Thursday, March 28, 2002

Is It Too Much To Expect Civility?

As the debate on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis heats up I keep hearing a common refrain from defenders of the suicide bombing murderers of woman and children. With some slight variation it goes along the lines of "Israel has F-16s and tanks, what do you expect the Palestinians to do?"

Well, to start with I expect them to explore all possible diplomatic opportunities to meaningfully negotiate with Israel. (This is of course assumes that the Palestinians have real interest in negotiations. In reality I believe the whole claim that if Israel returns to it's pre-1967 borders there will be peace is ludicrous. The Palestinians want complete control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip now as a prelude to a future takover of all of Israel much in the same way that Hitler's claim to the Sudetenland was merely a step before taking all of Czechoslovakia in 1938.) Failing that I expect them to wage a war to "liberate" their land if they see no other alternative. I expect them to raise a force and fight what they regard as an "occupying" army employing classic guerilla warfare tactics successfully used in the past by similarly outnumbered and outgunned armies. I may not agree with their cause but at least I could understand and accept these methods.

What I do not expect them to do is to deliberately target innocent civilians in settings designed to deliver maximum physical and pyschological damage to the population. If an Israeli civilian is killed inadvertently in an attack on an Israeli army position I can understand it. This is equivilant to the manner in which the majority of the Palestinian civilian casualties have occurred, not in deliberate attacks by the Israelis on innocents. This is the difference.

If one is to accept the proposition that because the Palestinians can't match Israel on the military battlefield it is acceptable for them to kill and maim innocent civilians what kind of precedent are we setting for countries or groups that have differences with the United States? Since we are far and away the world's premier military power does this logic not allow any of these countries or groups to target American civilians as fair game since they cannot hope to match us on the battlefield?

It's also interesting to imagine those who support the Palestinian terror actions of today conferring this same level of support to other groups of the past. Didn't the Sandinistas have the MIGs and T-72's back in 1985? If a Contra had walked into a crowded Managua cooperative store and detonated a nail bomb killing woman and children waiting to buy shoes would we have heard the same refrain "what do you expect them to do?".

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

The Grind of Playoff Hockey

Last night my hockey team was eliminated from the playoffs and I can now understand the mixture of disappointment and relief that an NHLer experiences when the 'offs end for their team. The playoffs are a gruelling test both physically and mentally and they leave you worn and torn in both areas.

It's tough for a recreational player like myself to suddenly have to play four games in five days considering me and my teammates usually lace em' up once a week. The real challenge however is the drinking. It's not easy to psyche yourself up for the daunting gauntlet of a case of beer in the room immediately after the game followed by a trip to the local watering hole for several pitchers of beer. To say nothing of the drive home half in the bag hoping against hope that cop doesn't turn around and follow you.

Then it's home to unpack your sweat soaked gear while trying not to wake your wife and have her realize that it's been four hours since your game ended and "you're just getting home now?"

The next morning comes with the inevitable hangover made worse by the fact that you maybe got five hours of sleep and are even more dehydrated than usual after drinking cause' you played hockey last night too. You stumble off to work, coast your way through a day of corporate drudgery in a complete fog, wanting only to go home and sleep and then you remember that you've got another game that night and the whole cycle will repeat itself.

You really gotta love the game to endure the challenges of the playoffs.

Trip to Sporting Goods Store

Out and about last Sunday I stopped by a few stores to see if there was anything worthy of purchase. First to the Gap, which has been reeling from some serious drops in business--which just means sales. Picked up a jacket for 20 bones, flirted with the sales gal...cool.

Then to Marathon Sports. I didn't have anything specific in mind, just wanted to see what they had. I noticed a decent Itech hockey helmet for about 50 bucks--a good price for such an item. The helmet is adjustable by screws on the side, but it was adjusted all the way "up" and therefore I couldn't tell if it would fit on my gargantuan noggin or not. At about that time a clerk-type person approached:

CTP:Help you find anything?

[This means "If you have any obvious questions like 'Where are the tennis shoes' I can point, but otherwise you're on your own."]

Me: Well actually, I was interested in this helmet, but I need a screwdriver to see if it will fit. Can you help me?

[Clearly she had not expected an actual request for help and mere pointing was not going to suffice. She was flummoxed.]

CTP: Well, umm maybe you can go up to the front desk and ask the manager, they might be able to get a screwdriver.

Me: That's not something YOU can do?

CTP: Well are you going to BUY this helmet?

[She was getting testy that her simple transference of her work responsibilities to the CUSTOMER was not going to fly.]

Me: That's the thing, I don't know, I need a screwdriver to find out.

CTP: You'll have to go ask the manager

At this point I simply put the helmet back and said I didn't want to bother with all that if she didn't want to help me and walked out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Where's The Pro?

Molly Ivins is off and blathering hysterically on another tirade against the environmental policies of the Bush administration. To hear Molly tell it, the President plans to pillage the earth as quickly as possible and take as many of us with as he can. She also brings up an excellent example of the failed logic of campaign finance reforms.

You can read the full Molly Ivins Piece(and I mean piece) here or enjoy this excerpt along with my comments:

Boy, we are marching backwards on the environment at a truly impressive pace. Between the Senate and the Bush administration, we are advancing to the rear, double time. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, fuel efficiency standards, toxic waste -- this is literally sickening stuff.

All part of GW's master plan to poison as many of his own people as possible of course. Note Molly's cute use of the word literal. My she is clever!

Last week, the Senate voted 62 to 38 to postpone, yet again, increasing the fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. According to the Sierra Club, the average fuel economy of cars sold last year was 20.4 miles per gallon, the lowest since 1980. The failed fuel efficiency proposal could have saved the country up to 1 million barrels of oil by 2016 -- as much as the United States currently imports from Iraq and Kuwait.

The Sierra Club is of course an unbiased, objective source of information. No mention of the costs to the auto industry of meeting new efficiency standards or the increased accident deaths likely to result.

You will doubtlessly be less than amazed to learn that the auto industry spent heavily to defeat any improvement in fuel efficiency. According to Public Campaign -- a campaign finance reform group -- on average, the 62 senators who voted with the industry received $18,000 from auto companies. The 38 senators who wanted stronger standards got a measly $5,900. Since 1989, the auto companies have given $9.9 million to federal candidates and parties. I know, it's not new, but it does matter.

Of course we all know that because the auto companies gave more dough to the sixty two senators who voted against the bill they are obviously in the back pocket of the auto industry and their votes have been bought. Right? This is the type of naive conclusion that has led to the current campaign reform bill being passed. Just because you know that A(auto companies make campaign donations) and C(senators vote against bill that auto industry opposes) exist, it does not allow you to conclude that B(senators votes were bought) does.

Instead of looking at it from the point of money buying votes how about votes attracting money? If you're an auto industry association are you likely to contribute to campaigns of politicians who in the past have shown themselves to be anti-business and pro-regulation such as Paul Wellstone or Teddy Kennedy? Most likely not. Does this mean that you have "bought" the votes of other politicians whom you have decided to contribute to? In most cases no. Without the Pro the Quid and the Quo don't make it so.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Next Stop: Pakistan?

Before we start getting too far ahead of ourselves in the war on terrorism and prepare to move on Iraq, we should ensure that the situation in Afghanistan is much more stable than it is currently. If that means we have to take military action in Pakistan, either with or without the co-operation of the Paki government, then so be it. A replay of the situation in Vietnam with enemy "sanctuaries" in Cambodia and Laos that were off limits for most of the war must not be repeated.

CIA director: Al-Qaida rallying followers:

Surviving leaders of the Al-Qaida network are rallying followers to conduct more attacks despite the arrest of hundreds of extremists worldwide, CIA Director George Tenet said Tuesday.

"Al-Qaida leaders still at large are working to reconstitute the organization
and to resume its terrorist operations," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

According to Taliban members and others familiar with the Islamic movement, as many as 1,000 Taliban and Al-Qaida leaders are in hiding in Pakistan and planning a comeback in Afghanistan.

Most of the fugitives live quietly in Pakistan's lawless frontier region, protected
by radical clerics and tribal leaders of their Pashtun ethnic group.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Why?

Since 9/11 there has been a great deal of hand wringing and soul searching in America asking questions such as why do they hate or what can we do to change their views. A more relevant question might be why are such a sizable number of Americans so virulently opposed to everything their country does, so willing to accept that America is the cause of most of the world's problems? What has occurred in their lives that has rendered them unable to believe in their country, their government, and their fellow citizens?

Today on NPR on a show discussing the popularity of President Bush a woman called from Boulder who sincerely believed that the polls showing Bush's enormous levels of support should not be given credence because people were living in fear of the government and unwilling to offer public dissent (in this case over the phone) due to the possible repercussions. She believed that privately most of the country was against the war and the Bush administration. Where do you even begin with someone with such a warped perspective of reality? Does she really believe that John Ashcroft and his jack booted government thugs are listening in on her phone calls for evidence of disloyalty to Bush?

Yes, Agent Jones get your Nacht-und-Nebel(Night and Fog) squad over to Boulder and pick up Miss Fleming immediately. Her answers to the latest Gallop poll were seditious and treasonous. It's time for her to "disappear".

What gives birth to such nonsense?

Bad Arguments & Moral Obscenities

Jonah Goldberg looks at ideology and biology in the Muslim world and updates Sting's classicly naive question:

Do the Muslims Love Their Children Too?

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Rough Road Lately

The last two weeks have been the most disappointing of the Bush presidency so far. From his decision on the steel quotas to the rebuke of Israel for daring to defend herself against terrorism and finally the proposal, announced with Bono(?), to spend $5 billion on foreign aid to prevent future terrorism. Let's hope that Dubya will right the ship shortly and return to the strong principaled leadership he has displayed since 9/11.

We Can Take It

On Thursday night we received between ten and fourteen inches of snow in Minneapolis, varying by the section of the metro area that you live in. As of midnight, it was still coming down quite hard. By 7:30am the next morning the freeways were plowed, the side streets were plowed, and even the alley behind my house was plowed. When I went for a walk at 4:00pm the walking path was plowed and clear. All this was done quietly, efficiently, and without fanfare. It's refreshing to see tax dollars being used with such clear cut results. Too bad it's such a rarity.

A Slightly Wider Audience

My post from March 11 also appears as a letter on Andrew Sullivan's site titled Facing the Music (you have to page down a bit).

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Molly Ivins at it again

Molly's Full Column Here

We have been down the more-traveled path of spending insane sums for unspeakable weapons many times before, and we know where it leads. The state of the world today is not much of a recommendation for it. Before we lurch off onto it again, let us at least stop and think, and ask questions and demand answers, and consider alternatives.

Hmmm. Didn't those "insane sums of money for unspeakable weapons" help us defeat the Soviets and win the Cold War? I guess in Molly's world living under a Communist dictarship would be preferable to the "state of the world today."

Why unilateralism ain't that bad

Collection
Of
Ancillary
Late arriving
Indecisive
Tepid
Ill equipped
Obfuscating
Nations

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

March Madness

Who in their right mind would shell out twenty-nine clams to watch the U of M b-ball team play in the friggin' NIT tournament?

Monday, March 11, 2002

More Than 1984

Karel Van Wolferen-- To keep a population in line, wage perpetual war against a vague enemy:

Has anyone else following the aftermath of Sept. 11 been struck by the similarity to George Orwell's "1984" -- in which a never-ending, faraway war against ever-changing enemies serves as a rationale for political and social repression?

This may be the most childish lazy drivel written yet against the war on terrorism. Published in Sunday's Minnepaolis Star Tribune of course. I wonder if Karel has ever read anything from Orwell other than "1984"? He might be interested in this quote from George:

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Tell It Like It Is Father

Went to Mass yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. The priest at this particular church occasionally weaves current events into his homilies and delivered a well worded oratory after September 11th justifying U.S. actions to defend itself against further attacks.

Yesterday he spoke of the reason that Jesus had to die on the cross instead of just being able to perform miracles to convince people that he was the Son of God. He mentioned that the severity of certain sins required the ultimate sacrifice by Jesus to redeem the sinner and gave an example that hit close to home for him.

A friend of his who was also a priest had problems with abusing young boys and had asked for his help in his "recovery". After getting over his initial shock and disgust with his friend's activities the priest agreed to assist him.

At a counseling session the associate with the problem described how one of the boys had "victimized" him. At this point the priest was outraged and told us that his first inclination was to strangle his friend but that priests aren't allowed to kill other priests and so he restrained himself, told the group that "forty year olds are not victimized by twelve year olds" and left the meeting never to return or speak to his former friend again. He explained how this other priest was blind to the damage he had caused the victims, their families, and the reputation of the priesthood tying this into the day's Gospel and giving a relevant example of serious sin.

To hear a priest speak on this delicate topic was refreshing given the new stories coming out on what seems like a weekly basis dealing with allegations of abuse. The only way for the Church to deal with this problem is to acknowledge it, be willing to talk about, and as our priest did yesterday to make no excuses for it.

Friday, March 08, 2002

Who's Your Daddy?

[This post composed by JB Doubtless]

This email just went out from our HR gal:

Hi everyone,

I wanted to let you know that XXXXX will be returning on Monday from her leave and YYYY last day will be Monday. So to thank YYYY for her efforts and to welcome XXXXX back, we will be having cake on Monday at 12:45 in the annex. If we can keep the cake a secret, that would be great. Join us then.

Thanks


XXXXX a single woman that had a kid a few months ago. People came around at the time collecting dough for the little bastard (laughter) and I think I was one of the only people who didn't give. Then she brought the kid in, much to the fanfare and excitement of everyone.

Now we are giving her a cake because she's coming back? (I'm reminded of the Seinfeld where everyone at Elaine's office is bringing cake almost daily until she snaps: "No more cake in this office! Listen, we're all unhappy, but do we have to be fat too?")

Where is the quiet disapproval of this type of destructive, irresponsible behavior? Have they heard ANYTHING about what a kid who grows up without a Dad goes through? I don't expect them to be rabid conservatives or to chatise her openly, but how about a little common m-fing sense? Approve of something and you will get more of it, as they say.

Allow me to state this openly: HAVING A KID OUT OF WEDLOCK IS A SHAMEFUL, IRRESPONSIBLE, DESTRUCTIVE THING TO DO. Ahh...better.

I can see how the majority of women would get into this crap in the office, but most of the weaker willed men did as well; sick.

The Thing Speaks For Itself

Alec Baldwin is a parody of himself.

Letter Never Sent

The following letter to the editor appeared in today's Star Tribune:

Columnist Katherine Kersten and Bernard Goldberg are right ("Goldberg's revelations about media bias should come as no surprise," March 6). Liberals dominate the media.

Somehow, word must be gotten to Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, Wes Pruden, Tony Snow, John McLaughlin, Chris Matthews, G. Gordon Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger, Michael Medved, Ollie North, Robert Novak, Michael Kelly, Paul Weyrich, Don Imus, Suzanne Fields, Marvin Olasky, Rich Tucker, R. Emmett Tyrell, Lawrence Kudlow, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Peggy Noonan, William Safire, Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh, Linda Bowles, Jonah Goldberg, Kathleen Parker, Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, John Fund, Paul Gigot, Robert Bartley, Paul Greenberg, Jeff Jacoby, Dick Morris, Thomas Sowell, Michael Reagan, Cal Thomas, Walter Williams, Mort Zuckerman, Brent Bozell, William F. Buckley, Pat Robertson, George Will, Charles Kraut hammer, Phyllis Schlafly, Matt Drudge, Lucianne Goldberg, Jerry Falwell, Michael Barone, Lawrence Kudlow, Marlin Fitzwater, Pat Buchanan, Christopher Hitchens, Rich Lowry, Alan Keyes, Jason Lewis, Joe Soucheray, the oped staff at the Wall Street Journal and the entire broadcast news staff of Fox News. This imbalance is unseemly.

-- Mike Finley, St. Paul.


Here's my reply to it:

Mike Finley's letter to the editor published on Friday attempted to show that the assertions by Bernard Goldberg and Katherine Kersten about liberal media bias were groundless by rattling off a large list of conservatives in the media(some of them even named twice and others of dubious conservative background, Don Imus?). What Finley neglected to point out was that with the exception of Brit Hume and "the entire broadcast news staff at Fox News" every person he listed was either a columnist, a talk radio host, or some other form of political commentator. None of these individuals claims to be an impartial objective reporter of the news but rather openly acknowledge their role as offering opinions on matters of the day. Their columns appear on the editorial pages of the newspaper(although very few of those listed every grace the Star Tribune's pages) and are labeled as opinion pieces. Those who host talk radio shows make no effort to hide their conservative views and in fact are quite open about them.

Contrast that to the very real news media bias that Goldberg wrote about and Kersten commented on. Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and to a lesser extent Tom Brokaw are all national news anchors who profess to be impartial while coloring the "news" that they report with their liberal political views. Most of the reporters for the three major networks hold the same views and allow them to distort their coverage as well. Despite the growth of Fox, CNN, and other cable news organizations the three major networks still have a significant audience for their news broadcasts and this is what Goldberg's book is most concerned with.

While we're making lists how about newspapers with a liberal slant? New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, just to name a few. Conservatives don't have a problem with liberals in the media as long as they are open about their views and as long as people understand that the "news" that they receive from liberal sources will have usually follow a template based on these liberal beliefs.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Even A Blind Squirrel...

I have never been a big fan of Minnesota's current guv and my criticism of him started well before he even took office so this is not easy for me to say but during the recent budget battles he has shown a much keener appreciation for the situation that we're in than either the DFL or the Republicans. Yes, he acted like a petulant child when he tried to hide from the legislature's budget in order to buy himself some time. And his comments that anyone who disagrees with his budget is unpatriotic were just plain silly. But he is seemingly the only Minnesota politician who recognizes the fact that since September 11th we should not be operating under the same old assumptions as if this was business as usual.

Jesse was on a CNBC program the other night with Lawrence Kudlow and another host (by the way, their show kicks the crap out of O'Reilly as far as real insight goes-you want to know about Enron? watch these guys) and during a discussion of the state's budget battles he pointed out that our country is as war and during war sacrifices have to be made. In Jesse's mind these sacrifices involve cutting spending and raising some taxes to cover the deficit. While I would prefer to concentrate all the hurt on the spending side without tax increases I do have to agree that we aren't dealing with normal circumstances here and we will all have to bear a greater burden. The legislature's budget did not increase taxes but it didn't do much cutting either. Instead they relied on using the reserve or "rainy day" fund to cover most of the deficit for the next biennium. Normally I would be all for such action as that is exactly what the reserve fund is designed for. But Jesse raised a good point during his interview the other night when he asked if we really believed that 9/11 would be the last terrorist attack us. Unfortunately I don't think it will be. Jesse doesn't either and was arguing that to use up most of the reserve fund at this point was short sighted considering the very real economic impact that the next attack could have. A dirty nuke in NYC or Washington? Say hello again to our old friend recession or even possibly worse.

Another topic that came up during the interview was education. Kudlow challenged Jesse's position of opposing school choice and voucher programs. Surprisingly Jesse remarked that while he was against such programs and in complete support of public education when he came into office his experience as guv has led him to reconsider his views and that he now believes that allowing the government to have a monopoly on education is not a good thing and that he would consider supporting school choice if it came before him. Plus Jesse was the only one willing to propose a budget that slashed spending at Paul's alma mater the U while at the same time cutting back on the bloated K-12 education budget as well. The legislature's bill trimmed the U's budget a tad while hardly touching K-12 which seems to have become the clich├ęd "third rail" of Minnesota politics. The Republicans just don't seem to realize that no matter how much they spend on education they won't be able to buy the votes of the pro public ed folks out there. A letter to the Strib the other day attacked Republicans for viciously cutting education funding and putting our childrens future at risk. If only it were true! The DFL, teacher's unions, the Strib and other liberals will continue to paint the Republicans as anti-education no matter how many K-12 spending increases they agree to. So why not just end the charade and say, "Dang straight we're against further K-12 spending. The system sucks and until it is reformed we can't keep throwing money down the sink hole." You're going to be accused of it anyway so why not do it? Jesse has no such problems telling it like it is on education spending and I give him credit for it.

The strange thing is that while Jesse's approval rankings are probably at there lowest point since his election I find myself agreeing with him more than ever. He may be an self centered, ill tempered, rather ignorant brute but in times of crisis he might be just the kind you of guy you want around to tell you the things you don't want to hear and do the things that no one else would.