Archive for July, 2006

In vino veritas

July 31, 2006

I never paid much attention to the "is Mel Gibson an anti-Semite?" debate. Some said they saw proof of it in his background and/or artistic work, but he vehemently denied it; a reasonable person could believe either position. But I think the proof is there now; he’s not just anti-Jewish, but a raving nut about it:

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

In his encounter with the cops, he also seems fairly despicable in other ways, hurling insults and threats, and just from blowing .12 on the breathalyzer, which would make him a wuss, too.

All these people who use alcoholism as an excuse for everything are geting tiresome, but it still seems to work. "Good Morning America" this morning re-ran an earlier profile of Gibson in which he talked about his lifelong battle with alcohol, and he came off looking like this heroic and tragic figure. Phooey.

I’m not saying addiction isn’t real, and I emphathize with all those who struggle with it; they deserve our support and, sometimes, our admiration. But I’ve seen enough people drink heavily that I know it brings out the truest nature of people. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions, which are the glue holding together the masks we show the world. You want to know what someone is really like, pour him a few shots and see if he is a quiet drunk or a loud one, a funny one or a mean one. Mel Gibson is not someone I’d like to drink with, which means he’s not someone I’d even care to know.

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Unsatisfied minds

July 31, 2006

Do you wish you lived in Denmark, the "happiest country in the world"? Are you sorry the United States came in at only 23rd? Note the standards used in the judging:

"Smaller countries tend to be a little happier because there is a stronger sense of collectivism and then you also have the aesthetic qualities of a country," White said.

"We were surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th, and India 125th. These are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being."

So, we’re a big, boisterous, sprawling country without much of a "collective identity." As a matter of fact, the whole point of this country is that we can be anyboby we want to be. It’s called the pursuit of happiness, and that has made all the difference.

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Pat’s gas attack

July 31, 2006

"Gas gouging" in Indiana is not just a matter of saying someone has been charging too much. A specific case has to be made:

The law defines gouging as charging a consumer an unconscionable amount for the sale of fuel.

It says that occurs if the amount charged grossly exceeds the average price at which fuel was readily available in a retailer’s trade area seven days before a declared emergency, and the increased price is not attributable to cost factors to the retailer.

And when House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer "implores" the governor to have the attorney general "aggressively investigate" gas gouging, it’s pretty clear that that’s not what he’s talking about. The high cost of gasoline, he says, "is a drain on the state’s economy." What’s he expect the attorney general to do, order every gas station to cut its prices by 30 percent? Even by political-grandstanding rules of thumb, this is pretty audacious. Rhetorical gouging, I’d say.

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Open wide, felons

July 31, 2006

Regular readers know I’ve expressed concerns about some privacy issues. I don’t see this as one to worry about:

But with as many as 16,000 additional Indiana felons expected during the next year to provide DNA samples — a swab is rubbed inside the offender’s mouth — some question whether the benefit of comprehensive testing outweighs individuals’ rights.
"I’m not sure simply being convicted of any felony ought to subject you to . . . that kind of intrusion," said Paula Sites, assistant executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.

How does DNA differ from fingerprints, which have been collected from those arrested (and not just felons) for a long time? If felons have some kind of right not to have an identifier on record, it was violated a long time ago. As the story notes, DNA can exonerate as well as implicate, to which some guys who used to be on death row can testify.

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First, I’ll gain weight . . .

July 28, 2006

A Hoosier takes a trip and gets lucky:

What do you get a 288-pound man for his birthday? How about 288 pounds of jelly beans? His family didn’t plan it that way, but when Mike Lively became the 1 millionth person to tour the Jelly Belly Center on his birthday Wednesday, he won his weight’s worth of the sweet treats.

The 41-year-old Indiana man, who claims he weighs only 278 pounds, said he wasn’t planning on sharing his windfall.

Let’s see. What facility would I like to be the millionth visitor to and win my weight in something? Too many choices.

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Mine and yours, never ours

July 28, 2006

The backlash against the Supreme Court’s horrendous Kelo decision continues, and this has to count as a major victory:

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that economic development isn’t a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes, putting a halt to a $125 million project of offices, shops, and restaurants in a Cincinnati suburb that officials said would create jobs and add tax revenue.

The case was the first challenge of property rights laws to reach a state high court since the U.S. Supreme Court last summer allowed municipalities to seize homes for use by a private developer.

Let’s do a rousing rendition of the old Woody Guthrie song, with slightly altered lyrics: "My land is my land, your land is your land . . . "

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War on the poor

July 28, 2006

Once in a while, there is something so dunderheaded that the negative impact will be seen almost immediately. The Chicago City Council has just provided us with such a moment:

The measure requires retailers with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet to pay workers at least $10 an hour in wages plus $3 an hour in fringe benefits by mid-2010. The current minimum wage in Illinois is $6.50 an hour and the federal minimum is $5.15.

So long, Wal-Mart and Target and who knows what else. Goodbye to the entry-level jobs so many people want. Goodbye to reasonable prices for shoppers of modest means. This was done by a bunch of Democratic alderman who I presume make a lot of speeches about "sticking up for the little guy."

But this is just a dramatic example of government thinking it’s smarter than the marketplace. Usually, the jobs are lost in small increments, every time a state or the federal government nudges up the minimum wage.

I’m dating myself, but the first job I had in Fort Wayne (other than delivering newspapers) was as an usher at the old Jefferson Theater, for 55 cents an hour. I left there after a few months to make more at McDonald’s — 85 cents an hour and all the French fries I could eat. Even for then, those were appalling wages for people trying to raise families. But, guess what? That wasn’t who had those jobs. And it isn’t now.


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Drop the shield

July 28, 2006

Is the press now just another special interest looking our for its own?

A pair of Indiana lawmakers face a steep uphill climb for passage of a bill to shield reporters from having to disclose news sources, but it is a cause worthy of the struggle.

The Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Mike Pence, both Republicans, limits instances in which reporters could be forced to reveal sources.

Sorry, the First Amendment is for everybody, not just reporters. When the press sets itself apart from the people it woud chronicle, it deserves the disdain those people have for it. And how can the press be the "Fourth Estate," acting as a watchdog of the government, when it lets the government define who and who is not a reporter?

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Vermillion fries

July 28, 2006

Come to our fish fry on Friday night. THE CHEMICAL DEPOT HAS BEEN BOMBED! All you can eat for $6.50 a person. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!! Children under 12 half-price. WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! Thanks for your support.

Only in Indiana:

Homeland Security dollars bought the message signs, but Vermillion County officials used them to promote fish fries.
A warning to stop the practice or risk losing federal money has put the signs in storage and left the president of the County Commissioners grousing about interference in local rule.
"We run the county," Commissioner Tim Wilson said. "We make decisions to run the county on what’s best for us. Did we misuse (the signs)? Or did we just run the county as we saw fit?"
Yeah, you run the county. But that was partly my money you used to promote your fish fry with $300,000 worth of signs.

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Last request

July 27, 2006

OK by me:

Saddam Hussein said Wednesday he would rather die by firing squad like a soldier than hang "like a common criminal," as the defiant ex-president made his final appearance before the tribunal until it renders a verdict.

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The Mideast

July 27, 2006

Stand with Israel.

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Bayh’s abortion sense

July 27, 2006

If your state requires parental notification before a minor can get an abortion, it seems logical to have a law preventing taking that minor across state lines to avoid the notification laws. Sen. Evan Bayh agrees, the only Democrat considering a presidential run who does:

"Bayh supports the right of parents to be involved in the major medical decisions regarding their children, absent a showing of abuse, incest or other compelling reasons," spokeswoman Meg Keck said.
Well, yeah. Those who argue otherwise — that the "right to an abortion" trumps everything — are letting their zealotry blind them to simple common sense.

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Go back to the country

July 27, 2006

Has anybody else noticed that the cicadas seem to be even louder and more annoying than ever this summer? I hear them at home, at work, at my friend’s house. Shut up! Can’t the city invoke its noise ordinance? Maybe we can convince the DNR that they’re Canadian insects that snuck over the border, bring some big guns out and wipe ’em out.

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Cover up, mate

July 27, 2006

The Brits consider cracking down on toplessness – by men:

Men may be barred from baring their chests – and stomachs – in public under new local laws being considered by town halls.

They would stop men stripping off their shirts in crowded town centres and give powers to police to remove any who defy the cover-up laws.

The proposal has been inspired by the least attractive side effect of the heatwave – the tendency of a number of often middle-aged men to go about in nothing more than shorts and trainers.

There are a lot of men who should not go around topless, and a reasonable person might even say I’m one of them. But the bans on female toplessness are at least related to longstanding taboos based on sexual biology. This is mere aesthetics. If we’re going to go there, let’s talk about the people who should be required to wear bags on their heads in public.

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The perfect man

July 27, 2006

Women have finally caught up with men by discovering blow-up dolls:

He fits in a car’s glove box, appears at a flick of a switch and when a woman has finished using him, she can just pull the plug and he deflates.

He’s the "Buddy on Demand," a blow-up man launched on Tuesday with the aim of making solo female motorists feel less nervous about driving at night.

And the best part is, he doesn’t criticize her driving.

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Let’s make Al carbon neutral

July 26, 2006

Oh, please:

Former Vice President Al Gore said his conscience is regularly challenged by a consumerism that contributes to the global warming he has made it his mission to reverse.

"It is so hard for those of us who want to live according to our values," Gore said Monday at the Chautauqua Institution, during the latest in a series of lectures he has given on global warming.

"We’re embedded in a culture that makes it so easy to just go with the flow and support a pattern that’s horribly destructive," he said. "And so we need to address this personally."

Go ahead and live that carbon-neutral lifestyle, Al. I’ll do my part to make sure things even out.

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The endless stream

July 26, 2006

Now, THIS is the one I’ve been waiting for: Inc. declined to comment on Monday on a report in Advertising Age magazine that it would launch a movie download business in mid-August.

Speculation has swirled for months that Amazon is working on a digital download service that would allow consumers to download and copy popular movies and television programs.

I hated renting movies because it was just like going to the library when I was a kid. It was lots of fun to go and pick out books, but sheer torture to have to haul the things back when I was done. I probably could have paid for my first semester of college just with the money I shelled out during high school for late fees. Then came Netflix and Blockbusters online rental services. Still, you had to remember to put the things in the mailers when you were done and leave them out for the mail carrier.

I tell you — we’re going to do away with ALL hardware — CDs, DVDS (who cares which new hi-def format wins?), books. We’re even starting to see the first all-digital videocams, no tapes required. There’s going to be nothing but an endless digital stream we can capture with a multipurpose handheld device we never have to be without. I KNEW there was a reason to live this long.

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Pay attention, kids

July 26, 2006

Here’s another statement of the obvious, based on a study that cost God knows how much:

Your parents were right, don’t study with the TV on.

Multitasking may be a necessity in today’s fast-paced world, but new research shows distractions affect the way people learn, making the knowledge they gain harder to use later on.

The study, in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also provides a clue as to why it happens.

"What’s new is that even if you can learn while distracted, it changes how you learn to make it less efficient and useful," said Russell A. Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

I hate to admit it, but I was one of those distracted kids who liked a lot of noise going on with the homework. My multi-tasking of choice wasn’t the TV, though, but the radio or a record player (you remember those). If I had a few short lessons, it was the record player. If I had one big project that was going to take a lot of time, the radio was better.

I can’t say that the habit affected me into my adult . . . what was I talking about? I’ve got something from YouTube playing on the other monitor and . . . oh, yeah, now I remember. Homework. It’s good for you, kid. Do it.

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Drink up, gramps

July 26, 2006

Have a ball, old fogies:

A study of men and women age 70 to 79 found that those who downed one to seven alcoholic drinks a week had a significantly lower risk of heart problems or death than those who didn’t imbibe, researchers said on Monday.

Cripes. If I make it that far, I figure pretty much anything goes. What’s the point of self-denial then?

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Down on the farm

July 26, 2006

I hope the trend to make county fairs more modern and relevant doesn’t go too far:

"The idea that 4-H is focused on corn and cows for farm kids is a myth," said Maggie McKinnies of the Hamilton County Extension Office.
Children participating in county fairs today are just as likely to be using a computer for a project as they are to be working with animals.
Along those lines, Hamilton County added a Microsoft PowerPoint class to this year’s county fair, which ended Monday. McKinnies said several 4-H students had asked for the session, which teaches children how to use technology in real-life situations.
"In real life, people giving presentations are expected to have a visual component, not just stand up and speak," she said.
Modernizing fairs to include technology is one way to make fairs an integral part of the community, organizers said.
OK, there aren’t as many kids living on the farm as there used to be. But one of the main benefits of the fairs has been to show the cows and the corn to city folks, especially kids, who think all our food comes from the supermarket, already wrapped when it gets there. The further we get from our rural roots, the more value there is in reminding people of them. No need to make the kiddies watch someone wring the neck of a chicken (one of my early childhood memories), but it wouldn’t traumatize them too much to see a cow being milked.

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Up against the wall, sinner!

July 26, 2006

A chaplain who wants to be a cop, gets a take-home police car and likes to take it out of town with the lights and siren going. Too bad "Monty Python" isn’t still in production — this would make a perfect piece for them:

Warren, a lifelong friend of the mayor, is scheduled to attend a 60-hour training session for auxiliary officers. If he passes the course, he would have authority to make arrests within city limits.

Oh, a lifelong friend of the mayor — that sort of explains things. If you got busted by this guy, he could read you your rights but tell you it’s OK, God still loves you.

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A surefire crowd pleaser

July 25, 2006

How about a little chicken poop bingo to liven up the next Three Rivers Festival?

“It’s cow-pie bingo, but we couldn’t do that in town, so we made it miniature and with chickens instead,” said Kirchgatter, the designated chicken-handler.

For those who are still confused, Kirchgatter and her father, Scott, stuffed eight chickens into a cage, which had a bottom lined with numbered squares.

RAGBRAI riders paid $1 to bet on a square.

The birds walked, pecked and pooped.

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Too connected

July 25, 2006

I love technology, but is anybody really this obsessed with laundry?

Washers and dryers that link wirelessly to Internet-connected home networks are being tested by consumers who are receiving updates on their dirty laundry via cell phones, computers and TV sets.

Messages not only indicate when a wash is complete but also can warn that a lint filter is clogged or a load is too large. Users can remotely command the machines to fluff dry clothes or start a load from a distance after being told — oops — they forgot to start the wash.

Laundry is something to forget about while you do other things. Stick it in the washer, go back to reading your book. Move it from the washer to the dryer — in an hour or two or three, whenever you remember, it doesn’t really matter — then do something else till you remember to put it back in the hamper and take it to the bedroom. Since it is all wrinkle-free (my house has a no-ironing rule), that makes it good to go until all the dirty clothes are collected from the closet floor and the process is repeated in exactly one week.

Next thing you know, they’ll have wireless connections to let us know when the toilet quits flushing.

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My, that IS a tasty beverage

July 25, 2006

Sounds like some of the Iranian nutjobs were trained on Madison Avenue:

Parvin Heydari, an Iranian mother of two, was flipping back and forth between the nightly news and Oprah when a bulletin on an Iranian state channel caught her attention. It urged Iranians to boycott what it called "Zionist products," including those made by Pepsi, Nestlé and Calvin Klein, and warned that profits from such products "are converted into bullets piercing the chests of Lebanese and Palestinian children." As evidence, the voice-over intoned, "Pepsi stands for ‘pay each penny to save Israel.’ "

Personally, I don’t mind spending pennies to save Israel, but Pepsi isn’t the only drink I like. I also enjoy Covert Operation to Kill Emirs, Secret Program to Remove Iran from This Earth and even an occasional Syrian Empire could Very Easily be Nuked to Underwrite Peace.

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Athletes make the grade

July 25, 2006

Colleges giving star athletes easy classes and inflating their grades? I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you!

Instead of relying on a tenured whistle-blower to root out what is often suspected — athlete-friendly professors, undemanding classes or outright corruption — a national faculty group proposed that schools be required to reveal players’ classes, grades and class grade-point averages in an aggregate list that would protect individual privacy.
Although an NCAA subcommittee rejected the idea last month, calling it extraordinarily intrusive, the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics and another reform organization, the Drake Group, say the Auburn case illustrates the need for academic disclosure. They plan to continue pressing for it with the NCAA, on individual campuses and with lawmakers.
Maybe these college administrators could explain to the rest of us how something in the aggregate can be "extraordinarily instrusive." I think someone is being extraordinarily  and deliberately obtuse.

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