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  • January 30, 2006

    The Bushification of the Americas (or how Canada learned to stop worrying and love the Right)

    [Posted by ]

    Some liberal reaction to the recent Canadian elections got me to thinking about the way that many on the looney left have personified conservative policies in the form of the three-headed boogey man "BushRoveCheney". Much like the Daily Mirror wondered how Americans could be so dumb as to elect Bush to a second term, left-wing Americans now wonder how Canadians:

    went out and did a truly bewildering thing. They elected a right-wing zealot named Stephen Harper as their new prime minister.

    A guy who not only is anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage but wants to bolster the country's ties to the neocons in the Bush administration. A guy who belongs to the evangelical Christian Ministry Alliance and once denounced his own country as a "northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term."

    A guy who hinted he might follow the lead of the Bushites and withdraw Canada's support for the Kyoto accord.

    Notice how the author makes all of these issues and policies all about Bush? American law and policy on gay marriage, abortion, health care and Kyoto are reduced to being edicts of Bush. It's as if the American public has nothing to do with American policies on these issues.

    Liberals like to derisively refer to the President as "King George" and imply that he's guilty of horrendous abuses of power. But the fact remains that we are a democracy and the course of America, whether on social issues or the War on Terror is directed by the people. Right now, the American people overwhelmingly reject gay marriage. They roundly rejected massive health care reform in the Clinton era. They voted for the President because they believed in what he was doing to fight the War on Terror. You may disagree with these policies, but please realize that you disagree with the majority of Americans, not just with "the Bushites".

    Whether liberals realize it or not, George W. Bush has faced his last election. They won't have George to kick around any more. It's hard to run against the boogey man when the boogey man is kicking back on his ranch in Texas. The looney left will have to either find a new monster or will actually have to come to terms with the painful truth that many, many Americans disagree with them on fundamental issues. You can't win these people over by shouting that "Bush lies!". You have to articulate your own ideas and solutions and vision for the country.

    The Right in Canada found the right direction, it'll be interesting if the Left in America finds their way too.

    Posted by at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

     

    January 29, 2006

    I wish I knew how to quit you, Joel McNally

    [Posted by ]

    Why do I keep reading Madison's Capital Times? I know it's going to tick me off. I know at least once a week they'll print a moonbatesque editorial from the likes of John Nichols or my personal favorite, Joel McNally. But still, I keep coming back for more. Today, McNally wrote a particularly obnoxious article about the Milwaukee dems who slashed the tires on GOP "get out the vote" vans on Election Day 2004. It seems like he's a little ticked himself. Ticked that people think the tire-slashing incident is a big deal:

    A minor vandalism charge turned into a sensational trial running longer than last year's homicide trial in which Chai Soua Vang was convicted of murdering six Wisconsin hunters and wounding two others.

    There were two very bad reasons why this two-bit case was so grossly overcharged and overplayed. One was politics. The other was a connection to prominent African-American public officials.

    Two of the five young men accused of tire poking were the sons of Congresswoman Gwen Moore and former acting Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt.

    All five were, gasp, Democratic activists accused of temporarily disabling vans rented by the Republican Party to help get their voters to the polls on the day of the 2004 presidential election.

    The state Republican Party was successful in getting not only a Democratic district attorney, but also the media to view minor vandalism as nothing less than an assault on democracy and our sacred right to vote.

    I'm going to ignore McNally's attempt to imply that the slashers were targeted because they were black. Instead, I'd like to ask him how this incident wasn't an assault on democracy and our sacred right to vote? The disabled GOP vans had the sole purpose that day of helping people get to the polls who otherwise couldn't. They'd be used to pick up folks who were too poor or sick or old to make it to their polling place on their own. In short, the kind of people who rely on these vans are the kind of people who don't have a lot of other options if they don't show up. It boggles the mind that the same person who thinks that long lines and bad equipment is worse than election fraud thinks this is just some harmless, youthful mischief.

    Posted by at 07:44 PM | Comments (1)

     

    January 27, 2006

    Whatever happened to the fine art of compromise?

    [Posted by ]

    Wisconsin may soon join 46 other states and allow its residents to carry concealed weapons. While Governor Jim Doyle vetoed the measure, there may be enough votes to override him. This is a contentious issue in the state that pits the right wing gun advocates against the left wing peaceniks. One side has to lose and everyone comes out of the battle a little bitter and a little angry. Is that the kind of atmosphere that's most conducive to effective lawmaking? Of course not. Lawmakers need to learn how to compromise. They need to get a little even when they lose and give a little even when they win. When the Founding Fathers left Philadelphia, no one got exactly what they wanted, but the United States emerged with one of the finest documents ever created. Sometimes when no one wins, we all win.

    So in that spirit of compromise, I propose that some Democratic lawmakers vote for the concealed-carry law. In turn, some Republicans should vote against any measures to ban gay marriages and/or civil unions. Let the gun nuts pack heat. Let the gays get married. Let people vote without ID and let kids sing Christmas carols again. No one will be perfectly happy, but I bet we'll have a better country for it.

    Posted by at 10:11 AM | Comments (11)

     

    January 26, 2006

    Wisconsin: Life in Balance

    [Posted by ]

    Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has come out with a Land Legacy Report that is supposed to "identify places critical to meet Wisconsin's conservation and outdoor recreation needs over the next 50 years." The DNR asked a lot of questions about what kinds of wildlife and habitats we should protect, but the question that struck was the most was this simple one:

    What special places will our children and grandchildren wish we had protected?

    That's a great way to think about environmentalism. People get frustrated with extremist environmentalism that seems to regard human beings as a blight on the earth. This type of question harkens back to a different kind of environmentalism, which I'd classify as a "love of the land". As DNR land specialist John Pohlman says:

    People are passionate about the areas they love. They really care about what's here now. And they care about the future. They want to leave a legacy. They want to leave a legacy for their grandkids.

    The ideal is that we balance our economic needs with this primal need for beauty and wide open spaces. For some reason I'm reminded of a quote from Roger Ebert's review of the film "Koyaanisqatsi" (life out of balance):

    This film has one idea, a simplistic one. It contrasts the glory of nature with the mess made by man. But man is a messy beast, given to leaving reminders of his presence all over the surface of planet Earth. Although a Hopi word is used to evoke unspoiled nature, no Hopis are seen, and the contrast in the movie doesn't seem to be between American Indian society and Los Angeles expressways, but between expressways and a beautiful world empty of man. Thanks, but no thanks.

    A life (and by extension, a state) in balance isn't so much about going back to nature, but rather incorporating the natural world into our lives now and our plans for the future. It's kind of amazing to say this about a government agency, but I think they're going about this in exactly the right way.

    On, Wisconsin indeed.

    Posted by at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

     

    January 25, 2006

    Purdue Football Player Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

    [Posted by ]

    Purdue's football team had a bad year on the gridiron (3-5 in the Big Ten) and it looks like things aren't getting any better in the offseason. Tight End Garret Bushong was arrested back in September for drunk driving and just pled guilty to operating while intoxicated last week. If that wasn't bad enough, Bushong decided to write an editorial in Purdue's student newspaper about the incident. Now, you'd think that Bushong would express regret for a poor decision. You'd be wrong. Instead, he declared that "Newspaper stories make athletes look bad":

    This letter is a shoutout to all of the athletes of Purdue. I am personally sick and tired of all the bad ink we are getting, and it is really time to put an end to it. Yeah, I got an OWI, so what! It's over, and everyone now knows about it. It's not like 300 other students on this campus haven't gotten one, yet the names of those people are not put on the front page of the Exponent followed up three months later by a headline on the back page of the Sports section.

    Bushong sounds like one of those reality TV contestants who bitch about unflattering editing. Garret honey, the newspapers will have a much harder time making you look bad if you don't actually do bad things.

    As if his whining wasn't bad enough, Bushong compounds his latest error by actually threatening the media (and, I think, the rest of the student body):

    We run this place and if anyone begs to differ, I'll say what my good buddy Brandon Kirsch once said. "You know where to find me, locker number three, so come and say what you need to say to my face."

    Oh my. Have politicians considered this policy? Perhaps the next time a reporter asks President Bush a particularly obnoxious question he should just refer them to the 101st Airborne.

    Predictably, Bushong's letter ticked off a lot of his fellow Boilermakers and he was forced to issue an apology. But clearly this kid can't a)write an apology on his own or b)write an actual apology. Here's a snippet:

    "My thoughts published in the Jan. 23 edition of the Exponent have set off a reaction that I could not have predicted and really regret," Bushong's apology reads. "When I wrote the letter, I was trying to communicate directly to other football players and other student-athletes who feel as I do."

    This is a perfect example of the modern apology. You don't actually say you're sorry for something, you instead apologize for how someone else reacted to what they said. The implication is that you are innocent and that the injured party is overreacting.

    Of course, for every Garret Bushong, there's someone who does get it:

    Senior tennis athlete Paul Rose said athletes are public figures. They are in the spotlight and have to represent Purdue in a positive manner all the time.

    "Most of us are getting paid to go to school here and you have to represent the school that way," Rose said. "Sometimes it may seem unfair, but it's about making good choices."

    In fact, athletes at Purdue are getting "paid" to the tune of nearly $30,000 ($16K for in-state athletes) in tuition, room and board.

    I love college athletics. There are few things better than a football Saturday or a Friday night chant of "Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!". I appreciate the hard work that these student athletes put in both on the field and in the classroom. I'm not alone in those thoughts. Athletes get special treatment from everyone. Perfect strangers want to shake their hands and buy them drinks. The downside of that is that perfect strangers also want to read and hear about it when they screw up.

    You take the good. You take the bad. You take 'em both and there you have the facts of life. Hmm, maybe the facts of life aren't on any syllabi at Purdue ;-)

    Posted by at 06:58 PM | Comments (3)

     

    Yahoo's Picture Tells A Thousand Words

    [Posted by ]

    You can tell a lot about a news organization's editorial bent by the pictures they choose to illustrate a story. For example, check out The Guardian's 2004 election special coverage. Nearly every picture of President Bush has him making a stupid face. Now, critics of the President might argue that that's just his regular face, but I think we all know
    better.

    Yesterday, Yahoo! was similarly revealed in an otherwise innocuous story about troop levels. Check out the picture of the troops listening to the President's speech at Fort Riley. The crowd looks bored beyond belief and two people are clearly sleeping. I'm not saying the AP should only provide (and Yahoo! should only publish) pictures of soldiers enthusiastically cheering, but since coverage of the speech at Kansas State made it sound like a pretty interesting affair, I think they had their choice of some more neutral photos.

    I believe Bread. A picture can paint a thousand words, but that doesn't necessarily make those words true.

    Posted by at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

     

    January 24, 2006

    Is Tivo Getting Preachy?

    [Posted by james]

    Ah, the Tivo - what a wonderful invention. TV on your schedule, TV on demand. The downside is that even though you pay a $13 per month service fee (or a one time $300 fee) Tivo still peppers the little Tivo menu with constantly changing paid advertisements each time the box connects to the Tivo program information service.

    The Tivo also has a feature called "suggestions" where it records shows that it thinks you might like, based on the shows that it knows you do like. It's not a very advanced feature - it only "knows" what you like or dislike when you give a show a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down," and even then, it only keys to genres. So if I give "Law and Order" a thumbs-up, it thinks "oh, he likes genres 'drama' and 'crime,' and then sets out to record all kids of programs in each of those categories.

    Given how simple this system is, I have to wonder why my Tivo took it upon itself to record a 30 minute paid advertisement for "Feed the Children." After all, I have "Paid Programming" marked as three-thumbs-down (translation: "I hate Paid Programming"), and I have never in my life given the blasted machine any indication that I prefer shows in the "Fundraiser" genre. Is this a simple case of my Tivo being delightfully incompetent, or did someone at Tivo-central think this was a worthy cause and send out a command causing millions upon millions of Tivos across the country to record this garbage?

    Is this a great Save-The-Children-Tivo conspiracy? Is the Tivo just that bad at picking out shows to record? I don't know. It could just as easily be either.

    But I do know one thing - I can handle bad suggestions from the Tivo. I'll even tolerate the ads. But what I won't stand for is my Tivo becoming a political soapbox, shilling for whatever cause-du-jour the Tivo Execs deem worthy.

    Save the Children? "No thanks." "Not today." "I gave at the office."

    Three thumbs down.

    Posted by jkhat at 11:12 AM | Comments (7)

     

    January 21, 2006

    Immigration Solution?

    [Posted by james]

    I'm not normally one to read email "forwards," and I'm certainly not one to rebroadcast them, but I think this one may be on to something.

    "We know exactly where one cow with mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in America but we haven't got a clue as to where thousands of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of immigration."

    Posted by jkhat at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

     

    Wisconsin State Quarter Redux

    [Posted by james]

    Madison, WI News Channel 3 charges limpingly into 2006 with year-old breaking news about misprints on the Wisconsin state quarter:

    Misprinted State Quarters Worth A Mint? Quarters With Extra Leaf Worth More Than $50 Each

    POSTED: 7:49 pm CST January 20, 2006
    UPDATED: 8:21 pm CST January 20, 2006

    When you hear this news, you're almost certainly going to break open your piggy bank to look for a certain quarter.

    The talk among coin collectors is that there is a tiny mistake on some but not all Wisconsin state quarters. That makes this 25-cent coin worth more than two bits.

    A normal Wisconsin quarter features a cow, a block of cheese, and an ear of corn. But during the minting of the 2004 D-series, an extra leaf appeared on the bottom left side of the corn. A low leaf and a high leaf are extremely rare.

    The U.S. Treasury Department says the bulk of these quarters was released in Ohio and Arizona.

    If you find one of 50,000 in circulation, it'll have a little bit of wear on it. It's probably worth around $50.

    Wisconsin quarters with the extra leaf are fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay.

    Embarassingly enough (for them), this news was "hot" when we originally covered it, back in February 2005 - almost one full year ago!

    See our full February 2005 quarter coverage, including close-up photos of the printing flaw, by clicking here

    And if any News 3 staff is reading, I have a hot tip for you - **MUST CREDIT DUMMOCRATS** I have it on excellent authority that George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

    You heard it here first.

    Posted by jkhat at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

     

    January 19, 2006

    When Reporters Won't Report

    [Posted by ]

    Do reporters have an obligation to protect the privacy of student athletes?
    I wonder because shortly before the Wisconsin Badger basketball team tipped
    off against Ohio State last night, the University announced that two
    players did not make the trip to Columbus. Greg Stiemsma was on a "leave of
    absence for personal medical reasons" while Marcus Landry was simply
    "ineligible". In the past couple of years two other Badgers, Boo
    Wade and DeAaron Williams permanently left the team for mysterious
    "personal medical reasons". Is there more to it than that? Due to HIPAA
    privacy regulations
    , universities are prohibited from disclosing
    medical information about athletes without their consent. That's all well
    and good, but what if the University of Wisconsin is using a very
    broad definition of "medical reasons" and hiding behind the law so that
    they don't have to answer any tough questions?

    I'm not accusing Badger coach Bo Ryan of anything. I have no idea what's
    happening with these kids. I would, however, like to know. While
    HIPAA prevents universities from saying what's going on, it doesn't, as far
    as I know, prevent the media from doing some digging. But that's not the
    way that some members of the local media see it. I was listening to a
    sports talk show and the host was absolutely adamant that no more
    questions be asked about this. He was content to just wait for the next
    official statement to come across the AP wire. He seemed to think that
    college athletes had some extra-special right to privacy and how dare we,
    the tax-paying public, ask questions or speculate!

    Sometimes I think we get confused about our rights. People cried
    "censorship" when radio stations refused to play the Dixie Chicks after
    they ripped on President Bush. Not everyone understands what exactly the
    Constitution says (myself included). The 1st Amendment states that the
    government can't restrict free speech, it doesn't say anything about
    private enterprises. Likewise, the fact that the a university can't
    disclose medical information doesn't mean that others are barred from
    talking. An enterprising reporter could, for example, call a player's
    roommate or his parents or his girlfriend and try to get the scoop.
    They can tell the public what's really going on.

    But, they can't do this if they refuse to go after the story. It occurs to
    me that one of the reasons that the internet is a more and more popular
    news choice is because it gives the public a chance to hear the whole
    story. They can circumvent the traditional news media when they take it
    upon themselves to act as a gatekeeper. Basketball fans will hop on message
    boards and try to get to the heart of the matter. Soldiers in Iraq will
    start blogs to tell their story of what's happening on the ground.
    Members of the vast right wing conspiracy will analyze documents and prove
    that they are forgeries.

    People are always going to want and need information. The fact that
    reporters don't always want to provide that information doesn't make the
    need go away. It simply opens up opportunities for other information
    providers and further erodes the public's trust in the mainstream media.

    Posted by at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

     

    January 18, 2006

    Exaggeration Abuse

    [Posted by james]

    New York State requires grade school students to take state-wide standardized tests. The New York Daily News reports on a small problem with a recent administration:

    Five of the multiple-choice questions on the reading test asked students to select the answer from options A, B, C or D. But when the 65,000 kids went to darken the bubbles on their answer sheets, the only options were F, G, H or J.

    ...

    State educrats acknowledged the confusion but said schools were alerted to the problem before the exam began at 9:15 a.m.

    "Students were then given instructions for correctly answering questions 18-22," said Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the state Education Department.

    Hmm, problem solved, right? There was a small, almost inconsequential problem with five of the questions, and the students were notified of the problem before the exam even started. You'd think that would solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction, right? Think again.

    "This is child abuse," said Jane Hirschmann of Time Out from Testing, who demanded the test results be scrapped.

    (emphasis added)

    Whoa! Five miskeyed questions is Child Abuse?! If that's child abuse, then I might be the most abused child in the history of the world.

    People like Jane Hirschmann know no bounds with their ridiculous assertions and overreactions. They are so keyed to their beliefs and agendas that if you disagree with them, you're a"Nazi." If you don't support one of their government programs, you're a "racist." And now, if you want to administer an exam in school, you're a child abuser.

    And they then wonder why people like me roll their eyes as soon as they even open their mouths.

    Posted by jkhat at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

     

    January 17, 2006

    Ban the Burqa?

    [Posted by ]

    On November 2, 2004, Americans elected George W. Bush for a second term. On that same day, an Islamofascist thug shot and then stabbed filmmaker Theo van Gogh to death on the streets of Amsterdam. While the Daily Mirror famously wondered how 59,054,087 people could be so dumb, the Dutch wondered how their famously tolerant society should react to the extreme intolerance exhibited by the Islamofascist foxes in their hen house.

    To many in Holland, assimilation is the answer. To that end, the Dutch government is considering a ban on the burqa outside the home. To me, this is a dilly of a pickle. On one hand, I agree with the notion that European Muslims need to assimilate into their new countries. By assimilation, I don't mean that I think they have to become just like Westerners, but rather that they have to accept the basic notion of living in a secular liberal democracy. The constitution, not the Koran, is the law of the land. On the other hand, where the hell does the government, any government get off telling someone what they can and cannot wear. That's not freedom!

    But is the burqa really religious? Isn't it just a hideous sack that women have been forced to wear because they live in societies that teach that women's bodies are wicked and that if they're exposed men can't be expected to respect them. Muslim women in Holland may very well want to abandon the burqa en masse, but they don't wield the power within their own household to do so. So, in a sense, perhaps the government isn't preventing them from doing anything, it's actually empowering them to do what they want.

    Enlightened Americans and Europeans have been taught to respect other cultures. We hesitate to say that the practices of one culture are wrong. But seriously, who wants to stand up and say that they believe it's okay for women to be second-class citizens (at best)? No one does, so instead people fall back on the idea that Muslim women want to wear a burqa, they want to be the victim of an honor killing, they want to not be able to vote or drive or work outside the home. These same folks would have heard slaves singing in the cotton fields and decided that they were fine and dandy being slaves and how dare we force our Northern values on them! I'm not buying it. I was brought up to believe that everyone, male or female, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc. has the same right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    All that said, I think banning the burqa would be a stupid move. Are the Dutch really prepared to arrest every woman in a burqa? Furthermore, I think that the law would spark some popular defiance by Muslims of every stripe (fascists and reasonable) who would feel that their religion is under attack. I wouldn't blame them. I'd be pissed as hell if the US Government decided I couldn't wear a cross for some reason. I don't wear a cross now, but the second it was banned would be the second I'd start.

    So what are the Dutch to do? In America, immigrants had to assimilate to succeed. To get a job, they had to learn English. To fit in, they adopted some of the customs of their new homeland. The market took care of a lot of things. Holland, like much of Europe, is such a generous welfare state that those same market pressures don't exist. Around 16% of Muslims in Holland are unemployed. That's a hell of a lot of people who have nothing better to do than sit around and discuss how rotten Dutch society is. Perhaps if the safety net weren't so wide, more of Holland's immigrants would learn that the key to success in the Western is more than just the right passport. Call me crazy, but I think that people with homes and jobs and wives and kids that depend on them for survival are much less likely to bomb things or kill people because they don't like their movies.

    I do wonder if it's possible for a society to be both modern and Muslim. I think what Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has tried to do in Dubai is as close as any country has gotten. I'm fascinated by Sheik Mohammed. He has the soul of a great entrepreneur combined with unimaginable resources and nearly absolute power. But that absolute power is what bothers me. It's one thing to be modern and Muslim, but what about being modern, Muslim and free? Maybe that's impossible and that's what Europe's Christians and its Muslims are going to have to deal with sometime soon.

    Posted by at 10:56 AM | Comments (5)

     

    January 16, 2006

    The Plank Is Now Raised

    [Posted by John Tant]

    I hope if you wanted to buy a house in Virginia, you bought it before today.

    Governor Tim Kaine was just sworn in and will give his first public policy speech to the General Assembly tonight. In it, he will offer his solution to our transportation problems: halting housing development until roads are "adequate." He says he'll allow local governments to put the kibosh on development unless they decide roads are sufficient to handle the traffic.

    If you don't think too much about it, it sounds reasonable. But I've spent a fair chunk of my life in areas where development was subject to such things (and things even more subjective, like "aesthetics" in the case of Telluride, CO) and here's how it usually works: Development slows to a crawl. In an spot like the DC Metro area, that's a boon for our already sky-high real estate prices. We have robust demand and limited supply, meaning prices go high and stay high. And now we're talking about limiting supply further, meaning those prices will go higher.

    This is all fine in theory of course, but let's talk dollars. Specifically, mine. I bought my house six years ago. I had the place appraised a few months ago and it has tripled in value. In six years. Now it's one heck of an appreciation on my initial investment, but then if I want to move I'm going to have to buy at that price unless I want to live in West Virginia. With this new proposal, there would be little chance of that ever coming down in the near future. Which is fine for me, I guess. I got mine six years ago, mostly through dumb luck in buying at the right time and I now have enough equity to realistically buy another house nearby if I wanted. But what about those people who don't have theirs yet?

    That's right. This is even more dire for those who are scrimping and saving to buy their own houses...you know, the working class joes the Democrats in the state are claiming to want to help. By limiting development, Kaine is limiting the supply of new housing, meaning existing housing will again rise in price and make home ownership more difficult for those working guys (and lest we forget, property taxes are based on assessed value, meaning our taxes will go up as a result...).

    Oh, Kaine might say....but the development could only be limited until roads are "adequate." OK, I might reply, but is VDOT going to spend a lot of money and resources building a road BEFORE it's needed? That's to say, in a time when they are complaining about not having enough money despite an unnecessary $1 billion tax increase a couple of years ago, are they going to use their money to expand roads in an area that isn't even developed? Or are they going to focus where people are complaining...ie where it's already developed? And what's "adequate," anyway? That's why I say this will slow development to a crawl.

    So if you have yours now, congratulations. Kaine is raising the plank behind y'all so others can't get theirs.

    Posted by John Tant at 10:19 AM | Comments (2)

     

    Guilt and Darwinism

    [Posted by John Tant]

    My wife recently introduced yet another animal show to me. It's on the National Geographic channel and features a guy in Los Angeles who is the Grizzly Adams of the dog world. Called The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milian goes around and helps people who have difficulty with their dogs. Whether it's a dog who always pulls at the leash, jumps on people, pees on the carpet, or indulges in many other bad behaviors, Cesar comes onto the scene and magically sets things right. And then he moves on, his work done and leaving appreciation and awe in his wake.

    I was watching one show this weekend which featured a lady and her pug. The pug was bad news, always running away, jumping on guests, and barking up a storm. Cesar's main strategy is to use techniques which make the dog see his place in the world, as a follower of the "pack leader" owner. And it works. He ran the lady through some exercises and the dog started to obey. But that isn't what grabbed me about this episode, even though I have two dogs which could benefit from these exercises. It was something he said.

    I'll have to paraphrase this because I don't have the episode handy, but Cesar was talking about the owner's attitude toward her dog. She said she felt guilty about certain aspects of the dog's life, to which Cesar pointed out that the animal world has no concept of "guilt." Human beings rationalize things by saying "oh, you've had a hard life so here's an extra bone" or "well, it's OK that the dog runs around because he misses our old home in Florida." But the dog doesn't care about any of that. The dog only sees the ability to get more food or more privileges, and will tailor behavior around that since it gives him an advantage. Darwinism, man...that stuff that is considered unassailable by the Education establishment.

    And that got me thinking.

    If true, and I actually think Milian's basic point holds, then I think it can be applied to quite a bit more than some pug's behavioral tendencies. For instance, let's take a look at how the Democrats want to handle terrorism (before I would have said the fringe of the Democrat party, but Howard Dean moved this type of thing into their mainstream). We are to bear blame for the attacks upon us, for whatever reason. Instead of furthering the "cycle of violence," in which there is no right party because in the world of moral relativism we're all guilty, we should take the high road, understand the beef our attackers have with us, reach out and talk talk talk with them. After all, we bear guilt for those people wanting to kill us.

    In the meantime, our attackers, much like the errant canine in the show, have a worldview where guilt doesn't enter into the equation. The endgame for them is to gain an advantage over us, and if exploiting our guilt gets them one then they will be all for it. They'll come up with reasons we should feel guilty, and we can oblige them by wallowing in it.

    Let's take another one. Race relations in the US haven't been as smooth as some would like (but to be fair, they have been and are smoother than in many other places in the world). Without a doubt, slavery was evil, which is why the US ended it. And yes, many black people have suffered. But today much if not all of that has been addressed. And yet look at the race baiters of Jesse Jackson and Al "This Is Not My Suit" Sharpton. Anything those guys can do to get an advantage for their followers, they will do. Use guilt? Heck, they use it by the carload! And now they have a SCOTUS decision that says it's OK to discriminate college admissions based on race.

    Or another one. Gays in this country are an extreme minority of the population. Even if we go with the wildly inflated figure of 10%, that still means 90% of this country is straight. And yet check out the political and social influence wielded by that 10%. If 10% of this country believed that electricity was evil, do you think that would ever be treated as mainstream? No. But our society affords gays with influence greatly disproportionate to their number, and still it isn't enough. The current demand is to redefine the basic structure of marriage, with far reaching and serious consequences that are too huge to fully grasp. And how is that being advanced? Because we're made to feel guilty about being "homophobes" if we don't acquiesce. Guilt as a way to gain advantage? I can think of no clearer case.

    Earlier I made a comment about Darwinism. Is all of this not social Darwinism at play? Survival of the fittest played out on a sociological stage? I also made a comment about Darwinism in general being treated as fact. Isn't social Darwinism similarly true then? Lefties sure seem to think so. You see this attitude in the rotting stench of some of Teddy Kennedy's speeches...that poverty causes crime, as if a criminal has no free will of his own and is forced to rape and kill little old ladies for his crack habit. The fish is programmed to eat or be eaten, and we are too since humans are no better or worse than that fish. Or is Ingrid Newkirk full of it?

    And similarly, is it so out of the pale to think that groups instinctively look for advantages when it comes to survival? That exploiting guilt, a human concept, could be one way to gain that advantage? I understand guilt (I'm a recovering Catholic, after all)...but as public policy, it sucks. I think it's time we started recognizing that and stopped substituting guilt for policy arguments.

    Posted by John Tant at 08:58 AM | Comments (8)

     

    January 12, 2006

    Pat Robertson Issues Non-Apology

    [Posted by Laura]
    "My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," the letter said.
    The letter - Page 1, Page 2

    I say "non-apology" because it appears he's only apologizing "in light" of the current national grief. Would it have been appropriate and sensitive in, say, five years? He also comments on "the holy prophet Joel and his view of the inviolate nature of the land of Israel." In other words, "The bible proves I'm correct." In the midst of his apology, Robertson is at best trying to save face, or at worst making an insincere, political apology in order to salvage his Jesusland project.

    Here's an actual apology: "I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
    No excuses, just a sincere, straightforward apology. If you spend more time on the explanation than on the apology, then I just don't believe you have the other person's best interest at heart; it's self-serving and therefore not a "real" apology. Just my two cents...

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

     

    January 11, 2006

    Do you recall Aaron Broussard?

    [Posted by Laura]

    Do you recall Aaron Broussard? He was the one on Meet the Press who told a tearful, untrue tale about how the fact his colleague Thomas Rodrigue's mother drowned in a St. Bernard nursing home was the fault of the federal government. Watch the video here. She actually died immediately after the hurricane when the flooding began, not days later and after many phone calls begging for assistance as Broussard falsely claimed. (Although Broussard claimed this was a simple misunderstanding, I don't believe it. He certainly didn't misspeak, he was reading from notes. I think the time he's spent supporting the Jefferson Performing Arts Society gave him a yen to act. Combined with a national audience and a chance to blame the federal government for his shortcomings, the temptation was irresistible.)

    Guess who else wants to recall Aaron Broussard? Many of the residents of Jefferson Parish. Broussard got his law degree in 1973 and immediately began his political career, finally being elected President of Jefferson Parish in 2003. He began his term in 2004. He made the decision to evacuate Jefferson Parish's pump operators and consequently an estimated $3 - 5 billion dollars worth of avoidable flooding occurred. This was unrelated to levee breaks, mostly in areas that never flooded before. After the hurricane many homeowners, while gutting their homes, left messages out on the side of the curb for Mr. Broussard. One sarcastic homeowner spray painted his discarded mattress, "Way to go, Aaron!" Another wrote on a large chunk of sheet rock, "F--- you Broussard!" In many Jefferson Parish neighborhoods there is trailer after trailer parked in the front yards of homes that had up to 3 feet of flooding. To add to the injury done these homeowners, they are now subject to unfair regulation by FEMA in the repair of their homes.

    Under the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA administers, a home in a flood plain that sustains 50 percent damage cannot be fixed or rebuilt unless it is raised above the flood level. Many in Jefferson Parish now live in the "Aaron Broussard Flood Plain" and are being forced to raise their homes.

    The Louisiana Weekly reported on November 21st that

    parish officials in Jefferson have discontinued issuing all new residential construction permits to allow for implementation of a policy change that will now require most flooded homes, even those with minor flooding, to be raised by as much as four feet. In order to be exempt, the new policy states that property owners must have their house reassess which would more than likely result in higher property taxes.

    Parish officials defended the move, stating that FEMA will not provide flood insurance to areas that have not made the change.

    "Cut off their sewerage and power if they don't comply," a FEMA representative reportedly told parish officials, according to a Jefferson parish insider who asked not to be identified.

    FEMA officials however, deny making any such statements saying that their role is only to provide advice not make mandates.

    At a meeting on November 15, the head of permitting for Jefferson and Kenner-which operates semi-independently of the parish as a municipality - outlined the new requirements in some depth-claiming that they did so only at FEMA's insistence. A Mr. Rodriguez, representing Jefferson Parish, explained that at this point the public bodies are working off the FEMA flood plain map that was in force prior to the storm. They indicated that not every flooded house in Jefferson would have to be raised, just most.
    ...
    Commercial contractor Bill Carvin told The Weekly that the average cost to life a house is $35,000. FEMA is giving $20,000 grants to do the job. He wondered how people, impoverished by Katrina already, could afford the extra expense.

    In theory, Parish officials could overrule FEMA's "advice", but representatives in President Aaron Broussard's office argue that these homes could not ever receive flood insurance as a result. When it was offered that this could be a stealth property tax increase as well, the Jefferson staffers who spoke to The Weekly on background, acknowledged the point, but said, "There's nothing we can do about that if people want to fix their houses."

    Broussard cried about the cavalry coming to rescue his parish. What he didn't realize is that the first step of the long-term effort to rescue our parish is to remove him from office. That will not solve all our problems, but it's a good start. After he is recalled, he'll have plenty of time to focus on the ongoing investigation and federal subpoena he was issued regarding Jefferson Parish courthouse corruption just before Hurricane Katrina struck.

    We're also working on recalling Governor Kathleen Blanco. I don't worry too much about her after she's unemployed, though - she can probably get a job on a decorating show. The good news is she'll have to use someone else's budget to pay for her Swedish granite.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

     

    January 05, 2006

    Idle Thought

    [Posted by John Tant]

    If Ariel Sharon's recent stroke is as one "radical Palestinian leader" described:

    "We say it frankly that God is great and is able to exact revenge on this butcher. ... We thank God for this gift he presented to us on this new year,"

    And if it's true that, as the AP is reporting, Sharon is now breathing on his own, not dependent upon artificial support, and may make some measure of recovery, is that not God's repudiation of that radical Palestinian? Or is God an indian giver?

    Posted by John Tant at 02:37 PM | Comments (4)

     

    January 03, 2006

    Stop Funding the New Orleans Katrina Recovery - for now at least.

    [Posted by Laura]

    Louisiana politicians cannot be trusted with your money. Don't let them have it. Contact your congressional leadership today, and ask them to turn off the tap for Katrina funding for Louisiana until our politicians are replaced or accept a great deal more supervision in their spending. I posted about this in my personal blog in November, but after the news this week that our esteemed Governor Blanco saw fit to spend half a million taxpayer dollars on office renovations, with

    hookups and mounts for two flat screen televisions, Swedish granite countertops, walnut paneling and frosted laminated glass
    on a floor not even accessible to the public, I wanted to make this appeal to a larger audience.

    While her constituents are living in tents and FEMA trailers - many that leak and have tarps on the roof - she's having Swedish granite countertops installed. This is indefensible, given how much time she's been spending begging for Federal money. Every available dollar Louisiana has ought to be dedicated to recovering from this disaster. We should not be blowing money on redecoration when public health care and education are slated to be cut 20% and 18,000 state employees will be laid off. That half a million dollars could have been spent on critical needs.

    I live here, and my family and my business will be affected by a loss of federal funding for the recovery. Nevertheless, I'm asking for that to happen. We Louisianians will be getting what we deserve. Elections have consequences, and maybe if the rest of the country just says no to funding our wasteful and corrupt government, we might demand more from our elected officials.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 06:39 PM | Comments (11)

     


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