Archive for June, 2008

Border dance

June 30, 2008

What’s more infuriating than Obama’s delicate parsing of the Second Amendment in which he tries to have it all ways? McCain’s delicate dance around immigration in which he tries to have it all ways:

But in public comments, McCain often delivered a somewhat mixed message of his own. He continued to favor all the parts of his comprehensive plan — border security, increased employer sanctions for illegal hiring and a path to citizenship for the undocumented — but he mostly refrained from using the word “comprehensive.” Instead, he spoke of a two-stage solution. First, he would secure the borders, a process that would be certified by border state governors. Then he would push for a process to allow the 12 million undocumented immigrants to become full citizens.

More recently, however, McCain has switched back to his earlier rhetoric on the issue. In late May, he took time at an event in California to point out that he had worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the immigration bill. “We must enact comprehensive immigration reform, and we must make it a top agenda item,” he said. A couple of weeks later, McCain released the first ads of his general election campaign — for Spanish-language radio in Nevada and New Mexico. This week, he plans to travel to Colombia and Mexico, to burnish his credentials as a leader who understands Latin America. Next month, he will address La Raza at its annual conference in San Diego, along with Democrat Barack Obama.

It is being said that people are “confused” about where McCain stands on immigration. I don’t think they should be. This is one of those issues on which there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between McCain and Obama. They’re both basically open-border advocates. Is there anybody delusional enough to think that, no matter who is elected, we aren’t going to have a repeat of last time? There will be earnest promises to protect the border in return for forgiveness for all the illegals here. The forgiveness will happen, but then everybody will pretend the border-protection promises weren’t made.

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What’s your life worth?

June 30, 2008

Sure, sometimes you just want to start all over, but this is silly:

 SYDNEY, Australia —  A man who auctioned his life — his house, his car, his job, even his friends — on eBay said Monday he is disappointed with the selling price: almost $384,000.

Ian Usher, a British immigrant to Australia, put everything he owned as well as introductions to his friends on the online auction site after a painful breakup with his wife prompted him to want a fresh start.

The really intriguing question is: Who’s the idiot so unhappy with his own lot that he was willing to bid $384,000 to take over someone else’s life, a life that was not exactly full of promise?

It blowed up real good

June 30, 2008

North Korea is a terror state! Run and hide! Evil, bad, bad country, shame on you!

Oh, wait, it’s not, and we’re taking their word for it: Aren’t assurances by thug dictators supposed to be untrustworthy on general principle?

With much fanfare and choreography, but little substance, the administration has accepted a North Korean “declaration” about its nuclear program that is narrowly limited, incomplete and almost certainly dishonest in material respects. In exchange, President Bush personally declared that North Korea is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism or an enemy of the United States. In a final flourish, North Korea has undertaken a reverse Potemkin Village act, destroying the antiquated cooling tower of the antiquated Yongbyon reactor. In the waning days of American presidencies, this theater is the stuff of legacy.

The writer is John Bolton, not exactly a harsh critic of the president’s, and he concludes that the only good news is that “there is little opportunity for the Bush administration to make any further concessions in its waning days in office. Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.” I’ve never cared for Bush’s domestic agenda, but I’ve always given him points for taking national security seriously. It’s hard to explain this and impossible to justify. 

We are all Hussein!

June 30, 2008

Are we going to have to put up with four years of this kind of nonsensical wide-eyed innocence?

Ms. Nordling, a 19-year-old student from Fort Thomas, Ky., gave herself a new middle name on Facebook.com, mimicking her boyfriend and shocking her father.

Emily Hussein Nordling,” her entry now reads.

With her decision, she joined a growing band of supporters of Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who are expressing solidarity with him by informally adopting his middle name.

[. . .]

Mr. Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. Hussein is a family name inherited from a Kenyan father he barely knew, who was born a Muslim and died an atheist. But the name has become a political liability. Some critics on cable television talk shows dwell on it, while others, on blogs or in e-mail messages, use it to falsely assert that Mr. Obama is a Muslim or, more fantastically, a terrorist.

“I am sick of Republicans pronouncing Barack Obama’s name like it was some sort of cuss word,” Mr. Strabone wrote in a manifesto titled “We Are All Hussein” that he posted on his own blog and on dailykos.com.

[. . .]

“My name is such a vanilla, white-girl American name,” said Ashley Holmes of Indianapolis, who changed her name online “to show how little meaning ‘Hussein’ really has.”

Of course, they aren’t really changing their names; that would be too much of a hassle. This is all just pretend. Think of it as a bumper sticker or a campaign button.

Pharm out

June 30, 2008

Hoosier deaths from overdoses went up 147 percent from 1999 to 2004, and the main culprit is not illegal drugs but the growing abuse of prescription drugs. And get this:

The problem, Wright said, is believed to be most serious among young adults and adolescents who take part in “pharm” parties, where they bring pills, throw them into a bowl and then indiscriminately grab a handful to take.

I know it’s a cliche for us fuddy-duddies to say that the kids today are getting more and more reckless, but this seems to justify the term. Even those of us with misspent youths tended to ingest one thing at a time, know in general the effects it would have, and be somewhat prepared for the bad as well as the good. Peer pressure must be a hell of a lot stronger than it used to be.

All-star boobs

June 30, 2008

Singling out some players as better than others at an all-star game? Those elitist monsters:

Beachwood has cancelled its annual 4th of July Rec League All-Star Game for 9 to 12 year olds.

In a letter to coaches, Assistant Recreation Supervisor Frank Vicchiarelli announced that the decades old tradition would end because certain kids were being singled out as better players than others.

For the all-star game, some coaches encouraged kids to select their team’s all-stars, and in other cases the coaches made the selections..

Geniuses, I say. This will certainly give the kids incentive to excel.

The race is off

June 30, 2008

These are encouraging numbers:

Nearly half of all Americans reported that they have dated outside their race. Sixty percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 have dated outside of their own race — the highest percentage of all age groups.

Interracial marriage may be widely accepted now, but it’s only been 41 years since the Supreme Court, in the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision, ruled that laws prohibiting interracial marriage violated the 14th Amendment.

They are slightly surprising, though. Given how much less young people are said to even care about race, it seems like the 18-29 percentage should be a little higher and the “all Americans” percentage a little lower. Still, the point to get to is where race becomes irrevelevant to dating rather than an exotic experience some people try for the novelty value. Seems like we’re getting closer.

Corn king

June 30, 2008

Gee, do ya think?

Rising demand and Midwest flooding have driven corn prices from $2/bushel in 2006 to more than $7/bushel today. And there is little relief in sight. F

Flooding in many parts of the Midwest has destroyed a portion of the country’s corn crop. June’s floods destroyed almost 10 percent of the Indiana’s corn yield alone.

Now, Purdue Agricultural Economist Chris Hurt said, ethanol producers are struggling. “By far record high prices and what we are actually seeing is that those margins for the ethanol producers have fallen into negative territory with these extremely high corn prices.”

The U.s. supplies two-thirds of the world’s corn supply. Naturally, there can be no unanticipated consequences from diverting so much of that supply to ethanol. And of course the weather will cooperate perfectly. Whats the problem?

Drink up!

June 30, 2008

Indiana was one of the strongest supporters of Prohibition (which ended 75 years ago last week – raise a toast!).  Hoosiers believed it would lower crime, improve health, decrease accidents, lead to prosperity, protect young people and raise public morals. It didn’t quite work out that way:

Instead of reducing crime, it made criminals of ordinary citizens as well as promoted the growth of sometimes-violent organized crime. Instead of increasing health and safety, it led to the widespread consumption of often-toxic moonshine that sometimes caused paralysis, blindness and even death.

Prohibition led to speakeasies and their operation required that law enforcement officials, and sometimes entire law departments, be bribed. Payoffs were simply a cost of doing illegal business.

With the decline in public morality, respect for the law in general decreased. In 1928 the Indiana Bureau of Statistics reported that the murder rate had gone up in the state and it expressed concern over problems caused by Prohibition including “fast living by young people.”

Prohibition fervor was so strong here that the national Prohibition Party was headquarted in Indiana for four decades after repeal. And we’re still feeling the effects of that failed social experiment today:

Indiana remains one of only three states in the country that still prohibits the Sunday sales of beer, wine and spirits. This is despite the fact that Sunday has become the second busiest shopping day of the week.

Many of the things wrong with Prohibition can be said to also be wrong with the government’s designation of some drugs as illegal. I’ve heard the arguments and even made a few of them. But the main reason Prohibition was an unmitigated disaster was that drinking was an integral part of the American social fabric — the government was criminalizing behavior engaged in by the majority of ordinary people. The same isn’t true of taking drugs.

And keeping those blue laws in place makes absolutely no sense at all.

Stone fake

June 27, 2008

Greensburg residents missed out on getting a taste of high culture:

Locals fans clamoring for an autograph or photo with their favorite iconic wrestler received a Stone Cold disappointment on Saturday.

According Greensburg Police Chief Brian Heaton, a visit to the city by the retired World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) icon Stone Cold Steve Austin was really an impostor looking for some cold hard cash.

Originally slated to appear before the pro wrestling event at the Armory on Saturday, the look-alike Austin and his manager were able to convince the local Wal-Mart to hold an autograph signing. During the event, the phony charged fans $10 for an autograph and picture. As the fake Austin began greeting fans, Wal-Mart managers noticed something wasn’t right.

Imagine that. A fake event involving a wrestler.

Fiendish rain thieves

June 27, 2008

What’s next, the air we breathe?

As a gardener, I’m interested in controlling water usage so that I get the most out of my usage. I live in one of those old pre-gutter houses with concrete skirting the house. Water pours off several corners of the house when it rains, and it all runs wherever it wants to, rather than where I would like it to go. A rain barrel would be a great way to capture, and redirect, the water that the rains send along. I could also save on my water bill.

But I can’t use a rain barrel in Colorado because it’s against the law to capture rain water that falls on your house. Every drop of water that falls in Colorado already belongs to the state. Capturing rain is considered theft. Theft from agriculture, theft from water utilities and theft from municipalities. If you catch rain in a glass and drink it, you’re committing a crime.

Apropos of nothing (except that this article reminded me of it), several of my relatives in Kentucky had wells intead of running water. I’ve never tasted anything sweeter.

Bridging the gap

June 27, 2008

The city and county may end up in court over who has the obligation to maintain bridges inside city limits. City Attorney Carol Taylor says it’s the county, and state law says so. The county says it ended the obligation when it abolished the cumulative bridge fund. Judt reading the state law should help us decide who is right, right? Well . . .

IC 8-16-3-1says that in those counties in which a cumulative bridge fund has been established, “the county executive is responsible for providing funds for all bridges,” including those in municipalities, within the counntis except those bridges on the state highway system.” That’s all. It doesn’t say the county has to maintain the bridge fund forever. It doesn’t say whose obligation the bridges become if the bridge fund is eliminated. In this case, state law seems to be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The county’s preferred option, rejected by the city, is for a wheel tax increase, which requires County Council approval. But the money would go to the city, and before the county approves the increase, it wants the City Council to promise to give the money to the county for bridge maintenance and repair. Anybody notice a leadership gap here? We all know the bridges have to be maintained and repaired — and we need Peter and Paul to stop worrying about getting robbed and start working together.

For what it’s worth, I think the county has the greater obligation to figure this out. It was the one that stupidly ended the cumulative bridge fund, and if this goes to court, it will have to explain being the only county in the state (so far) to abandon what has been traditionally seen as a county obligation.

Second shot

June 27, 2008

Well, that didn’t take long. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s takedown of the D.C. gun ban, a challenge was filed in court against Chicago’s similar ban, and Mayor Richard Daley was vowing to fight it. Here’s what he said:

Daley called the ruling “very frightening” and vowed to vigorously fight any attempt to invalidate the city’s ban.

“Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?” Daley asked while speaking at a Navy Pier event. “If [the justices] think that’s the answer, then they’re greatly mistaken. Then why don’t we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets?”

Lord, it’s scary to think about how many people feel that way. I have news for the mayor — it already IS the Old West in some places, and his solution is to disarm the innocent so the predators can have a better shot at us. This was a narrow ruling by the court, and a close call — four justices agree with the mayor. If the individual right to bear arms affirmed in the case is to spread throughout the land, it will take vigorous followup. Bless those who filed the Chicago suit.

He’s gonna need a bigger bus

June 27, 2008

And you thought airlines were outrageous in the way they’re charging for all the extras:

Bob Zaltsberg is the editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times and back in April he got the idea to send one of his 12 reporters out on a big story, the passing through southern Indiana of the Barack Obama whirlwind.

They routinely cover campaigns when they’re local, but this assignment involved traveling an hour away to Columbus, Ind.

James Boyd was the lucky fellow assigned to get himself over to Columbus, where he boarded the Obama campaign bus on April 11 for the 39-mile ride across to Bloomington and Obama’s two quick stops there before Boyd jumped off the campaign to write his story.

The other day a bill arrived from the Obama campaign. It was expected. “We didn’t want or expect a free ride,” says the good-natured Zaltsberg.

What wasn’t expected was the amount — $438.74, which is about $11.25 a mile. No small sum for a smaller newspaper. (Or a larger one either these days!) For instance, Boyd had a turkey sandwich and cup of soup; cost for that $116.62. (He must have used the pepper to account for the extra 62 cents.)

The bus transportation — $226.17 — seemed a little large for less than an hour but it was chartered. Then, the paper got nailed for another $91.41 for something labeled “Files.”

That must have been a heck of a cup of soup and the best turkey sandwich in the world to be worth $116.62. And speaking of the bus, it seems Obama is never going to run out of people to throw under it: Bye, bye, Scarlett:

Obama was chatting with the guys on his campaign plane when he referred to his personal assistant, Reggie Love. “She sent one e-mail to Reggie, who forwarded it to me,” Obama said matter-of-factly.

“I write saying, ‘Thank you, Scarlett, for doing what you do.’ And suddenly we have this e-mail relationship.”

Ouch!

The deal of the art

June 27, 2008

Yikes — not a bad estate for a couple of southern Indiana hicks:

LONDON – A water lily painting by impressionist master Claude Monet owned by the estate of an Indiana couple has sold for more than $80 million at auction, kicking off a week of modern-art sales expected to reach records that defy the global economic downturn.

The painting “Le bassin aux nympheas,” or “Water Lily Pond,” was sold by Christie’s for nearly $80.5 million, including buyer’s premium, Tuesday making it the most expensive work of art ever sold by the auction house in Europe.

[. . .]

“Le bassin aux nympheas,” and 16 other works in the auction are from the estate of American industrialist J. Irwin Miller, who was head of the Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Ind. Miller and his wife, Xenia Simons Miller, were known for their love of art and architecture and are credited in transforming their hometown into a showcase for modern architecture. Irwin Miller died in 2004, while his wife died in February.

What do you think of the Fort Wayne French Impressionists as a name for our baseball team now, Reggie?

You say you want a devolution

June 26, 2008

With the Supreme Court’s death penalty decision, we’re going to hear more about this country’s “evolving standard of decency,” so let’s have a little vocabulary lesson.

Devolve is not really the antonym of evolve, or at least it wasn’t until recently. Devolve means a transer or delegation (of a duty or responsibility, for example) to another. We can say that, because of the county’s dissolution of the cumulative bridge fund, maintenance of Fort Wayne’s bridges has devolved on the city.

But I notice the misuse has been committed so often that the anti-evolution definition has started creeping into a few online dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster’s, which means it’s well on its way to being a correct usage. But there are still other words that get the job done as intended: decline, decay, degrade. I like regress. (Ah, memories; regress, we’ve had a few).

And evolve just means to develop gradually. It’s neutral as to the type of development — it doesn’t mean gradual improvement or getting better. But the way the word has been used lately, many people probably think to evolve means to become more civilized or something.

Out of that car, right now!

June 26, 2008

Driving is bad for the evironment. Walking is healthy for you. So, naturally, it doesn’t take a genius to see what to do — it just takes two Candaian aldermen:

Calgary should consider banning new drive-thrus, two aldermen say — a suggestion that received a chilly reception from some drivers Wednesday.

In a city trying to put pedestrians first and cars last, blocking new drive-thrus from being built makes sense, said Ald. Brian Pincott.

“We’ve got to start designing and building our city for people and drive-thrus are not about people, they’re about cars,” he said.

Ah, yes, “designing for people,” and never mind what those people might actually want. The planner’s mind is a wondrous thing.

Hurry, hurry

June 26, 2008

Just a reminder that if you want to see the Lincoln Museum, you’d better do it before Monday. And don’t count on any of the collection being in Fort Wayne for very long, despite the best efforts of a lot of people:

Among the powerhouses of historical preservation hoping to divvy out the collection, according to today’s Washington Post, are the Library of Congress, Ford’s Theatre, the National Museum of American History and President Lincoln’s Cottage, all based in Washington, D.C. The organizations have jointly submitted a proposal to assume ownership of the collection.

“The field will be narrowed as early as a month from now. … I would say within the next several months. They hope to narrow it down to three finalists,” Moser said of the process that is involving a private consulting firm and the board.

With bidders like that, what are the chances of the museum being awarded to a Fort Wayne group? And there’s really no logical reason for the museum to be here, except that it always has been and we want our city to continue to have an attraction that cool. Something of such historic interest and significance deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. There’s a better chance of that with one of the big Washington, D.C., players than here in a modest Midwestern city. I know, I know, Abraham Lincoln stuff in the nation’s capital! Whatever are they thinking?

Yee-hah

June 26, 2008

Dang, this cost-of-gas crisis really is getting serious:

When cowboys hit the road 50 years ago in search of the next big payday at rodeos, they did so in pickups and small horse trailers for small purses.

Today, winning cowboys can afford a few luxuries, with first-place prize money reaching more than $10,000. Diesel trucks that cost $25,000 and $30,000 horse trailers are fixtures in rodeo parking lots.
But bigger is not necessarily better.

Competitors, especially those in the timed events who must pull a trailer with their animals — steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing — are feeling the gas crunch. According to AAA.com the average price of diesel fuel is $4.067 nationwide on Tuesday, causing competitors to pool their cash and carpool across country.

Cowboy carpool. Speaking of high gas, hope they ain’t eatin’ a lot of chili.

Bang, bang

June 26, 2008

Here’s the big one everybody has been waiting for:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Washington D.C.’s sweeping ban on handguns is unconstitutional.

The justices voted 5-4 against the ban with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion for the majority.

At issue in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether the city’s ban violated the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” by preventing individuals — as opposed to state militias — from having guns in their homes.

The court merely confirmed what many of us believed: that the Second Amendment protects an individual — not collective — right to bear arms. I wish this would stop liberals — who normally make the Constitution up as they go along — from continuing to disingenously invoke the Framer’s “intent” in this one case, but I won’t count on it.

UPDATE: Here’s the text of Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion pdf file). The vote was 5-4. Guess who was on which side? Yeah, the ususal.

UPDATE 2: Here’s a nice summary of what the decision means. And if you don’t want to read the whole text, here are some quotes from it.

Texas heat

June 26, 2008

Newspaper reporters are supposed to be objective, which means they usually aren’t allowed to write about things they are personally involved in. If your spouse is on the school board, you can’t be on the education beat. If you’re married to the police chief, you don’t do crime reporting. The saying that covers this, passed along from journalism schools to new reporters is, “If you’re sleeping with the elephant, you don’t cover the circus.” They seem to have ignored this advice in Dallas:

An East Texas newspaper acknowledged Tuesday that a reporter covering a trial of a child sex club dated the prosecutor until five months ago, an allegation the defense team is using to seek a change of venue.

A reporter from television station KLTV is also accused of having a personal relationship with Smith County Assistant District Attorney Joe Murphy. But the station’s news director called the allegation “pure slander.”

If swinging is the norm in Texas, at least the defendants shouldn’t have trouble getting a jury of their peers.

Come fly with me

June 26, 2008

Oh, dude, it’s just so cool. You light up and take a deep toke, and the next thing you know, you are just, man, oh, man, flying:

DENVER (MyFOXColorado.com) – One pro-marijuana group is calling on the government to allow marijuana in smoking lounges at airports across the country.

Cigarette smoking at Denver International Airport and other airports across the country is restricted to smoking lounges.

[. . .]

Denver voters approved a measure that made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the city legal. That happened almost three years ago. It was the first city in the nation to pass such a law.

I am being only slightly sarcastic. I don’t mind flying in general — even the landings are OK. But the takeoffs scare the bejesus out of me. It takes me halfway through the flight to get my heart out of my throat.Maybe getting a slight buzz on would be the way to go.

Wait a second, there. There are still airports with “lounges,” in which people can “smoke”? Who knew?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

June 26, 2008

The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW did a poll asking Hoosiers how much they respected 10 well-known figures, mostly politicians. Please, don’t be too shocked, but the politicians didn’t come out on top:

The most respected out of the list of 10 figures was Mother Teresa – the late Nobel Peace Prize winner for her humanitarian work – with Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy following closely.

Probably if they’d put Princess Di on the list, Mother Teresa wouldn’t have done nearly so well. When they died nearly together, it was, Di, Di, Di, woe is us, Di is dead, oh, God, how can we live without her? And, oh, by the way, Mother Teresa kicked off, too.

It is also interesting that, 1) In this Republican state, Barack Obama and John McCain were very close in the respect given them and, 2) Oprah Winfrey and George Bush were also together, at the bottom of the barel. If anybody knows what the hell those results mean, congratulations — you are the smartest person on the planet.

The predator dilemma

June 26, 2008

I think District Court Judge David Hamilton made the right call that Indiana’s law allowing warrantless monitoring of former sex offenders’ Internet activity was unconstitutionally broad. The law would have applied to those who had already served the sentences handed down to themand who, therefore, presumably have the same rights as everybody else. But they would have been required to sign a waiver allowing authorities to monitor their usage even after they had finished their sentences, probabtion and parole.

Hamilton ruled that the state could not require anyone to give up their 4th Amendment right to privacy. Howeveer much we might dislike a certain class of criminal, allowing their rights to ignored is the same as giving permission for our rights to be ignored.

But it’s not as if the law were baseless. It was a good-faith effort to deal with a real problem, as this story demonstrates:

A convicted child molester is one of two Indianapolis men arrested in the past week for sexually charged Internet chats with police posing as 14-year-old girls, authorities said.

Thomas Lee Nickels, 40, Indianapolis, is charged in three counts of child solicitation with online conversations that culminated with his request to meet in person June 18, police said.

These guys are who they are, and they do what they do. Most of them — not the ordinary “sex offender,” but the sick predators who target children — are not going to change. That presents a unique problem in criminal justice. Our sense of fair play says that, once people have served their sentences, they deserve the chance to be left alone to straighten out their lives. But these predators are a continuing danger to our children. So, what do we do? Just give them mandatory life sentences with no chance of parole?

Truly flyover country

June 26, 2008

Good thing so many people are used to driving to Indianapolis to catch their planes, eh?

Fort Wayne International Airport is among regional airports at risk of losing service, according to an analysis from the Business Travel Coalition and AirlineForecast LLC.

On the coalition’s Web site, www.savemyairport.com, the interest group ranked the top 100 regional airports at risk for losing service because of rising fuel costs and failing airlines. Fort Wayne International, South Bend Regional and Evansville Regional airports were identified as at risk.

Too bad about that $4 gasoline.