Thursday, March 31, 2005

Today's Dumb Star Tribune Stuff

There are two items in today's Star Tribune that merit comment. The first is a Steve Sack cartoon criticizing, lo and behold, Jesse Jackson for being too eager to get himself in front of a TV camera. It's taken Sack and the Strib this long to notice? Of course it may be that he chose to side with Schindler family in the Schiavo mess, so the Strib may feel he's betrayed them. Don't worry folks, I'm sure he'll get back to his regular GOP-bashing very soon.

The second item is an extremely one-sided, somewhat incoherent editorial on the Terri Schiavo case. It seems to have the following points:

That Christian extremism is a danger to the United States. Their evidence - Paul Krugman says so, the people demonstrating in support of Terri Schiavo and her parents, Republican (but not Democratic) support for a law to request a Federal court review of her case, pharmacists who decide their conscience will not allow them to dispense birth control and morning after pills in the way the Strib approves of, and last but not least consideration of changing filibuster rules to end Democratic obstruction of appeals court judicial nominations. I fail to understand how that adds up to imminent theocracy, but we'll look at them just the same.

First , the Krugman argument. Krugman thinks anything GOP is extremist, and has a peculiar notion of what's dangerous. The idea of these various groups of people acting peacefully on their convictions seems to scare him (and the Strib) for some reason. After all neither the Strib nor Krugman objected to people acting on their disagreements with the Iraq war or globalization, or siding with Islamic fascists who oppose the very rights that liberals and the left claim to favor. And the Schiavo protestors were relatively polite, even. I didn't notice anyone advocating theocracy out there, for that matter Could it be the Strib and Krugman just have different standards for those who disagree with them?

As far as the pharmacists, I should point out to the Strib the pharmacists they mentioned can choose to act on their convictions just like those on the left. It's called civil disobedience and if they are willing to pay the legal price, it's none of the Strib's business.

In the case of the judicial nominations, an alternative to the Strib and DFL version is that a majority of the Senate would approve these judges but the minority Democrats abused Senate procedure to gain an unconstitutional veto over the president's choice of judges. The Strib seems to think only liberal judges can be trusted to follow the law, whereas in at least one case - that of Judge Prior, he showed himself quite capable of enforcing laws that he disagrees with in the case of judge Roy Moore (no relation to Michael). Rubbish. The filibuster is a creation of Senate rules, not the Constitution and if it is abused by the minority, one can expect the majority to do something to curb the abuse.

The other thing the Strib brings up is Dr. Ronald Cranford, who in their eyes is the sole medical authority on the condition of Terri Schiavo. Apparently he cannot be disputed because he won an argument with a TV commentator. What they don't mention is the numerous neurologists who disagreed with his evaluation of Ms. Schiavo( see one's opinion here ). Apparently in the Strib's eyes the opinion of a TV talking head is more representative of the "know-nothings and charlatans who are waging war on law and reason and science and medicine in the United States." I guess that means that if you disagree with the Strib, you are not a "learned" person. How condescending. How intolerant. And wrong.

Update: I've included a link to the Sack cartoon now that one is available. I also wonder if I shouldn't change to title of this post to something along the lines of "The Strib's Fear of Religious Faith" or something.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Father of American Rocketry

I don't have anything special to write today, other than speech pathology evaluations can be surprisingly unpleasant. It has something to do with the camera they shove through one's nose to look down one's throat, I think. But today I want to feature a different kind of photography. Million Monkeys Typing is in a rocketry frame of mind, so here are links to interesting rocketry photographs. The first is of Robert Goddard, along with a brief description of his work. The next two are photos of some of fruits of his research: the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969 and the first launch of the first operational space shuttle, Columbia (here in a picture from better days). She was lost along with her crew on 01Feb2003. A combination history/memorial site of her last mission can be found here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Strib on Kofi Annan and Oil for Food

The Strib's Wednesday editorial (available Tuesday night on the web site) defends Kofi Annan from Senator Norm Coleman's call for the Secretary General to resign. I don't have the time to write about this item extensively this evening, but I would like to point out that the Strib is being inconsistent in defending Kofi Annan for the same kind of conduct that it regularly accuses President Bush of and condemns him for. They even equivalence Abu Ghraib and Oil for Food. Well, the Strib should remember that corruption in the Oil-for-PalacesFood program caused far more suffering than the soldiers at Abu Ghraib (as wrong as that was).

One man's peek at this year's Twins

Just wanted link this post about the Twins prospective lineup for this season. I'm not enough of a stats person (baseball stats seem to be a fairly esoteric thing) to properly appreciate Aaron Gleeman's analysis, but I like his writing anyway.

Bush Chaitred

The Star Tribune printed a piece by Jonathan Chait speculating the GOP will draft Dick Cheney to run for President in 2008. He holds this opinion despite the fact the Vice President has already stated he will not run for President. Since it is only just over 2 months into President Bush's second term Chait's speculations are worth somewhat less than the proverbial bucket of warm spit. However the guy just couldn't resist taking a personal shot at the president:
There's actually something refreshing and even noble about the desire to nominate Cheney. Critics of this administration, like me, tend to believe that Bush owes a great deal of his political support to his personality. In public Bush comes off as folksy, droppin' his g's and fixin' to clear brush at the old ranch. Although this persona strikes me as obviously fake, it strikes most Americans as genuine and wholesome. If he didn't have this regular-guy image, Bush could never get away with policies uniformly tilted toward the rich and the business lobby. That's exactly why Republicans chose Bush in the first place.
The man just goes out of his way to call Bush a phony (and by implication a liar). It doesn't advance his argument in any way, unless implying the majority of voters who put him in office were stupid enough to be fooled by a charlatan of dubious intelligence is a crowd pleaser. Of course, given his personal feelings, expressed here (registration required) or here it's possible he can't just help himself. Just the kind of writer the Strib understands.

Monday, March 28, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

I don't follow this stuff as much as I like, but I am going to link to JPL's home page for the Deep Impact comet exploration mission. Deep Impact consists of two parts, a flyby spacecraft and a spacecraft that detaches from the flyby craft called the impactor, which does what one would expect from something called an "impactor". The scientist hope that by letting comet Tempel 1 run over the impactor at over 5 miles/sec they (and we) can learn what comets are made of. Could be they're made of stardust...

Anyway, here's the NASA mission page, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Blogroll update

Just wanted to mention that I've added a few new inhabitants to the "Other Interesting Blogs" section of the blogroll. Welcome to David's Medienkritik, Le Monde Watch, Norman Geras, Harry's Place, and Winds of Change.

Update: I forgot Iberian Notes.

More Holiday Love from the Star Tribune

The Star Tribune elected to honor the Easter holiday by reprinting a cheap shot from the LA Times that attempts to make Tom DeLay into a hypocrite on the Schiavo affair. Rather than critique the piece myself, here's a link to Patterico's takedown of it, which is better done than what I would say anyhow.

Tiptoeing up to the Precipice

Lori Sturdevant almost, almost criticizes DFLers in today's Strib. Of course, she never quite gets there, but she almost manages to say something negative about the DFL senate majority:
Minnesota Senate DFLers learned at the feet of their longtime leader, Roger Moe, not to make a major move in the middle of a legislative session unless it helps set up the desired end game.

So there must be some plausible end-of-session reason for the unusual budget-balancing bill the Senate majority popped out and passed last week -- however indecipherable it is now.

The bill the DFLers (sans Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins, who voted no) are boasting about this long weekend balances the state budget, all right -- in a way they themselves can't stand.

Now what she wants is higher taxes on Minnesotans who as a group are not exactly undertaxed to begin with, not a goal I agree with, but she at least recognizes the dishonesty in the Senate DFL's proposal. Too bad she just can't say it directly.

Contrast that to Garrison Keillor who on Easter just can't help but take a swipe at a fellow Christian.

The fate of Terri Schiavo is one that everybody over 50 has considered long ago. The particular hell of a living death is one our parents sought to avoid. They didn't ask us to suffocate them with a pillow, but they did make it clear that lying inert in a nursing home was not how they envisioned spending their twilight years. Twilight is supposed to be brief. They were crystal clear about this. The state courts of Florida, and now the federal courts, seem to be clear on this. What's not clear is the dramatic intervention of the president of the United States, striding into the White House after his last-minute flight from Texas, deciding to "err on the side of life." One hopes that he will go on to make even bigger mistakes in behalf of children who lack basic medical care, or in behalf of suicidal teenagers. All week the news was about lawyers and politicians and rhetorical flourishes and there was almost nothing about the woman herself or who she was, may she rest in peace.

Hey Gar, could you for just one day refrain from implying the president is a religious hypocrite? Does that just stretch the notion of Christian charity too much for you? May I suggest that you go back to Lake Woebegon and just stay there?

From the Now-I've-Heard-Everything Department

From John Rosenthal's Transatlantic Intelligencer, it appears that some of the left-wing opposition in France to the new European Union constitution is because it's an American plot. Damnit anyway, I told those guys at the CIA that they were being too obvious about this...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

How the French feel about us

From Le Monde Watch, a sampling of how a cross section of Le Monde's readership views us. I don't know which aspect of it I find most appalling, the ignorance, the arrogance, or the malice. My "favorite" excerpt:
I don't like Americans, and even less what they stand for [ce qui va avec], power, arrogance, smugness, authoritarianism, contempt for others, the war in Iraq […] with, as their main results, their victims' development of hatred and the desire for vengeance, and the growing hostility towards Westerners. (The ellipsis […] was not mine but was added by Le Monde's own editors, who presumably did not have the space to list all of the sins that René Maffone accuses Uncle Sam of.)
Notice that René's list didn't get to Iraq until he listed five gripes more important to him. All I have to say to say to René is: take a good, long, look at yourself in the mirror before you accuse us of any of the first five. As for the war in Iraq, René, how many people have Frenchmen liberated lately? One other thing, René - don't worry, we don't really give a rat's rectum what you think anyway.

Thanks go to David's Medienkritik for the links to Le Monde Watch

Why I dislike the Strib's editorial board, Part 1 of x

Since I carp on and criticize the opinion pieces in the Strib on a pretty regular basis, I from time to time try to figure out why they bug me so much. There are obvious reasons like the shrillness that appears in many of their editorials, the misrepresentation of the opposing sides viewpoint, if the opposing side is conservative or Republican, or the name-calling (Taliban-wing of the Republican Party, anyone?). It amazes me that they are paid to do that (after all, I can and do commit those errors for free all the time!). It isn't really their being liberals. After all, that describes a significant part of the country and I don't hate liberals, I just disagree with them on some things. So what gives? I think it is passages like the following in an editorial about death on 3/25/05:
From Florida came the legal and emotional whirlwind surrounding the fate of Terri Schiavo, the 41-year-old woman who has been kept alive for 15 years by a feeding tube. The best that can be said about this drama is that the legal system worked. Congressional Republicans didn't want it to work, but it did, and at long last Schiavo and her husband will be left to say goodbye in peace, as she takes physical leave of a life she left so long ago in every other respect. This is the right outcome, but it is impossible to feel joy about it. Her mother's tears and pleas haunt the week. It is clear she believes she was acting to save a daughter's life, an impulse every parent can understand. For her daughter to win, the mother had to lose. There was no other way. The mother's loss requires acknowledgment.

There are two things that annoy me about this excerpt. The first is an attack on the motives of Congressional Republicans (but notice, not the Democrats who also voted for the bill) who were characterized as attempting to undermine the legal system. The Star Tribune was not even honest enough to mention (or consider, in my opinion) the probability/possibility the bipartisan majority in both houses who voted for the bill did so because they believed the legal system had failed Terri Schiavo? The second thing was how they with such certainty portrayed the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube as a victory for her. How the hell do they know? The judge's decision is his best guess based on Florida law, the opinions of disagreeing medical experts, and the word of a husband who may have other motives than Ms. Schiavo's best interest to have the tube removed. Certainty is not the order of the day here. Arrogance, apparently, is always in season.

O Frabulous Day!

At this time with great pleasure I would like to congratulate the Michigan State men's basketball team on their removal of the insufferable Duke Blue Devils and their even more insufferable coach, Mike Krzyewski, from this year's NCAA championship tournament. Thanks for the public service and good luck in the rest of the tournament

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Think of it as (D)evolution in Action

Well, this place has evolved all the way up to Slimy Mollusc. Hard to imagine, given the writing talent around here. As this is certain to be a temporary situation, we'll be keeping the exoskeletons in the closet for future use.

I also wish to direct your attention to the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers blogroll in the sidebar. Give these interesting folks a look. Without doubt there will be better stuff at those more talented (and less obscure) sites than the blather you'll find here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why can't there be a better diagnosis?

I haven't written much about the Terri Schiavo case because frankly I don't understand all the complexities nor do I have an extensive knowledge of medicine, bioethics, or law. I don't think that I can say much that is useful in any way. But since this is a place for uninformed bloviation, here goes... .

I saw this article at NRO that makes the argument that a proper diagnosis of Terri Schiavo's condition has not been made. Specifically, that the neurologists consulted by the author believe that Mrs. Schiavo's condition could not be properly determined by depending on a CT scan, and that a PET scan and an MRI scan should have been done on Mrs. Schiavo. Rev. Johansen (the author of the article) reported the view of one of them, Dr. Peter Morin, thus:
Terri’'s diagnosis was arrived at without the benefit of testing that most neurologists would consider standard for diagnosing PVS. One such test is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely used today, even for ailments as simple as knee injuries — but Terri has never had one. Michael has repeatedly refused to consent to one. The neurologists I have spoken to have reacted with shock upon learning this fact. One such neurologist is Dr. Peter Morin. He is a researcher specializing in degenerative brain diseases, and has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University.

In the course of my conversation with Dr. Morin, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused them.

There was a moment of dead silence.

“"That’s criminal",” he said, and then asked, in a tone of utter incredulity: “"How can he continue as guardian? People are deliberating over this woman’s life and death and there’s been no MRI or PET?”" He drew a reasonable conclusion: “"These people [Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer] don’t want the information."”

Dr. Morin explained that he would feel obligated to obtain the information in these tests before making a diagnosis with life and death consequences. I told him that CT (Computer-Aided Tomography) scans had been done, and were partly the basis for the finding of PVS. The doctor retorted, “"Spare no expense, eh?”" I asked him to explain the comment; he said that a CT scan is a much less expensive test than an MRI, but it "“only gives you a tenth of the information an MRI does".” He added, “"A CT scan is useful only in pretty severe cases, such as trauma, and also during the few days after an anoxic (lack of oxygen) brain injury. It’'s useful in an emergency-room setting. But if the question is ischemic injury [brain damage caused by lack of blood/oxygen to part of the brain] you want an MRI and PET. For subsequent evaluation of brain injury, the CT is pretty useless unless there has been a massive stroke".”

Now it seems to me that the crux of the problem is a dispute over whether or not Terri Schiavo is in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). If PET scans and MRIs really are greatly superior diagnostic tools for understanding her condition, why not use them to develop the best information that can be obtained? Why not have more and better information to use in making what has to be a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision? At this point expense shouldn't be a factor, given that this fight has been going on for over a decade. Not to mention those who want to keep Terri alive undoubtedly would be willing to spring for the tests.

I'm not going to speculate as to why her husband doesn't want the tests. But if I were unfortunate enough to be the judge hearing this case, the first thing I would want is to get the best information possible. Therefore I would order her feeding tube restored pending completion and analysis of a PET scan and MRI on Mrs. Schiavo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Just when I write something nice about them...

the Strib runs this not-even-worth fisking piece of garbage. Earth to Rasmussen: if your view of a worthy Democratic organization is, there is precious little room available for dissing the GOP. Oh, and did I mention that the party whom you say has no good people in it has cleaned your party's clock the last two elections? I don't expect the GOP has much use (or need) for your "sympathy".

Then we have this lovely little piece from the writer who challenges Nick Coleman for the title of most repulsive local writer printed in the Strib, Syl Jones. Over the years he has made a career of exploiting the double standard the Stib has concerning race. He writes things about our Caucasian population (sometimes referred to as "Ice People") that would get me branded a racist if I were to write similar things about people of color. Today, he eschews his normal routine to take the Terri Schiavo situation and use it as an excuse to write another Republican-bashing column, as is his wont. He seems to think that the GOP isn't really pro-life. Why? Here's an excerpt:

Should Congress threaten to get involved --if the hulking figure of Dennis Hastert ever darkens my doorway -- please call an immediate news conference. Ask Congress why, if they are so pro-life, haven't they pulled the 130,000 American men and women out of Iraq and stopped killing people there?

So Syl, Iraqi lives don't count? You know, the lives that have been saved by preventing their previous government from killing them since 2003 and in years to come? The lives saved in Israel because Saddam Hussein isn't funding suicide bombers anymore?
Ask them why they've allowed the CIA to outsource torture so that living human beings are suffering on their watch.

Hey Syl, got any proof?
Ask them, too, if there isn't a glaring contradiction between being pro-life and supporting the sale of .50-caliber rifles.

Well Syl, there is this document called the Constitution that you should try reading some time. Note the part called the Bill of Rights, especially amendment number two, which mentions the right to bear arms. Also, outside of Iraqi and Afghan Islamic terrorists, what innocent person has been killed by one of the rifles you so abhor? Anyone?
Make the point that the surging violence in this country is surely not befitting a Judeo-Christian nation and ask why they aren't spending their time reducing real violence instead of staging special sessions.

So tell me Syl, when did the GOP endorse rising violence? Did you notice, by the way, that violent crime is down from a decade ago?
Most of all, ask them why their vehement pro-marriage stance hasn't stopped them from destroying the simple but sacred bond between Terri and Michael Schiavo, husband and wife. If a husband can't speak for his wife, and vice versa, when facing life-and-death issues, then the cockeyed conservatism of an ignorant few has gutted the very meaning of marriage.

Syl, perhaps the husband would be more credible if say, he hadn't taken up with another woman and had children with her, or hadn't attempted end Mrs. Schiavo's treatment shortly after winning a large malpractice award. Pardon me if I don't find Michael Schiavo to be the poster child for devoted husbands and defender of the meaning of marriage.

Anyhow, there's more of this, but I just can't stand to read any more of it.

Update: I cleaned up the "prose" a bit and corrected some stupid spelling errors . Now writing on the blackboard 100 times : Preview is My Friend, Preview is My Friend... .

Sweet Sixteen

Congratulations to the Gopher women's basketball squad on making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Next up: Baylor.

When Credit is Due...

I spend a lot of pixels here criticizing the Star Tribune for the content of its (mostly opinion) pages. It would be churlish however, to ignore it when they publish something worthwhile. It is from a woman who although she is a pacifist herself, has a daughter in Air Force ROTC. Money grafs:
I am a pacifist and idealist who came of age during the Vietnam War. Imagine my surprise when my then-freshman in high school daughter announced that she intended to participate in an Air Force ROTC program. She is now in her third year of Air Force ROTC training at the University of St. Thomas while majoring in nursing at the College of St. Catherine. The atmosphere in her ROTC detachment is one of respect, support and camaraderie. In her coursework she is encouraged to be a thinker, a problem solver and a team player as well as a leader. I am proud of her accomplishments and have supported her 100 percent in her decision to serve in our military.

I am also a realist. While there is a great deal of goodness in our world, there is also darkness. It is my fervent hope and prayer that diplomacy will always be the first choice as a means of settling disputes. However, we need a strong military to defend our nation and her citizens. I have a deep sense of gratitude for our military personnel, including ROTC cadets. I am proud of my daughter's choices and her dedication to preserving life in the face of death.

I suggest that Bekavac walk a mile in a cadet's combat boots before questioning cadets' motives and experiences.

When one reads a lot of very opinionated blogs and other opinion sources online, it can be easy to start thinking of all those on the other side of an issue as being liberal moonbats or conservative wingnuts or worse. It is nice to have a reminder that people can disagree and still be reasonable about it, and respect honorable choices made by them . I suspect the author of this piece and myself would have many political disagreements, but could have a reasonable discussion about them. A quality sometimes lacking in parts of the blogosphere.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Selective Memory

Tamara Baker's article in today's Star Tribune was sort of interesting but incomplete. Her article is a long complaint about how a Star Tribune article by Eric Black (link here, but it will soon be in the paid archive) didn't have enough liberal politics in it. I have a few comments and criticisms, of course. Let's start with her first complaint:
For one thing, it focused on the local Republican bloggers, but didn't name any of the liberal blogs like DailyKos and Eschaton, which have been around a lot longer and which still, despite their not getting as much mainstream-press publicity as the righties, get more readers than the righties. It was Eschaton's readership that, after nearly two weeks of constant effort, finally forced the mainstream press to fully cover Trent Lott's shocking remarks praising Strom Thurmond's racist history -- remarks that the press at first ignored, even though barely two months earlier that same press quickly condemned, loudly and for weeks afterwards, the comparatively mild comments made by Rick Kahn in 2002 at the Wellstone memorial.

She has a point that Black didn't specifically name any liberal blogs. He did, however, briefly mention the role of liberal bloggers in the Trent Lott affair. She singles out lefty blogs the Daily Kos and Eschaton for mention claiming that they are older, better read blogs. A few things to note. Power Line is actually older than the Daily Kos (by one day) and Little Green Footballs (the other "conservative" blog she mentions) dates back to February 2001, so her chronology is a bit off. Also for the record the condemnation of Trent Lott was bipartisan, including criticism from Power Line. Her characterization of the press condemning the "comparatively mild comments" at the Wellstone memorial is a little off. The press reported on the people whom the memorial offended condemning it. Remember, this was a televised service turned into a political rally/ambush on the non-DFLers who were there, which offended much of Minnesota in real time.

Her next complaint is about the site
Little Green Footballs, about which she says this:
Black's article also didn't mention "Little Green Footballs," a right-wing blog whose founder, Charles Johnson, claims that he and not John Hinderaker's PowerLineBlog was the first to lead the charge against Dan Rather last fall. While PowerLine tries to sound calmly professional, the Little Green Footballs blog is much more vicious in its conservatism. Its posters and readers are known for things such as cheering the death of peace activist Rachel Corrie and making bigoted comments about female Muslim tsunami victims.

Rather than calling her a liar, I'll link to Charles Johnson's response, which disputes her version of the story. I would note that LGF posts are links to and commentary about media reports about goings on in the Arab world that show an Arab/Muslim point of view that the Strib is uninterested in sharing with us. As the comments are mostly unmoderated some of the comments are pretty nasty, but for the most part the commenters are not bigoted racists. The comment sections are no more nasty than those of Markos "Screw Them" Zuniga (proprietor of the DailyKos) and Atrios, the blogs she praises, where our current president is ranked with Hitler, unfavorably compared with chimps, and where conservative and Republicans are vilified on a daily basis.

Then we get to the real thesis of her article:

The big thing left out, though Black hinted at it with his mention of right-wing blogs hounding the Star Tribune, is that the right and left halves of the blogging world have very different goals.

As Garance Franke-Ruta noted in a recent American Prospect, "The targets of the liberal blogosphere are conservative activists; the target of the conservative blogosphere is the free and independent press itself, just as it has been for conservative activists since the '60s."

David Brock, a former conservative activist who now runs a media-watchdog group called Media Matters for America, agrees with Franke-Ruta that Republicans' ultimate aim is the destruction of all objective reporting, so that they can say whatever they want, true or not, and get away with it: "Their explicit goal is to get us to the point where there are blue [state] facts and red [state] facts."

In other words, Republicans for decades have wanted to control the press much as Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler did, by attacking and attempting to discredit independent journalism, and for them blogs are just the latest tool in their war. That's definitely newsworthy, but outside of the blogosphere, few publications will dare state this.

What does Baker use to support this ludicrous charge? The Franke-Ruta article from The American Prospect (not a known bastion of non-partisanship) and quoting an unsupported opinion from David Brock, a self-admitted liar who works for an organization funded by that famous non-partisan George Soros. Here's a reaction to the Franke-Ruta article that lays out some of the ways she misrepresented some the people she profiles in it, from one of the subjects in it. Then she finishes with another stupid, vile, Republicans=Hitler=Stalin comparison (Why do lefties feel compelled to do this? I guess when reason isn't on your side, name calling is all that's left. -ed). Somehow I just can't take Baker's charge seriously for some reason. I guess she's just another member of the paisley helicopter contingent of the left.

Update: Here is Power Line's view of the Baker piece. I think they were unimpressed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A "Not much to write about" kind of post

I haven't felt much like writing the last day or two (no doubt a relief to all - ed) and today it appears I will manage to eliminate myself from the NCAA pool at work (note to Feds: no money is involved) by the end of the first round. I guess that could be considered to be an achievement of the more dubious sort.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

From the Sore Losers' Department

From the Million Monkeys Typing Sore Losers' Department (otherwise known as the Star Tribune editorial board), we have this entry, where we see a demonstration of the conditions under which the Strib can bring itself to say something even slightly positive about our current president. Sandwich the nice bit between lots of criticism, like this:
The upshot is that in many places around the globe, people are asking if President Bush "was right." It's a good question, but imprecise. Right about what? He wasn't right about weapons of mass destruction; nor was he right about Iraq's links to terrorists. Those were the two top reasons given for the American invasion of Iraq. To find in the new push for democracy a justification for the invasion is quite a stretch.

But more generally, Bush was right about one centrally important thing: the possibilities for democracy in a volatile region ruled mostly by despots. Writing in Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria said Bush's frequently expressed view has played a powerful role in stimulating the nascent and still very tenuous spread of democracy. So even though it's still early days, give Bush his due; when most experts believed democracy stood no chance in the region, he did. The power of that belief has had an effect. You might say Bush spoke truth to despotic power.

Bush's words, however, might have done the job without invading Iraq -- because a host of other influences also are driving the Middle East toward reform.

They then followed with a list of reasons why the Middle East is going democratic without any help from the actions of the US. At least they spared us a lecture about how Kerry would have done it better.

The Elephant in the Room

In Dissent magazine, Lillian B Rubin opines about the failure of the Left to win elections of late. In her opinion, it's because the group of people she calls the working class (doesn't that include just about everybody? Not by her definition, I expect.) are voting against their interests. She starts out by wondering why:
While the intensity of political polarization that grips the nation today is relatively new, America has been drifting to the right for decades. Since the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, only three Democrats have occupied the White House, and of those, Bill Clinton alone survived for more than a single term. Although poll data show that most voters think the Democrats are better on such central issues as the economy, jobs, health care, and education, they continue to return Republicans to power. Republicans now occupy the governors' mansions in twenty-eight states and own both the House and Senate, where leadership has been increasingly drawn from the radical right.

With the untimely death of Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, we lost the most consistently progressive voice in either house of the United States Congress. If our ideas and our politics have been in the service of those less advantaged, as we believe so passionately, why have we had such a hard time making ourselves heard in ways that count? How did our voice-the voice of economic opportunity, the voice that speaks of justice in education, jobs, health care, and taxation-find so little resonance with the very Americans for whom we claim to speak?

Now, I'm not conceding that she is correct about the issues she lists, but there is a significant item missing from her list (nor is it addressed anywhere in her essay). Apparently it doesn't occur to Ms. Rubin that the Left may have a problem because their target audience doesn't trust them to defend the nation. You know, the issue the ranked number 1 in a lot of pre-election polls? Maybe she needs to look a bit more closely.

Monday, March 14, 2005

So Why Don't We Treat Communists Like the Nazis?

From Arts and Letters Daily, a link to an attempt by Slavoj Zizek to explain why Communism should not be condemned in the same way as fascism of the Nazi and Mussolini varieties. I think it fails. Zizek states that the difference between Stalinist Communism and Nazism is that Stalinism was a failed attempt at emancipation while Nazism was a "radical new evil". In my (non-historian) opinion, Nazism is a relative of Stalinism, created by individuals in response to what they saw as the flaws of communism. Both Hitler and Mussolini had ties to the Communists before becoming Fascists, both chose to attempt to implement socialist economic models, and they used the same methods of terror and coercion to intimidate their opponents and cow their own people as the Soviet communists did. The use of terror in Bolshevik Russia started with Lenin and Trotsky, not Stalin. Stalin refined it and added insanity to the mix. The only difference between the Stalinists and the Nazis was the choice of groups to target. Somehow Zizek thinks that makes all the difference. Considering the respective results, it was a distinction without a difference.

Congratulations Gophers!

Gopher men's team on hearing their selectionGophers women hear their selection

Kudos to both University of Minnesota men's and women's basketball squads for making the NCAA tournament. The women were expected to do well this year, but the men basically came out of nowhere to make the 64 team field, so it was a rather pleasant surprise to see them both make it.

(photos courtesy of the Star Tribune.)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bolton for U.N. Ambassador

The Star Tribune in its very finite wisdom has condemned the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN in their Thursday editorial. Their objections seem to be:
  • He is critical of the UN. I fail to see why that is a problem, unless one is pleased with the current UN record - the one that brought us sex scandals in peacekeeping, corruption on a massive scale (see Oil for Food), and travesties like Libya and Cuba on the UN Commission for Human Rights.
  • It is not acceptable to speak the truth about nations like North Korea because it might offend them. Apparently the idea of actually describing North Korea's Kim Jong-il as a "tyrannical dictator" who ruled over a place where life is "a hellish nightmare.", i.e. speaking the truth, upsets the sensiblities of the Strib. Personally, I think that dispensing with diplomatic fiction concerning psychopathic murderers is a good thing.
  • Offending the sensibilities of the UN's leadership (note, a leadership with the record listed above) is counterproductive. Well, sucking up to them like Clinton and predecessors did sure was helpful... . I would also like to point out that Ambassadors Kirkpatrick and Moynihan were not notably conciliatory either, and they did pretty well. Perhaps an effective critic in this position is, once again, a good thing.
  • Bolton may undermine Kofi Annan's Secretary Generalship. And why should Kofi be supported? Because of his sterling record of achievement? The Strib should find another argument.
The Strib's editors believe the UN is the only game in town for stopping international conflicts from becoming wars. I'm sure the folks in Congo, Bosnia, and Kosovo are comforted in that knowledge. I think the UN in it's current condition is a cesspool that needs reform. It needs people involved who are willing to be critical of the garbage going on there and have the ability to get stuff done, qualities both present in the person of John Bolton. Barring dishonesty or other scandal, he should be confirmed by the Senate.

For a view that is more positive than the Strib's, heres Anne Applebaum's take, courtesy of Jewish World Review.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Swagger... What Swagger?

This passage from a NYT story about Bush is rather a different take than the usual Times op-ed line of Bush the swaggering cowboy...
He has gone out of his way not to crow, or even to take direct credit. But not quite two years after he began the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and not quite two months after a second Inaugural Address in which he spoke of "ending tyranny," President Bush seems entitled to claim as he did on Tuesday that a "thaw has begun" in the broader Middle East.

There's a very long road ahead, but if the Middle East dominoes really do fall towards democracy, there's gonna be a lot of crow on the dining room menus at the Times.

From the Ambulance Chasing Department

Via Dean Esmay, here's a story about what is probably the grand champion of attempts at ambulance chasing. I guess that Acts of God are now actionable, at least as far as Europeans are concerned. Ironically, we get to share the joy of being sued with the French. Why does my country have to put up with this crap?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

No Support for the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act

I would at this time like to express my disapproval of the new bankruptcy reform law moving through this year's Congress. President Bush and the members of Congress supporting this bill are wrong, so I wrote to my senators and congressman to let them know why. This is my letter to congressman Mark Kennedy:
Dear Congressman Kennedy,
I am writing to request that you not support the bankruptcy reform legislation that is being considered in the Congress at this time. In my opinion the bill does not merit support for the following reasons:

1. Credit card companies already have sufficient tools to manage their risks in extending credit to sub-prime borrowers. They build the risk of lending to these people into the interest rates that they charge this customers. They also have the ability to decide on a case by case basis whether potential borrowers are creditworthy. and certainly are not required to extend credit to anyone they deem too risky. Passing this bill allows creditors to ignore their fiduciary duty to be responsible lenders by dumping risk on the consumer and on the courts.

2. This will place an even heavier burden on people who are in financial distress through no fault of their own due to medical bills, job loss and other events beyond their control, while providing assistance to companies that already have no trouble with profitability and who already use high fees and penalties to generate profit from people who are already in great financial distress.

3. As a citizen who votes mostly Republican it is my judgement that this bill does not produce much benefit for the nation as a whole, and provides aid to creditors that do not need it. The amount of bankruptcy abuse in my opinion does not justify the provisions of this bill.

Thank you for reading,

Douglas Vaselaar

If bankruptcy blogging is good enough for the Instapundit, it's good enough for me.

Where Kim Ode Misses the Point

This year , State Senator Michelle Bachmann and Representative Ray Vandeever proposed the creation of an "Academic Bill of Rights" in Minnesota, with the goal of protecting students who have political views in disagreement with those of the professors teaching them. For the record, I think it would be a bad idea, mostly because it would be almost impossible to enforce. The debate started by bringing it up, however, may be of some use. Kim Ode wrote a column disagreeing with those who are pushing the proposed Academic Bill of Rights in this year's legislature. I think this passage describes the gist of her argument:
So the bill can't really be about shielding our kids -- at least, not if we've done our jobs. In all likelihood, the Academic Bill of Rights already has served its main purpose, simply by being filed. It preached to its choir about the evils of different views, while putting the rest of the congregation on notice that someone's watching.

This bill is about fear, as is so often the case these days. It's about fear of debate, fear of the examined life. It means to make teachers fearful about giving students a vigorous education, and it will make students fearful when -- and it's when, not if -- they are confronted with a differing view as adults.

I think she completely misses the concern behind the bill. The bill is not so much about fear as about fairness, and in a sense enhancing the flow of ideas. I think part of the motivation for this bill is to introduce some diversity into what the bill's backers see as the liberal choir in academia. What good is it after all, to extol the virtue of debate when one of the two major governing philosophies in this country is all but shut out on many university campuses? Not to mention the unfairness when professors use their relative position of power to impose/indoctrinate their politics on students.

From reading some of Ms. Ode's other work I think it would be safe to say she is on the liberal/DFL side of the political spectrum, so perhaps as a member of her choir she misses some obvious things. One, universities are not the sole place where political conservatives get their assumptions challenged. Conservative talk radio, conservative think tanks, etc. did not arise because there was an oversupply of conservative thought in the public discourse (mostly via the media). They came to be (and popular) because many conservatives did not believe they had a forum from which to conduct their side of the debate, and their views when mentioned were unfairly and inaccurately described while simultaneously being belittled.
Second, if having one's views challenged is good for conservatives, would it not also be a good thing for the liberals to have to defend theirs as well? Holding debates in echo chambers may be loud, but except for deafness little is accomplished.

For those who don't think bias in the academy is a problem, here is an example. More information can be found at FIRE.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Minnesota "Peace" Activist Detained in Israel

From today's Star Tribune:
Kristin (Flo) Razowsky, a Minneapolis-based pro-Palestinian activist who was expelled from Israel in 2003, was detained again Friday at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv as she tried to re-enter Israel, according to the International Solidarity Movement.

The ISM said Razowsky planned to oppose Israel's expected effort to deport her again.

In 2003, Razowsky was living in the West Bank and working in an ISM office near Bethlehem when she was arrested and charged with being in an area that Israel had ordered closed to foreigners.

In Minneapolis, Razowsky has advocated for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Accurate as far as it goes, but a bit incomplete. Here's a bit more information on the ISM to help demonstrate what sort of "peace activists" they are.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

From Today's LA Times...

I don't understand why the LA Times bothered with this story (registration possibly required). What was the Times thinking when they came up with the headline "N. Korea, Without the Rancor: A businessman speaks his mind about the U.S., the 'nuclear club' and human rights issues." to describe the government-issure interview of a North Korean government functionary "businessman" (along with his possible 'minder') ? It's just another rehash of the "We're just regular folks, and if the US and the Bush administration didn't cause all our problems, everything will be jake" line spouted by the NK government for years. So, what mind is being spoken here - Kim "I'm So Ronery" Jong-Il's? In case a reminder is needed, here's some of what the State Department says about the state of things in North Korea. (via Vodkapundit) People are indeed people everywhere, but it really, really sucks to be a people in North Korea.

Undoubtably we'll see this one reprinted in the Star Tribune fairly soon.

Update: More about the story and its author over at Power Line.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

ARE CEOs paid to much?

This from a Walter Williams column at Jewish World Review, explaining why corporations pay their chief executives so much:
Here are a couple of questions to you: If you were the owner of GE, and a CEO could turn your $14 billion corporation into a $500 billion one, how much would you be willing to pay that man in salary and bonuses? Or, in the case of Jim Kilts, turning Gillette from a corporation in steep decline into one Procter & Gamble was willing to buy for $57 billion, how much would you be willing to pay?

Then, you might ask yourself: If a corporate board of directors could buy a $300 computer that could do what a CEO could do, would it pay CEOs millions of dollars? By the same token, if an NFL owner could hire a computer to make the decisions that star quarterbacks make, why would he pay some of these guys' yearly compensation packages worth more than $10 million?

I'm left with a couple of questions. Why is it when a strong corporate performance happens, the CEO is the only person who gets the credit (and most of the rewards)? Surely that person did not accomplish the feat entirely on their own, after all. Successful companies really are team efforts.
Next, why are CEOs richly rewarded even when they fail? Note Carly Fiorina and Michael Eisner as examples. Richly rewarded if the company succeeds, only slightly less richly rewarded if they fail. The folks who actually take the weight are the rank and file employees and stockholders in the company. What is the downside for the CEO?
Lastly, why doesn't the market exert some downward pressure on CEO pay? There must be plenty of good candidates for the relatively few positions, so why the spiral up? My theory is that executives have much more influence on their compensation then regular employees, both by virtue of the high visibility of the position, and the practice of CEOs hiring consulting firms to make recommendations on their own pay tends to distort the market since the firms have a lot of incentive to recommend big raises for the management that hired them. My gut feeling is that corporate boards are often cowed by these folks.

Testimony of a 9/11 Republican

Just a quick link to this "I saw the light" column by Cinnamon Stillwell in the San Francisco Chronicle. In it she describes her journey from her previously liberal views to join us here on the Dark Side. Via LGF.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a Republican. I tend to agree with them on defense and other foreign policy matters, but I think they don't fully consider the consequences of the destructive bit of the 'creative destruction' aspect of the free market. For all the talk of responsibility, I don't believe the GOP takes corporate crime seriously enough. (like what happened at Enron/Worldcom/Adelphia for example. )