Archive for May, 2006

An uncanny foul-up

May 31, 2006

Girls All the stories about the horrible misidentification of two of the Taylor Univerity crash victims — the one they thought was in a coma is really dead, and the one they thought was really dead has been in a coma — say the same thing: The two bore an uncanny resemblance to each other. “Their body types are similar, their hair color and texture, their facial features, etc.,” the family said.

As if that explains it. But wouldn’t their "uncanny resemblance" be a reason to make damn sure of their identification in the first place? Why in the world are they just now using dental records to make sure of which one was buried and which one was lingering in a coma? It doesn’t even appear from their Taylor photos that they look that much alike. The Grant County coroner’s office has some explaining to do to a couple of families in turmoil.

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Have a nice TRIP

May 31, 2006

This seems like a sensible approach for an airport that’s hemorrhaging customers because it’s too expensive for people to use:

Under the Traffic & Revenue Improvement Plan (TRIP) slated to effect by July 1, any existing carriers that increase the number of passengers between 5 and 20 percent could be reimbursed for various airport fees.

Currently, carriers pay more fees when they increase their traffic.

I’ve always thought government’s approach to home and business improvement was similarly perverse. You improve your property, and your reward is to pay more in taxes? Why not give property owners a tax break if they make improvements? At least try it for a couple of years to see how the loss of tax revenue is balanced by all the work by and supplies ordered for contractors? At the very least, the appearance of the city would improve greatly.

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Jeans therapy

May 31, 2006

Something else to blame your parents for:

Your sexual desire or lack thereof could be in your genes, scientists announced today. The discovery might change how psychologists view sexuality.

The researchers found that individual differences in human sexual desire can be attributed to genetic variations. The study is the first to provide data to show that common variations in the sequence of DNA impact on sexual desire, arousal and function, the researchers said.

Actually, I did this post only as an excuse to tell one of my favorite old jokes. How do you tell a boy chromosome from a girl chromosome? You pull down their genes.

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Read post now, no waiting

May 31, 2006

Americans are mad as hell, and they’re just not going to wait anymore:

An Associated Press poll has found an impatient nation. It’s a nation that gets antsy after five minutes on hold on the phone and 15 minutes max in a line. So say people in the survey.

But people aren’t necessarily consistent in their dislike of waiting, are they? They’ll go ballistic if they have to wait 15 minutes in a grocery line, but they’ll stand patiently for more than an hour just to take a few-minutes ride in an amusement park. And why are they so annoyed when they’re on hold for five minutes? Can’t wait to get back to their three hours of evening TV watching?

I’m not sure where all this impatience comes from. It can’t just be the increasing pressures of urban claustrophobia, since those in the suburbs seem to be as demanding as city dwellers. Maybe it’s psychological. There’s just so much new to experience these days that any time we’re left waiting, we’re afraid we might miss something.

I’ve found that a paperback book provides great relief from the misery of waiting. Another few minutes on hold is another few pages. Stuck at the train crossing? No problem, that can be a whole chapter. And I don’t even have to pay attention to when the train has passed. The honking horns let me know. 

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Indiana as a grim metaphor

May 31, 2006

"Indiana’s the wrong place to be breaking apart on a highway that lasts forever." Stephen Thompson of NPR writes about David Mead’s 2004 "Indiana" album (including an audio link):

Though it hits several destinations along the way — song titles include "Nashville," "New Mexico" and "Queensboro Bridge" — it most notably evokes the grim chore of driving through Indiana as a metaphor for missing life at home.

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The Hoosier sandwich

May 31, 2006

Ah, such perfect symmetry in nature. We want to have more biofuels plants, which will require the production of more corn, which will mean more corn byproducts to use as pig feed, which means more pig production, which means a steady supply of breaded tenderloins, a sandwich other states try but only Indiana gets right.

One of the first things new Indiana residents notice isn’t our corn production — they expected that — or our flat topography. They knew that too.

It’s breaded tenderloin sandwiches. Their eyes grow nearly to the size of the platter of meat placed before them. Native Hoosiers take those manhole cover-sized portions for granted.

To be considered for the hall of fame, a breaded tenderloin has to hang out so far that you’re not even hungry anymore by the time you get to the bun. I’ve had many good ones in Indiana, including in a bowling alley, of all places, in Michigan City, Ind. One of the best continues to be at our own Acme Bar. The sandwich, as many of you probably know, is said to have been invented in 1904 by Nick Frienstein in Huntington, Ind., who started selling them at his Nick’s Kitchen four years later. Oh, and here’s some tutorials and a recipe, in case you want to make your own breaded tenderloins.

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Indecent interval

May 30, 2006

If I hadn’t been so angry about Vietnam for 30 years, stuff like this would really set me off:

Henry A. Kissinger quietly acknowledged to China in 1972 that Washington could accept a communist takeover of South Vietnam if that evolved after a withdrawal of U.S. troops — even as the war to drive back the communists dragged on with mounting deaths.

President Richard M. Nixon’s envoy told Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai: "If we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina."

[. . . ]

Kissinger’s comments appear to lend credence to the "decent interval" theory posed by some historians who say the United States was prepared to see communists take over Saigon as long as, to save face, that happened long enough after a U.S. troop departure.

[. . . ]

The meeting with Zhou took place in Beijing on June 22, 1972, during stepped-up U.S. bombing and the mining of harbors meant to stall a North Vietnamese offensive that began in the spring. China, North Vietnam’s ally, objected to the U.S. course but was engaged in a historic thaw of relations with Washington.

Kissinger told Zhou that the United States respected its Hanoi enemy as a "permanent factor" and probably the "strongest entity" in the region. "And we have had no interest in destroying it or even defeating it," he insisted.

So, American troops were still being sent in to die, "to defeat communism," while Kissinger was in China telling the chief thug there that we respected our Hanoi enemy as a "permanent factor" that we had no interest in destroying or even defeating. Kissinger can do all the Realpolitik backtracking and self-justfication he wants to now, but he was and is a scumbag, a high-stakes poker player who loved the excitement of the game, no matter what the chips were. That he followed the "best and brightest" of McNamara’s ilk just shows how bipartisan arrogant, criminal incompetence can be. We entered into war, the most serious step a country can take, then fooled around with it instead of seriously trying to win it, squandering 55,000 lives in the process. At the end, we just left, in effect telling the Vietnamese people who believed us, "Sorry, just kidding, didn’t mean it," creating one of the most ignoble days in American history.

It is a great temptation to extrapolate our Vietnam history into lessons that should be applied in Iraq, but that is a risky business. Most of the people so vehement on one side or the other seem to be merely reacting to Iraq based on their own preconceptions. The history of that conflict is still being written, and it might be decades before we know the wisdom or folly of it. History’s judgment will come, I think, not because of whether, with 20-20 hindsight, we determine it was right or wrong to enter the war — it was the best estimate of most of the world’s military analysts, not just Geroge Bush’s neocons, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; he had already used them. And that was not the only justification, in any case.

The thing that really matters is whether the war in Iraq will, in the long run, have added to the world’s stock of civilizing influences — democratic principles, the rule of law, the primacy of the individual over the state — and diminished its savagery. The jury is still very much out on that. It is true that we are fighting the enemy — militant Islamofascism — on its own turf, diminishing its credibility every day, and that we have had no attack on our soil since 9/11. It is also true that one major argument for the Iraq engagement — that we would be on the ground and seen as committed, thus being better able to handle developing crises in the Mideast — is not exactly proving out. We don’t have a clue what to do about Iran, and we are still cozying up to despots for short-term expediency and calling it long-term diplomacy (thank you, Dr. Kissinger).

Democratic principles are still the best hope for the world, and most people in the world still yearn to be free, no matter how the apologists for tyranny keep deluding themselves. As long as America supports democracy and freedom, its people will forgive a lot. We will forgive mistakes in judgment about starting wars — no matter how Vietnam turned out, our instincts to support a people striving for freedom were honorable. We will forgive blunders in the execution of a war, even if they needlessly cost lives; war is unpredictable, and anything can happen.

What we should never tolerate is war recklessly entered, then half-heartedly pursued by people who didn’t really mean it in the first place. War should be the last option, declared after all other options have been exhausted, then prosecuted to a swift conclusion with as few casualties as possible. Whatever part of President Bush’s dismal approval ratings can be traced to Iraq, I suspect the major reason is not that Americans think the war was wrong but that they suspect the administration is just fooling around with it, trying to let go of the tiger’s tail without losing too much face.

There is such a thing as a "decent interval." The war is over, so we invite the draft-dodgers home from Canada, all sins forgiven. The war is over a little longer, so we enter into trade agreements with Vietnam. It’s time to heal the wounds and get on with life. We’re not saying we were wrong about what we were doing — we will still support democratic movements and people yeanring to be free — but we didn’t get that one quite right, and we will regroup to fight another day.

It is NOT a decent interval to say one thing to Americans — including the Americans you are sending into battle as poker chips in your high-stakes game — while you are telling the allies of America’s enemies another thing, especially when what you tell Americans is the lie and what you tell its enemies is the truth. Jane "Here I am standing by the anti-aircraft guns that shoot down American troops" Fonda never did as much to destroy America’s credibility at home or abroad as that kind of duplicity has.

So the worst thing of all, in trying to bring freedom to the Mideast, one of the last places in the world to experience it and the one place the world needs it most right now, would be just to walk away, saying, "Sorry, just kidding, really didn’t mean it." That’s what I would say to George Bush and Cindy Sheehan and everybody in between. That, to me, is the real lesson of Vietnam.

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Any faith better than none?

May 30, 2006

Make of this what you will:

Atheists are America’s least trusted group, according to a national survey conducted by University sociology researchers.

Based on a telephone survey of more than 2,000 households and in-depth interviews with more than 140 people, researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other groups as "sharing their vision of American society." Americans are also least willing to let their children marry atheists.

In a way, I can understand this. You want to trust people who believe in something bigger than themselves, because they would seem to be able to search for the "common vision of American Society." Atheists, by definition, think they’re out here on their own. But judging people by their beliefs instead of their actions is dangerous. I’d venture that not many atheists are killing people in, say, the Mideast.

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Slow down, America

May 30, 2006

President Hillary has our energy policy solved:

US Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) on Tuesday endorsed a return to the 55 MPH maximum speed limit for "most" of the country during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Senator Clinton, who is leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, responded to a question about whether she supported the Carter administration’s national maximum speed limit.

"The 55 mile speed limit really does lower gas usage, and wherever it can be required and that people will accept it, we ought to do it," Clinton said.

Elsewhere on the "everything old is new again" front, Jimmy Carter agrees with President Bush’s immigration plans. If that doesn’t kill them, nothing will.

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Why start with a list?

May 30, 2006

Here’s an interesting poll asking people to vote on the greatest American novel of all time. Most of the books on the list of contenders deserve to be there, but of course the more books on the list, the more interesting the voting will be (and why have a list in the first place?). The authors say they are ignoring sociology and politics, but then make a snotty comment about "socialist realism" in defending their decision to leave "The Grapes of Wrath" off the list. The most notable absence I saw on the list was James Jones, whose World War II trilogy is stunning. I just saw "From Here to Eternity" on cable over the weekend, which just served to remind me what a great book it was.

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Crazy mother

May 30, 2006

You’d think by now every thinking person on the left would have distanced themselves as much as possible from Cindy Sheehan. On the other hand, she is useful:

That Zinn’s introduction overshadows anything in Cindy Sheehan’s book underscores what a puppet she is of the more experienced Left. She’s still their most useful symbol of that strange new notion of bleeding-heart entitlement: All citizens (or maybe, these days, all illegal aliens) who disagrees with the president are entitled to have him stop what he’s doing and listen to their complaints individually—especially if they’re parents of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan’s maudlin narcissism has already been extensively examined, but for those unfamiliar with her philosophy, Dear President Bush is a good primer. “Was it freedom and democracy?” she asks rhetorically about the purpose of her soldier son Casey’s death. “Bulls**t. He died for oil.” This comes a few pages after her solution for problems in the Mideast: “We need to be more fair with policies that way too heavily favor Israel.”

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May 26, 2006

Guess if I want a little peace and quiet, I’ll have to go to Chicago:

Aldermen determined to restore peace and tranquility to Chicago neighborhoods introduced a pair of killjoy crackdowns Wednesday — one establishing a 10-minute time limit on dogs barking outdoors, the other empowering police to impound ice cream trucks that play music after 7 p.m.

Wonder how loud, oh, gunshots are compared to ice cream trucks?

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Free at last

May 26, 2006

Finally, we can put the Spanish-American War behind us and move on with our lives:

The Treasury Department and IRS announced this morning that after losing in five circuit courts of appeals, the Government is throwing in the towel and will no longer seek to enforce the 3% excise tax on long-distance telephone calls enacted during the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a "luxury" tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones.  The IRS will will issue $15 billion in refunds to consumers for long-distance telephone service taxes paid over the past three years. . .

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No Bush on the border

May 26, 2006

This doesn’t exactly make the case that President Bush is serious about border security:

The U.S. Border Patrol increased at a faster rate and apprehended more illegal aliens per year under President Clinton than under President Bush, according to statistics from a new, unpublished congressional research briefing report.
Mr. Bush trails his predecessor on a series of measures of border security, says the briefing from the Congressional Research Service to the House Judiciary Committee, which was based on Department of Homeland Security data.

Guess now we know why the National Guard has to be called into service.

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Brain food

May 26, 2006

There is a God:

Chocolate lovers rejoice. A new study hints that eating milk chocolate may boost brain function.

"Chocolate contains many substances that act as stimulants, such as theobromine, phenethylamine, and caffeine," Dr. Bryan Raudenbush from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia noted in comments to Reuters Health.

And you’ve probably already let them talk you out of eating chocolate. Don’t you feel pretty stupid about now? Let’s talk about caffeine, while we’re at it.

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Pony up, sport

May 25, 2006

What? Give a sports team money that should go to schools?

The Cavaliers want taxpayers to help pay for a proposed $20 million practice field in Independence.

The team wants to borrow money from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and then use some of the taxes it will pay on the sports complex — which normally go to schools and government — to repay the loans.

Asked if that means the Cavs are in line for a tax break, Independence Mayor Fred Ramos said: "They may be, yes."

Don’t be too hard on Ohio and the Cavs until we hear next from the Colts, and see what Indiana’s response is.

NOTE: I redid this post, including cutting and pasting Mike Kole’s comment, because the original picked up the coding for an ad that was in the Cleveland paper.

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The freeze-frame metaphor

May 25, 2006

It’s not the medium, it’s the message. People want news, and they will adapt (not adopt; somebody needs an editor) to new ways of getting it:

There was no call to throw open the gates. But this is not to pick on our friends at the AP, which is now reorganizing its business to serve the new world (and is a news supplier to this site). The whole industry was slow to recognize that the Web is not a proprietary medium, like print, but a distributed one.

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft understood that the consumer need was not newspapers but news. Yet for years the newspaper industry thought the purpose of going online was to drive people to read newspapers. The futility of that task is at last beginning to sink in.

Newspapers didn’t get it then, and I’m afraid they’re slow to get it now. An instructive moment happened last week when I was talking to a colleague who went to a meeting of Indiana editors. The big news was that Hoosier journalists are all agog about how they use their Web sites to dazzle readers with . . . photo slide shows.

And what’s the difference between a slide show and actual video, which is where the Web is right now? Well, one is a frame about every two seconds; the other is 30 frames a second. Newspaper people still think in static terms; they capture stuff and freeze it for all of time. They go with what they know. The world is blazing by us at 30 frames a second (and that’s not even hi-def), while we’re still trying to figure iust how to make people slow down and notice us. Could AP have figured out where things were going and gotten out there ahead of Google and Amazon? I don’t think so.

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Bang, bang

May 25, 2006

At least on this issue, Indiana is ahead of the curve:

A campaign by gun rights advocates to make it easier to use deadly force in self-defense is rapidly winning support across the country, as state after state makes it legal for people who feel their lives are in danger to shoot down an attacker – whether in a car-jacking or just on the street.

The law has spurred debate about whether it protects against lawlessness or spurs more crime. Supporters say it’s an unambiguous answer to random violence, while critics – including police chiefs and prosecutors – warn that criminals are more likely to benefit than innocent victims.

[. . .]

Besides Oklahoma, the nine other states to sign on are Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Dakota, according to the NRA.

I didn’t see Paul Helmke quoted, but as the new head of the Brady gun-control people, he will surely be drawn into it. The idea that I don’t have to retreat before I respond to a threat with force seems fairly commonsensical to me; it’s at the heart of our right of self-defense. Whether these laws lead to rampant vigilatism, hordes of people shooting first and asking later, remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way in Florida.

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Time-zone zombies

May 25, 2006

God almighty, GET OVER IT and move on:

Five counties in southwestern Indiana have decided they want to go back to the Eastern Time Zone.

The county leaders are seeking a reversal of this spring’s time-zone switch.

What, there’s more daylight at night than you had imagined? It’s too dark when you go to work? Your cows have stopped giving milk? You’re shuffling around and bumping into each other like the zombies in "Night of the Living Dead"? It’ll go back to the way you remember in October, OK? You’ll get through it just fine, just like everybody else in the country. Lord, Hoosiers.

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In a sweat over Christmas

May 25, 2006

Finally, an issue that doesn’t involve Red State-Blue State polarization:

Like desperate shoppers fighting over a hot toy on Dec. 24, rival shopping networks QVC and HSN are waging war over the slogan "Christmas in July."

Both networks promote shows with that title in July, offering viewers a chance to stock up early on a $53 porcelain holiday cat or $36 lighted wreath. Now they are competing over the name in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Personally, I’m waiting for the Independence Day in December specials. Get me some of them snazzy and now legal fireworks, slip ’em in the fireplace and give Santa a big surprise.

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We have our priorities straight

May 25, 2006

Who says we don’t take education seriously in Indiana?

For the 34th time in last 35 years, the Indiana men’s basketball team finished the year ranked among the nation’s top-11 attendance leaders, as announced the NCAA recently. The Hoosiers had a total of 220,343 fans who went through the turnstiles throughout the season, which equalled an average of 16,949 per contest – a number that ranked as the eighth-best per game average in college basketball this season.

Just imagine where the school would rank if the team had been any good in the last few years.

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Boys in dresses

May 25, 2006

I guess I don’t understand this story:

GARY, Ind. — A male student who has worn women’s clothes to school all year was turned away from his high school prom because he was wearing a dress.

The school said the lad was kept out of the prom not because he was gay but because the school has a dress code barring boys from wearing dresses. So, the school has a dress code for the prom, which is just a one-time thing with no lasting results, but not for day-to-day attendance of classes? Or it has the same dress code and enforces it at the prom but not during school days? Anyway you look at it, this is a school that is not in control, but what else is new?

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May 24, 2006

I’d say this qualifies as having a really bad day:

INDIANAPOLIS — A man pretending to be a police officer was arrested after he pulled over an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was in his personal vehicle, authorities said.

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Good advice

May 24, 2006

Best "headline stating the obvious" so far this year — Panel: Legislators shouldn’t work drunk

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Fried everything

May 24, 2006

It’s not just the food, it’s the culture:

Other regions of the country, including the Midwest with its cheese, brats and pizza, also have challenges. But in the South, a meal of fried chicken smothered in gravy, collard greens and buttered cornbread is as much a part of the culture as front-porch rockers and a Southern drawl.

Changing the way people eat, experts said, could mean changing an important part of Southern culture.

“Food is a strong emblem of identity for Southerners. It is one of the few cultural artifacts that both black and white Southerners embrace and hold in high esteem,” said John Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

I grew up in a "fried everything" culture, so this really resonates with me.

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