Archive for November, 2005

God, what a waste of time

November 30, 2005

Lots of talk today about the decision by a federal judge who sided with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and told the Indiana House of Representatives it could open its sessions with prayer, but not sectarian prayer. (Hat tip to the Indiana Blog Review for all the links.)

Tracy Warner notes, correctly, that the case will continue to be interesting because it represents a fundamental clash between the freedom to practice religion and the freedom not to have a religion imposed on us. He also says Christians don’t have anything to fear from such cases. True, but neither do non-Christians. The House opening with a prayer isn’t exactly rounding up heretics and burning them.

Taking Down Words notes with apparent approval that this is a smackdown of House Speaker Brian Bosma, while The Dogwood Files calls it a loss for the First Amendment. I’d call it a loss for everyone involved. Lots of time, lots of money, lots of posturing on both sides, no real difference in anybody’s life no matter how it finally comes out.

Masson’s Blog does a good job of taking us through some of the wording of the decision and notes that, in pushing Christianity, Bosma went against his own policy. Liberal Indiana thinks the issue is whether all religions have a fair shot at the opening prayer. (I’m not sure about that; as I understand it, the issue isn’t who steps up to the microphone but what is said at the microphone.) Deliberate Chaos suggests slyly that this is a ploy to promote religion by making it forbidden fruit.

My first thought was that somebody — maybe the legislature, maybe the court or, God knows, maybe me — is a little unclear on what prayer is. Most religions believe their god is the only god and that only following the rules of that god will do. People who follow the rules of some other, false god are doomed. As I understand it, the point of praying is to talk to your god and make sure the two of you are straight. Just throwing out words to any god who might be listening is not praying. It’s just talking.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Not your call, Mitch

November 30, 2005

Mitch Daniels is exercising his prerogative as governor to tell the federal Department of Transportation his opinion of proposed time-zone changes. But DOT spokesman Robert Johnson puts the issue in perspective (or Daniels in his place, depending on your view):

When asked how much weight Daniels’ recommended adjustments would be given, Johnson said it would be part of the record along with opinions from congressional members, legislators, local officials and others.

"We will consider all that input, just as we consider the comments from thousands of Hoosiers on the subject before we come out with a final rule sometime in January," Johnson said.

It’s DOT’s call, in other words, and the decision will be made based on the DOT’s criteria. Daniels’ opinion will matter no more or less than anyone else’s opinion. That’s as it should be. Time zones affect more than the state they’re in and are thus a legitimate federal issue. Masson’s Blog, which has made the time-zone issue a cause, accuses the governor of breaking the law.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fat of the land

November 30, 2005

Supply your own sarcastic comments about this one. I merely note it and pass it along:

"There is no question that obesity is the underlying cause. We have identified a new problem . . ."

Uh-huh.

Read the rest of this entry »

Appeasers, take note

November 30, 2005

And the winner, at 77 million: Mao. Communists really were coldblooded monsters, and Ronald Reagan was talking about only a part of it when he (accurately) described the Evil Empire. More about the hideous math involved.

Read the rest of this entry »

Another sacrificial tree

November 30, 2005

Considering the silly White House ritual on Thanksgiving turkeys, I think President Bush should have pardoned the Christmas tree and sent it to live out its final days in a forest somewhere, or at least somebody’s back yard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Downtown

November 29, 2005

Went to the "Fifth Tuesday" City Council meeting on downtown redevelopment tonight. Some random thoughts, in no particular order:

1. BlueprintPlus has 13 catalyst projects deemed the most important to move revitalization along, but much of the two-hour-plus meeting focused on only one, the new hotel, and only on one aspect, where to put it. The original site now occupied by Belmont Beverage? Or the site now preferred by planners, a few blocks further north on Harrison? First impression: Doesn’t matter. Give the project (in one attendee’s words) to the developer who will give the city the most hotel for the least amount of city money invested. Then let the developer pick the site, since that developer will know a lot more about what will make a hotel succeed or fail than anybody in the local planning process.

2. Anything we do — especially those big projects — will be pretty much a crap shoot; they might work in helping create a vibrant downtown, but they might not. Many of the same hopes we’re now investing in the hotel and other projects were once invested in other projects that didn’t quite work as advertised. "Can anyone show me?" one person asked, "all the restaurants and businesses we have downtown now because of the Holiday Inn and Hilton?"

3. It isn’t the details of the plan that matter so much as the passion people bring to it. It was evident tonight — and Dan Carmody, the new Downtown Improvement District director, picked up on it — that there is a growing number of people committed to downtown and eager to get things done. Focusing on that reality, I hope, will keep the plan moving forward as we argue the merits of this or that portion of it. We shouldn’t get sidetracked by disagreements of a single piece, like the hotel, and just end up with another grand idea collecting dust on a shelf.

4. But the plan should be seen as organic, not set in stone. Councilman Tim Pape seemed a little defensive to me in arguing that the plan is a whole that must be advanced in total lest it all fall apart. After all, he said, we had 600 very bright, dedicated people who helped get us to this point. Are we going to start questioning them? Well, yes. As someone else pointed out (I think it was Councilman John Crawford), those 600 people represent one-quarter of 1 percent of the 250,000 people who have a stake in this. BlueprintPlus is the result of a great public-input process, but that doesn’t mean we stop getting public input. A dynamic downtown will come from a dynamic plan, and that means one open to change based on new ideas.

5. What is it we want downtown to be exactly? Ask 100 people, and you’ll likely get 100 answers, but common to all of them, I think, is the idea of a gathering place where people just feel comfortable hanging out and seeing other people doing the same thing. You see builders trying to create this atmosphere everywhere. Go to Glenbrook and walk down the middle — all of those stores on either side of you; that’s meant to feel like a Main Street. Go to Jefferson Pointe and look at the courtyard area out back; that’s like a town square. I visited an upscale shopping-destination center on the outskirts of Indianapolis recently that took it another step. It was designed to look like a small town, with side streets and everything. We have a lot of such gathering places in town — all over the place. As the town spread out, we lost the one big gathering place in the middle. If we have no core, we have less of an identity as a city.

That’s enough for now, probably. I’ll think about the meeting some more and write a lead editorial about it for Thursday’s paper. Send me your thoughts. I’d love to make them a part of the editorial. If downtown plans are to succeed, the public discussion of them needs to be a continuous process.

Read the rest of this entry »

The pontificateosphere

November 29, 2005

Now that we’ve got the blogosphere going, the word nerds at Lake Superior State want to ban the word, and all our blog-related vocabulary. Of course, they also want to ban Blue States/Red States, Flip-Flopping, Battleground States, Enemy Combatants, Pockets of Resistance and Erectile Dysfunction, so what would we blog journal pontificate about anyway?

Read the rest of this entry »

A Rose is a Rose

November 29, 2005

Pete Rose is baseball’s career hits leader, and no one who ever saw him play can doubt he put his heart and soul into the game. He is also a compulsive gambler who violated clearly understood rules about betting on his own team. Now, his eligibility for the Hall of Fame has expired, and I have mixed feelings about it. It seems overly judgmental to leave him out considering some of the cretins who are in halls of fame in other sports; isn’t the idea to reward excellence? But I get the point about not honoring people who fundamentally disrespect their teammates and their sports. Pete Rose is who he is. Is that punishment enough?

Read the rest of this entry »

He likes us!

November 29, 2005

OK, guess I have to take back my snide comment about Canadians. In a time when Americans are being lectured about the need to understand other countries and cultures, it’s refreshing to read something by someone trying to understand Americans:

My most general sense remains, that it’s the world that is going to hell, and America that is the last tenuous bastion of sanity. The spirit of anti-Americanism that is abroad, is part of the disease. It is not a cure for anything.

Read the rest of this entry »

The press of war

November 29, 2005

I think we’re at our "Walter Cronkite says we can’t win" moment with the press and Iraq. I watched the news shows on Sunday, and it was pretty clear that most of them, especially the roundtable on "Meet the Press," have already accepted that the war is a lost cause. The mainstream media have never been particulary interested in why we might be there and certainly not in reporting any news that might make the case for war. But what if they’re wrong? I don’t agree with everything Wilson says, but it would help if we at least got both sides of the story:

We have created a balance of power in the Middle East in which no regime can easily threaten any other. In doing this, we and our allies have followed a long tradition: We worked to prevent Imperial Germany from dominating Europe in 1914, Hitler from doing the same in 1940, and the Soviet Union from doing this in 1945. Now we are doing it in the Middle East.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cash will do nicely

November 29, 2005

I shouldn’t complain too much about these stupid holiday gift cards, since I’ve given them myself a time or two. But $18.48 billion on gift cards this year, up 6.6 percent from 2004? Doesn’t that just scream, "I’m too self-centered to know what you want and too lazy to try to find out"?

Read the rest of this entry »

Not the union label

November 29, 2005

Embarrassing? Well, I guess so:

For more than a year, the shirts and pants worn by agents and inspectors with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been made in Mexico.

You’d think they could have them made here by, you know, all those illegal immigrants. Oh, and this just in: Bush to focus on illegal immigration. About time.

Read the rest of this entry »

No, no al-Qaida connection, yet

November 29, 2005

I really worry about those Canadians sometimes:

"The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

No, that’s not just a typical north-of-the-border nut job. It’s A former Canadian minister of defense and deputy prime minister under Pierre Trudeau. Talk about lying about WMDs. Somebody’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Read the rest of this entry »

When first the world was wired

November 29, 2005

These days, we’re so used to miraculous discoveries coming at breakneck speed that we tend to forget what heroic undertakings they once involved. Reading about the "Vicorian Internet," note especially the lengths they went to in Australia to be involved:

By 1870, a submarine cable was heading towards Australia. It seemed likely that it would come ashore at the northern port of Darwin from where it might connect around the coast to Queensland and New South Wales.

South Australia realised it would miss out, and Charles Todd was determined that this should not happen and put in a courageous bid to run an overland telegraph line right across the heart of the Australian continent, a distance of 2,700 miles, through territory which had hardly even been explored.

It was an undertaking more ambitious than spanning an ocean. Flocks of sheep had to be driven with the 400 workers to provide food.

A little bit more daunting than two guys in a garage, yes?

Read the rest of this entry »

Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

November 28, 2005

Happy 80th birthday to the Grand Ole Opry, an American institution with a bigger Indiana connection than you might realize. Still a lot of good country music out there, even if it has drifted too far from its hillbilly roots and become another part of the corporate music culture. The good news — a lot of country stars are starting their own labels; maybe that will re-energize the music.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dynamic Daniels

November 28, 2005

Columnist George Will notices Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence and wonders if Indiana represents the wave of the future:

There is more to limited government than limiting its spending, but there will be nothing limited about government unless its spending is strenuously limited.

This does not impress Torpor Indiana or Taking Down Words, another Indiana blog. I would recommend that the both of them (as well as Masson’s Blog, which notes their comments), take the time to read Virginia’s Postrel’s insightful "The Future and its Enemies" that Daniels has taken inspiration from. She explains, among other things, why you can’t build a "bridge to the future." (Because it assumes that you’re going from one fixed point to another fixed point. The future isn’t like that — think of trying to cross a raging river on a raft. By the time you get to the other side, you will be at a point you cannot have imagined.)

I’m more impressed with Daniels because of the Postrel connection than anything else I’ve learned about him — it shows he’s a dynamist (her term). Wave of the future, indeed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Trash talk

November 28, 2005

I like my clutter. It keeps me anchored in the real world whenever I’m in danger of disappearing into the Ivory Tower of esoteric debate. Of course the clutter sometimes overwhelms me, at which point it becomes trash. I like my trash. I like the idea that I can leave it outside the house and someone will pick it up and take it away and fling it into a hole in the ground and cover it up. It’s the natural order of things.

The Journal Gazette’s Sunday Perspective section yesterday disagrees with me on this point. (To be truthful, most people probably do, but seldom spell it out so plainly.) We are being, well, wasteful, because we dump 4,000 tons of trash a day at the municipal landfill, says a lengthy piece, and the number of people recycling is dropping. This is bad because:

The 160 acres at the National Serv-All landfill, where Fort Wayne dumps its trash, will be full in 2006. The company’s recently approved 180-acre expansion is expected to last 25 to 30 years. In about 25 years, landfill space in Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana will be at a premium. Hoosiers will be forced to join their East Coast compatriots in paying outrageous sums of money to bribe other communities into taking out the garbage. The price to get rid of garbage will explode, and by then our bad habits of throwing trash away instead of recycling will be even more firmly set.

I don’t think so. This isn’t New Jersey. Most places in the country have plenty of available space for landfills, and this is one of them. We can keep digging holes and filling them up until our great, great grandchildren run out of clutter. But recycling has become almost a religion, despite the fact that it often costs more (to taxpayers) than simple disposal and can even harm the environment more. Count me an agnostic.

Recyling is done by people trapped on a desert island or otherwise needing to husband everything they have. I worry about the mindset of people who insist we are at the point where we need to do that.

Soylent Green is people!

Read the rest of this entry »

We don’t need no stinkin’ rules

November 28, 2005

Kathleen Parker takes us through the moral ambiguities involved in single parenthood and reaches the correct conclusion that:

When we celebrate single motherhood, as we have since Murphy Brown made out-of-wedlock birth a glam option for busy women, we can hardly pucker in disapproval when the next generation doesn’t know any better.

Look around at cultural signposts, from television to movies to magazines, and you see a consistent message that men are nonessential to woman’s higher reproductive prerogative.

But she misses the obvious point that these are private, religious schools, not public ones. Presumably those schools make their "morals clauses" or whatever they call them extremely clear to the people they hire; to accept employment with them is to agree to their conditions of employment. But that’s another problem we have today, isn’t it — saying we accept the rules then arguing they shouldn’t apply to us after all when we break them?

Read the rest of this entry »

No ankle roses, probably

November 28, 2005

All you women who like the prison-tattoo look — in Canada, at least, the likelihood of your honey being diseased (in body, if not in mind) has gone down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Calm down

November 25, 2005

Oh, please, stop it, stop it, stop it. This is not:

What began as an attempt to make time in Indiana a little less confusing has done the exact opposite, Hoosiers on both sides of the issue said Monday at the last of four federal time zone hearings.

This is just Hoosiers being Hoosiers. It will pass. Or not.

Read the rest of this entry »

Boys and girls

November 25, 2005

Do we unfairly treat male sex offenders more harshly than female ones? Advance Indiana, citing a case from Hamilton County, thinks so:

That teen-agers are having sex with one another is no surprise. That one of the teen-agers can be charged with a felony and, if found guilty, sentenced to jail time and required to register as a sex offender, may come as a surprise to many.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, they are evil

November 25, 2005

I think I’ll start handing out the Kurt Vonnegut Award (the Kurt) to the people who are the least serious about the war against Islamofascism. Today’s winner, media division, goes to Chris Matthews, who thinks, among other things,

If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we’ve given up. The person on the other side is not evil. They just have a different perspective. The smartest people understand the enemy’s point of view, because they understand what’s driving them.

I understand that our enemies want to kill us. I think it would be a pretty good idea if we killed them first.

Read the rest of this entry »

The mystery solved

November 25, 2005

So, maybe the universe had an intelligent designer, who used evolution as a tool. There now, was that so hard?

Read the rest of this entry »

Gobble, gobble

November 25, 2005

Both Democratic and Republican presidents have engaged in this annual Thanksgiving farce, so I’m not being political when I say it’s a cynical reminder of the worst in politics, pretending one thing when the reality is quite something else and even getting school kids to go along with the hypocrisy. What about the millions of turkeys that weren’t pardoned? You gotta love PETA, though:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which in the past has been critical because presidential turkeys have been sent to a working farm rather than an animal sanctuary, praised the decision to send them to Disneyland.

I must say that our Thanksgiving turkey was mighty tasty, and I even felt good about saving it from a fate worse than death. How would you like to spend the rest of your life among the tourists at Disneyland?

Read the rest of this entry »

We’re not alone

November 25, 2005

Just in case you thought Indiana was the only state with court-mandated property tax changes:

The Texas Supreme Court declared Tuesday that the property tax system that supports the state’s public schools is unconstitutional, and it gave the Legislature until June 1 to come up with a new way to pay for education.

It sounds like the problem is that the state doesn’t contribute enough, which means that all the local property taxes that fund education become, in effect, a statewide property tax, which goes against the state constitution. Those pesky things!

Read the rest of this entry »