Friday, December 31, 2004

More Cynicism from the Star Tribune

Once again, the Star Tribune has devoted two full columns to editorialize against President Bush. This turkey of an editorial cynically uses the plight of the hundreds of thousands (minimum, probably many more) people affected as an excuse for saying nasty things about Bush. They use this disaster as an opportunity to accuse him of taking a horrific toll on Iraqi civilians, for example. Not exactly germane to the subject of tsumani relief, but what the hell any stretch to enable them to say something nasty about the President is a good one, yes?

They say he has been silent about the disaster. Not true. See this statement from 12/26. Although no dollar amount was mentioned, he did say :

The United States stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to those nations most affected including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as the other countries impacted. Already relief is flowing to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We will work with the affected governments, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned states and organizations to support the relief and response to this terrible tragedy.

This makes it clear to me, anyway, that the $35 million is an initial figure that will go up as the need is determined. Here is the initial breakdown of aid on it's way from the U.S. government. Note the two naval groups that the Star Tribune didn't mention. In a response to a question about the economic damage to the region, Secretary of State Powell had this to say:

This is a very important point because not only do we have to deal with the immediate humanitarian disaster, but the rebuilding effort and doing something about the economic impact of the loss of the tourist industry in some of these places. This will take time.

And so as you prepare for one of this relief operations, it has a certain cycle: an initial infusion of money, initial infusion of humanitarian assistance; and then longer term programs of investment and reconstruction help, loans, and working with the governments concerned to help them rebuild their industries. And the United States is in for the immediate humanitarian relief part of this and also for long-term reconstruction so that the economies can get back up on solid footing and that the people who have lost homes will have assistance in building homes and rebuilding their businesses.

And so this is going to be a massive effort. It's going to take a great deal of money. And I'm pleased with the response that we're seeing from the international community, and the United States will continue to add to the commitment we have already made as the need is known and after we've had a chance to, of course, consult with the Congress.

Note that he didn't say that 35 million was all the aid the US was going to give, and indicated that more would be forthcoming after getting a better idea of the need and consultation with the Congress (I expect that is required, for the amounts of money that will be needed). I don't think the Strib's criticism is fair on this point.

Why else do I think this editorial is cynical and unfair?

  • The Star Tribune criticizes the president for staying in Crawford rather flying immediately to Washington. Apparently the work couldn't be done unless the President is physically in DC. Here's a clue, guys: the President is never really on vacation. He's either working more or working less. The president's entourage has plenty of telecommunications capability to organize our relief efforts from Crawford. Either the Strib has no clue about telecommunications, or they just wanted to be negative. I think the latter.

  • The Strib also implies that since the President spent some of his time doing chores on the ranch, he was indifferent to the catastrophe in Asia. I disagree. First, the President can't act until enough information is available to assess the situation. Until that information is available, why not cut brush? Once an initial course of action is selected, the organizing effort will be directed by subordinates at the agencies involved (in Washington, if it makes the Strib feel better). These actions and activities will continue as better information comes in.
  • The Strib choose us that it disapproves of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Why is this germane to the topic at hand? The Star Tribune doesn't tell us.

  • The Strib again makes the contention that the world reviles us because of Iraq. Why more off-topic stuff about Iraq?

  • At this early date, the Star Tribune is rather careless to be firing rhetorical cannonballs. If their concern had actually been for the tsunami victims in South Asia, they could have just made an argument for more aid and recognized that this is the very beginning of the relief effort. Instead, they attacked the President. Need any more be said?

    Update: The US government has now pledged $350 million of aid to tsunami victims.

    Thursday, December 30, 2004

    The L.A. Times, the Strib's Soul Sister

    Here is a link to a Patterico piece that describes the kind of "journalistic excellence" to be found at the Los Angeles Times this year. A paper with rather similar views to my own hometown Star Tribune. I must admit that the LA Times seems to outstrip the Strib in terms of sheer incompetence, although not in the level of vitriol.

    More on Nick

    As an addition to my post below, an analysis of Nick Coleman's research ability can be found here, at the Frater's place. They are not favorably impressed.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2004

    Nick Coleman: "Professional" Journalist

    I see that Nick Coleman wrote another poison pen column (free registration required)about the gents at Powerline in today's Star Tribune. There has been a reaction of sorts in the blogosphere, and the Insta One has a good roundup. My reaction? Complete unsurprise. In the years I've lived in the Twin Cities and been exposed to his writings it didn't take long to realize that Mr. Coleman does not need any help to make a fool of himself. This latest column voluminous support of that idea. Rather than take the advice I gave him here some time ago, he's once again picked a fight with people who have more readers than he does. This column is probably not worth fisking (and other people doubtless will say it better - see the Instapundit link), but I do want to comment on a few bits of it.

    The end of the year is a time to bury the hatchet, so congratulations to Powerline, the Twin Cities blog that last week was named Time magazine's "Blog of the Year!"

    Now let me get a new hatchet.

    Here's a nice bit of hypocrisy disguised as a lame attempt at humor. Yep, first an insincere congratulations on being honored by time, followed by a "let's grind my axe now" line. How nice. Then we get to Coleman's thumbnail sketch of Powerline:

    These guys pretend to be family watchdogs but they are Rottweilers in sheep's clothing. They attack the Mainstream Media for not being fair while pursuing a right-wing agenda cooked up in conservative think tanks funded by millionaire power brokers.

    They should call themselves "Powertool." They don't speak truth to power. They just speak for power.

    Earth to Nick: the gents at Powerline have never pretended to be non-partisan. Amazingly enough, they are quite proud of being conservatives (unlike our media, which seems to be full of liberals, but is in denial of its effects). They don't pretend that they are presenting anything but their own views on the subjects of the day, and that view is a conservative one. They are stating the truth as they see it and making reasoned arguments in support of their opinions. You ought to try it some time.

    The lads behind Powerline are a bank vice president named Scott Johnson and a lawyer named John Hinderaker. If you read Powerline, you know them better by their fantasy names, Big Trunk (that's Johnson) and Hind Rocket (Hinderaker). I will leave it to the appropriate professionals to determine what they are compensating for, but they have received enormous attention from the despised Mainstream Media and deserve more.

    Nothing like a little personal insult. Right, Nick? More proof (as if we needed it) that you might be a hack. There is one correct statement in that paragraph - Powerline (and other blogs) deserve a bit more Mainstream Media attention. Especially after causing parts of said media considerable embarassment (CBS, anyone?). Oh, and learn how to spell Hindrocket - you are supposed to be a journalist, after all.

    I wish I didn't have to do it, because I already get ripped a lot on the site, which thankfully also has had some nice photos of bikini-clad candidates for Miss Universe to keep me company. But I accept Powerline's contempt; I am only a Mainstream Media man, while Big Trunk and Hind Rocket are way cool. They blog.

    I work for a dopey old newspaper committed to covering the news fairly while Powerline doesn't make boring commitments. They are not Mainstream Media. They are Extreme Media. Call them reliable partisan hacks.

    That's what they call me: A reliable partisan hack, even though they sometimes like columns I write about dumb things Democrats do. I have criticized many dumb Democrats, but Democrats don't matter these days. All the power is in the hands of Republicans, and Powerline's job is to make life easier for them. Mine isn't.

    A story: In 1990, I reported that this newspaper's endorsement of DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was decided by then-publisher and Perpich crony Roger Parkinson. He had quashed the decision of the newspaper's editorial board, which had voted in favor of the Republican challenger, Arne Carlson.

    The truth got out, the Republican won and the public was served. If Extreme bloggers, who know nothing that happened before last Tuesday, had the same commitment to serving the public, I wouldn't have a problem. But like talk radio, they are dominated by the right and are only interested in being a megaphone without oversight, disclosure of conflicts of interest, or professional standards.

    Let's see. Coleman is upset at being called a partisan hack, then cites an incident from almost 15 years ago to prove that he's not partisan. One that involved criticizing the paper he didn't work for at the time (I think he worked for the Pioneer Press at the time). Couldn't find anything more recent, Mr. Coleman? As for the partisan thing, when's the last time that a conservative or a Republican (the two are often not the same) viewpoint got a fair hearing in your column? By the way, who/what are Extreme bloggers? He doesn't really say, except to accuse them of being ignorant and having short attention spans. By that description, the Powerline gang doesn't qualify for Extremeness. It makes more sense to refer to Nick Coleman as an Extreme columnist.

    Powerline is run by Ivy League lawyers, one of whom (Johnson) is a vice president at TCF Bank in Minneapolis and works for Bill Cooper, an ex-state Republican Party chairman. Johnson and Hinderaker are fellows at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that seems to be obsessed with gays and guns and wants to return us to the principles of our founders, although I can't determine if that includes Ben Franklin's skirt chasing.

    Mainstream or Extreme? We report, you decide: Last month, Claremont gave its Winston Churchill Award to that visionary statesman and recovering drug addict, Rush Limbaugh!

    Time magazine's "Blog of the Year" is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won't recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.

    I guess he meant Powerline, after all. By the way, is there actually something wrong with the principles of the Founders, Mr. Coleman? Which ones would you like to get rid of? Next is a cheap joke on the Claremont Institute, using Rush Limbaugh's drug problem. Would Coleman use John F. Kennedy in the same fashion? I expect not. He then accuses the Powerliners of wanting to turn Minnesota into a vision of Alabama that only Coleman seems to understand. I think this an attempt to insult both Powerline and Alabama. Try harder next time, Mr. Coleman.

    Next, Coleman spouts some stuff about the Ivy League and his early work history that really doesn't bear on anything, unless he's trying to convince his readers that he has downtrodden credentials. Then comes this:

    But Extreme bloggers don't tell truths. They tell talking points. Powerline is the biggest link in a daisy chain of right-wing blogs that is assaulting the Mainstream Media while they toot their horns in the service of ... what? The downtrodden? No, that was yesterday's idea of the purpose of journalism. Extreme bloggers are so hip and cool they can make fun of the poor and the disadvantaged while working out of paneled bank offices.

    I guess this is the paragraph where he explains what an Extreme blogger is. Apparently it's all a function of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. I guess that means that Kos and Eschaton are models of objectivity and moderation. These sentences stick out the most: Powerline is the biggest link in a daisy chain of right-wing blogs that is assaulting the Mainstream Media while they toot their horns in the service of ... what? The downtrodden? No, that was yesterday's idea of the purpose of journalism. Mr. Coleman, here I naively thought the purpose of journalism was to report the news accurately and without favoritism, and it's up to the citizens to handle the advocacy part. Silly me.

    Nick Coleman, fact-checker:

    But enough. It's time for auld acquaintance to be forgot. So as a gift to Powerline, let me try my hand at some blogger-style "fact-checking."

    1) "It's totally unexpected," Johnson, the banker, told the newspaper after Powerline won "Blog of the Year."

    But the Aw Shucks Act doesn't fly. Powerline campaigned shamelessly for awards, winning an online "Best Blog of 2004" a week before the Time honor. That online award was a bloggers' poll, and Powerline linked its readers to the award site 10 times during the balloting, shilling for votes.

    2) "We keep it very much separate from our day jobs," said Hinderaker, meaning the boys don't blog at work.

    But they do. Johnson recently had time at his bank job to post a despicable item sliming Sen. Mark Dayton. If I had the money they think I do, I'd put it all in TCF. Then I'd pull it out.

    3) Powerline sells thousands of dollars in ads, including one for T-shirts that say, "Hung Like a

    But does Powerline or its mighty righty allies take money from political parties, campaigns or well-heeled benefactors who hope to affect Minnesota's politics from behind the scenes? We don't know, and they don't have to say. They are not Mainstream. They are Extreme.

    I'll only examine item number 1, since I don't have any useful knowledge about the work habits of the folks at Powerline or the finances of their blog. Check their responses for what they think about Nick Coleman's command of the facts. The first item seems to be an attempt to connect Time's "Blog of the Year" award with the 2004 Weblog Awards poll conducted at Kevin Aylward's Wizbang blog. I'm unaware the editors of Time consulted with Mr. Aylward on their selection but if so, congratulations to Kevin Aylward on becoming Someone of Influence. It ought to be obvious (except to Nick Coleman) the two subjects have nothing to do with each other. Yet he attempts to use them to characterize the guys at Powerline as liars.

    This column was written by a professional journalist? Please, please tell me it's not true.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    Liquid Winter Warmth

    This post at Fraters' reminds me of how a wee bit of spirit is good for same. I fully agree with JB Doubtless' evaluation of Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, and especially his remarks about Booker's. Lovely, sneaky stuff. Wonderful flavor, and then it sneaks back and nails you with that 127 proof. Naturally, I give it as gifts. I do want to suggest another fine bourbon - Basil Hayden's. Tasty and the smoothest bourbon I've ever drank, but at 80 proof not as strong as Booker's.

    It could be that I just missed their ruminations on Scotch (but not their Beer Ratings), but there's nothing like a fine single malt to help one relax a bit at the end of a stressful day. Since I use this blog to write on all sorts of other things I know little about, it's time to keep with that tradition and recommend some single malts. My favorite, The Glenmorangie, is an almost spicy whisky from Tain that has the bonus of a truly wonderful smell to it. To me it's worth it sometimes just to pop the cork off it just for a sniff. Talisker (from the Isle of Skye) has a touch of saltiness and iodine to go with the peat and smoke flavors. The last of my troika of favorites is Lagavulin - who would have thought one could make coal smoke taste good?

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    Showing Off My Ignorance, #48213

    I have a question about the sturcture of our armed forces. According to this we have just over 1.4 million active duty soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. As of September this year we have approximately 170,000 people serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom (137,000 as ground forces), a considerable portion being composed of Reserve and National Guard units. Some of these units, I understand, are now preparing or are serving their second tour in Iraq. My question is this: why is what appears to be a significant dependence on our reserve forces necessary to field a 170,000 person expeditionary force in Iraq (a deployment of about 12% of our active duty force)? Is our active duty military so short of support units that the Reserves are no longer reserves?

    My suspicion is that our force structure (is that the right phrase), may be left over from a time where economy was more important that staying power. I freely admit my ignorance however, and am willing to hear better explanations.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    More Garbage from the Strib

    Here's the transcript (via the Corner) of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answering the now famous question about armored Humvees from Specialist Thomas Wilson:

    Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]

    SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

    Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

    SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.

    As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.

    I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they’re working at it at a good clip. It’s interesting, I’ve talked a great deal about this with a team of people who’ve been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.

    And General Whitcomb, is there anything you’d want to add to that?

    GEN. WHITCOMB: Nothing. [Laughter] Mr. Secretary, I’d be happy to. That is a focus on what we do here in Kuwait and what is done up in the theater, both in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. As the secretary has said, it’s not a matter of money or desire; it is a matter of the logistics of being able to produce it. The 699th, the team that we’ve got here in Kuwait has done [Cheers] a tremendous effort to take that steel that they have and cut it, prefab it and put it on vehicles. But there is nobody from the president on down that is not aware that this is a challenge for us and this is a desire for us to accomplish.

    SEC. RUMSFELD: The other day, after there was a big threat alert in Washington, D.C. in connection with the elections, as I recall, I looked outside the Pentagon and there were six or eight up-armored humvees. They’re not there anymore. [Cheers] [Applause] They’re en route out here, I can assure you. Next. Way in the back. Yes.

    How does this answer merit this editorial from the Star Tribune that accuses Secretary Rumsfeld of not wanting to support our soldiers in Iraq? It doesn't. A soldier asks a legitimate question about armored Humvees (even if the question was planted by a reporter) and received a candid response. A response, by the way, that the Strib's editors chose to cherry-pick a sound bite out of , robbing it of context. All this to claim that the SecDef is suffering from hubris, calling him 'delusional', accusing him (for the umpteenth time) of direct responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and raise the bogus NYT story about missing explosives again. Oh, and demanding his resignation again (again not for the first time).

    Personally, I find the idea of the Strib accusing the administration of not properly supporting our soldiers darkly funny, given their support of John Kerry, who voted against funding our forces once they were engaged in Iraq. I have my problems with Rumsfeld (fodder for a later post), but this is just another dishonest argument presented by the Star Tribune editorial board.

    Monday, December 06, 2004

    The Star Tribune Takes a Stupid Pill

    Just when I get done actually saying something nice about the Strib's editors someone points me towards stuff that meets my rather low expectations for their work. This editorial sure lowers my expectations. The juvenile, illogical, two-faced substance and tone of this thing is disgraceful, and thoroughly demonstrates why thinking, reasonable people should rarely, (if ever) take anything written by the Strib's editors seriously. I could say more, but Mitch Berg does a far better job of it than I. Go, read.

    Sunday, December 05, 2004

    Will Wonders Never Cease!

    In the brief time that I have been criticizing the Star Tribune editorial pages I've complained about the sloppy thinking, vitriol towards Republicans and conservatives (not quite the same thing), and bias against same that appears there on a regular basis. Well today I was in for quite a shock, since the Strib ran some opinion pieces that actually sound pretty reasonable ( see here, here, here, and here). In fact the way the Strib advocates a move to a trimmer, more accountable government for the city of Minneapolis sounds almost ... Republican!

    Steve Berg's piece describes how the structure of Minneapolis' government is an impediment to effectively and efficiently running the city, and how difficult it can be for citizens and employees of the city of Minneapolis to work with their government. Staff members getting conflicting instructions from supervisors and City Councilmen, and the struggles to reconcile the often conflicting demands of 13 city councilmen, the Park Board, and the Library Board.

    A piece by John Gunyou provides his analysis of why the "weak mayor-strong council" form of government is not working well for Minneapolis and why it should be change. He points out that with 250 contact numbers for city departments, for example, that it can be very difficult for residents with a problem to figure out who the right people to contact are.

    Another article, this time by the occasionally criticized on this blog Jim Boyd, explains the history of how Minneapolis got the government structure it has.

    Today's editorial describes again (in brief) the problems they perceive in Minneapolis governmental structure and lay out their ideas on how to fix it. I don't agree with everything they say, but it's not a bad start. They even admit to needing some Republican influence in how the city is run (has the world ended? - ed, ).

    All four of the pieces mentioned above are well worth reading, if only for the primer they provide on how the government of Minneapolis is (un)organized and the description of the problems it faces. But since there always seems to be one bad apple on the Strib's tree, here's a piece by Lori Sturdevant ( Isn't she the one who's so partisan she makes your hair bleed?- ed. Shut up.) that makes a lame attempt to blame the city's governance problems on the state GOP, despite the fact that the borrowing and pension decisions that are financially crippling the city now were taken during the time when the DFL had complete control of both the city and the state. But even she concedes that much of the city's problems are of its own making (quite a concession for her). Anyway well worth reading, especially for Minneapolis residents.

    Friday, December 03, 2004

    More from the Pioneer Press

    In a couple more items from the Pioneer Press:

    Minnesota faces $700 million budget gap: About the only comment on this that I have is that the legislature sure seems foolish for passing a law saying that budget estimates could not include inflation. Inflation is a fact of life and needs to be figured into the budget, one of the few things the DFL is correct about.

    In other economic news, Ford plans to reduce the production of Ranger pickups. Since the Ranger is the only vehicle built at the Ford plant in St. Paul, this can't be good news for the people working there. Has the market for small pickups become smaller, or is the Ranger overdue for a design overhaul to better compete with the offerings from Toyota and Nissan?

    Blog Stuff

    Just a couple of notes:

    This little blog has managed to evolve to the exalted status of Lowly Insect in NZ Bear's Ecosystem. Imagine. Maybe in 50 more years, it may manage to become a more significant bug....

    I would like to thank Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications for adding me to his blogroll. I regret not noticing sooner, but I don't think to check my referrer logs very often. I'm not sure why he added it, but if you're in the market for sporadic, yet inane commentary on Minnesota and national politics with some occasional Star Tribune bashing, this is the place.

    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    Gun Owners Are People, Too

    I was rather surprised to see this opinion piece in today's Pioneer press. It's purpose is to remind people that horrified at the notion of citizens defending themselves that people who own guns are every bit as human and normal as themselves. I admit to mixed views on concealed carry laws, but it just seems sad that an essay such as Ms. Stack 's is necessary. Such are our times, I guess.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    Another Silly Question

    After seeing a photo like this (via Damian Penny) I just have to shake my head. Have any of these people (whom I'm sure consider themselves to be more intelligent than mere Bush/Bush voters/GOPers) actually tried to develop or promote a better solution to the problems in the Middle East?

    Based on the press coverage of all the anti-Bush/anti-US demonstrations and protests, it would appear the only interest is in competition to see who can best vilify President Bush. Judging by the startlingly unoriginal, historically illiterate stuff I've seen the last four years, I'd say that the required original thinking is not exactly their forte. Also that it shows their estimates of their own intelligence are vastly overinflated.

    I'm sure that there are reasoned critiques of US policy in response to terrorism and the political cesspool of the Middle East, but has anyone actually crafted an alternative policy that would be different and better than the Bush administrations?