Bob Owen

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

If only life imitated the Onion:

JERUSALEM—In what theological and meteorological authorities are calling "a wrathful display of Old Testament proportions," the Lord Almighty re-flooded the Middle East Tuesday, making good on last week's threat to wipe the region clean if there was not an immediate halt to the bloodshed between Arabs and Jews.

The Lord made the decision to go ahead with His second Great Flood after last-ditch U.S.-Saudi peace initiatives were rejected Monday night.

As of press time, a torrential rain continues to fall on Israel and the West Bank, with the downpour expected to continue for another 39 days and 39 nights. Thus far, flood waters have risen more than 200 feet, drowning most of the humans and animals in the vicinity. The few remaining survivors, most of whom cling to pieces of driftwood, have made desperate pleas for mercy, but their cries have fallen on deaf ears in Heaven, with the Lord refusing to stem the raging waters.

The force is with me. I've got power again. The power of PlayStation!

My boys have had a PlayStation for over a year. It's shot. The thing barely works so the boys have little interest in it. So when I threatened to take it away for fighting or not picking up bedrooms, they just didn't care.

"Sure. And you can also take away my broccoli."

Last weekend my sister gave me her PlayStation game because she and her husband never use it. This game is in like-new condition. It even came with eight discs.

The boys' love of Sony has been reaffirmed. And I have an ace up my sleeve once again. Tonight homework was done, children were bathed, teeth were brushed (and flossed!) in record time. All so they could have a little extra gaming time.

Yee haw.

Now John Dean thinks he knows who "Deep Throat" is and he's going to tell the world on June 17.

CNN -- [F]ormer Nixon White House Counsel and key Watergate player John Dean will take his stab at cracking Washington's mystery of the century, releasing "The Deep Throat Brief" as an e-book through online magazine publisher Salon in June.

Dean -- whose 1973 Senate testimony helped force Nixon's 1974 resignation -- will release his 40,000-word manuscript on June 17, the 30th anniversary of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee's Watergate headquarters.

An interesting photo.

(Northrop-Grumman/Reuters) -- Defense contractor Northrop Grumman won a contract worth $2.9 billion to design the DD-X, the lead ship in a new family of smaller U.S. destroyers, the U.S. Navy said April 29, 2002. The project replaces the $25 billion DD-21 program of land-attack destroyers that was scrapped last fall. The destroyer is shown in an artist's rendition.
When I first looked at the photo my first thought was "USS Monitor." Of course the Monitor didn't have a helicoptor flying overhead.

NEW YORK (AP) - A couple who put their baby daughter on a strict vegetarian diet were charged with child endangerment after authorities found the girl last year weighing only half her normal weight, prosecutors said.

Joseph and Silva Swinton, both 31, were charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. Both pleaded innocent Friday.

Prosecutors said the baby was fed ground nuts, fresh-squeezed juices, herbal tea, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil. She was not breast-fed or given infant formulas.

"She weighed only 10 pounds, less than half the weight of an average 16-month-old female child, and appeared to be the size of a 2- to 3-month-old baby," District Attorney Richard Brown said Monday.

But Warren Silverman, a lawyer representing the mother, said the parents "felt that they have their own lifestyle, they're vegetarians, and they felt that they were providing proper care for their child."
Sure. Maltreatment is one thing. But a lifestyle... that's something entirely different, right? Why, we should all be ashamed for questioning someone's lifestyle.

Tonight on Nova (PBS) - Why the Towers Fell.

I know, I know, they fell because ten people flew two airplanes with tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel at full speed smack into the towers.

But there's really more to it than just that. The engineer's perspective should be fascinating. The program will also have an interview with one survivor who was above the point of impact. Only four people above the impact point survived.

KARE/AP -- Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says he's been told by U.S. officials that there's no plan for a major attack on Iraq.

Prince Saud al-Faisal has been in Mideast peace talks with U.S. officials for several days. He was asked about a New York Times story which says the administration is developing plans for a major air and ground war.

Al-Faisal told reporters in Houston what he has heard from the administration is, "There was no plan for that."

A senior Bush administration official says any attack on Iraq probably would wait until next year, but that President Bush has yet to sign off on the time, scope or manner of such a campaign.
Like they're actually going to tell the Saudis. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of 15 out of 19 September 11 hijackers.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Mom thinks video game killed her son. You'll never guess what she's going to do. Yes - she's going to sue Sony, the maker of the game.

Pioneer Press -- What role the intensely popular online game might have played in Shawn Woolley's death will be at the center of a lawsuit to be filed against Sony by a Miami attorney who specializes in high-profile national cases.

"This isn't just an online game, it's dangerous," said Elizabeth Woolley, Shawn's mother. "I believe if he hadn't been playing that game, he'd be alive today."

EverQuest consumed Shawn, his family said, and the more he played, the more his mental and physical health suffered, as did his personal hygiene. Shawn was diagnosed with depression and schizoid personality disorder, the symptoms of which include lack of desire for social relationships and a limited range of emotions in social settings.

And while she knows her son had mental health problems, she maintains that EverQuest fed them.
When Shawn stopped taking care of himself, what did his family do?
Woolley hopes that speaking about the circumstances of her son's death will bring awareness. She wants Sony to add warning labels to the game — that, she says, would be the goal of any lawsuit.
No way a warning label would have made a difference to this guy. And the goal of the lawsuit is to get a warning label? When it's not about money, it's all about money.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Today is rabbit chasing day. My twelve-pound dog is vigilantly watching for the three that live somewhere around my backyard. She scans the area from behind the safety of a sliding glass door. I know she's spotted one when the pitch of her whine gets really high. Then I let her out.

The dog is seriously outgunned in the leg department. Her pursuits remind me of videos of missile tests where a pilotless old jet streaks across a blue sky while a missile quickly overtakes the hapless plane. Except with my dog it's all in reverse. The rabbit bolts straight across the green grass and simply increases the distance between it and the dog.

This can go on all day.

Steven Den Beste says determining the age of the universe (just over 13 billion years) isn't so useless. In a nutshell, it helps us "understand and manipulate the universe" (his italics). He makes a good case:

What might come out of this? Anti-gravity, for one thing. No, I don't know how to do it. But Michelson didn't know how to set off a nuclear bomb in 1887, or how to build a computer either. I think antigravity is a long shot, but it's not inconceivable. A much more likely outcome would be controlled conversion of mass into energy without using such crude and indirect approaches as fission or fusion. If we really know what mass is, and how mass/energy conversions take place, we might well come up with something completely new which makes that much more efficient and effective.
Simply because we can't tell now what a given piece of information will be used for is no reason to assume it's useless.
I buy all this except if you apply that last sentence to most sports statistics. I don't care what any sports reporter or bookie says to the contrary.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

I love the ambitious outlook of a seven-year-old. I was watching a National Geographic special about Robert Ballard's search for the German battleship Bismarck. The Titanic wreck was mentioned. My older son asks if anyone knows where that wreck is. I told him that the guy on TV, Ballard, had found and explored the Titanic wreck. With all sincerity he says, "Nuts, I was going to find that one."

ABC News reports:

When Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah met with President Bush this week to discuss the violence in the Middle East, someone asked air traffic controllers to keep female flight controllers from handling his plane.

The FAA controllers apparently weren't sure how to react to the unusual request, but kept control of the plane in the hands of a man while they sorted it out. Normally, the controller scheduled to be handle the plane then would have a woman.
How do you think Saudis would have reacted if Bush had flown to Riyadh and asked for a woman ATC?

"U.S. bishops debate idea of 'zero tolerance' for sexual abusers"

Zero tolerance is a silly term. It's for people who can't think and can't act on their own.

No need to talk about what happened. We have a zero tolerance policy so there's simply no point in discussing it.

At a school with a zero tolerance weapons policy, a student with a butter knife in his car on school property is in the same category as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. That's really rational.

Now that the bishops are known to have discussed zero tolerance, it only makes things worse for them.

If they don't embrace zero tolerance for sexual abusers, does that mean some sexual abuse is okay? If they do embrace zero tolerance as a policy, will they treat a pedophile rapist the same as a priest caught looking at the boys' underwear section in the JCPenney catalog?

Friday, April 26, 2002

Letter to the editor in today's Minneapolis StarTribune:

Thank you for the enlightening Krispy Kreme ad on the April 24 front page. But there are two family-owned bakeries in my neighborhood, so I doubt I'll be gassing up the SUV to visit the new Maple Grove corporate franchise any time soon.

-- Emily Allgeyer, Minneapolis.
This is just a guess on my part, but I'm willing to bet that the writer: A) Does not own an SUV, but instead, drives a little Spec; and B) would not walk inside a Krispy Kreme store even if it was located at the end of her block.

The Peter Principle in practice: Cardinal Bernard Law will be... promoted? He's getting a new position at the home office.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (a former Navy SEAL who has "hunted man," don't forget!) on the failure of the Minnesota legislature to legalize fireworks:

"I can take C4 and put it in a shape charge and do it underwater and blow up everything imaginable.

''But yet somehow the state of Minnesota doesn't think I'm qualified to shoot off a bottle rocket. I take great offense at that.''
Jesse: Amusing. Self-centered, self-important. Nevertheless, amusing.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Minnesota Senate was hard at work on a bill requiring recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Channel 4000 -- The Senate passed a bill 54-8 Thursday that would require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week in public and charter schools.

Individual students and teachers would be able to opt out.

An amendment was added that requires the adult in charge of the class or school to discuss the history and reason for recitation of the pledge with the students at the beginning of each school year.

The adult will tell students that anyone not wishing to participate for any personal reason may elect not to do so and not be considered unpatriotic.
Recitation is required. Unless you don't want to recite the pledge. So what's the point? in trying to please everyone, the Senate simply comes off as a bunch of lunatics who can't please anyone and who have way too much free time.

"I'm patriotic."

"Oh, yeah, I'm more patriotic."

"Am not."

"Am too!"

This VodkaPundit post cracked me up.

There's a warning on the back of each ticket. There's a warning broadcast over loudspeakers before the game. There are disclaimers. There's a state law that grants immunity from liabilities for hockey arenas. Pucks are known to be hard and fast. No spectator is forced to attend the games.

CHICAGO (AP) - A fan who had emergency brain surgery in January after being hit by a hockey puck sued the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL and the United Center on Wednesday.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of season-ticket holders Elizabeth and Steven Hahn of LaGrange Park alleges team, league and arena officials knew for years that flying pucks were dangerous but did not increase safety measures.

"They consciously and recklessly disregarded the fact that this was happening," attorney Tim Whiting said.

Whiting said he believes the defendants "wantonly and willfully" disregarded the safety of spectators and should be exempt from a state law granting hockey stadiums immunity from injury liabilities.

The couple is seeking an undisclosed amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
Undisclosed = Lots and lots and lots.

Maybe the NHL could have cage matches.

KSTP news reported last night about the Big Lake (MN) school district:

Parents have loudly objected to some of the lesson taught at the Big Lake High School. One textbook in particular has drawn a lot of attention. It’s called Oppression and Social Justice. Parents say it rails against white males and capitalism.

"It was overwhelmingly political. It was a very liberal political agenda," says [parent Teri] Dickinson.

The book states as fact that crime figures are exaggerated to scare people into building more prisons to lock up the poor. It states as fact that T-V networks--even PBS-- are run by Republicans, pushing their conservative, pro-business agenda. It urges students to become environmental activists, saying groups like the Sierra Club are too mainstream. And it states emphatically that America must cut defense spending and raise corporate taxes.

Last fall, one woman took video of student drawings on the wall, depicting Christopher Columbus as a rapist and killer. Now the district is talking about restricting videotaping in school and telling parents to give three days notice if they want to visit a classroom.
Three days notice should be enough to cover tracks, hide evidence and draft a "you're racist and sexist for questioning us" response. What will the school district do if students videotape inside? Educate them?

AOL posts a $54 billion loss and beats analysts' expectations. It's the end of April and snow is in the forecast this week. Don't even bother to call or write me if the sun rises over the Pacific coast tomorrow.

Wired -- AOL Time Warner was rewarded in after-market trading Wednesday after it accomplished an earnings feat that few would have imagined possible.

Somehow, the Internet and media monolith managed to beat Wall Street expectations for its latest quarter while simultaneously posting one of the largest losses in stock market history.

Shares of AOL Time Warner actually rose in after-hours trading Wednesday, as investors largely ignored the charge. They focused instead on the slightly-better-than-expected quarterly performance of the company, whose stock has taken a beating for most of the year.
It's all in the accounting.

What is the appropriate age to be a martyr?

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The militant Hamas made an unusual appeal to Palestinian teen-agers in Gaza not to try to infiltrate Jewish settlements, after three youths were killed by Israeli soldiers in a failed attempt.

The Islamic resistance movement issued a statement Wednesday urging Palestinian youngsters to "remember that their lives are precious and should not be sacrificed."

Late Tuesday, Israeli soldiers discovered three Palestinians trying to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza and shot them dead, the military said. Palestinians said they were boys — two 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old.
Perhaps "infiltrate" doesn't completely explain what the boys were up to, as this New York Times article indicates:
NYT -- "Don't cry for me. Bury me with my brothers, the martyrs. And visit my grave if you have time," 14-year-old Yusef Zaquot wrote.

Not long after that, he set out on Tuesday night with two friends, each 15, on a futile mission to attack the heavily fortified Israeli settlement near Gaza City. Armed with knives and homemade bombs that can easily be purchased on the street, the three were shot dead by Israeli soldiers 15 yards from the settlement's exterior wall.

The age of the three boys and their backgrounds -- all said by Yusef's relatives to be excellent students from middle-class families -- shocked even Palestinians here who have witnessed rising levels of violence in the current conflict and have seen it draw in younger and younger victims and participants.
(I don't know about the age differences but I'm sure these two stories are about the same event.)

James Lileks on the recent government warning on the next possible terrorist targets: malls, shops and stores.

Problem is - for the terrorists - the Mall [of America in Bloomington] makes it hard to get a good body count. There are lots of open spaces to dissipate the blast, and even on a good day the most heavily trafficked areas are still lightly populated, because the place is so damned big. Not to say it wouldn’t be horrible; it would. It would also radicalize millions of otherwise moderate American moms, who thereafter wouldn’t give a tin fig if Damascus was turned into a rubble-heap that redlined Geiger counters in Norway.

Odd how they never threaten to bomb American universities.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Emily, your department could use one of these.

Lewis Lapham interview in the SF Gate:

Harper's has a circulation of 215,000, [Lapham] said, and has trouble attracting advertising because of its audience's undesirable demographics.
Demographics? Or content?

A puppet testifies before a House committee on the subject of music education in schools. In case you're wondering, the puppet is in favor of music education.

No word on what he thinks of puppetmasters with cold hands.

While nobody in the West is innocent, nobody in the Muslim world is guilty. Ever. Of anything.
-- Joanne Jacobs (4/23)

Putting doughnuts in perspective.

Yesterday a Krispy Kreme store opened in the Twin Cities. Or maybe it was just a cure for cancer and someone was giving inoculations away with no charge. People lined up overnight for this manna.

Columnist Joe Souchery puts it in perspective:

In any event, people actually camped out overnight Monday to be the first in line Tuesday morning to get one of these Krispy Kreme jobs. I didn't know what to make of that. On the one hand, I know that Krispy Kreme and its public relations agents have done a wonderful job of promotion. On the other hand, I found myself wishing that there was something in life that I would stand in line overnight to acquire.

I can't come up with anything. World peace? Hair? The fountain of youth? Maybe if somebody was giving away a Ferrari to the first guy in the store when it opened in the morning I could take a shot at it, but not for a doughnut. I suddenly wished my life was different. I wished to be more focused on the simple pleasures. Imagine that, spending the night at a strip mall so you could be the first to get a doughnut. I submit that if you can camp out for a doughnut, there just isn't anything in life that would throw you much of a curve.
A woman I know (I'm too embarrassed to say "my wife") trekked out to the new shop. She only had to wait 90 minutes in line. That was after the shuttle bus ride from a remote parking lot to the store.

Today is Secretaries' Day, um, I mean Administrative Professionals' Day. Maybe it's just high self-esteem day. A lawyer speaking on the radio this morning said he'd like to be called a statutory engineer.

The May Smarter Harper's Index is up. My favorite part is the Enron entry.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The U-2S has been the real workhorse spy plane in Afghanistan, despite what you might think from all the pictures of the unmanned Predator aircraft in the news lately.

The current U2 fleet, built in the 1980s, is being updated with glass cockpits (like those in Boeing 757s), according to this LA Times story. Neat stuff.

Now if we could find out all about Aurora.

Stating the obvious, department of:

(AP) - Pope John Paul II bluntly said sex abuse by priests in the United States "was rightly considered a crime by society," telling American cardinals on Tuesday that there was no place in religious life for abusers.
The U.S. Catholic population waits anxiously for the pontiff to declare murder and stealing rightly considered crimes.

Get a life, department of:

Breaking news in the Twin Cities. Local media are covering the event this morning. People have hungrily camped out overnight. Yes, Krispy Kreme is opening a store in Maple Grove, MN.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Channel 4000/AP -- The head of the Minnesota Department of Transportation is asking General Motors to stop running a new television ad for the Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicle.

The ad shows the SUV approaching a railroad crossing. Two trains magically stop and wait for the SUV to cross. Then, the trains start up again.

MnDOT Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg has written to GM Chairman John Smith complaining that the ad may give the impression that railroad crossings are not that dangerous. He said a train traveling just 50 miles an hour can take up to a mile and a half to stop.
Trains don't stop on a dime? Don't all commercials show complete reality? Geez, the next thing you'll tell me is that the Dodge Ram isn't the real Mayor of Truckville. headline today: France Shocked by Le Pen Success.

If "France" is shocked, just exactly who voted for Le Pen? Did some Americans sneak into the polling places? Martians?

Check out the caption accompanying the photo:

A protester holds a placard reading "I cry, I cry, I'm ashamed of being French" amidst supporters of French Prime Minister and presidential candidate Lionel Jospin in Paris Sunday April 21, 2002.
And why are you ashamed?

P. J. O'Rourke in the Atlantic on Enron:

How to Stuff a Wild Enron -- Everyone blames too little regulation for the Enron mess, but maybe the culprit was too much

(selected excerpts)

Beyond a certain point complexity is fraud. It's the Airline Ticket Price Axiom. Am I getting the best deal on my airline ticket? How could I know? To map the labyrinth of airline-ticket pricing structure I would have to spend a greater value in time, at the minimum-wage billing rate, than the value of the money I'd save.

Maybe "complexity is fraud" doesn't apply to mathematics or the physical sciences. Nevertheless, when someone creates a system in which you can't tell whether or not you're being fooled, you're being fooled. This is true in the intellectual food chain from the fine arts, literature, and sociology on down.

And Enron was pretty far down—down there among the cunning weasels of ratiocination.

Some filthy protesters in Washington, D.C., holding a McDonalds flag defaced with "Resist Corporate Rule!" Guess what folks, no one is forcing anyone to eat at McDonalds.

And what's with the masks? This isn't Iraq or China. I wonder if protesters have the same "anonymous vs. non-anonymous" argument that some bloggers have.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

In a very special Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold and Dudley...

Uh, don't people watch sit-coms to laugh?

Is Malcolm in the Middle Jumping the Shark?

Right now I'm watching the show with my older son. In tonight's episode, the dad has his poker buddies over and two of their daughters come with. Har har har.

The girls are in the boys' bedroom. Malcolm looks over and sees that the purse of one girl is partly open. He sees a gun! Yep. A gun. In a sit-com. Here's how I see it: way too much situation, not nearly enough comedy.

If this show has a silent ending or displays some sort of 1-800 tip line for turning in gun-toting kids I'm never watching another show on Fox again.

My God, it's still snowing!

About five inches of snow now. In April. Five days ago the grass was brown. A day ago it was green. Now, it can't be seen.

Three inches of snow today.

The Saturday Night Live "commercial" last night (backdrop: scenes from France; soft music; a woman's voice):

France. Rolling countryside. Sprawling vineyards. Quaint cafes.

France. Home to the world's greatest painters, chefs and anti-Semites.

The French. Cowardly, yet opinionated. Arrogant, yet foul-smelling. Anti-Israel. Anti-American. And, of course, as always, Jew-hating.

Paris, they city of whores. Dog feces on every corner. And effete men yelling anti-Semitic remarks at children.

The real creme-de-la-creme of world culture. With all that's going on in the world, isn't it about time we got back to hating... the French?
The SNL staff is on the ball. Now, if only they could make Chris Kattan funny.

I went to a surprise birthday party for my sister-in-law last night. I'm pretty sure this is the first surprise party I've ever been to that would pass the truth in advertising laws: The birthday girl was actually surprised. Her friend had asked her to babysit (all part of the plan, to keep her home). All the guests staged in a nearby school parking lot. At the arranged time, 20 cars made a short jaunt over to the house. When we arrived she had a nervous look on her face when she explained to all of us that she was babysitting that night.

The recycling truck is going to have an extra large burden of brown glass bottles this week.

The house was quite crowded with partiers. My younger son, nimble as he is, started making runs to the coolers for sodas and beer. For tips. He's got a pocket chock-full o' quarters today. And a whole new attitude about doing work. But he'll be in for a little surprise of his own when he learns that dad won't tip the boy when he cleans his own room. Sadly, the whole idea of free room and board is simply lost on a five year old.

Jim Treacher has his priorities in order:

So far no reported deaths or injuries, thank God. But this, this makes my blood boil:

At Adirondack Mountain Spirits in Ausable, the earthquake rattled liquor bottles off the shelves.

"It was just a mess," said owner Dayle Richards. "Even if they didn't break, they were covered with other debris."
I just... When I see one of our nation's most precious resources threatened... When are we going to wake up, people? You think Mother Earth is going to stop at breaking a few bottles? You think the breweries and distilleries and wineries of America are safe? In your little dream-world, maybe!

We have to stop this menace, and stop it now. I am writing my congresswoman. Maybe we could develop like a gigantic stapler to hold the tectonic plates together, something like that. Maybe slip a paper clip the size of Arizona under there. Or I suppose liquor companies could just put everything in shatter-resistant plastic bottles, but that would be kind of a hassle.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Sadly, a US Navy jet crashed during an air show. This report is from the San Jose Mercury News:

VENTURA, Calif. - A low-flying F-4 crashed Saturday during an air show at the Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons station, killing its two crew members, U.S. Navy officials said.
But here is (to me, anyway) the strange part of the story:
The jet was a QF-4 Phantom II, assigned to the Naval Air Weapons Test Squadron at Point Mugu. The Q designation means the plane is used as a target by the Navy, Vasquez said.
Pilots in a target aircraft?

Another non-apology apology. If you can't apologize and admit mistakes you shouldn't pretend to do that either.

NEW YORK (AP) - Roman Catholic Cardinal Edward Egan wrote in a letter to parishioners Saturday that he apologizes "if, in hindsight," he made any mistakes in handling sex abuse allegations against priests.

Egan, who has been criticized for his handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., stopped short of saying directly that he had made mistakes.

"It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem. If, in hindsight, we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry," he wrote.
During the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), the penitent must be sincere. Egan's comments don't strike me as sincere but simply damage control.

After complaining about the "wage peace and justice" piece below I saw this in Sgt. Stryker's blog:

I see quotes and pithy phrases thrown about like so much confetti. People use them as a substitute for thinking, or think that the quote, once used, should end all discussion and debate once and for all. They become a crutch that hobbles the mind, until all the person can do is string together some buzzwords and catchphrases together into a semi-coherent thought, bereft of any real meaning.

"Killing does not justify killing" absolves one of their responsibilities to their fellow man because it means that those who mean ill can wreak havoc on everyone else and can continue doing so because you will not do anything to stop them. Thousands die and you do nothing. Hundreds of thousands live squalid lives of misery and pain, yet you will do nothing. It is a safe thing to believe, because it requires no more action on your part than to sit there and believe it. Belief unbalanced by action is meaningless and requires no more courage than to convince yourself of your own rightness. The humanity that you would like to see live in peace and prosperity is butchered and abused by those whose ambitions are unchecked. Those who do not take action will consign their fellow man and their descendents to ugly, brutal suffering at the hands of those who care merely for themselves. Of what use will your beliefs be then? How can the world you dream of be brought about if you take no action to bring it about, and is it morally correct to allow your fellow human beings to suffer and die while you do nothing? If life is so precious, do you not then have a responsibility to ensure that those who would casually take it be destroyed to the benefit of all? Killing is never justified, but could it be that it's sometimes necessary to perpetrate a little evil in order to prevent total and catastrophic evil?
There's more but these parts I liked best.

Sunday's weather forcast for the Twin Cities: 70 percent chance of snow. Yep, snow in the second half of April.

"Laura, now that I'm president I really want to bomb somebody. What fun is it being leader if I can't have a war."

"Well, you've just got to find an excuse and then you can start killing, dear."

9-11 was excuse to go to 'war' [Appearing on the Minneapolis StarTribune commentary page today.]

There is the old truism, "Children learn what they live."

Children become adults and model learned behavior.

So . . . half a year into the cult-of-fear-based "war on terrorism," it takes only a cursory look at some recent Star Tribune stories to see where we're at: "Deadliest day in 17 months" (in Israel); "U.S. plans for nuclear scenarios -- 7 nations named in secret report"; "India: Fanaticism claims another triumph"; "Maj. Gen Frank Hagenbeck, commander of the [Afghan mountain] operation near Gardes, said of Taliban and Al-Qaida, 'We body slammed them today and killed hundreds of these guys.' " The list goes on and on.

Seven months after Sept. 11 Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar have not been caught and brought to justice. Though it no longer seems to be the case, for a while I thought that the official story would be that they were presumed dead in some bombed cave, like Hitler in his bunker in 1945. And were their families to be killed, I wouldn't expect that fact to get much attention -- it might give too human a "spin" to the story of war.
You don't expect to hear about the families in the Western press? The press that shouts "torture" when describing the conditions of the Camp X-Ray detainees (who were never tortured) or the press that screams "massacre" without any concrete evidence of what happened in Jenin.

The entire brunt of this "war," so far, has been on Afghanistan and its people, though not a single Afghani was among the 19 perpetrators Sept. 11. We forget that this campaign against Afghanistan was not a war of liberation of Afghan women; nor is it a war for "freedom"; rather it was a campaign for other motives, some of the most important motives likely unacknowledged.

Until Sept. 11, we couldn't have cared less about Afghanistan. Sept. 11 was an excuse to go to war.
The U.S. didn't attack Afghanistan or the Afghan people. The U.S. attached the Al-Qaida terrorists living in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan. Now that Al-Qaida and the Taliban don't rule Afghanistan, do you think the Afghans are better or worse off?
Not a single high-level mention has ever been made of possible action against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were home to the perpetrators.
At least you're correct about one thing.
While the administration will not acknowledge officially any innocent civilian death toll in Afghanistan, credible (sic) sources monitoring the war make it clear that the civilian death toll, just from the bombing, far exceeds the Sept. 11 death toll -- and this in a country about the size of Texas with only 8 percent of the U.S. population.
Afghan civilian casualties have been grossly overstated.

No one mentions that Al-Qaida, like all terrorist groups, will never be eradicated -- that the policy to bomb violence out of existence will achieve only the objective of making certain that violence will continue to be a way of life far into the future.
Does arresting bank robbers cause more bank robberies?

Some of us seem to harbor the naive notion that Al-Qaida, and others like it, are incapable of continuation-of-government initiatives. Likely they are masters of it, and we simply imitators. They are masters of stealth, and in this era of the Internet and a shrunken world, will always be several steps ahead of the law. Stamp out one cell, and another will spring up . . . or two or three.

A once-popular song again needs to become the anthem of this nation. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" asks, "When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?"

Until we learn to truly wage peace and justice, all is lost. So long as two-thirds of the Muslim world has serious issues against us -- issues that are not contrived, and by and large not constructively addressed -- we will continue to have problems. And our children and their children and grandchildren will inherit from us a truly dismal future.

Wage peace and justice.
Wage peace and justice. Love your enemies - it drives them mad, etc. What is waging justice? Making strong statements? Singing songs? Apparently, yes, that's all some people think it should take.

Who was it who said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"?

-- Dick Bernard, Woodbury. Retired teachers' representative.
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt. The same Franklin D. Roosevelt who brought about the defeat of the Nazis. Just how do you think he waged peace and justice? Or was there no peace in justice in Europe after 1945?

Friday, April 19, 2002

Ross writes:

Israel. Sadly, I don't care about Jenin at all. I don't know if I'm being a hypocrite that I don't care about one side's alleged war crimes (although there is absolutely no proof). If you are going to win a war/battle you need to do what you need to do. If the Palestinians mined the roads, then go through the houses. Next time they'll think twice about mining roads. If you smuggle explosives in ambulances, then don't let them in. Next time they'll think twice. Saddam gets away with so much shit because he knows Americans won't hurt civilians. He can store all this chem/bio weapons under hospitals/schools/mosques knowing we won't hit them. Not the Israelis. That is why I respect the Israelis.
Well said.

"Skank" is okay.

(Reuters) -- A California state appeals court has ruled it is not libel to call someone a "skank" or even a "big skank" on the radio -- describing the word as "a derogatory slang term of recent vintage that has no generally recognized meaning."

The appeals court also rejected the plaintiff's claim that she was libeled, saying there was no way to prove that the disc jockeys had knowingly perpetrated a falsehood by describing her as a "local loser", a "chicken butt" and a "big skank."

"The terms local loser and chicken butt are not actionable because they are too vague to be capable of being proven true or false," the court said.

It said the same argument applied to the phrase "big skank."

Joe Soucheray today, on the defeat of a bill to legalize (legalize, not require the use of) fireworks in Minnesota:

We keep sending people to the Legislature who intend to save us from ourselves. Our roads aren't getting built and our budget isn't getting balanced, but hours are spent defeating a bill that would permit Minnesotans to blow off firecrackers a few times a year.

When you watch them anguishing over the legalization of snakes, sparklers and poppers it is no wonder that conceal-and-carry permit bills die on the vine. The same thinking that sees a collective destruction by bottle rocket sees a mass gunfight at the OK Corral if we were allowed to carry a firearm. I suppose that might be the ultimate in personal responsibility and decision making so I suppose such a bill is ultimately fated to be disqualified.

It's only 50 degrees cooler this morning than it was yesterday afternoon here.

Tim Blair has this about the suicide bombers.

DEBATE RAGES: Should we call them suicide bombers, homicide bombers, fragheads, Islamakazies, or splodeydopes?

Beats me. In the meantime, here are some other potential designations to consider:



And my personal choice: Palestinian separatists
I think suicide bombers is the best term.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Hasn't the publisher of the Star Tribune realized it's time for one of his writers to retire? Today Sid Hartman writes:

If a ballpark eventually is built behind Target Center, the development potential in that area would be unbelievable.

Yes, this area is a lot different than the Metrodome area where some development was predicted in 1982.
How's that? Oh, it's 20 years later and we're not supposed to remember that the only economic development that occurred around the Metrodome was a bar and restaurant named Hubert's.
We have a number of great construction companies in this area such as Kraus-Anderson, Ryan, Mortenson, Opus, Bor-son, Knutson, Adolfson & Peterson and others.

They could be great contributors to help get a stadium built in Minneapolis, and they could be great benefactors in helping further develop the Warehouse District and making it one of the great entertainment, shopping, hotel and business areas in the country.
The Twins owner doesn't want to pay for a new stadium. The taxpayers don't want to pay for a new stadium. Few legislators want to pay for a new stadium. So construction companies are going to do it?
They also could contribute a lot from a civic standpoint if they could get together and become involved financially in helping this stadium become a reality. Maybe they could build it at cost.
The construction companies can just pay themselves to build a new stadium. Starting tomorrow, I am going to pay myself an annual salary of $10 million.
Furthermore, most of them are looking for work and you would think the unions would get involved because of the jobs a new stadium would provide.
You'd think that, wouldn't you.
Things are not progressing well at the Legislature.
And when things don't progress with the construction companies and unions, you can point out how it's in the best interest of churches and schools to finance a new stadium. If the those two groups foolishly reject the notion, you can hit up boy scouts and girl scouts. What scout doesn't enjoy a nice outdoor ball game?
My friend Jesse Ventura, the esteemed governor, keeps repeating that we aren't going to have a stadium unless the Twins pay for half of it.
Was Ventura your friend when he was a professional wrestler?
Well, governor, your plan would have the state of Minnesota pay nothing because you are asking the Twins to come up with $165 million and then have the interest on that $165 million pay for the state's $165 million share.
Maybe that's Ventura's polite way of telling you he's not paying for the stadium.
Minnesota voters have made a statement by setting an attendance record of 93,000 for the Twins' first three home games.

The Twins' early television ratings also never have been higher.
Then why is a new stadium needed in the first place? Most of the proposed plans are for smaller, boutique, stadiums.
But all of this doesn't affect the thinking of some of the great geniuses we have in St. Paul who might have to worry about their political future next November if the Twins are eliminated by contraction.
This ain't Chicago, Sid. You only get to vote once.

A plane has crashed into the 25th floor of a 30 story office building in Milan, Italy.

Letter to the editor in the Minneapolis StarTribune today:

I had to laugh when I read spokesman John Wodele's claim that Gov. Jesse Ventura is "as concerned about the environment as anyone" ("Phosphorus bill is sent to Ventura," April 16).

Maybe he is when he isn't in his SUV or riding his personal watercraft. Jesse -- concerned about the environment? Get real.

-- Richard Gray, St. Paul.
Lordy, Lordy! The governor has an SUV. Why, whoever drives one of those behemoths or enjoys a spin around the lake on a PWC just can't love our mother earth.

"So who you votin' fer this year?"

"Well, I like Ventura's stand on taxes but darn it, his vehicle only gets 12 MPG! Guess I'm gonna have to vote for the Republican next time. I hear his vehicle gets around 20 MPG."

"City or highway?"

"Um, city, I think."

"I hear the Democratic candidate has a car that gets around 22 MPG."

"Oooh, I'll have to give him a look."

"I hear ol' Paul Wellstone will be campaigning for the Senate again with his trademark green bus. I bet that thing doesn't get more than eight miles to the gallon. Even on the highway."

"True. True. But he had it painted green. That's an environmentally friendly color. Paul's a friend of the earth."

"What do you think of proposed plans for a new, publicly subsidized stadium for the Minnesota Twins?"

"Don't know. What kind of vehicle does the team's owner drive?"

This National Review article on the Arab world is really good. I'm not going to tell you to go read it. I did, though, and found it very informative.

Darwin's theory, in practice:

Excite/Reuters News-- Japanese tourists Yuji Nakano and Mina Takashi sit in the damaged Madbasseh square in the Old City of Bethlehem as they try to visit the Church of Nativity April 17, 2002. The pair were so engrossed in their guide book they did not notice they had wandered into a war zone. It was only when news photographers in flak jackets and helmets spotted the oblivious couple and pointed out the bullet-pocked buildings and military hardware that they decided to call off their trip to the Christian shrine.
Click on the link to see the picture.

Sensitive, caring male and Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak is calling for MPD police chief Robert Olson to step down. Olson has two years left on his contract. It may cost upwards of $300,000 to buy out Olson's contract, in troubled budget times for the city.

Rybak is reportedly unhappy with how the police department has handled several high profile events, including the shooting of a mentally ill, machete-wielding man by officers.

In addition to installing a new chief, rumor has it Rybak would like to replace police firearms with Super Soakers, police dogs with bunnies, and squad cars with yellow bikes. Officers will substitute environment-friendly, CFC-free aerosol misters containing a light mint-scented potion in place of pepper spray. And they'll swap their cold, hard stainless steel handcuffs for delicate fur-lined restraints, available at Sex World.

You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a grief counselor or mental health professional of your choice. Anything you say can be used against you in court. Anything you don't say can be made up by members of your "community" anyway for publicity purposes...

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Ira Stoll has his SmarterTimes site which, in a reasonable and mature manner, critiques the New York Times.

Stoll is with the startup New York Sun.

Now there's a "parody" of SmarterTimes, "Like Father, Like Sun," critiquing the Sun. Here's a sample:

Reluctant as I am to do so, I must register a few words on what the Sun has done right. Those words are ‘printing,’ ‘choice of paper stock,’ and ‘ink selection.’ My driver, regrettably, fell ill this morning with a case of the “Labatt’s Splats,” as he termed it. I was forced to travel by subway to the office, and was pressed into unnervingly close proximity to persons I would rather not have met. Their crowding prevented me from unfolding and reading the Sun for the duration of the trip, something I suppose I should have thanked them for but did not. At the end of my trip, spent clutching the paper tightly, I discovered my hands to be remarkably free of ink. I hereby compliment the Sun on its use of low-rub and rub-free inks, and needlessly thick newsprint.
Stoll should be flattered.

I like this Michael Kelly column. Here are the last few paragraphs:

The United States is for democracy and order, not necessarily always in that order. It is against threats to this of any sort. It is against all forms of fascism, including Islamic. It is against those who would seek to destroy democratic nations or to drive the United States from its position in the world as the paramount protector of democracy. It regards those who are friendly to these aims as friends and those who are inimical to them as enemies.

At some point in the next year or so, the United States will go to war against Iraq. It will do so with friends, or alone. It will do so with a clear and cold-eyed knowledge of where it stands and who stands with it, and that understanding will have begun with Bush's speech of April 4 and with his "failed" expectations.

Oh -- and the United States will win.
This isn't warmongering. It's not jingoism. Nor is it daisy-cutter love. It's not about religion. It's about right and wrong and thinking clearly. The only change I'd make would be to replace "Iraq" with "Iraq and Saudi Arabia."

Have to blame someone...

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The family of a 15-year-old boy who crashed a stolen plane into a Tampa high-rise is suing the maker of the acne drug Accutane for $70 million, accusing the medicine of prompting her son's suicide.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims the drug caused severe psychosis in Charles Bishop, who died Jan. 5 and left a note expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden and supporting the Sept. 11 attacks.
I'm a little tired this morning. Who can I blame? I'd really like to have someone give me a whole lot of money. Maybe a big auto manufacturer; they have lots of dough. What could a car company possibly have to do with me being tired? Well, I've driven a car.
The Food and Drug Administration says 147 people taking Accutane either committed suicide or were hospitalized for suicide attempts from 1982 to May 2000. An estimated 13 million patients have used Accutane since its debut in 1982. [147 out of 13 million is about 0.00113077 percent. Think that's statistically significant?]

An autopsy found no trace of Accutane in Bishop's blood, but attorneys for the family say so much blood was lost in the crash that the test may not have been useful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

I'm an uncle again. My sister was scheduled to have a planned C-section next week but the little guy was impatient so he arrived early this morning. He's doing fine.

Headline on the Minneapolis Star Tribune commentary page (the paper version) today: In a democratic country, taxes are something to celebrate. The article was written by the Minnesota commissioner or revenue. I'm sure he's celebrating but not for the same reason he thinks you or I should.

(The headline in the on-line version of the article was changed to: Why pay taxes, anyway?)

$325 prize in the Bilg Game lottery

ATLANTA (AP) -- A dreamer looking to win the $325 million Big Game lottery is 16 times more likely to get killed driving to the gas station to buy a ticket than to actually win the prize.

Still, the odds didn't deter the thousands of people who snapped up tickets for tonight's drawing for the second-biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

The odds of winning are 1 in 76 million.

"It's greed. Greed clouds good judgment," said Les Krantz, a probability expert...
So buying a ticket is bad judgment?
...who nevertheless held a ticket himself.
Perhaps only if you're not a stuck up statistician.
"If you don't have a ticket, your odds drop to zero," reasoned Glenn Gosselin of Springfield, Mass.

Ferocious Fighting French:

PARIS (Reuters) - French driving students may soon have to wait 24 hours before finding out test results because too many candidates are attacking examiners who fail them on the spot.

Some learner drivers who fail their driving test are venting their frustration by threatening examiners with death or rape, often at gunpoint, and attacking their cars, a transport ministry official in charge of driving tests said.

Under the new scheme, already in operation in some areas of France, candidates will have to wait until the end of a 24-hour cooling-off period to be told by post if they can remove their learner plates.

"As well as death and rape threats, and trashing of vehicles, there are physical attacks," Jean-Francois Verdier told Reuters, a week before the first round of a presidential election where crime is a crunch issue.

"Threats at gunpoint are not rare," he added.

Verdier said candidates, some of whom had failed their test for the tenth time, often rounded up friends to attack examiners and their cars.

France fails more than two-thirds of the 3.5 million learners who take their test each year.

The auction for a wad of Luis Gonzalez's used chewing gum is over. The winning (?) bid was $10,000.

Blogrolling -- The Sarge has a decent screed about politics today. He thought he didn't have anything to say then writes one of his longer posts. It's somewhat Lileks-like but without references to music, Target or a two-year-old daughter:

For the most part, I agree with ole' George Washington when it comes to political parties. You either have your country's, state's or municipality's best interests at heart, or you're merely out to get "your guys" into office so you can get "your judges" appointed to push your freakin agenda instead of "theirs". They're all the same, guys. The only differences between them are the perceptions you have of them.

The pilot of the Air China 767 that flew into a mountain yesterday survived the crash. The technical term for this type of crash is CFIT: Controlled Flight Into Terrain. Here's a definition of the term:

A CFIT accident is one in which an otherwise-serviceable aircraft, under control of the crew, is flown (unintentionally) into terrain, obstacles or water, with no prior awareness on the part of the crew of the impending collision.
This definition may be somewhat different in other parts of the world, such as the Mid-East.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Speeding ticket - Finnish version:

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Looking at Anssi Vanjoki's speeding ticket, many Finns are wondering whether their egalitarian spirit has taken them over the edge.

True, Vanjoki was doing 46.5 mph in a 30-mph zone. But $103,000?

The reason the penalty was so harsh is that traffic fines in Finland are based not just on the severity of the offense, but on the offender's income. Vanjoki is a senior executive of Nokia, the world's largest cell phone maker, and his fine was assessed on a 1999 income of $5.2 million.

A court later slashed it to $5,245, but not before Finns flew into a rage.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parents who use humor, rather than sarcasm, to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise during their child's adolescent years may have children who are better able to regulate their own emotions during difficult situations, new study findings suggest.

Overall, parents who used humor--joking, lightheartedly using absurd statements, etc.--during the exercise were more likely to report that their child was resilient, socially competent, better able to regulate his or her emotions and exhibited less problem behavior than parents who used derisive humor, such as sarcasm and malicious mimicking, study findings indicate.
I'll save this for my sons. But I know what they'll say: "But Dad, the story says 'humor' and that's not what you have."

I got a pizza and breadsticks tonight. The pizza was incredibly good. Probably because I was incredibly hungry.

Did I reach pizzalibrium? Yes. Yes I did. And then I kept on going. And going.

And going.

Pizzalibrium was merely a milepost on the way to pizza saturation. Maximum Italian pie density.

It's 91 degrees and the kids are outside. They want me to come out, too. I just can't. I need a nap. Right now I feel like one of those guys they remove from a house through a large hole in the wall using a forklift.

Good God, don't offer me a wafer-thin mint.

Teaser for the six o'clock news tonight: Tips for getting your tax form filed on time.

What the hell kind of tips do you need?

The deadline is April 15. Put your forms in the mail by midnight tonight or file electronically today. Pretty simple.

Warm ups?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American aircraft attacked an air defense site in southern Iraq Monday in response to hostile Iraqi fire, U.S. officials said.

It was the first U.S. airstrike in the southern "no-fly" zone, where U.S. and British air patrols prohibit Iraqi aircraft from flying, since Jan. 21, according to U.S. Central Command.

A portion of the Tim Blair Interview in Right Wing News:

John Hawkins: If and when do you see the United States hitting Iraq? How do you think it'll work out?

Tim Blair: It all depends on Iraq’s fearsome Elite Republican Guard. Why, those feisty desert warriors could hold out for minutes. Dozens of US troops will be required. Perhaps they’ll even need their weapons.

Neil Boortz's interesting tax information.

Science vs. Politics: The World Trade Center "Cough."

Gold card...Platinum card...Black card.

American Express is marketing the "black card," which comes with 24-hour access to a personal concierge, as the ultimate trophy and available only to some customers who spend more than $150,000 on another of the company's cards.

The Centurion card is nicknamed for the dark shades that make up the logo and the Trojan on its face. Holders get to shop after hours at jeweler Harry Winston or watch the World Golf Championships at Valderrama in Spain from behind the ropes.

Note to self: avoid the 10:00 PM news tonight. Because today is April 15, all local newscasts will start and end with the obligatory remotes at the airport post office, the one that's open until midnight tonight. It's the one all the dorks use because they waited until the last minute to complete the tax forms or they owe money and won't give it to Uncle Sam until moments before "penalties and interest" become reality.

Coming up next, find out if your car is a likely target for theft. But first, we'll go out to Rick at the airport where he's...

...where he's standing outside, praying for the rain to hold off until after midnight, watching a long line of cars snaking its way up to the drive-thru mailboxes. And the TV station considers this news. It happens every year. Same time. Same place. Same people. They could probably save the cost of the remote crew and just use a clip from last year. No one would notice a difference.

If it's a slow news day, the station could just do the entire newscast from the airport post office. Hey, NBC can move the set to Salt Lake during the Olympics so why shouldn't the local folks broadcast right from the source of the most exciting "news" event of the day.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

My VoiceStream phone rebate finally arrived. Just five weeks longer than the 10 weeks I was told to expect to wait. The return address on the envelope is less than 30 miles from my house. The web site still doesn't show any status for me.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Al Gore gave a speech in Florida today. One of those in attendance had this to say:

Reuters -- "I know in my heart that he won the race," said Randy Fleischer, an attorney in Broward County who supports Gore for the nomination in 2004. "He won before and he'll win again."
Gore won? Randy, if that's all it takes to make you happy, why don't you just say you won the election? Wouldn't that be even more exciting?

Pedro Carmona was president of Venezuela only a day longer than I was.

SNL tonight... "Bush" presents the Bush-Cheney-Guccione plan to stop suicide bombings. Replacing the promise of 72 virgins with the promise of 100's of women, ready to take your phone call, willing to talk about whatever you want to talk about, darling.

"Chris Matthews" ... the best selling accessory in the West Bank is the fishing vest that ticks.

She gave her life so trees may live.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A tree sitter in the Mount Hood National Forest fell 150 feet to the ground, was badly injured and died before rescue crews could reach the remote site.

The timber sale she apparently was protesting had been canceled three days before her death, and the protesters expected to leave the area within a week.

Ivan Maluski, a longtime Eagle Creek protester, said tree sitters were days away from leaving the site after a three-year vigil.

About four people take turns living year-round in tree platforms in the area, Maluski said. After the cancelation was announced Tuesday, protesters said they wanted to see a final signed contract before they pulled out.
Paperwork can be a real killer.

One can always hope.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday expressed his "deep condemnation" of terrorism and a Jerusalem suicide bombing the day before, in a statement apparently intended to satisfy U.S. demands.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is visiting Israel, has said he would not meet Arafat until the Palestinian leader condemns terrorism and Friday's bombing, which killed six people in a crowded outdoor market.

"We are condemning strongly all the attacks which are targeting civilians from both sides and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem," the statement, in Arabic, said.
The statement was in Arabic, which is what Bush has been calling for.

I'm condeming high winds and hail. Which of us will have a greater effect?

Unpaid product endorsement: James Page Burly Brown Ale. Dark. Flavorful. Locally brewed (if you live around the Twin Cities). Best of all, my wife doesn't like it so I don't have to share.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Are tax returns reviewed or just blindly processed?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Internal Revenue Service mistakenly paid out more than $30 million to tax filers seeking nonexistent slavery tax credits in 2000 and 2001, according to a Treasury Department investigation.

The IRS received more than 77,000 tax returns last year claiming $2.7 billion in reparations refunds, up from 13,000 the year before. Last year, the IRS discovered that some erroneous refunds were being issued but was only partly effective in stopping them.

This is the first indication of what these scams cost the government. Most of the mistaken payments were for about $43,000, a figure Essence magazine suggested in 1993 as the updated value of 40 acres and a mule, which some freed slaves were given under an order by a Union general during the Civil War.

The tax agency is now trying to recover the money it paid out, though officials would not disclose how much has been collected.

The newest addition my my list of favorite blogs: Jumping to Conclusions by David Nieporent.

Do you hear those black helicoptors flying by?

Washington Post -- Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) is calling for an investigation into whether President Bush and other government officials had advance notice of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 but did nothing to prevent them. She added that "persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war."

In a recent interview with a Berkeley, Calif., radio station, McKinney said: "We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11th. . . . What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? . . . What do they have to hide?"

She suggested that the administration was serving the interests of a Washington-based investment firm, the Carlyle Group, which employs a number of high-ranking former government officials from both parties. Former president George H.W. Bush -- the current president's father -- is an adviser to the firm. McKinney said the war on terrorism has enriched Carlyle Group investors by enhancing the value of a military contractor partly owned by the firm.

A nice opinion piece in the Daily Cardinal today. Guess my life isn't so good.

I suspect a lot of seniors are now wondering, "What am I going to do when I graduate and enter the 'real world'?"
A valid question.
Here are some thoughts on the yuppie path too many take after college.
Why do I already have the feeling that yuppie = bad.

There are two basic patterns to everyday life in the "real world" for most college seniors turned young urban (or suburban) professionals or yuppies. The first is obvious and widely recognized—the second far less so.

First, unlike college, life becomes organized around a monotonously regular schedule: 9 a.m. or earlier to 5 p.m. or later, five to six days per week. This first yuppie life pattern contributes to the second: what economic sociologist Juliet Schor in her recent book "The Overworked American" calls "the insidious cycle of work-and-spend." For the sacrifice of most of the yuppie's waking life to a job, in return most expect to make a good income. The longer the job hours and the greater the responsibility, the more the yuppie expects to get paid. The harder the yuppie works, the more the yuppie makes, the more the yuppie spends, the more the yuppie has to work to keep up with the new expenses (e.g., SUV, new clothes, pricey restaurants, ski trips, scuba lessons). In some yuppies' lexicon, this work-spend cycle means "work hard, play hard."
College didn't have monotonous schedule? Go to class, skip a class, stay up late studying, go out drinking with friends. It's just not 9 to 5. Sometimes you stay up all night studying. Or drinking beer. What is so bad about spending what your earn? In college you work and spend little on anything but necessities (books, tuition, beer and pizza, not necessarily in that order). Is there a problem with expecting income to be proportional with hard work? The Soviets weren't big fans of that theory and look what it got them: "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." Work more, get paid more. What a concept. Come on, there are only so many professional baseball jobs out there where you can hardly work and get paid a lot. Note the use of "SUV." Those who hate success will always use that term instead of "vehicle" or "car." A car is a necessary evil, at best. But an SUV was designed and built by the devil himself.
Most college seniors who make this conventional transition from the relatively frugal college student's life to the life of the work-and-spend yuppie embrace it, no matter how much they occasionally grumble about being overworked. The speed and ease of this embrace is not too surprising when we consider the vast armies of corporate advertisers and marketers dedicated to keeping young professionals running on the treadmill.
Students are frugal by choice? Sure. If students were paid to go to college they wouldn't actually spend that money.
It's not until the marriage-home-kids nexus eventually develops, though, that most yuppies become fully ensconced in the work-spend cycle—whether one parent stays home or not. This nexus (usually settled in suburbia)—with its accompanying, endless chatter about home improvements, relationships and kids—is the work-spend lifestyle prescription for a happy, healthy life outside of work.
Of course, none of us deliberately chooses a family lifestyle. It's all just Madison Avenue cramming it down our mindless consumer throats, right? Suburbia, in an academic's mind is another level of hell. Poisonous pools of filth, fire, thirst, screaming, agony, a manicured lawn with a swing set for the kids and a patio for the adults. Yep, suburbia is just a terrible place. If only there were a way to include noisy neighbors immediate above and below your bedroom the picture of suffering would be complete.

Sounds delightful, doesn't it? It might be if it were not such a contrived and insulated life. This life is contrived because it is less the reflective practice of free individuals than the taken-for-granted product of years of aggressive marketing. It is hardly authentic, but it is highly profitable for home builders, furniture, toy makers and many others. This lifestyle is insulated because there is little if anything in it which connects yuppies to the wider world.
Ah yes, a contrived lifestyle. If it's popular, it has to be bad. Yes, I remember when I was first out of college. I went over to Home Depot and asked for family package number 17. And tell me about financing, please. Plan 17 includes a wife, two children, a house and two cars. There's a discount for each additional garage stall you add. I also paid extra to add a hamster for the younger child and a Sony PlayStation for the older one. Bicycles are not available in any of the packages. The yuppie counsel feels they don't pollute enough nor require enough plastic and chemicals in the manufacturing process. Besides, you had a bike in college, didn't you? Don't want the consumers to remember how good they had it as frugal, macaroni and cheese five nights a week, students. Note: there is hope for the academics: my children will choose mac and chesse over steak, tofu, vegetables, rice or anything you can get at the Mifflin Street Coop. Five nights a week.
The irony then is that this "real world" disconnects yuppies from the real world. The salesman's SUV does not carry a sign daily reminding the yuppie of her weekly contribution to global warming. Home Depot's furniture is branded with a trademark, but no mark that the yuppie's escalating home improvements contribute to tearing down old growth and rain forests. The label on Gap clothes does not remind the yuppie parents how their kids' jeans were made by kids laboring in sweatshops. That would not be profitable.
Yuppies live in the "real world." Graduate students live in the real world.

Of course, not every yuppie falls into the work-spend treadmill in private circles of family and friends. Indeed, some consciously construct alternative paths which connect them to the wider world as responsible citizens rather than as traveling professionals or tourists. However, until we can mobilize enough people to make such a real world lifestyle as common and appealing as the work-spend cycle, most college seniors will continue to follow the marketers' profitable prescription.
That marketers' prescription controls everything I do. I asked my neighbor how he was able to procure a Honda Accord instead of an SUV. A look of panic came over him and he asked me who wanted to know. I said that I was thinking of a replacement for my Volkswagen. The marketing people have forced auto dealerships to stop selling small, efficient cars. When I went car shopping I could only find large SUVs. At one time there was a luxury tax on the price of a vehicle over forty thousand dollars. I hear it's been replaced by a tax on SUVs that get more than 17 mpg. (The proceeds from this tax go for marketing scholarships at private colleges.) You can save money on vehicles with extra cup holders. Even more if those cup holders are the rectangular kind that will hold children's juice boxes.
(Paul Lachelier is a doctoral student in the UW-Madison Sociology Department. He is currently doing research in Boston on what happens to college activists after college.)
Thank you, Paul, for showing us the error of our ways. If only we could all attend college, then go to graduate school to study our own lifestyles. Let me guess: you're planning to be a professor so you can keep riding your yellow community owned bike long after you graduate.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

A good way to spend most of the day: shooting guns. Loud, dirty guns. One of my jobs requires me to have one. Now the powers that be have decided the force needs a uniform weapons policy. They've narrowed the choices down somewhat and today brought a truckload of different models for us to sample. And lots of ammunition. The model I carry isn't on the short list so I'll have to get a new one.

Go ahead fellows, shoot all you want. We'll stay at the range until you're tired of shooting.

We were there a long time.

The guy who runs the place could just make a command decision tonight and simply tell us what he wants us to carry. But he's nice enough to let the officers decide. His favorite model isn't even among the finalists. We have to select one or two models but at least we have a say in the matter.

When we were all done shooting we didn't even have to clean the weapons. Icing on the cake.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Jesse Ventura, brave governor, former Navy SEAL and hunter of man (well, not really) has decided that he is going to run again. Or is he?

KARE11 -- Governor Ventura says he should be considered a candidate for re-election until he says otherwise.

In remarks on KFAN radio, Ventura said "Until I say I'm not running, I am."
And until he turns invisible we can still see him.
Ventura also says that, so far, he hasn't gotten any offers from the private sector that would tempt him not to run.
Like an average baseball player or a mediocre college coach, he'll just go where the money is.

This is what happens when you don't set the parking brake on a Boeing 767.

In OpinionJournal today:

Several readers passed on this joke:
Q: Why are there no Muslims on "Star Trek"?
A: Because it's set in the future.
Also today:
Meanwhile, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reports that "Christians from Norway are on their way to Palestinian towns to act as human shields for ambulances and accompany civilians in the midst of the Israeli invasion." No word whether the Norwegians will also try to protect Jews by riding buses, attending weddings or going shopping in Israel.

Yesterday I noted an auction for a piece trash. To be precise, that trash is a wad of used chewing gum. Today, the authenticity of said gum is in question.

Channel 4000/AP -- Counterfeit sports collectibles and forged athlete autographs have been a consistent problem in recent years as the sports memorabilia market continues to blossom.

And such controversy -- is it real or fake? -- has even seeped into the newest -- and possibly strangest -- collectible: game-chewed bubble gum.

But unlike handwriting analysis -- which is an educated opinion, but still an opinion -- the Minnesota man behind the phenomenon of the Internet auction of a wad of Luis Gonzalez chewed gum said he's got the answer to verify his claim: DNA testing.

Ooooh, how can I get one of them Interior Dept. credit cards, you know, the ones you don't have to pay back?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Interior Department is changing its policies and retraining employees on use of government-issued credit cards after an audit found employees used them to pay their rent, withdraw money at casinos and buy jewelry and furniture.
Retraining employees? On how to use a business credit card? Good grief, what's that going to cost? Try this: "Under no circumstances is this card to be used for personal purposes. You may be fired for doing so." That's 50% of the problem right there. Then you tell the managers: "You must review your employees' purchases. You will be held responsible for misuse of their cards."
Almost three-quarters of the department's 79,000 workers have government credit cards, and the agency's inspector general found myriad problems with use and oversight.

"The department and its bureaus do not have sufficient controls in place to minimize abuse of the charge card," the report said. Some reviews of purchases "were done inadequately or in a perfunctory matter, some were not done on a regular basis, and some were not done at all."
Maybe it would be just more efficient to leave piles of cash sitting around. There would be just as much theft but no one would have to pretend to do the paperwork associated with card purchases.
Interior spokesman John Wright said Tuesday the department is working to solve problems identified in the audit, which was completed in late December.

"We take these credit card issues very seriously and are working aggressively to improve our guidelines to address this matter," Wright said.
This gem is included deep in the article:
The audit was completed a year after the Clinton administration gave the Interior Department a "Hammer Award" for good management of its credit card system. The award was part of then-Vice President Al Gore's "reinventing government" savings campaign.

Mpls StarTribune -- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal grand jury charged an attorney and three other people Tuesday with helping a blind sheik send directives to an Egyptian terrorist group from his Rochester, Minn., prison cell.

The five-count indictment alleges that New York lawyer Lynne Stewart and an interpreter helped Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman communicate with the terrorist organization Islamic Group from 1997 through last year.
She might support the beliefs of an Islamic terrorist. Others have said it but it's worth repeating here: would she be interested in some Islamic-style justice for suspected collaborators for herself?

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Instapundit has a good statement about the Iraqi oil shut off:

And I'm still waiting for Chomsky -- or somebody -- to denounce Saddam Hussein as a baby-killer for stopping oil shipments. After all, we were savaged for supposedly starving Iraqi children simply by limiting the amount of oil being shipped. He's stopped it entirely. And all we hear from the oil-embargo critics is the sound of silence.

Once again, life imitates the Onion:

Channel 4000/AP -- Bidding for a used piece of gum chewed by Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez has topped more than $3,200.

Gonzalez chewed the gum during a spring training game in Tucson, Ariz., last month and threw it away while standing on first base. Jason Gabbert, who owns Lakeside Sports of Wood Lake, Minn., said he attended the March 7 game and talked a security guard into retrieving the wad that Gonzalez threw away.
Yes, the story goes on to explain that proceeds benefit student athletics at a small Arizona high school. But, geez, used gum? Think the winner of the auction might want to remain anonymous?

The first lawsuit on behalf of a WTC victim against an airline has been filed:

NEW YORK (AP) -- The husband of a money manager who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center sued American Airlines and an airport security firm for [50 million dollars] on Monday.

The wrongful death suit, filed by Thomas Smithwick in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that the airline and Globe Aviation Services Corp. failed to properly screen passengers boarding Flight 11 at Logan International Airport in Boston on Sept. 11.

How a VoiceStream/Motorola rebate works:

- December 19, 2001 - Purchase phone that includes a $50.00 rebate.

- Read rebate form: instructions say wait up to ten weeks for the rebate

- December 26, 2001 - Mail in rebate form and proof of purchase

- Wait eleven weeks. Receive nothing.

- March 13, 2002 - Try the web site to inquire on rebate status. Site doesn't work. Call the toll-free number instead. Irritated operator (probably just a brain in a glass jar) first asks if I've waited ten weeks. Of course. He then confirms my rebate form was received and is "in the final stages of processing; please wait 10 to 15 days longer."

- April 8, 2002 (more than three weeks since last phone call) - Call again. Rudely interrupt the smoke break of another clueless operator. "Yes, we received your request on February 4." A lie, and a new tactic: "It's in the mail; the post office must have delayed it" used to be what people said to large companies. Now a company is implying to me that the post office delayed my request. "Your request is in the final stages of processing. It will be two to three more weeks. Quit bothering me." Okay, she didn't really say that last part but I know she was thinking it.

- April 8, 2002 - Vow to never purchase anything from VoiceStream again.

I've noticed my twelve-pound dog is pushing thirteen or fourteen now. She stayed with my in-laws when we were out of town this weekend.

Did we send a leash with her? No.

How much dog food accompanied her? None.

Dog biscuits? Please.

Perhaps a bowl to put dog food in? Nyet.

Hey, if we're on vacation, she's on vacation. I pictured her eating plenty of leftovers and table scraps. Then I came to my senses. She surely ate fresh people-food all weekend. At my in-laws' house, Milk Bones for dogs are like saltines for humans: something you eat when there's nothing tasty left in the house.

Gender politics in Highland Park, IL. John Kass of the Chicago Tribune writes:

What's bothering many women is a recent story in the Tribune about forced sterilization in Highland Park as a way to control the births of unwanted young.

Females are thrown in a truck, sterilized against their will. The males aren't bothered one bit. And this has angered quite a few women, including several colleagues who are moms.
Read on.
So let's just ask the tough question:

Do females have the right to choose in Highland Park if they have four legs and their kids have antlers?
. It's about deer. Or is that all?
"I think it's long in coming that women feel like this," said Diane Hughes, a reader who lives in the suburb of Norridge.

"[Birth control] is always their responsibility," she said. "It always falls on the women. And I think women feel that it's about time the men take an active role in preventing, or in using birth control."

"What about the bucks? If they sterilize the bucks, that would do it," Hughes said, expressing frustration that the doe is badly treated. "She's thrown into the wild to recuperate on her own with a little antibiotic and a `There you go, babe.'"

Should they give the doe counseling?

"That would be ridiculous," Hughes replied. "But I mean there's more to it than just letting her out. You take away her femininity, her reproduction."
Kass explains why does, rather than bucks, are sterilized. And it's not some sort of misogynistic plan:
It doesn't make scientific sense to sterilize the bucks, she said, because a frisky buck will travel miles and miles for recreational purposes. In other words, the local does still can be impregnated by the buck version of traveling salesmen.

Where's Osama?

(AP) - U.S. officials say there has been little or no sign of bin Laden since last December. There is speculation that he escaped into Pakistan or another country; that he remains in Afghanistan; or that he is dead.
Well, excluding any chance of him taking a spacecraft to the moon, that pretty much covers all the options.
Rumsfeld said it was "interesting to me" that no bin Laden videotape has surfaced in months.
He's got to be dead or maimed. There's no way he'd keep silent so long on purpose.

Monday, April 08, 2002

International relations, Simpsons' style:

E Online -- According to reports out of the South American country, Rio's tourism agency, Riotur, has asked its legal counsel to file a civil lawsuit (in a U.S. court) against the network over the March 31 Simpsons installment, "Blame it on Lisa."

Riotur had a cow because, from its point of view, the $18 million it spent last year to promote Rio as a really cool place to visit went down the drain the night Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa made their resort destination out to be a haven for mad monkeys, among other perceived slights.

Channel 4000 reports:

The [Minnesota] Legislature, stalled on a variety of fronts down the session's homestretch, is asking the [Minnesota] Twins [ballclub] to quit hedging on the ballpark bill and toss out a figure of how much the team is willing to put upfront to get state support for a new stadium.
Here's a hint: think of a donut, an innertube or a hula hoop and you'll have a pretty good idea what smilin' Carl is willing to pony up.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ombudsman took the week off and instead gave us a sitcom-like best corrections list. Write an intro, write the last sentence, let the list do the rest of the work. Hey, it works for "Friends."

Hey! My blog address appears on Instapundit! (Along with the other thousand blogs that also were inspired by Instapundit.)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Saddam Hussein announced Monday that Iraq would cut oil exports for 30 days, or until Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories.

A boycott would be ineffective without Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who have rejected Iraq's call to use oil as a weapon. Many Gulf states depend on oil revenues for more than two-thirds of government income and cannot afford to stop sales.

The last time oil-producing Arab nations used oil as a political weapon was in 1973, when reduced exports caused a global energy crisis. Since then, the world's wealthiest nations have created the International Energy Agency to provide a cushion against any similar disruption.

Based in Paris, the IEA can tap into 4 billion barrels of strategic oil reserves maintained by its member countries. That's equal to more than five years of Iraqi production, based on the IEA's estimate of Iraq's output in January.
How about a Western boycott of Arab oil? Don't buy any more until the terrorism stops.

I had a pleasant three-day weekend in Missouri. With my family, I went to a birthday party for my grandfather. Most of my cousins were there. I don’t see them often so it was fun getting together.

We stayed in a hotel. I like staying in hotels but always expect the worse. When we entered the parking lot there were several cars disgorging softball players. They were just getting back from a game and still and were still wearing their uniforms. What goes with softball? Beer. I figured we were in for a long night.

After checking in, two tour buses drove up. About 700 high-schoolers spilled out. Now I knew I’d never get any sleep. I wanted to register my complaint about the noise with the front desk. No one was making any noise but I figured I’d make a preemptive strike.

Turns out, everyone was well behaved and we all managed to get along peacefully.

The second night at the hotel I saw a limousine parked in front. My theory of limos is: the longer the limo, the trashier the occupants. This one, with a driver at the front and a former firefighter steering the rear wheels, didn’t punch any holes in my theory. Take a school bus, paint it black and slap a Caddy emblem on the grill and these people would have thought they died and gone to heaven. The nice thing about limousines is that they have deeply tinted windows, thus preventing me from having to see who is inside.

We drove home Sunday, following my brother, his girlfriend and my sister. We were able to rotate passengers each time we stopped. That helped make the ride home go quickly. Any time you drive 435 miles with two children and you love them at mile 435 as much as you did at mile 1 you can log that as a successful trip.

The icing on the cake this weekend was what I found in my basement. I took the suitcases right to the washing machine. In the middle of the room was my old, leaky water heater. For a moment I thought the piece of junk wasn’t content to leak in the corner and wanted to spread the destruction around a little bit. I turned and saw: a brand new water heater, completely installed. My wife’s dad stopped by our house while we were in Missouri and gave us a present. Wow. I don’t think it’s possible to thank a guy like that enough.

I didn’t blog or surf for three days. I love to blog and surf but I have no desire to read three days of postings from all my favorites and I feel no need to write extra today. I guess I can quit anytime.