Friday, December 31, 2004

Past, Present, and Father Time

Nick Coleman

Nick Coleman - SwanBlog's Father Time 2004 Posted by Hello

In addition to the SwanBlog Man of the Year, we have been awarding the Father Time award since the late 1950s. This year's recipient is very deserving. In recent months, he has been caught fudging the difference between the Minneapolis Park Police and ordinary city police patrols (implying that street cops were wasting their time arresting skinny dippers in the park), as well as the difference between "textbooks" and books "in the classroom" that were the "right mix" of "subject matters" and "reading levels." In both cases, Coleman was purposely vague. In the former case, he was vague because he couldn't be bothered to find out the answer. In the latter, he wanted to support his narrative that a school was in crisis, and blame it on Republicans. If the public wrongly assumed that the school did not have proper textbooks, then so be it. Both times, it was the blogosphere that busted Coleman. Given his combined tenure at the daily newspapers of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is unlikely that this is the first time Coleman has done this. This is just the first (and second) time that he has been caught. The fact that he can no longer get away with it makes Coleman an excellent choice for the Father Time award.

By the way, Nick, the origin of my non de cyber, Lawdog, does not require any Freudian analysis. [I know that Nick will read this because he is conceited and thin-skinned.] A Special Forces colonel at Fort Benning was walking past me and saw from the insignia on my collar that I am a lawyer. He responded to my "Hello, sir" with, "What's up, Lawdog?" I thought it was pretty funny. So I use it as a username, in a somewhat self-mocking way. You see, Nick, most bloggers have a sense of humor about themselves. For example, I am sure that many people mispronounce Hinderaker like it was a sequel to Ian Fleming's Moonraker. I bet the schoolkids John grew up with in rural South Dakota had fun with that name, unless members of the Wilfahrt family went to the same school. "Hindrocket" (the 'i' is short) is probably one of the nicer nicknames John has had over the years. Scott Johnson's nickname is even more innocent. While at a Republican fundraiser, they were looking for cute names for each table. Scott suggested "The Big Trunk."

Oops. I let the cat out of the bag. Scott's a Republican. This is yet another link for the six degrees of separation game that Coleman likes to play. According to Nick, if you have any affiliation with a conservative organization, then any other activity you pursue in life must be coordinated by that same organization. If I had majored in philosophy, I might say something about the fallacy of guilt by association or post hoc, ergo propter hoc. But Coleman is not even consistent in his smears. If Powerline is controlled and funded by Conservative High Command, why do they sell advertising on their site? Any regular reader of Powerline knows that they did not sell advertising until Matt Drudge linked to their site during Memogate and greatly increased the cost of bandwith.

Coleman's take on religion is also muddled. I won't comment on his "Judge not, lest ye be judged" quote because that would be too easy. But what are we to take from his delight at sitting next to a Muslim man at Catholic Mass? It is possible that the man was a Christian of Arab descent and Nick was just fudging the terminology as he did with "textbooks." Assuming that he spoke to the man and found out that the man was actually Muslim, did that mean that Coleman hoped to convert him, just as his grandfather's brother converted Lutherans to Catholicism? Or is he just so obsessed with diversity that seeing people who look different is more important than the distraction at the altar or in the pulpit? Make no mistake, it is a very nice thing to invite people of different faiths to your own church, or to visit someone else's house of worship. However, if this is Coleman's point, he undermines it by taking a swipe at James Lileks and others who contend that Christians should not be shy about wishing others "Merry Christmas."

There was a time when Nick Coleman was the irreverant Star Tribune media critic who once speculated whether local "Weatherboy" Paul Douglas wore a toupee. Now, Coleman chastises Powerline for mentioning the fact that Senator Mark Dayton talks so openly about his therapy issues. For the record, any fair observer would conclude that Powerline was not criticizing Dayton for seeking professional help, but for revealing that fact to complete strangers in a Christmas card.

Nick Coleman is the latest member of the Formerly Funny Club. FFC members all have talent, but have lost their way. I can remember a Star Tribune columnist whose college-age son was killed in a tragic accident. This personal tragedy inspired him to write about his understandable opposition to the First Gulf War. Similarly, the death of Senator Paul Wellstone was a personal tragedy to many, given the Wellstone's unique ability to make everyone feel like they were Wellstone's best friend. The shrill partisanship of Al Franken and Garrison Keillor can be traced back to the plane crash that killed the Senator. I am unaware of a particular personal tragedy that has caused Coleman to go off the deep end. In fact, he recently married Pioneer Press columnist Laura Billings.

The marriage of the Newspaper Newlyweds sheds a humorous light on one of Coleman's complaints about Powerline. Unable to marginalize Powerline as losers who sit around in their underwear, Coleman complains that the time stamp on one post indicates that Scott Johnson was blogging when he should have been working. Of course, Nick Coleman never takes coffee breaks or makes personal telephone calls during work hours. One would think that the courtship of the Newspaper Newlyweds must have been very complicated if their personal and professional lives never intersect.

Finally, it is true that Coleman has had his share of Sister Soulja moments. The fact that he is sometimes able to make a powerful point (liberal, conservative, or apolitical) without ad hominems shows how bad the majority of his columns are. This is not someone who is unable to use humor and subtlety to make a point. He just chooses not to. And that is why he is SwanBlog's Father Time 2004.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Man of the Year, 1971 and 2004

John O'Neill

Man of the Year 1971 and 2004 Posted by Hello

John O'Neill deserves the honor of SwanBlog Man of the Year for his activities in 1971 and 2004. He is the first two-time winner of the award. The following is an imaginary Christmas letter from the O'Neill family. It is written in the third person, as most of these letters are.

Imaginary Christmas Letter from John O'Neill's Family

Merry Christmas from the O'Neill family. It has been quite a year for us. Anne underwent a successful kidney transplant early this year at Houston Methodist Hospital. She quickly recovered enough to be released from the hospital, and she continues to recover.

The source of the kidney transplant was John. It is rare that a husband is a suitable donor for a wife. John was willing to make the sacrifice, despite the pain and the risks. The recovery for John was longer than for Anne. Anne actually visited John in the hospital during his three-week stay.

While in intensive care, John saw Senator John Kerry working his way through the primaries for the presidential nomination. This was reminiscent of an event more than 30 years ago, where John was in a VA hospital bed watching Kerry on television, as Kerry was acting as a leader in the anti-war movement.

In 1971, John was inspired to become active with Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, to counter what he saw as exaggerations or outright lies about Americans who had served in Vietnam. He actually debated Kerry on the Dick Cavett Show.

Upon his return from Vietnam, John enrolled in the University of Texas Law School, graduating first in his class. John describes himself as the "Rip Van Winkle of Politics" because he largely faded from public view after his encounter with Kerry on the Dick Cavett Show. John became a successful attorney in Houston and rejected the occasional overture from Kerry opponents to campaign against Kerry during his runs for the U.S. Senate.

Despite the risk from the kidney transplant surgery, John wrote and published a book about Kerry's Vietnam service. "Unfit for Command" sold more than 900,000 copies, despite attempts by the Kerry campaign to suppress it. Similarly, the Kerry campaign were unable to stop television ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which John helped to organize.

There were several attempts to discredit John and the other Swift Boat Veterans. John is a Texas Democrat, which is not the same as a Massachusetts Democrat, but that did not stop some people from trying to paint John as a Bush campaign operative. After months of pro-Kerry advertisement from independent "527" committees, independent expenditures suddenly became scandalous when Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began airing television ads.

The most pathetic attempt to discredit John was on the ABC News Nightline program. After ignoring the Swift Boat Vets, they sent a camera crew to Vietnam to verify the challenged claim of Kerry heroism that resulted in his Silver Star. Using a local guide and GPS technology to interpret the Navy after action reports (which were made without a local guide or GPS technology), they located what they thought was the village where the fire fight took place. Under the watchful eye of a government minder, the local villagers told the camera crew exactly what they were supposed to -- the individual killed was not a teenager in a loincloth, but a brave warrior, etc. After 35 years, it is unclear that they had the correct village, that the memories were correct and unbiased, or that they were even talking about the same fire fight.

The attempt by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to restore the honor of those who fought in Vietnam has been described as the last mission of the Vietnam War. The family is happy to welcome John home from this mission.

All in all, an eventful year for the O'Neill family. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Testy, Testy, and Testimony

Powerline (and now SwanBlog) reader Drew Lanz writes:

I found this interesting:

1. Mark Dayton is unhappy because our troops do not _now_ have sufficient equipment.

2. On May 7th before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mark Dayton chided Rumsfeld that the additional equipment headed for Iraq would"escalate the level of violence, the opposition of Iraqis, intensify the hatred across the Arab world to the United States".

* * * * * *

When you click on the May 7, 2004 Washington Post link above, scroll down to near the bottom for the quote. In the hearing, Dayton is complaining about increasing the number of troops and tanks. Now, in Senator Dayton's defense, he might favor vehicles that look like trucks, but are armored like tanks, thus avoiding the hatred generated by the M1A1. Either that or he is using any opportunity to criticize the administration, irrespective of consistency and logic.

Time ran out on the committee hearing before Rumsfeld could answer Dayton's charges, but Rumsfeld was given the opportunity to submit comments for the record. It would be interesting to see what the answer was.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Senator, The Provocateur, and The Armor

Senator Dayton has demanded an investigation into why there are not more up-armored vehicles in Iraq. KSTP, the local ABC affiliate, interviewed a couple in Cloquet whose son was killed by a Rocket-Propelled Grenade that hit his unarmored truck. They support Senator Dayton's initiative.

It is sad that this couple's son was killed. It is also sad that they are being given information that armor would have saved his life.

The M1A1 Abrams tank purportedly has the most advanced armor in our inventory. Take a look at this picture of what a new RPG can do to this tank.

Remember that one of the arguments against the Strategic Defense Initiative is that the enemy will simply make a more advanced missile, rendering our shield obsolete. This is true of any shield or armor. We build a better shield; they build a better weapon. What is lost in this discussion is that the troops have better equipment than the troops had in the First Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, or Kosovo.

Here is a comment I sent to Powerline on the subject of body armor and armored Humvees:

For what it's worth, I was involved in the training of troops
for missions in the former Yugoslavia from 1997 to 1999. I also served six
months in the Balkans during that time. Conventional wisdom was that there were
6 million unexploded landmines in the former Yugoslavia, as they were the
manufacturer of landmines for all of the Warsaw Pact nations. The first battalion
we sent from Fort Riley had every soldier equipped with a special non-magnetic
mine probe in case they were caught in a mine field. They must have determined
that to be overkill, because they stopped attaching the probes to their body
armor at some point during the mission. All of the Humvees were required to be
the type with kevlar composite doors and polycarbonite windows. Sandbags were
also placed under the seats and on the floorboards, if possible, to protect
against landmines. I am not aware that any of the "up armored" Humvees we talk
about today were used in Bosnia during the late 1990s. I did see a Special
Forces guy on a transport plane to Germany who seemed to have a more advanced
set of body armor than I did. It looked more comfortable, even if it covered
less of the neck and shoulders. My point is that troops were sent into a country
that was believed to contain 6 million landmines. The trucks and Humvees did not
have armor that could protect against an explosion from underneath. They had to
pile sandbags on the floorboards. The troops did not have the most advanced body
armor. Where were the MSM investigative reports on force protection back in

Finally, I am reminded of a confrontation between Al Franken and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz shortly after Baghdad fell. Franken made some comment to Wolfowitz that the war had been won with "Clinton's Army." Whether or not the previous commander-in-chief can take credit for military (or economic) successes of the current commander-in-chief is a debate for another day. It is fair to say that planes, trucks, and other manufactured vehicles do not magically appear on inauguration day. So does this mean that "Clinton's Army" failed to properly armor the vehicles?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Red, Green, and Yellowbellied Administrators

King Banaian at SCSU Scholars has a post about the unwritten policy against Christmas decorations in dormitories at Saint Cloud State. Not to be outdone, the University of Minnesota has reportedly circulated a memo discouraging, among other things, the colors red and green at office “holiday” parties.

This official UMNews story appears to contain the substance of the memo. One of the authors, Julie Sweitzer, was an attorney with the University General Counsel’s office during First Amendment scandals I wrote about here and here. Sweitzer probably knows better than to institute an outright ban on Christmas parties through her job as director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. But the muddled advice in the memo/article probably serves its intended purpose – cleansing the campus of any mention of Christmas among employees. The only safe party to have is no party.

The title of the webpage is December Holiday Tips, while the article title is Reevaluating Seasonal Office Parties: How About January? Apparently, the best “tip” for a December office party is to have it in January. Never mind that both the calendar year and the Fall semester end in December. The article switches from being hypersensitive about failing to celebrate every possible December holiday to being hypersensitive about including too many holidays, thus trivializing the religious aspects. Similarly, Santa Claus is either too religious or too secular.

Lighten up, Francis! I bet parties at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action are a real barrel of laughs.

The article links to a press release from a so-called diversity consultant which, surprisingly, has a less shrill tone than the University’s. ProGroup concedes that “you can’t please everyone.” Those four words should be the sum total of the University’s guidance on the matter.

There is U.S. Supreme Court precedent on this matter. In a case regarding nativity scenes on public property, the Court ruled that such a display was constitutional when surrounded by Santa Claus house, reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh, candy-striped poles, a Christmas tree, carolers, cutout figures representing such characters as a clown, an elephant, and a teddy bear, hundreds of colored lights, and a large banner that read "SEASONS GREETINGS.” Got that? The more garish the display, the greater the likelihood it with withstand a lawsuit. Cheesy equals constitutional.

Finally, the University website that discourages the use of the colors red and green at office parties has a picture of a tree with white lights. I am reminded of the wonderful piece about white lights vs. colored lights by columnist Michael Kelly, who died while reporting on the Iraq War. I wonder if employees at the University can sing Oh, Mitten Tree?