Thursday, April 29, 2004

Star Tribune Civility Watch 04/29/2004

The Star Tribune printed what is in my opinion a pair of brainless, malicious cartoons by Steve Sack - one (free registration required) attacking President Bush personally with an image portraying him as a baby under the control of Vice President Cheney and another (not posted on the web yet) labeling people who criticize John Kerry's explanations about his anti-war activities after his Vietnam service as being chickenhawks. It isn't even worth explaining why these cartoons suck, and the Star Tribune knows it anyway. They are just taking a couple of low, personal shots at people they have policy disagreements with. Perhaps for a change they should criticize the substance of the policies they object to instead of making ad hominem attacks. The fact that they often don't says a lot more about the editors at the Star Tribune (and Steve Sack) than it does about the folks they are attacking.

That Abortion Thing Again

A few days ago, I ran across this post from Marc, one of the recent guest bloggers at Dean's World. The gist of it was an argument that it is essential to take into account the question of when life begins when abortion is discussed, and that it is in fact the primary consideration. Rather than repeating his post here, I'll just ask that you read the entire post.

It did get me thinking about a related question, which will be briefly discussed later in this post. However, first it's time to describe my perspective on the subject so anyone reading this will have an idea about what my particular biases may be. First, I don't like the state of abortion law in this country. I think the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade was mistaken and misguided. I have two grounds for this belief. First, I believe abortion is killing, and the Court's decision basically gave women an unrestricted right to kill, as long as the subject is an unborn child. Second, the Court should not have taken the case in the first place, and should have left the question in the hands of state legislatures. Why? Mostly because in order to come up with a right to an abortion they had to invent a right to privacy to base the idea of a right to abortion on. It seems to me rather a reach to undemocratically impose a solution to a political, but not constitutional, issue.

Now, on to the question. If Roe v Wade was overturned tomorrow, what sort of regulation should there be? Right now, there seem to be two positions. The pro-lifers want the procedure banned except in cases where the life or health of the woman is in jeopardy. The pro-choicers want no restrictions at all, and want abortions for low-income women paid for by government. Personally, I find both positions lacking. The pro-choice position gives no consideration to the other lives affected by the abortion decision: the father and the unborn child. The pro-life position acknowledges that abortion is killing. However, for all that people preach that killing is wrong society does in fact recognize legitimate reasons to kill other human lives, including those normally considered innocent. An example would be civilians killed during the course of legal actions in war, for instance. So where does one draw the permissible/not permissible line for abortion?

I am thinking that there are three factors to consider:

  • Is the woman's life/health in danger? If so, it cannot be expected that a woman risk death to carry a child to term, unless she decides herself to do so.

  • Was the pregnancy the result of consensual sex? If a woman is pregnant as a result of sex she did not consent to(ie. rape, incest, child abuse,etc.), it seems unreasonable to force her to carry a child to term. If the sex was consensual, it seems to me that both the man and the woman should be aware that pregnancy is one of the possible results of sex, and bear the responsibility accordingly. An inconvenience is not justification for killing, and both parties knew the risk. If, after all, it is expected that a man should keep it in his pants if he doesn't want to be a father, why shouldn't a similar rule apply to the ladies if they do not want to become mothers?

  • Is the woman able to give consent? If a woman is a minor or not legally competent, this deserves some consideration. Rules requiring that that a legal guardian be informed or give consent do not seem unreasonable, given that a means is provided to make exceptions if the woman's home situation is bad (abuse, for example).

Naturally, in order to make sure the responsibility for a child is relatively evenly distributed, state laws concening child support would need to be fully enforced, with cooperation across state lines. At the same time, a woman should not be able to demand child support from a man who is not the father of her child, which now can happen in some states.

Anyhow, that's where my thinking on the subject is at the moment. Feel free to make comments/corrections/criticisms in the comment section.

Friday, April 23, 2004

To Go Nowhere Where We Haven't Been Before

It being Earth Day this Thursday past, my local newspaper enjoys printing items they consider to be "Earth friendly". One of them was a assume-the-fetal-position-to-better-enhance-gazing-at-one's-navel op-ed by a gent named Craig Bowen. The point of the piece was to persuade us to abandon the silly notion of space exploration.

What is the reasoning? Apparently, they are the following:

  • Space travel is uncomfortable. He draws this conclusion by observing that our astronauts are happy to get home, therefore space travel is so boring and awful that we shouldn't do it anymore. He does fail to mention that those same astronauts tend to also want to get on another mission, which argues against the notion that spaceflight is too awful to be endured. Admittedly, we are barely at the crawling stage of spaceflight, but things will get better. Nobody thought the Wright brothers should have been taken seriously after their first flight, either.

  • Space travel is expensive, and we should use the money saved by abandoning it to Save The Earth. Since I'm short on time, I'll just leave a link to a 2004 budget report. Briefly, we don't spend enough money (~7 billion dollars) on space to save the earth if we didn't spend it. Besides, we need our pathfinders, explorers, and visionaries. The universe is far too large and interesting a place to take the cowardly decision to retreat, hide on our own little planet, and gaze at our belly buttons.

Mr. Bowen, welcome to the Flat Earth Society.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Rantisi's Finest Hours

Go away for the weekend, and while I'm away this site actually has a few visitors. No idea if there's any meaning to that, but I'll be writing something anyway, even if that fact drives people away. It's been an eventful weekend, but I've only got time for a couple of things.

First, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi completed his studies in rocket catching last Saturday, with the Israelis providing his final exam. Since I don't want to get into the habit of speaking ill of the dead (I was not exactly kind to his predecessor) I would like to take a moment to assure Dr. Rantisi's supporters that his finest moments are yet in the future, as in his new role as plant food he will do more good than anything he accomplished in life.

The other item is the Star Tribune's confusing George W. Bush with the Islamic fascists we are fighting, accusing him of waging a holy war against Islam, leastwise the title of the editorial gives that impression. What's in the editorial, is actually a list of complaints. The first paragraph repeats a couple of tired old liberal dogmas: the invasion was unilateral and that Bush's actions have given the jihadis more of an excuse to attack the United States. Earth to Tribune, they didn't need an additional excuse! Jihadis have been killing Americans since at least the World Trade Center bombings in 1993, and there is the small matter of what happened in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. It's a funny world the Strib's editorial board lives in, where defending one's self is too dangerous because it just encourages the attacker... . The next thing they complain about is the President's press conference:
In his press conference this week, both in the opening remarks and in responses to questions, Bush refused to yield a whit to critics of the U.S. action in Iraq. He refused to admit to any error and responded over and over with a handful of generalizations: "America's objective in Iraq is limited, and it is firm. We seek an independent, free and secure Iraq. . . . A free Iraq is vital because 25 million Iraqis have as much right to live in freedom as we do. A free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East." It all amounted to a mantra: We are right; we will persevere, we will prevail.
It obviously never occurred to the Star Trib that the reason the president repeated himself is because the press kept asking the same damn question (slightly reworded) over and over again. Perhaps if the press had actually asked worthwhile questions, the answers would have been more illuminating.

Next, the Star Tribune complains about how Bush's support of Israel's position on the so-called "right of return" for the Palestinians will make the Arabs hate us more. With all due respect, they already hate us, and perhaps one of the effects of this unilateral action by Israel will be to shock the Palis to some semblance of sense. A large part of the Middle Eastern problems are due to the unwillingness of the Palestinians to negotiate in anything resembling good faith, and this Israeli action may very well drive home the cost of not talking. After going on in this vein for awhile the editors bless us with the following:
There are pragmatic reasons why some of what Bush gave Israel Tuesday will be part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But it should have come about through negotiations. The way Bush has chosen to do it is essentially saying, again, to radical Islam, "Bring it on."

In other words, after spending the whole column complaining about Bush's position editors concede that he is probably correct. They just don't like his style. Yep, lots of substance to their complaints, isn't there?

Update: This is being posted a day late after Blogger decided that the only proper response to input was no response at all. Given my less-than-vast readership, I don't expect any negative effects, but any case I apologize for my slowness.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A Note about the Star Tribune

Now, it is possible that visitors here (no doubt few, but welcome) may have noticed that I pick on the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial staff a lot. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • The Star Tribune is the most prominent and influential of the local newspapers (despite the Pioneer Press having more Pulitzers). For that reason it matters more to me when they say stupid or unfair things about people they disagree with. If the big paper was conservative, I'd probably be criticizing them from the other side.

  • The Star Tribune's editorial viewpoint generally runs rather to the left of mainstream opinion in the state of Minnesota, despite their pretentions of being the voice of the mainstream. This belief is held despite the fact that Republican Party controls more state and federal elected offices in Minnesota than the DFL. I feel the need to express my disagreement with that view from time to time.

  • The Star Tribune seems to have a chip on its shoulder regarding our current President. Given their biases I don't really expect to see much positive coverage of any GOP president, but they really roll out the vitriol barrel for George W. Bush. They seem to hate the guy enough that they are willing to distort and misrepresent his positions to make editorial points. This offends my sense of fair play. For what it's worth, this is from someone who was a McCain guy in 2000.

  • My views on the issues of the day tend to place me slightly to the right of center politically. This probably makes me a bit more sensitive to slights from the left-liberals at the Strib. At some point, I'll expand a bit on my political views, but not now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Will Wonders Never Cease...

I'll be the proverbial Monkey's Uncle! Somebody actually linked to this silly place from a real blog. Defined in this case as one that has actual traffic. Thanks to the fine folks at Spitbull for putting a link to this place on their blog. However, this may create a problem. (Yeah, like writing something worth the electrons it's displayed with - ed.) How does one wake up the people who instantly fall asleep out of boredom when they read the crap here? The New Insomnia Cure - read the scribblings of this no-talent hack, wake up where you fell. Wonder if there's a market... .

Monday, April 12, 2004

Musings on the Molnau and Yecke Confirmations, plus a New Feature Announcement

This is the first in a series of posts that will be looking to see if the Minneapolis Star Tribune actually practices the civility it often asks for in it's editorials. My suspicion is that they more than occasionally fail, as witnessed by this editorial from the Easter Sunday OpEx section, where the editors are urging the state Senate to reject the governor's choices for Transportation commissioner (Carol Molnau) and commissioner of education (Cheri Pierson Yecke).

The Star Tribune concedes both women are qualified for their jobs. The Star Tribune also considers them competent to hold the jobs. However, the Star Tribune has decided these women should be rejected because in the Trib's words:
While each is clearly qualified, Yecke's views and policies on education and Molnau's on transportation lie well outside the mainstream. Nothing in Pawlenty's campaign led voters to expect the extreme course these commissioners have steered.

So how does the Trib define mainstream?
Start by understanding that the Senate has legitimate advice-and-consent powers meant to check a governor's excesses. To a wide range of Minnesotans, not just to Democrats, the policies of these commissioners are excessive. Few imagined that Pawlenty would select an education commissioner whose views and management style would so thoroughly antagonize teachers, administrators, parents and educational experts. Few knew he would hand the transportation portfolio to his lieutenant governor, who for years led the Legislature against any long-term commitment to a balanced roads/transit solution to metro traffic congestion. Pawlenty's thin mandate -- 44 percent -- allows for a right-of-center administration, certainly, but not a radical one. Properly seen, this is not a Democratic-Republican confirmation battle but one that pits pragmatic, mainstream Minnesotans of both parties against the ideological right.

Apparently, out of the mainstream is defined as advocating policy the Star Tribune and the special interest groups of like mind disagree with. However, these are differences of policy, and these nominees have been nominated by a governor who supports those policy positions. The editorial board needs a reminder of following facts: the Republican party controls the governorship, holds a large majority in the state House of Representatives, are within 3 votes of controlling the state Senate, and hold all state elected constitutional offices except Attorney General. Unless the Strib's position is that the people were too stupid to know what kind of politicians they were voting for, the notion that the GOP sold Minnesotans a bill of goods is ridiculous. If the people of Minnesota don't like these policies, they will have opportunity to have their say on it in 2004 and 2006, by deciding to retain or replace the current Republican office holders. In the meantime, those Republican office holders mostly represent the majority view of Minnesotans. If they hadn't, they would not have been elected.
After airing their complaints about Yecke and Molnau, the Star Tribune went on to opine:
Only when civic-minded Republicans disavow their own Taliban can a civil debate proceed.

This is a disgusting, offensive comparison. To compare what right now is arguably the majority party in this state, placed in elected office by a free, fair democratic process to a bunch of civilization hating religious fanatics is truly beyond the bounds of the civilized argument as well as showing a level of intolerance and pettiness that (according to the Star Tribune) is only shown by conservatives. Hence the start of a repeating item - the Star Tribune Civility Watch. The "Newspaper of the Twin Cities" has on many occasions called for a more civil political discourse here in Minnesota. The purpose of this feature will be to point out when the Star Tribune fails to meet its own standards. Unfortunately, I expect a lot of examples.

Monday, April 05, 2004

A Japanimation Question

I was looking around the 'net for a KDE desktop theme to dress the PC a little, an stumbled across a Japanese anime theme at Not having much exposure to this kind of anime (sp?). I noticed something odd about the wallpaper. The ladies who are the subjects of the drawings are drawn in considerable detail, even to the point of skin being pinched a little by waistbands and the muscle lines in arms and legs. Except. The. Faces.

The faces all seem to have eyes the size of dinner plates, a little triangular bump to resemble a nose, a lipless mouth, and no cheeks. What's with that? Is this part of the style that has some symbolic meaning?, a custom?, or is it something that has special appeal to the Japanese customer.? I'm really quite puzzled, so I'm asking. Admittedly, asking that here is rather like asking a question of an empty room. Judging by the sitemeter statistics, I think I have proved that one can have a completely private part of the internet in plain view of everyone.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Another Mogadishu?

Gwynne Dyer seems to think that the barbaric actions taken by the mob in Fallujah will have the same effect that the deaths of eighteen Rangers in Mogadishu did in the 90's. I think he's an idiot. Let me count some of the ways:

  • The Iraqi "resistance" is not a popular uprising. The Iraqis may be suspicious of the US's motives, but we have more support than they do. Just because Dyer prefers fascist remnants to foreign liberators does not mean the Iraqis do. Most Iraqis, while unhappy with being occupied do prefer it to being ruled by Saddam. Dyer appears to be one of those people who preferred to leave Saddam Hussein in control of Iraq.

  • "Bush's Adventure", as Dyer calls it really does have something to do with fighting terrorism so the United States will not back down, since in the view of the United States government draining the terrorist swamp is a vital national interest. Dyer does not mention the money paid by Saddam Hussein to support suicide bombings or the sanctuary he provided to terrorists like Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas.

  • Americans can fight bloody wars at need. WWII and the American Civil War are prominent examples. By just about any standard American losses, while painful, have been light by historical standards. Furthermore, the US will keep its commitment to give control of Iraq to the provisional Iraqi government at the end of June, as promised. This will have the side effect of reducing American exposure to casualties.

In short, Dyer is dreaming. Removing Saddam from power in Iraq is indeed a calculated risk and one that may not pan out. However, the Iraqi people are being given a chance to control their own destiny, without the spectre of torture, rape rooms, and dictators. In the long run, the success of this project depends not on the United States, but on what the people of Iraq do with this opportunity.

The Star Tribune and Taxes, Again

The Star Tribune once again fails to stand up for it's editorial convictions. In one of today's editorials, they discuss the likelihood that this year's bonding bill will stall in the DFL-controlled state Senate. They praise the governor's unwillingness to tap the state's 630 million dollar budget reserve, then say

But Minnesotans should also let Pawlenty know that they want him to play a governor's role in coming weeks, not that of the House majority leader he once was. When the House and Senate disagree, people expect the governor to be a deal maker, not a party to the fight. The best governors have been willing to bend on some of their own positions for the sake of the state's higher good. Pawlenty's letter to legislators insisted again on "no new state taxes." Governing well requires greater flexibility.

What they are really mean is, "We agree with the DFL's spending plans, and we want Governor Pawlenty to agree to a tax increase to pay for them." Why don't show their courage in their convictions and just say so? If the self-styled "Newspaper of the Twin Cities" wants us to pay more taxes, they should have the stones to tell us what taxes should be raised, who will be paying the freight, and why they should be happy about it. Instead, we get mealy-mouthed criticism of the governor.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Kos' Little Meltdown

On April Fool's Day Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos posted the following (no April Fool's joke here):

Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly.
That said, I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them. (via LGF)

After he started catching hell from other bloggers who expressed disagreement, he redirected the link away from the original post and to this "apology/explanation". That post demonstrated his fine appreciation of what approach to take when attempting to justify an unjustifiable opinion:

1. Grab shovel.
2. Jump into well.
3. Start digging, will get to China eventually....

Congratulations Mr. Zuniga, you actually made things worse. Why? Because your remarks in both cases demonstrated what a callous jackass you are. Your original post (insert amateur armchair psychology warning here) which probably reflected your real feelings on the deaths of those four people, showed a remarkable disregard for the humanity of those killed. Then, in your post that "explains" it you justify gloating over their deaths because they are "mercenaries" , which in the cesspool that substitutes for your mind, makes them less than human. You used the label "mercenary" (which may not be accurate, anyway) to stereotype and condemn them without even considering what jobs they were doing or what their intentions were. Perhaps you should take a look at the bios of some of those killed (as thoughtfully provided here by Jay Reding) to see why they decided to go to Iraq, before you spew hateful garbage from your keyboard. Perhaps, even, you might even try to judge these people by their actions and motivations, rather than just slapping a pejorative label on them and saying their deaths were OK.

If this is the kind of thinking common to the Democratic Left, that leaves little choice for this independent but to vote Republican this fall.

More links from the Instapundit.

Update: More comments from Mitch Berg and Blackfive.

Update the 2nd: Now Kos is whining about the criticism he's getting. (via Instapundit)