Paul From Minneapolis

Saturday, April 30, 2005

I Like the Right Better These Days

Among other things, the sane wing is large and shows more courage in standing up to their own morons. (That's a link to an ongoing discussion at National Review online, where the writers are in quick agreement that the "no gay characters in libraries" legislation from Alabama is absolutely absurd. )

I think this is a result of the fact that for the right, the morons (and I mean that in a non-judgmental functional sense) are basically known and under control. Not without influence, but contained, like the crazy aunt in the attic.

That's the hard-core anti-science religious right for the conservative side of things. She's been up there forever, once in a while she kicks up a fuss or even runs out in the yard half-dressed shouting about this or that. But in the end, you know how to deal with her, you've been doing it for years, and she's right back in the attic.

Moore-ites and the worst Kos types and MoveOn maniacs are more like termites or carpenter ants for the confused left. At that terrible avoidant stage where you see them, but you don't let yourself explore the hideous implications.

Update: On the other hand... (via Andrew S.)

Science? Hello? Could You Hold On a Second?

Scientists at the University of Nevada-Reno are involved in some amazing things these days:

“On a farm about six miles outside this gambling town, Jason Chamberlain looks over a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs…"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.

“As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

“In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.”

Are there drawbacks?

“What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?”

Could we get Don Knotts to star?

“The ‘idea that human neuronal cells might participate in 'higher order' brain functions in a nonhuman animal, however unlikely that may be, raises concerns that need to be considered,’ the Academies report warned.”

Thank you. I’ll assume someone is on that job, considering that concern. In the meantime, there’s this detail. Several years ago, in an attempt to make a point(or failing that, a billion dollars) anti-biotech activists Jeremy Rifkin and Stuart Newman “applied for a patent for what they called a humanzee, a hypothetical -- but very possible -- creation that was half human and chimp.”

Amid the din from Daily Kos types shrieking and hurling their dung and making their President McChimpy jokes, I’ll just take note of the fact that half-human, half-chimps are now “very possible.” Far beyond plausible; easy. A snap.

Okay, good. What will we do with these humanzees? Personally, I can’t think of a use for mine, but you know how the hi-tech economy works. We’ll all have one anyway!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Escape to Brancaccio

There seems to be a pattern in my life. I go to Wisconsin, I stay in a cheap but great hotel somewhere. I turn on the TV and get mad.

This "escape to Wisconsin" thing they sloganize about, I'm screwing it up somehow.

This time it was Wisconsin Public TV showing “NOW,” the old Bill Moyers series, hosted since his departure by smilin' David Brancaccio. “Hot World, Cold Comfort – the Politics of Climate Change” was the episode. There’s a transcript here. In it you will find a storehouse of missing detail and analysis, including absent gems like:

1. An explanation that the Kyoto Treaty from which W withdrew had, during the Clinton years, failed a preliminary vote in the Senate by 99-0 (98-1?), based on the fact that developing nations (like China) were not bound by it; and what that meant for possibly renegotiating it, as critics claim would have been better.

2. An explanation that in July of 2004, Bush “announced an international agreement for global reduction in emissions of methane, the most potent of the common greenhouse gases.” (That’s Gregg Easterbrook explaining it at TNR; you need a subscription. By all means, seek out Gregg Easterbrook.)

3. And then, to make double sure the audience is aware how not all is black and white, a little background on the policy tragedy that greeted the W’s initial pretty-good, even interesting air pollution proposals during the first term. I talked about it once before. I’ll say it again, if you’re into moral ambiguity you should read about it.

Just to clarify, that stuff wasn’t in the show. Along with, there were no interviews with scientists opposing the manmade global warming consensus, except for a few grainy snippets from guys presented as directly paid-off industry shills, mouthing platitudes about uncertainty.

There were no actual arguments, no opposing opinions on data that could then be answered. There is no such thing as a legitimate opposition. It doesn’t exist.

So leaving all that out meant there was ample room for: “Take it from us, we are the accurate and honest ones and there is no other possible way to look at it. Only evil men oppose us, men in the pay of the pure evil that spirals out from W and American oil-based capitalism.”

The way that stance is anything other than psychotic is if it is correct. If there is any ambiguity in the situation at all, if there really is some kind of legitimate debate to have, then this side, this NOW side of the debate, this vehicle for Grinnin' Dave, is the side I am mainly worried about. And for reasons that begin having a lot less to do with the environment.

I honestly don’t know yet. Really. I’m just saying. D.B has already of course, in this very show, given me ample reason to furrow my aging brow when considering the frank honesty of his approach.

I went to the web site. Went to the discussion boards and this was the very first discussion I sampled:

I’ll say one thing, these guys are filled with a passionate intensity. Just like me, when I go to Wisconsin.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

That Ol' Devil Media

Perceiving the traditional mainstream print and television media and denying they're liberal is like investigating Microsoft and declaring it doesn't make software.

I may expand on that.

A Small Contribution to the Bolton Situation

Many have commented that Bolton’s harshness, if that’s what he’s actually like, may be exactly what the UN needs. If, that is, you perceive the UN the way conservatives do.

More generally: whatever happens to this particular nomination, I think the Democrats and the left keep digging themselves into a trap. They keep decrying attitudes toward the surprisingly cruel world that more and more Americans (and others, given small indications) are gradually coming to support.

Quick overlapping list: tough love, meanness-even-harshness, no-bullshit truth when someone or some group (outside the U.S. and Britain, of course) is just flat-out reprehensible and deserving of a nice hard slam. It’s not just that these things actually work sometimes. It’s they turn out to be not so horrifying or soul-destroying in practice as the left evidently believes them to be.

Plus of course, conservatives have a sweet side too. (I’ll find a link to support that statement at some point.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I Grow More Em-pissed

On the Strib web site yesterday, a non-bylined AP article:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Insurgents exploded two car bombs in a Baghdad market and two more in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Sunday, killing a total of 21 Iraqis and wounding 73 in one of the bloodiest days since Iraq's historic elections.

The anti-coalition forces have grown more emboldened in the past week...

Emboldened? You’re sure? You've determined their emotional state to that degree? They've allowed you access to their journals and rap sessions? Conversations with their therapists have convinced you it can be reported as simple fact that the insurgents are - going by synonyms for emboldened - "heartened" and “bolstered” and “vitalized?” Even perhaps as much as "buoyed up?"

Okay then. I will leave aside my suspicion that they are actually panicky, depressed and spastically oppositional.

(This isn’t likely to mean much to anyone who doesn’t see the media like I do, these tiny mosquito bites of nonsense each day. The no-see-um swarms spreading a non-lethal but dry-heaves-inducing infection of “hey wait a minute.” It’s gotten so that it de-emboldens me.)

Monday, April 25, 2005

First Communion Thoughts

Catholic variety, that is, the purpose of a trip to Wisconsin this weekend. A whole bunch of little girls of identical height in white dresses and flowered headpieces, tiny brides of Christ evidently. Which is wonderful, fine, I know many females who’ve passed throught the ritual. To an insistent secularist, it would be grotesque, I suppose. But the girls all seemed delighted. My friend Melissa says the only meaning it had for her was she got to dress up like a princess.

Yesterday, niece Hannah took her first sip of Communion wine – the literal blood of Christ, in the Catholic tradition – and made a fantastic “bleech!!” face on the way back to her seat. All caught on video too!

It’s a different scene for the guys. Throw on a sport coat or a clean shirt and stroll over to the church, was the feeling I got from a few of them. “Mom, Dad, I’ll be back by three. Got this First Communion thing this afternoon. Let me know what Vijay does on the front nine.”

“Pope receives more than 56,000 e-mails”

And in first official act announces refinancing of Papal apartment in the Vatican at ridiculously low rate that would not have lasted long.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

On The Road Again

In Tomah, Wisconsin, on a cold and windy April 23rd Saturday morning. (Happy birthday old pal Jack, not to mention Shakespeare and Nabokov.) I'm working on the AmericInn computer, right next to the pool.

Checked out Instapundit, and was directed to this article in The Economist, which I can't figure out how to turn into a link inside a word like I do at home so here it is:

It's about a speech by R. Murdoch, discussing the quickly-fading role of daily newspapers in the face of the popularly-generated electronic media. Here's a nice bit on"today's digital natives:"

They are at once less likely to write a traditional letter to the editor, and more likely to post a response on the web—and then to carry on the discussion. A letters page pre-selected by an editor makes no sense to them; spotting the best responses using the spontaneous voting systems of the internet does.

I think about the Strib editorial page staff; and simultaneously about your typical dinosaur way back when, a wandering muttaburrasaurus or quetsalcoatlus, munching on some kind of tastelss swamp-crud maybe a week or two before Complete Extinction: did he also combine total unawareness of his fate with insufferable pomposity?

Update: In the excerpt from The Economist, note how the words "internet" and "web" are not graced with upper-case first letters. Good. To me it's always made as little sense to capitalize those words as it would be to do so with "telephone." Or "newspaper."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Eason Jordan Resigns!

Okay, it happened a long time ago, it's yesterday' s forgotten history, but I've been mulling over his resignation statement, specifically a queer attribute I never saw anyone talk about it. Bring yourself back in time:

"I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq."

That is simply the strangest sentence.

Try as I might, I can't quite piece together the nature of the controversy he refers to here - that 'controversy over the conflicting accounts.' "There are not conflicting accounts." "Confound it yes there are, you bounder!"

See, I think what he actually meant is that that CNN might be tarnished by the conflicting accounts, not the controversy over the conflicting accounts. I mean, if you remove the word "controversy" you don't remove any clarity from the point. In fact, I believe you actually add a little bit of clarity, and I hope Mr. Jordan would appreciate my help here.

Unfortunately, the clarity you add is in the sense that it becomes clarified what he was proposing we should accept. That being: he, Eason Jordan, was absolutely as helpless as anyone, more helpless, when it came to clearing up the conflicting accounts of what Eason Jordan had said. So he resigned. He smiled a thin smile, more to himself than anyone, and walked away. It was the only noble thing to do.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"I know you from somewhere!"

...said the cheerful young female, sitting next to me at a lunch thing today. "Could it be peace events? Is that possible?"

Um, no.

"Well I assume you're for peace!"

In general, I said, quietly, in a moment that cried out for Clint Eastwood but had to settle for me.

"I (heart) My Vagina"

High school rebellion:

Two Winona (Minnesota) High School students have found themselves in hot water with school officials.

Why? Because after Carrie Rethlefsen attended a performance of the play "The Vagina Monologues" last month, she and Emily Nixon wore buttons to school that read: "I [heart] My Vagina."

It’s “political speech,” says a fellow from the ACLU of Minnesota. A sidebar instant poll asks, “Student apparel – who decides?”

That seems like a minor question at this point. Let's get down to it: “Carrie Rethlefsen’s vagina – approve or disapprove?” That’s the issue here, it being political speech and all. And suddenly Carrie Rethlefsen’s opinion on the matter is the only one that counts? Where’s the give and take?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

One Further Note Regarding Tim O'Brien

I am going to resist turning this blog into all Strib, all the time.

And yet our local dominant paper's editorial board offers such an entertaining window into the minds and hearts of a certain variety of self-identified smart set.

So, just a quick further note about that piece penned a couple days ago by letters editor Tim O'Brien, the topic of the previous post.

To review, his piece was of the satire category, and suggested some ways the Pope selection process could parallel modern day Karl Rove-dominated American politics. I didn't like it much and so I wrote a letter to Tim, complaining about Tim. Hm. Anyway, this is the particular paragraph I selected to criticize:

Day Four: Another candidate for the papacy, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, is damaged when the Italian TV news magazine "Sessanta Rapporto" claims to have documents proving that from 1970 to 1973, he never showed up for 6 a.m. mass. But he is saved at the last minute by bloggers who prove that the documents were absolutely, positively, without a doubt, possible fakes.

Funny. My letter concerned the 1970-73 dates; if you're curious it's down below. But I'd like also to call attention to that last bit, how the documents were proven to be "absolutely, positively, without a doubt, possible fakes."

That's the topic of this post, that phrasing.

Because: This makes very clear that the letters editor of the Strib is one of those clowns who dog-paddled frantically over to the life preserver offered by the Thornburgh Commission, the internal body that investigated "Memo-gate" for CBS.

As you may recall, after laying out in minutest detail the evidence and testimony weighing against the memos being genuine, the Thornburghers reversed course and delivered a nice, ripe "still, you never know" in the conclusion. All honest people aware of the details were amazed and yet there it was. No one on the Commission had observed the memos being forged, and no one had come forward to confess; so: "Still, you never know. We can't say for sure they were fake, now, can we? Come on. Really. In all sincerity, how could we possibly conclude that and face our spouses and children?"

So I've been frustrated by left-leaning folks who've glommed onto the slippery Thornbugh conclusion and who to this day, with all traces of shame drained from their souls (at least temporarily) manage to proclaim that "we simply don't know if they were real or fake."

But now it bothers me a little less. Remember the Japanese soldiers who would pop out of some cave on Guadalcanal, convinced the war was still raging, only the rest of us had moved on? To, say, the disco craze? That's the role a guy like Tim is playing here. It doesn't make sense to be too irritated.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Speaking Of Rigorous Standards...

…as I discussed yesterday, here’s a letter I may send to the Strib today:

In letters editor Tim O'Brien's column today suggesting Papal politics could begin mimicking the American style, his satirical characterization of the Bush Guard issue presents a Cardinal having not shown up for Mass from 1970-1973.

I understand that this is a light-hearted thing and all, but I'm wondering what his thinking was in using those dates. Because once you dig into the details, you find out that charges of W not showing up don't start until mid-1972, around April being the last time he was flying beyond the requirements.

That small fact is the big reason the story can never be a major scandal, since the worst possible outcome for W - that he simply bugged out at that point and used his family ties to make it okay - isn't really all that horrifying for people not already prone to despise him. He flew for four years, starting with his training in mid-1968; then didn't fly much if at all for a year and a half as the war wound down. Then he asked for and got an early discharge, early by 6 months.

The record doesn’t make me swell with admiration, but I knew W was a ne’er-do-well back then. In fact I’m surprised the guy flew as much as he did. That’s my actual reaction.

So did Mr. O'Brien just use those dates because they kind of corresponded to what he sort of understood about the situation and made it seem sufficiently scandalous? That'd be my guess.

Mr. O’Brien and I have had run-ins in the past. (His rigor is subject to some question, I assert.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

There’s A New Strib Reader Rep

Pretty new, anyway. Her name’s Kate Parry and she’s been around a couple months now. Oh, how I long to find out that she has an ability to think critically about the Star Tribune, in a fundamental sense.

Of course her need to do so is somewhat (not entirely) limited by the fact that her purview is everything in the newspaper except the editorial page. Which means the cold heart of our local dominant paper, the section that is most habitually and demonstrably dishonest, misleading and harmful, is beyond her attention. She really doesn’t care about it, and doesn’t much want to talk about it.

She has told me any respectable paper works the same way, while acknowledging that the New York Times doesn't work that way. "Heh," as someone says.

Be that as it may, today she pens an earnest defense of journalists against attacks she believes are largely undeserved, and engaged in for the most part by people who have no sincere motivation in doing so. I could go on and on and on about the ways I disagree with that, but out of many from which to choose this is a good passage to highlight:

"No one else can match the staff, resources and rigorous standards newspapers bring to writing broadly, deeply and fairly about our communities. This is the place where people who disagree with each other can engage in debate for everyone to read, fueling the great ongoing civic discussions around dinner tables and over backyard fences that undergird democracy."

The first sentence: If she’s talking about local outlets for covering communities like the Twin Cities, she’s correct that no one matches the staff and resources of the Star Tribune. As for the rigor, however: I'll grant there are undoubtedly far more persons included in the process of devising and adhering to rigorous standards at the paper than is the case with your local blogger in his fabled pajamas. But unless the universal rule on creative or subjective undertakings has become “more people means better outcomes always,” her statement seems weakly-defended to me.

The second sentence: I think this might just be a typo, one of those "it's so obvious you miss it" things. I assume she meant to say that the blog world is the place where people who disagree with each other can engage in debate for everyone to read, fueling the great ongoing discussions that undergird democracy and so on. It's actually a real nice description of the new phenomenon. So I'll just chalk this one up as an oversight, although it causes me chagrin that that the paper’s rigorous standards didn’t catch it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sandy Berger: What The Hell

This is what seems to have happened:

Back in 2003, Clinton’s former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger crept out of the National Archives with five copies of a document authored by Richard Clarke during the Clinton administration, covering measures taken to deal with the “Millennium threat” of a terrorist attack. Although coverage of this story has been understated, one gathers these were not copies Berger made that day in 2003, using the 7-cent-a-page National Archives Ricoh. That would make no sense. No, they were copies that were there in the file already.

Then, according to his plea agreement – there’s a good summary of things here – he cut three of these copies to shreds with scissors at his office late one night, and returned the other two.

The suspicion, of course, is that these were not copies in the traditional sense of being exactly alike, identical either to each other or to the original. There must have been slight differences, such as margin notes made by officials at the time. That’s a common speculation in fact.

Something like this has to be the case. Has to be. Otherwise the implication is that during the 1990’s our national security apparatus was under direct control of a fruitcake. A loony-tunes. A scatterbrained imbecile who pilfers five identical copies of an identical original (which he leaves in place) and then painstakingly and secretly, perhaps giggling, using his very own scissors cuts three of the five into little pieces before returning the remaining two.

Forefinger to lips; making buzzing sound.

Whichever interpretation is accurate, though, this much is clear: Sandy Berger should not ever again under any circumstances be given scissors.