archives: August -- September, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

Nor Did He Say Whether He Has Stopped Beating His Wife
Another development in the strange St. Paul mayoral race. Democrat incumbent Randy Kelly, under fire from party faithful (who didn't endorse him 4 years ago, anyway) for backing President Bush last year, held a news conference yesterday to tell the voters being angry about his Bush endorsement will not help the city. I don't know that this will help him any. In fact, I'm sure it won't, because the story in the paper today makes Kelly look silly. But I direct your attention to this paragraph from the story:

Billed as a "major announcement," his remarks didn't include any new initiatives or any expression of contrition for the endorsement in August 2004.

Does the reporter think Kelly should have expressed contrition? Is that the reporter's editorial comment?

There are a lot of things Kelly didn't say. He didn't say whether he's a falling down drunk. He didn't say whether he hates babies and puppies and pushes little old ladies in front of moving cars. Maybe the reporter should have included those "facts," too.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Forget So-called "Global Warming," "Natural Ocean Cycle" Behind Hurricanes
We keep hearing about how "global warming" is causing more intense hurricanes. It's even on the cover of TIME magazine this week. The cover story is: "Are We Making Hurricanes Worse?" Bulleted subheads include "The Impact of Global Warming."

Meanwhile, buried on page 11 of my daily paper, I read a story headlined, "Intense hurricane in October is possible." The story includes these paragraphs:

Researchers also warn that the country should brace for 10 to 40 more years of powerful storms because of a natural ocean cycle now in the midst of the most active hurricane period on record.

"This has been the seventh hyperactive year since 1995," said Stan Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Not every year is going to be like this one, but there's going to be plenty of active years to come."

Hmmmm. A "natural ocean cycle"? Why isn't that on the cover of TIME magazine? Thirty years ago the magazine's cover warned us about the coming ice age; now it's all about "global warming." I don't think I'll be getting my science from TIME.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More on Two-Incomes and the Income Gap: Bigger Pie vs. Equal Slices
Responding to my previous post, in which I offered my theory that the rise of the dual-income household has served to increase the gap between haves and have-nots, blogger Craig Westover writes me:

Your theory is interesting, and probably correct vis a vis the income gap, but it breaks down on the level of unseen productivity and overall wealth. The key is in your parenthetical "(And yes, I agree that they might not be as good at the jobs as the women who in fact perform them.)"

If the men are not as good as the women that have the jobs, their productivity will be less. Less productivity means less wealth produced. Less wealth produced means few jobs, less investment capital, and the like.

While a high-dual-income family might have considerably more than a low-dual-income family, as the result of a "better woman" in the job, both families have more wealth, albeit disproportionate. If equality is the goal, you have a point. If overall increase in wealth and the prosperity it brings is the objective, then there's a different angle.

Craig is, of course, right on the money (pun intended).

I attempted in my post to be descriptive, explaining what I think has been happening, rather than prescriptive, saying what I think should happen. It's not my intention to say that women shouldn't be in the workforce. As Craig points out, employing less-qualified men in place of better-qualified women would result in lower overall productivity in the economy, and my own personal philosophy is that it would be a mistake to drag down the overall economy for the goal of greater equity. Everyone being equally miserable is not a goal worth achieving, as just about everyone except Cuba, North Korea and the American Left has figured out by now.

But I think that if we are going to have discussions about things such as unequal wealth, we need to consider all the factors that go into creating that disparity, regardless of whether or not such a discussion is politically correct. I also think it's worth pointing out the irony that many of those who raise their voices the most loudly against inequity, are the same people who are the most adamant that of course every woman should have a career.

Now, let me talk a little more about my theory that the rise of the dual-income household widens the gap between haves and have-nots.

The truth is, we have always had dual-income households. The difference is, dual-income households used to be more common among those with lower incomes. That fact helped to close the gap somewhat. Let's get in the time machine and I'll show you what I mean.

Here we are in the old days. Look over there. That's the Smith house. Mr. Smith is a successful professional. He supports his family on a good salary of $100,000 a year (in 2005 dollars). With a good breadwinner like that, Mrs. Smith doesn't need to work. But she does volunteer work when she can. (Mr. Smith says, "No wife of mine is going to work! People will think I can't provide for my family!)

Now look across town, it's the Jones house. Mr. Jones has a good blue-collar job that pays him $40,000 a year. Mrs. Jones earns a little money, too, to help out. She works outside the house a little, does some babysitting (the term "daycare" hasn't been invented yet) for the neighbors, and takes in some sewing and mending work. She adds about $10,000 a year, for a household income of $50,000.

Finally, look way out on the edge of town. There's the Wilson house. Mr. Wilson works as a night janitor and makes $15,000 a year. To pay the bills, Mrs. Wilson has to work, too. Her unskilled job brings in another $15,000, for a household total of $30,000.

So, we've got $30,000 -- $50,000 -- $100,000. That's quite a spread. The poor family makes only 30% of what the wealthy family makes, and 60% of what the middle family makes. The middle family makes only 50% of what the wealthy family makes.

But what happens when the dual-income family becomes the norm?

The Wilsons see no change; they're still at $30,000.

The Joneses are now making $80,000, as Mrs. Jones goes to work full-time.

And the Smiths. Oh, the Smiths! Now that Mrs. Smith has a job like her husband's, their household income doubles, to $200,000!

The range has become $30,000 -- $80,000 -- $200,000.

Now, the Wilsons make only 15% of what the wealthy family makes, and only 38% of what the middle family makes. The middle family now makes only 40% of what the wealthy family makes.

This is just an example. It certainly doesn't represent everybody. My figures are arbitrary, and you may think all three families are "wealthy" or "poor" relative to yourself. But it does show how the advent of the dual-income household as the norm helps to further concentrate the wealth in the hands of the already wealthy. Meanwhile, those in the middle gain in absolute income, but lose ground relative to the wealthy. The poorest, on the other hand, gain nothing in terms of dollars, and fall even further behind both other groups, relatively speaking.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Two-Income Families Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor
I read a David Brooks column in which the New York Times columnist writes about the "education gap" and how it is promoting inequality in America.

Brooks reminds me of one of my own theories, that the prevalence of two-income households also increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

I started thinking about this after noting one married couple where the man was an attorney and the woman was a doctor, and another couple where both people were well-paid, high-ranking managers in the state bureaucracy.

Once upon a time, those four well-paid jobs would have supported FOUR families. Now, they support only two, with double the prosperity.

Meanwhile, look around. People tend to marry someone similar. That means that the poorly-paid hotel maid almost certainly does not have a well-paid attorney for a husband, she has a poorly-paid janitor for a husband. So their "dual-income" family still scrapes to get by.

I can't avoid the fact that the "dual-income" household is the result of women entering the workforce en masse, many times in well-paid jobs that were once the exclusive domain of men. It seems reasonable that if women had not entered these fields, then more men would be filling the well-paid jobs -- men who instead are now in lower-paid jobs. (And yes, I agree that they might not be as good at the jobs as the women who in fact perform them.) That would result in well-paid jobs being spread among more households, and there would be less of a gap between haves and have-nots.

This reminds me of "Rosie the Riveter," and how after WWII, women were pressured to give up the "men's" jobs they took on while the boys were overseas, so that the returning soldiers could have those jobs. After all, they needed good jobs to support their families. Sixty years later, we look back on that and say how awful that was, how sexist and backward we were. But in a way, we're now seeing what happens if Rosie does keep her job.

So, what am I saying? Am I saying that women shouldn't work? No, that's not my intention. I just think this is something to think about. When people complain that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting wider, let's consider all the reasons why that might be. When a liberal couple who both are well-paid professors or bureaucrats complain about the lack of "good jobs" for the "working poor," maybe they should be asked, Why are you hogging two "good jobs" for yourselves?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Night or Day?
News item: Two Minnesota Vikings football players arrested during a disturbance at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning. They gave no statement as to whether they were still out partying after Sunday's game, or were up bright and early for a Monday morning workout.

Consider 3:30 am. What is it, exactly? If you're still out having a good time at 2:00 a.m., that's a "late night." If you get up at 4:00 a.m. to go fishing, that's an "early morning." But what the heck is 3:30 a.m.? Is it "late night" or "early morning"?

The 3 o'clock hour seems to be when night turns to morning. It's hard to define. Many years ago, I worked a graveyard shift (11 pm to 7 am) at a convenience store. The drunks would stop in on their way home until 2:00 or so -- sometimes later. Then, after just a little lull in business, the early morning commuters would start stopping in for their coffee. Some people were turning in for the night just about the same time others were rising to face the new day.

So, what the heck do you call 3:30 a.m.? Night? Or morning? Something to ponder.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Paranoia and Inflated Self-Importance
When I was a student, I had the strange experience of people I didn't know wanting to pick fights with me. (Yes, I mean actual fistfights.) For some reason, they didn't like me, when I didn't even know who they were!

So maybe this shouldn't surprise me.

But if you're like me, you're amazed at the way some people (Arabs) around the world are convinced that the U.S. is out to get them. The truth is, if they didn't blow things up, we'd hardly even know they exist. (Yet, their "logic" for blowing things up, is that we were already out to get them.)

Closer to home, the disaster in New Orleans has revealed that many poor Americans seem just as deluded and paranoid about the U.S. government being out to get them. But just like with the Arabs before 9-11, the truth is, before Katrina, most of us hardly even knew the New Orleans poor existed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How Others See Us....Might Surprise the Liberals
Those on the left like to say that we need to start seeing ourselves as the rest of the world see us. How does the rest of the world see us? They might be surprised.

I know some folks who have travelled extensively in Eastern Europe in recent years. They told me recently that Ronald Reagan -- the "warmonger" Republican president who stood up to the Soviets -- is a hero in Germany, while the Democrats' favorite son, JFK, is the butt of jokes. You can buy coffee cups showing JFK saying, "I am a jelly donut," which is what he actually said when he tried to speak German and say "I am a Berliner."

Meanwhile, over in Poland, Herbert Hoover is a hero! Yes, that Herbert Hoover, the Republican president who gets the blame for the Great Depression. Hoover is a hero to the Polish people for the humanitarian and economic aid he helped bring to Poland following both World Wars.

Amazingly ironic, dontcha think?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Preparing for the Last Hurricane
There's a saying that the generals always prepare to re-fight the last war. Whatever hindsight says they should have done, they prepare to do next time. Trouble is, the next war is always different from the one that came before.

So it also is with hurricanes.

We heard all the criticisms of what should have been done to prepare for Hurricane Katrina. President Bush should have gotten involved. He should have gone to New Orleans to show that he cared. He should have called out the army. There should have been a mandatory evacuation. People should have been put on buses. We should have known that Katrina would be one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit land in the U.S., and people should have taken the warnings more seriously.

So, along comes Hurricane Rita. President Bush gets involved early. On Friday, a reporter asks, why are you going to Texas? What can you do to help? Won't you just get in the way?

There's a mandatory evacuation. The freeways are clogged. A bus full of old people burns up. Time to point fingers again. There should have been a better plan!

Hurricane Rita is taken seriously. People assume that it will be as powerful as Katrina, and hit a highly populated, low-lying area, just like Katrina did. But it isn't just like Katrina. The storm is downgraded and continues losing power as it hits land. Soon, it's no longer even classified as a hurricane.

More finger pointing. More questions. Why did we have to evacuate? Why can't we return yet? Why isn't there any gas? Why did you over-hype this storm? Next time, we're staying put.

Today, the President proposes giving his office more authority to put the army in charge during a natural disaster. Critics say, See, he really is a power-mad imperialist who wants to take away our freedoms and impose a military dictatorship! (Many of those same people asked why he didn't send the army into New Orleans to forcibly evacuate people.)

Three lessons -- One: Just like with wars, you can't prepare for the next hurricane based on the last hurricane. Two: People are never satisfied. Three: You just can't win.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Skin Too Thin? Everything's Not About You
I'm at the end of my rope.

A neighborhood bar on St. Paul's eastside has been renamed "The Noose" by its new owners, in recognition of the legend that a man once hanged himself in the building, and the owner's insistence that the man's ghost still haunts the building.

Whether or not "The Noose" is a proper name for a neighborhood bar is open for debate. But the name has become the subject of criticism for a reason that would never occur to most of us. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

The name is meant to be humorous, but it hasn't gone over well with some black members of this diverse East Side neighborhood, where no ethnic group holds a majority [black, Hmong, white, latino]. The Rev. Luches Hamilton, pastor of nearby St. John's Church of God in Christ, said he's heard complaints about the name's link to lynching.

"A lot of black people were coming to me saying it was very offensive," Hamilton said. But after speaking with Yauch, Hamilton said he doesn't think the new owner means harm.

"My thing is to try to keep peace in the neighborhood," Hamilton said.

At least someone can keep a level head. (The Rev. Hamilton was also recently profiled in the paper for his BBQ business, which helps support his church and youth programs.)

From my perspective, this is just another example of people who are always looking for a fight, people who think everything is about them. But it's not. I don't see where this has anything to do with race. If it does, that would be terrible. But that's a terrible charge to make against the owners of the bar, when there is no evidence to back it up.

Put this one in the same category as the Great Gopher Ticket Scandal.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Moral Poverty the True Blight in New Orleans
Writing in World Net Daily, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson says moral poverty -- not material poverty -- explains the plight of blacks in New Orleans.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Bible Tells Us So
The Knight Ridder Washington bureau reports this week:

Seeking to defuse a central controversy of the culture wars, a Bible advocacy group will unveil a new textbook today [Thursday] that could open the door to widespread Bible courses in public high schools.

The textbook, "The Bible and Its Influence," was written to thread a constitutional needle by teaching, not preaching, about the Bible, its editors told Knight Ridder in an exclusive preview.

Verrrrrry interesting.

We teach Greek and Roman myths, and Aesop's fables. We teach folk tales and European fairly tales. In the quest for multiculturalism, our schools search out Native American and African myths and stories to teach our children. But strangely, the Bible has been strictly off limits for decades. Can't mention it.

That's a shame, because the Bible has been a huge influence in Western Civilization -- it has been one of the building blocks of Western Civilization, in fact. And it continues to be so, whether we realize it or not.

Scholars have been looking for a way to teach Bible courses in public schools for years, said Sheila Weber, a vice president of the Bible Literacy Project, a Virginia group that is publishing the 40-chapter book.

A source of faithful inspiration to many, the Bible also is a cultural touchstone that's crucial to young students, Weber said. For example, she said, the works of Shakespeare include 1,300 biblical references. She also noted that 60 percent of the allusions in one advanced-placement literature course had biblical references such as "walking on water."

The new book includes sections explaining the Bible's influence on literature, art, music and history.

Of course, not everyone is happy with this new book. Judith Schaefer of People for the American Way warns that the book must not endorse any religious perspective.

For example, she said, it can't say that the story of Adam and Eve represents mankind's fall from grace. That's a Christian view, she said.

I disagree. It's much more than that. It's also a philosophical view and a literary view.

But why should I be surprised by the response of PAW? Based on their track record, that group is not "for" the "American Way," it's against Christianity. Schaefer's response that we can mention the story of Adam and Eve but not what it represents, is sort of like the Klan saying we can let the dark-skinned people on the bus, but we still aren't going to admit that they are fully human.

Elsewhere on the Web, Adam Nicolson bemoans Bible illiteracy and its affect on our (formerly) shared culture in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal (registration required). (The similar headline? Great minds...)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Games That Can't Be Won: Strikers and Stadiums
Economics columnist Ed Lotterman today writes about game theory and how it applies to the airline industry. "Game theory," Lotterman explains, "analyzes decision-making when the best alternative in a situation depends on what someone else chooses to do."

When it comes to games and the airline industry, now that Northwest Airlines has filed for bankruptcy it is clear what kind of game that airline's striking mechanics have been playing: a game they cannot win.

Here's how it went down: Northwest management, knowing the airline was on the brink of bankruptcy, made the mechanics union the sort of lowball offer that it would take for the airline to have any chance of avoiding bankruptcy. The union, not realizing -- or refusing to accept -- that the rules had changed and this was a new type of game, made a counter-offer and expected the airline to move in their direction. But Northwest wouldn't budge, because doing so meant certain bankruptcy. Management basically had nothing to gain by accommodating the union, and everything to lose.

As the strike wore on, the airline faced soaring fuel costs and growing losses. The airline then made an even lower offer to the striking mechanics, because even the original lowball offer was now too high to keep the airline out of bankruptcy. Aghast and insulted, the mechanics rejected that offer.

Finally, Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection, making the strike largely irrelevant. The strikers gained nothing, and may have hurt their chances of keeping their jobs.

It's now apparent that the mechanics were doomed no matter what.


Lotterman explains that one of the simplest examples of game theory is the "prisoners' dilemma." (I learned of the "prisoners' dilemma" in college, but not in regard to economics. It was as part of the dynamics of communication.) In this example, two men are arrested for a crime. Interrogated separately, each is promised leniency if he turns against his partner. The police may have little evidence, and it may be most rational for each prisoner to remain mum, in which case both might go free. But on the other hand, each prisoner worries that his partner will rat him out, so both may confess and testify against the other, in which case both of them end up worse off than if they had kept their mouths shut.

At present, Minnesota taxpayers are being asked to pay for three new sports stadiums: a football stadium for the University of Minnesota, a football stadium for the professional Minnesota Vikings, and a baseball stadium for the professional Minnesota Twins.

Stadium politics seems like a good example of how we all get caught in the "prisoners' dilemma." We're told we must build a new stadium for our team or someone else will, and then we'll lose our team. But what if all cities, counties and states simply refused to play that game? There would still be just as many teams; they would have to play somewhere. Some teams might end up in different cities, but they would mostly stay in the same major cities, and overall, the taxpayers of the country would benefit. Tax dollars could go for something truly beneficial, while team owners and players would still get by, albeit with fewer millions.

But for some reason, we keep giving in. When it comes to game theory, the team owners seem to be a lot better at it than the taxpayers and their representatives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Boyz Allowed
For decades, woman fought for access to men-only organizations and activities. But with that battle won, they still weren't satisfied. Now they want women-only organizations and activities of their own.

A story in my paper today notes that many women are joining women-only gyms and fitness centers. "It's nice to know that there aren't any men here," said Karen Segar, a member at a women-only fitness center. "Does that sound bad?"

Not to me, to be honest. But it should sound terrible to feminists, unless they believe in a double standard.

Which many do, apparently. Years ago, already, I read of a hospital that had a women-only floor: only women patients, only women doctors, only women nurses. It was said that some female patients were just more comfortable that way.

And if a man says he's "more comfortable" with a male doctor, he's called a sexist pig.

I recall a feminist newspaper columnist gushing about how great it was to have a women-only book club. It's nice to just be with the girls sometimes, she said.

Periodically I read of the wonders of girls-only schools, and how well the girls do without those awful boys around to distract them.

And let's not forget those directories of women-owned businesses, for women who are "more comfortable" hiring a woman attorney, a woman painter, or a woman auto mechanic.

Hey, all this is no skin off my nose. Except for all that hypocrisy.

Men have always known that sometimes it's nice not to have the opposite sex around. Now women have figured it out, too. When are they going to apologize to men?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita Will Be Bush's Fault, Too, Regardless of Damage
As Texas braces for Hurricane Rita, the damage the storm will cause is still unknown. But there's one thing we can be sure of: Whether the damage is a little or a lot, President Bush will get blamed.

If Galveston and Texas come through the storm relatively safely, it will be called evidence that Bush took care of his rich white Texas oil friends, but not the poor blacks in New Orleans.

If Galveston suffers severe damage, it will be said that it's because while Bush was governor of Texas, he squandered federal money given to the state by the wonderful Bill Clinton.

I don't even know whether Clinton or federal money were in any way involved with Texas hurricane protection while Bush was governor, but for purposes of my prediction, it doesn't matter; That's just what they will say. Remember the modern definition of "news": Anything that makes Republicans look bad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Star Parker on Bush's Race Rhetoric
Star Parker -- a black woman -- takes President Bush to task for saying that the poor in New Orleans are victims of discrimination. In an excellent column, she explains the real problem facing New Orleans' black poor.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Everyone's a Victim, or Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right
I think this has some sort of connection to the Chai Vang story, though it's hard to pin down exactly what that link is.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has a "Sainted & Tainted" section on the opinion pages each Saturday. This is a chance for people to give thanks and recognition to those who have done a good deed (the "sainted" part), and also an opportunity for people to vent and point fingers when they don't think others have treated them fairly (the "tainted" part). I like the "sainted" part just fine, but I could do without the "tainted." Too often, the one doing the tainting needs to be reminded that when you point the finger at someone else, you've got three fingers pointing back at you.

This past Saturday, we were treated to this doozy, from M.J. Toft of St. Paul:

Tainted: On Aug. 26 we were driving down Ruth Street in St. Paul's Sunray area and we suddenly had to come to a screeching stop because of a child who bolted out of his driveway directly into the line of traffic on his electric scooter. I yelled an expletive. The father heard what I said and approached us and yelled at me. The father ran up to his son and quietly spoke to him and sent him on his way. This man should have been more upset with his son rather than yelling at us. He needs to teach his son to be responsible while driving his scooter and he needs to watch for oncoming traffic.

Good thing Mr. or Ms. Toft didn't have a deer rifle with, or he/she might have felt that the father and son deserved to die.

I can't feel sorry for the "victim" Toft. Writing this "tainted" letter and expecting our sympathy pretty much proves that this is a person with a distorted view of reality. Makes me question whether any of the facts presented here are true. Sort of like listening to Vang defend his actions in killing six people.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

So Minorities Think Lynchings Are a Good Thing, Then?
Following the conviction of mass murderer Chai Vang, the deer hunter who shot eight other hunters in Wisconsin, killing six of them, I read the predictable story about how this was somehow a "racial" issue, and Chai Vang got a raw deal because he is of Hmong heritage, while his victims were white.

The story is headlined "Trial splits audience on racial lines" with a subhead of "Minorities question how a white jury could know how a Hmong hunter must have felt that day."

How he felt? He shot eight people. Repeatedly. Many in the back. Six died. Who cares how he felt? Maybe he felt really, really bad. So what? Does that permit him to commit mass murder?

Some think so. Vang said on the witness stand that his victims deserved to die. After the guilty verdict was delivered, several of Vang's relatives made the same statement to the media.

Why did they "deserve to die"? Vang alleges that they hurled racial slurs at him. But the only evidence of that is what Vang says, and he's changed his story several times. Besides, wouldn't someone facing life in prison say anything?

But that doesn't matter. Even if they called him lots of disgusting, hateful names, and it made him feel really, really bad, does that justify him killing people?

Of course not.

This concern about how Vang "felt" got me thinking, what about some "good old boys" who feel really, really bad because some black guy said something they find offensive to a white woman? Do we empathize with them, when they decide the black guy "deserves to die" and hang him from a tree?

That's what Vang and his defenders seem to be saying: If someone offends you in a racially-sensitive way -- kill 'em! They deserve it.

One of St. Paul's leading race-baiting activists, the Rev. Devin Miller, seems to think it's reasonable to think that Vang "felt" so bad that he had to kill six people:

"You can either say, 'This guy's really smart and he's going to play the race card,' or, 'He's telling the truth,'" Miller said. "And I'm thinking, you're in Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin, and here is a group of folks who don't think he should be on their property. I've been in places where maybe not necessarily racial epithets have been said to me, but you get the feeling, maybe I shouldn't be here. I think he was being sincere."

And if you're a white guy on the subway, and four black guys get on, and they don't say anything, but they make you feel like maybe you shouldn't be there, just whip out your gun and shoot 'em.

Yeah, right.

You should recognize the name Emmit Till. Emmit was the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was beaten, mutilated and murdered by two white men while visiting relatives in Mississippi. His "crime"? Whistling at, or maybe talking to, or maybe just walking past a white woman. In an outcome that astonished the world, his killers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury that deliberated less than an hour. (After which, free from fear of being retried, they admitted their crime and accepted money to speak about how they did it.)

I equate Vang's defenders with the all-white jury that sided with the white killers in the face of overwhelming evidence. That jury was racist. And so are those who defend Vang just because he, like them, isn't white. But a conviction in agreement with overwhelming evidence of guilt is no sign of racism, regardless of the race of anyone involved. It's simply justice.

Not surprisingly, the Rev. Miller (a black man) doesn't see things the way I do. He sees Vang -- the murderer -- as a victim, a modern-day Emmit Till.

More troubling, Miller said, is the feeling he gets that the town of Rice Lake has been blindly supporting the hunters, when the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

"The images that come to my mind is that of the rural South in the early '50s and '60s in justifying a lynching," Miller said. "You have the person of color on trial for being in a place where someone thought he shouldn't have been. If I'm a hunter, and I'm on somebody else's land, and I don't see a sign, I don't know what to look for. And if someone walks up to me with a gun, saying, 'Get the 'F' off my land, I'm not going to walk away with my back to this person."

With advocates like this, who needs enemies? Could Miller be any more wrong? Vang was not on trial for trespassing. He was not on trial for being a person of color in a place where someone thought he should not be. He was on trial for mass murder.

Vang and his defenders are the "lynchers" here. They justify and excuse the murder of six people who allegedly spoke "inappropriately" to a person of another race. That's just what Emmit Till's killers and the jurors who acquited them did. Vang is no victim. If you say he was justified in shooting these people because he felt offended, how can you not say the same for the killers of Emmit Till?

There's plenty of racism on display here, but it's from non-whites. Some of the worst racists I see are those who go around preaching against it. They judge every person of color innocent, and everyone pale-skinned person guilty. What is the definition of racism? Isn't it pre-judging people based on the color of their skin? That's what these people are doing. According to the newspaper, the Rev. Miller...

...said he can't help but think that the hunters used racial insults -- and possibly fired the first shot, as Chai Soua Vang contends. That's in dispute with the surviving hunters, who have testified that they didn't use racial slurs and that Chai Soua Vang fired first.

Why is it Miller "can't help" think the hunters used racial insults? Does he think all white people are evil, slur-spurring racists? What do we call it when a white person "can't help" thinking that the black guy next to him on the bus is going to mug him when they get off? We call that racism. You would call that racism, Rev. Miller.

Before I end this, I noticed one other interesting link between the Till case and the Vang case. The website where I looked up the Till case explains that:

"Mississippi politicians and newspapers unanimously condemned the murderers and promised swift justice. However, Mississippians became more defensive as for weeks the press bombarded them with harsh condemnations of racial violence in the South."

In the same way, Hmong-Americans no doubt feel themselves under attack -- whether or not they really are -- by association with Vang. That must put some Hmong on the defensive, and a closing of ranks to a certain extent explains their empathy for Vang. Nonetheless, it excuses nothing, just as Mississippians are excused of nothing that happened in 1955.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Constitution Day Comes and Goes
Did you know that Saturday (Sept. 17) was Constitution Day? I didn't, either, until I read about it in Saturday's newspaper.

I'll bet you also didn't know that a new federal law requires schools that receive federal money to teach students about the U.S. Constitution on or near Sept. 17.

I asked my kids if they learned about the Constitution Friday. Nope. So this morning, I asked the principal of their school about it. Guess what? It was news to her, too. But I'm not writing to criticize the school. Hey, who knew?

Well, to be fair, some schools did know, and they were featured in the newspaper story. Doug Austin, assistant principal of Irondale High School, said, "You can't just (teach) it in a day."

He's right. But unlike those who might think that since the Constitution is too big of a deal to be taught in just one day, that's an excuse not to teach it at all, I argue that the Constitution needs to be taught as an integral part of social studies and current events curriculums. The Constitution is the foundation of what students learn in those areas. Do they know that? Or do they think our country is run according to public opinion polls and lawsuits?

Still, while I think teaching the Constitution is very important, I am always wary of Congress micro-managing our schools.

Apparently, Constitution Day is a new holiday this year. Interestingly, a "Constitution Day" is what I've always thought we should observe in place of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

You see, I've got a bone to pick with MLK Day. Do you realize that MLK is the only American to have his own holiday? It's true. Washington and Lincoln even have to share a generic Presidents' Day. Columbus was not an American. MLK is the only American with his own holiday. Is that right?

Furthermore, I think that the emphasis on MLK Day should not be on one man, it should be on the ideas that he championed. There's too much "MLK worship" and not enough thought about what equality and civil rights are really all about.

And equality and civil rights are grounded in our Constitution, even though this nation may have egregiously ignored that fact for much of its history, with slavery (incorporated into the original Constitution) and Jim Crowe laws.

Nevertheless, the Constitution ultimately allowed us to triumph over those mistakes, and continues to protect the rights of all. We should recognize that.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Orleans Flood Offers Lessons in Poverty, Government, Charity
A New York Times news story last week led with: "Donations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina have come in at a blistering pace that exceeds that of other recent disasters, charities are saying."

The Times story quotes Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, describing her theory about why there has been such a "quick deluge of money." Palmer said:

"I really think the biggest reason has got to be people seeing government agencies not doing the right thing, and that drove them to support a private response and do it quickly by sending it online."

Interesting. While Bush-haters will see this as something more to blame the President for -- "He didn't do his job, so we had to do it for him!" -- I think there is a different lesson here. If the government NOT acting spurs individuals to act, then I propose that the converse is also true: When people see the government acting, then they think they don't need to do anything. They'll just let the government take care of it, and won't accept any responsibility themselves, either to take care of themselves, or to help others.

I read a criticism claiming that 100 years ago, after the Great San Francisco Earthquake and fires, dozens of relief trains were on the way to the City by the Bay within 24 hours. The critic wanted to know why, with our improved communications, we are slower now.

Well, first of all, I reject the idea that there was no immediate response to Katrina. To the contrary, supplies and equipment were already being positioned near the Gulf as the storm approached. But let's skip over that, and look at another difference.

I'll bet those relief trains in 1905 were not products of some government bureaucracy. They were likely products of charity and private industry -- the railroads themselves.

Everyone knows that if you want something done quickly, don't look to the government.

But these days, many Americans have gotten the idea that the government is responsible for taking care of everything and everyone. That makes it easy for individuals to take no action themselves, and just point fingers at the government for not doing enough. Have you heard anyone say, "Isn't it great that we have helicopters and men (and women) show up right away to rescue people from their roofs?" No, we take that for granted. All we hear is criticisms: The aid is not fast enough. It's not handled in the right way. President Bush didn't say the right things.

There's an assumption that the government should and will take care of everything.

But it hasn't always been thus. There's an amazing story you may have heard before, about how frontier hero Davy Crockett, in his role as a congressman, gave a speech against a charity bill -- money for the widow of a distinguished naval officer. Crockett is said to have given this argument:

"Mr. Speaker, I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it.

"We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

That story, plus some very interesting background wherein Crockett further explains his reasoning, appears here. I don't know how historically accurate it really is, but it does a great job of explaining some important principles of conservative thought.

Elsewhere, Brendan Miniter, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that our very reliance on big government is what doomed the poor in New Orleans. The welfare state -- "LBJ's Other Quagmire" -- let them down, he writes.

"Anyone who has taken a non-drinking-binge tour of New Orleans, venturing outside the French Quarter and Garden District, might have noticed that New Orleans was a failing city. Tourism kept it, well, afloat, but large swaths of the city were mired in poverty for decades. One out of four New Orleans residents was living below the poverty line, and tens of thousands of people were living in public housing. These are the people who were left behind in the flood and who have long been left behind by failing schools, lack of economic opportunity, and crime well above the national average.

"The Lower Ninth Ward was one section particularly hard it by the blight of poverty. Another hit hard by both poverty and then the flood was the Sixth Ward, home of the infamous Lafitte housing project. Recently the murder of a teenager there sparked a high school class to write short, locally published books about Lafitte's horrible living conditions. One author and a Lafitte resident, Ashley Nelson, told NPR on Friday that her friends and relatives still hadn't been able to escape their flooded neighborhood.

"That's not to say there was a lack of funding or even a lack of interest in poverty 'elimination' programs. For decades city, state and federal officials poured good money after bad into public housing and other programs. In the 1940s the Housing Authority of New Orleans built several public housing apartment buildings near the French Quarter. As the decades passed more money and more programs followed. In 1993 the Clinton administration recognized that packing public housing units into a small space didn't eliminate poverty, but it did create ghettoes that were not well served by public transportation or emergency services."

Remember the dependent dolphins. Let's treat people with some respect. Let's expect more of them than we expect from dolphins. Let's not just give people some fish.

Yet, there are those who think the lesson of New Orleans is that we need MORE Great Society-type programs. More government housing programs. More people dependent on handouts.

Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Anyone who thinks the way to help the poor of New Orleans is more of the same failed policies has got to be nuts.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"More on "Living Wage" -- Some Re-Thinking
In my immediately previous post on "living wages," I said I didn't understand what was meant by firms receiving city subsidies. I understand that better now, and I've got more to say.

It's been fairly common for some time for cities to assist businesses either with some kid of grant or by giving some sort of property tax relief. This must be what is meant by "subsidies."

If that's the case, then it absolutely makes sense to consider the wages the subsidized business will pay its workers. The purpose of the subsidy is to benefit the city, through jobs and taxes, and a business in a sector where people earn higher wages is going to benefit the city more than a business that pays workers lower wages.

So it becomes a matter of return on investment. If public dollars are to be diverted to a private business, then the guardians of the public purse would be remiss not to consider the wages that business will be paying out in the city. If the wages paid are low, that business might not be worth having at the price the taxpayers are being asked to pay. The city may be better off letting that business leave, and concentrating on attracting businesses that do pay their employees well.

That still does not, however, mean that "living wage" legislation is the best way to handle this. Some industries simply pay better wages than others. It might not be fair, but it is reality. The city shouldn't try to force a low-paying industry to pay higher wages. Better, as I said, to let low-paying industries go, and concentrate on attracting higher-paying industries.

And as for firms that have contracts with the city, this, too, is a return on investment issue. As I said in my original post, what sense does it make to insist that vendors pay their workers more money? That will only result in higher prices being paid by the taxpayers. A city council that attempts to conduct some sort of social policy or wealth redistribution program under the pretense of conducting the people's business is out of line.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"Living Wage" Really "Subsidized Wage"?
The city of St. Paul is considering legislation that would require a so-called "living wage" to be paid by businesses that have contracts in excess of $100,000 with the city, or which receive a city subsidy in excess of $100,000.

The wage would be determined by a formula linked to the federal poverty level. In July, for instance, the "living wage" would have been $12.09 an hour, or $10.24 if the business provided health care to the employees.

Advocates like to think that this is a way of making evil and greedy big businesses treat workers more fairly. But as an evil conservative, I know that you can't get something for nothing; the money has to come from somewhere. And in this case, the money comes from....

...the taxpayers of St. Paul.

Think about it. If a business has to pay higher wages in order to do business with the city of St. Paul, then that business will have to bid a higher price for the work it performs for the city. The city will pay more for the same services. (Or, businesses may decide not to bid for St. Paul contracts at all, resulting in fewer bidders, less competition, and again, higher prices paid by St. Paul.)

I'm not sure what qualifies as a "subsidized" business, and maybe it's just a hypothetical included to make sure all the bases are covered, but the deal still works the same way. If the business already needed a city subsidy, and now it has to pay higher wages, it's going to need a bigger subsidy. Again, that will cost the city more.

And how will the city pay more? Raise taxes, or cut services, like rec centers and libraries, and filling the potholes in the streets. But at least we'll be making sure that someone who may not even live in St. Paul is getting a "living wage."

This is along the lines of the Green Party mayoral candidate who wanted to impose a city income tax. They think they can just take and take, and there are no consequences. But really, what does simple economics matter, when you mean well?

The economic illiteracy of these folks is illustrated by a statement from Ryan Greenwood, executive director of Progressive Minnesota, who dismisses the notion that higher wages might hurt economic development. Greenwood says that won't happen, because the higher wages will likely be spent locally. "(The money) is not going to a stockholder in Delaware. It's going straight back into the Twin Cities economy."

Yes, but where is the money coming FROM? It's coming from others in the Twin Cities economy.

And note Greenwood's naked prejudice: Don't worry, the money's not going to a STOCKHOLDER! And not one in Delaware, which Greenwood may have picked because so many corporations are incorporated in Delaware, regardless of where their offices and plants are.

But stockholders are everywhere -- yes, even right here in St. Paul! And they include lots of everyday people -- who go to work everyday -- who have invested for their retirement.

But really, who cares about facts -- or a little collateral damage -- when you're so righteously involved in class warfare?

The "living wage" legislation is on hold for now. The sponsoring council member has shelved it for now, because supporters say it doesn't go far enough! A "coalition of labor, grassroots and religious organizations" objected to compromises that had been reached with Mayor Randy Kelly. That means we can expect it to rear an even uglier head in the future.

One more thing: What's with the religious groups involved here? What happened to that "wall of separation" that liberals are always talking about? Once again, as I've been pointing out to you periodically, that famous "wall of separation" doesn't apply when religion is used to support liberal politics.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ABC or WCCO, You Can't Believe What You See on TV
ABC's transparent use of leading questions in trying to get hurricane victims to bash Bush is no isolated incident. It's very much similar to my own experience in being interviewed by the WCCO-TV reporter at the State Fair. (September 5 post)

In my case there wasn't political bias involved, but the reporter used leading questions, clearly looking for us to say certain things to fit her story the way she wanted it to be. I was surprised after the pre-interview, when she initially spoke to us, that she wanted to proceed with interviewing us on tape, since our answers clearly didn't conform to what she wanted to hear. But it didn't matter to her, we found out much too late, because she just edited our comments to fit into her story, making us appear to say the opposite of what we had in fact told her.

To update you on my complaint with WCCO-TV, I sent a complaint to their news director last week. I had to send it through a gatekeeper, as they don't make his email or phone available to us commoners. (Too many complaints coming in otherwise?) After more than a week, news director Jeff Kiernan gave me this reply:

"Thank you Dave for your e-mail.

"I appreciate you writing WCCO TV.

"I have thoroughly reviewed your concern. I am confident that our story was accurate and did not misrepresent anything you or your wife said to us.

"Again, thanks for your e-mail."

Not much to work with. He never contacted me, so how could he have "thoroughly reviewed" my concern? Did he watch the raw video footage? Obviously not, or he would have seen that what I told him was true.

It's fitting. Template for the news, form letter for the complaint response. No need to gather any facts. Just pull it out of the file, fill in a few blanks and run with it.

I'm not letting this drop. I'll keep you posted on my next move.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dependent Dolphins: What a Metaphor for New Orleans' Poor!
I hear some dolphins escaped captivity in New Orleans due to the flooding. But not to worry, animal lovers, the animals have been found swimming together in the ocean. They are being hand fed and will soon be recaptured and returned to captivity.

What's wrong with this picture? Isn't life in the ocean a positive turn of events for these dolphins?

Apparently not. The dolphins are so dependent on human handouts, they don't know how to fend for themselves. If they aren't recaptured and put back into an unnatural, controlled environment, where they will live off of handouts, they will starve. So the only humane thing to do is to make them dependent captives once again.

What an apt metaphor for the poor people of New Orleans, also displaced by the flood.

But let's use this opportunity to set those people free. Let's not put them back into the captivity of public housing projects, where they live off of handouts, just like captive dolphins. Let's use this opportunity to start over, rejecting 40 years of failed social policy that has not helped people, but rather, made them as helpless as those captive dolphins.

Let's give them the help they need to become self-sufficient. Let's teach them to fish, so to speak, rather than just give them the fish -- like we do with the dolphins. That's the humane thing to do.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ABC's Post-Speech Bias Story Catches Fire
Critics of Rush Limbaugh say that his listeners are mindless automatons who parrot whatever their leader says on the radio. I'm not a regular listener, but I beg to differ. When I first heard Rush (first read a bit of one of his books, actually), I was amazed to hear someone who agreed with what I had already figured out for myself, and wasn't afraid to say it.

An example came up today. Last night I wrote about ABC TV's flagrantly biased attempt to get hurricane victims to bash Bush last night after the President's speech (scroll down 2 posts). That was Rush's lead item on his show today. His reaction was exactly the same as mine. And bloggers all over the place are having at ABC over the network's naked attempt to set up a kangaroo court of Bush bashing, which instead backfired on Reynolds and Koppel. Guess they didn't know that black people had brains and could think for themselves. They just assumed all the po' black folks would repeat what the white liberals had told them.

I went to the ABC/Nightline website, but couldn't find any record of the biased interview. However, they did prominently offer, for my convenience, video of the President's speech, labeled: "Accepting Blame: The President takes responsibility for the response to Katrina."

That was their template -- the President is responsible -- so that's what they went with. All those positive remarks from the black hurricane victims? On the cutting room floor, evidently.

Some video of the interview session is available from The Political Teen

Friday, September 16, 2005

What Ya Got Under Yer Hat, Cowboy?
Actress Renee Zellweger, after just four months of marriage to country music star Kenny Chesney, has filed for an annulment, alleging unspecified "fraud."

Nonetheless, we at Downing World feel free to speculate on just what that fraud might be.

Top Five Reasons Renee Zellweger Wants an Annullment:

5) She found out the 37-year-old entertainer and sex symbol was not really a virgin.

4) When he finally took off that darned cowboy hat on their wedding night, he had a bald spot the size of the OK Corral.

3) She's seen his tractor, she doesn't think it's sexy, and it doesn't turn her on.

2) She's also not crazy 'bout his "farmer's tan."

1) Apropos his "tractor": She's unimpressed with his plowing technique; he always leaves a dead furrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'm Asking You Again, Don't You Blame the President?
I've seen something amazing. But since it doesn't fit the Mainstream Media's template, I'm sure "we'll speak of this no more." At least the MSM will speak of this no more. I'm going to speak of it.

I had ABC TV on for the President's speech from New Orleans. Afterwards, with Ted Koppel anchoring, they went to reporter Dean Reynolds, live at the Houston Astrodome. Reynolds was prepared to ask a group of flood victims -- all of whom were black -- for their reactions to the President's speech.

Reynolds kept trying to get the flood victims to say something bad about the President. But they wouldn't. His frustration was evident, and he became more and more obvious in his attempts to put words into their mouths.

Reynolds asked one woman whom she blamed for disaster. She said it was the state and local government, not the President, who were to blame.

Reynolds asked another flood victim if the President should have done more to prevent the flooding. She said it was the fault of the mayor. She said federal funds were allocated to improve the levies, but the mayor didn't do anything about it.

Reynolds asked if something could have been done better to get people out. A woman replied, "I'm going to be completely truthful. I had the chance to leave. I just didn't take it seriously." Others said that the local officials should have done something with all those unused buses to get people to safety, but they didn't blame the President.

Finally, Reynolds got desperate. He said something like, "Is there anything the President should have done differently, like giving this speech sooner"? One woman agreed, "Yes, he could have given this speech sooner."

Gotcha! Reynolds finally drew blood. After putting words into her mouth.

Reynolds was totally flummoxed by the way these flood victims expressed their optimism and faith that they would return home, by the way they said they trusted the President and believed what he had said, and by the way they refused to say bad things about the President.

They didn't fit his template.

How much of this will be in tomorrow's news reports? None, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Poop Head
One of the benefits of reading the advice columnists in the daily paper is that it shows me I'm really pretty-well adjusted, relatively speaking. More so than some people might think, actually. Yesterday, "Advice Diva" Tara Solomon dealt with the issue of a woman who was afraid to go away for the weekend with her boyfriend because... she might have to poop!

Oh, how embarrassing! Can't let him know her body does that!

If she doesn't know this guy well enough to let him find out that she poops, MAYBE SHE DOESN'T KNOW HIM WELL ENOUGH TO SPEND THE WEEKEND IN A HOTEL WITH HIM!

Apparently, she's perfectly willing to share lots of other personal things her body can do, but not that! She has her standards!

I mention this stupid column only so I can get on my high horse again. I'll tell you this: Men have always been pigs. When women decided that it was "progress" to become more like men, that's when things really started going downhill.

(The "Advice Diva" is just as nutty as the woman seeking advice. Her solution? When the woman has to poop, she should run the shower and put a towel in the gap under the bathroom door, telling her boyfriend that she's enjoying a "sauna." That will mask the sound and odor.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Modern, Caring, Sensitive Quadriga: A Century of Progress, But Where Are We Now?
We took a special tour of the Minnesota State Capitol building last night. This is the centennial of the completion of the building -- Cass Gilbert's masterpiece -- and the Minnesota Historical Society is offering some special, members-only tours.

What was particularly special about this tour was that we were able to go out on the roof and see the Quadriga up close. The Quadriga is a gold-leafed statue that looks out from over the main entrance to the building.

I'll bet you didn't know that "quadriga" is not just the name of this statue (I didn't), although that is what the statue is commonly called. A "quadriga" is actually the term for a two-wheeled chariot pulled by four horses. The name of this specific piece of art is actually "Progress of the State."

And progress is a big theme throughout the artwork that adorns the Capitol. A century ago, it was all about progress. It was all about civilization, tilling the land, building things, making things. Progress. (With a nod to the native inhabitants, as a part of the state's past.)

And the Quadriga is no exception. Again, note its name: "Progress of the State." While the horses are named for the elements: "Earth, "Wind," "Fire," and "Water," the driver standing in the chariot is named "Prosperity." Meanwhile, the women standing alongside the horses are "Agriculture" and "Industry."

Like I said, it was all about progress.

I wonder, if such a statue were commissioned now, how would it differ? Well, first of all, there'd be a big fuss about why is the man riding and in charge, while the women stand by the animals. But let's forget that, and imagine that the statue still looks the same. How would it be described?

"Prosperity" is out. It's not fair. Some are more prosperous than others. We don't value prosperity anymore, we want equal wealth for all. The driver would have to be "Entitlement."

"Agriculture" rapes the land. "Industry" pollutes the skies and water. They're out. We don't value those anymore. What do we value? What could we name the women after?

"Tolerance" and "Diversity." That would be it.

(And "Fire," isn't that a bit violent? And it destroys all those trees. Wait, that's it! The fourth horse could be "Trees"!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Insulted by the "R Word"
I voted for incumbent Mayor Randy Kelly in the St. Paul primary yesterday. Kelly finished a disappointing second to fellow Democrat and former city council member Chris Coleman.

I'm feeling pretty comfortable with either candidate. This is the fifth mayoral election since I've lived in St. Paul, but the first where one of the final two candidates wasn't a liberal wienie who I feared would do great harm to the city (unfortunately, one of the wienies won). Coleman is backed by some level-headed folks I respect, so he must be OK. What I'm getting at, is this is the first time where I'm not voting AGAINST someone. Either one can do the job. The choice this time is actually based on deciding who can do it better.

But while I'm not anti-Coleman, he's been doing his best to make me that way. Coleman's campaign has attacked Kelly for the way the Mayor crossed party lines to support President Bush's reelection bid last fall. They're calling him "Republican Randy," like that's some sort of slur. Coleman supporters even have "Republican Randy" lawn signs.

Is "Republican" supposed to be some sort of slur? I vote Republican. We just seldom have a Republican on the ballot in city elections, so I've voted for Democrat Kelly. Republican voters may be a minority in St. Paul, but we are here. Doesn't Coleman realize that? Or does he just not give a damn about us?

What happened to "bipartisanship"? What happened to "tolerance" and "diversity"? What's with this name calling? It's as though Coleman is saying that I am an undesirable. Yet he claims to want my vote.

Would a candidate call his opponent "Gay Randy" or "Black Randy"? Of course not. But "Republican Randy" as a slur? I guess that's OK. (You may be saying, "But there's nothing wrong with being gay or Black. Exactly. And there's nothing wrong with being a Republican. So why is "Republican" being used as a slur?)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fundamentalist Watermelons -- Greens Make Strong Showing in Twin Cities Mayoral Primaries
Green Party candidates made surprisingly strong showings in the mayoral primaries in St. Paul and Minneapolis yesterday: 19% in St. Paul and 14% in Minneapolis. But both finished third -- behind two Democrats -- and were eliminated from the race.

I first heard of the Greens more than 20 years ago, in college, while studying political science amongst other impractical subjects. The Greens had begun to exercise some political muscle in Western Europe. The professor told us that while they called themselves "Greens," some others called them "watermelons." I earned Brownie points by correctly guessing why: They're green on the outside, but red on the inside.

I think the same thing of the Greens here in the Twin Cities. They say they're all about clean air and clean water, but really, they've got an economic agenda. The don't like capitalism. They want to redistribute the wealth. Sounds pretty Red to me. (The Green candidate who garnered 19% of the vote in St. Paul was even proposing a city income tax! Does she want all the people who work for a living to leave for the suburbs? That's how these people think: If we could just get rid of all the people with money, the poor could live in some sort of Welfare Utopia.)

You know what the Greens are? They are FUNDAMENTALISTS! No one ever uses that term for people on the left, but it applies. Just as right-wing, religious fundamentalists may cling to their core principles regardless of the practical outcome -- because right is right -- left-wing, environmentalist FUNDAMENTALISTS cling to their belief that protecting any and all of nature is the most important, overriding principle.

Yet, a right-wing fundamentalist who wants to protect unborn babies is portrayed as someone who "wants to force her values on others," while a left-wing fundamentalist who wants to protect (someone else's) trees is portrayed as doing so out of a "deep and genuine concern for the earth."

Could that be the result of the double standard of the left-wing mainstream media? Of course it is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bush the Environmentalist Restores Wetlands
I like the way that Jack Welch says Mother Nature "has been given a pass" (previous post) when it comes to responsibility for the destruction in New Orleans. Think about the irony here. Apparently, the Bush critics think Bush should have done more to dominate and control (destroy!) nature, in the form of better levees and such. Yet they are the same people who say we mustn't do anything to disturb nature -- drill for oil, for instance, or encroach on a wetland. Which is it? New Orleans and its levees are unnatural. They prevent the natural Mississippi River flooding from taking place. They result in more sediment and pollution entering the ocean.

Heck, by personally donning his SCUBA gear and planting those explosive charges under the levees, Bush was simply engaging in some wetlands reclamation. He should be a hero to the tree hugging crowd!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Jack Welch Analyzes Hurricane Aftermath
Former General Electric Jack Welch offers an interesting analysis of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's an excerpt:

"Mother Nature, perhaps for the first time in the case of a bona fide natural disaster, has been given a pass. Instead, the shouting has been about crisis-management -- or the lack thereof. Everyone from President Bush to the police chief in a small parish on the outskirts of the city has been accused of making shockingly bad mistakes and misjudgments. The Katrina crisis, you would think, is unlike any before it."

Welch argues that the Katrina aftermath follows the classic pattern of the five steps of crisis management, as he has witnessed it in the corporate world:

"The first stage of that pattern is denial. The problem isn't that bad, the thinking usually goes, it can't be, because bad things don't happen here, to us. The second is containment. This is the stage where people, including perfectly capable leaders, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve. The third stage is shame-mongering, in which all parties with a stake in the problem enter into a frantic dance of self-defense, assigning blame and claiming credit. Fourth comes blood on the floor. In just about every crisis, a high profile person pays with his job, and sometimes he takes a crowd with him. In the fifth and final stage, the crisis gets fixed and, despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better.

"We are a way off from the fifth stage in New Orleans, but the first four played out like an old movie."

Welch goes on to describe the specifics of how New Orleans fit the five-stage model. Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

After New Orleans, Is Washington Next?
Kathleen Parker does a good job analyzing the facts of race and poverty as involved in the tragedy in New Orleans. Parker points out that for most of us -- whites especially -- New Orleans is just a big, fun town where you can go to party. "We don't see the poverty on the periphery," she writes, "Because, to be blunt, it spoils our movie." Parker writes that the tourism industry survives thanks to the poor who work in it.

And "the poor" in New Orleans, all too often, is synonymous with the black population.

That got me to thinking about what could be another disaster in waiting -- the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

It may not be flood prone, but the nation's capital is surely a tempting target for a terrorist attack. And think of all the times you've heard people say that the devastation in New Orleans resembles the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Could this be a preview of a disaster in Washington D.C.?

If I remember correctly, the majority of people who live in the nation's capital are black. And they aren't wealthy. What happens to them if an attack comes?

I've been to Washington D.C. once, when I was in college. I'd grown up in an area where pretty much everyone's ancestors had come from Germany, Sweden or Norway. I attended a college with a small minority enrollment. So I couldn't help but notice how many black people I saw and met. But here's the part that really hit me: Pretty much anyone who "served" me, a waiter, hotel staff, etc., was black. I felt rather awkward about that. It was as though all the blacks were subservient to me -- a white guy -- in some way. Yes, it was because I was "the customer," and the customer comes fist. But it was odd, and uncomfortable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Let's Be Logically Consistent
The next time someone says, "We have to save the rain forest, because the cure for cancer might be in there," ask him about his position on abortion. If he's "pro-choice," tell him, "We have to save the unborn, because one of them might find the cure for cancer!"

Monday, September 12, 2005

What's with the New Guy?
It seems odd that someone being nominated to join the Supreme Court would also be nominated to join the Court as Chief Justice. Why the "new guy" for Chief Justice? That's strange to me for three reasons:

1) He lacks experience of actually being a Supreme Court Justice. How prepared is he to preside over the other Justices? 2) He hasn't yet had an opportunity to earn the respect of the other Justices. 3) Most important, the President can't be sure yet what sort of Chief Justice John Roberts would be. We hear often about how Justice David Souter surprised Republicans by not being conservative once he joined the Court. I'd think the President would not want to take that chance with a Chief Justice appointee. I'd think he'd want someone with a Supreme Court track record.

Another thing about Supreme Court appointments: If the Supreme Court is part of one of our three branches of government -- the judiciary -- and acts in the system of checks and balances with the legislative branch and the executive branch, how much sense does it make that the President and Congress select and approve a Justice based on him doing what they want? The Court is supposed to see to it that the President and Congress don't overstep their own authority. Kind of defeats the purpose to have the judiciary branch picked by the other two branches, doesn't it?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Listen Up, Dads
Sorry this isn't available online, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press has a feature they call "Ant Farm," in which they show a large photo and just a few paragraphs of story on the front page of a section, intended to "offer a glimpse of everyday life in various corners of our community."

Today, there is a photo of a boy helping his father do some automobile maintenance. I love this quote from the father, Thomas Nelson Jr., of St. Paul:

"Ever since he [8-year-old Thomas Nelson III] was 1 or 2 years old, he went along with me to fix things. 'Dad, take me. I just want to be around you.' And either I spend time with my kids or somebody else will, you know?"

"Either I spend time with my kids or somebody else will."

What's implied is that "somebody else" won't teach your kids what you want them to learn.

Remember that, all you dads.


It's been four years. Many have forgotten, or act as though they have. Don't you be one of them.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Al Gore Is a Nazi
(This post will have some people sputtering, "He's calling Al Gore a Nazi!" so I thought I'd put it right into the title to make their day for them.)

Former real-president Al Gore has joined the hiking-booted throngs marching lockstep to the tune of global warming. Gore, who preceded current real-president John Kerry, says that global warming is to blame for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (even if the death and damage isn't as bad as first blamed on not-my-president George W. Bush).

Here's what I think: people who salute and sing "Global Warming" don't believe in global warming because of science; they believe in global warming because they want a reason to hate and blame those they don't like -- anyone who doesn't share their politics and lifestyle (so much for tolerance and diversity).

In this way, they remind me of American Southerners who blamed (or still blame) Blacks for their problems. Or, the best example, Nazis who blamed Jews for the very real economic crisis in between-wars Germany. Instead of "The economy is bad. It's the Jews' fault!" it's "The Earth is getting warmer! It's the suburban Republicans' fault!"

Scientists tell us that the Earth has gone through many periods of climate change, getting either cooler or warmer, for periods ranging from hundreds to thousands of years. Now, we detect a slight change in average temperatures and we're sure the sky is falling. But just a few decades ago, the fear was "the coming ice age." It was even on the cover of Time magazine.

I've written before about the Arrogance of Science, about how we think we know everything, but we laugh at the "ignorance" of those who came before us. Concerning global warming, I wonder sometimes if we're not being just like those "primitive" folks who saw the days grow shorter at the time of the winter solstice, and thought they needed to sacrifice a virgin (or a Democrat, if that was all that was available) to bring the sun back.

Before I go, I like to set the record straight. Al Gore is not a Nazi. The Nazis were National Socialists. Al Gore is a Democrat socialist who believes in concentrating power in the national government.

See the difference?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nagin Lied, Not So Many People Died
Now that the blame has been firmly fixed on George W., the truth can come out. Now they are saying the New Orleans death toll won't be anything near 10,000, like Mayor Nagin had said it would be. And they're saying New Orleans will be dried out in about a month, not months and months like they were saying. And much of the city will come through this just fine, it won't all be destroyed.

That's all good news, of course.

Will anyone apologize to President Bush?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hugo, Girl
In an ode to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, Kansas City Star columnist Mary Sanchez notes that Chavez "sharply criticized the Bush administration's response to Katrina's victims, accurately pointing out the poorest of the poor are suffering the most."

Wow! A regular Einstein! I wonder if Chavez could accurately point out that the sky is blue! And that grass is green!

As I've said before, OF COURSE the poor suffer the most. They're poor. Being poor sucks. Money may not buy happiness, but it does bring with it the ability to mitigate many of life's problems. If you're poor, you have fewer options. If you're poor -- or elderly, handicapped, etc. -- every problem hits you harder.

Sanchez also suggests that Chavez should be paranoid about the U.S. and its intentions toward Venezuela, because "Some Web sites are reporting that Venezuela has uncovered plans for a U.S.-led invasion of the country."

Once we get past the shock of a print journalist and member of the Mainstream Media using as a source "some Web sites are reporting," I'd like to say: We'd better have a plan!

We should have a plan for invading any country that we might ever have to invade. That doesn't mean we intend to invade any country, just that we are prepared if the need arises.

The Bush-haters like to complain, "Bush had a plan for invading Iraq even before he said he decided to do it. That proves he intended to invade all along, and never considered other options."

No. It means he was prepared ahead of time for what he might have to do.

And isn't one of the big complaints we keep hearing that the federal government DOESN'T have enough plans? No plan for Iraq after the invasion. No plan for a flooded New Orleans.

"There should have been a plan!" That's the cry we hear. But why should there be a plan? Wouldn't that suggest that Bush had decided to flood New Orleans long ago, and never really considered having his hurricane miss the Crescent City? (That must have been quite a sight, Old George out there in the Gulf with a big fan, whipping up Hurricane Katrina.)

Friday, September 9, 2005

Doomed to Repeat Our Mistakes?
We seem to have trouble learning from past mistakes. And no, in this case I'm not even talking about building cities in areas prone to flooding.

I've heard that some gas stations are being plagued by a problem with their pumps. It seems that their pumps are not able to be set for a price of $3 or higher -- $2.99 is as high as they can go. Why this should be, I don't know, since it's not as though a place for an extra digit needs to be added. Some stations are dealing with this, I hear, by setting the measure to half a gallon, and then setting the price at half of the gallon price.

Deja vu all over again.

This is the same problem that hit stations more than a quarter century ago when prices first topped $1. Many pumps had been designed so that they had only places for two digits for cents, so they could go only up to 99 cents (for simplicity, let's just forget about the 9/10 part).

Why on earth would anyone design a pump that could go to 2.99, but not advance to 3-9 in the dollars' place? Makes no sense.

Six years back we were hearing about a problem with gravestones. When a spouse was buried, some stones had also been engraved with the surviving spouse's year of birth, and 19(blank) for the date of death, with the final two digits to be filled in when necessary. Trouble was, some of those survivors were still living and expecting to see the year 2000!

The really strange part is, they should have known better. I read where one old timer in the business said his father had told him they had the same problem when the year 1900 came around!

People just don't learn, do they? (And I didn't even mention that "little" Y2K problem with the computers that had only two digits for the year.)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Those Who Can't... Report
There's an old saying, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." I think that's unfair to teachers. But I think we can apply it to someone else:

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, report and second guess."

I say this because of the mainstream media's fixation on passing out blame for Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Maureen Dowd pretty much comes right out and says that President Bush personally killed people: "W drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives."

New Orleans was founded in 1718, but somehow, the fact that it sits below sea-level, waiting for a disaster to happen, isn't relevant until 2001, when George W. Bush becomes president? Bill Clinton didn't act to prevent this disaster. George H.W. Bush didn't act to prevent this disaster. Ronald Reagan didn't act to prevent this disaster. Jimmy Carter didn't act to prevent this disaster. Gerald Ford didn't act to prevent this disaster. Richard Nixon didn't act to prevent this disaster. Lyndon Johnson didn't act to prevent this disaster. John F. Kennedy didn't act to prevent this disaster. Dwight Eisenhower didn't act to prevent this disaster. Harry Truman didn't act to prevent this disaster. Not even the Democrats' favorite president, FDR, with all his New Deal public works projects, acted to prevent this disaster. I could go all the way back to President Thomas Jefferson, who purchased New Orleans from France in 1803.

But somehow, President Bush is personally responsible?

The media ask, Why didn't the government do something to prevent this? I ask, Why didn't the media do something?

I read years ago that this very disaster could happen. Why didn't the media continue to report the story? Why didn't Dan Rather begin each newscast from 1993 through 2000 with, "Good evening. The Clinton administration again today failed to act to prevent the destruction of the city of New Orleans"?

They knew. But they ignored it.

They'll say, "But it wasn't a story then." I say, if it wasn't a story then, then it's not a story now. If the story is that the government didn't do something, then it was a story while the government was not doing something. If the media -- and the populace, including those in New Orleans -- didn't think the issue was worth caring about before, how can they blame the federal government for feeling the same way?

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Blame, Blame, Blame
Local government officials find it easy to blame Washington for the disaster in New Orleans. But despite Andy Borowitz's humor, Washington finds it difficult to reciprocate. After all, that would be blaming the victim, and besides, everyone hates the federal government, anyway.

But read this Wall Street Journal editorial explaining how New Orleans mayor Nagin and Louisiana Governor Blanco blew it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Blame and "Refugees": Not Everything is Black or White
Now I hear there is a flap about whether people fleeing New Orleans should be called "refugees." Some blacks say "refugees" has a negative connotation, and it's racist because so many of the (people who used to live in New Orleans but now have gone somewhere else) are black.

I wondered, what does the dictionary say? So I looked up "refugee," and here's what I found:

"Refugee: One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution."

Interestingly, this specifically mentions reasons other than natural disaster. That suggests that the CONNOTATION of the word might make it not the best word to use in this situation, although based on the DENOTATION, it doesn't exclude these people.

But, it also says that a "refugee" is one who flees in search of refuge. How is "refuge" defined:

Refuge: Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship. 2. A place providing protection or shelter. 3. A source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble.

I'd have to say the folks fleeing New Orleans are seeking shelter from danger and hardship. They need protection. That would make them "refugees."

Bottom line: It depends how you look at it. There is no definitive right or wrong here. If use of the word "refugees" distracts us from the real issue, then let's not use it.

[I've just heard a radio talk show caller trying to give a lesson on proper word usage in this situation. But he says we shouldn't call (people who used to live in New Orleans but now have gone somewhere else) "refugees" because of what that "infers." If he doesn't know the difference between "infers" and "implies" I don't think he's Mr. Language Expert.]

And one more thing, people don't have to come from another country to be "refugees."

Can't we forget all the black versus white crap and just get people some help?

A few nights ago, I saw people complaining on the "Nightline" TV news program that the reason they didn't get help sooner was that they were black. "We wouldn't be left in this situation if we were white," they claimed.

Monday on "Nightline," they visited Katrina victims in rural Mississippi. These victims claimed that they still had no help a week after the hurricane because they were rural, and FEMA cared only about the metropolitan areas. By the way, these "forgotten" people were white.

The lesson? When something terrible has happened to people, we can expect them to lash out and blame someone. But that doesn't mean their accusations are warranted. It's human nature to think we are the ones getting the short end of the stick. It starts when we are kids, and some people never get over it. Trauma like this only exacerbates the tendency.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Appeasers Everywhere, But Appeasement Doesn't Work
A police officer died in the Twin Cities yesterday, hit by a fugitive trying to escape other officers in a chase at speeds up to 100 mph.

Officer Shawn Silvera of the Lino Lakes Police Department was laying out Stop Sticks designed to puncture the tires on the fugitive's car. Officer Silvera was off the roadway, but the fugitive veered off the road and hit him.

This follows another recent incident in which a civilian motorist was struck and killed by another fugitive fleeing police at high speeds.

Whether police should engage in these dangerous chases is the subject of much debate. It's easy to say, "It's not worth it." It's easy to say, "People would still be alive if the police didn't chase that guy." It's easy to say, "No high speed chases; someone might get killed."

But you know what that sort of thinking is? It's appeasement. It's the same as saying that we shouldn't be engaged in the Middle East, because if we didn't, soldiers and civilians wouldn't have died.

But if we just let the terrorists have free reign -- and they know it, if we let the bad guys escape the police -- and they know all they have to do is hit the gas and they'll get away, what will be the result?

More terrorism. More crime.

Decades ago, there were those who said, "Let Hitler have Poland," then "Let Hitler have France." In this country, there were many prepared to "Let Hitler have England."

But appeasement doesn't work. It's the same all the way on up from the playground bully to foreign policy. Giving the bully what he wants just increases his appetite for more. Appeasement is only a short-term solution. Long-term, you've got to stand up for what's right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

And Your Point, Again?
The final tallies are in, and Minnesota State Fair attendance this year was.... actually just a bit higher than last year.

Makes WCCO's whole "Why is Fair attendance down?" story rather pointless.

(Tip of the hat to Michele for the link.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Exactly What "Should" the Response Be?
Regarding criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina, I have just one question: How does the response this time compare to the response the other times all of New Orleans has been flooded like this?

I'm just trying to get an idea of the "standard" response we usually get when a disaster of this magnitude happens. You know, so I can see if it's really any slower this time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

State Fair Follow-Up
(Read the Monday post immediately below this if you haven't done so already.)

I'm going to follow-up on my complaint about how my family was portrayed on the TV news yesterday. I've just recently sent my complaint to the station; hopefully it will get through to the news director. I'm torn between thinking I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, and feeling that I'm justifiably angry that I've been made to look foolish by being erroneously portrayed on TV by an incompetent "journalist." Maybe back when I was younger, a pretty face was all I required of a TV reporter. But these days, I expect some actual professional ability. Reporter Terri Gruca didn't get the reference when I joked that no one goes to the Fair anymore because it's too crowded -- not even when I tried to explain, "Like Yogi Berra would say." Clueless.

Other thoughts from the Fair:

--If the hot dog is "about" a foot long, is it OK to pay "about" $3.75 for it?

--A corn dog seller told me that when she started out 23 years ago, corn dogs sold for 85 cents. They are now $3. As I recall, 23 years ago, a gallon of gas went for about $1.30 -- 50 percent more than a corn dog. Today, that corn dog goes for $3! With a similar increase, gasoline would be about $4.50 a gallon! Yet, no one demands that the governor or the president do anything about high corn dog prices.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Don't Believe Everything You See on TV: Dave Quoted Out of Context to Fit the Pre-Written Story
1. I've long believed that all too often, news reporters -- especially TV news reporters -- first decide what the story is, then go out and get the sound bites to support it.

2. Many people quoted in news stories claim they have been misquoted, or that their quotes have been taken out of context.

I appeared on a TV news broadcast today, and I'm declaring WCCO-TV (channel 4) guilty on both counts. Here's what happened:

My wife, kids and I were at the Minnesota State Fair today. Around midday, we were walking through the intersection of Cooper and Cosgrove, and we spied a video camera set up in the street. We tried to pass by, walking behind the camera, when we were approached by a TV news reporter.

Reporter Terri Gruca, of WCCO-TV (Minneapolis), said she was doing a story about State Fair attendance being down, and about people not coming to the Fair as often as they had in the past. She asked about our attendance, and we told her we were attending only one day this year, same as last. We told her we liked to come two days, and had done so in the past, but we were able to FIND TIME TO COME only one day.

Labor Day, the final day of the Fair, is also advertised as a "bargain day," with special offers from some Fair vendors. Gruca asked if this was why we picked today to attend. My wife said no, we picked today because it's a holiday, and she didn't have to take off work to come. Our answers didn't seem to fit what Gruca was looking for, but she asked if she could interview us on camera, and we consented.

We repeated what we had said off-camera. Gruca also asked if we thought prices were going up, and we said yes, they were, and rising prices for admission and at the concessions might keep some people away. She asked if we noticed the final day bargains. My wife said no, except for the reduced rates on carnival rides. Gruca asked if we thought higher gas prices were keeping people away. I replied no, because it's little difference for people in the metro area, and for people outstate, the Fair is an event that's been on their calendars all year, and they are coming regardless. (Remember, I grew up on the farm; I was once one of those people.)

We sure didn't fit the template of the story Gruca said she was working on. I wondered, would we not appear in the final story, because we didn't fit what she wanted? Or would she reshape the story she initially thought she had, to reflect what we had told her?

Neither, as it turned out. Gruca used us in her story, but she cut-and-pasted our comments to fit what she was looking for, making it seem that we said things we did not. For instance, here's part of the on-air story:

Gruca: For many families, spending time at the fair has become tradition.

Me: "[We came] one day this year. I think that's what we did last year. We like to come a couple of days if we can."

Gruca: But for the past few years, one day is all the Downings could do.

Me: "It does seem like the prices just keep going up every year at the gate and the concessions. It seems to be a little faster than the rate of inflation."

Unidentified young lady: "A lot of people don't come out here because they can't afford it."

Gruca: Even the kids seem to notice.

Now wait just a minute. Gruca has us telling the world that we came to the Fair only one day because that's all we can afford! That is absolutely not accurate. We told her one day is all we "could do" -- as she put it -- because of time, not because of money.

Remember how I told Gruca I didn't think gas prices were a factor? She didn't use my comments, but instead found someone to give her something closer to what she had already decided:

Unidentified woman: "Gas prices could have something to do with it. Maybe people aren't coming in from outstate."

Not much conviction there. Sounds more like someone too polite to disagree with a leading question.

Finally, here's an excerpt from the story as it concludes:

Gruca: It just seems more are choosing to spend their money more wisely like the Downings -- on days when they can find bargains.

My wife: "The rides for the kids, we do notice that, there are half-price tickets."

Again, WE HAD TOLD HER that bargains were not the reason why we were at the Fair today. It was the only day we could find the time to go. She's painting us as poor folks who can only come to the Fair on bargain day. That's not the truth. That's not what we told her.

When one sees oneself misrepresented so badly, how can one believe anything he sees on the television news? But what do I know? I'm just a crackpot blogger; they're the Mainstream Media. If they say it, it must be so.

Check out the story for yourself on the WCCO-TV website. They have the video posted, as well as a transcript, which isn't quite the same as the actual broadcast.

Oh, one more thing. By the time the attendance count comes in from today, the Fair may have actually drawn more people than it did last year. Well, no need to let the facts get in the way of a good story idea.

We Don't Appreciate How Good We've Got It
An interesting column by Ed Lotterman today. The Economist writes about the supply of capital vs. the supply of labor, and what happens as either becomes more scarce or more abundant.

Lotterman writes about what happened in Europe in the 1300s, after famines and plague reduced populations significantly:

"Labor became scarcer, especially relative to land. Wages and the prices charged by urban artisans rose. Fewer peasants meant land rents fell. The wealthy hated to pay more for goods and services while receiving less in rent. Laws were passed requiring workers to accept the old wage rates and for products to be sold at the old prices, but such anti-market regulations were largely futile. Some provoked popular uprisings."

You know what that makes me think of? Us. And the way people are calling for the government to "fix" gasoline prices one way or another. It's not fair! We want our cheap gas!

And if we were honest about it, we'd admit that many of us in this great country really are "the wealthy."

From a newspaper story about how people are dealing with rising gas prices, I offer these excerpts:

"'I went from eating out five nights a week to one or two,' [a college student] said."

Poor baby. Just ask for help in the grocery store, and they'll show you where to find the mac & cheese. But this really takes the cake:

"Kim and Todd Pawek, a Rogers [a Twin Cities exurb] couple wheeling their toddler into a Room and Board furniture store in Edina [the epitome of the cake-eater suburb, about 30 miles from Rogers], said they might postpone a planned trip to Las Vegas next month if prices keep rising. They estimated it will now cost them around $90 to gas up both their SUV and their Audi.

"'We saw gas for $3.17 and I thought, "We shouldn't be driving the Tahoe, we should be driving the car,"' said Kim Pawek, 33."

Yes, and when it comes time to really tighten the belt, I'll fire my chauffeur and drive the Bentley myself.

Criminy. Can you say, "Too much disposable income?" I thought you could.

Compare the Paweks' "problem" to those people who couldn't get out of New Orleans because they don't have a car -- any car.

And we whine about how rough we've got it. We're soft, and we're spoiled. Sometimes it makes me sick.

Thoughts on Katrina
--Someone was complaining that the news people aren't pointing out something that is rather obvious: that Black people seem to be suffering the worst, both in New Orleans and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast. I think if they did, then they'd have to point out something equally obvious: that Black people are doing most of the looting and perpetrating most of the violence. I'll explain both of these obvious truths for you: a loot of poor Black people live where the hurricane hit. And, being poor, they were less able to get away. I did hear a pretty face on the TV point out to us something else that is obvious: the poor are suffering the most. Well, duh, lady. They're poor. The poor always suffer the most. That's because they're poor. Being poor sucks. The poor suffer the most when gas prices go up, when unemployment goes up; insert just about any bad variable you want, the poor suffer the most. That's why you don't want to be poor. Being poor is bad. But if the poor had everything the same as the not-poor, what would be the incentive to not be poor?

--What's happening in New Orleans is enough to give one pause to reassess how one looks at events in the rest of the world. We're seeing that once people's basic needs are not being met, it doesn't take much for them to start acting violently. One New Orleans man I saw on TV said, regarding looting, "When you've been oppressed so much, it's OK to take something back." What's really scary about that, is that it is exactly the sort of mindset that breeds suicide bombers elsewhere in the world. The Romans had the famous "bread and circuses" to keep the masses fed and entertained, so that they would stay docile. We have welfare and TV. Take those away from people, and all hell breaks lose.

--Taking food, medicine and necessities -- NECESSITIES! -- isn't "looting." It's surviving. It's not morally wrong. Taking TVs and designer clothing is theft. It's wrong, plain and simple. Nevertheless, it seems little financial harm is being done to a flooded store when it is looted. Much of that merchandise is likely to be trashed, anyway, what with water damage, mold, etc.

--I heard someone say that the finger pointing and blaming being done by some Gulf Coast officials will discourage donations. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, then it's just like the way that the anti-war crowd hurts the Iraq War effort with their blaming and complaining, encouraging the terrorists and hurting American resolve and morale.

--We've all heard the supposed oxymoronic one-liner, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." I think of that when I hear people blaming the government for the disaster in New Orleans, and at the same time, calling for the government to solve the problems. Why do they have such faith in the government to be able to set everything right? People have a love-hate relationship with the government. Sometimes, it even seems that the populace acts like an abused spouse who won't leave a batterer: "But I need him to take care of me!" So they keep going back to the very one who keeps letting them down.

--Some say that the Second Amendment is obsolete. In this day and age, we don't need guns, they say, the government protects us. What's happening in New Orleans should be enough to illustrate why we should all own our own little piece of the Second Amendment.

--I hope those Iraq War protesters, who think the government should do more about New Orleans, are signing up their own sons and daughters to be relief workers.

--One of the criticisms of the Iraq War, after the Iraqi Army was easily defeated, was that we were not prepared for the aftermath, and that our military is not equipped to keep the peace and provide relief aid. But now, we're hearing calls to send the Army to New Orleans, to keep the peace and provide humanitarian relief. Hmmmm.

--Someone said that the Democrats are trying to blame Republicans, saying that so-called "global warming" [Hey, if the newspapers say "so-called 'partial-birth abortion'" why can't I do the same?] is to blame for the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Another person countered with, "Well, some conservatives played a similar blame game, blaming homosexuality and moral decadence for the 9/11 attacks on New York." Here's the difference: The terrorists have clearly stated that they do in fact want to destroy the West because of its moral decadence. Infidels!

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Can We Have Kippers for Breakfast?
The world's oldest person has died at age 115. Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper died peacefully in her sleep Tuesday at a home for the elderly in Amsterdam.

Here's what caught my eye about the story: when asked the secret to long life, she advised people to "keep breathing," and eat pickled herring.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Gallons and Miles
Yet another example of how we divide ourselves by not understanding that not everyone thinks just like we do, is evident in the issue of gas prices and automobile choices. I recently listened to a Toyota Prius (hybrid) driver rather self-righteously talking about how, despite higher gas prices, people still weren't changing what they drive. She seemed surprised.

What, is everyone supposed to immediately go trade in their vehicles for something new, just because gasoline prices have increased (and perhaps only temporarily)? Does she really expect that? Consider, please, that even before the recent gas price run-up, the driver of a Chevy Suburban was already paying more for gasoline to operate that vehicle, rather than a small car. Suburban owners were making that choice, because they valued the use of the Suburban. Additionally, they paid a lot more money to buy that SUV in the first place, because that is the type of vehicle they really wanted. If someone is willing to pay $20,000 more for a Suburban, rather than a Taurus, do you really think that an increase in gas prices is going to trump all other factors?

Also, it can cost a lot of money to get a new vehicle. What about someone driving an OLD gas guzzler? It can be much cheaper to keep the old beast, and just pay more for gas, than to buy a newer vehicle that goes easier on the petrol. What about "the working poor"? Where are they supposed to get the money to go out and buy a Prius?

They may become commonplace in the future, but as of right now, a hybrid like the Prius is less an economical choice, and more a status symbol for those with the money to buy one. They are expensive vehicles. The irony is, the people who can afford them are also the people most able to afford expensive gasoline.

What I'd really like to point out, though, is that it's not just WHAT you drive, it's HOW MUCH you drive. We own a 1994 S-10 Chevy Blazer, which gets less than 20 MPG on average, and a 2002 4x4 Chevy truck that gets only about 11 MPG. But here's the thing -- we really don't drive very much. I work from home; my wife takes the bus or rides her bike. We're putting a combined total of about 12,000 miles a year on our two vehicles. By the standards of people in this state, that's not very much.

Yet some people, knowing nothing about me or my driving habits, would judge me for having a gas-guzzling truck, while they have gas-sipping mini-cars. But how much do they drive? How many gallons of gas do they use in a year? That's the real question.

I heard a caller to a radio program, bragging about how his car got really high gas mileage. And he really felt proud of himself, because he drove 60,000 miles a year, so he was really saving a lot of gas!

What an idiot. That's like the person who goes to the store for a pair of shoes, and since shoes are half price, buys 10 pair. "The more I buy, the more I save!" he tells himself. Yeah, right. Buy the whole store, and you'll be rich.

But that gets lost on people. They seem to think they have no choice about HOW MUCH they drive, only about WHAT they drive. For instance, the Prius driver I mentioned at the start feels pretty good about herself. But while she lives in St. Paul, she recently took a job in the suburbs, in a field in which she could work in any neighborhood in St. Paul. Driving is her decision. But people don't want to see it that way. They never want to look in the mirror, they just want to point the finger.

Having grown up on a farm, I find I often have a different perspective on things. Gas prices are no different. Farmers are really being hit hard by rising gas prices. But they can't do anything about it. They can't put a "fuel surcharge" on a loaf of bread. You know what? It's not fair.

But people say, "Life's not fair. If you don't like the rules of the game, don't be a farmer." Well, the same applies to everyone else. If you don't like paying more for gas, then don't be a commuter. Work near where you live.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Do You Define "Competition"?
I'd like to build upon my previous post. Reading those Think-Off finalists' essays, I note that some people seem to think that competition is by definition a bad thing. That shows a divide in thinking, maybe one of the reasons we seem to be polarized and unable to understand each other.

People who define competition as something "bad" seem to be zero-sum people. They think that competition means trying to hurt or take from someone else. They think that if someone succeeds, it means that someone else fails. If someone gets "more," it's only at the expense of someone else who gets "less." To them, competition means taking from someone else to enrich yourself.

Others of us see competition as benefiting everyone. We see people competing, and all getting "more," despite the fact that some may get more "more" than others. We think competition can result in everyone "winning." This is why we believe in free market capitalism. We believe the competition inherent in free market capitalism creates many "winners," even though some may be bigger "winners" than others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Competition vs. Cooperation
Cooperation or competition? Which benefits society more?

That was the question at this year's Great American Think-Off.

I think it's a great question. My first thought is that which is "better" may depend on the context. Cooperation may be the only way to survive on a lifeboat, but competition may be the way to produce better and safer ships in the first place. In the end, maybe competition IS cooperation. We cooperate by all doing our best, breaking new ground, making advances that benefit society. The competition is a sort of cooperator that makes everyone better. Think of a sports league, where the competition makes everyone better, by being able to play each other. Think of Charles Lindbergh -- he and his contemporaries competed to be the first to cross the Atlantic, but in a way, they were all in it together, spurring each other on, inspiring each other, learning from each other's successes and failures. In the end, that cooperative competition benefited society.

Anyway, the winner of this year's Think-Off went with competition. Here's a news story for you, and the finalists' essays can be read here.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Define "Village"
I heard a radio host say, "there was a time when if a kid got out of line, all the parents were free to deal with it."

That's what is REALLY meant by "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child."

Hillary Clinton, for one, loves that line. The trouble is, when Hillary says "village," she means the government, not individuals. She thinks the "village" raising the child means government programs.

That really highlights how things have gone wrong. It's not just Hillary, lots of people think everything should be left up to the government to be taken care of. Individual responsibility has been lost.

When I was a small-town kid, we had to behave because if anyone's parents saw us getting out of line, we were in trouble. And, we knew our parents would hear about it, too. And soon.That's one of the differences here in the "big city." I see kids walking down the street smoking cigarettes. Don't they worry that someone will tell their parents? I guess not. I don't know who they are, or who their parents are, and they know it. Same thing with kids carrying on and cussing up a blue streak on the bus. They feel safe in their anonymity.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hindsight..... Make That, Gunsights Are 20/20
Pat Robertson says we should kill the president of Venezuela, and everyone says, "That's awful! You can't say that!"

According to Paul Harvey, six years ago Pat Robertson said we should kill Osama bin Laden. And now, everyone agrees with him.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Scientists Don't Know Beans!
A couple weeks back, we had the great Gopher Football Ticket Scandal, where the University of Minnesota ended up with egg on its institutional face after misspelling the name of one of its past gridiron stars. Now I've discovered another local, supposedly learned, institution that doesn't seem to know what it's doing.

I took the kids to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul recently. They have a mini golf course there, designed to teach us all about the Mississippi River, and how evil humans are ruining it. There are lots of plants and wildflowers all over the place, with signs identifying them.

Hole #5 is about how draining and tiling farm fields adds sediment and pollutants to the river. There is a planter with a sign reading, "Keep Out, Soybeans Planted." The planter proudly displays three robust plants. But the plants are not soybeans. No, they are a plant called velvetleaf, also known as buttonweed. That's right -- it's a noxious weed! A noxious weed that farmers spend a good deal of money to get rid of, and any property owner should be concerned about. (In some locales, you might even be fined for letting it grow on your property!)

Now, I'm just a farm boy, not a professional scientist, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe I'm way off base here. Maybe this is just too complicated for my simple mind. But it looks to me like the professionals who run the science museum can't tell the difference between soybeans and a noxious weed. (see photos below)

My guess is they planted soybeans, but the velvetleaf came up early and prominently, and someone assumed that was what they had planted. The soybeans probably got pulled as "weeds"!

Soybeans (left) ----------------------- Velvetleaf (right)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Liberal Media Bias Example
I mentioned the liberal media bias yesterday. Some say that's all in my imagination. It's easy to say there's a liberal media bias, but prove it! Whenever possible, I do just that. Here's another example.

One of the ways the liberal media bias manifests itself is in the way that the media manage to work a potshot at Republicans into what otherwise seems to be an unrelated story. I found another example yesterday, in a story about the Beloit College Mindset List. This is an interesting list published every year by a private college in Wisconsin. It attempts to provide a framework for the mindsets and life experiences of the incoming freshman class. This year, for instance, the list notes that the incoming Class of 2009 has always known Starbucks, has never watched Arsenio Hall, and has always known the USA as the world's only superpower.

But why miss a chance to take a cheap shot at Republicans?

Reporter Ryan J. Foley notes that Jimmy Carter is just another name to these kids. He also notes that someone named George Bush has been president for more than half their lives. OK, fair enough. No problem there.

But while he manages to work in that they are too young to know much about Watergate -- the scandal that disgraced a Republican president (Actually, college students have been too young to know about Watergate for about 20 years now! Why does he dredge up Watergate?), he doesn't mention an Oval Office scandal that these kids grew up with, and that may have actually shaped their value system and even their behavior while in college. I speak, of course, of Bill and Monica. Just a little detail not worth mentioning, I guess, since Bill is a Democrat.

But wouldn't it be interesting to know whether the freshman see Bill and Monica as role models? Someone whose behavior they will emulate while in college? That's certainly more relevant than Watergate.

But here's the smoking gun; the story ends with this cheap shot:

"The freshmen have witnessed the Bush family become a political dynasty -- some of them quite reluctantly.

"'It's scary to think about Jeb Bush running for president,' [incoming freshman from Wellesley, Mass., Lizzie] Starr said."

How did Jeb Bush get worked into this? What leading questions did the reporter ask this girl to get her to deliver the putdown he was looking for?

The modern-day reporter doesn't just "report"; he or she has an agenda. And it's almost always anti-conservative.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Arab Muslims Blaming Themselves -- Why Isn't This on Page 1?
Even since September 11, 2001, we've been reminded that "We aren't at war with Islam," and "We aren't at war with the Arab world." We're told that the bad guys who fly airplanes into buildings and blow themselves up in public places just happen to ALL be Muslim, and just happen to be MOSTLY Arabs.

That's the politically-correct line here at home. But what does the rest of the world think? What do they think in the Arab world, for instance?

According to this Associated Press report out of Egypt, Egyptians are blaming themselves for terrorism -- blaming their Muslim religion and their Arab/Muslim culture. Here's an excerpt from Nadia Abou El-Magd's story:

"Stunned by terror attacks in a Red Sea resort, Egyptians are in a remarkably frank debate about whether mosques and schools -- and the government itself -- should be blamed for promoting Islamic extremism. ...

"Egypt has been hit [in July] by a double blow: the kidnapping and slaying of its top envoy in Iraq by Islamic militants and the bomb blasts that ripped through Sharm, killing as many as 88 people -- the vast majority of them Egyptians.

"What was unusual about the self-criticism after Sharm was that it came from government media -- and even from within the Islamic clerical hierarchy picked by the government.

"'There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik,' ran a bold red headline of a lead editorial Wednesday by Al-Musawwar's editor in chief, Abdel-Qader Shohaib.

"The bombers 'didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled,' Shohaib wrote.

"In Al-Ahram, columnist Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hegazi wrote: 'This is not just deviation, it is a culture.'"

Why isn't this front page news? I'll tell you why -- because it's politically incorrect. It goes against what the American Left/Mainstream Media (am I being redundant?) wants us to believe. So, I found it buried on page 11 -- PAGE ELEVEN -- of my newspaper!

Why isn't this on the front page, while Cindy Sheehan blaming President Bush is? Again, because blaming President Bush does fit the agenda of the Mainstream Media.

And they tell us there's no such thing as the liberal media bias.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

FDR Lied
I hear columnist Michael Barone asked the question, What if a grieving Gold Star mother had camped out at the end of FDR's driveway? His answer, as I understand it, is that the media would have seen her as a sad, tragic figure, and left her alone to work through her grief.

Not so with Cindy Sheehan. Not so in 2005. Not so when it's a Republican in the White House.

I'm sure some will say that it is totally different, that this war is controversial, while everyone supported WWII. That's not really true. America's entry into WWII was very controversial, and might not have happened in time to turn the tide, if the Japanese hadn't made the mistake of bombing Pearl Harbor and "waking a sleeping giant."

America was very isolationist between the two World Wars. There was strong sentiment against getting involved in "another European war." Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh led the isolationist charge; he travelled to Germany and thought the Nazis were just swell guys.

But Roosevelt knew better. Against the wishes of the American people and the directives of Congress, he did what he could to aid the English resistance to Hitler, helping prevent English surrender and total Nazi victory in Europe. England resisted the Nazis long enough for America to see the light and join the battle.

FDR used subterfuge, he lied, he did what he knew needed to be done to protect national security. Regardless of public opinion polls, he knew he was responsible for protecting his nation. He did what he had to do, even if he had to do it clandestinely.

Roosevelt lied. But he defeated the Nazis and Imperial Japanese, and kept freedom alive.

Roosevelt lied. But he is considered by many to be one of our greatest presidents.

Roosevelt lied. But it's Okay. He was a Democrat.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Creation vs. Evolution in 200 Words or Less
Letter writers to the Pioneer Press continue to try to solve the evolution vs. creation debate in 200 words or less. There were some interesting letters Sunday. D.J. Conlin wrote an excellent letter with some excellent explanations of his thinking. He wrote:

"Critics argue that whether our world is the product of intelligent design is a philosophical question, not scientific. Why we are here is a philosophical question. How we came to be is a scientific question."

How vs. why. I think that's an excellent point.

A second letter comes from evolutionist Greg Skog, who believes "it is a virtue to have an open mind," but comes off as narrow-minded, intolerant and arrogantly foolish.

In the third letter, Charlie Skemp tries to walk both sides of the argument. He does a pretty good job, but one of his comments got me thinking. Skemp wrote that "the conclusions of intelligent design...are, at their core, religious."

Not necessarily, I decided, after giving it some thought. Just because you believe something can't be explained by our current knowledge, doesn't mean religion or the supernatural is involved. It just means you don't know.

Consider Easter Island. You remember Easter Island; it has all of those giant stone heads looking out to sea. When the Europeans first came upon Easter Island, they found few people living there, and they didn't know why those people would have created the stone heads, or how they did it (how they did it is still open to debate).

Imagine if no one had been left living on Easter Island when the European explorers arrived. How would they have explained the statues? Divine creation? Or would they have assumed that the statues had somehow "evolved" on their own?

OK, they would have thought, "Someone, sometime, must have done this; we just don't know who, how, or why."

Now imagine that astronauts land on the moon and discover something amazing: piles of stones arranged in a perfect equilateral triangle, with each pile of stones a sequential prime number -- that is, the first pile has 1 stone, the next has 2 stones, the third has 3 stones, then 5 stones, 7 stones, 11 stones, 13 stones, and so on.

Could such a thing happen by random chance? That's hard to believe. So, someone must be responsible, right? But we know there are no moon men, right? So NO ONE could have done it! Therefore, the only explanation -- to the modern evolutionary scientist -- is that these stones evolved this way randomly.

That's the way the evolutionist looks at the universe: sure, it's improbable that life could evolve all on it's own. But since WE KNOW THERE ISN'T A GOD, random chance is the only explanation left.

Looking at it that way, it's the evolutionist who relies on religion -- in this case, faith that there is no God.

The way I look at it, the adherents of "intelligent design" are actually being more intellectually open-minded. They admit that evolution theory falls short, and they admit that THEY DON'T KNOW all the answers. That's how intelligent design differs from pure Biblical creation theory. Intelligent design says, "Someone must have done this; we just don't yet know who, how, or why." Biblical creation simply begins and ends with God.

But intelligent design theory is not necessarily religious, because it leaves the "who" question open to discovery. It acknowledges that we don't know and can't explain the "who," and leaves the question open. Like with my moon rock example, it seems someone must be behind the phenomena. Natural, supernatural, we don't know. But there has to be some explanation beyond random chance.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Crying Wolf an Equal Opportunity Pastime
Responding to my post on the great football ticket "scandal" revolving around the misspelling of Sandy Stephens' name, a reader wrote to ask whether I think it is just Blacks who "cry wolf" too much.

Absolutely not.

We live in the day of the convergence of media and victimhood, and it seems there's no shortage of people ready to jump in front of a microphone and tell us how poorly their groups are being treated. They all risk the fate of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, in that people may stop taking them seriously (if they haven't stopped taking them seriously already). I would include here spokespeople (some self-appointed) for various racial/ethnic groups, gays, religious groups -- just about any identifiable group. This even applies beyond the area of victimhood. If you want to be taken seriously, don't open your mouth unless you've got something serious to say. I'll even include a group that I belong to -- White Christians. People like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson don't help their chances of being taken seriously with some of their statements about 9/11, AIDS or gay Teletubbies.

Childhood Lessons

As in the case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, I see over and over how the oldest, simplest childhood lessons continue to apply throughout life.

Likewise, as I've written before, one of the surprises of parenthood is that observing my children has helped me more clearly interpret adult behavior. Often, I see that adults continue to exhibit the same behavior as small children -- they're just better at getting away with it.

For example, just the other day I told my daughter not to do something, and her immediate response wasn't, "Sorry, I'll stop right away," it was, "What about (my brother)?"

My reader, a Black woman, did that in a way. In this case, she agreed that supposed Black leaders were too quick to make a mountain out of a molehill, but she asked, in effect, "What about the Jews? They do it, too!" That strikes me as basically the same response I got out of my daughter. Interesting, our human nature, and how the same behaviors stick with us throughout life.

Thou Protests Too Much

My reader made a point of stating that she has nothing against Jews. I'll take her word for it. She wrote a sincere message and asked me good, valid questions. Still, when someone says, "I have nothing against X....," it's often like when people say, "Not to change the subject, but..." and then change the subject. Or like when they say, "It's not about the money, but..." then go on and on about the money. In this sort of case, it's as though the denial itself first raises suspicion in the mind of the reader. Better to just make your case, and don't bother with the preemptive denials.

Interestingly, her question about Jews gave me a look at myself. I immediately had an "anti-Semitic" flag go up in my mind, whether warranted or not. And there may be those who would call her anti-Semitic just for raising the question. In the same way, I can expect some to call me anti-Black for my comments.

That's My Victimhood, I Saw It First!

A Black person questioning the Jews also raises another area of discussion: Competition for victimhood. And that does seem to breed some hard feelings between minority groups, including anti-Semitism among Blacks. Too many people WANT to be the victim, and don't want competition.

We seem to have groups of people who want to cling to their victimhood and how they've been wronged in the past. Pro-Lifers call abortion a "Holocaust," and Jews get mad. Gays equate their agenda to the Civil Rights movement, and Blacks get mad. Just this week, I read that the NAACP is mad at PETA for the animal rights group's campaign linking animal abuse to slavery.

My recommendation to everyone: Stop playing the victim. It's not going to get you anywhere.

Demographically, this country is changing. It's becoming more and more diverse. Blacks are no longer the number two group in this nation, Hispanics are. We have people coming from all over the world, including more Africans. They see America as a land of opportunity; they don't feel like victims. If what the demographers tell us is true, before long this country will be less than 50 percent White. There will be no "majority" and no "minority." There will just be lots of Americans -- of various origins and skin tones.

An example is right here in St. Paul. The public school enrollment is about 30% White, 30% Asian (largely Hmong), 29% Black, 10% Hispanic, and 1% American Indian.

So let's leave victimhood behind, and let's get on with our lives, together, building a stronger America.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

That Which By Another Other Name...Would Be Just As Illegal
I've heard people point out how the euphemism "undocumented immigrant" is being used in place of the proper "illegal alien." They say that's wrong, and I agree.

"Illegal alien" is exactly what a border-jumper is. If you're not an American, you're an alien. If you didn't enter according to the law, you're illegal. It's really that simple.

"Undocumented immigrant" makes it sound like there's been some sort of paperwork mix up. Maybe some red tape to cut through, or a computer glitch.

But that's not the case. Someone who jumps the fence and comes here from Mexico in the middle of the night is an ILLEGAL ALIEN.

You can argue that we should allow more Mexicans into the country legally, if you want, but that's a separate issue. A country must control and enforce its borders. That's the first order of business for any nation, and in essence, defining and controlling borders is the very definition of a nation.

(But even if you raise legal immigration quotas, unless you simply say, "OK, Mexico, everybody's welcome!" we will continue to have illegal aliens, as well. Not to mention those from Iraq, Syria, Iran...even France!)

Inspired by "undocumented immigrant," I got to wondering what other sorts of criminal behavior would benefit from euphemism. I came up with these:

Unrequited Lover (rapist)

Unauthorized Owner (thief)

Unlicensed Embalmer (Jeffrey Dahmer)

Unsponsored Stock Car Driver (speeder)

Unexpected Company (invading army)

Undocumented Withdrawal (bank robbery)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Homeland for the Gazans!
Here's an idea, for all those Israelis being removed from their homes on the Gaza strip: Renounce (and denounce) Israel, call yourselves "Gazans," and demand the right to your "homeland." The UN and the American Left will be tripping all over themselves to support your anti-Zionist cause.

A saw the video on TV: farmers and productive people being removed from their homes; masked men with machine guns celebrating and getting ready to move in. That's progress?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wal-Mart the New Sears Catalog
Why are so many people opposed to Wal-Mart, anyway? (see previous post) And have you noticed that the loudest anti-Wal-Mart activists seem to come from urban areas?

That holds true in this case. (previous post)

In the story I mentioned in my previous post, about the St. Paul and Minneapolis teachers calling for a boycott of Wal-Mart, a teacher brags that he won't shop at Wal-Mart. He shops at OTHER discount stores, instead.

Good for him that he has such choices. That means he can act "on principle," without any sacrifice.

But Wal-Mart is a product of rural America. For many smaller towns all over the country, Wal-Mart is their first and only chance to get a city-sized selection of products at affordable prices. In that way, Wal-Mart carries on the legacy of the Sears catalog, which let rural people shop for anything the people in the city could get, and at reasonable prices. (But Wal-Mart does Sears one better, not just taking money from rural people, but providing jobs in each town where it has a store.)

When I was a boy on the farm, we used to shop from Sears and other catalogs. Sure, we had stores locally, but some things weren't available unless you went to the city -- or shopped from the catalog. (Or, if they were available locally, they might be much, much more expensive.) In addition, we made plenty of shopping trips (an hour or more each way) to "the cities," where we could shop at discount stores like Target and K-Mart.

From that perspective, Wal-Mart coming to town is a great thing. Now, people don't have to drive to the city to shop. Shopping at a discount store in your town is better for your town than shopping at a discount store an hour away, isn't it?

I think the claim that Wal-Mart drives the "main street" merchants out of business is overblown. Yes, some such specific cases may result. But by keeping people local, instead of driving to "the cities," Wal-Mart can also benefit the rest of the businesses in a town.

I also notice -- here in Minnesota, at least -- that Wal-Mart opens stores in rapidly-growing towns. They don't want to locate in some stagnant town that can barely support the stores it has. So Wal-Mart helps to meet the needs of a growing population, not just cannibalize existing stores.

(Related post exploring the urban/rural, Red State/Blue State schism over Wal-Mart: "Wal-Mart Rolls Back the Mystery" )

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Teachers Unions Wants to Teach Wal-Mart a Lesson
Two of Minnesota's largest teachers' unions are calling for us not to buy back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart. The StarTribune reports:

"Two of the state's largest teachers unions are urging their members not to buy back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., accusing the nation's largest retailer of unfair labor practices.

"Both the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, which together represent about 9,500 teachers and other school employees in the Twin Cities, say the retailer pays substandard wages and has a high percentage of workers without health care insurance.

"The local unions are following the lead of the 2.7 million-member National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, and the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which last week held rallies in 30 cities demanding that Wal-Mart boost its wages and expand health benefits."

We don't usually shop at Wal-Mart, but I'm thinking of going to Wal-Mart and asking for some bags, just so I can send my kids' supplies to school in Wal-Mart bags. (Like most Minnesotans, we're thoroughly acclimated to Target, which originated in the state. The very first Target store is just a few miles from our home.)

But seriously, these days the teachers' unions have about as much to do with promoting education as the Teamsters have to do with promoting highway safety. (OK, to be fair to the Teamsters, less.) The teachers' unions are first, foremost, and darn near exclusively concerned with increasing their ranks, enlarging their members' pocketbooks, and pushing their political agenda (with money taken from all of us by the government, when you get right down to it).

A spokeswoman for the teachers said that this isn't a "political" issue, it's a "community" issue. I don't know what that's supposed to mean, but this is as assuredly about politics as is the lawsuit several Minnesota churches have filed against Minnesota's permit-to-carry legislation, under the guise of "religious freedom."

If the teachers are so concerned that workers are being exploited and mistreated by "having" to work for Wal-Mart, they should ask themselves this: How is it, with free public education for all, that so many people go through the school systems without acquiring the skills to do something other than work at Wal-Mart?

Here's a beauty of a quote, from a St. Paul teacher:

"'Wal-Mart has consistently put profits ahead of its workers,' [Roy] Magnuson said. 'At some point, you've got to take a stand.'"

Hmmm. Sort of the way the teachers' unions have consistently put job security and paychecks ahead of real education reform?

Craig Westover has more on this, including why the teachers' unions hate the Walton family.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good News Is Good News
Think there is no good news to report out of Iraq? Think again. Better yet, read Arthur Chrenkoff's roundup of good news from Iraq, in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal (registration may be required).

Now, if we could just get Big Media to report it.

There's a saying that "No news is good news." For the news media, that usually translates into "Good news is no news." For example, they don't report on a million cars that didn't crash and burn today; they only report on the ones that did. We are left to assume that if our friends and relatives don't show up in the news, that means they're OK.

But that means the news tends to be primarily about bad things that happen. While that may work out with local and domestic news -- because we know that for the most part our lives and communities are going along fine, situation normal -- it doesn't work so well when it comes to giving people an accurate picture of the condition inside Iraq. Since most of us don't really know what "normal" is inside Iraq, all we really know is what we hear daily from Big Media. And that is almost all BAD NEWS.

Is it any wonder that people would conclude that bad news is the only news from Iraq?

Come on, Big Media, do your job. Show people the whole picture.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Origin of Life Remains a Great Mystery
I refer you to an unusually level-headed and well-reasoned pair of point/counterpoint columns on what our schools should teach children about the origin of life. The columns ran in my Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press, one in favor of teaching "intelligent design," the other opposed to it.

Really, I don't see why there has to be so much controversy over this issue. I don't see why it has to be such an either/or issue.

Here's how I'd handle it, if I were teaching. I'd tell the students:

"First of all, I want to point out to you that the origin of life remains a great mystery. While various supernatural explanations can be found rooted in most cultures, our modern scientific tradition has attempted to explain life and its origins in terms of the natural laws that we can scientifically observe.

"The prevalent scientific theory of our day is Darwinian evolution. There is evidence in the fossil record that supports this theory, showing a change in species over very long periods of time. Some species disappear, while others begin to show up. There is also evidence of short-term change within species, in the case of inbred, isolated populations; or in the natural selection of those individuals best suited to survive within a particular environment; or in the human-directed selective breeding of plants and animals. Even humans have measurably "changed" in the last century, as average height has increased with improved nutrition.

"But in none of these examples do we see one species becoming another species.

"So we don't really know how -- or even if -- those simple, prehistoric organisms eventually evolved into homo sapiens. Nonetheless, Darwinian evolution is the best, most accepted scientific theory of our age, despite its incompleteness and imperfection.

"Still, some people think that there has to be more to the story. They think that the Universe and Earth are too complex and amazing to have come about by chance. They believe that there must be some sort of plan to the natural world, coming either directly at the hand of God (creation), or through some other sort of unexplained planning and supervision (intelligent design).

"Your job as students, is to study the evidence and learn of these different points of view. But I don't ask you to come to a decision about what is 'right' or 'true,' because we really don't yet know, and maybe we never will.

"So keep an open mind, recognizing the value of Darwinian evolution theory to science, but also remembering that Darwinian evolution theory can not answer all of our questions.

"And remember: The details of the origin of life still remain a great mystery -- both scientifically, and theologically. And they likely always will Even someone who believes an all-powerful God created the Universe must wonder, 'Where did God come from?' And someone who believes that a 'Big Bang' dispersed all the matter that became the Universe must wonder, 'Where did all that matter come from?'"

Now, what's so controversial about that approach?

Just one thing: It's too reasonable. That means it's unacceptable to those who want to use Genesis to teach biology, and it's unacceptable to those who want to put their faith in science, pretending that Darwin explained everything.

Can't we all just agree that.... we really don't know? Really, isn't it ridiculous to argue who's right and who's wrong... when no one actually KNOWS the truth?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Gopher Ticket "Scandal" Resolved
The Great Gopher Ticket Scandal has been resolved. The University of Minnesota will spend $5,000 to reprint the tickets that erroneously referred to All-America quarterback Sandy Stephens as Sandy "Stevens."

That's $5,000 that won't be available to further the education of student-athletes of any race.

I don't know whether reprinting the tickets is the right thing to do; that can be argued either way. But I do know that -- while this gaffe is an embarrassment to the University -- this never had anything to do with race.

What if Bronko Nagurski's name had been misspelled? Would the paper have been all over that, getting quotes from someone down at the Polish-American Hall, about how this is indicative of the way Polish-Americans have always been disrespected? No, I don't think so. (In fact, a writer for the Pioneer Press, talking on the radio, said that the paper itself has been known to write about "Bronco" Nagurski, with no scandal erupting.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Just What the Founding Fathers Feared
Just a few posts down, you'll find my comments on a couple of columns by Deborah Locke, a liberal editorial page writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Locke seems to have recently "gotten religion" when it comes to politics. All of a sudden, she's using the Bible to argue for implementation of her liberal political agenda.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe that's what she has decided.

But all of a sudden, the debate has gone from whether religious views should have any role in politics, to whose religious views should have a role in politics. Instead of "Leave religion out of it," it's now, "Leave your religion out of it; I'm the one who knows what Jesus really would do."

Kind of like some place like, oh.....Iraq! There, the question is, which sect of Islam will lead the Islamic government?

On one hand, I welcome liberals into the discussion of how faith and religious values can influence our public policies. On the other hand, I'm thinking that this new dispute -- whose interpretation of the Bible should drive public policy -- is exactly what the Founding Fathers feared, and the reason they decided to separate church and state.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thank You, LaShawn!
Thank you to LaShawn Barber of LaShawn Barber's Corner for linking to the post immediately below. That has brought a lot of first-time visitors to Downing World. I'd like to welcome you all, and say I hope you'll be returning.

As most of you have likely figured out, "home" for my site is at http://www.downingworld.com Start there to get the full experience, if you've come to this page by way of the post-specific link. (I once spent days wondering why another blogger wasn't writing anything new. Turned out the URL I had saved in my "favorites" was specific to that one post I had been directed to by someone else. Ooops!)

I've been blogging (or "writing online") for just over a year. Quite often I write about local issues (I'm in St. Paul, Minnesota), but I try to do so in a way that makes the issue pertinent to people everywhere.

Thanks for visiting Downing World. Come back now, you hear?!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Racial Chip on Shoulder the Real Handicap
The University of Minnesota athletic department has egg on its institutional face. A story today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the University misspelled the name of former Gophers quarterback Sandy Stephens on a game ticket. Other former Gopher pigskinners being honored -- Carl Eller, Bronko Nagurski, Bobby Bell and Bruce Smith -- had their names spelled correctly.

(This reminds me of 1985, when I attended the NCAA ice hockey Final Four in Detroit. The games were held at Joe Louis Arena. But some tournament materials had it as Joe "Lewis.")

But this is more than just an embarrassment because a University can't correctly spell the name of one of its own past stars.

No, to some at least, it's much more than that.

You see, Sandy Stephens was black.

And lucky for us, Mahmoud El-Kati was available for quoting:

"El-Kati, a retired professor at Macalester College, said it's understandable for members of the black community to feel slighted by the University of Minnesota's error -- Sandy "Stevens" -- made on a ticket aimed at honoring the first African-American All-America quarterback.

"'I can see black people being upset about that because it's who we are and what we are and where we are; that's the way it's always been,' El-Kati said. 'You can take Sandy Stephens and multiply the slight 1,000 times because of the general insensitivity toward African-Americans in society.'"

So much for shrugging this off as just an embarrassing goof. No, this is a chance to make racial hay.

Never mind that of the three athletes being honored, three are black. Or that "Stevens" is itself a common enough name, so you can see where someone could make the mistake (like Louis/Lewis). Sure, they got "Nagurski" right; they probably triple-checked that one just to make sure.

Yes, there are times when black people are treated disrespectfully or unfairly because of the color of their skin. But this is not one of those times.

I get tired of supposed "leaders" and "spokesman" of the black community wasting everyone's time on piddly non-factors such as this. Haven't they heard the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"? If they insist on making a mountain out of these molehills, they shouldn't be surprised if no one listens when they have a real problem to complain about.

I read the paper everyday, but I can't remember the last time El-Kati appeared in print pointing out that MOST black babies are born out of wedlock; or decried the high drop-out rate of black students; or bemoaned how many young black men ruin their lives by turning to a life of crime. Those are real problems facing the black community.

Instead, I'm supposed to get all worked up that a misspelled name is keeping the black man down.

Well, I don't buy it. I'm tired of being black being a built-in excuse, and serving as an always-ready chip on the shoulder. This blunder by the U has nothing to do with race.

Get over it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Encore: Locke on Religion I
About a month ago, I posted a response to an earlier Deborah Locke column on church/state. (Commentary on a new Locke column appears immedately below.) Responding to encouragement from several respected readers, I reworked that post into an opinion column to submit to the Pioneer Press.

Alas, the paper declined to publish it. But here it is for you to read. You may be interested in comparing it to my original post, to see how I tempered my original, teed-off post into an editorial for general consumption in the mainstream media.


Mr. Liberal, Tear Down that Wall!

For decades, those on the political left have repeatedly instructed me as to these two facts:

1. You can't legislate morality.

2. There must be a wall of separation between church and state.

So imagine my surprise when I read Deborah Locke's July 14 column. Locke is pleased as punch at what she sees as the influence on this year's state budget by religious leaders who called for more spending on social services, along with higher taxes.

Referring to comments from the Rev. Stephen Adrian, talking about a church-led anti-poverty campaign, Locke writes: "People had to wrestle with the fact that a state budget is more than bound pages of numbers in columns. It's also a moral document, he said."

A moral document? Does Locke really believe the state budget is about imposing religious morality on the people of the state? That's quite a reversal from the usual position of liberals. I thought that when it came to religion and morality -- in issues such as abortion or marriage, for instance -- we were supposed to respect that all-important "wall of separation." What happened to that principle?

Locke writes that the Rev. Adrian has some complaints about the new budget: "He is especially incensed that no additional money was provided for a state child-care program, which was drastically cut with the last legislative session. Steep co-pays make it difficult for parents to buy quality child care. His parishioners who removed their children from the church's child-care program because of those increases will not be returning anytime soon."

Isn't there a conflict of interest here? The Rev. Adrian is unhappy that the state hasn't budgeted more child-care money -- money which would go to his church. And Locke seems sympathetic. Can we assume then that vouchers enabling low-income families to attend church-run schools would be okay with the Rev. Adrian and Locke? Or does such parental choice for K-12 education, in contrast to preschool care, violate the "separation of church and state?"

But here's the scariest part of Locke's column: She also writes about comments from Nancy Maeker, an ordained minister and bishop's associate for the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In Locke's words: "Maeker believes that more people should read the Bible for its message about people living in poverty. Don't be concerned with other issues in there, she said. See what God suggests about care for poor people and then get involved with the election process."

That's quite a statement: Focus on just a single political issue, ignoring the rest of the Bible and reading just the parts that support your political view, then try to get your candidates elected, so they can implement your personal Biblical viewpoint.

So, when pro-lifers focus only on parts of the Bible that support their cause, and then get involved in the election process, I guess we should expect liberals like Locke to say, "More power to you!"

Don't hold your breath on that one. Instead we hear, "Don't impose your religion on me!"

Talk about your double standards.

If we took the passages that I have excerpted from Locke's column, and turned them around so that they were coming from conservative religious leaders, who wanted to implement their particular conservative religious/political agenda via the state government, liberals would have a fit. Until now, liberals have acted as though anyone with religious beliefs was pretty much disqualified from having any say in public policy.

But apparently, the "progressive" mind is much more nuanced than my knuckle-dragging conservative mind. Because it appears that I am being asked to consider it wonderful when church officials -- actual church officials -- direct government policy. Meanwhile, if lay people merely go to the polls and elect representatives and a President who share their values and world view, we're warned that we're creating a "theocracy."

I'm not saying caring for the poor isn't Biblical. And I do believe religious people -- and their leaders -- should speak out about how society cares for the poor. But whether conservative or liberal, religious people should also be allowed a voice in other public policy issues.

No more double standards.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Locke Attempts Another Religious Discussion
In today's St. Paul Pioneer Press, liberal editorial writer Deborah Locke takes another stab at writing about the relationship between church and state. (Good when religion is used to support her liberal politics.)

Locke writes about her chat with state Sen. Dean Johnson, an ordained minister in the ELCA. While Locke and Johnson may make some valid -- though exaggerated -- criticisms of those evil, religious Republicans, they really miss the point.

Locke's and Johnson's thoughts reveal a clear schism in the way people look at the concept of helping people, or we could say, loving your neighbor as yourself. (Of course, as open-minded, tolerant liberals, Locke and Johnson judge anyone who disagrees with them to be wrong and evil, with selfishness and malice in their hearts.)

Here's a key excerpt from the column:

"Johnson's ideas about community blend well with Bill McKibben's from the 'Christian Paradox' essay in Harper's. There McKibben expresses a fear of the sprawling megachurches of the new exurbs that overlook the radical notions of Christ like loving your neighbor as yourself, the distant neighbors who are poor and weak. Dominant theologies undercut Jesus and in the end, silence him, McKibben wrote.

"'In fact, the soft focus consumer gospel of the suburban megachurches is a perfect match for emergent conservative economic notions about personal responsibility instead of collective action,' he wrote."

Clearly, while they don't shy away from pretending to, Locke and McKibben don't understand the minds of their perceived adversaries. Personal responsibility is not about "I" or "me" or about being selfish. Teaching personal responsibility -- hand-in-hand with the "ownership society" -- is all about helping people. It's all about helping people with genuine, long-term help.

It's as simple as the old saying, "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll never go hungry."

Liberals are always insisting that we "invest" in education and social programs that they claim will save the taxpayers money in the long run. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. Why can't they see that teaching people to straighten up and fly right, and take responsibility for themselves, is the same concept?

I want to help people. I just don't think a lifetime of handouts should be the first option. The first option should be helping people to help themselves.

But I don't think that Locke, Johnson, and McKibben are evil, or that they don't sincerely want to help people, just because they endorse a different strategy than I do. I truly believe they sincerely want to help people. I just happen to think their strategy is not the best one. I think they are mistaken, but I don't feel the need to deem them selfish or condemn my interpretation of their motivation.

So, who is it that's being hateful, intolerant, closed-minded and judgmental?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Puritanism? McCarthyism? Witch Hunt? There's No Hypocrite Like a Liberal Hypocrite
Read this Kenneth L. Woodward piece in the Wall Street Journal for an interesting -- and detailed -- look at the issue of Indian mascots and the NCAA's recent anti-Indian mascot edict. (Registration may be required.)

It's the details that reveal the hypocrisy. While I'm sympathetic when it comes to the issue of truly disrespectful mascots (which are few and far between), this column reveals the far-reaching witch hunt hypocrisy of the true believers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Mother Can Beat Up Your Mother
This summer, in reports of an incident of casualties in Iraq, I noticed that the media couldn't help but report that some WOMEN soldiers had been killed. I wondered, why point that out? Do they otherwise say things like, "Two men soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb today"? No, of course not. So, in this modern age, if women are equal, why point out that these soldiers were women? Isn't that like calling a female neurosurgeon a "lady doctor"? I thought that was sexist. So just like we shouldn't act surprised and point it out when a surgeon is female, we shouldn't act surprised and point it out when a soldier is female.

But the truth is, we do think it's different when the soldier is a women. We still aren't comfortable with the idea of women (mothers) in combat.

The push for more women in the military came during a time when we had forgotten what the military is for. For a time post-Vietnam, we forgot that the military is about killing and dying. Our peace-time military became seen by many as a "benefit" -- a way of seeing the world, gaining experience, getting training, or earning money for education.

Well, if serving in the military is a benefit, then women wanted in, too. It was "unfair" not to make this "government benefit" available to women, too.

We forgot about the killing. And we especially forgot about the dying.

I see a parallel to what I have written in the past about marriage: That we've stopped seeing marriage as an obligation to society, and begun seeing it only as a "benefit" bestowed upon people by the government. With marriage as a "government benefit," it becomes "unfair" not to have same-gender marriages.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Well of Course Reserve Recruiting is Down
I heard a radio news report today that the Army hit 109% of its recruiting goal for July. But as consolation for this "disappointment," the mainstream media reporter (ABC) immediately pointed out that the Guard and Reserve continue falling short of their targets.

Well, duh!

With so many people activated at this time, signing up for the Guard or Reserve now may be pretty much the same as signing up for active duty. If active duty is what a person wants, he or she might just as well sign up for active duty. That's going to mean fewer Guard and Reserve candidates. When the Iraq War is won, and citizen soldiers go back to being full-time citizens, and only part-time soldiers again, Guard and Reserve recruiting will pick up again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Forget Tolerance, That's MY Ox We're Talking About!
These days, liberals like to call themselves "progressive." They're for progress. That means change. That means they think what's new is better.

Conservatives, on the other hand, like to keep things the way they are. They don't want change.

Finally, a reactionary is said to be someone who opposes a "progressive" agenda, but doesn't want things to stay the same, either. A reactionary wants to go back to the way things USED TO BE.

But people are imperfect creatures. OK, no surprise there. I write this in response to my reading of a recent "Highland Villager" newspaper, which alerted me to just how inconsistent people can be. In particular, it showed me how so-called "progressives" are anything but, when it's their own ox that's getting gored.

As I read this particular issue of my neighborhood newspaper, a theme jumped out at me. People who would consider themselves "progressive," tolerant and open-minded could repeatedly be seen trying to block change, and tell other people what they could or could not do.

There were stories about people trying to prevent other people from adding on to their houses. "It might bother me if I had to look at that! It will change my view!"

There was a story about neighbors trying to prevent a successful restaurant from expanding its bar service. "It might bother us!"

There were stories about retail development on Grand Avenue. Grand Avenue was once a run down, off-the-beaten-path street, that had outlived its glory days. As a low-rent location, it began to attract one-of-a-kind, independently-owned businesses. But over the years, it became yuppified and upscale. Now, national retailers have taken notice, and they want to locate on Grand. "No chains!" is the cry from the Grand Avenue faithful, in letters-to-the editor and news stories.

What? Isn't that progress? Aren't chains the modern way? But the "progressives" want to hold onto the past. They seem almost reactionary, trying to hang onto a Grand Avenue that no longer exists.

Conservatives are often criticized for trying to hang onto a "Norman Rockwell's America," that "no longer exists, if it ever did." But when it comes to Grand Avenue, it's the "progressives" who wear the rose-colored glasses.

One progressive-reactionary even aired her grievances in a guest editorial. Jada Breuer whined about her efforts to lease Grand Avenue space for a start-up business. She thought it unfair that property owners rejected her -- a first-time business owner with an untested concept -- in favor of established businesses with a successful track record. She complained that "commercial spaces were going to the highest bidders, with little consideration for what the people in the neighborhood actually need or want." Shame on those property owners, wanting to get market rate for their property! I hope when Breuer does open her store, Karma, she applies the same standard to herself. She'd better not sell people what they really want and are willing to pay the going rate to get. Rather, she'd better only sell what SHE THINKS people want and need, and she'd better charge them only what they want to pay.

Breuer goes on: "It seems that the property managers on Grand are not even considering what the people living in the area might actually need or want. If you can pay their exorbitant lease rates, they don't care who you are or what you're selling."

That's right, lady. And why should they care what you are selling? The customers of property managers are the retailers. The property managers sell (lease) their product -- space -- to retailers who want it. It's up to those retailers to ultimately judge what people will buy on Grand Avenue. The role of property managers is to choose who can best pay the rent; not to choose the mix of products offered for sale.

This woman has very little understanding of business. I doubt that her store designed to "cater to the lifestyles of young women" will be much of a success.

She wants to have it both ways. She wants to be on Grand Avenue, because of its high customer traffic, but she doesn't want to pay Grand Avenue rent. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Chaplain Writes from Iraq
Here's a report from Iraq, from a chaplain's perspective. It appears in "The Evangel," the publication of The American Association of Lutheran Churches. You can read it in PDF form at http://www.taalc.com/images/evangel124.pdf

Monday, August 8, 2005

Taxing People to Hell
We have a long-standing practice of not taxing churches in this country. The idea behind that is that the power to tax is the power to regulate, and Americans believe in keeping the government's hands off of churches.

But now, in our "freedom FROM religion" society, there are those who get this backward. They argue that not taxing churches is in fact a government SUBSIDY of religion! Thus, they say, we must start taxing churches.

Let me give you a little example of what can happen when government taxes churches. This is an excerpt from an e-mail message from Fred and Sandy Hall, friends from church who are traveling in formerly-Communist Europe this summer, doing Christian education and mission work. Here's an update from Latvia, which spent half a century as a Soviet province:

"The Rundale Palace, built by German nobility in 1736, is the most significant in Latvia. Along with its 40 sumptuously decorated rooms that were restored after it was used as a granary in 1945, is an exhibit called, 'The Time of Misery.' It's a large display of treasures from Lutheran churches that were taken to the palace for safekeeping. They managed to get the palace designated as a cultural repository and the art in the churches categorized as cultural heritage and thus saved things from churches that were destroyed. Sadly, most of the items were already damaged: missing limbs from statues, an angel without a wing, rusty and bent decorative hinges, a weathercock with missing parts. Pictures of hundreds of damaged churches were displayed describing each one's fate.

"To start with, the Communists taxed the congregations out of existence. When the church members could no longer pay the taxes they had to abandon the buildings. The buildings were then turned into warehouses, residences, offices, theaters, and even a billiards hall with the toilets where the altar had been. Bells and organ pipes were melted down for the metal. About one small church the caption read, 'The wooden cross was sawed off and it became a granary.' In another place the people burned down their own church rather than let it fall into the hands of their enemy. In the most beautiful cathedrals the pews were turned around to face the organ in the back and they became concert halls. This display was just overwhelming and yet it covered only the Lutheran churches in this area of Latvia. The same thing happened throughout the Soviet Empire to all churches. And this display was only about church buildings. The clergy and church leaders were also brutalized."

Sadly, "progressive" Americans who advocate taxing churches would shed no tears if America's churches met the same fate.

Monday, August 8, 2005

What Do Conservatives Think? Let's Ask a Liberal
Do the luminaries of the Mainstream Media really believe the caricature they paint of conservatives/Republicans? More important, do conservatives/Republicans believe it?

I ask this after reading a news story titled "Roberts details not swaying partisans."

The story tells us that as a private lawyer, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts:

"...represented homeless Washingtonians who had lost their government benefits because of city budget cuts.

"...advocated environmental protections for Lake Tahoe, Glacier Bay and the Grand Canyon.

"...spent 25 hours assisting a convicted murderer with a death penalty appeal.

"...even helped gay-rights activists win a landmark Supreme Court anti-discrimination case."

(EVEN helped gay-rights activists? Isn't that editorializing?)

This seems to suggest that, to the liberal media at least, it's a great shock whenever a conservative or a Republican DOES NOT want to fill the Grand Canyon with a crude oil spill, DOES NOT want all the homeless to starve, DOES NOT want to fry every suspect without benefit of legal counsel, and DOES NOT round up all the gays and lynch them.

Yes, these are issues that often reveal the liberal/conservative divide, but that divide is not at the extreme point I've just described.

However, the liberal media act as though it were.

And sometimes conservatives fall into their trap. Liberals are not the only ones capable of knee-jerk reaction. Too often, conservatives will automatically oppose any environmental initiative, for instance, because they've been conditioned to think that's what they are supposed to do. If liberals are for it, they reason, it must be wrong. Not necessarily. Isn't it possible there could good ideas that everyone could get behind, especially if some compromise is involved? (And, of course, this goes the other way across the aisle, as well.)

But I digress.

The headline on the Roberts story is misleading, because the story does not in fact address the "details" of Roberts' legal history. The details would be the particular CASE,S the particular ISSUES, the particular PRINCIPLES involved in Roberts' work. For instance, take the gay-rights activists that he "even" advocated for. If the case was in support of same-gender marriage, then many conservatives might take issue. But if Roberts argued that gays should be able to sit at the front of the bus, like anyone else, that's a whole different story.

Unfortunately, the reporters behind this story don't think it's necessary to explain what the cases were, they just wave the red flags of environmentalism, gay-rights, capital punishment, and "homelessness," and hope they can entice some conservatives to charge.

It never ceases to amaze me the way the Mainstream Media talk about conservatives (this goes for the way they talk about Christians, too). They talk like we're not in the room. Like we're not real people, who are going to read about ourselves in their stories in the paper. In a way, they seem like anthropologists describing some primitive culture, or some primatologist studying chimps: "How will the conservatives react to this unexpected information? Let's watch." It's scary that they think they can tell everyone what conservatives think; that they think they can get inside our heads and our hearts. Here's a radical idea, Mainstream Media: Ask conservatives what they think; don't just tell us what YOU think conservatives think.

This also ties into the way that the liberal, Mainstream Media continue to define the terms of the discussion. Conservatives have to watch out, and not get sucked into it.

For instance, I recently heard a conservative talk radio host playing right into their hands. He was saying he didn't think something was unconstitutional, because he didn't think it crossed the "wall of separation between church and state."

Those words do not exist in the Constitution. Not at all. The familiar phrase "wall of separation" is just one person's interpretation of the First Amendment. It may be a useful thought for philosophical discussion, but it is not the law of the land.

But the radio host got sucked in. He substituted "wall of separation" for the actual First Amendment, and starting playing by the liberals' rules. That put him at a huge disadvantage. (I e-mailed him and he got back on track.)

Then just last week, I heard the same radio host talking about searches of subway riders. The host said that we need to search people who look like potential terrorists, not just random riders. A liberal caller tried to nail him with a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question: "So then you are for racial profiling?"

The host almost got suckered in. But he caught himself just in time, and said, "No, I'm not for RACIAL profiling, I'm for BAD GUY profiling. Search the riders who look like bad guys, whatever race they might be."

And that's the way it should be done. Profile based on who looks like a possible terrorist. No one is talking about "racial profiling" -- except the liberals, who want to wave that red flag and distract us from the real issue.

I've got to ask, if someone (a liberal) assumes that searching only those who look like terrorists is equal to searching only those of a certain race, now who's being racist?

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Anarchy at the County Fair
My little ones are getting bigger. Last night at the Pine County Fair, they were whipping around on a very fast carnival ride, accompanied by the music(?) of Motley Crue and the Sex Pistols. Now that's a rockin' ride.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Birth Certificate Precedent
In my previous post, I commented on the desire of same-gender couples to have "parent A" and "parent B" put on their child's birth certificate, rather than the traditional "mother" and "father." It sounded ludicrous at first, but then I wondered whether there might in fact be a precedent for putting the names of non-biological parents on a child's birth certificate.

Indeed there is.

I heard from an adoptee who explained that the when an adoption is completed, a new birth certificate is written up for the child, bearing the names of the adoptive parents. That birth certificate is then treated as the official, public record of the child's birth. The original birth certificate then becomes a sealed record.

There is no "asterisk" or notation on the new birth certificate that would tell the child, or anyone else, that the parents listed are not in fact the child's biological parents.

Considering this precedent, listing two parents of the same gender no longer seems so strange. Yes, it may be doctoring the truth, but so is what we do to the birth certificate of an adoptee. The only difference is that with two men or two women listed, it will be immediately apparent to anyone looking at the birth certificate that there is more to the story. But on the other hand, it will also be likely that one of the names listed is in fact a biological parent, so that would make the same-gender-parent birth certificate actually more biologically "truthful" than the birth certificate that lists mixed-gender, adoptive parents.

Ironic, no?

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Messing with the Truth
Here's a really interesting piece from Orlando Sentinel columnist Kathleen Parker. Parker writes that the slide down the slippery slope has begun in Massachusetts, now that the home of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry has legalized same-sex marriage:

"The slippery slope that wasn't supposed to happen once same-sex marriage was granted is making Everest jealous.

"In Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney has been butting heads with same-sex couples over birth certificates for their newborns. I'll give you a minute to wrap your mind around that concept.

"The problem is that birth certificates are currently written to reflect archaic notions of procreation, that is, involving a mother and father. Thus, gay and lesbian parents have asked the state to replace 'mother' and 'father' with Parent A and Parent B."

Isn't a birth certificate supposed to be a public record of fact, recording the actual bloodline of the baby? I thought so. But this raises lots of other questions, as well. In other ways, we've been dealing with complicated birth certificates forever.

I know that the parents listed on a birth certificate haven't always been biologically correct. While it's pretty obvious to the doctor who the mother is, the person filling out the birth certificate has to rely on the word of the mother as to who the father is. And when a woman is married, the father is assumed to be the husband of the mother, regardless of whether that is really the truth.

But what about when there has been a sperm donor, and even the husband knows he's not (biologically) responsible? Does his name still go on the birth certificate? And what of the case of children being given up for adoption? We hear of adopted children having to search for their biological parents, so obviously it isn't as easy as going down to the courthouse and seeing whose names are on your birth certificate. Are those birth certificates not filled out? Or are they filled out with the names of the biological parents, then sealed away?

Lots of questions. If you have any answers, let me know, and I'll share your information with everyone else.

Parker also has some comments about the way we've come to view children in our society. To many, they're just another acquisition; something to get because you've already go the Beemer and the lake home, and everyone else in your aging Boomer circle is getting one. That's what I call the Trophy Child. Parker writes:

"As long as children are viewed as mere extensions of ourselves, put here to satisfy some narcissistic need for self-actualization, it is easy to suppose that our needs and their needs are complementary. If same-sex marriage is what 'I' need, then two same-sex parents are what 'my' child needs.

"What we know but the courts apparently choose to ignore is that identity and selfhood are rooted, in part, in our biological origins. Adopted children seek out biological parents in their quest for identity. Genealogical organizations do a brisk business. 'Who am I?' keeps psychotherapists in new Volvos."

Very interesting question are being raised, and we need to come up with the right answers. I encourage you to read the full column.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Sure, Blame the Bovines. But What About the Burritos?
Cows and their peculiar digestive habits are being blamed for air pollution in California's San Joaquin Valley.

"California's San Joaquin Valley for some time has had the dirtiest air in the country. Now officials say gases from ruminating dairy cows, not smoky exhaust from cars, are the region's biggest single source of a chief smog-forming pollutant."

"'We are talking about a public health crisis,' said Brent Newell, an attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. 'It's not funny to joke about cow burps and farts when one in six children in Fresno schools is carrying an inhaler.'"

OK, but consider this: There's an awfully lot of Mexican food getting eaten in California. Don't humans deserve some of the blame, too?

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

A Diversion
Here's a little diversion. This animation would be mesmerizing even if the woman wasn't wearing a bikini! You can grab her with your cursor (hold down the mouse button) and swing her through the air. Let me know if she ever reaches bottom.

Monday, August 1, 2005

"Single" Not What It Used to Be
A sure sign of the diminished standing of marriage in our society is the way that relationship terminology is being twisted. These days, I hear young people say they are "single," and what they mean is that they aren't dating anyone. Also, I hear people say "my ex," and what they mean is someone they used to date, not someone they were married to.

You know, I'm really not that old yet, but I can remember when a man and woman living together without being married was considered shocking. Since then, we've actually "progressed" past the point of living together as a long-term substitute for marriage, and now living together seems to be, for many, a substitute for dating. I see couples moving in together at younger and younger ages, seemingly as the normal course of events. But they aren't moving in together with all the expectations of marriage, short of the legal contract. Rather, they're just moving in together as part of the dating process. There isn't any expectation of permanence.

Of course, in these situations, the couple may find they have differing expectations. Typically it's the young woman who starts looking for a "commitment." They young man wonders, "Why? What's in it for me? I'm already getting everything I want now."

Used to be, the young woman demanded a commitment before she became a man's lover and housekeeper. Guess we're so much wiser these days, eh? Don't need that old wisdom anymore. Imagine, mothers used to tell their daughters, "He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free." How foolish of them. We modern types know so much better, don't we?

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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