Archive for January, 2008

Breaking new ground

January 31, 2008

Women’s long fight for true equality has finally achieved the ultimate victory:

For years, the world of early spring harbingers has been an old boys’ network dominated by Punxsutawney Phils and Buckeye Chucks. Massachusetts legislators want that to change.

Ms. G (that’s short for Groundhog), a 4-year-old woodchuck from the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm, has been nominated to be the state’s first official groundhog. If approved by the Legislature this year, she would be the first female groundhog in the country to hold such a title.

“What does Punxsutawney Phil know about Massachusetts?” Christy Foote-Smith, sanctuary director at Drumlin Farm, said of the Pennsylvania rodent. “We need our own groundhog.”

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Crosswalk vigilante

January 31, 2008

The crack Muncie Police Department goes after a vicious criminal:

Whitney Stump didn’t like watching drivers ignore the stop signs at the intersection outside his home, so he asked the city to paint crosswalks there.

When the city said no, he made one himself. And the city wasn’t appreciative.

Stump, a 27-year-old Ball State University graduate student and father, says he was arrested once on a charge of criminal mischief for creating the crosswalk at the intersection of Dicks and North streets. He was arrested a second time when he went back to touch up the paint.

Sure, they could handle this one guy. But if there’s suddenly a whole gang of crosswalk painters, maybe they need to bring Erik Estrada back.

Applause lines

January 31, 2008

The Indianapolis Star’s Matthew Tully says Jill Long Thompson’s campaign for governor in the Democratic primary “has spirit,” but the candidate has to start being specific on ideas:

That’s pretty much how the Democratic primary has gone so far. Thompson and her even dodgier opponent, Indianapolis businessman Jim Schellinger, have spent much of their time bashing Daniels and offering feel-good applause lines. That could be a winning strategy in the current anxiety-fueled political environment, but it’s not very inspiring.

[. . .]

When it comes to criticizing Daniels, Thompson has her applause lines down. At some point, however, she’ll need to explain what she would do better.

That’s the kind of thing editorial writers and columnists always say, because that’s what we’re expected to say, but it’s not always so.

It is true that if Thompson survives the primary and goes head to head with the governor, she will have to be specific. She can’t just say what Mitch Daniels has done badly. She’ll have to say what she would do differently and better. But her job now is to survive the primary, and that means convincing fellow Democrats that she is more up to the task of taking on the governor than Schellinger is. Those “applause lines” are not a distraction from what Thompson should be saying. Right now, they’re the whole point; whoever gets the most wins.

The Berkekey invasion

January 31, 2008

“Support the troops” is not a universal sentiment in this country:

Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.

That’s the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station “is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”

[. . .]

In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m.

[. . .]

“I believe in the Code Pink cause. The Marines don’t belong here, they shouldn’t have come here, and they should leave,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates after votes were cast.

Code Pink, a “peace and justice” group and apparently a darling of city government, wants to even put the military in same category as sex offenders:

Code Pink on Wednesday started circulating petitions to put a measure on the November ballot in Berkeley that would make it more difficult to open military recruiting offices near homes, parks, schools, churches libraries or health clinics. The group needs 5,000 signatures to make the ballot.

Retrograde hippie nuts can be amusing when they pop up here and there. But they should not be encouraged to congregate.

First things first

January 31, 2008

These murder-suicide sickos just can’t seem to get the order of the shootings right:

A father shot to death his 8-year-old daughter before taking his own life this afternoon on the Eastside, police said.
Can’t fathom it. Just can’t.

Lock and load

January 31, 2008

My current hero:

A South Carolina lawmaker says underage military servicemen and women should be allowed to drink alcohol.

Rep. Fletcher Smith has sponsored legislation that would allow service members younger than 21 to purchase alcohol if they show a military identification card to a bartender or store clerk.

South Carolina state law prohibits the sale or possession of alcoholic beverages by anyone under 21.

I know all the arguments against this — such as safety, losing federal highway money — but I’m from the “if they’re old enough to die for their country, etc., etc.” school. It irritated me no end that I had to wait three weeks to go out drinking with a friend to celebrate my safe return from a year in Vietnam, simply because I wasn’t 21 yet.

We made the rounds of a few night spots that were clustered around downtown, by the way. If you’re not old enough to remember what kind of establishments they were, let’s just say that retail shopping isn’t the only thing downtown has lost. Ah, mammaries memories.

We have a winner

January 31, 2008

Forbes magazine created a Misery Measure so it could study the city’s largest 150 metropolitan areas and come up with America’s most miserable cities:

But aren’t there other things that cause Americans misery? Of course. So we decided to expand on the Misery Index and the Misery Score to create our very own Forbes Misery Measure. We’re sticking with unemployment and personal tax rates, but we are adding four more factors that can make people miserable: commute times, weather, crime and that toxic waste dump in your backyard.

The most misearable city in America? No big surprise — Detroit.

Ripple whine

January 31, 2008

About 230 years or so after Adam Smith, the Associated Press stumbles into a little bit of economic reality:

It’s hard to feel sorry for well-heeled shoppers whose idea of tough economic times is passing on $1,000 Burberry raincoats or that $300 limo ride while the working poor skimp on vegetables and take the bus.

But economists say recent signs of the affluent cutting back could hurt the economy and deliver even more pain to lower-income workers, who are dependent on their business and fat tips.

[. . .]

Cutbacks by the wealthy have a ripple effect across all consumer spending, said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Ripple. Almost rhymes with trickle. And, guess what else? Businesses create jobs! Taxing something discourages it, while subsizing it brings more of it! To paraphrase one of our recent letter writers, next thing you know, the AP will be filing a dispatch on the bathroom habits of bears and the religious affiliation of the pope.

Debatable

January 30, 2008

Whether you think global warming is an impeding disaster or a cruel hox, you might want to check out Climate Debate Daily, which has taken up the mission of presenting the best arguments from both sides:

Climate Debate Daily is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries.

[. . .]

As a matter of editorial policy, Climate Debate Daily maintains a studied neutrality, allowing each side to present its most powerful and persuasive case. Our object is to allow readers to form their own judgments based on the best available information.

Now, that’s what the Web can do! Of course, all that stuff is out there to find, but it would take a lot of effort.

(Via Reason’s Hit & Run)

A healthy debate

January 30, 2008

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s health-care plan collapsed for the same reason similar plans have failed in other states:

An independent analysis confirmed the plan would be far more expensive than proponents admitted. Even under the most favorable assumptions, spending would outpace revenue by $354 million after two years, and likely $3.9 billion or more. “A situation that I thought was bad,” Mr. Perata noted, “in fact was worse.”

This reveals that liberal health-care politics is increasingly the art of the impossible: You can’t make coverage “universal” while at the same time keeping costs in check — at least without prohibitive tax increases. Lowering cost and increasing access, in other words, are separate and irreconcilable issues.

Of course Washington might be able to disregard these practicalities, because the states are prohibited from running deficits while the feds aren’t. But the California experience also reveals some of the ideological differences among Democrats, which would also divide in the Beltway.

Universal coverage and costs held in check are mutually exclusive. Well, duh. The good thing about all these state failures is that it might help some in the national debate we’re going to have. And we are going to have it. Clinton and Obama have promised national health care, and Romney pushed through a similar plan in Massachusetts. That’s actually one good thing about McCain — his health-care proposals are the most private-sector, market driven ones.

McDegree

January 30, 2008

Wow. Too bad they didn’t have this when I was going to high school in America. I probably could have gotten out of school a year earlier:

LONDON —  New on the McDonald’s menu: a takeaway diploma.

The government is giving the U.S. burger chain — along with a rail company and an airline — the right to award credits toward a high school diploma to employees who complete on-the-job training programs.

The plan, announced Monday, is part of a push to improve skills among young people and offer even workers who dropped out of school years ago a chance to gain official qualifications.

It’s the first time commercial companies have been allowed to award nationally recognized academic credits for their own workplace training plans. Experts and business leaders had a mixed reaction to the plan, already being dubbed “McQualifications.”

McDonald’s employees will initially be offered a “basic shift manager” course to train staff in everything they need to know to run a McDonald’s outlet — from hygiene to customer service.

I can actually see some merit in this idea. The kids are going to have the jobs anyway. Why not give them an incentive to learn better skills while on the job?

Do the time

January 30, 2008

Most people are shocked when they first discover that inmates don’t really serve the sentences they are given. Because of the “good time” credits they earn and other incentives, even violent felons can get out in less than half the time they are sentenced to. So this seems like a good idea:

State prison inmates would be required to serve 85 percent of their sentences under legislation the House approved Monday night.

The provision by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, was added as an amendment to a bill that would prohibit inmates from receiving early release credits for earning both a GED and a high school diploma while in prison. The amendment was approved 62-32, and the overall bill is now eligible for a vote in the House. If approved by a Wednesday midnight deadline for bills to clear their house of origin, it would be sent to the Senate.

It might be useful to keep some mechanism with which the less-violent offenders can earn early release. But I don’t see what major objection there’d be to making violent felons serve 85 percent of their time, except, maybe, Win Moses’ point that it might cost a lot more than we realize.

No choice

January 30, 2008

There is the real possibility certainty that we will have a presidential race this year in which I don’t think either of the candidates would be especially good for the country. If that happens to you, what’s your solution?

1. Vote for the least objectionable candidate, on the theory that there must be a redeeming quality lurking somewhere, such as which judicial candidates might be appointed.

2. Sit this one out and refuse to be responsible in any way for the harm that is sure to come to the country.

I can see pros and cons for both those choices. I suppose a third choice would be to to opt for a write-in candidate, but, though that might make us feel good about ourselves, it’s really the same thing as not voting.

The Hoosier Boatman?

January 30, 2008

After 177 years of arguments about it, there is still a great dispute over the origin of the term “Hoosier.” Now, a Hanover College English instructor — and a Shakespeare scholar, no less — takes a stab at it:

Smith found an editorial in an 1833 Cincinnati newspaper in which the word “Hooshier” was used to describe the “now extinct class of mortals called the Ohio Boatman … and by some caprice which can never be explained, the appellation Hooshier became confined solely to such boatman as had their homes on the Indiana shore …”

Ah yes, the Hoosier Boatman. Yet Smith explained that due to the statewide controversy over building a canal from the Wabash River to Lake Erie — and the boatman and river connections — the word “Hoosier” went from little usage to common usage in just three years, 1830 to 1833.

[. . .]

The possibilities are endless. Smith leans to the theory that the boatmen were great fighters, could “hush up” people, were thus called “hushers” — only a short step to Hoosiers.

If he’s right, who could have imagined all of farmland Indiana being historically linked to riverboats?

Hoosier was a word born of pride — not stereotype.

I dunno. I still kind of like the “Who’s there?” or “Who’s here?” explanation.

Too much information

January 30, 2008

The “abortion information” bill was approved by the Indiana Senate 39-9, but some changes were made. It was going to say that women considering an abortion must be told that a fetus feels pain. But now:

Women seeking an abortion would be told that there is differing medical evidence about whether a fetus feels pain under legislation approved by the Senate 39-9 today.

How is that going to help anybody make up her mind? Might feel pain. Might not. Gosh, I think I already knew that. The bill was also going to say that life begins at conception, but lawmakers thought that definition might be used to define when life begins in other areas of the law. So now:

Under the bill passed today, women would be told that “an embryo formed by the fertilization of a human ovum by a human sperm immediately begins to divide and grow as human physical life.”

That somehow manages to state the obvious and say nothing at the same time. The senators may think they are making an important statement about the importance of life, but they are just cluttering up the law with nonsense. (The bill, it should be noted, also requires women to be told, appropriately, that there are physical risks to getting an abortion and that adoptive parents might be found who can cover the costs of birth. So at least it’s not total nonsense.)

Now that the lawmakers are done playing doctor, can they go back to being senators?

Randy

January 30, 2008

It’s nice to see a Hoosier can bounce back from a scandal:

Former Bush administration official Randall Tobias appears to have landed on his feet after being identified as a customer of the so-called “D.C. Madam.”

Tobias, who resigned last spring from his senior State Department position citing “personal reasons,” is in line to run the Indianapolis Airport Authority, the Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday.

The organization oversees six airports in the Indianapolis area, including Indianapolis International Airport and the Indianapolis downtown heliport, according to its Web site. Its 2006 budget was $95 million.

Tobias never fessed up to being naughty.  He told ABC News that he only used  “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage,” and that he had recently switched to another service “with Central Americans.” Gals? He said gals? Oh, yeah, I believe him.

Friendly skies

January 29, 2008

Flying is already bad enough, thank you:

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German nudists will be able to start their holidays early by stripping off on the plane if they take up a new offer from an eastern German travel firm.

Travel agency OssiUrlaub.de said it would start taking bookings from Friday for a trial nudist day trip from the eastern German town of Erfurt to the popular Baltic Sea resort of Usedom, planned for July 5 and costing 499 euros ($735).

“It’s expensive, I know,” managing director Enrico Hess told Reuters by phone. “It’s because the plane’s very small. There’s no real reason why a flight in which one flies naked should be more expensive than any other.”

The lunch police

January 29, 2008

Gimme that lunch, kid!

School lunchboxes could soon be monitored by dinner ladies to ensure children are eating healthy meals, ministers said.

Under the Government’s obesity strategy, all schools will be expected to design a “healthy lunchbox policy” on what makes a nutritional packed lunch over the next year.

Some parents may even be asked to sign a form agreeing to ban unhealthy foods from their children’s lunches.

If a packed lunch is deemed to contain too much fat and sugar, parents could be sent warning letters or their children’s meals confiscated.

I sometimes worried that my lunch would be taken, but the bully was usually someone nearer my own age. 

Every breath tou take

January 29, 2008

As long as there are governments, there will be ever-more exotic ways to raise revenues and/or taxes:

Need a few million dollars to fill a budget deficit? Lease a toll highway, like Indiana and Virginia did; or lease toll bridges as in Alabama; or cash in on future lottery profits as a half-dozen states are considering. You could slap a tax on pornography as six states already have, or tax strip joints like they do in Texas, where they call it a “pole tax.”

Some states take a slice out of pumpkin sales at Halloween. And most states tax Shaquille O’Neal and Barry Bonds when they visit, using a “jock tax” on professional athletic events.

Amused? That will cost you, too. Many states collect an amusement tax for live performances.

“They range from the outright crazy to the absolutely insane,” said Nate Bailey, of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation based in Washington. “People at the local level already feel overtaxed and politicians, in a somewhat spineless way, look for a hidden way to increase revenue without raising taxes.”

The underlying theme, though not quite acknowledged in the story, is that the natural progression is for government to grow. And the bigger it gets, the less honest the money-raising is. We go from, “Here are our plans, and this is how high the tax rate must be to fund them” to “Let’s just get money any way we can, then spend it all.”

Makes casino gambling seem downright tame.

Kiss up

January 29, 2008

I don’t mind the cost of roses going through the roof every February– it’s routine supply & demand. But this is unacceptable:

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Hershey Company which is the nation’s largest candy maker, says it is raising the wholesale price of its chocolate bars for the second time in a year.

The company says it needs to make the move to offset rising energy and commodity costs.

It also says it is more exposed to the rising cost of milk and cocoa than its competitors, which include Mars and Nestle.

Rising costs, gotta make a profit, blah, blah, blah. Don’t they know that chocolate is a constitutional right?

What price perfection?

January 29, 2008

I used to be a fairly regular bowler, but it’s something I no longer pursue. I don’t think I’ve been in a bowling alley for 10 years, and I haven’t kept up with the game. So I found this intriguing:

Brad Bowman now owns 51 perfect games. Yet this one was different.

The 35-year-old Indianapolis resident threw back-to-back 300s last month for the first time in his career.

“It was the first time in a long time I was really kind of nervous throwing the last ball, believe it or not,” Bowman said of his final 300.
That might have something to do with the crowd watching.

[. . .]

Bowman said it was common years ago for crowds to watch a 300 game unfold. But now that so many occur, other bowlers usually don’t gather.
This isn’t a pro bowler mind you, just a league fanatic, and he has 51 perfect games, and 300s are so common now that people won’t even stop to watch one happening unless it’s a guy’s second in a row? Clearly, something had happened in the world of bowling that had escaped my attention, so I did a little Googling and found this New York Times article from 2000:

Thirty years ago, throwing a 300 made you a bowling celebrity, the Paul Anka of your local alley. The American Bowling Congress in Greendale, Wis., would solemnly present you with a gold ring to signal your ascension into an elite club. The bowling alley would memorialize your feat with a plaque or a glass-encased shrine. And from that day forward, it was a safe bet you would never buy your own coffee ever again.

These days, you had better bring some change if you think a 300 game gets you a cup of joe, because you have lots of company.

Thanks largely to NASA-like advances in bowling-ball technology and the more liberal application of lubricants upon lane surfaces — by bowling center proprietors seeking to enliven a game of fickle popularity — the number of perfect games has exploded. Teenagers in youth leagues are throwing them. Retired people in senior leagues are throwing them. There is a bowling alley mechanic in Nassau County who has thrown perfect games with his right hand and his left.

[. . .]

The American Bowling Congress, the governing body of the sport, reports that in the 1968-69 season, it recorded 905 perfect games in league and tournament matches; in the 1998-99 season, it recorded 34,470.

That figure represents about a 3,700 percent increase in 30 years.

Forgive me if you knew this years ago and I’m just repeating old news to you. It’s new to me, and more than a little disheartening. I remember what a holy grail the 300 score once was. It wasn’t quite the big deal a hole-in-one for golf has always been, but it was right up there — to achieve it, you needed skill and, frequently, a little bit of luck, too.  Most bowlers went their whole lives and only got close, if that. It was a lofty goal that, once achieved, gave you bragging rights and your name on the wall of the bowling establishment.

But what’s the point if “perfection” is so easy to achieve that almost anybody can do it on any given night?

Back to the future

January 29, 2008

The primary process is winnowing the list of candidates nicely, and it looks like we’re going to have the presidential race many of us had hoped for, Ronald Reagan vs. John F. Kennedy:

I remember another such time, in the 1960s, when I came to the Senate at the age of 30. We had a new president who inspired the nation, especially the young, to seek a new frontier. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.

That was Teddy Kennedy, of course, endorsing Barack Obama for president. Republicans have been falling all over themselves to invoke Reagan, but the politician who most recently praised him was . . . Barack Obama.

Yeah, change. The future.

Warmed-over tyranny

January 28, 2008

They came for the flush toilets, and I did not say anything, because I always flush twice anyway. Then they came for the incandescent bulbs, and I said nothing, because I’ve come to appreciate wine by candlelight lately. Then they came for my plastic bags:

The inevitable question faced by shoppers at the grocery checkout, how to tote their food home, may soon get simpler.

Faced with a growing push in some states and cities to ban or limit use of plastic bags, many grocers are encouraging consumers to recycle bags or bring their own. At least one, Whole Foods Market Inc., plans to do away with the bags altogether.

But many grocers report that about 90 percent of their shoppers still ask for plastic. And the bag makers, a billion-dollar industry, oppose bans, calling instead for consumers to reuse or recycle the bags. They favor recent legislation that encourage the recycling of bags but don’t ban them outright.

As a single grocery shopper, I can tell you there’s a reason most of us ask for the plastic bags. We can grab the handles and take all our groceries into the house with one trip instead of two or three. That’s why it’s a billion-dollar industry. It’s one of the signs of progress, like light bulbs that illuminate the house without making us squint or giving us migraines and toilets that get rid of the waste with one flush.

People are willing to die to fight the tyrants who will take our liberty at the point of a gun. But they seem to be willing to go back to the Stone Age  and live in caves at the command of the Global Warming fascists. 

BDS on parade

January 28, 2008

George Bush will not be on the presidential ticket. His popularity seems likely set  new record lows. Yet a liberal advocacy group is planning to spend $8.5 million on an anti-Bush campaign:

Americans United for Change plans to undertake a yearlong campaign, spending the bulk of the money on advertising, to keep public attention on what the group says are the Bush administration’s failures, including the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the current mortgage crisis.

In selling the plan to fundraisers, the group has argued that support for President Reagan was at a low of 42 percent in 1987 but climbed to 63 percent before he left office. “All of a sudden he became a rallying cry for conservatives and their ideology,” said Brad Woodhouse, the group’s president. “Progressives are still living with that.”

This is insane even for Bush Derangement Syndrome. Let them spend their money. Of course, if Hillary becomes president, we will have at least four more depressing years of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. This stuff just keeps multiplying in toxicity.

Enforcing the rules

January 28, 2008

The proposal to punish Indiana businesses that “knowingly employ” illegal immigrants is still alive in the General Assembly. For those who think such a law won’t work, consider the Arizona experience:

PHOENIX, Arizona (AFP) — One month after Arizona introduced a law cracking down on businesses which employ illegal immigrants, Latino workers are fleeing the state and companies are laying off employees in droves, officials and activists say.

[. . .]

The effects of the law have been immediate, according to businessmen, workers and rights activists who spoke to AFP, with companies driving up wages to attract labor while being forced to part company with prized employees.

Incentives work, even negative ones. Companies afraid of losing their licenses quickly start complying, and the illegal workers start looking elsewhere. If anything, Indiana’s proposal isn’t tough enough. A company would lose its license to do business only after accumulating three violations in 10 years. That’s not much of an incentive to change quickly.

But we should also study all the effects — good and bad — in Arizona. Illegal immigrants are going to other states or back to Mexico, and some companies are starting to offer higher wages to attract American workers. But that will have a ripple effect, creating higher costs in general.

States are just trying to fill the void left by the federal government’s abdication of its responsibilities. It should be obvious that if we really, truly want to “solve” the “problem” of illegal immigration, this is the way to do it. If we take away the reason for them to come here, “border security” becomes less of a problem.