Archive for January, 2006

The speech

January 31, 2006

Here’s the complete text of the president’s State of the Union speech.

There were two distinct parts of the speech — foreign policy and America’s place in the world, and domestic policy. On the first part, an A+. On the second part, a B-. Overall, he didn’t sound like a president down in the polls, and I’d guess this will move his numbers up.

1. Bush connected every dot he needed to on foreign policy. The war in Iraq=war on terror=the march of freedom in the world=surveillance of terrorists (not domestic spying)=we will not be isolationist or protectionist. He spent the first half of the speech on this theme (even throwing in Ronald Reagan’s "evil empire" phrase) then came back to it in the end. At every great moment in history, he said, there comes a time of choice. We can decide to turn back or "end well." He made a stirring case for liberty and self-government and America’s obligation to foster those values in the world. Unless Democrats get a clue, they will never, ever win on this issue.

2. On domestic issues, the president did not, as many feared, present a long laundry list of big, expensive initiatives. His proposals on things like education, health care and energy were, all things considered, relatively modest. But he did convey the impression that the federal government has both the authority and ability to make major differences in American lives. At least he tried to frame the issues in a sensible way — to make us more competitive in the world — and he called for making tax cuts permanent, letting us keep more of our money. It would have been nice if, when painting the picture of the crisis to come when baby boomers retire, he had acknowledged how his Medicare prescription drug plan has made the crisis even worse.

3. The Democrats trotted out a moderate Democratic governor to respond to the speech. Pretty lame, but at least the extreme nuts were kept off stage. The gist seemed to be, "We have a better way." So, I guess the president’s goals are fine; the Democrats would just achieve them differently. Message I got: Democrats don’t reallly have a message.

4. Here’s the "short review" from Instapundit, which called it about like I did, "better than expected."

5. Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the House gallery. However we score the president’s speech, this seems to be the symbol of the best the opposition has to offer.

UPDATE: Here are reactions from members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.

A COUPLE OF FURTHER THOUGHTS:

1. On wiretapping. The Democrats seem clueless that this is not a winning issue for them. Here’s what they seem to be saying: "The Bush administration is listenting in to suspected al-Qaida terrorists who might be talking to their confederates in this country. Democrats would NEVER do that." Yeah, that will win a lot of elections. When Bush talked about trying to create a better atmosphere in Washington, this is the issue I immediately thought of. Bitter partisanship has made a rational discussion of the issue almost impossible. Democrats ignore the fact that almost every modern administration, Republican and Democrat, both in war and times of peace, has used similar types of surveillance; that makes Democrats’ use of the issue to bludgeon Bush just opportunistic slime. But Republicans, in pointing this out, are interested only in defending Bush and miss an obvious point. If every president has felt able to do this, I’d say there’s a clear danger that it can be taken for granted and misused. I worry about this not because of the specifics of what President Bush is doing — it seems clearly justified to me — but because of the claims he makes that he has the authority to continue doing whatever he wants to. The war against terror is not a conventional conflict in which we can one day declare victory and rescind all the preventive measures undertaken (such as Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War). Whatever civil liberties we give up are likely to be gone forever. This is especially worrisome given that younger generations, used to all the openness brought by the communications revolution, have a much lower expectation of privacy than some of us older folks. But who is going to bring all this up for a good, healthy debate? Republicans aren’t inclined to, and Democrats have destroyed their own credibility on the issue.

2. On the Medicare prescription plan. I know someone who went to the Medicare Web site to pick a plan for her mother. One of the drugs — a very expensive one — was listed as costing only $25. But when the bill came, and they were charged $200, she called and was told, "Oh, that was a mistake; it should have said 25 percent" of the normal cost of $800. There’s a disclaimer on the site to the effect that "drug prices are subject to change without notice," so there is no appeal. They’re locked into that plan for a year now, and will pay a lot more than they did before this miracle plan came along. I talked to someone else whose pharmacist was either getting suicidal or homicidal — she wasn’t sure which — because of all the people who are yelling at him because of all the foul-ups. Pharmacists are used to being helpful and feeling people’s gratitude; they don’t like being the bad guys. I have heard stories similar to these two over and over. The Medicare prescription plan is the epitome of a bad idea badly executed; an unbelievably expensive government intrusion of dubious worth, to be as kind as possible, implemented in the most complicated, convoluted way possible — and it was pushed by a Republican president who then had the gall to give a speech warning of the impending crisis as baby boomers retire. This plan is going to be a dividing line, I think, between those who still know why they went to Washington and those who might be in danger of losing their way. Rep. Mike Pence voted against it. Rep. mark Souder voted for it.

UPDATE 2: Conservative columnist Robert Novak says Bush’s attempt to win the middle with his toned-down rehetoric was guaranteed to please neither Democrats nor Republicans. John Dickerson, on the other hand, says Bush was even more partisan and harsher than in last’s year’s speech. Hard to believe they’re talking about the same speech, huh?

UPDATE 3: Here’s our lead editorial for today on the speech, by my colleague Bob Caylor. Bob goes into greater detail on the domestic side.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Be careful of his advice

January 31, 2006

Just in case you doubted that everybody’s getting into blogging these days:

From death row in Baltimore Vernon Lee Evans doles out philosophy and advice to the curious, confused and lonely around the world on a unique blog, but his blogging days are numbered with the approach of his execution early next month.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cool is still hot

January 31, 2006

It’s comforting to know I don’t have to try to keep up with the latest slang:

Groovy is over, hip is square, far out is long gone. Don’t worry, though — it’s cool.
"Cool" remains the gold standard of slang in the 21st century, as reliable as a blue-chip stock, surviving like few expressions ever in our constantly evolving language. It has, despite the pressures of staying relevant and trendy, kept its cool through the centuries — even as its meaning changed drastically.

How cool is that?

Neat.

Read the rest of this entry »

State of the Union

January 31, 2006

I wasn’t that thrilled with my efforts at live-blogging the governor’s State of the State address. Commenting on something that’s still in progress leads to short, shallow posts lacking a lot of insight, and it’s hard to pay attention to what someone is saying right now when you’re reacting to and typing about what he said a minute ago. So for the president’s State of the Union speech tonight, I’ll do it a little differently. I’ll watch the whole thing, then post a lengthy reaction to the entire speech. If you want to weigh in, I’ll try to have it up within a half-hour of his finish.

I’m not especially optimistic about the speech. I’d like to hear something more thematic than programmatic, an uplifting address about where America is at this point and where President Bush thinks we need to go. I’ll fear we’ll get another laundry list of things the government can do for us. Given what an expensive mess the Medicare prescription program is, heaven knows where a health-care initiative might take us.

Read the rest of this entry »

Living history

January 31, 2006

We can never declare the end of history — the resolution of one conflict (such as communism vs. capitalism) usually signals but an interlude before the next struggle (like the one we’re now in between modernism and reactionary fundamentalism). Unfortunately, the political philosopher who most understood this has himself been misunderstood. If Hegel were still studied, somebody might do an interesting essay extrapolating his insights on frontiers (as long as people can pick up and move on, potential rebels become pioneers instead) into the intellectual realm. This is still a nation, despite the best efforts of unbending ideologues of all stripes, in which people can pick up and move on from orthodox thought.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clowns without borders

January 31, 2006

One more reason to find a new home for the United Nations:

The U.N. has a plan to make every Miss America Pageant contestant happy by bringing about "world peace."

All it will take, says the draft of a visionary proposal by the U.N. Development Program, is to getting rid of all the pesky nations of the world.

In fact, the plan endorsed by prominent world figures including Nobel laureates, bankers, politicians and economists to end nation-states as we know them is also designed to end health pandemics, poverty and "global warming." So far, the U.N. hasn’t mentioned whether the proposal will do anything for obesity.

Yeah, who needs that nasty old "national sovereignty"?

Read the rest of this entry »

Build it and they will . . . ?

January 31, 2006

Fort Wayne Indiana etc., a new blog in town, sounds off about the Allen County Public Library spending more than $500,000 for new chairs on a one-bid contract. Among the 1,860 Herman Miller-brand chairs are 110 chairs for staff from the Herman Miller Aeron line at a cost of $560.74 each. Not only does a review of those chairs suggest they might be a tad overpriced, but " . . . it would appear that it was purely a decision based upon keeping the aesthetic design of the new $65 MILLION dollar renovation. Gee, I wonder how many taxpayers would have voted against this . . . ?"

Meanwhile, Indiana Barrister writes about the expansion of the Central Library in Indianapolis, which isn’t going nearly as well as our project (two years behind schedule, with millions in cost overruns) and thinks it might be wise just to privatize the whole system.

Count me as one who thought the information revolution would threaten the existence of libraries. But, apparently, the current building boom is just the continuation of a trend that started a few years ago. According to the Christian Science Monitor, new library construction amounted to $686 million in 2001, the second-highest dollar total ever spent. Not only wasn’t the Internet not killing off library demand, new customers were flocking there to make use of the Web’s research capabilities. I wonder if that will last, though. Libraries have always had things we could get elsewhere — books, then things like CDs and videos — but offered a depth and variety we could never hope to match in our personal collections. But with the Internet, what they can provide access to, we can have access to, in the comfort of our homes. Unless libraries are going to sharply increase their research-assisting capabilities, to help people sort through the tons of information out there, I don’t think the Internet is going to continue to be a big draw.

I’ve wondered about a lot of recent infrastructure commitments, including our own soon-to-come multimillion-dollar press at a time when the future of the print medium is in doubt, and the recently expanded Grand Wayne Convention Center, just ahead of virtual-reality videoconferencing (note the chairs mentioned, by the way) becoming cheap enough to replace travel for many companies. The institutions that survive will the ones that can adapt, and libraries probably have as much chance as any, especially in smaller towns where they can become de facto community centers. The less we need to leave our homes, the more need we might feel to have places to gather.

Read the rest of this entry »

War and medicine

January 30, 2006

Partly because the electronic media almost lost one of their stars, we’re seeing the kind of information about Iraq that has been scarce before now. I watched "Good Morning America’s" report this morning about the injuries sustained by "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff, and it included a look at how sophisticated combat medical procedures have become. One of the biggest advances in helping wounded soldiers stay alive — begun in Korea and used heavily in Vietnam — was evacuation from the combat area by helicopter. Those who had wounds too severe to be treated in-country were whisked to the Philippines; some of them were stabilized there and later flown by plane to places like Camp Zama in Japan. But the helicopters were basically just airborne ambulances, with minimal medical care being administered. Soldiers still had to survive the ride to get any real treatment. Today, as ABC showed, there are mobile hospitals that can be parked very near the combat zone with equipment some hospitals here would be happy to have — it’s a far cry from the primitive tents you might be familiar with from "M*A*S*H." And the planes used to evacuate the most severely wounded are similarly equipped. Because of such things, ABC also points out, the casualty rate for troops in Iraq is far lower than in past wars. In World War II, 30 percent of those injured died; the rate was 24 percent in Vietnam, but in Iraq it’s only 9 percent.

It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge, but many of the great leaps in medicine have come because of war. During the Civil War, two soldiers were lost to disease for every one who died from combat. The later study of the meticulous notes kept by doctors during the war was the start of paying attention to sanitary conditions and post-operative infections; that war also marked the birth of professional nursing. The Spanish-American War brought a cure for Yellow Fever. World War I brought advances in reconstructive surgery and the study of shell-shock, now applied to people in all walks of life and known as post-traumatic stress syndrome. World War II brought the mass production of penicillin (only distributed broadly to the civilian population during the last two years of the war). And on and on.

Imagine the horror if policymakers or those in the healing arts came right out and said something like, "Look, we’re falling way behind in medical advances. Let’s put thousands of young men in a situation where they have to try to kill each other, and see what we can learn." But that’s what we do, really.

Read the rest of this entry »

By our deeds will we be judged

January 30, 2006

Why Mike Pence is becoming THE star of the conservative movement (what’s left of it, that is, in the sense of "limited federal government") — appearing on Fox News Sunday, he said:

Well, I believe President Bush has been an extraordinary commander in chief. I believe he’s demonstrated what it is to practice honor in your personal life, in Congress. And in his heart, I believe he is a conservative man.

But when you look at the domestic initiatives of the last five years, a 50 percent increase in the federal Department of Education, national testing in the fourth and eighth grade, and, candidly, Chris, when you look at the creation of the first new entitlement in 40 years, it is hard to argue that on the domestic level, up to this point, this president has practiced a conservative agenda at home.

He goes on to specifically mention the Medicare prescription program and No Child Left Behind, both of which he voted against, and calls for bringing back the line-item veto. And he closes with:

And the course of Republican governance on which turns our policies in Iraq, our posture in the world, our commitment to national defense, the sanctity of life — all of that turns on our ability to return to our roots, which are limited government, fiscal discipline, and traditional moral values. I believe you’ll see the Congress do that, Chris.

People in the public arena must be judged not on what they say they believe, or even on what they are at their core, but on what they do. Mike Pence understands this. It’s unclear if George Bush does.

Read the rest of this entry »

Safe for democracy

January 30, 2006

I always knew there was a good reason they sent me to Vietnam; it just took me awhile to figure it out: to make the country safe for American tourists who want to have the VC experience:

At the beginning of the tunnel complex here, there’s a wall draped with clothing – vests, cone-shaped peasant hats, capes in camouflage colors. Oh yes, and rifles. Real rifles, but thankfully without the ammo.

You can rent these things. And wear them while crawling through the tunnels. So much the better to feel like a guerilla.

God almighty.

Read the rest of this entry »

The real deal

January 30, 2006

For those worried aboout which radicals can come to the United States to speak or caught up in high school controversies, here is what real censorship looks like:

In the Chinese government’s latest effort to stifle dissent, propaganda chiefs have shut down one of the country’s most influential newspapers after it ran a story about distortions in Chinese textbooks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Another case of awful censorship

January 30, 2006

Show of hands: Anybody sorry that someone who "sympathizes with the resistance in Iraq" didn’t get his tenured professorship at Notre Dame? Anybody planning to write a big, fat check to the ACLU to help enable this guy to lecture us on our imperialism?

Read the rest of this entry »

You love the Colts, yes, you do

January 27, 2006

So, the Colts commission a study that ends up showing that, surprise, surprise:

When it comes to identity, excitement and pride, the people of Indiana consider the Colts important. More than that, the Colts are a good value.

And this is called a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind study, a group commissioning a survey that says exactly what it wants said? If you believe that, you’ll believe the Colts can win a playoff game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christa McAuliffe

January 27, 2006

Twenty years ago tomorrow, when we sent a teacher into space and lost her. Until the Twin Towers of 2001, that was the most gripping public moment in my memory, one of those stunning, numbing catastrophes that have people at work huddled around the TV set in shock and disbelief. I thought then, and still do, that there was at least something comprehensible about a teacher dying in pursuit of the unknown. The more we know about Christa McAuliffe, the sadder her death seems:

"I touch the future. I teach," McAuliffe tells an interviewer. "I really appreciate that sentiment. That’s going with me."

Read the rest of this entry »

Benediction

January 27, 2006

Sometimes I like a nice glass of red wine after a hard day’s work; many prefer a beer or a martini or a hit of something illegal, but I’ll take the red wine. I also enjoy a really great meal — crisp salad, a main course with a couple of side dishes, some crusty bread, a light dessert. I don’t need the meal with the wine or the wine with the meal. Each is enjoyable on its own. But one can complement the other, and there’s nothing quite like a great meal with a glass of great red wine.

I refer — metaphorically, of course — to Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical. Given the pope’s former role as the church’s doctrinal watchdog, many, including even some inside the Vatican, had expected the document to be on something "problematical," such as bioethics. But he chose instead to explore the "relatively uncontroversial meditation on love." He warns that "eros" alone risks turning men and women into mere merchandise. Only when it is coupled with "agape," the self-giving love of others, can we begin to approach God’s unconditional love for mankind. You can’t just have the red wine, in other words. You have to have the meal with it.

How can I complete the metaphor? With the waitress, naturally. Whether I’m having the wine or the meal or both, I appreciate the one who brings it to me. Love the waitresses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oral report

January 27, 2006

Speaking of high schools and the First Amendment (we were, weren’t we?), remember the dust-up over the school paper’s reports on oral sex down in Columbus? The story is starting to get play elsewere. Wonder why.

Read the rest of this entry »

No unions involved

January 27, 2006

Another privatization story, not from Indiana this time:

The head of a European investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe said Tuesday there was evidence the United States outsourced torture to other countries and it was likely European governments knew about it.

What I want to know is: Did we hand it off to just any old country that asked, or did we put it out for competitive bid?

Read the rest of this entry »

Bush at Bethel

January 26, 2006

Indiana Parley is reporting that President Bush will speak at Bethel College in Mishawaka on Feb. 23.

Read the rest of this entry »

Juxtaposition is everything

January 26, 2006

I saw two stories in the morning paper on different pages that would have been more interesting if they had been put side by side. The bigger story, on Page 1, talked about the impasse between Glenbrook and county officials on the mall’s tax value:

A court-ordered reassessment of properties in 2002 increased the mall’s tax value from less than $50 million to $114.7 million. The move also increased annual property taxes for the mall by $1.4 million, to $2.3 million. [. . . ] According to the original appeal, Glenbrook argued its value should be $38.8 million.

The smaller story was on the front of the Living section. A popular and long-running program, in which seniors walked through Glenbrook, has ended:

The Power-Walkers program aimed at senior citizens, part of St. Joseph Hospital’s Healthy Lifesteps initiative, was discontinued Dec. 15 when mall officials asked for payment for use of space, said Barb Schoppman, hospital vice president of community and adult services.

Too bad the stingy walkers wouldn’t pay up. Sure, if there were only 100 walkers, they’d have to pay $14,000 each for Glenbrook to make up its $1.4 million tax deficit. But if each of those walkers recruited nine more walkers . . .

Seriously, though.

Does anyone out there think it’s a good idea for a mall, beset on one end of the spectrum by Jefferson Pointe and on the other by Wal-Mart, to seem like a bad neighbor by frustating senior citizens’ attempts to stay healthy and at the same time giving up the word of mouth by people who might say things like, "Oh, you know that dress style you’ve been looking for? Well, just this morning, when I was walking at Glenbrook . . . "?

Read the rest of this entry »

Write THAT song, Neil Young

January 26, 2006

If you’re just getting sick and tired of this violent, fascist country and long for the calmer life of a peace-loving paradise, you can escape to Canada, jus like your uncle did back in the Vietnam days. Well, maybe not . . .

He also cites the most recent complete data available from both countries that shows that in 2003, the violent crime rate in the United States was 475 per 100,000 people; while up north, there were 963 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The figure for sexual assault in Canada per 100,000 people was more than double that of the United States: 74 as opposed to 32.1; and the assault rate in Canada was also more than twice that of the states: 746 to America’s 295 for the people.

Looks like they kicked out the liberals just in the nick of time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good night and good luck

January 26, 2006

I don’t know what we’re all so worried about. The future of the world seems to be in darn good hands:

The four-day World Economic Forum that began in the 1970s as a place to discuss new management techniques has evolved into an eclectic mix of highbrow futurology, ethical debate and a fair bit of schmoozing.

[…]

The meeting will also feature celebrities who have come to tout personal causes, including U2 singer and debt-relief advocate Bono and Angelina Jolie in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

If we could get Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte and Hugo Chavez to attend, we could just close the United Nations and all sleep well tonight.

Read the rest of this entry »

A small victory

January 26, 2006

Hooray for the City Council (or, more precisely, the five Republicans on it) for beating back the Richard administration’s attempt to get $1.25 million more out of taxpayers. Considering the billions and billions we read about in stories of the federal and even state government, it’s a piddling amount. But it’s a small victory for taxpayers who sometimes wonder if there’s anybody left in government who still realizes it’s the public’s money that’s being spent. A spark of old-fashioned conservatism still exists here. Maintaining a "rainy day" fund is fine, but those of us out here who pay the city’s bills have rainy days, too.

Love this paragraph:

Roller said Fort Wayne is the only city in Indiana not taking the maximum levy. Don Schmidt, R-2nd District, said, “I personally think that’s not such a bad advertisement for economic development.”

Schmidt has kept the faith on fiscal responsibility on the council for a long, long time, sometimes seemingly singlehandedly. He has a good ally in John Crawford, newly elected president, and it’s nice to think we might see more such toughness under his leadership. Tom Smith had a good year as president, but he put his emphasis on trying to get input on big issues with his "fifth Tuesday" meetings.

Read the rest of this entry »

Suds

January 26, 2006

Holy cow: According to the Beer Institute, beer has an annual "economic impact" in Indiana of $2.36 billion a year. That group has an incentive to make the figure seem as big as possible, but, still, that’s a lot of suds. Never mind all these other silly economic-development ideas like downtown hotels and football teams and luring new companies. Let’s just put a place on every corner where we can buy beer. Oh, wait, we’ve done that. Then maybe we should do the reverse of Gov. Daniels’ privatization binge and have beer places go public, get government permits. Oops, done that, too.

Can you imagine how deserted the Three Rivers Festival would be without beer? How boring baseball games would be to sober fans? Reminds me of the only Grateful Dead joke I know. What did the Deadhead say when he finally ran out of marijuana? Say, you know what? This music sucks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty bad

January 26, 2006

Gosh, I wish a Fort Wayne gal would win the Miss Indiana pageant so I could write a gushy editorial like this one:

"We’re very excited that one of our own has accomplished this," said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear, who participated in a mock interview with Guilkey to prepare her for judges’ questions just weeks before she left for the pageant Jan. 10. Guilkey had about 100 supporters with her in Las Vegas, and thousands more of us rooting at home.

I bet that interview prep must have been something on the order of trying to teach a cat to fetch. I’ve actually interviewed some of these contestants, back when I worked in Michigan City and the state pageant was there. I wouldn’t want to say it was mind-numbing, but imagine the most non-responsive politician you’ve ever heard, who just keeps repeating his talking points over and over no matter what questions are asked, multiply the insincerity by a factor of 10 and cut the number of polysyllabic words in half, and you’ll have some idea.

Yeah, they were "pretty," in a way. But all in sort of the same way, which gets very dull after a while.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blurring the difference

January 26, 2006

House Bill 1383, which would limit aid to illegal immigrants, is going to get a lot of grief from the "let’s just accept that these undocumented workers are here and help them adjust" crowd. Advance Indiana, for example, goes so far as to equate the effort to "the KKK of the 1920s. Back then the targets were Catholics, Eastern Europeans, Jews and blacks. Today, the target is Indiana’s growing Hispanic population."

Now, it’s fine to argue that we should reconsider our immigration policies. It’s OK to say we should give those who are here some benefits — refusing medical care, for example, goes against humanitarian principles. It’s valid to wonder whether children should be punished for the actions of their parents with the denial of education. It’s even a good debate to posit that some things we do  for illegal immigrants are really for us (granting drivers’ licenses as a way to keep bad drivers off the road, for example), although I would generally take the negative in that debate.

But it’s absurd to compare the resistance to the flood at our border with Mexico to bigoted efforts against blacks or Catholics, completely blurring the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. If our policies are bad, let’s change them; I don’t know that President Bush’s guest-worker concept is the right one, but it’s worth talking about. But in the meantime, enforce the law as it is. Illegal is illegal, whether we’re talking about bank robbery or immigration.

Read the rest of this entry »