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archives: August, 2005


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Do You Define "Competition"?
I'd like to build upon my previous post. Reading those Think-Off finalists' essays, I note that some people seem to think that competition is by definition a bad thing. That shows a divide in thinking, maybe one of the reasons we seem to be polarized and unable to understand each other.

People who define competition as something "bad" seem to be zero-sum people. They think that competition means trying to hurt or take from someone else. They think that if someone succeeds, it means that someone else fails. If someone gets "more," it's only at the expense of someone else who gets "less." To them, competition means taking from someone else to enrich yourself.

Others of us see competition as benefiting everyone. We see people competing, and all getting "more," despite the fact that some may get more "more" than others. We think competition can result in everyone "winning." This is why we believe in free market capitalism. We believe the competition inherent in free market capitalism creates many "winners," even though some may be bigger "winners" than others.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Competition vs. Cooperation
Cooperation or competition? Which benefits society more?

That was the question at this year's Great American Think-Off.

I think it's a great question. My first thought is that which is "better" may depend on the context. Cooperation may be the only way to survive on a lifeboat, but competition may be the way to produce better and safer ships in the first place. In the end, maybe competition IS cooperation. We cooperate by all doing our best, breaking new ground, making advances that benefit society. The competition is a sort of cooperator that makes everyone better. Think of a sports league, where the competition makes everyone better, by being able to play each other. Think of Charles Lindbergh -- he and his contemporaries competed to be the first to cross the Atlantic, but in a way, they were all in it together, spurring each other on, inspiring each other, learning from each other's successes and failures. In the end, that cooperative competition benefited society.

Anyway, the winner of this year's Think-Off went with competition. Here's a news story for you, and the finalists' essays can be read here.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Define "Village"
I heard a radio host say, "there was a time when if a kid got out of line, all the parents were free to deal with it."

That's what is REALLY meant by "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child."

Hillary Clinton, for one, loves that line. The trouble is, when Hillary says "village," she means the government, not individuals. She thinks the "village" raising the child means government programs.

That really highlights how things have gone wrong. It's not just Hillary, lots of people think everything should be left up to the government to be taken care of. Individual responsibility has been lost.

When I was a small-town kid, we had to behave because if anyone's parents saw us getting out of line, we were in trouble. And, we knew our parents would hear about it, too. And soon.That's one of the differences here in the "big city." I see kids walking down the street smoking cigarettes. Don't they worry that someone will tell their parents? I guess not. I don't know who they are, or who their parents are, and they know it. Same thing with kids carrying on and cussing up a blue streak on the bus. They feel safe in their anonymity.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hindsight..... Make That, Gunsights Are 20/20
Pat Robertson says we should kill the president of Venezuela, and everyone says, "That's awful! You can't say that!"

According to Paul Harvey, six years ago Pat Robertson said we should kill Osama bin Laden. And now, everyone agrees with him.

Hmmm...


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Scientists Don't Know Beans!
A couple weeks back, we had the great Gopher Football Ticket Scandal, where the University of Minnesota ended up with egg on its institutional face after misspelling the name of one of its past gridiron stars. Now I've discovered another local, supposedly learned, institution that doesn't seem to know what it's doing.

I took the kids to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul recently. They have a mini golf course there, designed to teach us all about the Mississippi River, and how evil humans are ruining it. There are lots of plants and wildflowers all over the place, with signs identifying them.

Hole #5 is about how draining and tiling farm fields adds sediment and pollutants to the river. There is a planter with a sign reading, "Keep Out, Soybeans Planted." The planter proudly displays three robust plants. But the plants are not soybeans. No, they are a plant called velvetleaf, also known as buttonweed. That's right -- it's a noxious weed! A noxious weed that farmers spend a good deal of money to get rid of, and any property owner should be concerned about. (In some locales, you might even be fined for letting it grow on your property!)

Now, I'm just a farm boy, not a professional scientist, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe I'm way off base here. Maybe this is just too complicated for my simple mind. But it looks to me like the professionals who run the science museum can't tell the difference between soybeans and a noxious weed. (see photos below)

My guess is they planted soybeans, but the velvetleaf came up early and prominently, and someone assumed that was what they had planted. The soybeans probably got pulled as "weeds"!

Soybeans (left) ----------------------- Velvetleaf (right)



Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Liberal Media Bias Example
I mentioned the liberal media bias yesterday. Some say that's all in my imagination. It's easy to say there's a liberal media bias, but prove it! Whenever possible, I do just that. Here's another example.

One of the ways the liberal media bias manifests itself is in the way that the media manage to work a potshot at Republicans into what otherwise seems to be an unrelated story. I found another example yesterday, in a story about the Beloit College Mindset List. This is an interesting list published every year by a private college in Wisconsin. It attempts to provide a framework for the mindsets and life experiences of the incoming freshman class. This year, for instance, the list notes that the incoming Class of 2009 has always known Starbucks, has never watched Arsenio Hall, and has always known the USA as the world's only superpower.

But why miss a chance to take a cheap shot at Republicans?

Reporter Ryan J. Foley notes that Jimmy Carter is just another name to these kids. He also notes that someone named George Bush has been president for more than half their lives. OK, fair enough. No problem there.

But while he manages to work in that they are too young to know much about Watergate -- the scandal that disgraced a Republican president (Actually, college students have been too young to know about Watergate for about 20 years now! Why does he dredge up Watergate?), he doesn't mention an Oval Office scandal that these kids grew up with, and that may have actually shaped their value system and even their behavior while in college. I speak, of course, of Bill and Monica. Just a little detail not worth mentioning, I guess, since Bill is a Democrat.

But wouldn't it be interesting to know whether the freshman see Bill and Monica as role models? Someone whose behavior they will emulate while in college? That's certainly more relevant than Watergate.

But here's the smoking gun; the story ends with this cheap shot:

"The freshmen have witnessed the Bush family become a political dynasty -- some of them quite reluctantly.

"'It's scary to think about Jeb Bush running for president,' [incoming freshman from Wellesley, Mass., Lizzie] Starr said."

How did Jeb Bush get worked into this? What leading questions did the reporter ask this girl to get her to deliver the putdown he was looking for?

The modern-day reporter doesn't just "report"; he or she has an agenda. And it's almost always anti-conservative.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Arab Muslims Blaming Themselves -- Why Isn't This on Page 1?
Even since September 11, 2001, we've been reminded that "We aren't at war with Islam," and "We aren't at war with the Arab world." We're told that the bad guys who fly airplanes into buildings and blow themselves up in public places just happen to ALL be Muslim, and just happen to be MOSTLY Arabs.

That's the politically-correct line here at home. But what does the rest of the world think? What do they think in the Arab world, for instance?

According to this Associated Press report out of Egypt, Egyptians are blaming themselves for terrorism -- blaming their Muslim religion and their Arab/Muslim culture. Here's an excerpt from Nadia Abou El-Magd's story:

"Stunned by terror attacks in a Red Sea resort, Egyptians are in a remarkably frank debate about whether mosques and schools -- and the government itself -- should be blamed for promoting Islamic extremism. ...

"Egypt has been hit [in July] by a double blow: the kidnapping and slaying of its top envoy in Iraq by Islamic militants and the bomb blasts that ripped through Sharm, killing as many as 88 people -- the vast majority of them Egyptians.

"What was unusual about the self-criticism after Sharm was that it came from government media -- and even from within the Islamic clerical hierarchy picked by the government.

"'There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik,' ran a bold red headline of a lead editorial Wednesday by Al-Musawwar's editor in chief, Abdel-Qader Shohaib.

"The bombers 'didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled,' Shohaib wrote.

"In Al-Ahram, columnist Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hegazi wrote: 'This is not just deviation, it is a culture.'"

Why isn't this front page news? I'll tell you why -- because it's politically incorrect. It goes against what the American Left/Mainstream Media (am I being redundant?) wants us to believe. So, I found it buried on page 11 -- PAGE ELEVEN -- of my newspaper!

Why isn't this on the front page, while Cindy Sheehan blaming President Bush is? Again, because blaming President Bush does fit the agenda of the Mainstream Media.

And they tell us there's no such thing as the liberal media bias.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

FDR Lied
I hear columnist Michael Barone asked the question, What if a grieving Gold Star mother had camped out at the end of FDR's driveway? His answer, as I understand it, is that the media would have seen her as a sad, tragic figure, and left her alone to work through her grief.

Not so with Cindy Sheehan. Not so in 2005. Not so when it's a Republican in the White House.

I'm sure some will say that it is totally different, that this war is controversial, while everyone supported WWII. That's not really true. America's entry into WWII was very controversial, and might not have happened in time to turn the tide, if the Japanese hadn't made the mistake of bombing Pearl Harbor and "waking a sleeping giant."

America was very isolationist between the two World Wars. There was strong sentiment against getting involved in "another European war." Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh led the isolationist charge; he travelled to Germany and thought the Nazis were just swell guys.

But Roosevelt knew better. Against the wishes of the American people and the directives of Congress, he did what he could to aid the English resistance to Hitler, helping prevent English surrender and total Nazi victory in Europe. England resisted the Nazis long enough for America to see the light and join the battle.

FDR used subterfuge, he lied, he did what he knew needed to be done to protect national security. Regardless of public opinion polls, he knew he was responsible for protecting his nation. He did what he had to do, even if he had to do it clandestinely.

Roosevelt lied. But he defeated the Nazis and Imperial Japanese, and kept freedom alive.

Roosevelt lied. But he is considered by many to be one of our greatest presidents.

Roosevelt lied. But it's Okay. He was a Democrat.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Creation vs. Evolution in 200 Words or Less
Letter writers to the Pioneer Press continue to try to solve the evolution vs. creation debate in 200 words or less. There were some interesting letters Sunday. D.J. Conlin wrote an excellent letter with some excellent explanations of his thinking. He wrote:

"Critics argue that whether our world is the product of intelligent design is a philosophical question, not scientific. Why we are here is a philosophical question. How we came to be is a scientific question."

How vs. why. I think that's an excellent point.

A second letter comes from evolutionist Greg Skog, who believes "it is a virtue to have an open mind," but comes off as narrow-minded, intolerant and arrogantly foolish.

In the third letter, Charlie Skemp tries to walk both sides of the argument. He does a pretty good job, but one of his comments got me thinking. Skemp wrote that "the conclusions of intelligent design...are, at their core, religious."

Not necessarily, I decided, after giving it some thought. Just because you believe something can't be explained by our current knowledge, doesn't mean religion or the supernatural is involved. It just means you don't know.

Consider Easter Island. You remember Easter Island; it has all of those giant stone heads looking out to sea. When the Europeans first came upon Easter Island, they found few people living there, and they didn't know why those people would have created the stone heads, or how they did it (how they did it is still open to debate).

Imagine if no one had been left living on Easter Island when the European explorers arrived. How would they have explained the statues? Divine creation? Or would they have assumed that the statues had somehow "evolved" on their own?

OK, they would have thought, "Someone, sometime, must have done this; we just don't know who, how, or why."

Now imagine that astronauts land on the moon and discover something amazing: piles of stones arranged in a perfect equilateral triangle, with each pile of stones a sequential prime number -- that is, the first pile has 1 stone, the next has 2 stones, the third has 3 stones, then 5 stones, 7 stones, 11 stones, 13 stones, and so on.

Could such a thing happen by random chance? That's hard to believe. So, someone must be responsible, right? But we know there are no moon men, right? So NO ONE could have done it! Therefore, the only explanation -- to the modern evolutionary scientist -- is that these stones evolved this way randomly.

That's the way the evolutionist looks at the universe: sure, it's improbable that life could evolve all on it's own. But since WE KNOW THERE ISN'T A GOD, random chance is the only explanation left.

Looking at it that way, it's the evolutionist who relies on religion -- in this case, faith that there is no God.

The way I look at it, the adherents of "intelligent design" are actually being more intellectually open-minded. They admit that evolution theory falls short, and they admit that THEY DON'T KNOW all the answers. That's how intelligent design differs from pure Biblical creation theory. Intelligent design says, "Someone must have done this; we just don't yet know who, how, or why." Biblical creation simply begins and ends with God.

But intelligent design theory is not necessarily religious, because it leaves the "who" question open to discovery. It acknowledges that we don't know and can't explain the "who," and leaves the question open. Like with my moon rock example, it seems someone must be behind the phenomena. Natural, supernatural, we don't know. But there has to be some explanation beyond random chance.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Crying Wolf an Equal Opportunity Pastime
Responding to my post on the great football ticket "scandal" revolving around the misspelling of Sandy Stephens' name, a reader wrote to ask whether I think it is just Blacks who "cry wolf" too much.

Absolutely not.

We live in the day of the convergence of media and victimhood, and it seems there's no shortage of people ready to jump in front of a microphone and tell us how poorly their groups are being treated. They all risk the fate of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, in that people may stop taking them seriously (if they haven't stopped taking them seriously already). I would include here spokespeople (some self-appointed) for various racial/ethnic groups, gays, religious groups -- just about any identifiable group. This even applies beyond the area of victimhood. If you want to be taken seriously, don't open your mouth unless you've got something serious to say. I'll even include a group that I belong to -- White Christians. People like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson don't help their chances of being taken seriously with some of their statements about 9/11, AIDS or gay Teletubbies.

Childhood Lessons

As in the case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, I see over and over how the oldest, simplest childhood lessons continue to apply throughout life.

Likewise, as I've written before, one of the surprises of parenthood is that observing my children has helped me more clearly interpret adult behavior. Often, I see that adults continue to exhibit the same behavior as small children -- they're just better at getting away with it.

For example, just the other day I told my daughter not to do something, and her immediate response wasn't, "Sorry, I'll stop right away," it was, "What about (my brother)?"

My reader, a Black woman, did that in a way. In this case, she agreed that supposed Black leaders were too quick to make a mountain out of a molehill, but she asked, in effect, "What about the Jews? They do it, too!" That strikes me as basically the same response I got out of my daughter. Interesting, our human nature, and how the same behaviors stick with us throughout life.

Thou Protests Too Much

My reader made a point of stating that she has nothing against Jews. I'll take her word for it. She wrote a sincere message and asked me good, valid questions. Still, when someone says, "I have nothing against X....," it's often like when people say, "Not to change the subject, but..." and then change the subject. Or like when they say, "It's not about the money, but..." then go on and on about the money. In this sort of case, it's as though the denial itself first raises suspicion in the mind of the reader. Better to just make your case, and don't bother with the preemptive denials.

Interestingly, her question about Jews gave me a look at myself. I immediately had an "anti-Semitic" flag go up in my mind, whether warranted or not. And there may be those who would call her anti-Semitic just for raising the question. In the same way, I can expect some to call me anti-Black for my comments.

That's My Victimhood, I Saw It First!

A Black person questioning the Jews also raises another area of discussion: Competition for victimhood. And that does seem to breed some hard feelings between minority groups, including anti-Semitism among Blacks. Too many people WANT to be the victim, and don't want competition.

We seem to have groups of people who want to cling to their victimhood and how they've been wronged in the past. Pro-Lifers call abortion a "Holocaust," and Jews get mad. Gays equate their agenda to the Civil Rights movement, and Blacks get mad. Just this week, I read that the NAACP is mad at PETA for the animal rights group's campaign linking animal abuse to slavery.

My recommendation to everyone: Stop playing the victim. It's not going to get you anywhere.

Demographically, this country is changing. It's becoming more and more diverse. Blacks are no longer the number two group in this nation, Hispanics are. We have people coming from all over the world, including more Africans. They see America as a land of opportunity; they don't feel like victims. If what the demographers tell us is true, before long this country will be less than 50 percent White. There will be no "majority" and no "minority." There will just be lots of Americans -- of various origins and skin tones.

An example is right here in St. Paul. The public school enrollment is about 30% White, 30% Asian (largely Hmong), 29% Black, 10% Hispanic, and 1% American Indian.

So let's leave victimhood behind, and let's get on with our lives, together, building a stronger America.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

That Which By Another Other Name...Would Be Just As Illegal
I've heard people point out how the euphemism "undocumented immigrant" is being used in place of the proper "illegal alien." They say that's wrong, and I agree.

"Illegal alien" is exactly what a border-jumper is. If you're not an American, you're an alien. If you didn't enter according to the law, you're illegal. It's really that simple.

"Undocumented immigrant" makes it sound like there's been some sort of paperwork mix up. Maybe some red tape to cut through, or a computer glitch.

But that's not the case. Someone who jumps the fence and comes here from Mexico in the middle of the night is an ILLEGAL ALIEN.

You can argue that we should allow more Mexicans into the country legally, if you want, but that's a separate issue. A country must control and enforce its borders. That's the first order of business for any nation, and in essence, defining and controlling borders is the very definition of a nation.

(But even if you raise legal immigration quotas, unless you simply say, "OK, Mexico, everybody's welcome!" we will continue to have illegal aliens, as well. Not to mention those from Iraq, Syria, Iran...even France!)

Inspired by "undocumented immigrant," I got to wondering what other sorts of criminal behavior would benefit from euphemism. I came up with these:

Unrequited Lover (rapist)

Unauthorized Owner (thief)

Unlicensed Embalmer (Jeffrey Dahmer)

Unsponsored Stock Car Driver (speeder)

Unexpected Company (invading army)

Undocumented Withdrawal (bank robbery)


Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Homeland for the Gazans!
Here's an idea, for all those Israelis being removed from their homes on the Gaza strip: Renounce (and denounce) Israel, call yourselves "Gazans," and demand the right to your "homeland." The UN and the American Left will be tripping all over themselves to support your anti-Zionist cause.

A saw the video on TV: farmers and productive people being removed from their homes; masked men with machine guns celebrating and getting ready to move in. That's progress?


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wal-Mart the New Sears Catalog
Why are so many people opposed to Wal-Mart, anyway? (see previous post) And have you noticed that the loudest anti-Wal-Mart activists seem to come from urban areas?

That holds true in this case. (previous post)

In the story I mentioned in my previous post, about the St. Paul and Minneapolis teachers calling for a boycott of Wal-Mart, a teacher brags that he won't shop at Wal-Mart. He shops at OTHER discount stores, instead.

Good for him that he has such choices. That means he can act "on principle," without any sacrifice.

But Wal-Mart is a product of rural America. For many smaller towns all over the country, Wal-Mart is their first and only chance to get a city-sized selection of products at affordable prices. In that way, Wal-Mart carries on the legacy of the Sears catalog, which let rural people shop for anything the people in the city could get, and at reasonable prices. (But Wal-Mart does Sears one better, not just taking money from rural people, but providing jobs in each town where it has a store.)

When I was a boy on the farm, we used to shop from Sears and other catalogs. Sure, we had stores locally, but some things weren't available unless you went to the city -- or shopped from the catalog. (Or, if they were available locally, they might be much, much more expensive.) In addition, we made plenty of shopping trips (an hour or more each way) to "the cities," where we could shop at discount stores like Target and K-Mart.

From that perspective, Wal-Mart coming to town is a great thing. Now, people don't have to drive to the city to shop. Shopping at a discount store in your town is better for your town than shopping at a discount store an hour away, isn't it?

I think the claim that Wal-Mart drives the "main street" merchants out of business is overblown. Yes, some such specific cases may result. But by keeping people local, instead of driving to "the cities," Wal-Mart can also benefit the rest of the businesses in a town.

I also notice -- here in Minnesota, at least -- that Wal-Mart opens stores in rapidly-growing towns. They don't want to locate in some stagnant town that can barely support the stores it has. So Wal-Mart helps to meet the needs of a growing population, not just cannibalize existing stores.

(Related post exploring the urban/rural, Red State/Blue State schism over Wal-Mart: "Wal-Mart Rolls Back the Mystery" )


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Teachers Unions Wants to Teach Wal-Mart a Lesson
Two of Minnesota's largest teachers' unions are calling for us not to buy back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart. The StarTribune reports:

"Two of the state's largest teachers unions are urging their members not to buy back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., accusing the nation's largest retailer of unfair labor practices.

"Both the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, which together represent about 9,500 teachers and other school employees in the Twin Cities, say the retailer pays substandard wages and has a high percentage of workers without health care insurance.

"The local unions are following the lead of the 2.7 million-member National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, and the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which last week held rallies in 30 cities demanding that Wal-Mart boost its wages and expand health benefits."

We don't usually shop at Wal-Mart, but I'm thinking of going to Wal-Mart and asking for some bags, just so I can send my kids' supplies to school in Wal-Mart bags. (Like most Minnesotans, we're thoroughly acclimated to Target, which originated in the state. The very first Target store is just a few miles from our home.)

But seriously, these days the teachers' unions have about as much to do with promoting education as the Teamsters have to do with promoting highway safety. (OK, to be fair to the Teamsters, less.) The teachers' unions are first, foremost, and darn near exclusively concerned with increasing their ranks, enlarging their members' pocketbooks, and pushing their political agenda (with money taken from all of us by the government, when you get right down to it).

A spokeswoman for the teachers said that this isn't a "political" issue, it's a "community" issue. I don't know what that's supposed to mean, but this is as assuredly about politics as is the lawsuit several Minnesota churches have filed against Minnesota's permit-to-carry legislation, under the guise of "religious freedom."

If the teachers are so concerned that workers are being exploited and mistreated by "having" to work for Wal-Mart, they should ask themselves this: How is it, with free public education for all, that so many people go through the school systems without acquiring the skills to do something other than work at Wal-Mart?

Here's a beauty of a quote, from a St. Paul teacher:

"'Wal-Mart has consistently put profits ahead of its workers,' [Roy] Magnuson said. 'At some point, you've got to take a stand.'"

Hmmm. Sort of the way the teachers' unions have consistently put job security and paychecks ahead of real education reform?

Craig Westover has more on this, including why the teachers' unions hate the Walton family.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good News Is Good News
Think there is no good news to report out of Iraq? Think again. Better yet, read Arthur Chrenkoff's roundup of good news from Iraq, in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal (registration may be required).

Now, if we could just get Big Media to report it.

There's a saying that "No news is good news." For the news media, that usually translates into "Good news is no news." For example, they don't report on a million cars that didn't crash and burn today; they only report on the ones that did. We are left to assume that if our friends and relatives don't show up in the news, that means they're OK.

But that means the news tends to be primarily about bad things that happen. While that may work out with local and domestic news -- because we know that for the most part our lives and communities are going along fine, situation normal -- it doesn't work so well when it comes to giving people an accurate picture of the condition inside Iraq. Since most of us don't really know what "normal" is inside Iraq, all we really know is what we hear daily from Big Media. And that is almost all BAD NEWS.

Is it any wonder that people would conclude that bad news is the only news from Iraq?

Come on, Big Media, do your job. Show people the whole picture.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Origin of Life Remains a Great Mystery
I refer you to an unusually level-headed and well-reasoned pair of point/counterpoint columns on what our schools should teach children about the origin of life. The columns ran in my Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press, one in favor of teaching "intelligent design," the other opposed to it.

Really, I don't see why there has to be so much controversy over this issue. I don't see why it has to be such an either/or issue.

Here's how I'd handle it, if I were teaching. I'd tell the students:

"First of all, I want to point out to you that the origin of life remains a great mystery. While various supernatural explanations can be found rooted in most cultures, our modern scientific tradition has attempted to explain life and its origins in terms of the natural laws that we can scientifically observe.

"The prevalent scientific theory of our day is Darwinian evolution. There is evidence in the fossil record that supports this theory, showing a change in species over very long periods of time. Some species disappear, while others begin to show up. There is also evidence of short-term change within species, in the case of inbred, isolated populations; or in the natural selection of those individuals best suited to survive within a particular environment; or in the human-directed selective breeding of plants and animals. Even humans have measurably "changed" in the last century, as average height has increased with improved nutrition.

"But in none of these examples do we see one species becoming another species.

"So we don't really know how -- or even if -- those simple, prehistoric organisms eventually evolved into homo sapiens. Nonetheless, Darwinian evolution is the best, most accepted scientific theory of our age, despite its incompleteness and imperfection.

"Still, some people think that there has to be more to the story. They think that the Universe and Earth are too complex and amazing to have come about by chance. They believe that there must be some sort of plan to the natural world, coming either directly at the hand of God (creation), or through some other sort of unexplained planning and supervision (intelligent design).

"Your job as students, is to study the evidence and learn of these different points of view. But I don't ask you to come to a decision about what is 'right' or 'true,' because we really don't yet know, and maybe we never will.

"So keep an open mind, recognizing the value of Darwinian evolution theory to science, but also remembering that Darwinian evolution theory can not answer all of our questions.

"And remember: The details of the origin of life still remain a great mystery -- both scientifically, and theologically. And they likely always will Even someone who believes an all-powerful God created the Universe must wonder, 'Where did God come from?' And someone who believes that a 'Big Bang' dispersed all the matter that became the Universe must wonder, 'Where did all that matter come from?'"

Now, what's so controversial about that approach?

Just one thing: It's too reasonable. That means it's unacceptable to those who want to use Genesis to teach biology, and it's unacceptable to those who want to put their faith in science, pretending that Darwin explained everything.

Can't we all just agree that.... we really don't know? Really, isn't it ridiculous to argue who's right and who's wrong... when no one actually KNOWS the truth?


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Gopher Ticket "Scandal" Resolved
The Great Gopher Ticket Scandal has been resolved. The University of Minnesota will spend $5,000 to reprint the tickets that erroneously referred to All-America quarterback Sandy Stephens as Sandy "Stevens."

That's $5,000 that won't be available to further the education of student-athletes of any race.

I don't know whether reprinting the tickets is the right thing to do; that can be argued either way. But I do know that -- while this gaffe is an embarrassment to the University -- this never had anything to do with race.

What if Bronko Nagurski's name had been misspelled? Would the paper have been all over that, getting quotes from someone down at the Polish-American Hall, about how this is indicative of the way Polish-Americans have always been disrespected? No, I don't think so. (In fact, a writer for the Pioneer Press, talking on the radio, said that the paper itself has been known to write about "Bronco" Nagurski, with no scandal erupting.)


Friday, August 12, 2005

Just What the Founding Fathers Feared
Just a few posts down, you'll find my comments on a couple of columns by Deborah Locke, a liberal editorial page writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Locke seems to have recently "gotten religion" when it comes to politics. All of a sudden, she's using the Bible to argue for implementation of her liberal political agenda.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe that's what she has decided.

But all of a sudden, the debate has gone from whether religious views should have any role in politics, to whose religious views should have a role in politics. Instead of "Leave religion out of it," it's now, "Leave your religion out of it; I'm the one who knows what Jesus really would do."

Kind of like some place like, oh.....Iraq! There, the question is, which sect of Islam will lead the Islamic government?

On one hand, I welcome liberals into the discussion of how faith and religious values can influence our public policies. On the other hand, I'm thinking that this new dispute -- whose interpretation of the Bible should drive public policy -- is exactly what the Founding Fathers feared, and the reason they decided to separate church and state.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Thank You, LaShawn!
Thank you to LaShawn Barber of LaShawn Barber's Corner for linking to the post immediately below. That has brought a lot of first-time visitors to Downing World. I'd like to welcome you all, and say I hope you'll be returning.

As most of you have likely figured out, "home" for my site is at http://www.downingworld.com Start there to get the full experience, if you've come to this page by way of the post-specific link. (I once spent days wondering why another blogger wasn't writing anything new. Turned out the URL I had saved in my "favorites" was specific to that one post I had been directed to by someone else. Ooops!)

I've been blogging (or "writing online") for just over a year. Quite often I write about local issues (I'm in St. Paul, Minnesota), but I try to do so in a way that makes the issue pertinent to people everywhere.

Thanks for visiting Downing World. Come back now, you hear?!


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Racial Chip on Shoulder the Real Handicap
The University of Minnesota athletic department has egg on its institutional face. A story today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the University misspelled the name of former Gophers quarterback Sandy Stephens on a game ticket. Other former Gopher pigskinners being honored -- Carl Eller, Bronko Nagurski, Bobby Bell and Bruce Smith -- had their names spelled correctly.

(This reminds me of 1985, when I attended the NCAA ice hockey Final Four in Detroit. The games were held at Joe Louis Arena. But some tournament materials had it as Joe "Lewis.")

But this is more than just an embarrassment because a University can't correctly spell the name of one of its own past stars.

No, to some at least, it's much more than that.

You see, Sandy Stephens was black.

And lucky for us, Mahmoud El-Kati was available for quoting:

"El-Kati, a retired professor at Macalester College, said it's understandable for members of the black community to feel slighted by the University of Minnesota's error -- Sandy "Stevens" -- made on a ticket aimed at honoring the first African-American All-America quarterback.

"'I can see black people being upset about that because it's who we are and what we are and where we are; that's the way it's always been,' El-Kati said. 'You can take Sandy Stephens and multiply the slight 1,000 times because of the general insensitivity toward African-Americans in society.'"

So much for shrugging this off as just an embarrassing goof. No, this is a chance to make racial hay.

Never mind that of the three athletes being honored, three are black. Or that "Stevens" is itself a common enough name, so you can see where someone could make the mistake (like Louis/Lewis). Sure, they got "Nagurski" right; they probably triple-checked that one just to make sure.

Yes, there are times when black people are treated disrespectfully or unfairly because of the color of their skin. But this is not one of those times.

I get tired of supposed "leaders" and "spokesman" of the black community wasting everyone's time on piddly non-factors such as this. Haven't they heard the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"? If they insist on making a mountain out of these molehills, they shouldn't be surprised if no one listens when they have a real problem to complain about.

I read the paper everyday, but I can't remember the last time El-Kati appeared in print pointing out that MOST black babies are born out of wedlock; or decried the high drop-out rate of black students; or bemoaned how many young black men ruin their lives by turning to a life of crime. Those are real problems facing the black community.

Instead, I'm supposed to get all worked up that a misspelled name is keeping the black man down.

Well, I don't buy it. I'm tired of being black being a built-in excuse, and serving as an always-ready chip on the shoulder. This blunder by the U has nothing to do with race.

Get over it.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Encore: Locke on Religion I
About a month ago, I posted a response to an earlier Deborah Locke column on church/state. (Commentary on a new Locke column appears immedately below.) Responding to encouragement from several respected readers, I reworked that post into an opinion column to submit to the Pioneer Press.

Alas, the paper declined to publish it. But here it is for you to read. You may be interested in comparing it to my original post, to see how I tempered my original, teed-off post into an editorial for general consumption in the mainstream media.

----

Mr. Liberal, Tear Down that Wall!

For decades, those on the political left have repeatedly instructed me as to these two facts:

1. You can't legislate morality.

2. There must be a wall of separation between church and state.

So imagine my surprise when I read Deborah Locke's July 14 column. Locke is pleased as punch at what she sees as the influence on this year's state budget by religious leaders who called for more spending on social services, along with higher taxes.

Referring to comments from the Rev. Stephen Adrian, talking about a church-led anti-poverty campaign, Locke writes: "People had to wrestle with the fact that a state budget is more than bound pages of numbers in columns. It's also a moral document, he said."

A moral document? Does Locke really believe the state budget is about imposing religious morality on the people of the state? That's quite a reversal from the usual position of liberals. I thought that when it came to religion and morality -- in issues such as abortion or marriage, for instance -- we were supposed to respect that all-important "wall of separation." What happened to that principle?

Locke writes that the Rev. Adrian has some complaints about the new budget: "He is especially incensed that no additional money was provided for a state child-care program, which was drastically cut with the last legislative session. Steep co-pays make it difficult for parents to buy quality child care. His parishioners who removed their children from the church's child-care program because of those increases will not be returning anytime soon."

Isn't there a conflict of interest here? The Rev. Adrian is unhappy that the state hasn't budgeted more child-care money -- money which would go to his church. And Locke seems sympathetic. Can we assume then that vouchers enabling low-income families to attend church-run schools would be okay with the Rev. Adrian and Locke? Or does such parental choice for K-12 education, in contrast to preschool care, violate the "separation of church and state?"

But here's the scariest part of Locke's column: She also writes about comments from Nancy Maeker, an ordained minister and bishop's associate for the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In Locke's words: "Maeker believes that more people should read the Bible for its message about people living in poverty. Don't be concerned with other issues in there, she said. See what God suggests about care for poor people and then get involved with the election process."

That's quite a statement: Focus on just a single political issue, ignoring the rest of the Bible and reading just the parts that support your political view, then try to get your candidates elected, so they can implement your personal Biblical viewpoint.

So, when pro-lifers focus only on parts of the Bible that support their cause, and then get involved in the election process, I guess we should expect liberals like Locke to say, "More power to you!"

Don't hold your breath on that one. Instead we hear, "Don't impose your religion on me!"

Talk about your double standards.

If we took the passages that I have excerpted from Locke's column, and turned them around so that they were coming from conservative religious leaders, who wanted to implement their particular conservative religious/political agenda via the state government, liberals would have a fit. Until now, liberals have acted as though anyone with religious beliefs was pretty much disqualified from having any say in public policy.

But apparently, the "progressive" mind is much more nuanced than my knuckle-dragging conservative mind. Because it appears that I am being asked to consider it wonderful when church officials -- actual church officials -- direct government policy. Meanwhile, if lay people merely go to the polls and elect representatives and a President who share their values and world view, we're warned that we're creating a "theocracy."

I'm not saying caring for the poor isn't Biblical. And I do believe religious people -- and their leaders -- should speak out about how society cares for the poor. But whether conservative or liberal, religious people should also be allowed a voice in other public policy issues.

No more double standards.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Locke Attempts Another Religious Discussion
In today's St. Paul Pioneer Press, liberal editorial writer Deborah Locke takes another stab at writing about the relationship between church and state. (Good when religion is used to support her liberal politics.)

Locke writes about her chat with state Sen. Dean Johnson, an ordained minister in the ELCA. While Locke and Johnson may make some valid -- though exaggerated -- criticisms of those evil, religious Republicans, they really miss the point.

Locke's and Johnson's thoughts reveal a clear schism in the way people look at the concept of helping people, or we could say, loving your neighbor as yourself. (Of course, as open-minded, tolerant liberals, Locke and Johnson judge anyone who disagrees with them to be wrong and evil, with selfishness and malice in their hearts.)

Here's a key excerpt from the column:

"Johnson's ideas about community blend well with Bill McKibben's from the 'Christian Paradox' essay in Harper's. There McKibben expresses a fear of the sprawling megachurches of the new exurbs that overlook the radical notions of Christ like loving your neighbor as yourself, the distant neighbors who are poor and weak. Dominant theologies undercut Jesus and in the end, silence him, McKibben wrote.

"'In fact, the soft focus consumer gospel of the suburban megachurches is a perfect match for emergent conservative economic notions about personal responsibility instead of collective action,' he wrote."

Clearly, while they don't shy away from pretending to, Locke and McKibben don't understand the minds of their perceived adversaries. Personal responsibility is not about "I" or "me" or about being selfish. Teaching personal responsibility -- hand-in-hand with the "ownership society" -- is all about helping people. It's all about helping people with genuine, long-term help.

It's as simple as the old saying, "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll never go hungry."

Liberals are always insisting that we "invest" in education and social programs that they claim will save the taxpayers money in the long run. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. Why can't they see that teaching people to straighten up and fly right, and take responsibility for themselves, is the same concept?

I want to help people. I just don't think a lifetime of handouts should be the first option. The first option should be helping people to help themselves.

But I don't think that Locke, Johnson, and McKibben are evil, or that they don't sincerely want to help people, just because they endorse a different strategy than I do. I truly believe they sincerely want to help people. I just happen to think their strategy is not the best one. I think they are mistaken, but I don't feel the need to deem them selfish or condemn my interpretation of their motivation.

So, who is it that's being hateful, intolerant, closed-minded and judgmental?


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Puritanism? McCarthyism? Witch Hunt? There's No Hypocrite Like a Liberal Hypocrite
Read this Kenneth L. Woodward piece in the Wall Street Journal for an interesting -- and detailed -- look at the issue of Indian mascots and the NCAA's recent anti-Indian mascot edict. (Registration may be required.)

It's the details that reveal the hypocrisy. While I'm sympathetic when it comes to the issue of truly disrespectful mascots (which are few and far between), this column reveals the far-reaching witch hunt hypocrisy of the true believers.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Mother Can Beat Up Your Mother
This summer, in reports of an incident of casualties in Iraq, I noticed that the media couldn't help but report that some WOMEN soldiers had been killed. I wondered, why point that out? Do they otherwise say things like, "Two men soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb today"? No, of course not. So, in this modern age, if women are equal, why point out that these soldiers were women? Isn't that like calling a female neurosurgeon a "lady doctor"? I thought that was sexist. So just like we shouldn't act surprised and point it out when a surgeon is female, we shouldn't act surprised and point it out when a soldier is female.

But the truth is, we do think it's different when the soldier is a women. We still aren't comfortable with the idea of women (mothers) in combat.

The push for more women in the military came during a time when we had forgotten what the military is for. For a time post-Vietnam, we forgot that the military is about killing and dying. Our peace-time military became seen by many as a "benefit" -- a way of seeing the world, gaining experience, getting training, or earning money for education.

Well, if serving in the military is a benefit, then women wanted in, too. It was "unfair" not to make this "government benefit" available to women, too.

We forgot about the killing. And we especially forgot about the dying.

I see a parallel to what I have written in the past about marriage: That we've stopped seeing marriage as an obligation to society, and begun seeing it only as a "benefit" bestowed upon people by the government. With marriage as a "government benefit," it becomes "unfair" not to have same-gender marriages.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Well of Course Reserve Recruiting is Down
I heard a radio news report today that the Army hit 109% of its recruiting goal for July. But as consolation for this "disappointment," the mainstream media reporter (ABC) immediately pointed out that the Guard and Reserve continue falling short of their targets.

Well, duh!

With so many people activated at this time, signing up for the Guard or Reserve now may be pretty much the same as signing up for active duty. If active duty is what a person wants, he or she might just as well sign up for active duty. That's going to mean fewer Guard and Reserve candidates. When the Iraq War is won, and citizen soldiers go back to being full-time citizens, and only part-time soldiers again, Guard and Reserve recruiting will pick up again.


Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Forget Tolerance, That's MY Ox We're Talking About!
These days, liberals like to call themselves "progressive." They're for progress. That means change. That means they think what's new is better.

Conservatives, on the other hand, like to keep things the way they are. They don't want change.

Finally, a reactionary is said to be someone who opposes a "progressive" agenda, but doesn't want things to stay the same, either. A reactionary wants to go back to the way things USED TO BE.

But people are imperfect creatures. OK, no surprise there. I write this in response to my reading of a recent "Highland Villager" newspaper, which alerted me to just how inconsistent people can be. In particular, it showed me how so-called "progressives" are anything but, when it's their own ox that's getting gored.

As I read this particular issue of my neighborhood newspaper, a theme jumped out at me. People who would consider themselves "progressive," tolerant and open-minded could repeatedly be seen trying to block change, and tell other people what they could or could not do.

There were stories about people trying to prevent other people from adding on to their houses. "It might bother me if I had to look at that! It will change my view!"

There was a story about neighbors trying to prevent a successful restaurant from expanding its bar service. "It might bother us!"

There were stories about retail development on Grand Avenue. Grand Avenue was once a run down, off-the-beaten-path street, that had outlived its glory days. As a low-rent location, it began to attract one-of-a-kind, independently-owned businesses. But over the years, it became yuppified and upscale. Now, national retailers have taken notice, and they want to locate on Grand. "No chains!" is the cry from the Grand Avenue faithful, in letters-to-the editor and news stories.

What? Isn't that progress? Aren't chains the modern way? But the "progressives" want to hold onto the past. They seem almost reactionary, trying to hang onto a Grand Avenue that no longer exists.

Conservatives are often criticized for trying to hang onto a "Norman Rockwell's America," that "no longer exists, if it ever did." But when it comes to Grand Avenue, it's the "progressives" who wear the rose-colored glasses.

One progressive-reactionary even aired her grievances in a guest editorial. Jada Breuer whined about her efforts to lease Grand Avenue space for a start-up business. She thought it unfair that property owners rejected her -- a first-time business owner with an untested concept -- in favor of established businesses with a successful track record. She complained that "commercial spaces were going to the highest bidders, with little consideration for what the people in the neighborhood actually need or want." Shame on those property owners, wanting to get market rate for their property! I hope when Breuer does open her store, Karma, she applies the same standard to herself. She'd better not sell people what they really want and are willing to pay the going rate to get. Rather, she'd better only sell what SHE THINKS people want and need, and she'd better charge them only what they want to pay.

Breuer goes on: "It seems that the property managers on Grand are not even considering what the people living in the area might actually need or want. If you can pay their exorbitant lease rates, they don't care who you are or what you're selling."

That's right, lady. And why should they care what you are selling? The customers of property managers are the retailers. The property managers sell (lease) their product -- space -- to retailers who want it. It's up to those retailers to ultimately judge what people will buy on Grand Avenue. The role of property managers is to choose who can best pay the rent; not to choose the mix of products offered for sale.

This woman has very little understanding of business. I doubt that her store designed to "cater to the lifestyles of young women" will be much of a success.

She wants to have it both ways. She wants to be on Grand Avenue, because of its high customer traffic, but she doesn't want to pay Grand Avenue rent. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.


Monday, August 8, 2005

Chaplain Writes from Iraq
Here's a report from Iraq, from a chaplain's perspective. It appears in "The Evangel," the publication of The American Association of Lutheran Churches. You can read it in PDF form at http://www.taalc.com/images/evangel124.pdf


Monday, August 8, 2005

Taxing People to Hell
We have a long-standing practice of not taxing churches in this country. The idea behind that is that the power to tax is the power to regulate, and Americans believe in keeping the government's hands off of churches.

But now, in our "freedom FROM religion" society, there are those who get this backward. They argue that not taxing churches is in fact a government SUBSIDY of religion! Thus, they say, we must start taxing churches.

Let me give you a little example of what can happen when government taxes churches. This is an excerpt from an e-mail message from Fred and Sandy Hall, friends from church who are traveling in formerly-Communist Europe this summer, doing Christian education and mission work. Here's an update from Latvia, which spent half a century as a Soviet province:

"The Rundale Palace, built by German nobility in 1736, is the most significant in Latvia. Along with its 40 sumptuously decorated rooms that were restored after it was used as a granary in 1945, is an exhibit called, 'The Time of Misery.' It's a large display of treasures from Lutheran churches that were taken to the palace for safekeeping. They managed to get the palace designated as a cultural repository and the art in the churches categorized as cultural heritage and thus saved things from churches that were destroyed. Sadly, most of the items were already damaged: missing limbs from statues, an angel without a wing, rusty and bent decorative hinges, a weathercock with missing parts. Pictures of hundreds of damaged churches were displayed describing each one's fate.

"To start with, the Communists taxed the congregations out of existence. When the church members could no longer pay the taxes they had to abandon the buildings. The buildings were then turned into warehouses, residences, offices, theaters, and even a billiards hall with the toilets where the altar had been. Bells and organ pipes were melted down for the metal. About one small church the caption read, 'The wooden cross was sawed off and it became a granary.' In another place the people burned down their own church rather than let it fall into the hands of their enemy. In the most beautiful cathedrals the pews were turned around to face the organ in the back and they became concert halls. This display was just overwhelming and yet it covered only the Lutheran churches in this area of Latvia. The same thing happened throughout the Soviet Empire to all churches. And this display was only about church buildings. The clergy and church leaders were also brutalized."

Sadly, "progressive" Americans who advocate taxing churches would shed no tears if America's churches met the same fate.


Monday, August 8, 2005

What Do Conservatives Think? Let's Ask a Liberal
Do the luminaries of the Mainstream Media really believe the caricature they paint of conservatives/Republicans? More important, do conservatives/Republicans believe it?

I ask this after reading a news story titled "Roberts details not swaying partisans."

The story tells us that as a private lawyer, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts:

"...represented homeless Washingtonians who had lost their government benefits because of city budget cuts.

"...advocated environmental protections for Lake Tahoe, Glacier Bay and the Grand Canyon.

"...spent 25 hours assisting a convicted murderer with a death penalty appeal.

"...even helped gay-rights activists win a landmark Supreme Court anti-discrimination case."

(EVEN helped gay-rights activists? Isn't that editorializing?)

This seems to suggest that, to the liberal media at least, it's a great shock whenever a conservative or a Republican DOES NOT want to fill the Grand Canyon with a crude oil spill, DOES NOT want all the homeless to starve, DOES NOT want to fry every suspect without benefit of legal counsel, and DOES NOT round up all the gays and lynch them.

Yes, these are issues that often reveal the liberal/conservative divide, but that divide is not at the extreme point I've just described.

However, the liberal media act as though it were.

And sometimes conservatives fall into their trap. Liberals are not the only ones capable of knee-jerk reaction. Too often, conservatives will automatically oppose any environmental initiative, for instance, because they've been conditioned to think that's what they are supposed to do. If liberals are for it, they reason, it must be wrong. Not necessarily. Isn't it possible there could good ideas that everyone could get behind, especially if some compromise is involved? (And, of course, this goes the other way across the aisle, as well.)

But I digress.

The headline on the Roberts story is misleading, because the story does not in fact address the "details" of Roberts' legal history. The details would be the particular CASE,S the particular ISSUES, the particular PRINCIPLES involved in Roberts' work. For instance, take the gay-rights activists that he "even" advocated for. If the case was in support of same-gender marriage, then many conservatives might take issue. But if Roberts argued that gays should be able to sit at the front of the bus, like anyone else, that's a whole different story.

Unfortunately, the reporters behind this story don't think it's necessary to explain what the cases were, they just wave the red flags of environmentalism, gay-rights, capital punishment, and "homelessness," and hope they can entice some conservatives to charge.

It never ceases to amaze me the way the Mainstream Media talk about conservatives (this goes for the way they talk about Christians, too). They talk like we're not in the room. Like we're not real people, who are going to read about ourselves in their stories in the paper. In a way, they seem like anthropologists describing some primitive culture, or some primatologist studying chimps: "How will the conservatives react to this unexpected information? Let's watch." It's scary that they think they can tell everyone what conservatives think; that they think they can get inside our heads and our hearts. Here's a radical idea, Mainstream Media: Ask conservatives what they think; don't just tell us what YOU think conservatives think.

This also ties into the way that the liberal, Mainstream Media continue to define the terms of the discussion. Conservatives have to watch out, and not get sucked into it.

For instance, I recently heard a conservative talk radio host playing right into their hands. He was saying he didn't think something was unconstitutional, because he didn't think it crossed the "wall of separation between church and state."

Those words do not exist in the Constitution. Not at all. The familiar phrase "wall of separation" is just one person's interpretation of the First Amendment. It may be a useful thought for philosophical discussion, but it is not the law of the land.

But the radio host got sucked in. He substituted "wall of separation" for the actual First Amendment, and starting playing by the liberals' rules. That put him at a huge disadvantage. (I e-mailed him and he got back on track.)

Then just last week, I heard the same radio host talking about searches of subway riders. The host said that we need to search people who look like potential terrorists, not just random riders. A liberal caller tried to nail him with a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question: "So then you are for racial profiling?"

The host almost got suckered in. But he caught himself just in time, and said, "No, I'm not for RACIAL profiling, I'm for BAD GUY profiling. Search the riders who look like bad guys, whatever race they might be."

And that's the way it should be done. Profile based on who looks like a possible terrorist. No one is talking about "racial profiling" -- except the liberals, who want to wave that red flag and distract us from the real issue.

I've got to ask, if someone (a liberal) assumes that searching only those who look like terrorists is equal to searching only those of a certain race, now who's being racist?


Sunday, August 7, 2005

Anarchy at the County Fair
My little ones are getting bigger. Last night at the Pine County Fair, they were whipping around on a very fast carnival ride, accompanied by the music(?) of Motley Crue and the Sex Pistols. Now that's a rockin' ride.


Sunday, August 7, 2005

Birth Certificate Precedent
In my previous post, I commented on the desire of same-gender couples to have "parent A" and "parent B" put on their child's birth certificate, rather than the traditional "mother" and "father." It sounded ludicrous at first, but then I wondered whether there might in fact be a precedent for putting the names of non-biological parents on a child's birth certificate.

Indeed there is.

I heard from an adoptee who explained that the when an adoption is completed, a new birth certificate is written up for the child, bearing the names of the adoptive parents. That birth certificate is then treated as the official, public record of the child's birth. The original birth certificate then becomes a sealed record.

There is no "asterisk" or notation on the new birth certificate that would tell the child, or anyone else, that the parents listed are not in fact the child's biological parents.

Considering this precedent, listing two parents of the same gender no longer seems so strange. Yes, it may be doctoring the truth, but so is what we do to the birth certificate of an adoptee. The only difference is that with two men or two women listed, it will be immediately apparent to anyone looking at the birth certificate that there is more to the story. But on the other hand, it will also be likely that one of the names listed is in fact a biological parent, so that would make the same-gender-parent birth certificate actually more biologically "truthful" than the birth certificate that lists mixed-gender, adoptive parents.

Ironic, no?


Thursday, August 4, 2005

Messing with the Truth
Here's a really interesting piece from Orlando Sentinel columnist Kathleen Parker. Parker writes that the slide down the slippery slope has begun in Massachusetts, now that the home of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry has legalized same-sex marriage:

"The slippery slope that wasn't supposed to happen once same-sex marriage was granted is making Everest jealous.

"In Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney has been butting heads with same-sex couples over birth certificates for their newborns. I'll give you a minute to wrap your mind around that concept.

"The problem is that birth certificates are currently written to reflect archaic notions of procreation, that is, involving a mother and father. Thus, gay and lesbian parents have asked the state to replace 'mother' and 'father' with Parent A and Parent B."

Isn't a birth certificate supposed to be a public record of fact, recording the actual bloodline of the baby? I thought so. But this raises lots of other questions, as well. In other ways, we've been dealing with complicated birth certificates forever.

I know that the parents listed on a birth certificate haven't always been biologically correct. While it's pretty obvious to the doctor who the mother is, the person filling out the birth certificate has to rely on the word of the mother as to who the father is. And when a woman is married, the father is assumed to be the husband of the mother, regardless of whether that is really the truth.

But what about when there has been a sperm donor, and even the husband knows he's not (biologically) responsible? Does his name still go on the birth certificate? And what of the case of children being given up for adoption? We hear of adopted children having to search for their biological parents, so obviously it isn't as easy as going down to the courthouse and seeing whose names are on your birth certificate. Are those birth certificates not filled out? Or are they filled out with the names of the biological parents, then sealed away?

Lots of questions. If you have any answers, let me know, and I'll share your information with everyone else.

Parker also has some comments about the way we've come to view children in our society. To many, they're just another acquisition; something to get because you've already go the Beemer and the lake home, and everyone else in your aging Boomer circle is getting one. That's what I call the Trophy Child. Parker writes:

"As long as children are viewed as mere extensions of ourselves, put here to satisfy some narcissistic need for self-actualization, it is easy to suppose that our needs and their needs are complementary. If same-sex marriage is what 'I' need, then two same-sex parents are what 'my' child needs.

"What we know but the courts apparently choose to ignore is that identity and selfhood are rooted, in part, in our biological origins. Adopted children seek out biological parents in their quest for identity. Genealogical organizations do a brisk business. 'Who am I?' keeps psychotherapists in new Volvos."

Very interesting question are being raised, and we need to come up with the right answers. I encourage you to read the full column.


Thursday, August 4, 2005

Sure, Blame the Bovines. But What About the Burritos?
Cows and their peculiar digestive habits are being blamed for air pollution in California's San Joaquin Valley.

"California's San Joaquin Valley for some time has had the dirtiest air in the country. Now officials say gases from ruminating dairy cows, not smoky exhaust from cars, are the region's biggest single source of a chief smog-forming pollutant."

"'We are talking about a public health crisis,' said Brent Newell, an attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. 'It's not funny to joke about cow burps and farts when one in six children in Fresno schools is carrying an inhaler.'"

OK, but consider this: There's an awfully lot of Mexican food getting eaten in California. Don't humans deserve some of the blame, too?


Wednesday, August 3, 2005

A Diversion
Here's a little diversion. This animation would be mesmerizing even if the woman wasn't wearing a bikini! You can grab her with your cursor (hold down the mouse button) and swing her through the air. Let me know if she ever reaches bottom.


Monday, August 1, 2005

"Single" Not What It Used to Be
A sure sign of the diminished standing of marriage in our society is the way that relationship terminology is being twisted. These days, I hear young people say they are "single," and what they mean is that they aren't dating anyone. Also, I hear people say "my ex," and what they mean is someone they used to date, not someone they were married to.

You know, I'm really not that old yet, but I can remember when a man and woman living together without being married was considered shocking. Since then, we've actually "progressed" past the point of living together as a long-term substitute for marriage, and now living together seems to be, for many, a substitute for dating. I see couples moving in together at younger and younger ages, seemingly as the normal course of events. But they aren't moving in together with all the expectations of marriage, short of the legal contract. Rather, they're just moving in together as part of the dating process. There isn't any expectation of permanence.

Of course, in these situations, the couple may find they have differing expectations. Typically it's the young woman who starts looking for a "commitment." They young man wonders, "Why? What's in it for me? I'm already getting everything I want now."

Used to be, the young woman demanded a commitment before she became a man's lover and housekeeper. Guess we're so much wiser these days, eh? Don't need that old wisdom anymore. Imagine, mothers used to tell their daughters, "He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free." How foolish of them. We modern types know so much better, don't we?


Sunday, July 31, 2005

Feminism No Friend of American Mothers
Sometimes, I sure am glad that the good ol' US of A isn't just like those more "enlightened" and "progressive" nations of Europe. I just read a story about how the U.S. stands apart from the rest of the world in not granting generous, paid maternity leave.

Two things stood out. The first:

"Across the ocean, in Sweden, Magnus Larsson is looking forward to splitting 16 months of parental leave at 80 percent pay with his girlfriend. They are expecting their first baby in a week."

What? In Sweden, a guy knocks up his girlfriend, and he gets rewarded by getting paid not to work? What kind of deal is that?

Compare that to here. In the U.S., when a girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, we set her up in her own place and let her live off the government. But if the boyfriend moves in, they have to keep it a secret, or he'll be expected to pay the rent. Additionally, we hear of deadbeat dads who don't work, because if they do, their check just goes to support their children.

But at least we maintain the expectation that a man should work to support his children -- and their mother.

Not so in Sweden. There, some schmuck knocks a girl up and it's, Congratulations! You've won the lottery!

Here's the second thing that stood out: An unexpected shot at the American feminist movement. In explaining why America lags behind Europe in maternity leave, we're offered this:

"Jane Waldfogel, also a professor at Columbia, says another part of the puzzle is that the European and American feminist movements had differing goals.

"In Europe, feminists emphasized special treatment for mothers, including maternity leave and child care.

"'The American feminist movement didn't want to hear anything about mothers,' Waldfogel says. 'They wanted equal rights for women and didn't emphasize special treatment.'"

Isn't that interesting? I think what it's saying is this: European feminists wanted to help women, and that by definition meant helping mothers. But American feminists wanted women to be just like men; that meant pretending that women aren't mothers.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bird Brains
I tell you, the people of the future are going to look back and think we were absolutely nuts. A story in the news this month around St. Paul involved an osprey nest on top of a light pole at a high school football field. At first, it was feared that Irondale High School would be unable to use its football field, because it's a federal crime to bother a nesting osprey (honest!).

Never mind that the field was there all along, and was being used this summer for things like marching band practice, and the bird didn't care. She put her nest right there despite the commotion.

Finally, it was determined that the nest was far enough from the field that the field could still be used. But that wasn't the end of it.

There's a story in the paper today about how the baby osprey were banded yesterday. Yes, while there was fear that noisy activity on the football field might scare off momma osprey so that she would abandon the nest, it was considered OK for someone to climb up to the nest, lower the baby birds to the ground, put metal bands around their legs, and put them back in the nest. Presumably, this won't bother momma bird at all.

But football practice would have?

Are these bird lovers bird brains?


Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Patriotism Lite"
I argued a couple of posts ago that the war in Iraq is not real to most Americans, that's why it's possible to have a fictionalized account of the war airing on TV (FX's "Over There") while the real war is still going on.

This story by Thom Shanker of the New York Times supports that point of view. Here's an excerpt:

"The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.

"From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: If America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?"


Friday, July 29, 2005

Pot Calls Kettle Black
Did you hear about this one? An 85-year-old grandmother is suing the company that makes the popular "Grand Theft Auto" video game. That game, previously rated for 17-and-older, was recently revealed to include concealed pornographic content, and war re-rated for adults only.

Granny wants Rockstar Games to line her pockets -- and the pockets of her lawyers -- because she bought the then-17-and-older game for her grandson. Her 14-YEAR-OLD grandson!

Now that's chutzpa. Does she feel no shame herself? No embarrassment? No sense of responsibility? Evidently not enough to get in the way of a big payday.

She claims she didn't know it was for 17-and-older when she bought it, and when she found out, she had it taken away from her grandson. Well, Rockstar claims they didn't know the concealed porno was in the final version of the game. If you can make a mistake, lady, can't they?

You can read MSNBC's version of the story, or, read this one, for a European take on America's love affair with violence and fear of sex.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

War: Just a TV Show
I don't pay for TV, so I couldn't check it out myself, but I understand that last night marked the debut of a new TV show on the FX network. Called "Over There," the show is a fictionalized accounting of the war in Iraq. The series is being billed as the first war-based TV show to air while the war is still going on.

Isn't that....surreal? Doesn't it seem like there is something wrong here? I'm trying to come up with a good analogy. It seems like broadcasting a tell-all bio on someone who's on his deathbed. "I'm not dead yet!"

What it really comes down to, is it shows just how UNREAL the real war is to people. The real war is just a show on TV, anyway, so why not another, fictionalized version of it? What's the difference? It won't be long before we'll hear someone making some argument about the war in Iraq -- either for or against -- and the moron will cite as supporting evidence something that happened in the TV show.

This shows how uninvolved most of us are. If we had rationing, for instance; or if we had blackouts at night; or if we all knew and loved someone who was in harm's way -- under those circumstances we'd never stand for this new TV show. We'd say that it was in poor taste.

But we aren't under those circumstances. For most of us, the real war is just a TV show, too. So what's the big deal?


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Do What You Can to Help
Do what you can to help. I think that's what columnist Jane Eisner is saying by paraphrasing what she calls an old Jewish teaching: "We are not required to complete the work, but neither may we desist from it."

I like that. I think it means that just because we can't feed ALL the hungry or solve ALL the world's problems, that's no excuse not to try to do what we can.

Eisner uses the saying while talking about genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. She writes that guilt may finally be motivating people in the U.S. to take notice of the slaughter in Sudan:

"I can attest: Guilt works. I heard this very message from my rabbi Saturday, and my conscience hasn't left me alone since. I can no longer pretend it's not in my job description to express outrage and demand action against what is being called the worst genocide since World War II.

"That historical analogy weighs heavily on Jewish people, and on Monday, they responded in kind. Just about every major religious and communal Jewish group in the nation signed a document calling upon President Bush to promote immediate and comprehensive international intervention in Darfur."

Well, that's settled then, right? Hardly. It's great that the signatories want "immediate and comprehensive international intervention," but they're nuts if they think it might actually happen. Well, at least it lets people assuage their newly-found guilt over Sudan. They showed they cared enough to do what they could -- demand that someone else do something. Better yet, they demanded that President Bush do something. That means that from now on, genocide in Sudan is Bush's fault. After all, they told him to do something. They've washed their own hands of the matter.

Do you suppose anyone who signed that document understood how it relates to Iraq?

President Bush is criticized for not getting more international approval and assistance for the invasion of Iraq. He tried. But not much of the international community would get on board. Would those who are newly concerned about Sudan want the U.S. to go it alone in Sudan, if that's what it takes? It's easy to say someone else should do something, but would they have Americans die alone to end this genocide? Do they care that much? Or would they just turn a blind eye again, like they do to Iraq?

I say that, because Iraq was also home to genocide. But with WMDs not found, critics say ending genocide in Iraq was not a good enough reason by itself to justify invading that country. They say that if we are going to justify the Iraq invasion based on mass graves and genocide, then we'll have to invade lots of other countries, too.

To which I say: Do what you can. We are not required to complete the work, but neither may we desist from it. Do what you can. That's a start.

It's illogical to say that because it is impractical to help in every country, we shouldn't help where we can. Otherwise, we'll have to extend the same logic to everything else we do, privately or via the government. I can't feed all the hungry, so I won't give anything to the food shelf. Government social programs don't solve every problem for everyone, so let's not have any at all.

Here's another saying that's relevant: Damned if you do; damned if you don't. Don't intervene in another nation, and after the killing's all done, you'll be blamed for not stopping it. Intervene, and you'll be criticized because you did.


Monday, July 25, 2005

It Just Don't Add Up
One of the great things about the blogosphere is that it allows any little "child" who believes his or her own eyes -- more than what "they" say -- to call out, "The emperor has no clothes!" There are a lot of things we've always been told that just don't bear up under observation by our own eyes. Blogging lets people point that out.

For instance, I've recently been making frequent trips to a not-so-good neighborhood in Minneapolis. It's the sort of neighborhood where a lot of people can be seen sitting around on the stoop, drinking from a paper bag, while they wait for their next government check.

What "they" have told us for decades, is that people live in poverty like this because there aren't good jobs available to them.

Here's where it doesn't add up: The reason I've been visiting that neighborhood is because it is also the site of a large hospital. The hospital is a huge economic engine, and it's scary to think how much worse the neighborhood might be if the hospital weren't there. The hospital is a huge employer.

Now, I don't expect all the residents of the neighborhood to apply for jobs as doctors. But the hospital also employs many people in unskilled, entry-level jobs -- cleaning, etc. My own observation, made while walking the halls of the hospital, reveals something very interesting about many -- perhaps most -- of these low-level employees:

They are immigrants.

Somehow, these folks have managed to cross an ocean and get a job at the hospital, despite their limited English skills.

Meanwhile, people living right there in the neighborhood, who could walk to work, who have the benefit of a free public education, who speak English as their primary language, sit on the stoop and drink.

Why? It ain't for lack of jobs, people. So stop blaming the government for not "creating good jobs" for these folks. Until they solve their other problems -- and let's provide them with help doing that -- they're not going to work, no matter how many jobs you put in front of them.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Marriage Takes Another Hit
Captain Ed comments today on another troubling trend in marriage. It seems some couples are rewriting their vows to remove the "unrealistic" pledge of "'til death do us part." Instead, they're setting their sites lower, going with something like "until our time together is over."

I promise to stay with you until I don't. Wow, that's really putting your heart on the line. If they're not willing to make a commitment, why should their guests? When shopping for wedding presents for the (temporarily) happy couple, forget the fine china; get 'em disposable paper plates instead.

You might also want to review some of my own marriage-related thoughts, including why the bride and groom should extinguish their individual candles after lighting the unity candle, on the Downing World marriage page.


Friday, July 22, 2005

What Else Could It Be?
The letters-to-the-editor page might seem like a strange place to try to prove or disprove the theory of evolution, what with the 200-word limit and all, but that hasn't kept some of the local great minds from rising to the challenge.

In the ongoing debate in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, one Tim Smith today defends the theory of evolution:

"There is ample evidence to support macroevolution of a species changing into another species. This evidence is found in the fossil records. At one time life existed only in the oceans and then over billions of years life evolved and eventually animals that live on the land became widespread. The geologic evidence indicates this enormous passage of time. If this change in the number of species and types of creatures living on the planet were not a result of evolution, then what was the driving force behind it?"

If it wasn't evolution, then what was it? He calls that scientific proof?

Sounds like Erich von Daniken reasoning: If it wasn't ancient astronauts, then what was it?

It reminds me of a friend who is prone to jumping to conclusions. One day I mentioned that I hadn't noticed his neighbor's very noticeable St. Bernard dog recently. He replied, "Someone shot it."

"That's terrible," I said. "Did they find it dead in the yard, or in the ditch somewhere? What happened?"

"I don't know," he explained, "It just disappeared one day."

"Then how do you know someone shot it?" I asked.

"What else could have happened?" was his response.

Hardly proof that someone had shot the dog.

Consider this analogy: Let's stack up all the years of Sears catalogs in sequence, with the oldest catalogs starting on the bottom. Then, let's dig down through the "strata" of pages. Near the top, we'll find microwave ovens. Further down, smooth-topped electric ranges. Then gas-burning stoves. Dig down far enough, and you'll find cast-iron, pot-bellied stoves.

That's proof that those stoves evolved. What else could it be?

Sure, the fossil record shows lots of critters that aren't around any more. But no one has any evidence of one species ever turning into another species.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Daylight Saving Time: Let's Split the Difference
Congress is again considering extending Daylight Saving Time. DST is already almost 7 months long. Doesn't that make DST, in truth, the "standard" time? Our Standard time is now a minority of the year.

I have a proposal: Let's split the difference. Let's do a one-time adjustment. We'll all set our clocks 30 minutes ahead of Standard time, then leave them there. Forever. No more twice-yearly adjustments.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Random Checks Won't Work
So, they're going to conduct "random searches" of backpacks on the New York City subway. But we're being "reassured" that there won't be any "profiling."

This is so stupid. What good will random checks do? Look, random drug testing or random tax audits may be effective, because people don't want to risk the consequences of getting caught. But what consequence does a suicide bomber have to fear? He's already decided he's going to blow himself up, why should he fear getting arrested? (Besides, he could rig his bomb so he could detonate it immediately if he gets randomly selected.) If the murderers know there are going to be only random searches, they know they'll still be able to get most of their killers through.

I'm not reassured knowing that there will be no profiling. Short of inspecting every backpack, profiling is the only thing that will work. How many Al-Qaeda bombings have been conducted by Norwegian Lutheran grandmothers? That's right, they've all been conducted by Muslim males, who've been almost exclusively non-European.

If you go hiking in the desert, do you avoid all snakes with rattles, or do you just randomly avoid a few snakes of any kind?


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eminent Domain: Officials not Bound by Good Intent of Predecessors
Today brings another news story that can be linked to the eminent domain issue. St. Paul is losing most of its Central Park, which I didn't even know existed. According to the story in the Pioneer Press, Central Park has existed for several decades as as group of grassy areas on several levels of a parking complex in the Capitol area.

Originally, Central Park was a traditional, formal Victorian park, in a ritzy neighborhood. But as the neighborhood changed, it deteriorated. In the 1960s, the state took the land for state use, building a parking garage on the site of the park. Green space was incorporated into the parking garage, to replace the former park.

But now, the state wants more parking spaces, and most of the green space in the complex is being turned into more parking spaces. Critics say they were promised decades ago that the green space would always be there, but present-day officials say they can find no legal requirement to do so.

Here's the link to eminent domain: Government officials are not bound by the good intentions of their predecessors. Keep that in mind when you consider the ramifications of the Kelo decision, which may open up the floodgates to property seizing by well-intentioned officials. Despite the good intentions of those who seize private property for some noble public greater good, once the property is seized by the government, its use can stray far beyond the original noble intentions.

We saw that in the Wyoming, Minn., case I wrote about recently. A city council seized a farm to use for a new wastewater treatment plant. But the plant wasn't built. New members replaced old members on the council. To the new members, the property wasn't "that land we had to take because we really needed it." It was merely a city-owned asset. So when the opportunity came up to sell the land at a big profit, the city jumped on it.

Likewise with the Mounds View school district case I wrote about it the same post. The school district seized land for a school, but didn't build the school. Decades later, a school board made up of different people saw not the land they had no choice but to seize, but rather, just a greatly-appreciated asset they could sell for development.

So keep that in mind. Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Not Even a Jew
Mexican President Vicente Fox got himself into how water with his "not even blacks" comment. He's not the only one. Get a load of this quote from Iraqi Suheil Abd Ali, responding to a recent round of terrorist explosions:

"The one who did this has no morality. This suicide bomber isn't an Arab or a Muslim or even a Jew. He's not human."

"Even a Jew"? That shows something about how these folks think. And yes, it shows again how big of a role religion plays in all of this.

I've got to wonder, though. Has the average Iraqi ever even met a Jew?


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Better Off Dead
Yes, we'd be better off if Saddam were dead. I said that way before he was captured. I said that Saddam had to die. Unfortunately, he didn't. Now, I read that many Iraqis fear the Baathist insurgency will succeed, and Saddam will return to power. (With many U.S. political "leaders" calling for a timetable for retreat from Iraq, who can blame them?)

Let's hope that putting Saddam on trial will result in him becoming a non-factor (and permanently so).


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Still in Denial about Islamofascism
I've been writing recently about how our politically-correct denial that the war on terrorism is a religious war is hampering the battle. Here's another example: In a guest opinion column in the Pioneer Press, a young Muslim woman named Naheed Ali voices her concern that the latest round of Islamofascist attacks will create a backlash against all Muslims. Her concern is understandable. But she falls into the trap of denial. She writes, "I also hope that we can overcome the ill-conceived political motives that bring on such attacks..."

I'm telling you again, it's NOT POLITICS! It's religion. It may not be her religion. It may not be the religion of most Muslims. But it is the religion of the terrorists that is behind their actions.

I've been waiting for the majority of Muslims to strongly and publicly denounce the actions of Islamofascists. There has been some action on that front. Britain's largest Sunni Muslim group has issued a fatwa -- a binding religious edict -- condemning the July 7 London bombings.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Czech Please! And I'm Not Buying the Salad
I've always said that the traditional "melting pot" description of America -- in which different people become one -- is what makes us great. The more contemporary "salad bowl" analogy -- in which the U.S. is made up of diverse, separate peoples living within the same borders -- is a recipe for disaster.

Whenever people divide themselves into groups, instead of considering themselves one, we have trouble. Check our Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, the Indian subcontinent, and many other examples, if you don't know what I mean.

Now, Czech president Vaclav Klaus says that the West's embrace of multiculturalism has brought on terrorism. Read it in the Prague Daily Monitor.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Hooray for the Boy Scouts!
I spend the weekend at a Cub Scout camp with my son. We had BB guns and archery, boats and pocketknives, hats-off and grace before meals, and flag salutes and the Pledge of Allegiance. Scouting seems like the last bastion of traditional boyhood and traditional values. Support the Boy Scouts of America however you can, folks.


Friday, July 15, 2005

David Brooks on Supreme Court, Church & State
I received some good feedback on yesterday's post, regarding liberals and the "separation of church and state." Several people encouraged me to submit it to the Pioneer Press as a guest commentary. I think I will work on it a little more and then do just that.

A column by David Brooks is a good follow up. Brooks, writing about whom the President should pick for the Supreme Court, discusses what professor and judge Michael McConnell has written about the "separation" issue. I think McConnell says it really well. Here's an excerpt from Brooks:

"McConnell (whom I have never met) is an honest, judicious scholar. When writing about church and state matters, he begins with the frank admission that religion is a problem in a democracy. Religious people feel a loyalty to God and to the state, and sometimes those loyalties conflict.

"So he understands why people from Rousseau and Jefferson on down have believed there should be a wall of separation between church and state.

"The problem with the Separationist view, he has argued in essays and briefs, is that it's not practical. As government grows and becomes more involved in health, charity, education and culture issues, it begins pushing religion out of those spheres. The Separationist doctrine leads inevitably to discrimination against religion. The state ends up punishing people who are exercising a constitutional right.

"In one case, a public high school allowed students to write papers about reincarnation, but a student who wrote on 'The Life of Jesus Christ' was given a zero by her teacher. The courts sided with the teacher. In another case, a physiology professor at a public university was forbidden from delivering an optional after-class lecture at the university titled 'Evidences of God in Human Physiology,' even though other professors were free to profess any secular viewpoints they chose. Around the country, Marxists could meet in public buildings, but Bible study was impermissible.

"McConnell argued that government shouldn't be separated from religion, but, as Madison believed, should be neutral about religion. He pointed out that the fire services and the police don't just protect stores and offices, but churches and synagogues as well. In the same way, he declared in congressional testimony in 1995, 'When speech reflecting a secular viewpoint is permitted, then speech reflecting a religious viewpoint should be permitted on the same basis.' The public square shouldn't be walled off from religion, but open to a plurality of viewpoints, secular and religious. The state shouldn't allow school prayer, which privileges religion, but public money should go to religious and secular service agencies alike."

Amen, David Brooks (and Justice McConnell). Very well said.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mr. Liberal, Tear Down that Wall!
Liberal thinkers have repeatedly instructed me in these two facts:

1. You can't legislate morality.

2. There is a wall of separation between church and state.

So imagine my surprise when I read a column by Pioneer Press opinion writer Deborah Locke today. Ms. Locke is pleased as punch at what she sees as the influence on this year's Minnesota budget by religious leaders who called for more spending on social services, and higher taxes.

Referring to comments from the Rev. Stephen Adrian, talking about a church-led anti-poverty campaign, Ms. Locke writes: "People had to wrestle with the fact that a state budget is more than bound pages of numbers in columns. It's also a moral document, he said."

A moral document? The state budget is about imposing religious morality on the people of the state? That's quite a reversal from the usual position of liberals. I thought that when it came to religion and morality -- in issues such as abortion or marriage, for instance -- we were supposed to respect that all-important "wall of separation." What happened to that principle?

(The answer, of course, is that liberals don't really have principles. They just know what they want, and whatever gets them what they want is OK.)

Ms. Locke writes that the Rev. Adrian has some complaints about the new budget: "He is especially incensed that no additional money was provided for a state child-care program, which was drastically cut with the last legislative session. Steep co-pays make it difficult for parents to buy quality child care. His parishioners who removed their children from the church's child-care program because of those increases will not be returning anytime soon."

Isn't that a bit of a conflict of interest? That his church stands to take in state money? The Rev. Adrian is unhappy that the state hasn't budgeted more money that will go to his church, and Ms. Locke seems sympathetic. Does this mean that she would also support a state budget that included vouchers that could be used at church-run schools?

I doubt it.

But here's perhaps the most scary part of Ms. Locke's column: She also writes about comments from Nancy Maeker, an ordained minister and bishop's associate for the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

According to Ms. Locke: "Maeker believes that more people should read the Bible for its message about people living in poverty. Don't be concerned with other issues in there, she said. See what God suggests about care for poor people and then get involved with the election process. Attend candidate forums. Become educated. Care."

Holy cow! Don't be concerned with other issues in the Bible, but get involved with the election process?

So, when pro-lifers focus only on parts of the Bible that support their cause, and then get involved in the election process, I guess we should expect liberals like Ms. Locke to say, "More power to them!"

Don't hold your breath on that one. Instead we hear, "Don't impose your religion on me!"

If we took these passages that I have excerpted from Ms. Locke's column, and just turned them around so that they were coming from conservative religious leaders, who wanted to implement their particular conservative religious/political agenda via the state government, Ms. Locke would be beside herself.

But apparently the "progressive" mind is much more "nuanced" than my knuckle-dragging conservative mind. Because it appears that I am being asked to consider it wonderful if church officials -- actual church officials -- direct government policy. Meanwhile, if lay people go to the polls and elect candidates who share their values and world view, that's creating a "theocracy."

Actually, I question Ms. Locke's assertion that the "people of faith" mentioned in her story are injecting their faith into public policy. While conservative people of faith may do that, my observation is that religious liberals do it the other way around -- they inject their politics into their faith. What I'm saying is that for many of these folks, they start with their political beliefs, then they try to use religion to prop up their pre-existing political beliefs. If that's not true, then how do you explain an ordained minister (Maeker) who says to ignore the rest of the Bible, and just read the parts that support a certain political agenda?

[Related posts: Everyone Loves Jesus (for Political Purposes) Which Came First? The Belief or the Church? Conservative Christians Must Learn to Speak "Secular"

Addendum: Maybe this is analogous -- religious liberals are about politics, not religion, the same way that the National Education Association is about politics, not education. Read this post from Captain's Quarters.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Karl Rove: Deep Throat II?
The liberals and the media have defended "Deep Throat," regardless of what laws he might have broken, with an ends-justifies-the-means defense. It doesn't matter what Mark Felt might have done; they're just glad he brought down Nixon.

Why don't they rush to the defense of Karl Rove in a similar fashion? Read "Karl Rove, Whistleblower" in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, and you'll think maybe Ol' Karl oughta be referred to as Deep Throat II.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Not Poverty, It's Islam
So, today I read that at least three of the London bombers are believed to have been British-born Muslims of Pakistani heritage. StarTribune editorial board, please note: They were not products of third-world poverty, what you call "the terrorist swamp" which must be drained. No, they were products of the first-world, except for one thing: they were Muslims.

Please note the unifying characteristic in the terrorist bombings around the globe: they are being perpetrated by Muslims.

Even though these bombers were born in Britain, lived in Britain, and were British citizens, they turned on their own country, in favor of their Islamic ideology and heritage. (Interesting, in light of the way we in the U.S. continue to criticize our nation's internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Gosh, maybe some of those Japanese-Americans might have been as confused in their loyalties as these Pakistani-Brits.)

We're told that these killers represent only a small percentage of Muslims. If that's so, where's the outcry from the "Muslim Majority"? I heard Paul Harvey say today that many Muslims are afraid to speak out, because they don't want to be seen as supporting "the enemy" (the U.S.). If that's so, then I have to ask again, Which side are you on? Are you with us, or against us? If you think we're "the enemy" you don't want to side with, then you are with the terrorists. And you're against us.

Nations of the world and Muslims of the world, declare yourselves: Which side are you on?


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Right and Left: Different Issues, Same Thought Process
Conservatives and liberals might find it easier to have a dialog if they realized how much they have in common. For example, both sides can be exasperated by the other side's "illogical" or "stupid" way of thinking. But I find that both sides often exhibit the same thought process, just about different issues. Maybe if we learned to see something of ourselves in the "other," we could understand each other better, and we could show each other some more respect.

For example, there are conservatives who react in a knee-jerk manner to any proposal to regulate any type of gun. Never mind that the regulation in question might seem perfectly reasonable to most people. Can't start down that slippery slope, or pretty soon our right to bear arms will be taken away, they say.

In the same way, there are liberals who react in a knee-jerk manner to any proposal to regulate abortion. Never mind that the regulation in question might seem perfectly reasonable to most people (like ending partial-birth abortion). Can't start down that slippery slope, or pretty soon a woman's "right to choose" will be taken away, they say.

I've been writing recently that many Americans are in denial about terrorism. We have liberals who think we should "wage peace," or just withdraw from Iraq and pretend everything is OK.

Yes, it would be nice if it were that simple. But it's not. People who think that way are being naive. They may be well-intentioned, but they aren't being realistic.

Well, surprise! Conservatives can engage in the same sort of unrealistic, wishful thinking. Here's an example: sex ed.

There are those who support "abstinence only" sex ed, because kids simply have no business having sex. I agree, kids shouldn't be having sex. And it would be nice if things were that simple. But that's being naive. Kids do have sex, just as surely as there are terrorists hell-bent on destroying us.

I read an interesting sentence from Newsday columnist Sheryl McCarthy: "While no one, including myself, wants to encourage sexual activity among teenagers, the abstinence-only policy is flawed because it chooses idealism over helping young people with the lives they actually lead."

Choosing idealism, instead of actuality -- I think that sums it up well.

We could rewrite McCarthy's sentence like this: While no one, including me, wants to encourage war and killing among the people of the world, the peace-only policy is flawed because it chooses idealism over defending people in the world in which they actually live.

Same sort of thinking, different issue.

[One other statement in McCarthy's column about sex ed begs comment: "Frankly, I'm less worried about the fact a 17-year-old girl has sex with her boyfriend than I am about whether she has thought the decision through carefully, has chosen a caring partner, and is using a dependable form of birth control." Lady, in my opinion, if a 17-year-old has sex with her boyfriend, she by definition HASN'T thought the decision through carefully, or she WOULDN'T be having sex at 17. Likewise, I have to question the "caring" of a partner who has sex with a 17-year-old. If he really "cares," he won't put her at risk that way. In other words, forget McCarthy's third question -- about birth control, they should simply be abstinent! (But...we know that's not being realistic.)]


Monday, July 11, 2005

Does "Public Use" Include Real Estate Speculation?
On the heels of the Kelo eminent domain case comes this story out of Wyoming, Minnesota. Several years ago, the city of Wyoming used the power of eminent domain to take the Salokar family's farm, with the express purpose of building a wastewater treatment plant. But the plant wasn't built. Instead, the city eventually sold the Salokar farm, along with adjoining acreage, to Polaris Industries -- at a profit of MILLIONS of dollars!

That follows another abuse-of-eminent-domain case in the Twin Cities. Way back in the 1960s, the Mounds View school district used eminent domain to take some land for an elementary school from an owner who intended to develop it. But the school was never built. More than 30 years passed, and the school district decided it would never need the land for a school. The district sold the land for millions. The former owner sued, arguing that the land had been taken from him unjustly, since a school was never built, and that he was entitled to profits from its sale. The courts ruled against him.

Both of these cases came even before the Kelo decision. What are we in for now? Will cities use their newly-affirmed powers to take desirable parcels of land and enter the real estate speculation game? Actually, since the city decides who builds what and where, there wouldn't be much speculation involved. A city with developable land can say to a prospective developer, "No, we can't approve your development on that land you own, but we've got a nice parcel we'll sell you at a price of our choosing."

What a racket.

I know someone who has a small farm right on the edge of a fast-growing small city north of the Twin Cities. Actually, the farm is within the city limits, but it is across the street from what you would consider the developed edge of the town. That makes this farm prime developable land. After Kelo, what's to keep that city council from saying, "We're taking your farm, because it's best for the public if we decide how it will be used in the future." They might do this without even having any immediate plans for the property.

So the city could buy it, then just wait. As development continues with the intensifying push north out of the Twin Cities, the value of that prime land will skyrocket. Finally, the city could look at offers from housing developers and decide it is time to sell, pocketing a windfall, at the expense of the previous owner.

Farfetched? Are you familiar with the Kelo decision? Did you already forget the Wyoming and Mounds View examples I've given you? I don't think it's farfetched.

Kelo Creates Odd Alliance

Opposition to the Kelo decision has created an odd alliance of conservatives and liberals. Conservatives object to this erosion of property rights, believing that property rights are the basis of liberty. Some liberals object to Kelo, because they think it will hurt the poor and minorities, and benefit the rich and white people.

Please note that conservatives object on PRINCIPLE. Liberals object because they don't like the particular outcome. If they saw Kelo as allowing the poor to seize the property of the rich, they'd be silent.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Fidel Defies the Odds
Who'd have thought, 45 years ago, that Fidel Castro would still rule Cuba in the year 2005? The Iron Curtain came down; the Soviet Union came apart; and even China has turned its back on Mao. But Fidel hangs on.

Amazing.

Now I read that the Cuban community in Miami is running out of steam in its anti-Castro campaign. Is it pragmatism? Fatigue? Regardless, it's worth noting.

I used to take a hard line on Cuba. No trade, shun Castro, etc. But in recent years, I've been rethinking that. I wonder now if the fastest way to bring down Fidel wouldn't in fact be to welcome him with open arms. Send American tourists. Trade with him. Smother him with freedom and capitalism.

Cracking open doors to the West turned out to be the downfall of the Soviet Bloc. An awkward embrace of capitalism is undoing decades of Communist indoctrination in China. Maybe that's the way to defeat Castro -- let him think we have given up, and that he has won!


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Harvesting Flowers and Fetuses: Natural Selection at Work in Plants and Politics
Sometimes items come along just demanding to be linked. Recent items involving evolution and natural selection, flowers and abortion, votes and the Democratic Party, are just begging to be joined together.

First of all, let me say that I don't subscribe to the theory of evolution. As far as man developing from nothing, or one species evolving into another, I'm not buying it. I see that as distinct, however, from the Darwinian concept of natural selection, which holds that those most suited to survival will indeed survive and pass along their genes. To me, that's just common sense.

It's also not much different from selective breeding, guided by man. For instance, mankind selectively breeds dogs to produce new breeds. Yet, they are all still dogs. In agriculture, selective breeding has resulted in larger dairy cows that produce more milk, with a higher butterfat content. And selective breeding has produced leaner hogs which mature and get to market sooner. Yet, these are all still cattle and hogs. They haven't evolved into a different species.

It's the same with plants. Here's an interesting story, from Randolph E. Schmid, under the misleading headline, "Plant adapts by getting smaller after picking -- Lotus in areas not as popular haven't shrunk."

The story begins:

"When Charles Darwin explained evolution, the process he observed was natural selection. It turns out inadvertent human selection can also cause species to evolve.

"Take the case of the snow lotus, a rare plant that grows only at high levels in the Himalayas.

"Researchers have discovered that one species of the plant has been shrinking over time -- the one people like to pick.

"A snow lotus species called Saussurea laniceps is used in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine and is increasingly sought after by tourists. The largest plants are picked, and that occurs during their only flowering period.

"The result is that only smaller, unpicked plants go to seed."

Yes, and over time, the average height of the lotuses in this patch has decreased. Well, duh. But there's no evolution going on. (That's why I said the headline was misleading.) All that's going on, is that people are inadvertently cultivating this plant to make the specimens in this patch smaller. It's the same thing, in reverse, as if they were digging up the tallest plants and taking them to their greenhouses to propagate them there. That's the sort of thing botanists do all the time in order to produce the most desirable specimens.

But the reporter and headline writer try to make it sound as though the plants are somehow making themselves smaller as a defense (survival) mechanism, so that they won't get picked. That's not the case. The average height of the lotuses in the patch is decreasing merely because the short lotuses are the only ones left to reproduce.

(More evidence that reporters often have no understanding of what they are writing about.)

A related item comes from James Taranto, writing for the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal. Taranto writes about how the Roe vs. Wade decision has eroded support for the Democratic Party, in a variety of ways. Among the many different political ramifications of Roe vs. Wade, Taranto points to its effect on the number of Democratic voters. Taranto writes:

"Compounding the GOP advantage is what I call the Roe effect. It is a statement of fact, not a moral judgment, to observe that every pregnancy aborted today results in one fewer eligible voter 18 years from now. More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973, and these are not randomly distributed across the population. Black women, for example, have a higher abortion ratio (percentage of pregnancies aborted) than Hispanic women, whose abortion ratio in turn is higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. Since blacks vote Democratic in far greater proportions than Hispanics, and whites are more Republican than Hispanics or blacks, ethnic disparities in abortion ratios would be sufficient to give the GOP a significant boost -- surely enough to account for George W. Bush's razor-thin Florida victory in 2000."

Very interesting. Not exactly "natural" selection perhaps, but it's an example of how human selection influences an overall population, just the same as those Himalayan lotuses.

Third item: Debate about the Roman Catholic church's stance on evolution. A cardinal is suggesting that belief in evolution is incompatible with Catholic faith. (This rather surprises me. I'm not Roman Catholic, and I'm surprised that, according to this story anyway, Rome embraces evolution theory.)

According to this story by New York Times writers Cornelia Dean and Laurie Goodstein, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who is close to the Pope, is arguing that "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection -- is not."

OK, you sort of lost me there, Cardinal. And according to the argument I've put forth here, I don't believe "natural selection" violates either faith or common sense. So I'm not sure if we're quite on the same page or not. Anyway, the rest of you, read the story if you like.


Saturday, July 9, 2005

Quarter of U.S. Births to Immigrants: Ssshhh! It's Not PC to Notice!
This floors me. According to a story in Friday's paper, nearly a quarter of all births in the U.S. are to immigrant mothers. Now, get ready to be really floored. This is a record, higher than the peak reached during the previous great immigration wave in 1910!

Now, get ready for some more to think about. Of those immigrant-mother births, 42 percent are to women who are in the U.S. ILLEGALLY! That makes 10 percent of ALL CHILDREN BORN in the U.S. the offspring of illegals.

But....we mustn't talk about it. It's not politically correct. We don't want to be "racist."

We've heard a lot in recent years about how Europe is changing -- being Muslim-ized by legal immigrants and their numerous offspring. A similar type of situation is happening right here -- illegally -- and we won't even talk about it.

Children born in the U.S. are automatically U.S. citizens, even if their parents are here illegally. That means the children can't be deported, and the children may also be a factor used to keep the parents from being deported, too. Meanwhile, they're using up public money in health and social services.

The first sentence of the 14th Amendment reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Maybe it's time for an amendment. Couldn't we add some language making it "born in the United States to mother who is in the country legally"? Or maybe, we don't need an amendment. If the Supreme Court can reinterpret the Constitution so readily, as they did in the Kelo case, maybe we just need the Supremes to act. The could rule that the Founding Fathers never foresaw the present situation, with a flood of illegal immigrants and babies living off the government. (Because, for one thing, they never foresaw anyone living off the government.) They could rule that the 14th Amendment assumed that the parents were in the country legally.

Surely, we need to talk about this. Ten percent of all births to illegal parents -- that's an awfully big elephant in the room that we are ignoring. Regardless of whether you think we should do something to reverse the trend, we should at least be able to agree that we need to talk about the issue, to plan for how it is changing our nation.

But that wouldn't be politically correct.


Saturday, July 9, 2005

StarTribune Still in Denial
In response to the London bombings, the empty heads at the StarTribune editorial board remain in denial, clinging to their belief that fighting terrorism is mostly a police matter:

"Fighting terrorism is going to be a long, hard slog, more like fighting crime than anything else. Sometimes it will indeed involve military action. But more often than not, it will involve quiet, determined law enforcement and intelligence work -- to discover the nooks and crannies where terrorists hide as they plot their next outrage -- and then destroy them before they act."

Before they act? Wouldn't that violate their civil rights?

And it's not their fault, anyway. The terrorists are merely victims of their own upbringing, right StarTribune?

"Giving hope and help to the world's poor will drain the terrorist swamp," the paper opines.

How they reconcile the terrorists-come-from-poverty argument with the fact that Islamic terrorism is well-funded with oodles of oil money, I don't know.

But I have to ask this: Did Hitler's Germany invade its neighbors and kill 6 million Jews because of the economic suffering post-WWI, or was it because of Nazi ideology? It was the ideology, of course, and to this day we don't hesitate to call Naziism evil. But when it comes to the evil of Islamofascism, we're too politically correct to call it what it is. It's evil. And a strain of Islam is what it is.

We're talking here about people who kidnap and kill a diplomat -- a fellow Muslim diplomat. They have no respect for law, no respect for civilization, no respect even for Islam, if it isn't their own perverted strain.

To these al-Qaida killers, Egyptian envoy (and fellow Muslim) Ihab al-Sherif was an "apostate," and the Egyptian government is the enemy because it is an ally of "Jews and Christians."

And we still pretend this has nothing to do with religion? Oh, no. We have to be politically correct. Even if it kills us.


Friday, July 8, 2005

History Will Tell of Our Denial ­ And Show Our Foolishness
I heard reference again today to "this war that Bush started." Did Churchill start WWII? Was there no war while Neville Chamberlain and American isolationists wallowed in their own denial? Of course there was.

But there seem to be plenty of people who imagine that the whole world was at peace, with everyone holding hands, singing "We Are the World,"* having oral-sex-that-isn't-really-sex, and spending the "peace dividend" on national health care, until President Bush -- totally out of the blue -- decided to start a war.

I'm reminded of this by reading today about the London attacks. There was a listing of previous Al Qaeda attacks, and it was starting to read like a history book. There have been attacks on London, Spain, New York (the same building twice -- 1993 and 2001), ships, embassies, nightclubs. A century from now, people will read history and marvel at what fools we were, that we could live (and die) in such denial, pretending that we were not at war.

Years ago already, I thought the same thing about political correctness. The people of the future will look back on us and think we were total idiots, because we were too politically correct to actually discuss and do something about the problems that faced us. Social problems related to race, broken families, behaviors detrimental to society -- these are all things we mustn't talk about because we might hurt someone's feelings. We ignore the elephant in the room. We pretend the emperor has clothes. Meanwhile, Rome burns.

Here's an example: Mexican President Vincente Fox said that his people are needed in the U.S. workforce to do the jobs that "not even" blacks will do. That was a really stupid thing to say. But how did people respond? Black "leaders" demanded he apologize for saying such a thing. They wanted his scalp (Oops! Is that expression offensive to American Indians?). Maybe I should say, they wanted a pound of flesh (Oops! Does that offend Jews? See how tough it can be to say anything if you must be politically correct?).

But here's my point: No one bothered to address why Fox might have said that. Do blacks get stuck with the crappy jobs? (Maybe.) Historically, have blacks gotten stuck with the crappy jobs? (Most definitely.) Is the unemployment rate higher for U.S. blacks than for other groups, even while unskilled illegal Mexican immigrants seem to have no trouble finding employment? (Yes.)

So, maybe if we actually asked and addressed those questions, we would learn and accomplish something that might actually help the cause of American blacks. But, no, we just demand an apology, and ignore the very real issue at the heart of the controversy.

The war against terror -- WWIII -- is hampered by the same sort of political correctness. Because of political correctness, we can't even define the war as what it really is: a war of radical Islamafascism against Western civilization. We won't even define our enemy; in our political correctness, we refuse to admit that this has anything to do with Islam. But it has everything to do with Islam. (Read this in the London Times. We're dealing with people who want us all dead or converted. And I don't think they really care which. [Thanks for the tip goes out to Gavin in England. Cheers, mate!])

We like to look back on those who came before us and think that we are so much smarter and more enlightened. We tsk-tsk at our forefathers who thought Africans were less than human. We smugly look down our noses at the Victorians who pretended that sex didn't even exist. We'll look just as dumb some day. The irony is that those who are the most politically correct now, are the same people who most haughtily look down their enlightened and sophisticated noses at those who came before.

*Musicians Mostly Hypocrites

Bob Geldof seems sincere, and in his defense (and no disrespect intended, either), he'd hardly be a household name if it weren't for his political/philanthropic ventures. But for the most part, I'm not impressed with these musicians who get to feel so special about singing at some Live 8 concert.

For the most part, they're hypocrites. They champion the poor, but they are decadently rich. They champion the environment, but in their pursuit of conspicuous consumption, they waste more than most people will ever have.

At some level, they probably feel guilty about their irresponsible lives. So an event like Live 8 gives them a chance to assuage their guilt, but at the same time, they also get to attend some more extravagant parties! Nice work, if you can get it. They get to feel important and feel like they are doing something, but they never have to actually change their own lives. And they get to put the blame on someone else.

It reminds me of the first verse of "Obvious Song," from Joe Jackson's 1991 album "Laughter and Lust."

There was a man in the jungle
Trying to make ends meet.
Found himself one day with an axe in his hand.
When a voice said "Buddy can you spare that tree,
We gotta save this world--starting with your land."
It was a rock 'n' roll millionaire from the USA
Doing 3 to a gallon in a big white car,
And he sang and he sang 'til he polluted the air,
And he blew a lot of smoke from a Cuban cigar.


Thursday, July 7, 2005

You're Either With Us, or Against Us
Despite what George Lucas (only the presence of Michael Jackson keeps him from earning the title of "Adult Most Living in a Child's Fantasy World." Skywalker Ranch? Sounds like a high-tech Neverland to me.) might think, that's what it comes down to. Which side are you on, people and nations of the world? Are you on the side of civilization? Or are you on the side of Osama bin Laden and Islamafascism?

This is World War III. It has been for several years. The nations of the world must stand up and declare which side they are on. There's no pretending you can ignore the problem and it will go away. The bad guys are coming after you. They hate Western civilization. They hate democracy. They hate Christendom. They are not some sort of "patriots" or "freedom fighters." They are murderous, fascist thugs. They are not the equivalent of our Founding Fathers. Did George Washington blow up women and children? Did John Hancock wear a mask and sign the Declaration of Independence with a fake name?

No, and no. These Al Qaeda thugs are cowards. They hide their identities. They blow themselves up. Being a suicide bomber is not bravery. Being a suicide bomber is cowardice. If you're so brave, if your cause is so just, then stick around and bear the consequences of your actions.

I was in London just a few months ago, and I rode the Tube and the double decker buses, so these attacks seem very real to me, even though I sit here in the American Midwest.

I'll tell you this: These attacks will only serve to steel the resolve of the British Bulldog. He won't roll over play dead like the Spanish (chihuahua?) did.


Wednesday, July 6, 2005

How Quickly a Year Goes By: Happy Birthday to DowningWorld!
I see my first-ever post was dated July 6, 2004. That means I've been at this for a whole year now. And I never run out of things to write about! I didn't know if that was possible, but so far it is.

So, I've been blogging for a year. Truth be told, I didn't start out a "blogger." I was just making a website where I could share my thoughts. I didn't know I'd write as much or as often as I do. Well, it turned out I'm a blogger.

My disappointment is that I really thought that if I kept at it this long, I'd have more readers by now. I need something drastic to give me my big break. Maybe if Tom Cruise jumped up and down on TV wearing a T-shirt with www.downingworld.com on it? Or maybe just if I mention Tom Cruise and Oprah and Lindsey Lohan (not sure if that's how to spell her name, and it's not important enough to find out) and Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton.... a few of the millions of celebrity-Googlers will find me by mistake!

And...How Quickly Technology Changes

I just read that Minnesota's own Imation is unveiling the world's smallest hard drive. (In this case, "smallest" refers to physical dimensions, not storage capacity.) I got a chuckle out of this excerpt in the newspaper story:

"At $159, though, it isn't cheap. Comparable 2-gigabyte drives from Hitachi, for instance, go for $25 to $35 less."

Two gigs for $159 "isn't cheap"? And we're quibbling over $25-35? How far things have come!

I remember when I bought my first "really big" hard drive. It was 200 mg -- just 1/10 the size of the new Imation drive. And it cost me $600! That's why I've got to chuckle that $159 "isn't cheap."


Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Great White Hunters Strike Again?
As I noted in my June 28 post, we humans always like to think that we are more enlightened and more knowledgeable than our ignorant forebears.

For example, previous generations were so ignorant, so uncaring, that when they encountered the awe-inspiring beasts of the African plains and jungle... they shot them dead and hauled their hides and bones back to Europe.

When they encountered Sequoias and Redwoods that seemed to tough the sky... they cut them down and cut them up.

When they saw beautiful rock formations offering unmatched views... they quarried them for building stones.

But now, we know better; we have learned to explore and study our natural world without destroying it.

So when we enlightened humans of the year 2005 observe a comet and want to learn more about it, what do we do? We blast a big hole in it!!!

Do we really know for sure that this won't have any detrimental effects on the environment of space? Will future generations shake their heads at the memory of how the foolish, early space explorers left a path of destruction in their wake?

History repeats itself. Happens all the time. And we always think we know better than those who came before us.


Friday, July 1, 2005

Tax It Up, Tax It Up, Buddy Gonna Shut You Down
The Senate Democrats (raise taxes and increase spending a lot) and House Republicans (don't raise taxes, but still increase spending to a lesser degree) can't agree on a budget, so Minnesota has been plunged into a government shut-down today.

Both parties seem to think if they wait long enough, the other side will give in. Or maybe they just think the other side of the aisle will get more blame than they do. Actually, I think that's more likely the strategy of the Senate Democrats. They think that since the Republicans control 2/3 of the budget-passing stool (with Governor Tim Pawlenty), they can throw a wrench into the process and make the other guys take the blame.

With the exception of the physical violence part, it's really the exact same strategy as the terrorists now operating in Iraq. Over there, the terrorists cause as much killing and destruction as they can, including trying to upset daily life and make everyone miserable, hoping that in response, the people take out their anger on the U.S., instead. Same strategy here. By shutting down the government, the politicians hurt the people they are supposed to serve. But they don't care; they just want power for themselves.

Some people say that in the next election, we should vote out all the incumbents. Sounds good, except it has the same problem that comes to light when we think about term limits. In general, I don't like the idea of imposing term limits. After all, we can vote them out if they stay too long, right?

The trouble is, with the two-party system, voting out the incumbent means voting for the other party. And even if you think the guy from your party has overstayed his welcome, do you really want to install a guy from the opposing party instead?

Of course not. And that's the problem with voting out everybody. It would mean putting the "other" party in charge. And what' even worse than a shut-down? The "other guys" having a clear road to passing their own version of the budget.

Look, I don't want the Republicans to have to compromise, either. But that's the way the system works. If power is divided, then people will have to compromise. But the leaders, and too many voters, won't accept that. They want to win it all.

So, next election, we'll all go to the ballot box and vote for the same jokers who couldn't get the job done this time.


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.

 

dave ["at"] downingworld [.com]

 

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