Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Of Mannequins and (Some) Muslims

Today's Star Tribune contained a story about a mannequin and the outrage its outfit seems to have generated with some Muslims in Rochester and in Washington, DC. The gist of the tale is that Steve Lewis, a used car dealer in Rochester, has a mannequin dressed in what appears to be crude imitation of a suicide bomber, including fake explosives made from toilet paper rolls and a red scarf with a profanity written on it (alas, the picture that ran with the story was not detailed enough to determine the exact words, and the Star Trib declined to report them). This thing had been sitting in guy's office for two years without the any sort of controversy, until a couple of Muslim customers happened to see it and were insulted. They proceeded to report this horrible insult to the good offices of the Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR) which, in the words of Rabiah Ahmed (communications coordinator for CAIR) found the display to be 'clearly offensive and insulting", as well as damaging to "relations between cultures and community'. I presume this is a prelude to a request to remove the display.

I have some advice for the offended parties in Rochester and for CAIR: grow a thicker skin. In this country even if Mr. Lewis' display is lacking in taste and even offensive to some, he has every right to express himself that way if he so chooses. The Constitution does not include protections against being offended, but it does guarantee freedom of speech. If you don't the like the stereotype expressed by the mannequin, how about persuading your misguided Muslim brothers and sisters who have revived the idea of the kamikaze to change their mode of political argument. In the meantime if you don't like Mr. Lewis' dummy, don't buy a car from him.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Gay Marriage, Again

Heres a link to a Star Tribune story covering a rally against the proposed ban on gay marriage. Note that the rally in support of the ban (which attracted about the same number of people) did not get a similar story in the Star Trib. Double standards, again?

Personally, I haven't yet formed a strong opinion on the matter one way or the other, except for one aspect. I do not want this decided by judges. If same sex marriage is going to be law in Minnesota, it should be decided directly by the people via referendum or by the people's elected representatives.

Up to now, marriage has been assumed to be between men and women. If we're going to change this centuries old or millenia old convention (depending on which authority one believes), it should be done via a legislative, democratic process, not by a judge's decision.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Tactical Victory for Al-Qaida?

There's been a lot of electrons shuffled about by folks with opinions about the Spanish elections. Oliver Kamm is disagreeing with an Andrew Sullivan piece about whether the election result is a victory for Osama BinLiner and Al Qaida. Oliver takes the position that it was not a victory for the scumbags, while Andrew Sullivan considers it to be a major one.

As far as I understand it, Oliver's position is that since the jihadis are not interested in anything other than killing off the infidel, that Al Qaida wasn't interested in influencing the Spanish election. I'm going to side with Mr. Sullivan on this one. The reason is that I think these lowlifes are basely intelligent enough to try influencing elections to gain a tactical advantage. Their long term strategic goals don't change, but there is nothing stopping them from displaying some tactical flexibility. If one of their long term goals is re-conquering Andalusia for Islam, they may very well be wiling to temporarily lay off (or promise to do so) if they can drive allies away from the Great Satan with the effect of weakening their main enemy. They may very well believe that Europe can be put to sleep via a temporary truce (a hudna?) and defeated later. In some cases (like France) they may believe that demographics (i.e., a growing unassimilated Muslim population) is a winner for them. The conflict with the United States, however, is a fight to the death.

Buh Bye, Ahmed!

The Israeli Defence Force sent Shiek Ahmed Yassin to his new spiritual address Sunday. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow. I can't say that killing people fills me with glee, but this gent misused his religion to incite others to kill innocent men, women, and children as well as themselves. The rocket he caught was well-earned.

The EU and and the Arab world condemned the killing, of course. That kind of reaction we've come to expect from the Arabs, but the Europeans and the British should be ashamed of themselves. They should know better (especially after Madrid) than to take the side of the terrorists.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Taxes due...

Tax appointment tomorrow, too depressed to blog... .

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Sorrow Reigns...

Walking slime murdered at least 200 people in Madrid, Spain today. Spanish officials suspect either the home-grown ETA or Al Qaeda, but the investigation is in its early stages. At this point, I can do is offer my sympathies to the victims and their families.

If anyone reading this wishes to send condolences/flowers in support of the Spanish people the address of the the Spanish Embassy is : 2375 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. - Washington, D.C. 20037. The phone number (202.452.0100.) will be needed for internet orders. This contact info was cribbed from the Instapundit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Toasty, Abu?

Abu Abbas, head hijacker of the Achille Lauro and murderer of Leon Klinghoffer, died in Baghdad while under US custody. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow. I wonder if he was surprised at the sulfurous odor of his welcoming committee to the Afterlife? Well, at least he'll be roasting with friends...

Monday, March 08, 2004

We're Not That Bad, Really!

I came across this article in Commentary today (via Dean's World) written by an expatriate American who moved her life to Paris, and after 30 years is having second thoughts. Now, it is in a way kind of nice to find that someone who had written her homeland off in her younger days has reconsidered and found that United States has some redeeming features after all, but I have some other thoughts about Ms. Poller's essay. I want to dispute the oh-so-casually expressed idea of the USA being some low-rent, second-rate place to live.

I'm not disagreeing with the larger part of what she said. I have no intention of disputing what she writes about the French press - she reads a lot more of it than I do. And it is nice that she has discovered that the nation that she so easily dismissed 32 years ago does actually have some merit. However, she seems to find it hard to actually name them, other than the US is a free country. Everything else here, it seems, is distinctly second-rate in her eyes. After all, she left for France in 1972 at least partially because:

Instead, I'd been a "European," picking up after a brief interruption not exactly where my family had left off-not Budapest, not Przemysl, those were places we would not go back to- but Europe and all it could boast of. Beautiful cities that are really lived in, monuments at every street corner, savoir faire, craftsmanship, savoir vivre, boutiques, refinement, manners, health care, free education, history, French windows and parquet floors.

Really? The USA lacks beautiful cities, monuments, history, craftsmanship, refinement, history, etc. ? Spare me the silliness of that statement. Let me provide a few examples why.

Cities? We have New York (which the author herself mentioned as almost perfect), Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Savannah, my own home of St. Paul/Minneapolis, plus many, many others that are pretty nice, livable places.

Monuments? It's true that we don't have one on every street corner, but with over 3.6 million square miles to fill it takes awhile. We'll get there eventually. But in the meantime, there is no shortage of monuments here. Admittedly some of them are a bit super-sized, like the Death Valley National Monument or the Custer Battlefield, but there quite a few. In Atlanta for example, there are markers everywhere to mark events that occurred during the American Civil War.

History? We have no history? Sure, our time as a nation is relatively short. But we've crammed a lot of history (both good and ill) into our 228 years. The Revolution, the creation of our governing documents (the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), exploration of the continent, the westward expansion,The Trail of Tears, the Civil War and the end of slavery, the growth of the US into a great trading nation, sending our troops to the rescue in Europe, the Manhattan Project, Project Apollo, the Cold War, our growth into a 'superpower', two centuries of invention, and yes, even culture. There's an awful lot packed into that last sentence, and that's just scratching the surface. The individual histories of the states, counties, cities, and towns haven't even been mentioned yet. Consider that practically every county in the US has one or more organizations devoted to finding and maintaining the local history. One last thing. Consider the impact this nation has had on the world in her brief existence - is it less or greater than that of France?

Oh, and by the way, we do so have manners, dammit! We're actually a pretty polite people albeit a plainly spoken one, although our standards of politeness may vary from that of the average Parisian. Anyway, I don't need to go farther to make my point.

Later on, she describes the USA thusly:

I come from a free country. A rough and ready, clumsy, slapped together, tacky country where people say wow and gosh and shop at Costco. A country so vast I haven't the faintest idea where I would put myself. A homeland I would have liked to keep at a distance, visit with pleasure, and leave with relief.

Rough and ready, sure. Just don't forget open, hospitable, and generous as well. Clumsy? I wasn't aware a nation could be agile. Is there a gymnastics or figure skating competition for nations? (Ladies and gentlemen, skating the short program to La Marseillaise is France!) If what is meant by clumsiness is our characteristic directness. I disagree. Now, about tacky. It is absurd to describe a whole country as tasteless (otherwise known as tacky), especially since taste actually is one of those qualities that is pretty relative. Yes, to our discredit we have Jerry Springer, soap operas, and professional wrestling, but Europeans made David Hasselhof a star. I wouldn't want to bet on which one is the bigger crime against good taste. Also, there are fair number of pretty good orchestras, theatres, and even a few artists here and there. Some of them even tour in Europe (like the Minnesota Orchestra, for example). This country's big enough to hold 'em all.

Ms. Poller, please don't be so quick to sell us short.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Another Gut Check for the Star Tribune

The Star Tribune has once again printed an editorial about the governor's handling of the Minnesota budget problem. It gets off to a promising start by praising his decision to not use the state's reserve fund or an proposed expansion of gambling revenues to fix the deficit. (Yep. I'm biased towards those positions - so sue me - ed.) They then criticize him for making more cuts in health care and social service spending which is reasonable, given the paper's left-liberal perspective and is a legitimate topic for discussion and disagreement.

However, once again they indirectly ding him for ruling out tax increases. Once again, I challenge the editorial board at the Star Trib to stand up for what they really want. Go ahead, propose a tax increase. Then explain who shall be more heavily taxed, how much more will they be paying, etc. and why we need more taxes. At the same time, you can explain how the larger tax burden will not hurt our local economy, if you can. If y'all are so certain a tax increase is the correct thing to do, make a case for it and try to persuade the citizenry.

Where do I stand? I just want the state to leave the damn tax code alone for now. Once the state changes it, we never really leave the changes in place long enough to see how things shake out over the long term. Maybe folks would find stability to be a refreshing change. Just spend the money that is actually raised, and leave it at that. If by some miracle the state raises more money than it actually needs, save it for a rainy day. The goal here isn't to turn Minnesota into some libertarian paradise. It's just that I find it hard to believe that Minnesotans are not taxed enough. We are in the upper tier of states when ranked by state and local taxes, isn't that enough? When the economy is tough, increasing the tax burden seems counterproductive, taking an even greater share of the total wealth produced, thus reducing the ability of the private sector to invest and create economic activity (and hopefully more jobs). What's wrong with that?