Archive for May, 2007

How much will it hurt?

May 31, 2007

The toughest smoking ban in the state starts here tomorrow, and the only question remaining is whether it will hurt the businesses of bars and restaurants. I wonder if we have enough information to predict that. Some say "studies have shown" that there is no negative impact from bans elsewhere. Others contend that, while the number of customers might increase (there being more non-smokers than smokers), those customers will spend less, because they won’t linger as long.

But doesn’t most of the economic data, such as it is, come from places that went from unrestricted smoking to a ban? We’re going from a ban to a stronger ban. Smokers have been segregated for years now, and those who want to dine out without smoke have been able to do so. Are there many more to bring into restaurants to replace the smokers who decide to stay home? The biggest test will probably be in bars. I guess we’ll see how many people there are in town who have always wanted to hang out in bars but haven’t because of the smoke.

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The pits

May 31, 2007

The mayor of Indianapolis is sick of pit bulls and wants them banned:

The city’s mayor on Wednesday said he’ll ask the City-County Council to ban pit bulls in Marion County, citing recent dog attacks on residents.

"More kids and more people in our community (are) getting torn up by pit bulls, and I’m just sick to death of it," Mayor Bart Peterson told 6News’ Rick Hightower.

Several pit-bull attacks on people were reported in the city this month. One of the most recent incidents happened last week, when a pit bull injured the 7-year-old daughter of its owner’s girlfriend.

The problem with breed-specific bans is that it punishes the dogs instead of the monsters who misuse them. The pit bull is no more or less aggressive than most dogs, but it is powerful and a favorite of certain lowlife clowns who get off by turning animals into monsters:

Despite the stereotype, the average, sound-minded pit bull is not a threat where children are concerned. Though the AKC and UKC recommend that no child be left alone with any dog, the APBT, like many of its relatives, is a breed more likely not to know its own strength and knock a toddler down totally by accident rather than by force. Pit bulls were bred to have a high tolerance for pain and thus will put up with a child’s tail yanking, horseplay, and tumbling with little complaint and no snapping. Though if the animal has reached a mature age it is not advisable to have a child left unattended. It is also a breed that is very strong for its size and weight, so adults and older children are better recommended to take the dog on its leash.

Fort Wayne has the right approach:

In addition, no dog that has been purchased, bred, sold, trained, or harbored for the purpose of dog fighting can be kept within the City.

It’s not the breed; it’s their masters.

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Murder by infection

May 31, 2007

The first government-ordered quarantine since 1963 — what would it feel like to be locked up just for being sick? If you knew it was coming, would you do as much as you could in the meantime?

Health officials said the man had been advised not to fly and knew he could expose others when he boarded the jets. He had a supply of masks to wear for the protection of other passengers, but it is not clear whether he donned them, Cetron said.

The man told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that doctors did not order him not to fly and only suggested he put off his long-planned wedding. He knew he had a form of tuberculosis and that it was resistant to commonly used drugs, but he did not realize until he was already in Europe that it could be so dangerous, he said.

"We headed off to Greece thinking everything’s fine," he told the newspaper. The newspaper did not identify him at his request, because of the stigma attached to his diagnosis.

No, my question is not about whether his civil liberties have been violated. Since it’s pretty clear he knew exactly what risk he posed, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, if any of those people die, should he be charged with murder?

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Big business

May 31, 2007

Hillary Clinton at her anti-individual, pro-group, government-activism, business bashing, redistributionist best:

Now, we have seen for more than a century that fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies. And no one should be surprised, human nature being what it is, people will go as far as they possibly can get away with.

The genius of the American economic in the 20th century was that it helped to counter that tendency for people to push as far as their own interests would take them so that we created a leveler playing field that benefited everyone.

Unfortunately, for the past six years it’s as though we’ve gone back to the era of the robber barons. Year after year the president has handed out massive tax breaks to oil companies, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, tax incentives to corporations shipping jobs overseas, tax cut after tax cut to multimillionaires, while ignoring the needs and aspirations of tens of millions of working families.

Hillary Clinton’s America:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The price of a licence to operate a New York taxi cab hit a record $600,000 (303,000 pounds) in May, according to a lending company which financed the purchase.

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May 31, 2007

Now that Fred Thompson is all but in the presidential race, it seems fair to start with his voting record, especially as it compares to the Republicans already running. The New York Times describes it as "decidedly but not exclusively conservative," which sounds about right.:

Pat Toomey, a former House member from Pennsylvania (1999-2005) who heads the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative group that promotes free trade and cutting taxes and spending, offered general praise for Thompson’s voting record. Toomey’s group will soon issue a detailed “white paper” analyzing Thompson’s record on economic issues, as it has done for McCain, Brownback, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

“As a general matter, I think Fred Thompson’s career in the Senate demonstrates a guy who does have a pretty strong commitment to limited government, free enterprise and particularly federalist principles,” Toomey told

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Nut’n, honey

May 30, 2007

Drat. Just when the press gets us all worked up into a good panic, somebody who knows what he’s talking about comes along to spoil all the fun:

There are some 20,000 species of bees in the world, and many thousands more types of pollinating insects. What you’re hearing about, "colony collapse disorder," affects one species of bee the European honey bee. That species happens to be the one global agriculture relies upon for about 30% of its pollination requirements. So while we’re not talking about losing all the world’s pollinators, we are talking about losing a significant fraction of them. That’s the worst-case scenario, with the species wiped out completely.

Second, there’s no reason at this point to think European honey bees are going to be wiped out, now or ever. The die-offs so far appear to affect some beekeepers more than others, sometimes in the same area. That’s one reason scientists are so puzzled, but it strongly suggests the losses may have something to do with how individual beekeepers are managing their bees. The "significant percentage" of failing hives is still a drop in the bucket when viewed against the global population of honey bees, and there are lots of beekeepers (even in the U.S., which appears hardest hit) who have not had, and may never have, significant losses of colonies. Plenty of honey bees remain to replace the ones that have died. It’s not yet time to scream that the sky is falling.

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Helpful news

May 30, 2007

Today’s life lesson: "New poll reveals Canadian parents believe teaching their kids to swim is the best way to prevent drowning." Next: Teaching kids about gravity is the best way to prevent deaths by falls from tall buildings. Those crazy Canadians.

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Red-light district

May 30, 2007

When red-light cameras were being considered here, officials insisted the reason was safety and safety only. But some (including me) had doubts, considering the jurisdictions that had found them to be big revenue generators. Now comes Buffalo, being glaringly and stupidly honest:

Buffalo has already found 38 locations for the cameras, expecting to install them in "places frequently trafficked by commuters coming into the city," according to documents obtained by the News. Other documents show a strong focus on revenue.

"Why does the city not have a red light program?" asks one document prepared by the Buffalo police. "It would be worth the city’s time to see if this program has reduced intersection accidents and to see the amount of revenue it has generated in other cities like Baltimore, MD."

The way money is generated is to install the cameras, then screw with the timing of the lights so that there is less time between the orange and the red, resulting in more red-light runners and, oops, more rear-end collisions as well. May the subject never come up again here.

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Follow your dream

May 30, 2007

Advice for graduating college seniors: If you decide what you love to do, instead of looking for the most monetarily rewarding "career path," you’ll never work a day in your life:

But here’s a secret: You do not have to hate your first job. In fact, you can fall in love with it — if you do what Tester did. Rather than obsess about the font on her résumé, she asked herself two little questions: What do I love so much I’d do it for free, and how can I get someone to pay me to do that?

Find the answers to these questions, young graduate. And you will never "work" again.

This year’s entry-level job market is even hotter than the overall economy. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that recruiters plan to hire 17.4% more grads from the 2007 class than the ’06 class.

Just because you’re likely to get a job, though, doesn’t mean you’re going to like it. A recent Conference Board survey found that fewer than 39% of workers younger than 25 are even "satisfied" with their jobs, the lowest level in the survey’s 20-year history. A 2005 poll from Maritz,  a research firm, found that only 10% of Americans strongly agreed that they look forward to going to work every day. A January survey found that 84% of workers aren’t in their "dream jobs."

Fair enough. We all like to complain. But dug a little deeper and asked people to think about what their dream jobs would look like. They found out, as Vice President Richard Castellini noted in the poll’s news release, that these jobs were "surprisingly reminiscent of childhood wishes for many workers." I don’t find this surprising at all. For most of us, when we were little, there was something we loved so much we spent hours focused on it. Tester surfed. I scribbled stories in my school notebooks. Maybe for you joy came from something like "building sand castles." This is the answer to the first question: "What do you love so much you’d do it for free?"

Unfortunately, as we grow up, we see these affections as impractical. We don’t think there’s an answer to the question: "How do I get someone to pay me to do that?"

People who experience career bliss, though, never lose faith on question No. 2. Fortunately for them, it turns out that this modern, wired economy has room for all sorts of livelihoods.

My job has had its ups and downs, and lord knows it hasn’t made me rich, but I can’t imagine having done anything else. I never wanted to do anything but write, and even as a kid I couldn’t keep from shooting my mouth off. I am doing what I would have done anyway, and I have managed to find people willing to pay me for doing it.

One of my favorite books, which I may have mentiond here before, is the slim "A Mathematician’s Apology" by G.H. Hardy, not so much for his elegant descriptions of the beauty of math as for his thoughts on choosing a life’s work. Just two things: It should be somehow useful to humankind in the grand scheme of things, and it should be the one thing you can do best. Not what you can do better than someone else; there will always be people who do it better and those who do it worse. What you do best. What if that’s not also what you love to do? But it will be. What you do best you will learn to do better and better.

On the other hand, I have this theory. If a man’s job werre, every day, to spend $1 million before lunch, then fly to a different beautiful place every day and have dinner in the best restaurant there, then end each day by making love to a different sexy woman, he would eventually get to the point where he got up in the morning and thought, "Oh, man, I wish I didn’t have to go to work today."

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Now hear this

May 29, 2007


This sign, at my bank’s drive-through, is one it took me a while to grasp the implications of: 1. If you can read it, you don’t need what it offers. 2. If you do need it, you can’t read it, and what in the world are you driving a car for anyway?

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Jack’s back

May 29, 2007

Dr. Death will soon be back among us:

LANSING, Mich. — For nearly a decade, Dr. Jack Kevorkian waged a defiant campaign to help other people kill themselves. The retired pathologist left bodies at hospital emergency rooms and motels and videotaped a death that was broadcast on CBS’ "60 Minutes." His actions prompted battles over assisted suicide in many states. But as he prepares to leave prison June 1 after serving more than eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence in the death of a Michigan man, Kevorkian will find that there’s still only one state that has a law allowing physician-assisted suicide — Oregon.

Experts say that’s because abortion opponents, Catholic leaders, advocates for the disabled and often doctors have fought the efforts of other states to follow the lead of Oregon, where the law took effect in late 1997.

Kevorkian is ailing, probably terminal. Is it inappropriate to wonder whether a serial killer will take care of his own demise or seek the kind of help he so kindly offered others?

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The home fires

May 29, 2007

In case you wondered, politicians in Allen County are smarter than those in England. The county has approved changes to its public-smoking ban:

On Friday, the commissioners changing the definition of “public place” to exclude private or semi-private rooms in health-care facilities that are occupied by one or more people, who have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted.

Commissioner Nelson Peters said the changes came after talking to various groups, including the board of the county-owned Byron Health Center, 12101 Lima Road, which is outside the city.

Residents are currently allowed to smoke in 24-hour smoking rooms in the long-term care facility. Most residents have brain injuries, developmental disabilities or other cognitive issues

Board member Herb Hernandez said many of the more than 200 residents are addicted to cigarettes and changing their smoking habits could have adverse consequences. The change, he said, should alleviate those concerns.

So, the government’s grand plans to "help people" might actually harm some of them. In England, patients in a high-security psychiatric hospital are challenging a new smoking ban going into effect in July. Since they have no choice about where they are, the hospital is, in effect, their home. And:

Around 70% of psychiatric patients smoke, as do 80% of prisoners.

The head of the prison service, Phil Wheatley, warned ministers in 2005 that banning smoking in prisons would cause disorder and an increase in assaults on staff.

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The deep end, off

May 29, 2007

So long to poor, sad Cindy Sheehan, whose rantings will apparently no longer be Page 1 news:

I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither.

[. . .]

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement . . . I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America …you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It is sad, but understandable, that she feels that way about America. She is a mother who lost a son, and her grief has consumed her. What has been unforgiveable is the way she has been used by some Democrats and some in the media to further their own agenda — just read some of the hundreds of comments appended to her Kos post. Even she has enough rationality left to understand that:

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party.  This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

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Wayne’s world

May 29, 2007

I once started a book so bad that I stopped reading after the first chapter, went outside and threw it in the garbage can. Then, about 2 in the morning, I felt such pangs that I found myself rooting through coffee grounds, egg shells and used cat litter to retrieve the damn thing. That’s how I feel about books. So I can’t do a funny post about how sillly this man’s book-burning "protest" is. It’s a sacrilege:

Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero’s Books.

His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy’s "The Hunt for Red October" and Tom Wolfe’s "Bonfire of the Vanities," to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn’t even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

If he really loved books, he couldn’t do this, no matter what he thinks about the state of "thought in America today." There are still billions and billions of books, many of them stacked in the corners of my house and even on the stairs leading up to the second floor (you really need only half a staircase to walk on). I know I need to weed out the ones I will never read again, but I can’t quite work up to actually doing it.

But I love the Internet, too. It’s unbeatable for some things — when’s the last time any of you went searching through the print version of an encyclopedia? Thought is alive and well. Wayne confuses the medium for the message.

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Keep it transparent

May 25, 2007

The Indiana blogosphere has a lot to say on the matter of Matt Kelty’s campaign-finance-disclosure problem. Some, such as Fort Wayne Libertarian Mike Sylvester, think the Kelty for Mayor campaign just made a mistake in reporting, and it’s too bad the filing laws are so complex that a lawyer is needed to understand them. Jeff Pruitt at Fort Wayne Left thinks it’s pretty clear Kelty broke campaign finance law. The liberal blog Taking Down Words seems gleeful that a "Fort Wayne right-winger" would be in such a pickle, while the conservative Angry White Boy thinks the whole thing will blow over but is distressed at the bad advice Kelty must have gotten from lawyers. Left of Centrist doesn’t want to "come right out and call Kelty a liar" — but, after all, what else would you expect from a Republican? Advance Indiana seems convinced of Kelty’s guilt, and Fort Wayne Observed links to the actual amended campaign finance report filed by Kelty.

The Election Board will decide what laws, if any, it thinks were broken, and the courts will be involved if need be, so perhaps we ought to reserve judgment on that part. But the burden of proof is clearly on Kelty to convince us he wasn’t trying to make his campaign less than transparent. Contributions he reported as personal loans to himself were actually loans to him by people close to his campaign, the bulk of the money coming from Frederick Rost, a Kelty campaign adviser and president of Allen County Right to Life. Rost also funded the Zogby poll — anonymously at first — that had results favorable to Kelty, and Kelty has insisted all along he did not know who paid for the poll. How is a reasonable person not supposed to think that Kelty wants to keep the public from knowing who is financing his mayoral candidacy?

Campaign-finance laws have become more and more convoluted and ridiculous, with so many rules about who can give what to whom that ordinary people can’t be blamed for not even wanting to get involved in supporting a candidate. Every time the politicians try to tighten the rules, for example trying to differentiate "hard" money from "soft," the candidates find loopholes. The one thing we should insist on is knowing where the money comes from.

I don’t care if a candidate gets $1 million from one donor or $1 each from a million donors, as long as I know where the money came from. It is neither her nor there that Kelty is getting a lot of backing from pro-lifers. We should feel the same about disclosure if he were being funded by Planned Parenthood or labor unions or UFO clubs. As long as voters know where the money is coming from, they can use that information as part of the decision-making process when choosing whom to vote for.

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Lesson from New Zealand

May 25, 2007

With all due respect to Sen. Richard Lugar, who wants to "rewrite" America’s farm program, that would only give us a slightly more sensible multi-billion-dollar subsidy monster. Why not try something truly radical, like just ending the whole thing? It sounds scary, but one country’s experience indicates that the fear might be exaggerated:

Once upon a time, in a country way, way down under, the government dismantled its system of agricultural subsidies and supports. Initially, cries of outrage and disbelief were heard from farmers all across the land.

For more than 20 years, farm assistance had steadily increased, peaking at 33 percent of total farm output (about double the level of assistance in the U.S. today). Then, with one swift and decisive decree, all subsidies were eliminated.

The transition period, which lasted about 6 years, was not easy, but it was less painful than expected. The government predicted a 10 percent failure rate, but only 1 percent of farms went of business. Government assistance during the transition period was limited to one-off "exit grants" for those leaving their farms, financial advice, and the same social welfare income support afforded to all citizens.

The fortune of farmers now depended on their ability to meet consumers’ demands.

[. . .]

A prosperous farm sector without government subsidies? Sounds too good to be true…sounds like a fairy tale. It’s not. In 1985, New Zealand permanently eliminated 30 different agricultural production subsidies and export incentives. Over the past 20 years, as New Zealand’s farms flourished without assistance, the opportunity cost to American consumers and taxpayers of U.S. farm programs has totaled more than $1.7 trillion. With the 2007 Farm Bill, our government has the opportunity to make much needed reforms to farm policy. We could do worse than look to New Zealand’s policy tale for guidance. Like any good fairy tale there is more to take away from their experience than just the story.

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Helter Skelter

May 25, 2007

No, this is not really comforting:

Charles Manson was denied parole Wednesday, the 11th time since 1978 that the cult leader was ordered to continue serving life sentences for a murderous rampage in 1969.

Manson, 72, did not attend or send a representative to the proceeding before the Board of Parole Hearings at Corcoran State Prison.

It’s scary that h’s actually been eligible for parole all these years. Denying his parole has been the obvious choice, but those in the criminal justice system have not always done the obvious — or rational — thing.

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Make way!

May 25, 2007

Hey, if you’re going to get people to come to your museum to appreciate natural history, they have to be able to park, right?

The Witte Museum is raising eyebrows from those who say the natural history museum is plotting to destroy natural history.

Trees that have been on the grounds adjacent to the museum since the turn of the century could now be replaced by a parking garage.

Destroying nature goes against their nature, Witte President Marise McDermott said. "Actually, you know we are a natural history museum," she said.

Sort of like the tearing-down-businesses-in-order-to-create-space-for-businesses school of economic developmet.

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Appearances are deceiving

May 24, 2007

Congressional Quarterly reports that Democrats want to add Mark Souder to their list of Hoosier takedowns. On the down side, he has supported President Bush in a war that is increasingly unpopular even in his heavily Republican district. But Andy Downs sounds a cautionary note:

“The congressman has never really had high approval numbers, so he always appears to be vulnerable,” said Downs, who chairs the center named after his late father, a well-respected academic. “This is an incredibly Republican district and he is an incredible campaigner. That makes him very difficult, even when it appears that he is beatable.”

It all depends on his opponent. Except for Hayhurst, Democrats haven’t exactly put the best of the best up against Souder.

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The last word

May 24, 2007

I don’t watch much network TV news, but somebody turned on NBC News with Brian Williams the other night, and I caught the tail end where he read viewer mail (the segment referred to here). The letters were all critical of NBC, which is fine; we make a point of giving letters that disagree with us priority. But the sole purpose of reading the letters seemed to be for Williams to tell the viewers, in drippingly condescending tones, what idiots they were and how unforgiveably wrong their pitiful opinions were. If we did that, readers would run us out of town. It’s our page, so we get to use most of the space for our purposes. But, except for extraordinary circumstances, readers who bother to express their views should be given the courtesy of having the last word.

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Ugly is as ugly does

May 24, 2007

Leo Morris, saving humanity one date at a time:

In a recent study, sociologist Diane Felmee found only a third of women said looks were the first thing that attracted them to a man. Most preferred a sense of humour or financial and career success.

Researchers at Newcastle University also believe ugly men exist as a way of repairing our gene pool. Women would rather date men with good genes, who can fight disease easily, than a classically beautiful man.

Women don’t care about looks. If you believe that one . . .

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RIP, Milford

May 23, 2007

We read all the time of new towns being born — Leo-Cedarville may be a mouthful, but its people are creating a municipal identity — or of towns becoming cities and cities wanting to be bigger (welcome to Fort Wayne, Aboite!). But sometimes, a place falls off the map:

The 2000 census found the 129-year-old town of Milford had a population of 121, but the commissioners decided Monday that effective Aug. 4 it will become an unincorporated community, with the county government taking its roads and other property.
"We cannot operate as a town," Town Board member Vickie Adams told county commissioners on Monday. "There is nothing to generate money to fix roads and make improvements. It’s only a very small group of homes. I don’t even know how it became a town."
A long time, 129 years, and I suspect residents will be less apathetic about the loss after it sinks in. There is a flip side, though. My brother lives outside a little place in Texas called Wimberley, the residents of which recently voted to incorporate as a town. But the new status brought a whole crop of town "leaders" who couldn’t wait to start implementing and zealously enforcing a bunch of fussy rules about who could build what where and how. Now, about half the residents are clamoring for a new vote to unincorporate the place.

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Go, team

May 23, 2007

Oh, the humanity.

I’m in Indianapolis for a few days, trying to enjoy a family get-together. But our joy has been dampened by a catastrophe of such magnitude that the mind can barely comprehend it. The grief is palpable. Children weep, and grown men huddle in the shadows, afraid to talk about what the future might bring:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In an apparently close vote, Indianapolis lost out today to Dallas in its bid to host the 2011 Super Bowl.
“I’m pleased to announce that Super Bowl XLV will be played on Feb. 6, 2011 at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
But the Texas win, announced at an NFL owners’ meeting in Nashville, is a blow to Indianapolis, which had worked for months to perfect its pitch. Officials said some 98,000 people would have attended a Super Bowl here, pumping $262 million into the local economy.
My brother lives in Texas now, so this is the kind of thing he could be expected to gloat over. But I think he senses what a fragile state this has put us in, especially my sister, who lives in Indianapolis and must daily deail with reminders of what might have been. So he consoles us as best he can, in that quiet, gruff Texas way of his. The quips can come later, when we have had a chance to heal.
We will get through this, as we are advised by the state’s biggest newsaper, in its lead editorial today, appropriately headlined, "Runner-up can be a champ with team effort":
That the effort fell short to mighty Dallas with its milder winters and 100,000 seats is no shame and really no loss, inasmuch as Indy showed the world and itself what the Colts showed last February: competitiveness, cooperation and class.
Just as the NFL team isn’t about to go away or rest on its laurels, the city’s political and business leadership surely will take the time, talent and treasure invested in the bid for Super Bowl LXV and turn them to the sort of civic betterment these entertainment spectacles are supposed to incidentally foster.
We will get through this together, so let’s huddle up and keep our eye on the goal post. This is just a five-yard penalty, and it will soon become clear that God is on our side in this great endeavor. Soldier on, Hoosiers.

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Left in Iraq

May 23, 2007

A Democrat named Kerry who makes sense:

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified–though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

As Kerry (Bob) understands, it does little good to keep going back and playing the "what if" game about Iraq. We are where we are, and it’s easy to see who in the debate has America’s national security in mind and who is mostly interested in something else.

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Cheap trick

May 23, 2007

Just a chief political trick that Gov. Daniels is wise to avoid (so far):

House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, is urging Gov. Mitch Daniels to suspend Indiana’s sales tax on gasoline, which is hitting record prices of more than $3.30 per gallon.

Daniels so far is resisting the idea, saying that while he would "never say never" to suspend the tax, he did not consider it to be effective or responsible at a time when state government’s revenues remain tight.

How cheap? Bauer talks about "greed" and "gouging" and the "exhorbitant price of gasoline," as if the phrase "supply and demand" isn’t even in his vocabulary. The responsible discussion to have about the sales tax is whether it is a reasonable part of the state’s mix of taxes. Any argument for an exception to it is an argument to just end it.

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