Archive for March, 2006

A short break

March 31, 2006

This will be my last post for a short while.

My mother died this morning after several years of declining health and a crises-filled couple of months. My deepest gratitude in advance for all the prayers and kind thoughts I know will come our way.

Back when I’m able.

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Gate crashers

March 30, 2006

It’s a lot easier to have a spontaneous outburst of righteous indignation when it’s organized, eh? But those brilliant tacticians probably should have included a couple of additional instructions: 1. Ditch the Mexican flags, and, 2) Try to sound as if you at least halfway like the nation whose gates you are crashing. Big, big backlash from this. The already substantial majority of Americans who think we should be much tougher on illegal immigration is just going to grow.

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Amok

March 30, 2006

Those of you who observed the absurd, infantile "controversy" over the name of of a blog here in Fort Wayne might be interested in this amusing collection of intellectual-property claims. Among the silliest:

“SENSORY TRADEMARKS” include a duck quacking (AFLAC), a lion roaring (MGM), yodelling (Yahoo!), giggling (Pillsbury), and a “pre-programmed rotating sequence of a plurality of high intensity columns of light projected into the sky to locate a source at the base thereof” (Ballantyne of Omaha).

FOR INCLUDING a 60-second piece of silence on their album, the Planets were threatened with a lawsuit by the estate of composer John Cage, which said they’d ripped off his silent work 4’33”. The Planets countered that the estate failed to specify which 60 of the 273 seconds in Cage’s piece had been pilfered.

Run amok, indeed.

 

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Business sense

March 30, 2006

Yesterday, I posted a link to a National Review article praising the efforts of Gov. Mitch Daniels in making Indiana more business-friendly. The headline on the article was "Open for business," which was meant, and I took to mean, as a compliment to the governor. Tracy Warner of The Journal Gazette (or perhaps I should have said "another newspaper in town" and made you guess), disagrees:

To me, saying a government is "Open for Business" is not a positive phrase. Think: "Congress is Open for Business." It is another way of saying "Everything’s For Sale to the Highest Bidder."

I don’t think I need to add too much commentary. You should now have an excellent grasp of the difference between Tracy’s mindset and mine when it comes to business.

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Stone cold

March 30, 2006

I honestly do not mind that, with the release of "Basic Instinct 2," or whatever the heck it’s called, there will be a lot more of Sharon Stone out there than I want to see. I’ll just not go to the movie. (You can do, it, Leo, you know you can. Be strong. Don’t give in!) But it’s annoying, because harder to avoid, that there is more Sharon Stone out there than I want to hear. She thinks we’re dying to know her opinions on oral sex (sorry, honey, you’re just preaching to the choir when you tell teens they should engage in it more), and she can’t resist giving us her political wisdom (Hillary should sit out in 2008, because she is, um, too sexy to win). I knew if I waited long enough, someone would come along to replace Jane Fonda in that special place in my heart.

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Here, Kitty, Kitty

March 30, 2006

Cat_1 You know the difference between a dog and a cat? If you die, your dog will shuffle and whine around the house for days until it almost starves to death. But once you stop breathing, your cat considers you food. I say that as a cat person, with two of those self-centered creatures in my house. Here’s a story about a cat’s cat — Lewis, who has six toes on each paw, each with a long claw, and may be the first feline in history with a restraining order against it. He seems to have a special dislike for Avon ladies. (There’s a video, too.)

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Two strikes and really out

March 30, 2006

I can live with this:

The proposal allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for sex offenders who are convicted twice of raping a child younger than 11.

Currently in South Carolina, murder is the only crime eligible for the death penalty.

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Missing MCL

March 30, 2006

I love having a lot of food choices, and would have had a grand time at this buffet:

In all, 510 dishes were set in front of the crowd Tuesday. Each one had to be certified distinct by a Guinness World Record adjudicator.

They ranged from Mongolian chicken and salmon Wellington to creme brulee and homemade apple pie.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Indianapolis lately, as it happens near an MCL Cafeteria, which I have now visited several times. What a loss MCL’s departure was for this community. I understand why it left Southtown, just ahead of the demise of the whole place. But why from Glenbrook, and why not open up somewhere else? If it can make money in Indy, surely it can here. Rats. Now I’m going have to make a trip to the Back 40.

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The curse curse

March 30, 2006

Much has been written about the profusion of profanity these days, and I’ve posted a few items about it here. This is merely the latest observation about today’s Age of Profanity:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week _ 74 percent _ said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word _ ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).

I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t worried about the wrong thing. People have always cursed and always will, for a lot of reasons. It relieves stress for some people and diffuses anger in others, in a way that is better than bashing somebody over the head. It is a way of testing the limits of taboos, in a less socially destructive way than, say, looking for laws to break. Cursing, for some of us, even helps sort our relationships into categories — we tend to feel freer to curse around people we are most comfortable with. It probably goes too far to say cursing benefits society more than harms it, but it does serve a useful purpose.

So what happens when we have no sense of forbidden words and more people feel more comfortable just saying anything in front of anybody? As one person says in the story, about the F-word:

That word doesn’t even mean what it means anymore," says Larry Riley of Warren, Mich. "It has just become part of the culture." Riley admits to using the F-word a few times a week.

The more we overuse the words, the less they will seem like cursing. They will just become another part of our vocabulary. I doubt if there can really be a culture without curse words, so one of two things could happen. People for whom cursing has been a way to blow off steam might find worse ways to do that. Or, more likely, different taboo words will come about to fill all our cursing needs until they, too, are overused.

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Cattle and hamburgers

March 30, 2006

I just finished the wonderful "The Day the Cowboys Quit" by Elmer Kelton, a Western writer who has been around for a long time, but whose work I didn’t discover until Louis L’Amour died and I had to find somebody I liked as well. It is set in the Texas Panhandle of the 1880s, when cattle ranchers who started out as cowboys and built their herds up slowly were starting to be pushed out by big Yankee ranchers who flooded in after the Civil War and knew nothing and cared less about the rich and intricate history of ranching; to them, cattle were just figures in a ledger, the more the better.

It’s not hard to see a parallel between the cattle ranches of that era and the newspapers of today. "Local journalism imperiled," the headline on Dan Neuharth’s USA Today column drily but accurately sums it up. Note the vast distance between this statement of Jack Knight’s, describing how he told Wall Street he was not going to be its prisoner . . .

I told them that as long as I had anything to do with it, we were going to run the papers, and we were going to spend money sometimes that they wouldn’t understand why we were spending it, and we did not intend to be directed by them in any way."

. . . and this bleak aknowledgement of what actually has come to pass:

Knight Ridder tried to please investors for years, yet it still lost at the hands of institutional shareholders who make little distinction in product, be it newspapers or hamburgers.

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What goes around . . .

March 29, 2006

Nothing to say about this one. Draw your own conclusions.

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Boom!

March 29, 2006

Nothing can possibly go wrong with Indiana’s new law legalizing fireworks, right?

John Miller saw two people playing with the grenade Monday. He took it from them and brought it to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

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Fun with Dick and John

March 29, 2006

That rotten Dick Cheney is so demanding when it comes to what he wants in his hotel suite. Isn’t that just like a Republican? Well, like a Democrat, too, it turns out. Love The Smoking Gun’s bipartisanship.

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Commie thugs

March 29, 2006

For those who wondered how far public officials would try to go in eminent-domain seizures following the Supreme Court’s outrageous Kelo decision, the case to watch is the one involving the exclusive Long island country club. Officials want to take it because they think it’s a darn nice place and they want to run it themselves, as a public golf course. That’s pretty much just taking something from the few and giving it to "everybody." I don’t like to throw the term "Commie thugs" around, but there you are. Indiana, thanks to the work of people like Rep. Dave Wolkins, is one of the states acting to tighten up eminent-domain rules after Kelo. That’s such a big deal that in most year’s it might have been touted as the highlight of the legislative session. But this wasn’t most years.

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Dismissed Italian style

March 29, 2006

Say what you will about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, if you ask him an honest question, you’ll get an honest answer:

"It was a hand off the chin gesture that was meant to be dismissive," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

[. . .]

The sign he used in Boston is frequently used by Italians to express displeasure with someone — from mild to deep irritation. It is done by cupping the hand under the chin and flicking the fingers like a backward wave.

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Open for business

March 29, 2006

Those who are annoyed with Gov. Mitch Daniels’ speed-of-light changing of the natural order of things in Indiana AND distrustful of The National Review, that bastion of traditional conservatism, will just love this, a glowing National Review tribute to Daniels called "Indiana Is Open for Business":

There’s about to be a building boom in Indiana, which is desperate good news for a state that has been severely challenged by the global manufacturing shift and years of ambivalent leadership.

The chief architect of the boom is the state’s decisive Governor Mitch Daniels, President Bush’s former budget director. In Washington, Daniels drew scorn from congressional big spenders, acquiring the nickname “the blade” for his cost-cutting and privatizing ways. (The moniker could just as easily apply to his sharp wit and intellect.) The spenders in Washington, however, won those battles — big time — swallowing the blade and earning today’s enmity from the Republican base. But now Daniels is back home and in charge, and he is engineering a turnaround of an entire state with sophistication.

Just to rub a little salt in the wounds, here is a line in the article quoted from an Indianapolis Star editorial:  “the protectionist, xenophobic rhetoric … used to fight the lease was an embarrassment to the entire state.” Daniels has pushed hard for his most controversial programs, perhaps using up so much political capital that he will be a one-term governor. But he will have engineered the most consequential four years Indiana history.

Here’s another view of toll-road leases: Good idea if the money if it’s used for infrastructure (as here), bad idea if it is just used to shore up deficits.

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Choosing intolerance

March 28, 2006

Certainly it is barbaric by the civilized standards of today to condemn someone to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. It’s symbolic of the whole struggle we’re in today against the militant extremists who would turn the whole world into a theocracy of their design. But I think people like Howard and Blair, not to mention leaders in this country, need to be careful not to confuse two issues when they say things like:

As far as I am concerned, it would just be quite unacceptable to the Australian people or Australian soldiers to be having their lives on the line to defend, in any way, a practice that involved people being persecuted because of their religious beliefs."

You hear this sentiment a lot in discussions about the Mideast. Why should we try to encourage democracy among a people whose values are so different from ours? They will then just use that democracy to elect leaders and adopt policies that are as inimical to our interests as anything the dictators could come up with. But despots seldom change, and the hope is that democracy can be a civilizing influence. We certainly should fight the extremists in the short term, but that tends to involve killing people who want to kill us. In the long run, people have to change the way they look at things, and there aren’t too many shotcuts that can substitute for democratic institutions that can only develop when freedom begins. Whatever can be said about the intolerance still in Afghanistan, does anybody really think it’s worse than it was under the Taliban? At least the leaders today bowed to international pressure, however they want to disguise that fact? Would the Taliban have done so?

We have surrounded ourselves in this country with the comfortable myth that we fled the old world to "escape religious persecution." Perhaps, but we did not come here to preach the value of religious freedom. We came so that we could be as inflexible about the religion we wanted to practice as were the people who tried to force a different religion upon us. Our early history was not one on of great religious tolerance. That came after great struggles and much suffering.

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Concrete corn

March 28, 2006

Call me crazy, but I liked our mastodon display a lot better than this one:

Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic, this former corn field, sprouting 109 people-sized ears of concrete corn in a large oddball art display. But it’s also a salute to Sam Frantz, an inventor of hybrid corns, and a very weird sight along the highway.

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Time is money

March 28, 2006

If we’re on the way to using up the clock, it’s a good bet we’re breaking the bank:

The national debt clock, as it is known, is a big clock. A spot-check last week showed a readout of 8.3 trillion — or more precisely 8,310,200,545,702 — dollars … and counting.

But it’s not big enough.

Sometime in the next two years, the total amount of US government borrowing is going to break through the 10-trillion-dollar mark and, lacking space for the extra digit such a figure would require, the clock is in danger of running itself into obsolescence.

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Get Real Stupid

March 28, 2006

Oh, give me a break:

Many Indiana sex education classes are skipping important information on AIDS, pregnancy and other topics, according to a survey released Monday.

Indiana University conducted the online survey commissioned by the Get Real, Indiana! coalition, a group of organizations that support comprehensive sex education for all Indiana students.

It includes information from about 400 high school and middle school teachers, counselors and other school personnel – including 175 teachers who said they were responsible for sex education.

A group that supports "comprehensive sex education" for all Indiana students commissions a survey, which finds that that education, defined, of course, by the group, is lacking. What a shock. Has it occurred to anybody else that the people who demand comprehensive sex education in schools are the same people who make excuses for all the vile gargage kids are exposed to constantly in the popular culture? Anybody see a connection? Class? Anyone?

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The size of the lie

March 27, 2006

Politicians never lie, of course; they merely "embellish the truth." And if we call them on it, there could be dire consequences:

Some of Johnson’s allies say it is a dangerous precedent to punish a politician for exaggerating. But Republican Sen. Mike McGinn, a former police officer, said some lies are too big.

"The consequences of this lie are far more serious than lying about the size of the fish you caught at the governor’s fishing opener," McGinn said. "It’s not just a little white lie. It’s a huge lie."

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Skylines

March 27, 2006

Chicago Sadly, neither Fort Wayne nor any other city in Indiana made the list of "15 best skylines" in the world. I still like Fort Wayne’s, though, because I remember the first time I ever saw it. I grew up a country kid. Driving around a curve and seeing a city skyline still takes my breath away, probably the way seeing mountains does for people raised in an urban environment. Of all the ones I’ve seen, I’ll vote for Chicago’s. I’ve had a picture of it, with Lake Michigan prominently in the foreground, on my office wall for years. Of all the ones I haven’t seen, I like Sydney’s, said to be on "the most beautiful natural harbor in the world." There is something about the combination of skyline and water, isn’t there? And be sure to check out No. 14 on the list, the skyline of Dubai, which most people, because of our recent ports controversy, probably think of as a backward, camel-dung little sand dune of a Mideast pesthole.

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Life after death in the afternoon

March 27, 2006

Here, here:

We, too often, see our own state as bland, colorless and dull. We overlook its virtues, disdain short drives to sections of an overlooked Indiana and often never know the joy of finding the real majesty of our state’s natural wonders. It is there, on narrow lanes and over serpentine hills, that real Indiana is found.

And it all is within a five to six hour drive, no matter where we live in the state.

The author of that short column is Wendell Trogdon, who has written several books extolling the virtues of Indiana. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 40 years, most of them with the Indianapolis News, a now-defunct evening newspaper. I like to think of him as a role model.

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Move it on over

March 27, 2006

I drive I-69 between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis frequently, so I can see the wisdom of the "move over" law:

Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois have passed laws within the last decade to require drivers to move over to the left lane when police have stopped vehicles along the side of the road, but such laws have proven difficult to enforce.

Motorists who ignore so-called "move over" laws often drive just inches away from officers conducting traffic stops, the Evansville Courier & Press reported. Since 2003, at least eight Indiana State Police troopers have been injured and one was killed while making traffic stops.

It also makes sense, though it’s not written into the law, to move over when someone in front of you is driving onto a limited-access highway, say from the access ramp or out of a rest stop. But sometimes it’s difficult, because the left lane is clogged with cars too close to you. You have to see the activity ahead of you in enough time to slow down and maneuver into the left lane

And why does this happen? Because THERE ARE MORONS who do not understand how you are supposed to drive on the interstate. You stay in the right lane, unless you need to pass — the left lane IS A PASSING LANE. Once you have passed, you get back into the right lane. But, I swear, on every trip I make to and from Indy, I encounter at least a dozen drivers who either don’t know or don’t care about this rule of the road. They cruise down the left lane, at or below the speed limt, for the whole trip, as if they’re on a city’s surface street, driving a few blocks to pick up a quart of milk at the supermarket. If we want to make driving safer, let’s have a law about THAT.

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A real reach

March 27, 2006

I can appreciate Evan Bayh’s desire to reach out to Republicans, but he picked the wrong issue:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. –Democrats need to reach out to voters of all parties and persuade them of the left’s strengths on national security, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh told a gathering of young Democrats on Sunday.

The truth of the matter is they (Republicans) have been a heck of a lot better at national security politics than national security policy," said Bayh, who is exploring a possible run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

As many mistakes as George Bush has made on foreign policy, he still takes national security seriously. I haven’t trusted the Democrats on that issue in a long time and still don’t. On the other hand, if Bush would veto a bill once in a while and stop coming up with big, new, expensive domestic programs, maybe, he, too, could reach out to Republicans.

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