www.downingworld.com

archives: October--November 2006


dave ["at" ] downingworld [.com] -- If you'd like to know what I think about a particular topic, drop me a line: I may use it for a future blurb. But remember: I'm not really a know-it-all; I just play one on the Web. Thanks for tuning in, from your host David W. Downing.

 

Dave's Latest Thought....

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Neo Con

Do you know anyone who describes himself as a "neo-con"? Me neither.

The term seems to be used only by people who wish to describe others, and in a negative way.

It seems to be merely an insult.

The Pioneer Press letters section yesterday contained two "neo-con"-bashing letters. I found one (the last one, "Don't blame liberals") particularly interesting, as it blamed Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and the state's other "neo-cons" for legislation affirming a citizen's Second Amendment right to bear arms. Is Pawlenty a "neo-con"? Are gun-carry permits a "neo-con" issue?

In response, I penned this:

What is a "neo-con"? Who are the "neo-cons"? I don't know.

I thought the term was coined to refer to adherents of a certain foreign policy philosophy. But it quickly seems to have become just another derogatory term Democrats use to refer to all Republicans. A recent letter writer blames "neo-cons" for state legislation designed to shore-up citizens' Second Amendment rights. I'd associate that position with "classical liberals."

Are "neo-cons" merely "classical liberals"?

I don't know.

Is Governor Pawlenty a "neo-con," as the letter writer asserts? Is President Bush a "neo-con"? Is Nancy Pelosi a "neo-con"? The Pope? Santa Claus?

Am I a "neo-con"? Who knows? I don't.

Decades ago, the right called those with different ideas "communists," and we had the "Red Scare." Now that the Democrats are back on top in Congress, will we have a "Neo-con Scare"? What color is a "neo-con"?


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Meet "Dave the Book Guy"

It's about time I tell you about my new business venture. Now that pumpkin season has passed and I'm done being the pumpkin guy until next fall, I'm revving up my new identity as "Dave the Book Guy." Read on to learn about my new venture, and how you can help benefit the Salvation Army while you do your holiday shopping.

This fall I signed up as an independent sales rep for Usborne Books. Usborne is a children's book publisher based in London. It was started about 30 years ago by Peter Usborne, who at the time had been publishing a British humor and satire magazine, but decided with the impending birth of his first child that there could be no higher calling than to publish quality books for children.

Being an Anglophile and a fan of British humor, I thought this must be the company for me.

I first learned about the opportunity this fall at the Minnesota State Fair. My 10-year-old son and I were attracted to a booth displaying children's books. He became engrossed in books about gladiators and warriors. I was pleasantly surprised to see many books dealing with stories of adventure, heroes and World War II.

Those sorts of books struck me as politically incorrect in the present day, zero-tolerance environment of the public schools. Of course, they were also the sort of books that kids -- boys, especially -- would actually want to read!

So I started asking questions about the publisher, and I learned about Usborne. The company has had a U.S. division for about 20 years. Books are sold by independent sales reps through a variety of channels. There are home book parties, where the host invites friends and earns free books for herself or himself. There are school and library sales. There are school book fairs and reading incentive programs, that earn books and/or money for schools. There is a 50% grant matching program for donated books. And there are sales directly through the web.

I did my research and decided to sign on. I thought it might be fun, and it would be another venture to add to my eclectic workload.

So I'm kicking things off with an extra incentive to get you to look at my Usborne website as part of your holiday shopping. I've set up an "e-show" for the next two weeks. (This is a way for someone to earn free books by encouraging their friends to order online. And I can set one up for YOU, so that you can earn free books, too.) But I'm making the Salvation Army the "host" of the show, so that your purchases will earn free books that I will deliver to the Salvation Army here in St. Paul. I hope to be able to earn free books equal to about 30% of your purchases. But in order to make the percentage that high, I'll have to close the show Sunday, Dec. 10, before my introductory incentive period expires. But that's OK, because any orders placed by then will easily be delivered prior to Christmas. (And they should be delivered in time for Hanukkah, too. Shipping takes only a few days.) Each order will be shipped directly to you at the time of your order, so the earlier you place your order, the earlier you will get your books.

To participate in the "e-show" and earn free books for the Salvation Army, make sure you are ordering specifically through that "e-show." To do that, use this URL-- http://www.ubah.com/HOS75161

So won't you check out my site? I haven't counted them all, but I'm told there are more than 1,300 books and related products to be found there. (Check out the "Kid Kits," which are books packaged with materials for a related activity.) And no, they aren't all about guys with swords or guns, that's just what caught my eye. There are plenty of books about princesses and fairies, too. Most are non-fiction, and some are thorough enough to be used as textbooks.

So just click here to start browsing and shopping. And get those orders in by Dec. 10. I'll try to keep you posted as orders come in, letting you know how many dollars worth of books have been earned for the Sal.

Usborne has books for kids from babies to teens. If you search keywords like "dinosaurs" or "trains," you'll find something of special interest to the young ones you are shopping for. If you'd like some help, here are some suggestions:

"The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales" #509029 This is adorable. It's a hardbound volume of 20 of the separate "Farmyard Tales" books, complete with a CD of an Englishman reading them out loud! The child can follow along with the CD, read it by himself or herself, or have it read to them. These stories feature Usborne's "dual reading level," with the story told both in simpler "headlines," and in more detail at the bottom of each page. This is a good way for beginning readers to share the task with an adult. And every page features Stephen Cartwright's famous little yellow duck, hidden somewhere in the scene for the child to find. All this, and it's only $24.95.

In a similar vein, "The Complete Book of Bible Stories" #041454 also includes a read-along CD and dual-reading level. Sorry, no yellow duck. Just stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Also just $24.95.

Recommended for ages 3 and up is "There's a Mouse About the House!" #101540 This is Usborne's number one seller! The hands-on book lets the child move a cardboard mouse through a slot on each page, which moves the mouse's adventure along into the next room of the house. Many flaps to lift and reveal surprises, too. $10.95.

For ages eight and up, check out "The Usborne Official Knight's Handbook," #511368 or "Princess Handbook." #513298 Along with plenty of good humor, a child can learn what it takes to achieve knighthood or how to act like a proper princess. These hardcover books are $12.99, and bear the seal of British Heritage, the agency that protects oversees British historical affairs.

For older kids (or yourself), check out the True Adventure series of chapbooks. For example: "True Stories of D-Day," "True Stories of Gangsters," "True Spy Stories," "True Stories of Pirates," "True Escape Stories," "True Stories of the Second World War." Got your interest yet? $4.99 in paperback.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. Remember, use this URL http://www.ubah.com/HOS75161 so that the Salvation Army earns free books with your order. Click the "enter bookstore" button, and you should see this at the top of the page:

If you have any questions or difficulties, email me.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Gift Cards Show Difference Between Left and Right

A story this week offers a good illustration of the difference in political philosophies between the left and the right. A group of Democrat Minnesota legislators on Wednesday held a press conference to announce that they will introduce legislation to protect consumers from "ripoff" gift cards.

I agree wholeheartedly with the lawmakers that some store gift cards carry conditions that make them not such a good deal for the consumer. For instance, why should a gift card lose value as the months go by? Why should it expire? The gift card is in essence an interest-free loan made to the merchant, from the purchaser. What do they care how long it takes someone to redeem it? The longer the better, as far as they are concerned.

As an analogy, consider what would happen if you took out a (no-interest) loan from the bank, and managed to sneak it by the bank that the longer you went without paying the loan, the less of it you would have to pay back. Furthermore, if you waited long enough, you wouldn't have to pay it back at all. What would happen? The bank would call that loan and demand repayment at once. The bank would also make sure it didn't happen again.

And that's just what consumers should do. If you get a gift card that loses value over time, then use it up before then. And if you don't like those terms, then don't be a buyer of such gift cards.

My point is that I don't need the government to "protect" me from gift cards. I learned years ago -- from reading gift card fine print as well as from news stories -- that it's "buyer beware" when purchasing and using gift cards. I don't need the government to protect me from myself.

So I don't want to see my tax dollars being used up in an effort to do for me something that I can do for myself. Build me a road. Protect the borders. Improve the schools. If you can't find something productive to do with the taxes I pay, then let me keep more of my own money! But I don't need the government to protect me from gift cards.


Friday, November 24, 2006

What About Saddam's Scorecard?

The media this week are all excited to report that, according to the UN, the last month in Iraq has been the most deadly for civilians since the U.S. invasion.

They love to keep score. Every soldier killed. Every civilian killed.

Where were they while Saddam was in power? The UN and the American Mainstream Media didn't seem very concerned with keeping count of everyone Saddam killed. Did we ever hear of a monthly civilian death toll under Saddam's regime? Where do you think those mass graves came from?

Come to think of it, why don't the media keep a running total of people killed by Al-Qaeda? When a bomb goes of somewhere, they never say, "This brings to (however many thousands) the total civilian deaths since the inception of Al-Qaeda."

While the media want to imply that the U.S. is somehow killing Iraqi civilians, you must remember it's Al-Qaeda and their ilk causing death in Iraq.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Diversity Group Says, "Your Kind Not Welcome Here."

Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, a group formed by Twin Cities law firms in an effort to lure more minority attorneys to the state, has excluded a firm that handled two U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging affirmative action. The Pioneer Press reported Thursday:

The group's leaders said letting the Minneapolis law firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand join the effort would hamper its mission: to make the bar more racially diverse.

"Would this law firm participating in our effort help or hinder us to do what we are trying to do?" said B. Todd Jones, the group's co-chairman and a former U.S. attorney. "We already have a challenge getting people to come to the Great White North."

Ironically, MEB&B was started about 50 years ago by four Jewish lawyers who found they couldn't get hired at other firms. (Minneapolis is known for a history of anti-Semitism. Now they've elected radical Muslim Keith Ellison to represent them in Congress. Hmmm.)

(Since this brouhaha is about race, I think it's relevant to tell you that from the photos that appear with the print version of the story, B. Todd Jones -- the excluder -- appears to be black. Kirk Kolbo -- the excluded -- appears to be white.)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

American Taliban Communists (That About Sums It Up)

We have some people in St. Paul who really oppose development. Private development, at least. And they seem to have trouble understanding the concept of private property.

The Ford Motor Company plant in St. Paul is scheduled for closure. The "community activists" are lining up to fight over what they think we should do to redevelop the site. They seem to forget that Ford Motor Company might have plans of its own.

Regarding the Ford Plant, today's St. Paul Pioneer Press opinion page features a scary anti-capitalism column about redeveloping the site. Is this still America? Or have we let the Taliban take over? Read it to see what I mean.

The authors are really concerned that someone -- Ford even -- might make money off of the site. The horror! Note how they explain to us simpletons that Ford or another developer doesn't DESERVE to reap profits from the land, because the value of the land is created by the "community."

Oh, and here I thought Ford built a plant with its own money in what was previously undeveloped land, and brought good jobs and property tax payments to St. Paul for 80 years. Now the company is down on its luck, and hopes to make the best of a bad situation by recouping some of its investment. Turns out I was wrong. Ford was just a bloodsucking leech, exploiting the proletariat.

Yes, these two are basically communists, when you get right down to it. They think the wealth should belong to the "community," not to the evil capitalists, who shouldn't be allowed to make "windfall" profits, as arbitrarily measured by these two. And they want the government to essentially seize the wealth of the evil corporation, and give it to the "community." Isn't that communism?

Here's an excerpt:

The value of land is created not by individuals, but by the growth in population and wealth of the surrounding community and by the community's investments in public services and infrastructure. Land value taxation recaptures community-created value for the needs of the community while providing an incentive to put sites to their highest and best use.

Oh, I forgot to mention the Central Planning. I can see the May Day parade now.

And note who the authors represent: a group of 80 churches! What ever happened to the separation of church and state? It doesn't apply to left-wingers, I guess. And they are specifically calling for laws to be passed! I wonder what they would think if someone proposed limiting "windfall" donations that churches receive, by eliminating the tax deduction for donations to churches. That would provide more money for the "community," which could be served by more tax revenue and more government spending. Wouldn't they like that?

I don't think so. They'd squeal pretty loudly if someone proposed that. And what would they squeal? "Separation of church and state!"

It boils down to this: The authors advocate the idea that decisions about the use of private property should be made by the government, at the behest of religious groups.

Is this America? Or an Islamafascist country? It's getting harder and harder to tell.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Safety In Numbers

Here's an interesting story from the Sunday Pioneer Press, about a celebrated security expert who lives right here in the Twin Cities. Bruce Schneier knows about computer security and airline security, but what really hit home with me was what he said about keeping kids safe from "strangers":

"A lot of what I do is (analyze) risk," he said. "And risk is math."

Consider, for example, the risk faced by a lost child. Schneier says the safest strategy is for the child to pick out the nearest nice-looking stranger and ask for help.

That's the math part. By making the kid choose the stranger, and not the other way around, Schneier says the odds are that the child will pick someone who will help him. If he waits for an adult to help him, he's increased the odds that the adult is a predator who has targeted him.

"When was the last time you talked to a stranger and got mugged by him?" he asked rhetorically. "People are basically good. If that were not true, society would have fallen apart a long time ago."

I agree. That jibes with something I've long said, that by teaching children to be afraid of everyone, we're depriving them of people who can help them. By removing all the "good" strangers, we're reducing the equation to just the child and the "bad stranger." We're leaving the child on his or her own to fend off the danger. That doesn't make sense.

Now, why don't I have Schneier's millions? It must be a math thing.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Can't Have It Both Ways

People need to be told that over and over. But it doesn't sink in. They think the rules should change so that they always get what they want.

That's what I thought of when I read this story in the paper today. Some "educational assistants" and "teaching aides" have lost their jobs with the St. Paul schools because they can't meet certain standards specified under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

"They're being shut out of their employment now because they don't fit into the little slot that says you have to pass this test to work with these kids," said Terri Ellisen, business agent for the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, which represents educational assistants. "What they bring can't be measured in a test."

That may be. But then let's be consistent. Let's apply that thinking to teachers, as well. Why should someone have to fit into the "little slot" of being a licensed, union teacher to teach in the public schools? Why can't we hire experienced, knowledgeable people from the community to teach certain classes, maybe part time and at a savings to the district? The teachers union isn't going to go for that, is it? They want it both ways: Be all for standards when they protect the jobs of union members; dismiss the importance of standards when they threaten the jobs of union members.

Yep, that's human nature.


Friday, November 17, 2006

The Stupid Life

My daily paper includes a "LIFE" magazine supplement on Fridays. It doesn't try to be much. It's a real journalistic lightweight. Lots of celebrity news and the sort. Still, it's really sad that something like this pretends to be the once-proud "LIFE" magazine of the past. Maybe they should have renamed it. Say... "CORPSE" or "ZOMBIE."

Be that as it may, it doesn't excuse them from at least getting their lightweight facts rights. Today's edition has a cover story about childhood homes. Included are some sidebar "factoids" about houses. This one supports my contention that news people should not be allowed to work with numbers:

"Median home prices seem to have soared: from $7,400 (1950) to $62,000 (1980) to $219,000 (2005). But since 1968, those gains equal less than 2 percent a year, after inflation."

Oh, is that right? Only 2 percent a year, huh? For what? Fifty-five years? Fifty-five years, times two percent a year... that's 110 percent! And that doesn't even allow for compounding. So in real dollars, the median house has more than doubled in price!

And they report that it only seems like the price has increased significantly!

(They also report that over the same time period, the "average" house increased in size from 1,100 square feet to 2,434 square feet. So the average house size more than doubled, keeping in sync with the median house price, right? Actually, we don't know that, because "average" and "median" are not comparable terms.)

Here's a second example, from a few weeks back (Oct. 17). The cover story was an interview with three female celebrities. Maybe I should be ashamed to admit to you that I browsed over it, but I did. And I found this interesting exchange with actress Sarah Jessica Parker:

LIFE: So how, with everything that you have, do you give your children a social consciousness -- teach them to be good citizens of the world?

SJP: "Two things in our house that I think about daily: Number one, lead by example. When your kids see you read the newspaper they think, Wow, my parents read. Reading is fun. It's a way to learn stuff. Number two, we talk. We talk about the world, we talk about Katrina, we talk about Bush. We talk about stuff because that's what my parents did. For all the mistakes my parents, I'm sure, are certain they made, they made me think about the world."

Did you catch that? They "talk about Bush." Not, "We talk about the role of the President within our Constitutional system," or "We talk about the United States' place in the world, and how our current President is leading us." No, it's personal. They "talk about Bush." (Not even "President Bush.") And when they talk about Hurricane Katrina, what do you suppose is the focus of that talk? Me to. I'm guessing it's about how it's "Bush's" fault.

She's not teaching her kids how to learn, or how to think for themselves. She's not making her kids "think about the world," as she says her own parents do. She's indoctrinating them with her own hate and biases. Yet I'll bet she would describe herself as "progressive," "tolerant," and "open-minded."


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dirty Dancing Redux

School administrators in the Twin Cities are concerned about dirty dancing at school dances. The irony is, the dances that would meet with administrators' approval are probably the same dances that previous generations tried to ban.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dems Maintain Status Quo, Trumpet It as a Victory

If it's true anywhere that "perception is reality," it would be in politics. A headline writer for the Pioneer Press fell into the trap recently with the headline "DFL itches to take out Coleman next." It suggests that DFL Senate winner Amy Klobuchar bumped a Republican from office, and helped the Democrats form a majority in the U.S. Senate.

That seems to be the way the Dems are spinning the story. And a lot of people are repeating it. But that's just not how it happened.

Just who did Klobuchar "take out"?

Klobuchar defeated Republican candidate Mark Kennedy -- a member of the U.S. House, not a sitting Republican Senator. (And the Republicans retained Kennedy's seat with a win by Michelle Bachmann.) With her victory, she takes over for the forgotten man -- incumbent Mark Dayton, another DFLer.

So simply put, Klobuchar's victory did not contribute to the change in Senate control, it merely maintained the status quo in Minnesota's Senate representation.

Only time will tell, but the change from Dayton to Klobuchar might even be a gain for Republicans. Dayton has become known as a liberal looney. Klobuchar, so far, is just a liberal.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

The World Needs Editing

Here's a story for you to read. I know, you're pressed for time, your email inbox is overflowing, you've got a stack of stuff to read, and your voice mail is full. Just what you need, right, some blog linking to something more to take up your time.

I know where you're coming from. And so does the author of the linked story. The story is about information overload.

I thought this was a good opportunity to write about an idea that's been on my list for a couple of years. I've meant to flesh it out into some sort of essay, but haven't gotten around to it yet. My idea is that the world needs editing.

Thanks to technology, we're getting too much information. There used to be practical limits on how much information was given to us. Now, it's becoming almost unlimited.

In a newspaper, the editors have to decide what stories will fit, and how much about each story. But on its website, the newspaper can put more and more and more..... everything the reporter could come up with, along with background from the archives. Sure, it's useful if you're doing research, but you don't have time to read it all every day.

There's email. Send a message to one friend or 100, it's the same amount of work. Will so-and-so want to get this? Maybe. Might as well send it to everyone. Used to be, a person had to make multiple copies of a letter or make multiple phone calls, so there was an incentive to pare the list down to just the essential people. (That's why there is so much spam. Consider traditional direct mail advertising. Every piece that is mailed out has a cost, both in printing and postage. So the advertiser doesn't want to send out 100 million postcards if only one thousand people are potential customers. But the spammer has no such consideration limiting his reach. One thousand or 100 million junk emails -- it's all the same to him. It doesn't really cost any more.

Go back in time, and the harder and more expensive it was to record or pass on some information, the more selective people would be about what they recorded or passed on. When printing was a BIG DEAL and a major expense, people would be selective about what was printed. Now, everyone sits at their desks and doesn't just type memos to their co-workers, they "publish" everything and send it to everyone.

How about photos? When photography was in its infancy, it was expensive and time consuming. People were selective about what was photographed, and what photos were printed. Having additional prints made was expensive. Now, thanks to digital photography, people go on vacation, click off photo after photo, and then post ALL the shots on a web page and email ALL their friends telling them to take a look at ALL the photos. Sure, that can be great, but now there's no practical ($$$) limit giving people an incentive to edit their photo selections. Some people may want to look at all those photos -- and have time to do so -- but others might prefer if the photographer selected just a few photos of particular interest to share.

In music, you no longer have to decide which album you want to listen to on your Walkman. Now, you can load every song you've got onto your iPod. (And if you're downloading the songs for free, you don't even have to decide which ones you like enough to actually spend money on.)

How about movies? Movies have always been edited for length. Plenty of stuff ends up on the cutting room floor. But now, the movie comes out on DVD with "extras" and "restored deleted scenes." Sometimes, there are "alternate endings." The director now doesn't even really have to decide how the movie will end any more!

Finally, computers. We've got hard drives that are so huge, we can just download, copy and save EVERYTHING!

So that's why we've got information overload. The technology has eliminated the incentive, need,and sometimes even the opportunity to edit the information under which we are being buried.

Yes, the world needs editing.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Saddam Lesser of Two Evils?

I wrote Monday that saying the invasion of Iraq was a mistake is saying that you think that a genocidal maniac who has been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity should still be in charge there.

Either way, Iraq is a terrible place where lots of people die.

Does it come down to that? Is it really a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils?

Sometimes, that's the way it is in real life. I've written before about what I call my "Let's make a deal theory," which holds that no matter how much people would like it to be so, real life is not a game show. If you find the "zonk" behind door number 1, that doesn't mean that if you had chosen door number 2, you would have won a new car. In real life, there sometimes is no "winning" choice.

I think that's the way it is with Iraq. You can look at invading Iraq as a sin of commission, whereas not invading Iraq would have been a sin of omission. "At least we tried," the Bush administration can say, in contrast to the previous administration, which diddled while Rome burned.

I ask the question, "What if we had not invaded Iraq? What then?" Iraq had been an ongoing problem for a dozen years. George Bush didn't invent it. If we hadn't invaded three and a half years ago, what would we be doing now? My guess is, we'd still be fretting about what to do about Iraq, and blaming Bush for not doing something.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Maybe that's why Bill Clinton's strategies were "What, me worry?" and "Don't worry, be happy." Why deal with it today if you can put it off for another administration to get the blame?


Thursday, November 9, 2006

Take Down Those Signs

I took down the campaign signs in my yard at poll closing time Tuesday night. I think everyone should do that. When the voting is done, get rid of the signs. They've been there long enough.

As usual, none of my candidates won. I was 0-4. But I got to thinking about the options available to those who display signs, and what messages others might infer.

I figure there are four scenarios -- two if your guy wins and two if your guy loses. If your guy loses, as in my case, taking the signs down immediately may be interpreted by others as meaning I am ashamed that my guys lost, and don't want anyone to know that I backed them. I don't want people to think that. But on the other hand, if I leave the signs up, I may look like one of those people who refuses to accept the outcome of the election. (Like those people in St. Paul who still have WELLSTONE! signs up, FOUR YEARS after he died!)

If your guy wins and you leave the signs up, you risk looking like you are gloating and trying to rub the other guys' faces in it. So you risk sending the wrong message there, too.

The only safe option comes about if your guy wins and you take the signs down right away. That looks like humility. I hope some day I'll get a chance to be humble.


Thursday, November 9, 2006

Voting Holiday? or Holiday from Voting?

I heard some people suggesting this week that election day should be a holiday. They seemed to think that some people aren't able to get to the polls on a Tuesday, and if the day were a holiday, more people would vote.

I think that's backwards, at least here in Minnesota.

If election day were a holiday, the first thing that would happen is there would be a push to move it to a Monday. Why? So we could have a three-day weekend, of course. If that didn't happen, we'd see lots of people taking four-day weekends, the way they do when Independence Day falls on a Tuesday. (If anyone ever suggests moving the Fourth of July to the first Monday in July.... the only thing worse would be moving Easter Sunday to a Monday!)

So, with Minnesotans going "up north" for one last fall weekend (the deer hunting opening weekend, too, coincidentally), we'd actually find fewer people home to make it to the polls. Yes, they could vote absentee. But can't someone who finds the present set-up inconvenient do that now?

In Minnesota, at least, the Monday Labor Day and Memorial Day holidays are travel days -- a day to drive home from the weekend "up north." For people who didn't go "up north," those Monday holidays are increasingly becoming days to shop the "holiday" sales. (What Memorial Day has to do with shopping, I don't know. And why should we expect all of those store clerks to have to work on Labor Day? Isn't that missing the point?)

Here's an example in support of what I'm saying. Traditionally, holidays have been big days for going to baseball games. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and all that. But not in Minnesota. Not in 2006, anyway. The Minnesota Twins are loathe to schedule a home game on a holiday. They make sure they are on the road if at all possible. Why? Because they know that on a holiday they will draw a smaller crowd than normal, not the other way around. Minnesotans are too busy going somewhere or doing something to spend a few hours at a ball game on a holiday.

I think it would be the same way when it comes to voting.


Monday, November 6, 2006

Europe: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

With the election tomorrow, I'd better get to this. A while back, John Bendix wrote:

"I can see that you have opinions on all sorts of things, so here's a question for you: what role do you think Europe and Europeans play in the consciousness of American voters, particularly in light of the upcoming congressional elections?"

Thanks for the question. I didn't answer sooner, because I couldn't come up with anything profound. I guess in answering what role Europeans play in the American consciousness, I'd have to say "none."

Americans not only don't really care what Europeans think, the truth is we really don't know what Europeans think. But Americans will drag Europe into it if they think it will benefit their particular cause. They'll say "This is how they do it in Europe," for instance, if they want to spend billions on light rail trains. Or they'll claim that Europe doesn't approve of something the President wants to do, without even knowing whether or not that is true.

Europe is merely a marketing tool, whether for politics, fashion, or toasters. Thinking that Europe has a role in the American election is giving Europe -- and American voters -- too much credit.


Monday, November 6, 2006

He's Baaaack!

OK, I'm back, too. But I actually had someone else in mind.

For quite some time, it's seemed to me that someone has been missing from the debate about Iraq -- Saddam Hussein.

It's been as though he never existed. To go by the revisionist history, the story seems to be that Iraq was some sort of peaceful paradise before George W. Bush came in and started killing people.

But now, Saddam is back in the news. He has been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.

So think about this: When someone says that it was a mistake to invade Iraq, he or she is really saying that Saddam should still be in power.

A vote against "Bush's war" is a vote FOR SADDAM!

It really is that simple. So if you think the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq, then I ask you, Would you like to see Saddam put back in power? Because it's one or the other. It's either Saddam, or the war you think was a mistake. If you had a magic wand, would you put Saddam back in power, so he could kill more hundreds of thousands of people? Yes? or No? "No, but..." is not an answer.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Playing with the Sharks

I find newspaper obituaries to be some of the most interesting reading in the paper. You may not have heard of Tommy Johnson, but unless you're hearing-impaired, I'm sure you've heard him.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on No Room for White People

Here's some more on the St. Paul Public School's neglect of its white constituents (Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 posts.)

On Oct. 4, I emailed school ombudsman Dan Rodriguez with this message:

Dear. Mr. Rodriguez:

I received the flyer telling me how eager the new Super is to meet with everyone and hear our ideas, concerns and suggestions. But something was missing. Some people were being left out. Fortunately, a brief report in the Pioneer Press told me that American Indians hadn't been forgotten after all. But there's still one minority group in the St. Paul schools that is being left out.

White people. Like me.

When do I get to meet the new super?

I'm writing to request that the district schedule and advertise a "White Community Conversation." Isn't being inclusive and treating everyone the same, regardless of race, supposed to be a goal of the St. Paul Public Schools? It sure doesn't seem right to single out one group for discrimination.

On Oct. 13, I received this reply:

Mr. Downing:

I am responding to your earlier email message.

Thank you for your concern.  We always want to be aware of the way our communications are viewed by our parents.

BACKGROUND

To give you some background, even prior to being hired, Dr. Carstarphen attended public forums and board meetings that were open to the public.  Interpreters were provided for those who did not speak English.  

Since she became superintendent, she has also been invited to speak to chambers of commerce and other groups whose meetings were not open to the general public, but were promoted to the membership of those organizations.

Similarly, she has been invited to numerous meetings to associations whose meetings are open to the public.  Those meetings are posted on the district's web site at www.spps.org.  In September, for example, she accepted invitations to attend an American Indian pow wow and a meeting of the Network of Education Action Teams (NEAT), which is a St. Paul-based education advocacy group.  That meeting was well publicized, promoted through the media, and open to the public, as was the pow wow.

As a new superintendent, she will continue to meet publicly with the community in a variety of venues.  In November, for example, she will meet with Site Council leaders and other groups whose meeting dates and times are yet to be scheduled.  

FLYER

Regarding the flyer sent out to promote the October meetings, our mistake was not including additional information noting previous public meetings that the superintendent had participated in and the fact that additional meetings have yet to take place in November and December once those groups and meeting dates are confirmed.  Flyers announcing the November and December meetings will include this information.

Meanwhile, the information is available on our district web site at http://www.spps.org/Meet_Dr_Meria_Carstarphen.html.

I hope this information is helpful.  If you desire to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me at the phone number below.

Thank you for contacting the Saint Paul Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Daniel A. Rodriguez

Ombudsperson

Saint Paul Public Schools

I then sent him this:

Thank you for your reply. I'm glad to see you recognize that a mistake was made. I'm just not sure that you understand exactly what the mistake was. I have no complaint about holding meetings that cater to certain groups. I think that's a good idea. Necessary, even. My complaint is about the specific flyer I received, which would have been funny if it were intended as a parody of the politics of racial identity and political correctness run amok. But unfortunately, it wasn't a bit in "The Onion" or on "Saturday Night Live," it was a real-life case of my tax dollars at work.

As I see it, the flyer could have gone two ways, either of which would not have earned a raised eyebrow from me. The flyer could have billed itself as a list of specialized meetings, in which I would have said, "Doesn't concern me," and tossed it into the recycling. Or, the flyer could simply have included one or more meetings that were not identified with a specific racial/ethnic group. Then, I would have seen I was being included.

But the way it was done... well, it does seem like almost a deliberate attempt at comedy.

But here's a question for you: Would the district ever in a million years hold a "White Community Conversation"? I think we both know the answer is no. In fact, if such a meeting were announced, it would be called an example of "racism." Why should that be, when every other ethnic or racial group gets its own meetings? Does the district not think that white parents might have concerns of their own? Because they do. Like, how will my children be affected when so many of their classmates speak English as a second language? Or, is my child -- a member of only the third largest minority group in the St. Paul schools -- being ignored or taken for granted by the district? This flyer would seem to prove that white kids are indeed being overlooked.

It's good that the SPPS District tries to reach out to all parents and overcome language barriers. But let's not get so obsessed with being "inclusive" that we start excluding people.

I'll let you know if I hear any more.


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Philosophy of Intelligent Design

I loved this very interesting Pioneer Press guest column in defense of the philosophy of intelligent design. And it came from a source that surprised me: Jeremiah Reedy, a Macalester College professor of classics emeritus. (Macalester, right here in St. Paul, is known as a very left-wing college.)

Reedy writes that intelligent design is neither religion nor science. He explains that it belongs to a field called "natural theology." I found his take on the current debate very interesting.

Reedy was responding to an earlier opinion column, by Paul Hanle.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

When Is a Weapon Not a Weapon?

When you don't identify it as such, I guess, No mind what sort of bodily harm it could easily inflict.

I thought of this today when I entered the local ice arena and encountered a sign indicating -- in pictures -- that no weapons were allowed. The sign showed a gun, a knife, some sort of martial arts throwing star, some thing that looked like a shotgun shell, and some nunchuks.

You mustn't bring any of those things into the arena, because they could hurt somebody.

Meanwhile, all day long young men (and women) stream into the arena, each carrying at least one sturdy wooden spear/club and a pair of hardened steel blades.

Hmmmm.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hail to the Victim

In some circles, it seems that the highest calling a person can aspire to is to be a victim. Where once upon a time people aspired to be "heroes" or "successes," now they want to be "victims."

These circles, of course, are on the political left.

Here in Minnesota, the Dems have made victimhood the focal point of their campaign strategy. I realized recently that they are running "victims" in several races:

In the Sixth Congressional District, the Dems have nominated Patty Wetterling. Her sole qualification is that her child was abducted 18 years ago and hasn't been seen since. We're supposed to vote for her because we feel sorry for her. She's a victim.

In the Second District, the Dems have nominated Coleen Rowley. She's the FBI "whistleblower" victim of the evil Bush administration, which could have prevented 9/11 if only they had listened to her, and searched that computer in the name of national security. (This is the same Bush administration we are being told is taking away our civil rights -- of course, banning gun ownership and limiting free speech by calling it a "hate crime" never concerned them.)

In the Fifth District, Keith "X-or-whatever" Ellison was nominated on the basis of dual victimhood. He's black. And he's a Muslim.

Victimhood has even been dragged into the Senate race, where Amy Klobuchar's campaign has made sure we know that when Amy had a baby, the evil insurance company made her go home from the hospital before she wanted to.

"Vote for me! I'm a victim!"


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stop It Walt, I'll Talk Already!

Walt Huemmer of St. Paul writes:

Dave, certainly you've heard people make the statement "torture doesn't work." Not discussing the moral aspects of whether or not torture should ever be allowed, do you think this is a correct statement? If someone really believes in this in absolute terms of this not working, then John McCain must be lying when he said he broke under torture.

Personally I think in most cases torture does work and that is why the enemy uses it. Most people have a limit of pain tolerance, but I think a small percentage of some people with an incredibly strong will can accept torture to the death.

Then people say "well, if we torture, then what's to keep our enemies from torturing us?" Gee don't they already cut our heads off anyways?

Any thoughts on this?

I'm no expert on this topic, but since when do I let that stop me? Walt, I think you're on the right track. Torture does work. At least when it is done correctly.

That may be the problem, if Americans think that torture doesn't work. Maybe Americans don't torture very effectively. Maybe our revulsion at the idea of torture keeps us from being effective conductors of torture. Our American hearts aren't in it.

Most likely, when Americans try torture (And they must have, right, or they wouldn't be able to claim that it doesn't work.) they don't go far enough. That would be the same problem we have in conducting wars. We don't want to go all out, because we'd really rather not be at war in the first place. Basically, good people aren't as good at being bad as bad people are.

Whether or not torture should be used is a separate question, as you note. And it's a tough one. It's easy to take the high road and say, Never! But if torturing one bad man can save a million good men, isn't it worth it? That's the big question.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

MacArthur: "These Truths Shall Return Long After I Am Dead"

OK, the general didn't say that. But that's what I got out of reading his farewell address to Congress, from April 19, 1951.

Check out this excerpt, and consider how apt it is 55 years later.

Indeed, the Second Day of September, 1945, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:

"Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be 'by way of the crucible of war.' The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out, this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all the material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.

In war there can be no substitute for victory.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Love You Billy, Oh Yes We Do !

Here's a doozy. In a letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press, one Steve Hack blames President Bush for everything. Hack explains it thusly:

"Clinton had North Korea boxed in with its nuclear program dismantled and had a major strategic plan to attack al-Qaida and eliminate bin Laden. The Bush administration ignored all this, resulting in the mess we are in now."

Yeah, right. And Chamberlain had Hitler "boxed in." And Nero had a plan to put out the fire just as soon as he got done fiddling.

I've never understood how so many people can be so in love with Bill Clinton. The first time I saw the guy was when he and Hillary appeared on "60 Minutes" following the Super Bowl in 1992. I knew nothing about him. I didn't even know anything about the gossip about his sexual improprieties. (This was pre-Talk Radio, pre-blog, and I just didn't follow political gossip closely.)

So, I saw Bill Clinton that day with no preconceptions. But after seeing him talk for just a little bit, I said -- I literally said out loud to my wife -- "I wouldn't buy a used car from that man. He's lying to us. He's finished."

But what did I know? He wasn't finished. Enough people fell in love with his BS that he was elected President -- twice! And even after he was impeached -- for lying! -- people continue to defend him, believing all his BS about his plans for North Korea (give them nuclear technology) and bin Laden (let him go).


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh No, Bono! Liberal Hypocrite or Good Steward?

Rock star Bono of the Irish band U2, who wants governments of the world to contribute more to helping the Third World, has taken steps to ensure that government gets less of his money for that purpose. The band has moved its music publishing business from Ireland to the Netherlands, and its lower tax rates.

I see two ways to look at this. One, Bono is a hypocrite. He tells others to share, but wants to keep as much as he can for himself. U2 is just another big, multinational corporation, taking advantage of an off-shore tax haven.

On the other hand, if Bono keeps more of his own money, he can make sure that he personally directs it to charities that will efficiently and effectively use it for the causes he supports.

Could Bono be a closet conservative after all?

Don't bet on it. My money would be on "greedy hypocrite."

Or as my brother Dan explains it, it shows once again that while a conservative thinks EVERYONE should pay less in taxes, a liberal thinks HE should pay less in taxes.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Abortion "Logic"

Hard to find time to write, with pumpkin-selling season in full swing and work on another business venture I'll be letting you in on soon. But here are some thoughts I had jotted down:

You hear abortion advocates say that they want the "procedure" to be "safe, legal and rare." Why rare? Is there something wrong with it? Does anyone say they want wife-beating to be "safe, legal and rare"? You don't hear the NRA say that guns should be "safe, legal and rare," just safe and legal. Interestingly, the same people who want want abortion to be "safe, legal and rare" tend to be the people who want guns to be simply illegal. Why don't they extend the same logic and say they are "pro-choice" on guns, and that they want guns to be "safe, legal and rare"?

I don't like the way news people report on South Dakota's (not actually in effect) abortion ban, saying that it would ban abortion "EVEN in cases of rape or incest." That's editorializing. It implies a judgment that it SHOULD be allowed in such cases. Can you imagine a reporter saying, after passage of an anti-domestic abuse law, "This law bans wife beating, EVEN if she burns dinner or cheats on her husband"?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Great Society" a Footnote to History?

The Robert Taylor Homes project is almost a memory. Once home to 27,000 poor people living in 28 towers, the Chicago public housing project will be gone by spring. The last tenants of the last remaining tower are being evicted this month. (news story: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/nation/15705441.htm )

These public housing projects were a disaster. What did the great liberal thinkers of the 1960s do? Look at how well it had worked out to put Native Americans on worthless land with no jobs, and decide to do the same for African-Americans by creating "urban reservations"?

I think there's such a parallel between the "War on Terror" and the "War on Poverty." So much of what critics say about the former could be applied to the latter -- only multiplied several times. With the former, people say that to "stay the course" is lunacy. Three years in Iraq and still the war is not won. Time to give it up. Don't keep wasting money on something that isn't working. It's a quagmire.

Yet, 40+ years of the "War on Poverty," and what do the same people say? Stay the course! So what if we are creating more poor people and more urban terrorists? We should just spend more money on the same things.

Talk about your quagmires!

I found one ray of hope in the news story: The reporter thought it necessary to explain what the term "Great Society" means. Maybe that means it's been consigned to the dustbin of history. Or at least that name has been.


Monday, October 9, 2006

More On White Slight

Last week I wrote about how the St. Paul public schools had mailed me a flyer inviting me to meet with the new, over-paid superintendent. I was given the choice of four meetings, each one named for a specific ethnic/racial group. None of which includes me -- a guy with pale skin who doesn't speak Spanish.

Blogger LaShawn Barber picked up on it after I sent her what I had written. She agreed with my point that the district would never hold a "White Community Conversation," even though white students are only the third largest group in the district. LaShawn is a rarity: a young, conservative, Republican, black woman. She likes to point out what she thinks are ridiculous examples of racial politics and political correctness. But as an example of how bizarre blogs can be, the issue has garnered a huge number of reader comments, many of whom go off topic with their own pet issues, but also others who say that I'm wrong to think there is something amiss, and that this is perfectly reasonable. One even said I should attend the one at the MLK center, unless I'm afraid to. Is that a threat?

(You can read what LaShawn wrote at http://lashawnbarber.com and scroll down to her 10.05.06 post. There's a link to read the comments at the end of the entry. LaShawn has a fairly high profile in the "blogosphere." She has even appeared on TV news shows.)

I tried posting a couple of comments myself, to help people understand my point, but I think that's hopeless. An unwinnable battle. It shows how impossible it is to talk about anything involving race. I think the flyer stands alone as an undeniable gaffe by the school district. It says "you're invited," then excludes me with every available meeting. Would the district ever advertise a "White Community Meeting"? I don't think so. Would there be an uproar if no meeting had been included for one of the groups that was included? I know so.

Those are the points I was making. I thought all-Americans, regardless of what precedes their hyphen, should be able to look at this and see how ridiculous it is.

But, no. For some of the commentators on LaShawn's blog, it was about what some white person did to some black person 200 years ago. (Never mind that this wasn't a BLACK issue, it became one!) Someone said I should just attend one of the scheduled meetings, because an item in the newspaper the next day said they were open to the public and anyone could attend. OK, then why have specific meetings at all, if people outside the group the "community conversation" is named for should attend it anyway? That argument suggests that we should just have non-specific meetings, and not bother to attempt to target them.

Others seemed to think that I said the over-paid Super shouldn't have any meetings targeting certain groups. I didn't say that at all. I thought it comical that the district could go to so much trouble to be "inclusive," yet so easily overlook my own group. Having specific meetings with interpreters is fine. But those shouldn't be the ONLY meetings.

One commentator wanted to know why the "white community" is in an uproar. First of all, there isn't a "white community." Again, that plays to the point I'm making. Second, there isn't any uproar. That's because the mainstream media haven't made an issue of it. Why? Because there is no "white community" filing lawsuits or marching about it!

(Compare this to the Sandy Stephens "scandal" http://www.downingworld.com/DW8-05.html#D081105 of last year, when the University of Minnesota misspelled the name of a former star quarterback when past stars were being acknowledged. "It's because he's black!" went the cry. Never mind that other black players had their names spelled correctly. This was a racial slight, the self-appointed "spokesmen" for the "black community" cried in the easily-available media coverage.)

Others wanted to get into a Clintonian argument about whether these "community conversations" were geared toward "races" or "ethnicities." As though that mattered! The district didn't have a "white meeting," or an "Italian-American" meeting, either.

I think this flyer demonstrates that while the district is trying so hard to be "inclusive," it is overlooking -- or taking for granted -- what is now just another minority group they are supposed to serve. I want the district to own up to it, admit that they made a mistake, and learn from it. Say "Oops! Our bad!" and get on with it.

Otherwise, I've been "disenfranchised," as goes the popular refrain these days. Guess I won't be able to vote for that school referendum then, will I?


Friday, October 6, 2006

Pumpkin Season Starts Saturday

Pumpkin season starts tomorrow. I'll be selling pumpkins at Ford Parkway and Snelling Ave., in good old St. Paul. I'll be there weekends through Halloween, and some days leading up to the spook night, too. To learn about the Downing Family Farm and our pumpkin business, go to http://www.downingpumpkins.com


Friday, October 6, 2006

No School Shootings in the 'Hood?

In yesterday's post, I said that if one of these all-too-frequent "school shootings" took place at an urban school with primarily black students, the media would not call it the "black school" shooting. That got me to thinking. Aren't all of these tragedies taking place in either the suburbs or rural settings? They aren't happening in the inner city. Which is interesting, because they are happening in places where the people would probably say, "I'm not going to the inner city. It's not safe there. I might get shot."

Ironic?


Thursday, October 5, 2006

Do the Amish All Look Alike?

I think this sort of goes along with the last topic I wrote about. It's another example of the blind spots (hypocrisy?) of those who practice political correctness.

I noticed yesterday that a radio news reporter, talking about the awful shooting in a school at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, kept referring to the school simply as "the Amish school." It was "the Amish school shooting." As the day went on, I noticed this was consistently how the media were referring to the school.

Now, maybe this particular school doesn't have a name on a big sign -- it may not be "Susan B. Anthony Elementary," or "The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Academy for Excellence." Maybe the people who use it simple call it "the school." But it's not the only Amish school in the country. Couldn't the media make a little effort to recognize that "the Amish" aren't all just one group of indistinguishable people? There are Amish communities in many different states, and certainly, just as with any other group of people, all the individuals aren't the same, either. (Talk radio callers the other day were trying to tell us what "the Amish" are like, based on their own limited experience. Well, guess what? I don't even know any Amish people, but I've no doubt that Amish people are individuals, just like the members of any other group. Some are just great, some are jerks.)

So couldn't they at least talk about the "Nickel Mines Amish school," for instance? If a shooting took place at a Roman Catholic school, would the news media call it the "Catholic school shooting"? Or would they call it, for example, the "St. Mary's school shooting"? Or the "Nickel Mines Catholic school shooting"? If a shooting took place at a school for black students, would it be the "black school shooting?" Definitely not on that one. They'd refer to the name of the school, or the city it is located in.

Here's an example: Last year, a student went nuts and shot-up the high school on the Red Lake (Minn.) Indian Reservation. This was not reported as the "Indian school shooting," was it? Of course not. It was the "Red Lake school shooting." Everyone in the media was very careful not to report anything in anyway that might be taken as a slight to Native Americans.

But with this latest tragedy, it's just "the Amish school shooting." You know those Amish. They're all the same. They dress the same. They look the same. They all act the same. Yeah, of course they do.

Why not report this as simply the "Nickel Mines school shooting"?

The media are doing to the Amish the same sort of things they bend over backwards not to do to any other group. Or at least, not to any group that doesn't have pale skin and adhere to the Bible. I think your typical Mainstream Media person thinks the Amish are freaks, and they report accordingly.

The Amish are just "those people."


Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Follow-up on "Whitey Stay Home"

Some more information has come to light about all those "community conversations" I told you about yesterday. It turns out American Indians weren't forgotten, after all. According to a brief news story, their "community conversation" already took place last month.

But where's the love for the white minority?

In a blurb in a local news round-up, the Pioneer Press reports that "The meetings came about because of requests from community groups, said Dan Rodriguez, senior ombudsman for the district, and additional requests are welcome."

Hmm. Maybe I should contact Mr. Rodriguez and make a request for a "White Community Conversation." And I'll request that they advertise it as just that, a "White Community Conversation." Can you imagine such a thing! But what's so strange about that? It would be simply treating everyone the same, regardless of race. Isn't that supposed to be our goal?

Here's the flyer that started this all.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Whites Need Not Apply

Yesterday I received a mailing from the St. Paul Public Schools. It came addressed to "Saint Paul Public Schools Family." It reads:

"You're Invited

"Community Conversations with Saint Paul Public Schools' new superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen.

"She will be available to share her goals and vision for Saint Paul Public Schools and to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions.

"Meet Dr. Meria Carstarphen at one of the following events:"

Oh, boy, the new Super wants to hear from me! Let's see which "community conversation" will work best for me. What's first on the calendar?

October 9: "African American Community Conversation"

Hmmm. Refreshments will be served. Tempting, but I guess that's not me. What's next?

October 11: "Somali Community Conversation"

Childcare, interpreting, and dinner. That sounds good. But it's still not me. Question: Aren't Somalis also African-Americans? (With a hyphen, which the school district left out.)

What's this next one? I can't read it. Oh, it's just the same event. I can tell from the times and date. Must be written in Somali. But here's another one. Maybe this one is for me.

October 16: "Latino Community Conversation"

No, still not me. There will be refreshments, childcare, and translators, though. Sounds good. One more to go, this one must be "inclusive" of people like me, right?

October 30: "Hmong Community Conversation"

Still not me. Translators provided, but no mention of child care or food. Don't Hmong people need to eat, too? They're holding the event at supper time.

What's going on here? Someone's not being reached out to. Yes, American Indians have been ignored. But look again. Is anyone else being ignored? That's right. White people. Don't white people get to meet the new Super, too? I can guess the response: "This is a special attempt to reach out to minority groups that might not feel included otherwise." (Then what about those American Indians?)

But the numbers don't bear that out. Students in the St. Paul schools are about 30% Asian, 29% black, 28% white, 11% Hispanic, 1% American Indian, and 1% something else. (That's as I remember it. Sorry, I've been trying and trying to find the exact numbers on this written down somewhere, but I'm coming up empty.) Not only are whites not a "majority," they're not even a plurality! If this mailing is an attempt to include minority groups, they've left a very important one out!


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Outside the Law?

An NFL player has been suspended for five games, after he stomped on an opponent's head and kicked him in the face. Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth attacked Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode during Sunday's game in Nashville.

I heard mentioned on the radio today that Nashville authorities were considering charging Haynesworth with assault, but that Gurode didn't want to press charges. That raises an interesting question, one that has come up before, and at least a couple of times when one pro hockey player has attacked another. Are athletes competing under the rules of their sports also subject to the "civilian" legal system? Or should punishment for their crimes be meted out by authorities within their own leagues?

Because if we adopt that way of thinking -- that people can willingly involve themselves in an activity that is somehow outside the realm of the law -- then where does it end? If an assault is not an assault because it occured during an organized sporting event, then is an assault still an assault if it involves people willingly participating in organized violence?

So if one gang member assaults another, should the police department let it go? "They'll handle it themselves," we could say. "They have their own rules to penalize that sort of behavior." And so maybe the perpetrator would receive a long-term 9mm "suspension." After all, all parties were willingly members of "teams" participating in this "competition."

Sounds ridiculous? Sure. But why do we let athletes operate outside the law?


Monday, October 2, 2006

This War Creates Domestic Terrorists

Some people want us to believe that the War on Terror has created terrorists.

With that sort of thinking, then we'd also have to say that the War on Poverty (40+ years of taxpayer-funded quagmire!) has created the local terrorist thugs shooting up North Minneapolis. Public housing and welfare programs that have helped destroy the nuclear family have proven themselves effective breeding environments for new generations of American urban terrorists.


Monday, October 2, 2006

Working Poor? How About the "Playing Poor"?

What would you call it if a business reported record sales, the owners were billionaires, the workers were millionaires, and the industry still demanded hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidies every year?

You'd call it Major League Baseball.

Yes, Major League Baseball was pleased as punch to announce over the weekend that they've set another attendance record this year, breaking last year's record.

Shouldn't they be able to afford to build their own stadiums?


If you'd like to know what I think about a particular topic, drop me a line: dave ["at"] downingworld [.com]. I may use it for a future blurb. But remember: I'm not really a know-it-all; I just play one on the Web. Thanks for tuning in, from your host David W. Downing.

 

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