on Intelligent Design Theory, but as I've written before, the way I understand it, it's not about teaching Christianity. It's not about teaching Genesis as a science class. It's about merely acknowledging that life and the universe are so complex that some people think there must be some sort of designer behind it.

It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of attack that decades ago was made against the teaching of evolution. Those who wanted to teach evolution theory were portrayed as atheists, communists, or pawns of the devil.

Where is the open-mindedness and inquisitiveness of the scientific community? Science has been CERTAIN about a lot of things in the past and was proved wrong -- by better science. But they don't even want to consider the possibility that evolution -- unproven, unobservable and full of holes -- explains everything perfectly. End of story. Case closed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"Reproductive Freedom" a One-Way Street
Maybe you've heard about the Little Rock family that just had its 16th child, and is ready for more. Some people have expressed disgust. They say other people shouldn't have so many children. Some, like the woman in a recent post, say others should have fewer children because "it helps the planet."

Sixteen kids isn't for me, but as far as I can tell, the Duggar family isn't asking anyone else to support them. If they can feed and raise 16 kids, good for them.

The population problem in the country and on this planet is not people having too many children, it's the wrong people having too many children. In many cases, the families capable of supporting children -- financially, emotionally, morally -- have only one or two kids. Meanwhile, the birth rates are higher in the families that depend on hand-outs and produce children who grow up to be another generation of adults unable to support themselves. (We should be very concerned about this trend, as it means with each generation, the ratio of self-supporting, productive people to dependent people grows lower. Much the same way the ratio of working people to people on Social Security continues to drop.)

But the Duggars appear to be an exception.

And whatever happened to "reproductive freedom"? I thought women were supposed to be free to "choose."

But that's not the case, really, pro-abortion forces want women to be free to choose, as long as they choose not to have children. For example, I once heard an educated woman I know make a disparaging remark about "those pro-lifers." Not much later, when she heard that a (self-supporting) family in the neighborhood had just had a fourth child, she made a face and said, "I have a problem with people having more than two children."

Apparently, she wants to be able to make her own choice, and, she wants to make everyone else's choice, too.

I'd link this to feminism in general, which for decades has told women and girls that they could choose their own destinies. They can be doctors, not "just" nurses. They can be athletes, not "just" cheerleaders. They can be professionals, not "just" housewives. That sounded good at first, but what has it turned into? It's turned into: You can't be a cheerleader, you have to be an athlete. You can't be a nurse, you have to be a doctor. You can't be a housewife, you have to be a career woman. To be "just" a nurse or cheerleader or housewife is being a traitor to the sisterhood.

B.S. What happened to "choice" and controlling your own destiny?

It's gone from men telling women what they can do with their lives, to other women telling women what they can do with their lives. Is that progress?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Amen, Brother. Liberal/Conservative, Black/White, Christian/Muslim/Atheist: We Should All Be Able to Agree on This
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts offers some reflection on the 10-year anniversary of the Million Man March.

Ten years later, more than 65 percent of our children are still born out of wedlock.

Ten years later, we are still five times more likely to die of homicide.

Ten years later, still fewer than half of us own our homes.

Ten years later, we still marry less, go to jail more, die sooner.

Ten years later, the promises we made that crisp October lie fallow and unredeemed.

Pitts goes on to say that, yes, there are unfair, external factors working against Blacks...

But I also know that much of what is needed to fix our communities requires no white person's consent:

Get educated.

Seek a career, not a job.

Don't make children you can't support.

Understand that support means money. Understand that support means more than money.

Marry the woman. Model manhood for your children.

Save some money.

Buy a home.

Build a life.

Easier said than done? Yes, very much so. A guarantee of happily ever after? No such guarantee exists nor ever will.

Yet I persist in believing that for African America, changing the world lies in the embrace of these and other old school dictums. And that revolution can be as simple as having dinner as a family, checking homework and going to church on Sunday.

Amen. But this doesn't apply just to African-Americans, this applies to everyone.

Recently I was in a conversation and someone brought up the "we need to give more money to the schools" cliche. I countered that, if we really want to "fix" our schools and help the children -- the children for whom we're supposed to give more money -- what we really need to do is "fix" our social problems, "fix" people and families. We need to do that so kids don't start school with the dysfunctional backgrounds, learning-inhibiting problems, and lack of family support that doom many to failure.

With an incredulous look, my counterpart asked, "And how are you going to do that?" It was as if I had said we should simply ask Santa Claus to solve our problems.

It's a valid question. And a tough one to answer. Or maybe not. Was it Ronald Reagan who said there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers? I think that's the case here. The simple answer is that we need to begin by giving people the message that dysfunctional "families" that don't properly prepare children for school or support them once they start, are UNACCEPTABLE. We need to send a societal message that adults -- parents in particular -- need to act like responsible adults, not like eternal teenagers.

My counterpart said people already know that. But do they? Where do they get that message these days? Not in school, where we mustn't pass judgement on anything. (Or do we?) Not on TV or in other pop culture. No, look around at our role models -- real or fictional -- people are almost randomly making babies together these days.

Yes, we need to help the kids who need the help. But let's work so that in the future, there are not so many kids who need the extra help.

I feel sorry for those of you who didn't grow up on a farm. I can draw so many good lessons from the farm. Look at it this way: If the cows have gotten out and are on the highway, what do you do? You round them up, you call the vet for the ones that got hurt, you may have to call the rendering truck to haul away the ones that are dead or too far gone, but what else do you do? What's really the most important thing you have to do?

You fix the damn fence.

We do too much either/or thinking. It's the result of people taking sides, being polarized, thinking that in order for me to be right, the other guy must be wrong. The result is two sides thinking they are 100 percent right, while the other side is 100 percent wrong. But it's possible for both sides to be right about part of the issue.

In this case, those who say we need to fund programs to help at-risk children are right. They're like the cattle that got hit on the road. They need help, and no amount of complaining about the broken fence will change that.

But those who say we need to demand better of parents are right, too. They understand that we need to fix and maintain the "fence" to ward off future problems, to avoid future "vet" bills (school and social programs) and the "rendering truck" (prison or the morgue).

What seems to get lost in the debate is the fact that we can do BOTH things. One side seems to completely dismiss the idea of social change. The other side, calling for social change as the real, long-term solution, too often loses sight of the reality of the need to deal with the problems currently at hand.

Now, I know it's not as easy as just saying that people should get an education first, then get a job, get married (and stay married) and ONLY THEN have children. I know not everyone will get the message. I know not everyone will conform to the desired societal norm. There have always been those who don't follow this plan. But at present, as we refrain from "judgmentalism" and engage in moral relativism, following this plan is becoming less common than not following it.

But just because not everyone will get the message and follow it is no reason not to teach it. Right in our schools, we teach kids not to smoke, not to pollute, not to be "intolerant" (Oh, so we DO pass judgment in schools, after all!), even though we know some will still smoke, pollute, or be bigoted. Still, we try, and hope that most will get the message.

If as a society we begin to emphasize the message of the importance of education, work, marriage, and responsible procreation and child-rearing, we can't expect all of our social problems will go away. But we can expect there to be fewer problems.

Let's come to agreement and get to work maintaining the societal "fence," so we can stop having to call the vet (or the rendering truck) so often.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An Example of Hateful, Anti-Christian Rhetoric
Here's an example that I think illustrates what I've been talking about in my three previous posts, about hateful liberals, and about Christian bashing.

Last week a Twin Cities group started a campaign to encourage families to reclaim Sundays as family time, and to not have youth sports scheduled for Sundays. Today there is a letter to the editor from one Deb Carlson, an apparent liberal, who says such a movement is unnecessary. She says just don't sign your kids up for so much stuff. And while you're at it, have fewer kids, she adds, because "it helps the planet." (See how I know she's a liberal?")

Carlson closes with this dose of venom:

Finally, you really should consider why you are choosing Sunday. Not everyone worships on Sunday, but it seems that I only hear "Sunday-worshippers" complaining about having a "special" day. That reminds me, we can't schedule on Wednesday nights, either, hmmm.

(When liberals really want to show you how smart they are, they pull out their most powerful weapon -- quotation marks.)

This sounds like a really nasty, hateful person.

Now, regarding the issue of youth sports and Sundays, Carlson and others say, "If you don't want your kid to play or practice on Sundays, don't sign them up." But it's not that simple. For example, kids don't sign up for "Sunday hockey" versus "Tuesday hockey." They sign up for hockey, and that means Sundays, too. It's really either Sunday hockey, or no hockey at all. I've discouraged my kids from starting hockey, because in Minnesota hockey becomes people's religion. Hockey first, no time for church. (Funny though, even people who didn't go to church because they needed to "sleep in" manage to get the kids to 8:00 am Sunday hockey practice.)

Carlson also doesn't get it. She writes that rather than making Sunday off limits, "The overscheduling problem is yours. You need to set your own family priorities. You need to take responsibility for your kids' schedules."

That's exactly the point. By speaking up, these parents hope to encourage others to speak up as well. If enough people say, "We'd rather not do this on Sundays," maybe things will change. The not-on-Sunday movement isn't trying to legislate their view onto everyone else, they are trying to stimulate a discussion and maybe arrive at a consensus. Unless someone speaks up, it's like "The Emperor's New Clothes."

It reminds me of the auto dealers. In Minnesota, you can't sell cars on Sundays. Once in a while, someone introduces a bill to change that. It's immediately opposed by the Auto Dealers Association. They like the current law just fine. Why? They know that they won't sell any more cars by being open on Sundays, they'll just have to staff the place an additional day. But if anyone opens for sales on Sundays, then everyone will have to open on Sundays to compete. Everyone will work more, no one will sell any more. Being forced to close on Sundays benefits all the dealers.

Finally, I'd say to Carlson, I don't know what kind of job you have, but if Sunday is not "special" to you, I sure hope you don't expect the boss to give you the day off. (If her type of "thinking" [I borrowed the quotes from her playbook] goes much further, it'll someday be declared unconstitutional for government offices to close on Sundays. Why? That's an "endorsement" [Not the word used in the Constitution, by the way, that word is "establishment." Big difference.] of religion!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

They Call their Team "Indians"? Ohmigreatspirit!
I get offended, too, you know. (See my two previous posts, if you haven't already, referring to offensive Indian mascots and hateful liberals.) But I don't count, because I'm not part of a protected, politically-correct group.

As a Christian, I am offended by something I hear every day around me, on TV, and now I've even read it used in a news story in the daily paper:

"God, it's hot today!"


And let's not forget that old standby: "Jesus Christ!" as exclaimed by those who are doing anything but praying.

(This has become so common, even Christians do it without thinking. But this is in violation of the second commandment -- not taking God's name in vain. This is what "in vain" means -- using God's name "in an irreverent or disrespectful manner," as my secular dictionary describes the phrase. Most people seem to thing that there is a commandment against "swear words," or what are better defined as vulgarities. That's not the case, although a Christian who wants to represent Christ well will refrain from using vulgarities that reflect poorly on the messenger.)

I'm offended. Doesn't that count for something?

I suppose if I complain, I'll be told, "Don't try to impose your religion on me."

But what if I went around proclaiming:

"Great Spirit, it's hot today!" or

"Ohmiallah! Did you see that mini skirt?"

We know what would happen. I'd be labeled hateful, insensitive, all that stuff. I'd be told to stop.

Can you say "double standard"?

Christianity is at a crossroads in this country. There are those who tell us, "This isn't a 'Christian nation,' and it never was. Most people aren't Christians. Keep your beliefs to yourself."

But if that's so, then shouldn't Christians demand -- and receive -- the same type of kid glove treatment given to the other "minority" groups in this country? If we mustn't offend Indians, Muslims, gays, Blacks, etc., why is it OK to offend Christians?

Here's another example: those "fish" emblems some Christians put on their cars. The fish represents Jesus. It could be described as a "sacred" symbol. Yet, there is no shortage of parody fish to be seen on other cars, such as the "Darwin" fish with legs, or the fish with the words "and chips." Why is that OK? Why is that not "hate speech"? Where's the uproar from the politically correct crowd?

If someone made a parody Star of David, morphing it into a swastika, that wouldn't be funny, it would be branded "hateful." If someone parodied those "rainbow" bumper stickers, would that be funny? No, it would be "hateful." If someone sold a poster of, "I have a dream...fried chicken and watermelon three times a day," would that just be a humorous exercise of free speech? Of course not. You and I both know there would be an uproar about racist "hate speech."

But Christians are fair game. If we complain about what others are doing to us, we're told to butt out of THEIR lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If Even One Person Is Offended...
Last Wednesday I wrote about the issue of Indian mascots, and how the St. Paul Pioneer Press editorialized (moralized) that if even ONE PERSON is offended, then it's wrong and shouldn't be done. Today, the paper carries a couple of reader letters that seem intended to support the editorial board's view, but logically are at odds with themselves.

Joe Paatalo says that if someone says they are offended, they are offended, so change the logo. It's that simple, he says. He also refers to the importance of "allowing people to define themselves."

But then he writes:

And, by the way, if your name happens to be Patrick but you prefer to be called Doug, then, by God, Doug it should be. It's not that hard.

Huh? What if a school or a team prefers to be called "Indians," whether or not they really are Indians. Under Paatalo's logic, shouldn't we allow them to define themselves?

And what about the guy named Patrick who calls himself "Doug"? What if that offends people who really are named Doug?

A consistent argument would seem to be: If you aren't an Indian, don't call yourself "Indian"; if your name is not Doug, don't call yourself "Doug."

Is it too much to ask people to stick to their "principles" for at least three paragraphs?

In the second letter, Robin Johnson answers "yes" to a previous letter writer who asked if a word is "offensive" if only a single person says so, in this case the word "pioneer," as in the name of the newspaper. Johnson explains:

If you are genuinely offended by the use of the word "pioneer" in the name Pioneer Press, Mr. Lorch, then the word can indeed be defined as "offensive."

But then Johnson continues:

The question will remain as to whether you have the power to convince others your stance should be shared by the majority.

Where did this "majority" bit come from? Johnson seems to be saying you need a majority to agree with you that you are being offended. But that's not what the editorial board said. They didn't talk about persuading a majority. They said if only one person is offended, he may demand that others do his bidding.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's Easy to Be "Tolerant" When Everything's Going Your Way
I keep hearing and reading more and more hateful, narrow-minded, intolerant rhetoric from supposed "liberals." They hate Republicans. They hate President Bush. They hate Christians.

These are the same people who have always claimed to be "open-minded" and "tolerant." What gives?

I think the answer is simple. It's easy to claim you are "open-minded" and "tolerant" as long as you are getting your way. And the liberals and Democrats got very used to having their way, for a long time, especially in Minnesota.

But that's changing. Republicans rule Washington D.C. In Minnesota, we have a Republican governor and a Republican House of Representatives. Minnesota Democrats now control only the State Senate, and what was once a vast majority is slipping away there, as well.

In addition, liberals no longer enjoy a media monopoly. With talk radio and blogs, too much truth is getting out that they don't want to get out, and used to be able to keep from getting out.

Their whole world is falling apart. Whereas being "open-minded" and "tolerant" used to mean getting your way while paying lip service to other ideas, it now means sharing power and not always getting your way, and liberals suddenly think not being in charge is "unfair."

In response, the claws come out. And the hate.

I imagined this analogy: It's sort of like an antebellum plantation. The slave owner sees himself as righteous and benevolent, while he holds all the power in the system. But after the war, the Black man is freed. The plantation owner's whole world is turned upside down. He can no longer tell others what to do. He has lost his power. In response, he forms the KKK.

Yes, it's easy to be all goodness and light while you're getting your way. It's harder to be a good loser when the shoe is on the other foot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Running Out of Oil? We've Heard that Story Before, Chicken Little
You've got to read this fascinating editorial from the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal.The WSJ says we're in a classic "oil bubble" and prices will fall again. The editorial also points out that we've been told repeatedly for 100 years that we were running out of oil, and that way back in the late 19th century we were even warned that we would soon run out of coal, and the Industrial Age would grind to a halt. (Today, despite steady and increasing use, we have a 500 year supply of known coal.)

You have to register to access the WSJ site. If you can't get that to work for you, email me and I'll have the editorial emailed to you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Lynch Mob Hangs, Beats Christopher Columbus
Read about King Banian's Columbus Day experience at St. Cloud State University. Sounds like there's some "hate speech" going on, creating a "hostile environment" for European-American students and staff.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's In a Name? History, Fact, Truth, Nothing Important
Today is Columbus Day, not that it means anything to me. Just another day, but no mail. At least I remembered this year, and didn't keep checking the mailbox all day long.

But it's not Columbus Day everywhere. I hear in Duluth it was Native American Day. Columbus was evil, you know. Genocide, and all that.

Fine, then do away with the Columbus Day federal holiday. But don't pretend it's something else. If it's a federal holiday, that's a fact. Columbus is an important historical figure. That's a fact. Don't pretend that it isn't. I've had way too much of this Stalin-like historical revision and "newspeak" that keeps coming from the left.

Another example is people who would have us pretend that there is no long-standing observance called Halloween. It's a "fall festival" in many schools these days. If you don't want to recognize "Halloween," then why do any observance? Skip the celebration altogether. Don't have the celebration at the school and call it something else.

There was an interesting guest essay on this topic in Sunday's St. Paul Pioneer Press. Jacqueline Hesse writes about the folly of schools that shy away from Halloween because it is a "religious holiday."

My final example is the move to do away with B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Latin for "year of our Lord"). Now, the enlightened want us to use CE ("Common Era") for the present, and BCE ("Before Common Era") for that time before, well, before Christ.

Never mind the centuries of practice, history and tradition. Just throw it all out the window, because a few in the present think that someone might be offended.

The most ridiculous part of it is, if you ask a "Common Era" devotee what criteria is used to mark the beginning of the "Common Era," what can they say in response? The birth of Christ. That's what it is. That's the fact. That's the history. It can't be denied. Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God, whether you believe someone named Jesus of Nazareth ever even existed, you can not deny that His estimated year of birth was indeed used to establish the system we use for numbering years.

But there's another category of renaming that runs counter to the trend I've described -- proving once again that logical consistency is a scarce commodity in the human race. That's the trend toward renaming geographical features by going back to what they were previously called -- their original Indian names. They already had names, we're told, it was offensive and disrespectful to throw out that name and give them a new name.

Some people should listen to their own arguments.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Roe vs. Wade and Oregon Assisted Suicide: Let's Be Consistent
Today I heard someone criticizing President Bush and other conservatives who say they don't want an "activist" Supreme Court that "legislates from the bench," yet want the Court to negate Oregon's assisted suicide law.

I agree. When we claim to be taking stands on important Constitutional "principles," we need to be consistent. If we oppose the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, saying that the Court invented a right that doesn't exist in the Constitution, and that the abortion question should be decided in state legislatures, then we should also support Oregon's right to make its own decisions regarding assisted suicide, another life-or-death issue.

And those pro-abortion types who laud Roe vs. Wade as a great action by a wise Court, they should support the federal government's judgement in this current case, as well. Even if it means the Court overturns Oregon's law.

You can't have it both ways. You can't say the Court has no business ruling on abortion, but must act to negate Oregon's assisted suicide law.

Principles are important, whether we like each specific outcome or not.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Spies and Immigrants
When the news broke that a naturalized U.S. citizen working in the office of Vice President Cheney was spying for his native Philippines, I thought the story would be played as "yet another" incidence of incompetency in the Bush administration. But it hasn't been. Why not? Must be because the alleged spy started his job while Al Gore was Vice President.

We should be discussing the significance of this story as it relates to the integrity of our borders. Here we have a case of someone going through the legal channels and becoming a U.S. citizen, but turning out to be a(n alleged) spy. Meanwhile, there are those in this country who don't think we should give a rip who's coming across our borders under the cover of night. If a naturalized citizen working right under our noses can cause such trouble, what about some covert border-crosser from who knows where?

Our Constitution says only a native-born citizen can become President. Some want to change that. They say it's outdated. I say leave well enough alone. The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing.

Friday, October 7, 2005

I Can't Give You a Brain, But I Can Give You a Professorship
Such is what the Wizard of Oz might have told some university instructors. We know they're liberals, but can't they at least know how to reason? Is it too much to expect them to share their area of expertise without making their politics more important?

Increasingly, the answer is, Yes.

Kenneth Zapp, a professor of economics and director or graduate programs in the College of Management at Metropolitan State University (St. Paul), this week offered us his views in a Pioneer Press guest opinion column titled "Hurricane recovery poses basic obligation for U.S. government."

Here are the first two paragraphs of Zapp's commentary:

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution sets out fundamental purposes for government: "We the people of the United States in order to insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare ."

The failure of the federal government to achieve tranquility, defense and welfare in the wake of Katrina is now legend. The question today is what we the people should demand our government do next.

Is he serious? Does he really think that "insure domestic tranquility" is supposed to represent some sort of guarantee that the federal government will make sure no one is inconvenienced by natural disasters? And I suppose he thinks "the pursuit of happiness" refers to what Bill was doing with Monica.

But he can't reason. Even about economics, his specialty. Get this:

The American people, however, reacted faster. Thousands of people volunteered direct service and millions of us gave generously. Businesses also gave: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce boasted that their members would contribute more than $100 million.

The sad reality is that while we the people responded quickly, we do not have the means to generate the level of financial support this disaster requires. The sum of all our giving will be but a drop in the ocean of funds needed. This is precisely why our forefathers created the federal government: to serve us in our time of need.

As an economist and as a citizen I am saddened by Bush's claim that he will not raise taxes to pay for this recovery. Why not? There is no more justified use of the funds we send to Washington.

Let me try to understand this. While individuals and businesses have given generously, we "do not have the means" to come up with enough money to clean up after the hurricane. This will require someone with more money than we have. That someone is the federal government. Where will the federal government get the money? By taking it from us in higher taxes.

But I thought we didn't "have the means"?

Add this economics professor to the pile of people who seem to think that the government, via taxes, just generates money out of thin air. If we don't have the money, how can the government get it from us?

It's gotten so bad that even economics professors don't understand that the government really has NO MONEY. It only can use OUR MONEY, after it takes it from us. The federal government is no Wizard, capable of conjuring up wealth from a bottomless magic purse.

Friday, October 7, 2005

You Didn't Tell Me You Could Kill Me!
The Supreme Court is considering an Oregon law that allows doctors to prescribe deadly drugs to terminally ill patients. OK, you already knew that, but I never claimed to be your go-to source for breaking news. Rather, it's my goal to offer unique reflections on the breaking news.

Regarding doctor-assisted suicide, I'm wondering this: If it's a legal "treatment" option, then is it also a patient "right"? And must the patient be advised of his assisted-suicide option and right, the same way he must be advised of all other treatment options and risks so that he can give his "informed consent"?

For example, a patient has a very serious case of cancer. He asks, "What are my options, Doc?"

The Doctor might say, "You could have surgery, which likely won't help, and you could die on the table. Or, you could undergo intense radiation and chemotherapy, which probably won't help, and will make you miserable. Or, you do nothing, enjoy your final days, and enter hospice care when the time comes."

Now, maybe an Oregon doctor has to add, "Or, I could give you some lethal pills to take."

The patient would ask, "Are there any risks with the lethal pill option?"

To which the doctor would reply, "There's always a slight risk that you will live."

But all macabre humor aside, imagine the potential for even more medical lawsuits. Survivors will sue for malpractice because the doctor didn't offer assisted suicide and the patient "unduly suffered." Or on the other hand, survivors will sue because the doctor "pushed" assisted suicide on the patient and now he's gone forever.

Real lawyers will be able to imagine even more possibilitie$.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Hey! Over Here! Remember Us? We're St. Paul
Another strange turn in the St. Paul mayoral race. Challenger Chris Coleman is bringing in the heavy (or is that "big fat"?) artillery: Al Franken will headline a Coleman fundraiser Oct. 15 in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis? Yes, according to what appears in the newspaper today.

Call me old-fashioned, call me naive, call me a dreamer, but I think political campaigns ought to confine themselves to their actual geographic area. Isn't this a faux pas by the man who would be mayor of St. Paul? I'll bet the Coleman campaign -- as all good Democrats do -- is careful to have the union bug appear on all the campaign literature, showing that it was printed at a union shop. In a similar way, shouldn't the Coleman campaign be sensitive to the implications of holding a high-profile campaign event in St. Paul's evil twin city?

Isn't St. Paul good enough for the man who would be its mayor?

I also think that, for the most part, campaigns ought to be confined to people who are actually involved in the race, that is, they can vote in the race and will live under its results. For instance, last year I received mailings asking me to contribute to South Dakota Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Thune, to help him defeat Democrat Tom Daschle.

I declined. Both because I'm not made of money, and on principle. What business of mine is it who South Dakotans elect? Shouldn't that decision be up to them? Now that he is in the Senate, John Thune does not represent me.

Whether Al Franken has any business meddling in the St. Paul mayor's race is questionable. I think it has been decades since he lived in Minnesota, and even then he didn't live in St. Paul. But there is a long tradition of high-profile partisans helping fund-raise for like-minded pols. You have to wonder, though, would liberal radio host Franken and failed presidential candidate John Kerry (also scheduled to visit the state in support of Coleman) give a rat's behind about the NON-PARTISAN ballot St. Paul mayor's race (between TWO DEMOCRATS) if incumbent Kelly hadn't backed President Bush for reelection last year?

I think this is mostly just mean-spirited partisan retribution. Someone dishonored "the family" and now will have to pay the price.

Regarding Kelly's support of Bush: There were some nasty, anti-Kelly, letters to the editor this week claiming that Kelly did himself in by "hitching his cart" to the wrong horse. (Isn't it "cart before the horse" but "hitch your WAGON"?) Are these folks in denial? Which horse won? George Bush won. He is still President. Had Kelly "hitched his cart" to John Kerry, how would that be of benefit to St. Paul? It wouldn't be. But it might be of political benefit to Kelly personally, in this mayoral race. Seen in that light, Kelly looks like a real leader who puts his city first, ahead of partisan political considerations.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Indian Mascots a Complicated Issue
So, what do I think of Indian mascots? Are they OK? Are they disrespectful? I think on this issue I can unequivocally say... it's complicated.

I don't see that it is inherently disrespectful to have an Indian mascot. After all, mascots are chosen for their good qualities. Just as athletes aspire to be strong as Bears, brave as Lions or swift as Eagles, they strive to be swift, strong and brave as Indians, Sioux, Utes or Seminoles. Do I mean to equate Native Americans with animals? Of course not, no more than I'd suggest that Spartans or Trojans are mere animals because they also have been featured as mascots -- mascots with legendary strengths of body and spirit to be emulated by any athlete.

And let's not overlook that another reason Indian mascots have been chosen -- just as with Vikings or Cowboys -- is that there is an historical local connection. And consider what they say in show business: Any publicity is good publicity. If not for the Florida State Seminoles, how many of us would be able to identify the Seminole tribe? If not for the Utah Utes, how many of us would be able to name that tribe? And with name recognition comes the opportunity to educate about the history of America's natives, including both how poorly they were treated by the European immigrants, and the inequities they face in 2005.

If all the Indian mascots were eliminated, Indians might find themselves being totally ignored. So be careful what you wish for. Activists may think, "After we get rid of all the Indian mascots, we can move on to righting all the other inequities." They might find, instead, that once all the Indian mascots were eliminated, that was the end of the story. No more controversy means no more headlines. No more media spotlight. No more soapboxes.

Yet, we must never underestimate humans' ability to muck up a good thing.

It's the way Indian mascots have sometimes been utilized that I think is disrespectful. Some white guy dressed up as the "chief" and doing a stupid dance, THAT can be disrespectful and tasteless. Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians' doofus cartoon mascot, THAT can be disrespectful. The Washington Redskins -- not exactly a term of endearment -- THAT can be disrespectful.

As for the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, that school seems to have struck a deal with the devil. The Fighting Sioux mascot has been under attack for some time, but despite that, their new hockey arena is said to be adorned by perhaps THOUSANDS of Sioux head logos. The benefactor who paid for the arena was adamant about that. It is very in-your-face, with no sensitivity at all shown to the fact that there is indeed a controversy and people have differing opinions.

Now the chickens may be coming home to roost for the University of North Dakota, which faces losing its role as host of an NCAA regional hockey tournament. Maybe if that new arena wasn't so over-the-top with the Sioux logo, the NCAA would have granted UND an exemption. Too late now.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Liberal Bluenoses the New Victorians?
For decades, the Left has preached to us that we are not to make moral judgements. What others do is their own concern, not ours. It's not our business to be offended by how others live their lives. At the same time, the Left has told us that there are no taboos. Everything (sex, especially) is "appropriate" for public discussion. We shouldn't be so "repressed."

But things seem all topsy-turvy these days. Self-described "progressives" act like reactionaries in their zeal to return to the past; meanwhile, conservatives advocate new ways of thinking and doing. "Liberals" preach "tolerance" and "open-mindedness," yet at the same time want to us to live life processed through a filter of political correctness.

The latest "Through the Looking Glass" moment comes to us courtesy of James Carville. The Democrat guru and Slick Willie pal appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show Friday, to discuss the "scandalous" remarks made by Bill Bennett earlier in the week. Bennett, while discussing abortion politics on his own radio program, had made reference to someone else's assertion that aborting all the black babies would reduce the crime rate. Bennett had said that even though that might be true, this was an example of "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do."

Predictably, all the mainstream media cared about was second-hand paraphrasings that Bennett had said we "should" abort black babies to lower the crime rate.

No doubt you've heard your fill of the Bennett flap. That's not what I'm going to write about. Rather, Carville's comments were worth noting.

Hannity asked Carville whether he thought Bennett had done something wrong. Carville said yes and no. Carville unequivocally said that he did not think Bennett meant his comments to be racist, nor did he think Bennett is a racist. Nonetheless, Bennett had done something wrong, Carville said.

So what was Bennett's crime?

Carville said Bennett should know that there are some things we just can't talk about, because people will be offended.

This, from a supposed leader of the "enlightened," "open-minded" and "progressive" side of the aisle: Civilized people don't talk about such things in polite company. Someone might be offended.

Well, gosh Mr. Carville, a lot of people are offended by a lot of things. Many people are offended by talk of same-sex marriage. Should we shove that under the rug? Historically, let's not overlook that evil Rosa Parks. When she refused to move to the back of the bus, she offended plenty of good ol' boy rednecks. Shame on her, right Mr. Carville?

Of course, people will say, "That's different!" Rosa Parks was right to offend people, because her cause was just, they will say. And because the people she offended needed offending.

Says you. And says me, too. But I thought we were supposed to move beyond moralizing and judgmentalism. I thought such rigid concepts of "right" and "wrong" had been thrown out the window. Who are we to judge?

So it's a surprise when I run into the sort of old-fashioned moralizing I encountered in a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial about the NCAA and Indian mascots. The editorial board has stood firm in its opposition to any and all Indian mascots. This editorial is no exception.

The editorial is in regard to the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, and how that institution is now being prohibited from hosting post-season NCAA tournaments (a men's ice hockey regional is scheduled there for March). The editorial board says it doesn't matter whether, as in the case of the Florida State Seminoles and two other schools (but not North Dakota), local tribes give their consent to the use of Indian mascots.

We were dismayed when the NCAA gave exemptions to the Florida State Seminoles, Central Michigan Chippewas and Utah Utes, primarily because the schools were able to convince local tribes to approve of their use of the mascots and names. In our view, that misses the point.

It doesn't matter if a logo and nickname are offensive to one tribal member or 1 million. The fact is they're offensive and they're wrong.

Well, that's it then. It's an open-and-shut case. The Pioneer Press editorial board has seen fit to decide for all tribes and all individuals what is offensive, what is right and what is wrong.

That's the sort of absolutist, I-'ll-decide-for-everyone-what-is-right moralizing that is almost unheard of in 2005.

Let's consider another controversial issue: abortion. I wonder, what would the paper think if someone said, "It doesn't matter if one woman or a million women decide to have an abortion, and can convince a doctor to perform an abortion. That misses the point. Abortion is offensive, and it's just plain wrong"?

Somehow, I think the editorial board would say "that's just one person's opinion," and that the speaker was being intolerant and trying to impose his morals on everyone else.

Or what if the NCAA said, no post-season tournaments at schools where the health service offers abortions? Because it's offensive, and JUST PLAIN WRONG? Where would the paper be on that one?

I guess it just depends on whose pet issue of an ox is getting gored.

What do I think of Indian mascots? I'll try to expound on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are some interesting reader letter rebuttals to the Pioneer Press editorial.

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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