Saturday, April 30, 2005

Condemning Hate Speech at the Star Tribune

In today's Everyday Ethics column (currently not online) Jeremy Iggers chides us about the amount of political speech that seems to fit what he considers hate speech. The occasion: Ann Coulter's recent appearances at St. Olaf and the University of St. Thomas here in the Twin Cities, along with the condemnation of her speech from the president of St. Thomas, the Rev. Dennis Dease.

Iggers uses these events to opine that there is too much hateful speech in today's public discourse using statements from Coulter to illustrate - her infamous quotes about the Oklahoma bomber "My only regret is he did not go to the New York Times building" and a statement after 9/11, "Whe should invade their courntries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity". I don't have too much of a problem with this, since I think she went over the line with those. I do have a problem with Mr. Iggers using Garrison Keillor as an example of those who make polite, witty fun of their political enemies. Why? Just read these three items from Salon (subscription or day pass required, alas) where he personally attacks Senator Norm Coleman and denigrates the people of Minnesota for electing him, rather than a member of Keillor's DFL party. The polite, gentle wit seems to be missing... .

If what Coulter says is hate speech, Keillor is right up there with her. As is Howard "I Hate Republicans" Dean and that maker of liberal hate film, Michael Moore. Those personages did not rate an ethics column, but Ann Coulter (a professional provacatuer) did? Iggers should also consider some of the speech published in the newspaper he works for. The Star Tribune has likend the GOP to the Taliban, has Nick Coleman, a columnist who is prone to making personal attacks via his column on those he dislikes (i.e., the gents at Power Line) , and regularly prints articles personally disrespectful of the current president of the United States (we're not talking disagreements here, we're talking about stuff attacking his intelligence, honesty, and family), and regularly accuses its political opponents of working against our democracy (the latest being its editorial against the concealed carry bill). Am I agitating against disagreement and or dissent? No! Those are a necessary part of our public discourse, and should be welcome and encouraged. But if Mr. Iggers wants to reduce hate speech in the public discourse, he should start with the editors of his own newspaper.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Strib Misfires... Again

The Star Tribune took it upon itself to run another dishonest editorial against the Minnesota Personal Protection Act today. Like it or hate it the Strib should at least expend the effort to make an honest argument, if only for the sake of their own integrity. Rather than write my own post in objection, I'll just link to Mitch Berg's post over at Shot in the Dark, (one of the many fine blogs linked on the sidebar) since he follows this stuff more closely and is a better writer anyway.

Kristof on North Korea

Today's Star Tribune contained a piece by Nicholas Kristof (yeah, the one from the New York Times) about how in his opinion the Bush administration has blown it in dealing the homicidal lunatics who run North Korea (into the ground, but I digress...). Apparently if the US had just followed the Clinton model of bilateral negotiation and giving them stuff the North Koreans would not be a source of trouble for anyone but themselves, to hear Kristof tell it. He even has a diplomat to quote saying the Bushies blew it to back him up. Imagine that. At least he admits the problems in Korea are mostly of Kim "I'm so 'ronery" Jong-ll's making, as well. However there are a couple of vital questions about negotiating with the NKs that Kristof doesn't even attempt to address.

First, if the Clinton policy that resulted in the "Agreed Framework" of 1994 was so effective, why did the North Korean government announce it had built nuclear weapons early in the Bush (43) administration? Since one doesn't build the infrastructure for these sorts of projects in a day (or even in a year), the most logical conclusion to me is the North Koreans did not (and probably never intended to) abide by the agreement. If so, what did the Clinton policy actually achieve?

Second, since the North Korean government cheated on the previous agreement, what reasonable expectation can we have that they will abide by another one? Precedent, to say the least, is not comforting here.

It seems to me the Bush policy of getting China, South Korea, and Japan involved in the talks has a better chance of creating a better, more likely to be enforceable deal. If nothing else, the North Koreans have to pay attention to what China wants, since that's where much of their food and fuel is coming from these days. It is also reasonable that the other Korea and Japan be involved, since if the NKs start another war, those nations will be the most affected by a Korean attack (and the inevitable response from the United States). Ignoring these questions definitely lowers my opinion of Kristof's critique.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Cassini-Huygens Day

Today's Cassini-Huygens link is to a page entitled "Sounds of Titan". It turns out that there are microphones built into the Huygens lander, and the European Space Agency has a one minute audio collage of sounds it recorded during the descent. From the standpoint of esthetics I guess it isn't all that impressive, but it just seems a wonder to be able hear the winds of another world... . The link is to a 440Kb mp3 file.

Ah, Spring

here in Minnesota! The first day of trap league, go home, grab the weapon and head for the range. Enroute the weather goes from cloudy to rain to sunshine to snow to sun and when I step up to the first trap station, wind-driven snow. Finish shooting, snow and clouds go away.

At least I have an excuse for the rotten shooting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What do you know?

It would appear our "favorite" columnist at the Star Tribune doesn't like Ann Coulter. Nor for that matter does the president of St. Thomas University. They disapproved of the way she expresses her views. Nasty Nick put it this way:
The conservative pundit on spiked heels came to town last week, and they are still picking up the pieces at two citadels of saintly scholarship in Minnesota -- St. Olaf College in Northfield and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. I have already written about the miniskirted screechfest at St. Thomas, and I'd be glad to never mention it again. Except for the fact that left behind her, amid the wreckage of civil discourse, is that useful flotsam often found in the wake of a disaster: A teachable moment.
First, as a guy who doesn't like writing about Ms. Coulter, why write two columns about her? Personally, I find her annoying, hyperbolic and unnecessarily mean. However, she does have two things in her favor: she's a better fact checker than Michael Moore (and Nasty Nick for that matter), and much easier on the eyes than both aforementioned gents.

I have difficulty understanding where Coleman gets the standing to complain about incivility. He's the gent who wrote a vitrolic, personal, fact-challanged attack on the gents at Power Line last year, after all. (The column is no longer online, so the link goes to a post I wrote about it.) He didn't have anything to say about liberal hate speech when Howard Dean, the little-known Democrat who occupies the insignificant little post of Democratic National Committee chairman, was busy telling all who would listen how he hates Republicans and how the Republican party and all its works are evil. Or when Michael Moore was making specious accusations about how President Bush may have been responsible for the events of September 11, 2001. Any word from Nick? (crickets chirping... and chirping.... ) In short, before Nick Coleman starts judging others on their civility, he should try practicing some himself first.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Where in the World

do you put a state run casino if you're the state of Minnesota? At the horse track, of course. Which to me makes no sense.

Setting aside my opinion about whether we actually need any more gambling establishments here (that opinion is no, especially when the state is running it), why build a damn casino right next to one already operating? To compete for the same customers that are going to Mystic Lake? Why not place the thing somewhere else in the metro, say, Plymouth or Maple Grove? That way gamblers in the northwest metro don't have to go all the way to Shakopee to indulge.

In any case if the people of the state of Minnesota want more money spent on government that what the current tax system brings in, the proper solution is to suck it up and raise taxes to cover the spending. Better yet, don't spend the extra money in the first place.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Cassini Picture of the Day

Just because I feel like it, here's another Cassini photograph from Saturn:

The Dragon Storm

The Dragon Storm (click image for larger picture with accompanying explaination.)


Tories in Trouble

The British Conservative Party must be pretty pathetic if even the hecklers have to be hired. Perhaps they could borrow some of Ann Coulter's.

The BBC has some 'splaining to do.

(via Instapundit)

A Slow Opinion Day at the Strib

It must be a slow day for the opinion writers at the Star Tribune today, since they headlined today's Op-Ex section with the Theory of Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Death Match. I mean, three pieces on the subject with two of them on the front page of the section. They can be found here, here, and here.

I don't want to disappoint the fellows who picked the theme, but I would guess the debate between supporters of evolution and supporters of the theory of intelligent design ranks well below the the top 10 issues of most importance to the average Minnesotan. Moreover, if this is just an attempt to alert the gullible Minnesota public to the Evil Plan TM of the NeoconRethuglicans to establish a theocracy, not to worry. The chances of the teaching of evolution being banned in our schools in favor of intelligent design is about the same as our Timberwolves winning this season's NBA championship.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Liquor Cabinet

At the Frater's place this list of additions to JB Doubtless' liquor cabinet happend to catch my eye. After the pangs of regret at missing the chance to buy reduced-tax booze passed, I got to thinking about how I would change the contents of his shopping cart. So here's my roadmap to happy, long term inebriation:

  1. One bottle of Lagavullin
  2. One bottle of Glenmorangie 15 year old
  3. One bottle of Talisker
  4. One bottle of Absolut
  5. One bottle of Booker's
  6. One bottle of Basil Hayden's
  7. One six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  8. One six pack of Newcastle Brown Ale
  9. One six pack of Kingfisher lager
  10. One six pack of Harp
  11. One bottle of Jameson Gold
  12. One bottle of the Tyrconnell Irish single malt
  13. One bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme
  14. One gallon Chippewa Springs bottled water
There are a few differences from JB Doubtless' list. I got rid of the wine (my sense of taste isn't good enough to appreciate them) the fruity stuff, the tequila, and most of the vodka. I added more Scotch, Irish, and Kentucky whisky/whiskeys. Although I substituted Bailey's for the O'Keefe's only because I'm unfamiliar with it. I could be convinced otherwise, however. The Kingfisher I became somewhat fond of while in India on business a few years ago.

I wonder how much I could have stiffed the state for?

Compromise, Democrat Style

The Star Tribune ran a Tom Teepen piece that attempts to make the case that the proper course in resolving the Senate impasse over appellate judges is to give the Democrats what they want. He claims that the Dems are just being good citizens and in a neutral, non-partisan fashion are objecting to Bush's appellate picks because (in his words):
Senate Democrats, resorting to the filibuster that requires a 60-vote majority, have balked at only 10 Bush picks, all for appellate benches -- and all for cause, as either too thinly qualified or as bearing records that fix their jurisprudence far outside the mainstream.

What he doesn't tell us is the Democrats have adopted the up to now-unheard of tactic of filibustering judicial nominations to prevent a floor vote, and he never explains how these nominees are "too thinly qualified or as bearing records that fix their jurisprudence far outside the mainstream".

Since Mr. Teepen neglected to do this, let me point you to an article from a liberal law professor who has looked at the President"s nominees. He comes to a rather different conclusion about their qualifications.

(Link courtesy of Jewish World Review)

Update: I removed a reference to the number of appellate nominations made by President Bush because I may have used the wrong number. Since I don't have the right number handy, I changed the post rather than leave the error in place.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Nasty Nick Coleman

I don't think Nick Coleman is a dumb person. A hack for the DFL yes, but he's not a dumb person. He does however seem to have a mean streak of the more petty kind, which he puts on display in Sunday's Star Tribune (previous posts about Coleman's writing style here and here). Nick, we understand that you are foursquare in favor of gay marriage, and that Senator Bachmann's ducking behind a hedge to avoid confronting some pro-homosexual protesters is somewhat funny. Problem is , writing a column about it that is actually funny requires more talent than the one that came up with the label "Senator Sneak". But since the topic of labeling now has come up, from now on I'll just refer to you as "Nasty Nick", or maybe "Nitwit Nick", or even "Catty Coleman".

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Now for Something Out of This World...

Just before signing off for the evening, I'd like to mention that the Cassini spacecraft is still orbiting Saturn and still taking pictures. This one is an infrared one of the moon Enceladus. NASA's journal page for Enceladus is here.

The blue color is water ice. I don't know much about the rest of them yet.

Update: Here's a link to a NASA archive of Cassini-Huygens pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2005

When you can't argue the facts,

argue the law. If you can't argue the facts or the law, attack the other lawyer. That's the phrase that came to mind upon reading this piece by C. Ford Runge in today's Star Tribune. He didn't really engage her position on the issue of gay marriage, he just tried to ridicule her and imply that she is so conservative as to be unbalanced. One would think a distinguished law professor could actually argue on the merits of her primary arguments. Instead, he writes about where Sen. Bachmann got her law degree, and quotes people who disagree with her, plus a few cherry picked quotes from her.

Why not just argue the merits? If her concerns about the federal judiciary and academic freedom on campuses are unfounded, show us why. Don't just use cheap debater's tricks.

Note: I don't know much about Sen. Bachmann nor do I have much of an opinion on the merits of same sex marriage, other than the issue should be decided by the legislature or the people directly rather than the courts, an argument that I made here a while back.

A Lefty's Advice to the Left

Originally I was planning to write a longer post about this Dissent article from Michael Walzer, who made a few waves with "Can There Be A Decent Left" (also in Dissent, and well worth reading). However after reading it became clear that this is another article that can be condensed down to : if the liberal left wants to ever gain power in this country, those who represent it will need to convince Americans that the Left a) understands how to defend this nation better than the other guys, and b) is actually willing to do so. In other words look back to the attitude of the Truman Democrats. He uses a lot more words to say it, though. It's good advice, as far as it goes.

The thing about the article that bugs me is the way he makes a lot of the usual leftist accusations about the right and the Republican party without anything to back them up. The ones about the right and it's henchmen being only about greed, fear, religious fanaticism, only about ideology while the left is pragmatic, yada yada yada. It's dull, boring, and insulting, and I'm not even a Republican (not conservative enough). What is it about the lefties that causes them to view those who disagree with them to be not just wrong, but bad people? I mean, what is it that prevents many lefties from at least conceding the other side also wants to make America better, but disagree on the methods? Yes, some on the right do the same thing, but in my humble opinion it is more common on the left.

Monday, April 11, 2005

April 15th, 1945

What price is so high that we do not end things like this? Outside of avoiding war involving use of WMDs, I can't think of many offhand. (Link thanks to LGF.)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The WSJ on Sandy Berger

This WSJ editorial about the deal cut by the Justice Department with Sandy Berger over his sneaking classified material out of the National Archives. Their willingness to cut Berger slack puzzles me. Here's some of their reasoning:
After a long investigation,
however, Justice says the picture that emerged is of a man who knowingly and
recklessly violated the law in handling classified documents, but who was not
trying to hide any evidence. Prosecutors believe Mr. Berger genuinely wanted to
prepare for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission but felt he was somehow
above having to spend numerous hours in the Archives as the rules required, and
that he didn't exactly know how to return the documents once he'd taken them
More than a few conservatives have been crying foul, or whitewash, in
part because Mr. Berger's plea means he'll likely avoid jail and lose his
security clearance for only three years. So we called Justice Department Public
Integrity chief prosecutor Noel Hillman, who assured us that Mr. Berger did not
deny any documents to history. "There is no evidence that he intended to destroy
originals," said Mr. Hillman. "There is no evidence that he did destroy
originals. We have objectively and affirmatively confirmed that the contents of
all the five documents at issue exist today and were made available to the 9/11

Apparently convenience justified stealing documents and then deliberately lying about it when he got caught in the Journal's view, as long as he didn't "deny any documents to history". Note that it doesn't bother them that lesser officials committing lesser offenses are treated more harshly. Why? Here's the Journal again:
It's worth noting that Mr. Berger will
still have to explain his actions to a judge at sentencing--a judge who could
reject Justice's recommendation and give him to up a year in jail. We hope the
judge does insist on a full explanation of motive. Lesser officials have
received harsher penalties for more minor transgressions, so a complete airing
of the facts will show the public that justice is being done. But given the
minimal damage from the crime, this looks to be a case where prosecutors have
shown some commendable restraint against a high-powered political

If the offender is a "high powered political figure", they should get more lenient treatment, according to the Journal. I argue that since Mr. Berger was indeed a high-ranking government official experienced in handling classified material who chose to unlawfully remove them from the Archives, he should be held to a higher standard of responsibility for his actions and should actually be punished more harshly. Permanently revoking his security clearances, and sending him to jail for awhile seem to me penalties more appropriate to his offenses.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It Lives!

My Windows 98 partition, that is. It is deaf and dumb to the internet, but at least it boots. I did learn a few things while attempting to reinstall it.

1. You reboot. A lot.
2. If you're not rebooting it, it is rebooting itself
3. Windows 98 does not like being installed over a damaged copy of itself.
4. format c: fixes that problem.
5. It's a good thing I didn't have any important data on that partition.
6. Partition Magic is a very useful tool to have around.
7. So is Boot Magic.
8. It's gonna take a long time to download and reinstall all the security patches from the past seven years.
9. See #1 above.

Monday, April 04, 2005

This is a Public Service Announcement

to the very small part of the public that actually visits this place. The will be little or no posting here the next few days while I am recovering the home PC from a Windows Update related disaster that prevents my PC from booting into Windows. Fortunately my Mandrake Linux partition is OK (which allows me to make this post) , but since I need Windows for work it looks like the long delayed Win98 re-install here at the estate is about to happen.

In more useful news, today is Opening Day for the Minnesota Twins and most of Major League Baseball. More proof for the existence of God. Also that He has a sense of humor.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

From the Strib's letters page

From today's Star Tribune letters page:
Land of the free?

People used to come to America to escape persecution. Boy, have times changed.

Disagree with the administration? Not here. Want to marry your same-sex partner? Not here. Want to decide end-of-life issues for yourself? Not here. Want to allow smoking in the business you own? Not here. Want control of your own body? Not here. Want freedom from religion or freedom of religion? Not here. Want freedom of speech? Not here.

This country is becoming a frightening place to live. People are forcing their beliefs on others and stomping on the Bill of Rights.

Name withheld to spare the author - ed.

I have one word to describe the content of this letter: nonsense. I don't normally reference letters to the Strib, but this one just annoys me to no end. Look at the almost complete stream of nonsense in this letter:
People used to come to America to escape persecution. Boy, have times changed.

They still do. About 703,000 in fiscal year 2003, not counting the illegal immigrants. Source link:
Disagree with the administration? Not here.

You felt free to get this published in a pretty good sized regional newspaper, so I guess that you are not expecting jack-booted Republican thugs to bash in your door and haul you off to a Bush re-education camp. Now if this a particular fantasy of yours I'm sure it can be arranged to send some faux-Nazi types to your home to give you a thrill, however.
Want to marry your same-sex partner? Not here.

How is this a change? Same-sex partners have never been allowed to marry here, until some arrogant judges on the MA Supreme Judicial Court decreed otherwise. Whether it is a good idea or not is open to question, but same-sex marriage is a departure from the norm in this country, and if it became the norm would be a good example of how the country has changed.
Want to decide end-of-life issues for yourself? Not here.

A reference to the Terri Schiavo case, I expect. Let me point out one thing here. The crux of the matter was that Ms. Schiavo was unable to decide the issue for herself. The issue was who would decide, which in this country has always been contentious. Not a good example to make the point.
Want control of your own body? Not here.

No doubt a reference to abortion. Unless it was done in secret, I am unaware that Roe v. Wade had been overturned. Unfortunately.
Want freedom from religion or freedom of religion? Not here.

This is probably another reference to the Schiavo case. In what has it affected freedom of religion? I would argue none, unless one counts panicked editorials from the Star Tribune proclaiming religious people have taken over the government.
Want to allow smoking in the business you own? Not here.

Yes. An actual point
Want freedom of speech? Not here.

The fact this letter was printed contradicts this one. The writer's examples in every case except one actually contradict his/her case. Enough said.