archives: December 2007 -- February 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mainline Minority Meets Moral Majority

The New York Times reports that one-quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood. Neela Banerjee of the Times writes that a Pew survey shows a slim majority of Americans -- 51 percent -- are Protestant Christians:

"Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches."

Okay, let's see if I've got this right: Protestants are a slim majority of all Americans. So-called "Evangelicals" are a slim majority of all Protestants. That would seem to make the "Evangelicals" a sizeable and important group. Doing the math, they must make up at least 26 percent of the population.

Yet the New York Times doesn't consider this substantial group "mainline"?

The same story reports that Roman Catholics are only about 25 percent of the population. That leaves 24 percent of the population divided among other groups.

So by the Times' own story, "Evangelicals" comprise the largest religious group in the nation.

What, then, does the Times consider to be "mainline"?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Thought for Today

People in stone houses should not throw glasses.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is Going Backward Really "Progressive"?

Why is it that a conservative who wants to return to the values of an earlier time is labeled a "reactionary" who wants all the women kept barefoot and pregnant, while a liberal who wants to return to the 1920s -- with new streetcars and chickens in the backyard -- is called a "progressive"? (Funny, no one ever asks if the "progressives" also want to bring back segregation.)

Here's some of what passes for "progress" these days in St. Paul:

[COMGAR-L] Community Henhouses Meeting

The Midway Chickens group is exploring ways to create small-scale, shared urban henhouses in backyards. If you are interested in being part of this discussion, please come to our next meeting on Tuesday, February 19th, 7-8pm at the J & S Bean Factory at the intersection of Hamline & Thomas Aves in St. Paul. I encourage Midway residents to become involved, but the meeting is open to anyone!

If you are unable to attend but would like to be in the loop, please email me at faith@riseup.net.

More about Midway Chickens: Keeping a small flock of chickens in the city is quickly becoming a popular way of producing fresh eggs, teaching children about food, building soil fertility, and reducing your environmental impact. The new Midway Chickens group will be working to help neighbors start small-scale backyard henhouses (individual or shared), and support existing chicken keepers in sharing information and resources.

*COMGAR is for community gardeners in the Twin Cities Metro Area (and Greater Minnesota) to share timely information, seek advice from other gardeners, and learn about resources available to gardeners. **Send emails to comgar-l@lists.umn.edu. Questions and requests to remove or update subscriptions to info@gardenworksmn.org. Archived COMGAR postings available at http://lists.umn.edu/archives/comgar-l.html

I think I've figured out who "progressives" are: Progressives are modern-day hippies with money (usually earned through a public sector job). But where hippies used to simply give up their cars and go raise chickens on a commune, now they are THE ESTABLISHMENT, and use that power to try to enforce their beliefs on everyone through the power of the government.

And part of the reason they are so intent on legislating their beliefs upon everyone else is that they feel guilty about having money and being the establishment. They feel better about themselves if they can make everyone else suffer. It's sort of a complement to the "buying indulgences" of "carbon offsets." In this case, they get all of us to be surrogates doing penance for them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Trade-off: Liberals Rush In Where Conservatives Fear to Tread

I've noted before that I enjoy syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., of the Miami Herald. Though I sometimes may disagree with his opinions, reading his column gives me an appreciation that other people can look at the world around us and draw different conclusions, based on being different people with different experiences. Mr. Pitts, being a black man in the South, has a different perspective than I.

But the great thing about Pitts' writing is that he gives his view and states his case in such a way that even if I'm not persuaded to come around to his side of the argument, I at least go away with a greater appreciation of how other people feel about the topic. This isn't the case with all liberal pundits. Too often they don't enlighten me at all, but just berate me as a stupid, evil conservative.

Pitts wrote recently on the topic of: What do social conservatives need to do to attract black voters? Pitts answer: Be on time for a change.

By that, he meant that it's not enough to be on the right side of racial issues NOW, social conservatives need to be on the right side of issues while they are being debated. Don't tell me you're for the Civil Rights Act now, Pitts says, you should have been for the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

That's interesting, because conservatives such as myself are by definition and by nature wary of change. And in fact, I have asked myself sometimes where I would have been on the issues if I had lived in an earlier time. A century ago, would I have said, "Give women the vote? Are you crazy? We've never done that before. It could mess up everything."

Or 150 years ago, would I have said, "Free the slaves? Are you nuts? What about the rights of slaveholders? The whole society will fall apart."

I think that's a fair question. I find slavery and women not voting as incomprehensible as the next guy. But if I had lived in an earlier era, would my conservative nature and mindset have put me on what I obviously now would consider the wrong side of the issue?

So I understand Pitts request to "be on time."

But there's a flip side to this. Just as conservatives can be too slow to embrace change, liberals can be too quick. They can rush in without thinking things through. And the consequences can be serious.

Pitts himself directs us to an example when he writes that conservatives should "Support initiatives that help ensure stable, father-present families."

Paging Dan Quayle.

Sounds to me like Pitts is describing what is already part of the social conservative agenda. Remember Republican Vice President Dan Quayle, and his remarks about how TV character Murphy Brown having a child out of wedlock set a bad example? He was mocked for it.

It's liberals, rushing in where conservatives fear to tread, who have helped destroy families. Liberals have told us that it doesn't matter whether cohabiting people are married. It doesn't matter whether pregnant women are married. It doesn't matter if people divorce -- it's better for the children. It doesn't matter whether a child has a father in the household.

Maybe if there had been more conservative foot dragging, we wouldn't have so many children growing up without fathers in their lives.

So it works both ways. Conservatives can delay good change, but liberals can bring about bad change. Not all change is good, nor is all change bad.

The tricky part is knowing the difference.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No Free Lunch Blowin' in the Wind

People like to believe that they can get something for free. But you know the old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

Well, maybe there is sometimes. If your rich uncle buys you lunch, maybe it really is free -- to you, at least. But that's the thing, there is always someone paying. Trouble is, a lot of people think that if the government pays, it's "free."

Here's a recent example: A photo in the newspaper shows wind turbines on top of a government building in Duluth, Minn. The caption reports that the turbines generate up to 6,000 watts of electricity "for free" when the wind blows.

For free? Really? Who paid for the wind turbines? The $80,000 wind turbines? The caption says that was the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and Minnesota Power. That means the $80,000 came from taxpayers all over the state, and from utility customers who buy from Minnesota Power.

That's "free"? Hardly.

But is it a good deal? I'm no expert on this, but I'm going to try to figure it out. I just checked a recent electric bill of my own. As I read it, I'm paying a little less than 6 cents per kilowatt/hour. At peak capacity, these turbines in Duluth put out 6 kilowatts. That means they are producing about 36 cents per hour -- if the wind is blowing. That's $8.64 per day. Or $3,153.60 a year. At that rate, it would take more than 25 years just to reclaim the $80,000 investment! That's with the wind blowing and all the turbines going -- all the time. It doesn't allow for maintenance costs. Or for the present value of money. And all they are getting is enough electricity to run three or four toasters.

At $80,000, the capital cost to produce that windpower in Duluth is more than $13,000 per kilowatt. In comparison, I also recently saw a report that Xcel Energy wants to increase it production capacity at its Monticello nuclear plant. At a cost of $100-135 million, the utility would increase its output by 70 megawatts. As I understand it, and as I do the math, that's only about $1,500 per kilowatt.

Who knew "free" electricity could be so expensive?

As a final link in the alternative energy/something for nothing vein, I offer hybrid cars. I think some Prius drivers think they are getting something for nothing. Where do they think the electricity comes from? One Prius defender, writing a letter-to-the-editor, said that the car doesn't use electricity from nasty, coal-burning power plants, because "it generates its own electric power from an innovative regenerative braking system."

That's right, it's a regular perpetual motion machine. Every time it stops, it generates enough power to get it going again.

Of course it doesn't. Generating electricity while braking, by using the kinetic energy of the moving car, is a good idea, but it doesn't create something from nothing. It is a method of recapturing some of the energy that the gasoline engine used to get the car moving. In that sense, the hybrid system is a way of making the gasoline engine more efficient. But it isn't a way of getting something for nothing.

And in addition to generating electricity during braking, doesn't a Prius also simply charge up the battery while the gasoline engine is running? You couldn't possibly generate enough electricity during braking to run the car much otherwise. So what I'm getting at is, a Prius is a GASOLINE-POWERED car. It might be a more-efficient type of gasoline-powered car, but it is gasoline-powered all the same. It isn't a "zero emission" vehicle.

About the only way you could get a zero emission car would be to have a plug-in electric, recharged by a windmill on the roof of your garage. But looking at those figures from Duluth, I don't think that's going to be practical any time soon.

(Anyone out there know more about the Prius? Let me know if I don't understand it correctly. And another question: How do you heat the interior of an electric car during a Minnesota winter? OK, I just went to the Google, and it sounds like the gas engine in a Prius will run during the winter in order to run the heater, even when the car is idle at a light. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? But how would an all-electric car keeps the passengers warm?)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Taking a Shot at GOPers, Mormons Still OK

Saturday's paper included a story about how some really expensive scotch is being stocked in St. Paul, in preparation for all those rich Republicans coming to town for the GOP national convention (NOT "the RNC," by the way. The "RNC" is the Republican National Committee.)

Playing to stereotypes, I imagine in Denver they're importing some really expensive weed in preparation for the Democrats coming to town.

But seriously, this story wouldn't have been complete without getting some smarmy remarks from Democrats. Former St. Paul mayor George Latimer obliged, saying, "Thank goodness Romney didn't win because all the people in there would be drinking water."

Ho, ho, ho! Mormon joke!

Is it politically correct to make Mormon jokes?

Some will say that it's merely a fact that Mormons are not allowed to have alcohol. But then would the same joke be acceptable if directed at Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison -- a much-celebrated Muslim? Or would that be "insensitive" and "intolerant"?

And I think we know the answer to this one: What about a joke with a punchline that said, "Thank goodness Obama didn't win because all the people in there would be drinking malt liquor"?

Oh, boy, that one would be a no-no.

So where, exactly, is the line?

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Donkey Walks into a Bar and the Bartender Asks, "Why the Long Face?"

Today I read a column about how Republicans are happier than Democrats. That doesn't surprise me at all.

Despite the picture painted by liberals and the media -- that Republicans are greedy, selfish and mean-spirited -- I think that in many cases, Republicans are Republicans because they are people who are more optimistic than Democrats.

Republicans tend to think that by working hard and flying right, and with the help of God, they can succeed in life. (Which is not the same as "get rich.") Democrats tend to think they are helpless, exploited victims, who need the government's help.

Now, some people really are victims, or exploited, and do need the government's help. So it's only natural that they would back the Democrats and their policies. But I see an awfully lot of upper-middle-class Democrats who like to think of themselves as "victims" and "the little guy."

It's those folks who are obsessed with money. They're always going on about how it's unfair how much money some CEO makes, while the "working man" like them has so "little." I also think it's obscene the way that CEOs play the game and rake in the ridiculous piles of cash, but at least those cases are very few. They don't represent many people. And I don't measure myself against them.

So, am I a "happy Republican" because I'm so wealthy? Hardly. In fact, if my wife and I were two union auto workers, or two public school teachers, our household income would be greater than it is now. Yet those two groups are very representative of the unhappy "have-nots" who loyally vote Deomcratic.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The War Hero President

We have a long tradition of choosing war heroes to be president. It starts with George Washington, of course. There was Andrew Jackson, "Old Hickory," a hero of the War of 1812. Civil War general U.S. Grant. Spanish-American War hero Teddy Roosevelt. WWII hero Dwight Eisenhower -- who like Grant was no politician, but drafted based on his success in winning a war. Then JFK, himself the hero of "PT-109."

At one time, it seemed impossible that a Vietnam War hero would ever become president. I mean, there weren't any "heroes" from that unpopular war, were there? In fact, Bill Clinton made it almost a badge of honor that he had avoided serving in the war.

Then a funny thing happened. John Kerry tried to reinvent himself as a war hero, after getting his start in politics by being anti-war, and -- some say -- anti soldier.

But it didn't work out for Kerry.

So that's it, then, right? There's no chance of there ever being a Vietnam War hero elected president.

Not so fast. Here comes John McCain.

Yes, John McCain is now the presumed Republican nominee. And, he's something very rare -- a genuine Vietnam War hero. While John Kerry's pal Jane Fonda was vacationing in North Korea, John McCain was living in a cage as a prisoner of war.

John McCain really is a war hero. But here's a prediction: his campaign won't be based on it. When you're the real thing, you don't have to tell everyone about it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Caucus Standing Room Only

I went to my caucus last night. What a crowd! A typical crowd of local GOPers (House District 64B) would be maybe 100 people. But with 250 chairs set up, the rest of the school gym was filled with people standing. There were more than 400 people for sure, maybe even 500.

Four years ago, there were maybe about eight people in my precinct meeting. Two years ago, I was the only one! But this year when we broke up to meet by precincts, there were 27. However, it appeared that only a very few of us had ever attended a caucus before.

People were eager to cast their ballot for their preferred presidential candidate. But Minnesota's GOP caucus straw poll is non-binding. So the way to further your candidate's chances is really to send delegates who favor that candidate up the ladder of party conventions. I don't think people realize that, however, and we didn't even have competition for the four delegate positions from our precinct. Four people were interested in doing it, so they became the delegates. And I don't even know which candidate they favor!

I did not ask to be a delegate. I was a delegate four years ago. That meant I went to the state house district convention. There, I was elected to attend the congressional district convention and state convention. But I really didn't enjoy the process very much, and felt I was wasting some nice spring and summer weekends sitting inside listening to people who didn't know anything ramble on about some pointless, nonsensical resolutions they wanted passed. But four years ago we had an incumbent president up for reelection, so there was no debate about the party's candidate. Maybe this year will be more interesting.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

There's No Negotiating with Evil

A headline over the weekend told of two bombings in Baghdad markets, which killed about 100 people. I have two observations about this:

1 -- The bad guys are a lot more patient than the American people. And possibly smarter. They won't give up, but they think that we will. With recent reports about the "surge" working, and reports that perhaps Al Qaida in Iraq is making its last stand in Mosul, some Americans were beginning tho think that, hey, maybe we could win this thing after all. Al Qaida couldn't have that, so they had to do something to get the carnage back on the front page, and discourage the American public.

Mission accomplished.

2 -- Some people -- including people who think they would make a good President -- continue to say that the answer is diplomacy and greater cultural understanding.

What kind of "understanding" can you reach with people who strap bombs to women with Down syndrome, send them into crowded public places, and blow them up from a safe (for themselves) distance?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Raising Children Not Child's Play

Sometimes it's just a small thing that sets me off.

The U.S. figure skating championships were held in St. Paul this past weekend, which led to a lot of figure skating ink in the daily paper here. That included a "where are they now?" story about Jill Trenary, the Minnesota native who was world champion in 1990, and who took fourth place in the 1988 Olympics.

In a small sidebar of factoids, we learn that Trenary is now living in Colorado Springs and "playing homemaker."

"Playing" homemaker? What is that supposed to mean? Isn't raising two children and making a home for them and their father a serious use of time?

It's as though the reporter thinks it is not. And so the reporter had to treat it as something kitschy or ironic. Something done for laughs, not because Trenary really thinks that's what she should be doing.

How would the person who wrote that like it if someone referred to him as "playing newspaper reporter," as though that wasn't a valid choice of how to devote one's time?

It says something about the state of our culture, when being a wife and mother isn't considered a serious use of one's time.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Willing to Pay More.... for Hate

If I were a "liberal advocacy group" and I had $8.5 million, what would I do? I could feed the homeless. Buy health care for children. Fight AIDS in Africa. Improve inner-city schools. I could even work to elect politicians whom I thought would work toward those goals.

But not Americans United for Change. No, here's how they are going to spend $8.5 million: Saying bad things about President Bush, so that the other kids on the playground won't like him.

The group says their goal is to prevent President Bush's public approval rating from improving during his final year in the White House.

Why? He's not running for re-election. He can't run for re-election. What's the point? Simply personal hatred, evidently. These people will feel better if they hurt someone else.

How very "liberal" of them. But I guess that's where the (redundant) term "compassionate conservatism" comes from: It's in contrast to "hateful liberalism."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Bad Bumper Sticker

I recently spotted another bumper sticker that doesn't make any sense. This one reads, in large type: "God is Not a Republican." Then, in much smaller type, it reads: "Or a Democrat."

Why the different type sizes? Isn't that missing the point? If the message is that no political party should claim God as a member, I can get on board with that. But what this really is is a shot at Republicans. At first glance, all a person sees is the message that God is not a Republican, which suggests that perhaps God is a Democrat. Then we get the fine-print disclaimer. It's sort of like children on the playground. Suzy says, "I'm not saying that Jenny picks her nose, but I've heard other people say it."

This reminds me of the other stupid bumper sticker I previously reported on, the one that appears to have "originally" read: "Endless War," but then was "edited" to read "End This War." What's up with that? Did the owner of that bumper sticker originally advocate for endless war? Because that's what they're showing me. It makes me want to ask, "So why did you want endless war in the first place? And what made a warmonger like you change your mind?"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Love and Moving in Together... Go Together Like Cats and Dogs

I wrote a few posts back about how a lot of troubling domestic situations could be avoided if young women simply heeded the old axiom, "He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free."

But before they can heed it, they have to at least have some understanding of the concept. Unfortunately, the evidence is that many young women don't. In our rush to not be "judgmental," we've stopped giving out that message.

Today's Exhibit A is a "Dear Abby" column. A 23-year-old mother of a one-year-old is having trouble with a controlling, deadbeat live-in boyfriend. If she had only heeded the "Buy the cow...." advice, she wouldn't be in this situation. But apparently the concept of expecting a man to prove his worthiness by offering marriage -- which will give protection to his wife and children -- is totally foreign to this young woman. Here's what she wrote to Abby:

I understand the concept that once you find your true love, you move in with him and you're supposed to be happy.

No, you don't understand at all. Probably because no one ever told you any different. All she's doing is giving him free milk -- and free home delivery.

Dan Quayle was right. Where's his Nobel Prize?

Monday, January 21, 2008

U.S. Honors the National Clergyman

Happy The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to you.

As I've pointed out before, the Rev. Dr. King is unique in being the only American honored by his own federal holiday. George Washington and Abe Lincoln have to share the catch-all Presidents' Day. Christopher Columbus wasn't an American -- did he ever even set foot in what became the U.S.?

Isn't it strange that our nation's most highly honored individual is a clergyman? What happened to all of those concerns about "separation of church and state"? But of course, that part of the Rev. King gets downplayed. As does the role that Christian churches played in first ending slavery, and a century later in bringing about civil rights reform.

As a news story today claims, King has become a one-dimensional icon, and most people don't haven any idea of the complexities of the man, or what he had to say regarding many issues.

I think it would be better to have a holiday about the Constitution and civil rights, rather than a holiday about one individual. I'm guessing the Rev. King would agree with me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Appeasement Doesn't Work

It was reported today that Spanish authorities have arrested a group of suspected Islamic terrorists, suspected of plotting bombings.

You'll remember that a few years ago, the terrorists blew up a train in Spain. The terrorists said it was in response to Spain's cooperation with the U.S. in Iraq, and the Spanish government quickly caved and withdrew all of its troops from Iraq.

This meshed with the "reasoning" used by those who say that the terrorists hate us only because the U.S. (President Bush, specifically) invaded Iraq, conveniently ignoring the fact that the invasion came a year and a half after the 9/11 attacks, which were the second attack on the World Trade Towers by Islamic terrorists (the first came in 1993).

So now how do we explain that Islamic terrorists are plotting still more bombings in Spain, the country that gave in to their demands?

The point is, they will blow you up whether or not you fight back. It's what they do. It's their nature.

So I'm for fighting back.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wisdom of the Crowd vs. Mob Mentality

You may have heard of the idea of "wisdom of crowds," which holds that polling a large group of people will produce a wise or accurate response in the form of an "averaged" answer. But that runs counter to another phenomenon, the mob mentality, in which people just go along with the group, whether it's a good idea or not.

A report on the collapsed I35W bridge has me thinking about that. Remember right after the August 1 collapse? What were a couple of things that the crowd "knew"? Locally, we "knew" that the state wasn't spending enough money on bridge inspections, and more money had to be appropriated for inspections. Nationally, all the politicians and pundits were leading the crowd in "knowing" that this one bridge failure showed that our infrastructure was "crumbling" and "neglected," and we must reassess our national priorities, raise taxes, withdraw from Iraq, etc.

All based on one bridge collapsing, for unknown reasons.

Now comes a report that says the bridge failed because of a design flaw. Designers called for 1/2 inch thick metal connecting plates, when plates a full inch thick should have been used. The bridge stood for 40 years despite that mistake, and no one knew that anything was wrong.

And here's what National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker had to say, according to (my new employer) the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"This is not an issue of aging infrastructure," Rosenker said.

He also said bridge inspectors are not trained to spot the design flaw.

So much for those two things the crowd "knew" back in August.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Make Him Buy the Cow

We hear a lot about how the children of this nation need more pre-school funding, or better government health care programs, or all kinds of things that cost money and put the government in the role of the parents. But what children really need is parents. Good parents. Adult parents.

I'm sure you know the expression, "Why should he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free?"

Yes, it's old-fashioned. Maybe it's sexist. But it's good advice.

What it means is, if a girl wants a guy to marry her, she shouldn't be sleeping with him. Because if she's already doing that, what incentive does he have to marry her? And, I would add, what incentive does he have to provide for any children he might create?

Our traditional, "old-fashioned" and "prudish" sexual mores had a lot to do with protecting women and children. But in our modern wisdom, we've discarded millennia of wisdom in favor of "liberation." and who suffers? Mostly women and children.

Here are two examples from the same day's paper last week. Two examples of females who made a mess of their lives -- and their children's lives -- because they couldn't say no. These are sickening, but all too real.

Example 1: A 24-year-old St. Paul woman allegedly confined her two children, ages 5 and 2, in an apartment bedroom, with no access to the bathroom. The children reportedly would cry out the window that they were hungry. When police went to the apartment at 1:40 on a Sunday afternoon, in response to a complaint that the 5-year-old had climbed out the window and was walking around outside without a coat or shoes, no one would answer the door. The police were let into the apartment with a caretaker's key. They found the woman asleep in another bedroom with her boyfriend. But there is no mention of the children's father.

Example 2: A now-22-year-old man has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for beating his fiancee's baby (but not his child) to near-death a year ago. The baby was only three weeks old, after being born six weeks prematurely. That means the child wasn't even a full-term baby yet! But where is the baby's father? No sign of him. But he must be known, because the child's "paternal grandmother" is quoted in the story. So this young woman got pregnant by one man who was not her husband, he dropped out of the picture, and by the time the child was born, she was engaged to another man, who would then beat and cripple her baby! This woman has no judgment when it comes to men.

And I see that over and over in tragic news stories -- women who take up with bad men. Over and over. Again and again, I read stories about how "mom's boyfriend" has harmed a child.

You know what I think? These women have no business having a "boyfriend." They should be concentrating on taking care of their children and keeping them safe, not sleeping with the latest loser on a Sunday afternoon while the kids sit in their own feces.

All this is why young women have been told for centuries: Don't sleep with him until he marries you. But we think we're so modern, so liberated, we don't need to follow any of those rules. We've got people who are all about the "wisdom of the ancients" when it comes to buying some expensive baby carrier just like the ones used by some primitive tribespeople somewhere, but when it comes to tried and true rules for life, we don't want to be "old-fashioned" or "judgmental."

Well, not me. I've had enough. If the women in these examples wouldn't have given out the milk for free, they wouldn't have gotten themselves -- or their children -- into these nightmares.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is This Logical? You Have to "Discriminate" Against One of Them

According to a story from Jodi Kantor of the New York Times, women began throwing their support to Hillary Clinton because they were upset that she didn't win in Iowa. They see "chauvinism," and are upset that in 2008, a woman still can't win a primary.

Even Democratic women with no intention of voting for Clinton found themselves drawn into the debate and shaken by what briefly seemed like a humiliating end to the most promising female candidacy in American history.

"I was really pained by the thought that her campaign really was over," said Amy Rees, a stay-at-home mother in San Francisco who will vote in the California Democratic primary on Feb. 5. "I kept thinking that the truth is, a woman -- even a woman of her unquestioned intelligence and preparedness -- can't get even a single primary win. It really stung."

Rees had favored Sen. Barack Obama; now, she is thinking of voting for Clinton.

So her guy -- the potential first Kenyan-American president -- won in Iowa, and her reaction is to switch her support to Hillary? Her fellow Obama supporters are the reason Hillary didn't win in Iowa. Obama winning is what Rees wanted. How on Earth does she now turn that into a reason to support Hillary?

And if Hillary had won in Iowa, would Rees then be all shook up that a Kenyan-American "can't get even a single primary win"? (0 for 1. Not exactly a long losing streak, is it?) Only one can win -- either the first woman or the first Kenyan-American. One must lose. Does that prove either "chauvinism" or "racism"?

Instead, shouldn't people be pleased that those two candidates are the top two contenders?

And while I'm at it, I just want to mention that if I were an Iowan, I'd be offended by the way that the news media report "finally Iowa was ready" for a darker-skinned candidate. They make it sound like racist Iowans have previously rejected any African-American candidate. I'd like to point out that for all we know, Iowans were "ready" for such a candidate decades ago. And if a legitimate African-American or Kenyan-American candidate -- not Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson -- had been offered to them previously, they may very well have picked him or her then.

Monday, January 14, 2008

We All Want "Change"

The candidates have now pretty much all latched onto the mantra of "change." So much so, that "change" is becoming the butt of jokes.

But if you're a political candidate, being for change might be even better than being for motherhood and apple pie. Even those can be controversial these days, with all sort of non-traditional families on the one hand, and concern about what we eat on the other.

But we all want change. Everyone wants to pay less in taxes, or have someone else pay more. Everyone wants the government to do more, or to do less. Everyone wants to be allowed to do something, or to have others not allowed to do something.

The beauty of campaigning for "change" is that we all fill in the blanks ourselves. That guy will bring change? Good, I want change. And so does the guy next to me, so maybe we'll both vote for the "change candidate." But what if I want to ban tobacco entirely, and the guy next to me wants to rescind smoking bans? If a change is made, only one of us could possibly be happy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Rest of "the Question..."

We've all heard about "the question" that saved Hillary's campaign. She was asked "How do you do it?" started crying, and won the New Hampshire primary.

But what is the "it" that Hillary does?

This played out so well for Hillary because everyone who hears this story reported fills in the blanks for themselves, based on their own experiences, their own difficulties in life (just like with "change"). So lots of people can empathize with Hillary's response to the question.

For my part, I figured "it" meant, "How do you campaign, serve as a Senator, be a wife and mother, and still find time to battle the vast right-wing conspiracy?"

But then I finally read a report of exactly what "the question" was. From a story by Faye Fiore and Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times, here is "the question":

"As a woman, I know it's hard to get out of the house and get ready. My question is very personal: How do you do it?"

For all the grilling by the news media, Clinton's response to that one girlish question was what the Clinton high command later would call a eureka moment, eliciting a glimpse of humanity from the famously self-controlled senator from New York. It was just one of several factors that led to her close victory, but it already has entered the realm of political legend.

For the first time that morning, Clinton struggled for words.

[Questioner Marianne] Pernold Young jumped to her rescue, the way a girlfriend might: "Who does your hair?" It was such a uniquely female thing to wonder -- how many male voters would even care?

"Luckily, on special days I do have help," Clinton allowed. "If you see me every day, and if you look on some of the Web sites and listen to some of the commentators, they always find me on the day I didn't have help."

There wasn't a woman in the place who didn't relate to that - the former first lady has bad hair days, too! But this line of inquiry seemed to touch something in Clinton.

"It's not easy, it's not easy," she went on. "And I couldn't do it if I just didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do."

The question that saved Hillary was ABOUT HER HAIR! But you probably didn't know that, did you? Because it was edited and taken out of context and turned into a reason to make her the leader of the Free World!

When the "Hillary cried" story broke, did you hear it reported anywhere that Hillary cried when asked about her hair? I sure didn't. But that's what happened. Do Hillary's friends in the media really think that crying over a "bad hair day" is a qualification to be president?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Let the Horses Race

Dale writes:

Why is it that everyone who calls into every radio show lately says, "I like Fred Thompson, but I don't think he will win, so I am voting for Huckabee or Romney or McCain or Giuliani"? [Dave notes: Dale is obviously not listening to Air America!] I think if everyone who wanted Fred Thompson to be the nominee would actually vote for him, he would be the nominee. At least based on those who call into talk radio.

Voting in a primary tells the eventual winner what you like or want in a candidate. Eventually someone will win, so if you think you have to vote for the guy with a chance to win, you are only listening to what you hear on TV or in the news as to who they tell you is the viable candidate. I don't think conservatives fare very well when we listen to what media thinks is best for us.

Dale's right. Both that you need to let the horses race to find out which one is really the fastest, and that letting the national media handicap the Republican race is really pointless. They overwhelmingly dislike all Republicans. How could they possibly haven any idea which Republican is best? You might as well let me give out awards for the best daytime soap operas.

And notice how totally clueless the national media were to Huckabee's appeal in Iowa. They were totally blown away that he won there. They just couldn't understand it, because they are nothing like the people who vote (Republican) in Iowa. All the national media people wanted to talk about is people like Giuliani -- people from "real states" like New York! Huckabee and conservatives Christians meant nothing to them.

And they've pretty much been giving Hillary the nomination for the past year. They were shocked when she didn't win Iowa. Then, this week, they decided that Obama would win New Hampshire, and were shocked when he didn't. So I guess they can't even relate to their fellow Democrats, at least Democrats in "unimportant" little states.

So Dale's right, we shouldn't vote based on what the media are telling us about "wasted" votes. Especially not in the primaries, when everything is up for grabs and we're starting from scratch.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Workin' for the Man

Sorry I haven't been around much lately; been busy making some changes. For the first time in about 18 years, I'm on someone's payroll. My freelance business wasn't keeping me as busy as it used to, and I started looking for some steady, supplemental income. One thing led to another, and last week I started a permanent, part-time job that will take about three days a week.

Here's the full disclosure part: I'm now an employee of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I'm not in the news department, though -- I'm in classified advertising!

Will this affect my postings here? It will mean less time available for writing, obviously. But whether it affects what I write remains to be seen. I know there have been at least a couple of times that I have criticized the news judgement of the paper. Will I be reluctant to do so now? I think we'll just have to wait and see. I don't think that, as an (union) employee, I could be punished for criticizing the paper, but I don't want to get a reputation as a trouble maker, do I now? That's just common sense. Want to make a good first impression.

It also remains to be seen what this means as far as me continuing to write (unpaid) guest opinion columns for the paper.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Conflict of Interest Law Not at the Head of the Class

A just-sworn-in school board member in Mounds View, Minn., may have to resign due to a conflict of interest. Susan Murphy's "crime"? Her husband is a Mounds View schools custodian.

Mounds View school district attorney John Roszack says that Murphy will have to resign or be removed because she will be in violation of a state conflict of interest law when the school board negotiates a contract with the janitors' union.

Minnesota is a community property state, so what's his is hers, and I guess essentially when she is involved in conducting school district business related to how much money the district will ultimately pay to Mr. Murphy, she is also dealing with how much money she pays herself.

But if we're going to be that wary of entangling conflicts of interest, should there be exceptions? It turns out that if Mr. Murphy was a teacher, not a janitor, there would be no problem. The state law includes a special exemption for teachers.

Why? Doesn't a teacher, who is not only paid by the school board, but charged with executing the district's educational mission within the classroom, present more of a conflict of interest possibility than a janitor?

Why would this state law contain such an exemption for teachers? Could it be because the state legislature has so many teachers in it?

I've long marveled at that. Education is far and away the largest portion of Minnesota's state spending, and that huge pile of money is appropriated by a legislative body in which teachers are very well represented. Isn't that a self-serving conflict of interest?

(I know, I know. Who could serve in the legislature without any "conflicts of interest"? Not farmers. Not business people. Not lawyers. Not anyone receiving any sort of state transfer payments. Not anyone who pays taxes. We all would have some sort of "conflict.")

Monday, January 7, 2008

Third Reich Rises Again on the Eastern Front

This is interesting, if the horrifying idea of a contemporary European regime mirroring Hitler's can be "interesting." A Los Angeles Times story by Megan K. Stack reports that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is being supported by gangs of nationalistic youths.

Echoing the rise of Hitler's Nazi regime, the story goes on to report themes of a desire to reclaim past glory (including, perhaps, reuniting other sovereign nations with the fatherland), intimidation of political enemies, and feelings that a person must join up with Putin in order to get ahead. Of course, there's a concerted effort to focus hatred on political opponents. And a paranoid emphasis on all of the (frequently imagined) internal and external enemies out to get Mother Russia, who the thugs' use to justify their actions.

Here's an excerpt:

Meet Putin's sidewalk avengers, scruffy cheerleaders and foot soldiers. In the last few years of the powerful president's reign, tens of thousands of Russian students have joined hastily organized youth groups and headed into the streets, young people who believe that the stability of their homeland depends upon squashing political opposition and propping up their beloved father figure.

Members of Borovikov's organization are bombarded with talk of the dangers of fascists, a term organizers throw around to refer to political rivals, including neo-Nazis and pro-democracy liberals including former chess champion Garry Kasparov.

"We're trying to tell people about the movements that don't say they're fascist, but they are," said Borovikov, deputy head of Nashi, or Ours.

"People should understand what can happen if they support this or that political force. ... They are fascists in disguise. We want to open their eyes."

How about looking in a mirror? You sound like the fascists!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Is America Ready for a Kenyan-American President?

Huckabee and Obama. What are we to make of that? (Remember, though, neither got a majority in Iowa -- most caucus-goers wanted someone else.)

The national news media people seem put-out by Huckabee's success. As they explain it, he only won because of the "evangelicals," not real American voters. So I guess it doesn't really count. The evangelicals voted for Huckabee, they explain, because he shares their values and they think he is like them. But they say it as though those are strange reasons to pick a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, they assume minorities will pick Obama because he has dark skin, and women will pick Hillary because she has breasts.

Are those superficial reasons more legitimate than judging a candidate by what he believes in?

Speaking of Obama, his success in corn-cows-caucasians Iowa shows that Americans don't have to have dark skin to go with a dark skinned candidate.

But I'm still not comfortable calling Obama "African-American." After all, do the math. His mother is white. He's half "African." No more than his white American half. But I guess the liberals still go with the one-drop rule.

And why call Obama "African-American"? His father is Kenyan. Wouldn't that make Obama, more specifically, "Kenyan-American." Do politicians in Boston run as "European-Americans" or "Irish-Americans"? Isn't Rudy Giuliani proud to be an "Italian-American"?

The reason we use "African" in labeling the descendants of former slaves is because we usually don't know what specific country in Africa their ancestors came from. (Plus, the countries currently on the map may be irrelevant historically.)

It's a terrible shame that so many Americans have their heritage taken from them and lost. But in the case of Obama, we know specifically his father's country of origin. Why not use it? When it comes to news reporting, isn't the rule the-more-specific-the-better?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Nature Causing "Global Warming"

The Associated Press reports:

There's more to the recent alarming thawing of the Arctic region than can be explained by man-made global warming alone, a new study found. Nature is pushing the Arctic to the edge, too.

There's a natural cause that may account for much of the Arctic warming, which has melted sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. New research points a finger at a natural and cyclical increase in the amount of energy in the atmosphere that moves from south to north around the Arctic Circle.

Did you get that? It's NATURAL and CYCLICAL.

Of course, they say GLOBAL WARMISM is still the true faith. They say that, essentially, mankind's contribution by driving SUVs is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Don't Blame Al -- He's Rich

Maybe you read recently about how Al Gore, responding to criticism about the "carbon footprint" of his mansion/compound/plantation house "Tar-a" (His family has the tobacco money, don't they?) has made some expensive improvements to make his palace more "green." Well, good for him. Of course, he probably spent more than the cost of most people's houses just to make these improvements. But that's OK. Part of the Global Warmist theology is that you can simply atone for your sins by buying indulgences. Spend some more money, and you don't have to change your ways.

Al makes me think of how Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. I imagine Al as the rich man, who buys a very small camel, commissions the production of a giant needle, then says, "See, it's not so hard." He's missing the whole point.

Actually, Al reminds me of a TV evangelist, one who says he is going to save us, but really, it's all about money and power for him. That doesn't mean nothing he says is of any value, but it's all a little too cozy for me -- his "green" venture capital company and his company that sells "carbon offsets." Jim and Tammy Faye Baker may have said we should love our neighbors and help the poor, but that doesn't negate the way that they exploited people's fears to finance their own sinful, lavish lifestyle.

Al wants power and money for himself. He wants power and money for the government. It sounds like a good movie script, don't you think? Failed presidential candidate plots his revenge, feeds his ego, enriches himself. "Citizen Carbon," or an environmental "Elmer Gantry."

Al Gore also reminds me of Communist-hunter Sen. Joe McCarthy. Like McCarthy, Gore operates from a kernel of truth, but he goes overboard, conveniently grabbing power for himself. Think of how we now say that the Red Scare was overblown. Think history doesn't repeat itself? I'm thinking about how ethanol was going to save us. Now, it's all about money and big business and big government. Unfulfilled promises. And now we're being told that ethanol is actually bad for the environment!

When we finally write the book on "climate change," I wonder how foolish we will look?

I had another thought today: Global Warmists are sort of like creationists. They say, "This is how Mother Earth's climate is supposed to be, and it must forever stay that way." Turns out that when it comes to climate, they don't believe in evolution!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Government for Dummies

Is this a joke? Take a gander at this letter to the editor (second letter -- St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dec. 26, 2007):

The numerous concerns raised by the subprime mortgage mess are the best reason why we as American citizens cannot and should not manage our social security accounts. In general, we are not fiscally savvy and are unable to separate scams from good investments. If we were charged with handling our social security retirement accounts, unscrupulous "money managers" would rob us of everything we have. Who then would bail us out? Let's just admit that we are not knowledgeable enough to do it. Let's move on to another topic.

Anita Alexander -- Arden Hills

Sadly, I'm sure it's no joke. This is a voter who thinks, probably using herself as the touchstone, that people are too stupid to take care of themselves, and need the government to take care of them.

You want to move on to another topic? How about this: If people taking out mortgages they can't pay off proves that people are too stupid to handle their own retirement accounts, then it must even more certainly prove that people are too stupid to take out mortgages! I'd like to know, does this letter writer think that people shouldn't be allowed to handle their own housing arrangements, and the government instead should manage our housing for us? Why not just have a "housing tax," and then we can apply for a government-owned place to live. We could all live in those nice, cinder-block tenements like they had in Paradise -- I mean, the Soviet Union. Otherwise, unscrupulous mortgage lenders will rob us of everything we have, isn't that right, Comrade Alexander?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What Was Al Gore Doing for Eight Years?

A week ago, NBC re-broadcast an episode of "Saturday Night Live" from December of 1991. Here's something that jumped out at me: In the "Weekend Update" mock news segment, there was a report about weather, and a crack that it must be "global warming."

That was 16 years ago. George H.W. Bush was president. Most of us had never even heard of Bill Clinton. But just a year later, Al Gore would become vice president for the next eight years. If "global warming" was already in the news to the extent that it earned wisecracks on a TV comedy program, where was Al Gore for those eight years? Why didn't he and the genius Clinton lead the world in signing some carbon-limiting agreements?

Was Al unable to get Slick Willie on board the "global warming" train? (Then let's blame Clinton, since I'm sure St. Algore unrelenting kept reminding Bill that we needed to take action.) Or was Al "saving" this issue so he could be the hero when he became president himself? (Remember how Bill expressed envy that no one had flown planes into skyscrapers when he was president?) But when Al didn't become president, he was left hanging. He was nobody. Until he became the prophet of "global warming." Repent of your evil ways before it is too late!

Now, he's St. Algore, the Nobel Prize winner. I still say former VP Dan Quayle is more deserving. Heeding his cry that fatherless children is not a matter for comedy would do more for peace, right here in our own neighborhoods.

For a great take on Al Gore as a fundamentalist, evangelical cult leader, read this excellent column by Cal Thomas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas. It's a Fact.

We hear a lot about people not saying "Merry Christmas" because, you know, "Not everyone celebrates Christmas," and so you might "offend" someone.

One question: Isn't Christmas, in fact, an official federal holiday?

Yes. It is. That can not be disputed.

So how can "Merry Christmas" offend anyone? I sure hope anyone who is so offended is refusing to take the day off from work. But, of course, no one does. (Some might volunteer to work that day if they aren't Christians, but they expect to get paid -- or to get a different day off in return.)

If we are going to be so easily offended, then we'd better not say "Happy Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" to anyone. What if that person isn't black? (You say it's a holiday for everyone, not just for black people? That's right. And so is Christmas, which is an official federal holiday, whether you observe it religiously or not.)

We'd better not say "Happy Thanksgiving" to anyone. What if that person is an atheist? Atheists don't have anyone to thank. They believe that the turkey on their table is solely the result of their own efforts, and the culmination of eons of random evolution.

Don't say "Happy Presidents' Day." You might hear, "He's not my president."

Finally, we'd better not say "Happy Independence Day" to anyone. What if that person isn't an American citizen? Or maybe is an American citizen, but one of the many who hates this country, and thinks it's the worst country in the world. That person might be offended.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who Said It?

Can you guess who said that the president needs to worry about whether what he is doing is right, rather than about how it will look to the masses? Here's the quote:

"There are moments when we're called to stand up for what is right even if it's not popular, because that's what makes us stronger and safer."

Must be President Bush, defending his unpopular foreign policy, right?

Nope. That was Barack (isn't that a Klingon name?) Obama, speaking in Des Moines this week, saying we need a new leader.

Does Obama really think that making a U-turn from Bush's policy would be unpopular, but make us safer? I thought bashing Bush was very popular these days.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Impeach Rybak

I don't know what they've got in the drinking water across the river in Minneapolis, but they sure seem nuts to me. The people running the city seem not very interesting in the boring, nuts and bolts aspects of running a city. You know, fixing potholes, preventing neighborhoods from being controlled by insurgent gangs. That sort of thing. They're more interested in promoting "green roofs" and rain barrels and bicycle paths. It's just more fun, I guess.

Now, some of our self-described "progressive" friends across the river want the Minneapolis city council to vote to impeach President Bush. They are conducting a campaign to get that vote. They want Bush impeached for the usual reasons: starting a war using faulty intelligence, shredding the Constitution, taking away our civil liberties in the name of national security. Here's an excerpt of their thinking, taken from e-mail they are sending around:

Is Bush/Cheney Impeachment a City Council's Job? City Council members take an oath of office promising to "protect and defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. They don't take an oath to fix potholes. If the Constitution is in danger then their primary duty is to defend it.

Their primary duty is to protect the Constitution? But what has been in the news in the last few days? We've had Minneapolis boasting about how they are installing even more cameras on the streets of the city, so that the police department can monitor the citizenry -- in the name of SECURITY. Then, we had a SWAT para-military team, acting on FAULTY INTELLIGENCE, invade the home of an innocent family, firing shots at them.

So where is the call to impeach "progressive" DFL mayor R.T. Rybak?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some Thoughts on Christmas Displays in Public Spaces

-- It's a long-standing, widespread cultural tradition to put up outdoor Christmas displays. A display in a public place is simply a reflection of the community. IT IS A STATEMENT OF THE CURRENT CONDITIONS.

-- It's similar to the situation when the Twins or Vikings are in the playoffs, and people display Homer Hankies and pennants. Should Minneapolis City Hall not be allowed join in the community fun, because it might offend a Yankees fan? Or would it only be OK for Minneapolis City Hall to display a Homer Hankie only if a Yankees pennant is also displayed?

-- There is no need to invent December outdoor displays for other religions, in an attempt to drown out the Christmas display. If it is, or becomes, a tradition for outdoor displays to be put up in connection with holidays of other religions, then by all means those displays could also be put up in the public square. But those displays could come at any time of the year -- at the appropriate time for a particular celebration. If the Semaphorians erect a pole with a red light at the top every March 4 to celebrate the birth of Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic signal, then by all means they can put up such a pole IN MARCH.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stop, Thief! Stop Or I'll Peace Out!

We had a new police sub-station open recently in St. Paul. Here's an announcement I received about an open house at the new facility:

Tour the new Western District headquarters today! Speeches and dedication of the peace pole begin at 3:00. Tours begin at 3:30, and are every half hour til 7:00. The new building is LEED certified and features a workout room, garage, and a community room. The new building is at 389 Hamline Avenue, across from the Midway Target.

(LEED = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, it means it's "green.")

There's no mention of how this new building will help the police protect and serve the community. But don't you feel safer knowing that the new police station is good for our Mother the Earth and that there's a peace pole? I wonder if there is also a sign on the door saying "guns banned on these premises"?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Global Warming? pHHHHHHHHHHHHttttt!

This global warming is complicated stuff. It seems that everything causes global warming, and global warming causes everything. Yesterday I was thoroughly confused reading my daily paper. First, I read a doom-and-gloom story that the worst part of global warming might be that as more carbon dioxide is spewed from Al Gore's mansion-compound (which I'll call Tar-a, in honor of his tobacco fortune), more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean, and that makes the ocean more acidic. Which is a bad thing. Here's an excerpt from the story by Les Blementhal of McClatchy Newspapers:

Forget about sea levels rising as glaciers and polar ice melt, and increasing water temperatures affecting global weather patterns. As the oceans absorb more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, they're gradually becoming more acidic.

And some scientists fear the change may be irreversible.

At risk are sea creatures up and down the food chain, from the tiniest phytoplankton and zooplankton to whales.

OK, oceans too acidic because of global warming. Got that?

Now, on to another piece, in the same day's paper, where Laura M. Colarusso of the Star-Ledger (Newark) tells us about "geoengineering" attempts to combat global warming. One idea is to extract carbon dioxide from ocean water, so that the ocean could absorb more carbon dioxide from the air, combating global warming. But this has its drawbacks:

To remove all of the carbon dioxide, electrochemical weathering would require about 700 large treatment plants along the world's coastlines, and it could prove difficult to convince communities to build them in their backyards. The process would also alter the pH of the ocean near the facilities, making it more alkaline. That change could have "severe effects" on marine ecosystems, House [the cited expert] said.

OK, so fighting global warming could make the oceans more alkaline.

But isn't that a good thing, if the oceans are already becoming too acidic, due to global warming?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Europe (in the hospital) on $7 a Week

A lot of people say we need a health care system more like Europe's. Here's one first-hand account of what health care is like in Europe -- only $7 for a week in the hospital! Sounds great, doesn't it? This is taken from an e-mail I received from Thomas and Miriam Chmiel, who are working as missionaries in Ukraine, after Miriam had to go to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. She had lost a baby.

When we got there, it was obvious that this hospital would be very different from what we know from the States or the Czech Republic. But most of the doctors and nurses were nice and friendly even though they had to work in really hard conditions. God blessed us with a doctor who was pretty patient with our questions and concerns. In Ukraine, most doctors are not used to explaining things to their patients. They are doctors, they know everything and who are you to ask But we were not willing to let the doctors do anything without us understanding what exactly was happening. So it was a little bit of a cross-cultural experience for both sides.

We were able to get a small private room where Tomasz could sleep on the floor. It was comforting to Miriam to know that she did not have to go through all this alone. Otherwise the whole experience was pretty scary -- Miriam was in a lot of pain, she did not know how much of the doctors' medical judgment she could trust, everyone spoke a language she did not 100% understand, they were giving her shots and running tests without telling her what they were doing.

It is hard to describe the whole experience in a way that would help you picture what it was like. There were some things that we could not believe at first but then we realized that indeed that was the reality. There was no hot water anywhere in the hospital so it was impossible for the patients to shower or to even really wash. (We did not really want to know where the doctors and nurses washed their hands) There was no water at all from about 10pm till 5am so if you got sick at night, well tough luck Some days there was no water even during the day and when we mentioned something about how hard it was, our doctor was trying to be sympathetic but at the same time it was obvious that not being able to shower was really a minor detail compared to the doctors' not knowing how many more surgeries they had water for. There was no ultrasound at the gynecology ward and many other things were let's say "different".

In Ukrainian hospitals, you buy your own medication, syringes, needles and everything else. Your doctor tells you what to get, you go to a pharmacy, get what you need, bring it back and then they give you your shots, IVs or whatever you need. Tomasz made quite a few trips to the hospital pharmacy this past week .....

Even though the hospital was definitely not up to the US or EU standards, we still expected to be charged for the week-long stay, all the medical attention, our private room, a lot of blood tests etc Tomasz went to the ATM machine to be ready to pay our hospital bill when the doctor came and told us that we owed $7! We thought we did not understand her correctly, but we did. Yes, the bill was $7!!! We do have insurance that should reimburse us for our medical expenses while in Ukraine, but with bills like these, we'd have to be in a Ukrainian hospital for almost a year to even meet our deductible.

Wow! What a deal. Only $7 for a week in the hospital. Why doesn't the U.S. have a government health care system as good as Ukraine's?

Friday, December 14, 2007

All I Want for Christmas....Is Saddam Hussein

This was in a letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press on Thursday:

"As the holidays approach I find myself wishing for an impossible Christmas [Dave asks: Not "holiday"?] present - a world without our invasion of Iraq. I dream of life for nearly 4,000 dead Americans and countless Iraqis. I think of all the families whose injured could be whole again, and a few million displaced Iraqis would be back in their homes."

Wait just a minute. Isn't he forgetting someone in his Christmas wish? No, not Jesus. Not Santa Claus. Saddam Hussein. No invasion would mean Saddam still killing people. Gassing them. Cutting out their tongues. Raping their daughters in front of them. It doesn't mean Iraq would be paradise.

You know what I want from people like this letter writer? I want them to be honest. I want them to come right out and say it. Go ahead, say it:

"All I want for Christmas is Saddam Hussein."

You've got to choose one: no invasion, or no Saddam. You can't have both.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Just Sayin'...

From Bret Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal Online:

"The USSR could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a submarine base there. . . . Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it."

--Special National Intelligence Estimate 85-3-62, Sept. 19, 1962

Twenty-five days after this NIE was published, a U-2 spy plane photographed a Soviet ballistic missile site in Cuba, and the Cuban Missile Crisis began. It's possible the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program will not prove as misjudged or as damaging as the 1962 estimate. But don't bet on it.

So just 25 days before the missile sites were photographed, the intelligence support said the Russians would never do such a thing. Work on the Cuban missile sites was likely already underway at the time that report was issued! Certainly the Russians had already made the decision to go ahead and were planning the project.

Rest easy, people; intelligence says there's no threat from Iran.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Critical Mass Loses Out to Critical Thinking

Here in the Twin Cities we have a group of anarchist bicycle riders who like to get together once a month and conduct what amounts to a parade without a permit through downtown Minneapolis. They block intersections, go through red lights, pretty much do whatever they want. If one person did this, he would be ticketed or arrested, but since hundreds of people do it, they get away with it. I don't quite get that.

I guess this has been going on for some time, but the group garnered extra attention this fall when they got particularly out-of-hand and several people were arrested.

I recently saw a report about the group on a local TV channel, which shows a Critical Mass ride and the lawlessness and damage that is part of it. I think this link will get you to the report on the station's website.

In the report, it's mentioned that the group claims their arrests at the hands of the Minnespolis Police Department are an example of the police practicing for controlling protesters during the Republican National Convention next year. That's an interesting theory, since the convention will be in St. Paul, not Minneapolis.

My brother Dan says if you want to know what other people are thinking of trying to get away with, just pay attention to what they accuse others of doing. With that in mind, I think it's much more likely that the Critical Criminals are conducting these disturbances as practice for disrupting the convention. They're just practicing in Minneapolis, as they've always done, because suddenly switching to St. Paul would tip their hand and give the St. Paul Police Department a chance to practice dealing with them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Will New "Boss" Be Same As the Old "Boss"?

Hugo "Boss" Chavez didn't get his way in the Venezuelan elections last weekend. That didn't mean he's out of office, but it means he didn't get the constitutional reforms he wanted, changes that would have given the central government -- him -- more power, and removed the term limits that mean he'll be done in 2012.

Or will he? I don't think the Boss is going to go quietly into retirement, planning his presidential library. If Hugo can't get his way by hook, he'll do it by crook. He intends to be president-for-life. Expect funny business and/or violence prior to 2012.

I was surprised that Hugo's side lost. I didn't think he would allow that. The report I saw said the election was close. How could 49 percent of Venezuelan vote to give away their rights and to give more power to a nascent dictator? The answer seems to be that he has given things to the poor, at the expense of the better-off. We have to remember that people who have nothing will be impressed by someone who gives them something, and they don't really have the luxury of worrying about concepts such as "freedom." Remember, the Soviet Union endured through decades of no political freedom. It finally came apart when people didn't have bread.

Friday, December 7, 2007 -- Pearl Harbor Day

Trained to Kill

If you want to encourage a behavior, you reward it. That's pretty basic, whether you're talking about dogs or people. So on Wednesday, someone shoots up a shopping mall before he kills himself, leaving a note saying "Now I'll be famous."

On Thursday, the killer is on front pages everywhere. The story in my paper even leads with the killer's name: "Murderous Loser [not his real name] had been...."

Yep, he's famous. But how did he know his plan would work so well?

Because he's seen it before. We taught him that that's how it works. The Virginia Tech killer even had his video played on network TV after the fact.

We say we don't negotiate with terrorists, because it only leads to more terrorism. Doesn't that apply here? If we publicize murderers and make them famous, shouldn't we expect to encourage more of the same?

But newspapers are in the fact business, you say, they can't withhold the name of the murderer. They don't suppress news.

Don't they? Many refuse to publish the names of rape victims, even though in our system of justice the accused is entitled to know the identity of the accuser. And I've always understood that suicides of the non-famous are not reported, out of concern that doing so might only encourage more suicides.

This most recent mass murderer committed his crime to get his name in the paper. We happily obliged. Isn't there a connection there? What if we reported the crime, but didn't give any press to the criminal? Might that discourage potential copycats?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Two Can Live As Greenly As One

It turns out Dan Quayle was on top of GLOBAL WARMING before Al Gore. At least, that's the conclusion I draw from a report that says divorce contributes to GLOBAL WARMING.

The common-sense finding announced by Michigan State University researcher Jianguo Liu is that there are an "extra" six million households in the U.S. because of divorced couples. That means six million extra furnaces belching CO2 into the air. It's as simple as the old saying that "Two can live as cheaply as one." And generally, there is a direct correlation between living "cheaply" and using less of the Earth's resources.

I say that Dan Quayle was out in front on this, because remember his infamous remarks about "Murphy Brown"? He was lambasted for saying that single women shouldn't be having children, and that situation certainly shouldn't be celebrated on TV or serve as fodder for comedy. In Dan Quayle's perfect world, Murphy would have married the (future) father of her child and shared a domicile with him, thus cutting their combined residential carbon footprint in half.

But we wouldn't really want that, would we? After all, fighting GLOBAL WARMING isn't really about looking in the mirror and changing our behavior. At least not when it inconveniences us. No, it's all about... going shopping! Getting lots of fun stuff! Don't drive less, just buy a cool new hybrid car! Don't fly less, just buy some "carbon offsets." If it's good enough for Al Gore, it's good enough for the rest of us.

Getting back to the issue of "extra" households, I'm sure I've written about this before, but one of the reasons it's so expensive to maintain our expected standard of living is that we all expect to have our own households. A child becomes a young adult and then establishes his or her own place. Years may go by before that person gets married or cohabits. Years ago, it was more common for young adults to remain in their parents' homes until they married. That's what my parents did. Neither of them ever had a place of their own.

And at the other end of life, we now expect people who don't work anymore to be able to afford their own places. Consider this in contrast to the "Walton's Mountain" family model -- three generations living in one house. But keep in mind, Grandma and Grandpa Walton weren't "freeloaders," they contributed as best they could, sometimes in ways that only they could.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Not a Leg to Stand On

In the funniest movie ever made, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the funniest scene involves the Black Knight, the eternal optimist who refuses to acknowledge defeat even after he loses all four limbs. Undeterred, he bravely calls upon his opponent to come back and fight some more.

When it comes to the war in Iraq, I think America has some Black Knights in reverse. They refuse to acknowledge success.

What I'm talking about is the way that detractors, who can no longer deny the success of the "surge," nonetheless won't let themselves get optimistic. OK, the "surge" is working they say, but that doesn't matter. They just find something else to fret about. Now, it's that the Iraqi government isn't getting its work done fast enough (though faster than the U.S. Congress!), so we should still, in the words of the Pythons, "Run away!"

I think everyone in Iraq could lay down their arms today, and these people would still see failure. They'd probably just complain that it took too long.

(I often wonder how WWII would be seen through the eyes of modern Americans. You know, it took almost four years! And why did FDR invade France? France didn't attack Pearl Harbor! It was just an exercise in hegemony by an imperialist president who ignored precedent and shredded the Constitution, being elected four times and trying to "pack" the Supreme Court. For crying out loud, there are still American troops occupying Japan and Germany, 60+ years later! Talk about your empire building!)

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


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