archives: August -- September 2006

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


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Friday, September 29, 2006

"Vision" Good; "Beliefs" Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nice Lear Jet, Father

Two Florida priests are accused of stealing millions of dollars:

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

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

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Linkage of Islamism and Nazism

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rise of the Fourth Reich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bluegrass Concert Friday Night

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How Dumb Are People?

Pretty dumb.

How dumb are Democrats?

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

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

How dumb is the U.S. press?

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

How dumb are Middle Eastern terrorists?

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

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another Take on Klobuchar Ad Theft

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

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Utopia Doesn't Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they don't. And they never will.

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2006

Amy Klobuchar, a Virgin, and the Devil

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

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

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

So was what he did wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you imagine that!

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

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

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

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

Hello, anyone home?

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

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

There was a man in the jungle

Trying to make ends meet.

Found himself one day with an axe in his hand.

When a voice said "Buddy can you spare that tree

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

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

Doing 3 to the gallon in a big white car.

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Watch Your Tongue... All the Time

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


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

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


10. Black Sideburns

9. Roger the Reconciler

8. Black-Eyed Susan

7. Yellow Soul Patch

6. Matt the Mensch

5. Red Comb-Over

4. Mary Kay the Pink

3. St. Francis of the Sea See

2. Salt & Pepper Beard

1. Peachfuzz the Pirate

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dependent on the Kindness of Capitalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

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

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

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

That time has come.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Patriot Day! Some Recommended Readings

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Discretion May Be the Better Part of Progress

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

This topic makes me think of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about that one!

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

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Guest Post from Michelle Young: Hard Work and Saving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2006

Afghanistan Flip-Flop in the Offing?

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2006

Simple Solutions Ignored by "Modern" World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aha! Sex!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really is that simple.

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Immigrants, Slaves, and Unintended Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

There are always consequences.

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

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

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

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

Unintended consequences.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

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

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

C'mon. That can't be true!

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

What, Did You Think Jesus Was Adopted or Something?

News from the Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Down (with) the Hatch

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

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

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

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

Way to go, Mike!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The American Dream: Land or Wages?

I had a Philo T. Farnsworth moment last weekend. Remember Philo? I wrote about him August 19, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Philo was the 27-year-old Idaho farm boy who invented television in 1927. (Too bad they never made a movie about Philo, while Jimmy Stewart was still around to play him.)

Legend has it that Philo found inspiration in the potato field he was plowing. Supposedly, Philo looked at how the back-and-forth plowing he was doing eventually filled the field with rows of furrows, and he realized that he could create an electronic image by scanning rows of electrons. Voila! TV as we know it was created.

My inspiration came Saturday morning as I was cutting hay on the family farm. The field I was working is some of the higher ground on the farm, and it afforded me a good view from my perch on the tractor (I wonder whether Philo was using a tractor or horses?). I looked out over the land now owned by my father and farmed by my younger brother, two adjacent farms owned by my dad's cousin, and considered that the farm of my dad's late uncle (still in the family, though not sure exactly who owns it) is on the other side of that. I also thought about how my dad has another piece of property nearby, my older brother has a farm only about a mile away, and although another nearby farm is no longer in the family, it was for decades after my great-grandfather purchased the land and cleared it to build a farm for another of his sons.

I realized that the Downing family counted as a group might be about the biggest private landowner in Royalton Township. Maybe in all of Pine County.

And I wondered what my great-great-grandfather would think about that.

He's the chap whose trail I followed on my trip to England last year. I visited the little cottage where he and his wife Maria raised their 13 children. Several of his sons left England a century ago to make a future across the sea. In the U.S., Canada, Australia.

Mostly, they sought to own land.

Because that wasn't a realistic option for William in the Cornwall, England, he lived in. The land was owned by a small group of wealthy people. He could work their land for them, but owning his own land was out of reach. You've heard of the "landed gentry"? That's what we're talking about. It was still almost a feudal system.

So his sons set out in search of land of their own. My great-grandfather left for America in 1906, and bought the Downing home farm not long after. All those other farms I described are owned by his descendants.

It's a rather impressive testament to the idea of the "land of opportunity" to which immigrants came.

Of course, there's nothing unusual about that. The desire to own land was a primary force driving immigration. In Europe, the land was owned by the gentry, or family farms became smaller and smaller as they were split amongst heirs, or perhaps the eldest son would inherit the farm, leaving the others out-of-luck. America and other destinations beckoned with their promises of abundant land -- sometimes free for the taking if you could homestead it!

So the desire to own land was one force driving immigration. But I immediately identified another:

Jobs. Work for wages. Work for someone else.

And that's when I had my moment of Philo-like inspiration.

I realized that historical, European immigrants might be lumped into these two groups, and their legacy is still with us.

The descendants of those who came for land tend to vote Republican. The descendants of those who came for wages tend to vote Democrat.

Of course it's not 100 percent that way. But just take a look at the state of Minnesota:

In a large, "L"-shaped swath along the western and southern borders of the state -- some of the best farmland to be found anywhere in the world -- there is a history of Republican success.

But in the major cities, where people came to work in factories, Democrats dominate. And take a look at Minnesota's Iron Range. No place is more faithful to the Democratic Party than this region, populated by the descendants of people who came from all over Europe -- Finland to Italy, Poland to Serbia -- to seek work in the mines.

As a matter of fact, while some of William Downing's sons left England to seek farmland of their own, another went to Minnesota's Iron Range, while another went to the lead mining area of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. (Tin mining used to be the staple of Cornwall's economy, and skilled Cornish miners were in demand to work the newly-discovered mineral deposits of the Americas. They brought the famous "Cornish pasty" with them.)

Why did some immigrants seek land while others sought wages? I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but at the heart of the matter, I'd say personal philosophy and outlook has a lot to do with it. The immigrant seeking land wanted opportunity and autonomy. The immigrant seeking wages wanted economic security in the form of someone who would take care of him and his family. Both are reasonable goals.

But if you think about it, those differing philosophies are representative of the difference between modern-day Democrats and Republicans.

Look around the nation as a whole. Consider the "red states" and "blue states." Democrats do well in the urban, traditionally industrial states. Republicans do well in the wide-open spaces.

It may not be perfect -- it doesn't hold true for every individual -- but it's certainly something to think about. Maybe rather than "red states" and "blue states," we should talk about "land states" and "wage states."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

People...Who Are Wealthy Liberals...Are the Luckiest People

Bush-basher and Democrat-bankroller Barbra Streisand is coming to St. Paul!

Fans will be able to see Babs in concert for the low, low price of $451.75. Well, there will be "cheap seats," too, at $251.75, $151.75, and $86.75.

The $451.75 seats in St. Paul sound like a "bargain," compared to other cities where top prices are reportedly $700.

I wonder, who exactly does Babs expect to buy these tickets? Which of the "two Americas" will supply the fans? Will the seats be full of the rich Republicans Babs hates? Or will those pricey tickets be purchased by the liberal Democrats and "working people" who are being "left behind" by the economy, don't earn a "living wage," and can't afford health care?

Babs reportedly "has pledged to donate millions of dollars in proceeds from the tour to environmental, education and women's health organizations."

Hmmm. Sounds like she's "taxing" people to pay for her own social agenda. The question becomes, is she taxing "the rich," or the "working people"?

(Frankly, I wouldn't go see Barbra Streisand if the show was free and she had no political agenda. I don't understand what the attraction is.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Believe Your Own Eyes

I was at a community festival this summer and a pro-life group had a booth. They had one of those displays with the life-sized examples of the stages of fetal development. Looking at that, it's hard to deny that a fetus is a baby.

Is the representation accurate? I don't know. But if it's not, why didn't the pro-abortion group at the same festival have their own version, showing that a fetus is just a "piece of tissue"? Then they could demonstrate to us that it's not really a baby. Are they afraid of the truth?

I must have been about 14 by the time I learned what abortion was. I was appalled. I didn't learn from a church group or my parents. No one told me that it was wrong. I just read about it one day in the newspaper and could hardly believe such a thing was done. (This was only a few years after Roe v. Wade.)

Nonetheless, I heard such a pro-abortion drone over the years from the media and the "educated" people that I started to doubt my own instincts. I began to think that maybe I was being too rigid in my thinking.

Then, I saw one of those fetal development displays. As I moved along and looked at progressive examples of prenatal development, I reached a point where I thought, "This one's about to pop!" But I looked at the label and saw it was only the fifth month!

Where did I see this exhibit? Was it put on display by some wacky, right-wing group that wanted to impose its religion on others and take away women's reproductive rights? Hardly. It was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

That strengthened my resolve.

Nonetheless, this serves as an example of how the constant drone from the "educated" liberals and their allies in the mainstream media can wear a person down. Remember, the Nazis knew that a lie repeated over and over becomes the "truth."

Here's another example: I intuitively knew that the Iron Curtain was bad. Communism was bad. Soviet rule of Eastern Europe was bad. But over and over, I heard from the "intellectual" left and their minions that Ronald Reagan was a warmonger, that the people of Eastern Europe were happy living in their communist "workers' paradise," and we shouldn't try to impose our ways on them.

So two decades ago, my resolve began to weaken. I had doubts. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I needed to accept that a communist Eastern Europe was the New World Order, and that was OK. Maybe the "educated" lefties were right after all.

Then, the people of Eastern Europe rose up and the the Berlin Wall toppled practically overnight.

Ronald Reagan was right. I was right. The "educated" people were wrong.

I use these examples to remind me not to just go with the "conventional wisdom," but to trust my own instincts. I must stand up for what I know to be right and true, regardless of what "educated" people say.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Current Conditions

Just unpacked a new Paper Mate "Flair" felt-tipped pen that I bought today. It's replacing one I've been using for years. I held the old pen and the new pen side-by-side, and was surprised to see that the new pen seemed identical to the old one. Then I noticed something different. Where there was some sort of marking on the metal clip of the old pen, the new pen was smooth. Looking very closely, I deciphered "USA." Sure enough, I checked the package. The new pen was made in Mexico.

These days, even if the product doesn't change, where it's made does.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Good Old Days of Nuclear Annihilation

Remember the "Good Old Days" of the Cold War and Mutually-Assured Destruction, when some people insisted we were headed toward certain nuclear annihilation?

Remember how they told us President Reagan was a warmonger who would get us all killed?

Remember how we were headed toward the Battle of Armageddon in the Middle East -- an ultimate Cold War showdown with the U.S. aligned with Israel and the Soviets aligned with the Arab states?

Remember how those days passed without any of it happening?

Now, the Cold War is over, and the world is a far more dangerous place. During the Cold War era, the world was divided into two camps. Almost every nation could be identified as an ally or client of either the U.S. or the USSR. Everyone depended on one of the Superpowers to defend them, and at the same time the Superpowers kept the other nations on a short leash. North Korea and Iran might have thumbed their noses at the U.S., but Moscow kept them from doing anything really stupid, anything that might have drawn the U.S. and the USSR into a shooting war, not just a "cold" one.

Well, guess what? Now that the Cold War is over, the threat of a nuclear Armageddon in the Mideast is greater than ever. Iran is run by lunatic fanatics with money and a desire for nuclear weapons. We've just seen how they used their proxies in Lebanon to battle Israel. When Iran gets nuclear weapons, are you sure they won't give them to Hezzbollah to use against Israel?

Ironic, isn't it? Ending the Cold War has destabilized the world and raised the prospect of nuclear war.

Or maybe it's not ironic at all. Maybe reasonable people could understand this is how it would work. Maybe reasonable people understood what President Reagan meant when he called missiles "peacemakers." Maybe reasonable people thought the movie "The Day After" was a load of bull, and didn't bother to watch it. (Me, for example.)

Only those other people should be surprised. The ones who hated Reagan. The ones who now hate Bush. The ones who told us that people were happy in their "workers' paradise" in Eastern Europe, and President Reagan should not have said something as hostile as "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Remember their track record, when they tell us how Bush is wrong about everything, and how Iraq is headed toward civil war, and we should leave immediately. Remember their track record when they say, "They only hate us because our troops are in their homeland!" (Completely ignoring the question of, Then why did they hate us on Sept. 11, 2001? Or in 1993, THE FIRST TIME they tried to blow up the World Trade Center.) Have they ever been right about these things?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just a Piece of (Green) Paper

Something to think about: It seems to me that the group of people most adamant that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, because marriage is very important -- a fundamental human right, even -- is the same group of people that spent the last three decades telling us that marriage is an outdated concept, that people don't need to get married, that two people can simply live together without marriage.

They said marriage was "just a piece of paper."

Turns out that "piece of paper" is green. Yes, many of the reasons put forward in favor of creating a same-sex marriage concern finances and legal issues.

I say, let's see if we can address those concerns in a practical way, and then we can leave marriage alone.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Philo!

According to a story in the paper, today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Philo T. Farnsworth.

Who's he?

A man who deserves a big place in the history books. And who deserved to be rich.

Philo T. Farnsworth invented a technology even more popular and pervasive than even the Windows operating system or Microsoft Word. Yet, Bill Gates -- who mainly has used others' ideas -- is the world's richest man, while few even recognize the name Philo T. Farnsworth. And Gate's empire depends on Philo's concept!

What did Philo invent?

Something you probably use just about every day. Something that changed life and culture forever.

Philo T. Farnsworth invented television. On Sept. 7, 1927, the 21-year-old inventor transmitted the first electronic television signal.

Read more about youthful genius Philo T. Farnsworth and how he never got his due.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bush-hating Strib Editorialists Echo the President

This is almost surreal.

North Minneapolis is beset with crime. It's largely black-on-black crime. Including murder.

But when the mayor and police department try to do something about it, many of the residents of the area act like those officials are the problem, rather than the bad guys who are terrorizing the neighborhood.

The parallels to what U.S. forces face in Iraq are stunning.

This StarTribune editorial is just too much. There are so many phrases in here that sound like they could be talking about Iraq, but they are talking about Minneapolis!

The most ironic part is when the Bush-hating Strib editorialists write,

"It's time to choose sides. It's time to recognize that the few activists who rudely shouted down the mayor and police chief on West Broadway last week might as well be on the side of the criminals."

Don't they remember how the President has been criticized for saying, "You're either with us or against us"?

The Strib editorial board sounding like President Bush. Now I've heard it all.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

DActions Speak More Loudly

A letter to the editor said that if someone supports the war in Iraq, then that person should enlist in the military.

That's easy for someone to say. It lets them feel all smug and self-righteous. "I told him!"

But is the letter writer ready to extend his reasoning to other issues? Should no one be allowed to have an opinion about something unless he or she fully commits his or her life to it?

For example, we could say that anyone advocating higher taxes must voluntarily send in a check to the government. Anyone wanting better care for "the homeless" must go to work in a soup kitchen. Anyone worried about the distribution of wealth must sell everything he owns and share it with others. Anyone lobbying for more education spending must send his life savings to the local school district. Anyone demanding action be taken to end world hunger must quit his job and go overseas to distribute rations.

Anyone who opposes the war in Iraq should go there and lie down in front of U.S. tanks.

How many takers do you think we'll find?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's All Relative

Or, as former Co-President Bill Clinton might say, "It depends on what your definition of 'drunk' is."

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson got himself into a heap of trouble this weak, when he was caught speeding, attempted to flee police, and got a DWI. This is particular bad for Robinson, who has a history of substance abuse and now is suspended for the season.

But I think it's interesting to note that until not too long ago, Koren Robinson's 0.09 wouldn't have been a DWI in Minnesota. The "magic number" used to be 0.10; now it's 0.08. Remember Malik Sealy of the Timberwolves basketball team? In 2000, he died in a car crash. The story as it was played was that Sealy was killed by a drunk driver. Sealy himself was considered an innocent victim, driving home from the strip club at 3:00 a.m. But Sealy himself had a blood alcohol content of 0.08! In 2006, that level would have gottened Sealy labeled legally drunk, too. How would that have affected the way the story would have been reported? Sealy would have been a "drunk driver," too. He wouldn't have been the "innocent victim" he was portrayed as.

And all because the legislature changed the numbers on a piece of paper.

I think that's a great example of "it's all relative."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Days of Future Past

We recently watched the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy with our kids. The movies are set in 1985, and include travel 30 years back to 1955, and 30 years ahead to 2015.

The movies' view of 2015 is interesting. Speaking from 2006, I have this to say: We've only got nine years to go, and those flying cars are nowhere in sight.

Can you imagine how our grandkids will guffaw -- in about 2036 -- when they see how the "good old days" of 2015 were depicted?

We've never been very good at predictions of the future. The original "Star Trek" series shows a future where people still carry around tapes to plug into the computer. And its a centralized computer, too. No one seems to have seen the decentralized nature of contemporary computing, where everyone has their own computer sitting on their desk.

You can see this in "The Desk Set," a Hepburn/Tracy movie from the 1950s. A giant, room-sized computer replaces the books used by a fact-checking department. But first, the people have to load all of that data into the giant computer. It totally misses the current, decentralized nature of information, in which the Web gives anyone, anywhere, access to a world of information. Rather than one centralized repository of information, people all over the world make available information about their specialty.

(One more thought from "Back to the Future." In the movie, the time-travelling DeLorean is modified in 2015 to run on garbage. Sounds good, right? But what if all of our efforts to "reduce, reuse, recycle" are so successful that garbage becomes rare?! If cars are running on garbage in 2015, we could face a "garbage crisis." People won't complain about the "price at the pump," they'll complaint about he "price at the dump"! People will start looking for "alternative" fuels -- like gasoline!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

MSM Drops the Ball

Blogger Charles Johnson of "Little Green Footballs" was in the news last week for exposing Reuters' use of doctored photos from Lebanon. The story I read called this Johnson's second "coup," as he was the one who pointed out two years ago that Dan Rather's "genuine" memos about President Bush's National Guard Service had been written using Microsoft Word.

This got me to thinking, Why did it take some blogger to discover something so obvious? Why didn't anyone in the Mainstream Media -- you know, the people who trash talk bloggers as not real journalists -- think to do something that in retrospect seems so obvious? Why didn't anyone at CBS News bother to compare those memos to what comes out of their own computer?

If there's one example that shows the shortcomings and bias of the Mainstream Media, and why bloggers are needed, that would have to be it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A New Look at Internment Camps

It's easy to pass judgment on the past. For example, we look at the WWII years and wonder how could the government have locked up Americans of Japanese descent? Even first-generation Japanese-American U.S. citizens!

Now, fast-forward to 2006. Great Britain battles Islamic terrorists, many of whom are British citizens! Many were born in Britain to immigrant parents.

Consider that, and maybe you'll understand better what America was thinking -- and fearing -- back in 1942. I'm not saying it was the right thing to do, but it makes a person look at the concept of internment camps in a new light. Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to rush to judgment.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Hybrid Handicap

It occurred to me the other day that hybrid cars suffer from an inherent handicap. Consider that one of the key factors in vehicle mileage is weight. Well, a hybrid must always carry around both the heavy batteries for the electrical system and a heavy gasoline engine. Whichever system is powering the car, it must also expend enough energy to drag around the weight of the redundant system.

That's an inherent inefficiency.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lynching Lieberman

Think about this: Joe Lieberman is this close (imagine my fingers very close together) to being the current vice president of the U.S., under second-term president Al Gore.

If he were the VP, the same Democrats who now want his scalp would likely be defending him whatever he did or said.

Politics is a strange game.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It's Not a Cow, Just a Piece of Bovine

It's probably not too hard to find people who are opposed to eating veal, but perfectly comfortable with abortion.

Think about that a little.

Shouldn't eating a calf be less offensive than eating a fully-grown bovine? You'd think it would be, at least to someone who reasons that abortion is OK, because the unborn baby isn't a person yet.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Afghanistan Could Have Been "Another Vietnam"

I was just reading another person who opposes the war in Iraq, but feels the need to add, "Of course I supported the invasion of Afghanistan."

That's an attempt to have it both ways. They can oppose the Iraq War and attack President Bush, but at the same time pretend that they are "tough" on terrorism, by saying they think invading Afghanistan was OK.

Sort of like the racist who says, "I don't want those people moving into my neighborhood," but denies being racist because, "I know a black guy at work."

Saying they support the war in Afghanistan -- which gets little press -- is their cover, letting them claim they're good, patriotic Americans, and not Islamafascist terrorist sympathizers.

I have no doubt that if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq, then all those people claming they support the invasion of Afghanistan but not Iraq, would instead be directing their anti-war efforts toward Afghanistan. We would be hearing that Afghanistan is a "quagmire" and "another Vietman." We'd be hearing that there aren't enough troops in Afghanistan, etc., etc.

You can count on it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Don't Touch That Dial? Then You'll Have to Learn How

The Minnesota Twins baseball team, as expected, announced last week that they are switching from long-time radio home WCCO-AM to KSTP-AM next year. This continues to upset some people, which is ridiculous.

The truth is, this radio switch will change almost nothing. It doesn't mean the announcing team changes, it doesn't mean the dozens of Twins network stations spread over several states changes. Maybe who hosts the post-game show will change, but that's about it.

I'd make this analogy: It's as though a popular mail order company announced one day that they would stop shipping with the U.S. Post Office and start shipping with UPS. It really makes no difference to the customer.

I know, someone out there is going to say, "But whether it's UPS or the Post Office, they bring it right to my door, and I don't have to do anything different. With the radio change, it means I'll have to change the dial to listen to the Twins!"

And that illustrates the "problem" right there: "I'll have to change the dial!" That person assumes that radios are "normally" set to WCCO. Setting them to anything else is unusual. But it's not an uncommon mindset among some Minnesotans, especially those of a certain age.

Truth is, right now MOST PEOPLE have to change the station to listen to the Twins. It's only those whose old Philcos are rusted on 830 who will be "inconvenienced." Some of us -- including me -- already listen to KSTP during the day. Now, I WON'T have to change the dial to listen to the Twins.

I remember a time when a majority of radios were set to WCCO at any given time. But those days are over. And the loss of 162+ Twins games a year will really show how much WCCO's listenership has dwindled.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Hitler Acted in Self-Defense?

In the process of condemning Israel and defending Islamic terrorists, Adam Shatz wrote for the Los Angeles Times:

Michael Walzer, the influential Princeton University moral philosopher and author of "Just and Unjust Wars," recently opined in the New Republic that when Arab guerrillas "launch rocket attacks from civilian areas, they are themselves responsible -- and no one else is -- for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire."

One expects this rationalization of collective punishment from a defense minister; coming from a "just war" theorist it is most odd. By this criterion, the French Resistance would have been "responsible" if the Nazis had destroyed a village sheltering anti-Fascist partisans.

Oh, I see. And I suppose Mr. Shatz thinks WWII began when the French Resistance crossed the border and kidnapped German soldiers.

Hitler did not invade France in self-defense or in response to French attacks on German soil. The German army was an unprovoked invading force with no right to attack anyone, "French Resistance" or "civilian." The Germans had no justification for even being on French soil. In contrast, Israel has every right to attack Hezbollah to defend itself.

The "French Resistance" and the French "civilians" were on the same side. The Resistance fought for the civilians, it didn't use them as human shields, the way Hezbollah does.

This is a really, really bad analogy. By Shatz's thinking, I suppose the French army shouldn't have even fired a shot when the Germans crossed the border.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Can't We Move On?

If you're an idiot, why not tell everyone?

That must be the philosophy of this letter writer to the Pioneer Press:

Where's the noise now?

Visions of President Clinton and Monica flashed before my eyes. I imagined legions of angry, moralistic Christian conservatives marching toward Minnesota to exact God's vengeance on the evil-doers. And then something funny happened nothing.

That's right nothing. Rush Limbaugh, the high priest of conservative morality, was silent. Fox News looked the other way. Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich were AWOL. The Reverends Falwell and Robertson were speechless. Why? Because the person arrested for having sex in an automobile was a Republican, Sen. Norm Coleman's father. Had he been the father of a Democratic senator, the Christian Conservative noise machine would have erupted.

Christian conservatives operate on the principal of selective morality. When Clinton succumbed to moral weakness it was grounds for impeachment and constant humiliation. But when one of their own is immoral, they are as hard to find as a person in the witness protection program.



OK, where to begin? An 80-something-year-old old man -- the father of a U.S. senator, not the senator himself -- was arrested for having sex in a car, and this guy thinks it's a big political story? All these years, when it's been Sen. Ted Kennedy dropping trou in public, or President Clinton doing the intern, we've been told it's none of our business. "It's just sex." Now Sen. Coleman's elderly father gets caught with his pants down and we're supposed to think this is a big political story?

Second, who says the senior Mr. Coleman is a Republican? Sen. Norm Coleman was a Democrat all his life until about a decade ago. I'm guessing he was raised by a Democrat. The elder Coleman may support his son but still call himself a Democrat.

Third, in reference to Christian conservatives, the letter writer says the elder Mr. Coleman is "one of their own." Doesn't he know the Colemans are Jewish?

But why worry about the facts, when you can just spew hate and bigotry?

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

"Progressives" Block Artistic Progress

Been awfully busy. Plenty to write about, just no time to do so. Here's something that I found interesting: In a column in yesterday's Pioneer Press, architecture writer Larry Millett laments the sad state of architecture in St. Paul. He's tired of the same old fake-traditional look, and yearns for something cutting edge. The irony is that one of the forces blocking anything new is the self-described "progressives" who control St. Paul's politburo!

If you doubt that our "progressives" are anything but, just read Millett's column.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Limited Potential

We have people who are certain that embryo research will cure diseases. We have people who say we must save the rain forest, because they are convinced the cure for cancer can be found there.

But then the same people have no opposition to abortion.

Aren't they concerned that the researcher who would eventually find the cure for cancer in the rain forest, or the scientist destined to cure disease with embryo research, will never be born thanks to abortion?

That's another one to think about.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

No "Choice" for Puppies?

A front-page story today in St. Paul concerns a man who killed 10 puppies and one-by-one threw them into a trash bin at a St. Paul apartment complex.

That's really sick. People are aghast. It's been covered on the TV news, as well.

But the thought entered my mind, What if he had tossed them into a trash bin behind an abortion clinic? Wouldn't that make for an interesting story? How would that be handled? "Tonight at 10: You'll be shocked by the horrific discovery found in a trash bin behind an abortion clinic -- dead puppies!"

Just dead puppies? Nothing else of any value?

Something to think about.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Willing to Pay More...

Now that St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman has announced he'll push for a big property tax increase, and the St. Paul school board has said it will put a levy request on the ballot this fall, I expect St. Paul's "progressives" will soon be putting up some new lawn signs to go along with the "Willing to Pay More for a Better Minnesota" hypocrisy. (All they have to do is write out a check and send it to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.)

How's this?

"Willing to Pay More for the Same Old St. Paul."

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Talking Cents on the Minimum Wage

I think we should all be able to agree that if we are going to have a minimum wage law, then that wage will have to steadily increase merely to keep pace with inflation. But the federal minimum wage of $5.15 has not been increased for nine years.

Why hasn't it been increased? Because different factions within Congress can't agree on an increase (or even if there should be an increase). Some propose an increase of $1 an hour or more. Others say that would be too much of a hardship on small businesses, and it's hard to argue that a one-day, 20-percent increase in labor costs would be easy to absorb.

Is there any room for common sense here? The problem seems to be that we wait too long to try to adjust the minimum wage, and then the "fix" seems too big to undertake. It's rather like if you never fixed anything in your house for 10 years, and then one day were shocked at what it would cost to fix everything all at once. Or if you just keep adding more junk to your basement, until cleaning it out seems such a daunting task you don't even know where to start. But enough about me.

The key to averting all of these "situations" is simply to deal with them year-by-year, or day-by-day. Repair things as they break. Put things away or throw them out on a regular basis.

And raise the minimum wage incrementally.

The last time Congress raised the minimum wage, for instance, they could have also specified that it would continue to rise 5 or 10 cents each year thereafter, for a specified number of years, or until Congress acted again.

The answer lies in raising the minimum wage a dime a year, rather than a dollar a decade. If we had done that in this case, we'd now have a minimum wage "increase" of 90 cents, and next year it would hit the full dollar that advocates are asking for. At the same time, it's hard to believe that employers would have suffered much of a hardship giving employees a raise of just 10 cents a year.

This solution seems so simple and so logical, I'm sure Congress could never implement it.

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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