Archive for March, 2008

The kids are alright

March 31, 2008

Good for the kids. Despite all the garbage they are exposed to every single day in the popular culture:

Young Americans have a reverence for national institutions, traditions and family values, a U.S. survey indicates.

A survey of so-called “millennials” — those between 21 and 29 — revealed the group overwhelmingly said they support monogamy, marriage, the U.S. Constitution and the military, The Washington Times reported Sunday.

“We were completely surprised. There has been a faulty portrayal of millennials by the media — television, films, news, blogs, everything. These people are not the self-entitled, coddled slackers they’re made out to be. Misnomers and myths about them are all over the place,” said Ann Mack, who directed the survey and is the official “director of trend-spotting” at J. Walter Thompson, the nation’s largest advertising agency.

Shame on the “trend spotters” who have so misjudged the generation, and shame on all of us who paint the millenials with too broad a brush. We didn’t like it when it was done to us as punk kids, and we wouldn’t like it any better today.  There are generalizations that can be made about this generation — as there are about any generation — and it is fair to talk about them and what their cause might be. But we need to be more careful in noting that they are generalizations, to which there are usually many exceptions.  


Blurring the lines

March 31, 2008

Most of us in the press and the blogosphere — including me — were pretty tough on Jack Trudeau when the story broke about his apparent hosting of a drinking party for his child’s graduation. Here’s a different point of view:

The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it,” he told me. “You want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

He said that the most dangerous day of a young person’s life is the 21st birthday, when legality is celebrated all too fervently. Introducing wine as a part of a meal, he said, was a significant protection against bingeing behavior.

That’s something to think about — giving a young person an occasional sip of wine with dinner is a little different from hosting a party at which he and all his friends drink to get (at least) a buzz on. And it is true that for most other potentially dangerous things — driving a car, shooting a gun — there seems to be consensus that the best thing to do is introduce young people to the activity gradually so as to teach them responsible and appropriate use.

Alcohol is little different, though. The line between responsible use and abuse can be a tricky one — its position not exactly known until it is crossed. Young people are not very good with lines anyway, and whenever I hear of adults wanting to help blur them even further, I cringe.   

The warm-up stage

March 31, 2008

Drat. Al Gore has seen through our global-warming denial:

“I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view. They’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the earth is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off,” Gore said.

Actually, I think the moon is flat, and it was the 2000 election that was staged on a movie lot in Arizona. Just like Florida, but not as humid.

Silence, please

March 31, 2008

Good Lord, no — shut up about this before it puts an idea in somebody’s head:

ATLANTA (AP) -Embattled New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas sidestepped whether he’s interested in talking with Indiana University about its head coaching position.

Thomas, whose Knicks have lost five of six and 13 of 15, has a 53-101 record in two seasons with the Knicks. Though he helped Indiana win the 1981 NCAA championship, Thomas has never coached in college.

Klatu, barada, nikto already.

Mr. Pedant strikes again

March 31, 2008

I know I have a lot of pet peeves for someone who cautions against being overly fussy about language and grammar, but here’s another one:

Depending on who you believe, Indiana could be close to hiring its next basketball coach or the situation could still be in the early interview stages.

It’s true that “whom” is disappearing as our language becomes more informal, but it’s still around and so should still be used when the situation calls for it, as here: depending on whom you believe. We believe he or she or they? No. We believe him or her or them. The objective form is called for.

Nicely bribed

March 31, 2008

Want to to know why earmarks will never end? Because when people in a district don’t get them, “pork” suddenly becomes “needed projects,” and people like Sylvia Smith are there to cheer on their griping:

Like many people, I am ambivalent about earmarks.

Yes, they have grown exponentially in number and dollar amount. Yes, many are for absurd projects. Yes, the system is a breeding ground for corruption. Yes, states and communities represented by Appropriation Committee members get a disproportionate share of the spoils. Yes, lawmakers use earmarks for their political advantages.

But when Congress is responsible for collecting and spending taxes, why shouldn’t individual lawmakers be allocated some tiny fraction of the budget to designate for projects the people in their communities ask for?

It seems to me the major flaw in earmarks is not the fact of them but the process. Even though there’s more transparency than there used to be (and kudos, once again, to Rep. Mark Souder’s long-standing policy of telling us all the earmarks he asks for), there is not enough.

No, the flaw is not the “process.” It is the very fact of the earmarks. And as long as this attitude prevails — earmarks are bad, very bad, and why aren’t we getting ours? — nothing will change. Earmarks will disappear when congressmen like Pence and Burton are rewarded for giving them up, and taxpayers start voting out those who accept them. Unfortunately, those who are nicely bribed seldom turn on those who bribe them.

How I spent my vacation

March 28, 2008

You may have noticed that my postings have gotten sparser and even more superficial than usual as the week wore on. It wasn’t the vacation. Spending a couple of hours a day cruising the Internet and taking pot shots at the day’s events didn’t seem much like work.

It was the flu — an intense version of blessedly short duration, as my brother’s doctor explained. Larry was exposed to it sometime before I arrrived in Texas and started showing symptoms soon thereafter. And I caught it from him. As he was getting better, I was getting worse. Nothing says “stay away from this house” like two people coughing, wheezing and making grumpy-old-man noises hour after hour without a woman around to say, “Oh, grow up and deal with it.”

There were a lot of conversations like this:

“I need to go blog.”

“You just did that.”

“I need to lie down.”

“OK. I need to feed the cat.”

“You just did that.”

“I need to lie down.”

“OK. I need to lie down.”

“You just did that.”


I’m home now, delivered by a tiny jet that flew through several thunderstorms between Dallas and here, a flight that started with the attendant asking for volunteers to move from the front of the plane to the back “for better weight distribution.” Ordinarily, that obvious lack of cutting-edge technology would have worried me, but I just thought, “Fine, do it quick so we can get out of here.”

I’m home now — did I mention that? — most of the flu seemingly gone except the cough, the in-a-fog-aftermath and the weariness. Being sick is positively exhausting.

I need to lie down now. ‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.

How to dry up revenue

March 27, 2008

Politicians get so used to taxing everything that they think people will up with a tax on anything. But if what you’re buying is an indefensible luxury in the first place, people aren’t likely to keep indulging as their discretionary income gets eaten away:

Are Chicagoans trekking to the suburbs to buy cases of bottled water — and avoid a new nickel-a-container tax that adds $1.20 to the price of a 24-pack? Or are they making the switch to tap water to save money?

One or the other is happening. Maybe both.

Revenues from Chicago’s new bottled water tax are trickling in — at a rate nearly 40 percent below projections — exacerbating a budget crunch that has already prompted Mayor Daley to order $20 million in spending cuts.

Nobody could see this coming? “Ruthless” has apparently substituted for “smart” a little too long in Chicago.

Big Deal

March 27, 2008

Here’s a Hillary Clinton speech on “Solutions for the American Economy” from January. I assume what she will say in Fort Wayne won’t be substantially different. Here she explains the genesis of her “bold” approach:

Think about President Franklin Roosevelt. Faced with a Depression, grave threats to America’s freedom, he responded with bold solutions. Yes, they were sometimes controversial, but we rose from economic chaos and despair and at the time he died we were months away from winning a World War. He didn’t paint a rosy scenario. He didn’t ignore the tough challenges. He urged us to confront them. “We have a great many problems ahead of us,” he said. “And we must approach them with realism and courage.” He believed we could tackle our greatest challenges, and I believe exactly the same. We have to overcome the fear and fatalism that President Bush has used to divide us and set us against one another.

A good case can be made — indeed, has been made by many economists — that Roosevelt’s New Deal not only didn’t “bring us out of economic chaos and despair’; it actually deepened and lengthened the Depression. World War II, not FDR’s boldness,  got us out of economic trouble. Thanks to FDR, we have a fundamentally bigger, different government, for no good reason. A look at Clinton’s proposals — bailing out borrowers, universal health insurance, jobs through government infrasturcture spending, protectionism, income “fairness” — does not exactly inspire confidence. At least John McCain admits he doesn’t know much about the economy. 

Condi stepping in?

March 27, 2008

As I’ve said before, I can’t see it, but I’d like to see it:

Someone like Condi Rice doesn’t go to Grover Norquist’s den to talk about the Annapolis Middle East peace process. She’s going to secure her future in Republican politics and to position herself as a ‘potential’ VP candidate on the McCain ticket.

Rice has many of the requirements it is said McCain needs — younger, more conservative — but she is too foreign-policy oriented to give the ticket balance on such domestic issues as the economy, which McCain has admitted he doesn’t know much about. But that’s an electability issue, not a leadership issue. Even in the No. 2 slot of a failed McCain bid, Rice would be in a good position to be the logical challenger to a Clinton or Obama second term.

Silly wabbit

March 27, 2008

OK, go south on I-69, then take the first exit after the bunny . . .

A 45-foot tall, three-dimensional replica of the Nestlé NesQuik rabbit leaning against a 40-foot-tall glass of chocolate milk might be the signature mark of Anderson.

The Anderson Plan Commission approved an ordinance Tuesday that would enable large companies, such as Nestlé, to use icon signage in the city, the Herald-Bulletin reports.

Nestlé was the first to make such a request, wanting the structure along Interstate 69.

I know I can come across as an “anything for economic development” type, but this one gives even me pause. Having a bunch of cartoon replicas along the road could liven up I-69  (a potentially deadly boring sretch of road), but this seems just too silly for words.

Stupid and stupider

March 26, 2008

Criminal genius of the week:

18-year-old Ruben Zarate, entered a muffler shop in the 2600 block of North Laramie Avenue yesterday and declared a robbery. He allegedly waved a gun around and demanded money, according to police.

When he was told the money was in a safe and that the manager who knew how to open it was not there, the suspect had a brilliant idea; at least he thought it was brilliant. 

He gave the shop employees his cell phone number and asked them to call him when the manager arrived so he could open the safe for him. 

And the runner-up:

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office called him stupid Tuesday. But Frank Singleton could almost write the book on how to turn a misdemeanor into a felony without ever leaving the jail’s parking lot.

“This is one of the stupid criminals,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Paul Miller said.

Singleton, 21, of West Palm Beach, got released from the county lockup Tuesday after being arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

He immediately ran out into the visitor’s parking lot and, in an apparent effort to get away as quickly as possible, tried to carjack a 2006 Nissan 350Z, Miller said.

Don’t ask her THAT

March 26, 2008

Strange encounter at Butler University:

Evan Strange, a Butler University student who works on the school’s newspaper, The Butler Collegian, said he had asked Chelsea Clinton her opinion ”on the criticism of her mother that how she handled the Lewinsky scandal might be a sign of weakness and she might not be a strong enough candidate to be president.”

It wasn’t clear what aspect of the former first lady’s actions he was referring to. Before she was fully aware of President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, Hillary Rodham Clinton said allegations about her husband and the White House intern were manufactured by a ”vast right-wing conspiracy.”

I’m not sure if I buy the “Clinton supporter just trying to get Chelsea to show why Hillary Clinton is so strong” bit. But let’s take him at his word.  I realize times have changed, but using your opportunity for a question to make a candidate look one way or the other is not the way they taught it when I worked on a college newspaper. No, I don’t feel bad for Chelsea; she’s an adult on the campaign trail and should be ready for anything.

Deal with it

March 26, 2008

Why has it taken so long to reach this common-sense realization?

Pielke’s analysis, published last month in the journal Natural Hazards Review, is part of a controversial movement that argues global warming over the rest of this century will play a much smaller role in unleashing planetary havoc than most scientists think.

His research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it.

Instead of spending trillions of dollars to stabilize carbon dioxide levels across the planet — an enormously complex and expensive proposition — the world could work on reducing hunger, storm damage and disease now, thereby neutralizing some of the most feared future problems of global warming.

Adapting to chaging circumstances is what humans do best. When we try to scond-guess the future, the resulting panic shows us at our worst, not our finest.

Speaking of crime

March 26, 2008

Be careful whom you talk to; it coud be a crime:

After an El Dorado Hills mom reported observing a strange man speaking with her two children at each of three children’s-story events, deputies arrested the man at his Folsom home.

Victor Emmer, 49, was arrested March 13 on suspicion of loitering where children gather.

“It’s an odd charge,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Byers, noting the statute intends chiefly to protect school-grounds neighborhoods. “The family was at the Folsom Borders Books story-telling time, where he (spoke to one of the children), and for lack of a better term, he creeped the mom out. Then, a few days later at the

El Dorado Hills Library story time, she saw him again striking up conversation with her children. And then, he does it again. We felt it justified a criminal complaint, she signed it and he was arrested.”

An odd charge, indeed — “loitering where children gather.” One consequence of such hystrical overraction is that authorities will become jaded, and too slow to respond to real threats.

Political statements

March 26, 2008

Apparently, “supporting the troops” is not as widespread a phenomenon across the political spectrum as we might have thought:

A national tour featuring decorated veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t be stopping at Forest Lake Area High School today as planned, after school leaders abruptly canceled the visit.

Steve Massey, the school principal, said the decision to cancel was prompted by concerns that the event was becoming political rather than educational and therefore was not suitable for a public school.

Actually, disinviting the veterans makes more of a political statement than scheduling the veterans in the first place. But these days, even hoping your side wins the war is frowned upon in some quarters.

Too much help

March 26, 2008

While we were all talking about property taxes and gay marriage and illegal immigration, the Legislature snuck in a new bill (it escaped my attention, anyway) requring sellers of adult materials to register with the state. The exact effect of the law is being debated. Crtitics say it is too broad and covers anyone that has even one book about sex on the shelves, even if it deals with sex education. Supporters say bookstores are too worried about nothing, since the law grandfathers everyone selling sexual material before June 30. I was struck by this:

The bill was aimed specifically at helping counties that do not have zoning ordinances track businesses selling sexually explicit material, including videos, magazines and books, said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Why do those counties need “help”? If they want to pass such ordinances, they can, and current U.S. Supreme Court guidelines even call for a local definition of what is allowed and what is not.

Kicking the bucket

March 25, 2008

If this isn’t blasphemy, then I don’t understand the concept of sacred:

What in the name of Colonel Harland Sanders is going on at KFC? The chain built by his secret recipe for fried chicken is about to give equal billing to — gulp — grilled chicken.

Kentucky Fried Chicken customers will be greeted eventually by lighted “Now Grilling” signs, starting in coming weeks in select U.S. cities.

Storefront signs will be altered to promote the new product — called Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Even the brand’s ubiquitous chicken buckets will get a makeover, though they will still feature the iconic founder Sanders.

Doug Hasselo, KFC’s chief food innovation officer, says, “This is transformational for our brand.”

Louisville-based KFC, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc., hopes grilled chicken will lure back health-conscious consumers who dropped fried chicken from their diets, or cut back on indulging.

KGC? Col. Sanders is surely rolling over in his grave. Why does “health conscious” mean every menu has to be healthy? A steady diet of fried chicken (or anything, for that matter) would not be the best idea, but having it available for the occasional indulgence doesn’t seem to much to ask.

The therapy defense

March 25, 2008

Oh, please:

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has gone into therapy in the wake of the hooker scandal that swept him out of office, a Spitzer insider told The Post yesterday.

As part of the therapy, Spitzer will explore whether he has an addiction to sex, the source said.

Is it just the cynic in me that suspects this is merely a ploy to get out of punishment for whatever crime he might be charged with? And, of course he has an addiction to sex. It’s called being a male.

Don’t worry, be happy

March 25, 2008

For the well, duh file:

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure, but a stressed one can be worse than being single, a preliminary study suggsts.

And this just in: “Women, Want a Healthy Marriage? Marry Man Uglier Than You, Study Says.”You now know what to do. I’ll be waiting for all your calls.

A one-year trial

March 25, 2008

No matter what Dan Dakich brings to the table — he knows the IU culture and system — his 3-4 record since taking over for Kelvin Sampson is probably enough to get him passed over:

Now IU has a 10-person search committee, which some call excessive when they’re not ripping the Hoosiers’ timing in announcing it a few days before last week’s one-and-done NCAA tourney debacle.

No matter. The search is on, and interim coach Dan Dakich has made a passionate pitch for the job. Will he get it? Probably not, although it’s unfair to use his 3-4 record after replacing Kelvin Sampson as an indicator of his worthiness, because A) he had to use Sampson’s system and not his own; B) he had to work with Sampson’s players, not his own, and there was a disconnect there; and C) some of the players lacked the maturity to deal with the transition and, in essence, quit.

The uncertainty with Dakich is not if he’s a good enough coach — he is — but if he is a good enough recruiter. He didn’t win big in the Mid-American Conference, which suggests he wouldn’t win big in the Big Ten.

That’s too bad. IU’s reputation is in tatters right now precisely because winning big was placed above all other considerations. The school could go a long way toward restoring that reputation by giving Dakich a one-year contract to prove himself — heck, they did that for Mide Davis. Even if he doesn’t work out, that would give the school an extra year to find the right coach, instead of one with merely a winning record.

Fool for a client

March 25, 2008

The state would seem to be in a bind here:

Ahmad Edwards was convicted of attempted murder and other charges in 2005 for a shooting at an Indianapolis store.

He was initially found to be schizophrenic but by 2005, he was judged competent to stand trial.

The state denied Edwards’ request to represent himself. Edwards was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He appealed and the Indiana courts agreed his right to represent himself had been violated.

You cannot logically say something is competent to stand trial and then deny him the right to defend himself. This is further proof that the legal concept of insanity and the medical concept of mental illness are going to have to be reconciled sooner or later.


March 24, 2008

That dang Internet will never get off the ground:

After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

Whew, thank goodness; no database will replace the daily newspaper. The above excerpt is from a 1995 column in Newsweek. It’s a good thing we have such visionaries looking out for our future.

John and Johnny

March 24, 2008

Kathleen Quilligan, who recently left The News-Sentinel, has landed at The Times of Northwest Indiana with an interesing feature about the coming movie about John Dillinger — “Public Enemies,” starring Johnny Depp — which will be shot partly in Crown Point:

Depp aside, part of the fascination with the movie is the attraction Americans have to crimes and the people who commit them. While there are some who resent movies such as “Public Enemies” that potentially glorify criminals, Purdue University history professor Randy Roberts said to ignore this fascination would be like saying crime doesn’t exist.

“Do we glorify lawlessness? Maybe,” he said. “But does it accurately reflect America’s fascination with lawlessness? Yes.”

Roberts said America always has admired the outlaw hero, and this was especially true in the era of the Great Depression, when the government structure seemed impotent and people applauded those who took matters into their own hands.

We have always secretly admired those who, unlike us, live outside society’s boundaries, so it’sprobably  futile to spend too much energy worrying about whether we glorify outlaws — we always have and always will. The larger problem — which it is worth fighting against — is the glorifying of lawlessness in general and our numbness to the effects of violence on society. At least, Dillinger got the end he deserved. Let’s see if Depp tries to make him into some kind of “victim” of Depression-era patriarchal capitalist ruthlessness.

Sugar pushers

March 24, 2008

It didn’t work with alcohol, and it hasn’t worked with marijuana and other illegal drugs. It won’t work with cigarettes, either. But they never learn, so now we have Twinkie Prohibition

With candy sales banned on school campuses, sugar pushers are the latest trend at local schools. Backpacks are filled with Snickers and Twinkees for all sweet tooths willing to pay the price.

“It’s created a little underground economy, with businessmen selling everything from a pack of skittles to an energy drink,” said Jim Nason, principal at Hook Junior High School in Victorville.

This has become a lucrative business, Nason said, and those kids are walking around campus with upwards of $40 in their pockets and disrupting class to make a sale.

And you know the next step — there’ll be territories and vicious sugar gangs, and pretty soon nobody will want to work at McDonald’s, and God knows what that will do to our already struggling economy. Here’s a tip — if you can’t get the kids any other way, go after them on income-tax evasion.