Paul From Minneapolis

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Strib Misses With A Haymaker

I always thought I was the only person who was correct in every particular along the way during this whole Iraq deal, going back years. Turns out I was wrong. It’s the Star Tribune editorial staff that holds that title.

That’s why they've been assigned the duty and privilege to rise on high above us all – do you see them up there? See their legs wiggling? – and call us all second-degree murderers.

There has been no possible justification for this war, the editors have been clearly right all along, there should be no debate, and there has long been no logical reason for the existence of all these people who disagree with them on anything important.

Not to say that they’ve forgotten the elusive goal of national unity on this Memorial Day. The depth of disgrace into which our nation has fallen by dint of the evil leaders and those who abetted them (hey...) means that the bitter finger of shameful responsibility points even at themselves: they failed in their unyielding truth-knowing-and-telling. They didn’t stop us, God help them.

Still, we're lucky to have them around.

Incidentally, guys, talking to the editors here, you have from time to time proclaimed yourselves interested in a decent outcome in Iraq. Assuming that's true - and it must be, because you never lie and you're always right - then I have to ask: okay, granted, there have been too many terrible events. Disaster may loom. So is it helpful to rush on stage and rend your garments like this? Moaning and weeping about the disaster befalling us? You're typecasting yourself! Calm down!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Disease of Conceit

The point isn’t that Bill Maher’s show should be cancelled.

The point is that he’s a disgusting person who has a TV show. (Tear out page one.) Or, to be more generous like we all must remind myself ourselves to attempt, a funny person who can’t stop himself from saying disgusting things; in this case, in the context of talking about recruitment problems, tarring all soldiers with the statement, “We’ve done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit.” And then refusing to apologize. In fact, perceiving it to be absurd that he should consider it.

You get the sense it’s the refusal to apologize that’s the biggest kick of all for him.

They all agree with him over at the HP, of course. They rush over like bluegills sensing a grub worm to do so. And so again: the problem the left doesn’t see about itself.

Update: Here’s the show transcript. The comment’s way at the bottom, after the worshipful session with Gore Vidal and others. It’s not out of context. He makes a point that doesn’t depend on the tarring, but the tarring is unavoidably there.

The Filibuster Compromise: ?

I have been asked to state my opinion on the filibuster compromise.

I don’t have much of an opinion.

It doesn’t seem like it’s disastrous for Republicans or Democrats, so I guess that’s my opinion. Somewhere I read that this “kicks the can down the road,” and that seems right. I can’t see how this would actually prevent the Republicans from changing the rules later if they believe the Democrats violate their pledge only to filibuster in the case of “extreme” judges.

Speaking of which, I’m fairly convinced that the Democrats have engaged in typical left-style bullshit (exaggerating evil on the right) in describing as “extreme” the three judges they have. From what I’ve read they seem like they’re just conservative, and perfectly respectable in how they arrive at their decisions.

The Democrats can never say what their real problem is, which is that having lost so many recent elections, and control of the presidency most of the time, they're watching the judiciary becoming quite conservative. They don’t want that to keep happening, so they would like to come up with a way to slow the process down.

Even though they have indeed lost all these elections, I’m not sure there’s isn’t some larger legitimacy in that wish, in the habitual losing party working to prevent the semi-permanent party in power from cementing their views in place via the judicial system. Judges stay put for a long time. I’ve moved right, relative to the workaday Democrats anyway, but I’m not sure it’s great to have the right side so firmly in control.

But the Democrats can’t say that’s what they’re doing. Because it means the party’s principal message to the public boils down to: “Nooo! It’s not fairrrrr!”

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Thank You Jim Geraghty

Jim Geraghty is a National Review guy currently posted in Ankara, Turkey. Before his move, during the election, he was the guy behind a blog at NRO called "The Kerry Spot” (archives if you're curious).

Since then the blog has continued. I am glad for that, because I like it, although the new name - "TKS" - may seem strange for the newcomer. For example, it bears no relationship to the name "Jim Geraghty." Of course this just shows some bashfulness on his part I suspect.

Today, he's responding to a moderate-seeming commentator in Turkey who takes the US to task for the widespread belief in the Muslim world that we are treating detainees, and by extension the religion, with disrespect. Here, in a passage that begins with a quote from the commentator, is why I say “thank you” to Mr. Geraghty:

"The U.S. has disappointed me greatly with their ineptitude and incomprehension of topics related to the Islamic world." That's funny, much of the Islamic world has disappointed me greatly with their ineptitude and incomprehension of topics related to the American world.

Yes. Thank you. Full moral equivalence like this is crucial. We here in the West, the capitalist West, deserve no more respect than the Muslim World We Have Long Oppressed, but we deserve no less respect as well.

Many remember the first point and not many remember the second, so the other side is held to no standards. It’s an incredibly easy kind of thinking to slip into, evidently. For its adherents in the U.S. it shares some characteristics with the attitude of an abused wife or child to the monster in their lives. “What have I done wrong!?” It’s sad, but it’s also very, very annoying after a while.

This subject crops up everywhere. It has to do, for example, with the commandment that only those "with power" are capable of acting in a racist manner.

I've spent a little time in Turkey, incidentally. I learned a lot. Like, when you're strolling over to pour some water on the coals, it's best to keep your towel on.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Clarification

Of this: When I say I'm going to "revisit" something "tomorrow," I invariably do. But I don't necessarily come up with anything to say for public purposes.

And when I say "public," what I mean is "Steve and Todd" and a couple other folks who may occasionally read this. But Steve and Todd are my preferred public right now.

That dawning awareness has made me quieter, for the moment.

My main message for Steve and Todd has to do with how the left doesn't think things through, how it has developed an allergic reaction to investigating its own perceptions and rules, and treats other points of view with respect and balance only when tapped on the forehead repeatedly. Yet tapping repeatedly can get old, for both of us, and I don't want to overwhelm them with small but clarifying examples of their heroes' intellectual perfidy unless I, myself, really know what I'm saying and why I'm saying it. And then saying it short and tender, if possible, not always just stern which can come across pompous. So there's no harm in slowing down sometimes.

My prolificness is on simmer for another reason, too.

Lately there's been a hailstorm of left perfidy. Like the aluminum siding on my house, my psyche is dented. I’m fixated yet it's more than a little depressing. And to be quite frank, one begins to wonder if a life spent obsessing on Jim Lampley or some pychotic Kos poster is a fully examined life.

Maybe that's Jim Lampley's goal: make it so that enough of us will just say to hell with it, take the world. It's yours. I'm going fishing.

Which is also something like the strategy of the spastic resistance in Iraq, but that's a coincidence.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saddam Photographed In Briefs

And Jockey sales plummet worldwide.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm Torn Between Rage And Despair

..when I read Jim Lampley. So that means he’s a powerful writer, I guess.

Although: am I actually granting him power, as the therapists say? Is it all under my control?

Just Another White Guy With a Master's Degree (Again)

“Ward Churchill's claim of membership in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians is fraudulent, according to a scathing statement released by the tribal office...

““’The United Keetoowah Band would like to make it clear that Mr. Churchill IS NOT a member of the Keetoowah Band and was only given an honorary 'associate membership' in the early 1990s because he could not prove any Cherokee ancestry.’"

Still, Churchill insists there is other evidence of his Indigenous roots, and points to the contracts for his lucrative college speaking engagements, where he states his fee in terms of “plenty wampum.”

Monday, May 16, 2005

At This Point The Huffington Post a place for liberals to vent, and for the occasional earnest conservative to do his best to communicate and then be piled on by liberals who aren't listening.

So my previous hope that it might be an actual forum between the sides was a touch Polyanna-ish. I'd forgotten about the one side.

Still, it does provide a helpful one-stop-shop for those interested in witnessing flaws in the argumentation styles of a great many left-leaning folks in modern day political America. Jim Lampley is a market leader in that regard.

Not to fixate on Mr. Lampley, who is bent on liberal hero status and perhaps as a consequence has moved far beyond the reach of reason, as far beyond as the characters who dominate this movie; but I think I'll revisit that post tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2005

"The Time God Appeared on 'What's My Line?'"

I stumbled across this show transcript in researching Dorothy Kilgallen:

It's great. I also learned, incidentally, that some suspect Dorothy Kilgallen was murdered, to keep her from talking about the Kennedy assassination.

In fact if you check out this article, also included in the post below, you'll learn some amazing details about Dorothy Kilgallen. Far be it from me to disrespect Arianna Huffington, but I'm not sure my comparison works.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Excitement At The Huffington Post

If you don't know, the Huffington Post is a new “group celebrity blog,” put together by Adriana Huffington, who in an earlier era might have been Dorothy Kilgallen.

It’s actually got a bit of a mix of views, as captured in the debate between Byron York of the National Review and HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley over Lampley’s belief that the 2004 election was stolen. Elsewhere, Chris Schenkel says the World Bank is flawed, while "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan go at it over the flat tax, but this exchange is the big one so far, for me anyway.

It got off to a rough start as Jim Lampley nearly destroyed his intellectual reputation, in the process of introducing the world to the possibility that he has one. He did this by basing his certainty of 2004 election fraud on three lines of reasoning:

- Exits polls are never wrong. (Very slight exaggeration)
- Even if they were ever wrong, they would never be wrong in a certain direction because of a design flaw.
- Sports bookies are never wrong. In this case, the bookies could not be wrong because they were relying completely on the word of exit pollsters. Who (you will recall) are never wrong.

In the face of York’s stunned dismissals of his first sally, Lampley has gotten a bit more substantive and pulled back from the edge of drooling nonsense. Could it have been an opening feint? He is a boxing commentator.

So he didn’t surrender, and I’m still reading. But I sense that JL is a guy who you know will simply never acknowledge a basic mistake in his own thinking or misperception of something key; he’ll just keep finding ways to prop up the storyline he likes. It’s an incredibly common trend on the left, and to become a public spokesman for this perspective is a viable career move. I think it’s what Keith Olbermann has considered doing.

I don’t think it’s pure cynicism, but I think it’s some.

As you may know, a gathering aspect of the conservative self-image is “we can’t be like the left.”

Meaning: convulsively aggressive against the other point of view, illogical, closed-minded, smug, ignorant. A mix of those things. Not that everyone’s like that over there, seen from the perspective of wherever I am. Although I would observe that as you lose those traits, it becomes harder to remain on the hard left. Passion against our national crimes is what defines the left these days, and as you calm down you start seeing the explanations for the crimes, in most cases, or the other side of the story, in most cases, and you realize that true crime is rarer than you thought, and even occurs in some places you never thought to look before.

So I feel compelled to not be like them and to check out Jim Lampley’s case. Maybe I will employ the rope-a-dope.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

This Man Is Insane

I engaged a coworker on the problems with hip-hop and rap, their tendency (as I see it) to celebrate disgusting social attitudes and (the times I've noticed) a self-victimizing, counterproductive political stance.

She assured me that not all practitioners are that way, only the "commercialized" rap promoted by "white people." I stormed off briefly, but stormed back in time to hear her mention favorably "A Tribe Called Quest."

I'd heard of the band. It's kind of a cool name. Curious, open to a new perspective on the politics of hiphop and rap, I Googled them, and selected a site on the first page. A fan site, I think. Couldn't pick up much from it. So I followed a political link, and then another.

That's the guy I'm claiming is insane. He believes the national sports media hates Tiger Woods and wants him to fail. I disagree so strongly that either he's insane or I am.

Here's a sentence, as he explains Tiger's overwhelmingness, which has led to this hatred:

"Phil Nickleson gained popular sympathy as the “unlucky loser” (before he finally won one last year) because Tiger beat him so often. "

Phil Nickleson?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

We Are Big Babies

I’m watching the Wachovia Championship. Tiger’s drive has deserted him again.

A BP ad commences: “Which would you rather have, a car or a cleaner environment?”

A pleasant woman in a sundress faces the camera as jangly/tingly tones are heard.

“Well I would love to have a cleaner environment, but my car – that’s like askin’ someone to give up chocolate! To give up my car... it’s just not gonna happen. I love my car!”

That’s not a bad basis for a joke, actually, equating our automobile economy with a craving for chocolate, but I’m muttering: BP, think for a second. Is the global community going to be charmed with this idea that international politics and strife are shaped largely around the presumption that we here in the United States can’t even consider modifying our need for chocolate? It’s no more significant a part of our lives than that?

I hope it’s more complex than chocolate. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world already perceives our car/SUV fixation in that light. We are selfish disgusting pigs, they suspect. So thanks, BP. Thanks for the little dig right in the middle of the Wachovia Championship.
Postscript: It's possible this ad is not aimed only at us, but I bet it is. When you're talking about not giving up cars you're talking about the USA.

High Kwality Thinkin' at the Strib

From a Star-Trib thing called “Shortcuts,” a regular feature of brief items compiled by “the editorial staff.”

Discussing his plan for personal retirement accounts in Social Security last week, President Bush said that Americans who worry about volatility in the stock market would have the option, under his proposal, to invest their accounts in safe Treasury bonds. Of course, the president said three weeks ago that Treasury bonds held in the Social Security trust fund are nothing but "IOUs."

That's the comment in its entirety.

I’m not going to argue in factor of private accounts. My thought has to do only with the capacity for argumentation on display here on the part of the Strib editorial staff. Specifically, how the fact they think they’ve made some kind of telling, even stunning point is the only telling, even stunning thing about it.

But I’ll return to it tomorrow.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Thinking About The Escalating Violence in Iraq

On the one hand, it seems inevitable that whoever these guys are, and whatever it is they want, they would try to stage a comeback after the evident body blow of the elections.

Remember those? The elections, when the majority voted in the face of overwhelming pressure not to, including heated fatwahs from the evidently ignorable OBL (that was sweet).

The elections, which did demonstrate to the satisfaction of me and the international community that the majority of Iraqis disagreed strongly with the insurgent view that the elections were not valid.

Stated another way, they clarified that the insurgents were and are not a popular movement for the large majority of Iraqis, and probably have little chance of becoming one. All they can accomplish is chaos, it seems, perhaps in the guise of a civil war between the Sunnis and everyone else.

What a victory would even mean for them, what might follow the chaos, I suspect they have absolutely no idea. In that, they seem to share a characteristic with the guys who planned this war from the American side.

But anyway, given the inevitability of an attempted insurgent comeback, I see doom-saying headlines and pronouncements like this, from the LA Times and re-run in the Strib:

“As the insurgency appears to be roaring back, Iraq's new government shows no sign of having a strategy to deal with the mounting death toll.”

- and I get mad. It's almost like I'm in Wisconsin again.

Because the press does come across as so very willing to provide the spin the insurgents would themselves prefer. That seems pretty plain to me. And I thought we all wanted a decent outcome regardless of our disagreements, you know?

And yet…

It was always an obvious likelihood that the Sunnis surrounding Hussein were not all going to be simply thrilled about his removal. Meaning, there was always going to be a group of rageful hot-blooded men who would be really, really enraged in particular at us. Even if they did grudgingly acquiesce to the new state of affairs.

Which they seem not to have done yet. They seem stuck. They're in the state where they’re taking advantage of how a relatively small group of nihilists and suicidal religious zealots (who seem to be always available in that part of the world) can cause a hell of a lot of trouble, and not a lot can be done about it.

I’m not convinced that W and his crew thought about this possibility much.

So, is there a way to stop it available? Is the media simply correct in their prefiguring of doom, notwithstanding their unseemly eagerness to bring it down upon all our heads?

Or is there a version of rationality among these insurgents, opening the door to a reasonable way out of this for us and the sane Iraqis?

And what if the worst turns out to be true? If they're stuck, are we stuck? Can we bear to walk away and leave the country to chaos?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Life Snaps Into Focus

"Ugly kids may get less care."

A Few Of Us Need To Drive Like Sheepdogs

Monday: I approach the intersection of Lyndale Avenue South and 40th Street in Minneapolis on my way home from work. I’m headed west. The light is red. I stop.

The car stopped facing me is under the nominal control of a woman talking on a cell phone. Her left turn signal is flashing; meaning, if I can take her at all seriously, that she intends to turn left, across the path I will be taking when I proceed straight. It is my understanding that I have right of way in this situation.

I can see she is involved thoroughly in her conversation concerning whether she has time to go carry a big anti-W puppet in a march somewhere. (This is south Minneapolis, recall.) Her signal is engaged, her attention is not.

It is as if we’re following a script. The light turns green. She accelerates immediately and begins to turn left, acting like I’m not there. And in her little head, I’m not! Had I been unaware that I was dealing with the functional equivalent of a village idiot, I might have been killed! But I was prepared, so I gave the horn a tap and she stopped. She looked irritated, but she stopped. That redounds to her credit.

Tuesday: I’ll tell you what. To save space, just go back and read the last three paragraphs again. (It happened again, is what I'm saying.) (No lie. Different woman, same intersection.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Frank Rich Unveiled

Frank Rich has written a column about “South Park conservatives.” Here’s a paragraph.

"Conservatives can't stop whining about Hollywood, but the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too. It's not easy. In the showbiz wrangling sweepstakes of 2004, liberals had Leonardo DiCaprio, the Dixie Chicks and the Boss. The right had Bo Derek, Pat Boone and Jessica Simpson, who, upon meeting the secretary of the interior, Gale Norton, congratulated her for doing "a nice job decorating the White House." Ms. Simpson may be the last performer in America who can make Whoopi Goldberg seem like the soul of wit."

I want to highlight that last bit, about Jessica Simpson, which offers a quick peep-hole glimpse of why some of us are so fed up with the left, so put off.

Assuming Ms. Simpson meant it as a joke, which I believe Frank Rich is suggesting, well, how do I say this: It’s funny. It’s very funny. It fits the Jessica Simpson genre of humor quite well, and while it’s broad, and dumb, it’s simply funny. I don’t know another way to say it. It’s funny.

So when Frank Rich blandly asserts that it is not funny, he reveals one of the following: dishonesty, or no sense of humor. And aren’t those two of the most important problems with the left in these days of modern times?

Yet there is hope here, too. At least Frank Rich seems to understand that Whoopee Goldberg is not funny.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God

The story’s here. Excerpt:

“University of Oklahoma head baseball coach Larry Cochell resigned Sunday, two days after reports surfaced of alleged racial remarks he made during two off-camera interviews to ESPN…

“Cochell was speaking with play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne when he called Dunigan over to praise him for staying in school. When the freshman returned to the field, Cochell told Thorne, ‘There's no n----- in him.’ The network informed the school that Cochell used similar language in an interview with ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson….

“According to a report in Sunday's The Oklahoman, Dunigan and his father said they forgave Cochell for his comments.

"’He has apologized,’ Joe Dunigan Jr. told The Oklahoman. "Those words are powerful and derisive. They were inappropriate and offensive. But he is a man who has done so many good things in his life.’

"’He has treated us like family,’ he continued. ‘We have broken bread with him. I know he is a Christian man. We all say things that we don't mean, and I hope people down there don't color him as a racist because he made a mistake.’

“Both Dunigans and Charles Caufield, the father of Chuckie Caufield, the only other black player on the team, had told The Oklahoman they wanted Cochell to keep his job.

‘He hasn't done anything where he deserved to be fired,’ Charles Caufield told the newspaper.

I would much prefer a world where this coach could be forgiven, if that’s what’s called for, or heard out as to what was in his mind when he said the unforgivable word, what slang or vernacular he was employing. And a world where the opinions of those he was said to have irredeemably insulted could carry some weight against the pre-ordained result of PC-ness.

So, yes: Another example of compassionate, liberal controls applied to social interaction making the (perhaps) wisest, most human and moderate outcome an impossibility.

Update: "Another example." Have I provided an earlier example? I don't think so. Maybe I should do that if it's not too late. Anyway, the point is I'm fascinated with a way of looking at liberals and the left that sees the controlling and dark sides, along with narcissism that leads to an imperviousness to their own flaws. Its like a kaleidoscope turned at some point in my thinking.

Update 2: I suspect the main response to the sympathetic attitudes of the black players and their families would involve theorizing that they are worried about being ostracized, and doesn't that point to the undelying racism we must still stamp out with rules and commandments like this?

And I would say, no, not all feelings of anger that might emerge on the part of other Oklahomans would be racist. Very far from it, in fact, once you actually internalize the possibility that a good man is being fired for insufficient reason. And even if some is racist, I suspect that almost all of that would fall into the "arguably" category. The kinds of racism you guys point out everywhere, over there on the left, with some examples more convincing than others.

Why not handle these inevitable problems with humor and grace and generosity, and let the slow evolution of mutual acceptance continue? I mean, you know?

The Week Ahead

What’s up with the wave of attacks in Iraq, that’s one thing. What it means, where it may lead. One day of attacks led the AP to declare the insurgents emboldened, as I discussed here. Two days and a convenient anniversary led the Star-Trib to begin fantasizing about the last days, years hence, before the sad but inevitable fall of Baghdad.

I had posted some thoughts on the violence, quite serious thoughts, until my Editor informed me the piece was confusing and yet offered nothing new. So it’s in the shop. But this needs addressing by a serious and honest person. Failing that, I may give it a shot.

Religion versus no religion, that’s another. Andrew S. is whipping up the debate, trying to make the case that yes, there is abundant reason to be terrified of the religious right. He seems to be trying to shake skeptics like me who believe most of these people are actually decent people, and our basically sensible country won’t let them get away with too much anyway.

So, that seems like an important topic.

The Kentucky Derby. I love the Triple Crown. As a kid I lived a couple miles from a track outside Chicago. It had its own train stop and the train would eject dozens of these sharpies from the city. Guys in hats with the Racing Form, smoking cigarettes. My grandma did not like them. From the train you could see the horses being run in the morning.

I don’t know why, but the great past racehorse names were something most kids knew. Or maybe it was just me. Maybe in a previous life I was Eddie Arcaro, notwithstanding the fact that Eddie Arcaro was still going strong. Citation, Man-O-War, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Tim-Tam; I just deeply love those names from before my time. And then along came Secretariat. Sometimes you can’t blame us boomers for suspecting everything really was superior, more spectacular and cooler back then.

So anyway, every year, looking for the return of the king. So maybe I’ll figure out what’s up with the Derby this year.

I’ve been thinking of looking into Venezuela, too. The politics. Hugo Chavezwhat the hell? That might be a good way to frame the issue. I wonder if Johan Santana would have any opinions on the matter he’d like to share.

(I strongly doubt it. Years ago the Twins had a pitcher named Al Williams who had been a Sandinista guerilla, in Nicaragua. He gave me an interview for a baseball publication I wrote for some, but he didn’t talk about the war years.)

News From All Over

“Ant supercolony dominates Europe” (from 2002)

Fierce ants build torture rack” (this week)

"EU rejects US 'gigantic hose' offer" (today)