Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Weather, Sports, and Old News

Headline on Star Tribune website:

Warning: Vehicles left running are invitation to thieves

Mother, Father, and Child

Here is a belated response to Marty Andrade. I am listed as one of his blogchildren. I believe the saying goes that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. So this must mean that SwanBlog is a success.

I have credited Powerline as inspiration. I should also list Jonah Goldberg as someone who demonstrated to me that an informal writing style (with lots of tangents and inside jokes) can still be worth reading.

At some point, a person needs to stop e-mailling bloggers and start his/her own blog. Dafydd ab Hugh is the perfect example of this. I have made the same recommendation to a handful of e-mailers, with mixed results. Do they qualify as my "blogchildren"? I don't know.

I take no credit for the "three things" titles of my post. I believe the Holy Trinity had that one first. But it is a distinguishing attribute of my blog. And it gets my creativity flowing.

As far as Marty being my blogdaddy, I will say that he has the best piece of advice for any blogger: post every weekday. I first attempted to do this back in the Spring with my "Every Day in May" campaign. It was an attempt to move from the hitting a home run (link from a prominent Minnesota blog) every month or two, to hitting singles consistently. If there is something worth reading, be it an original insight or a link to somewhere else, people will come back. If you are a MOB member, you will automatically get 10 hits per day. What you do from there is based on the quality of your writing/linking. Marty gets credit for pushing this idea.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Popcorn, Meals, and Art Projects

Last of Nine has a post on the tempest in a microwave in the St. Paul school system. It seems that teachers must now pay for electricity if they choose to use personal appliances in the classroom.

My first reaction is that the school system could have avoided controversy by simply banning the items. They would have seemed strict, but not petty. While the electric bills do add up, I bet they could have found savings elsewhere in order to retain this modest amenity. I see a union complaint in our future.

My second reaction is that one of the teachers interviewed makes a very weak case:
Norma Jorgensen, a kindergarten teacher at Homecroft Elementary, said she was upset when she first heard about the fee. She uses her classroom refrigerator to chill not only her food, but also the lunches of many of her students. And she uses her microwave not only for meals, but also for classroom art projects and making popcorn for her kids in the afternoons.
What art project needs a microwave? Is there one in the teachers' lounge that could be used for this rare purpose? Moreover, have they ever heard of a thermos for keeping foods hot/cold? It is hardly a depression-era hardship to expect brown bag lunches to stay at room temperature.

Who pays for the popcorn? Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing Norma if she provides this to her students. Nor am I griping if the school district pays for the occasional snack. But my familiarity with the nutrition needs for human beings tells me that afternoon popcorn is not a necessity. Norma needs to stick with the argument that it is an amenity worth keeping, instead of making things up. But there's more:
"I wonder if corporate America would do this to their employees," she said. "But instead of whining and complaining about it, I asked my husband and he said, 'Just pay it.' "
I like Norma's husband.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Links, Fair, and Balanced

Check out this page from C-SPAN, featuring links to various blogs. Is your favorite listed? Upon closer examination, certain popular and prominent conservative blogs are not listed, such as Michelle Malkin, Powerline, and Captain's Quarters.

I doubt that any of the excluded blogs will be harmed by the oversight. They are doing just fine without a link from C-SPAN. But it seems odd that they are not listed. Perhaps a web designer at the network was substituting his/her favorites, instead of listing the most common blogs.

Another interesting note is that C-SPAN was the original "fair and balanced" cable network. I recall that they had to put in separate phone lines for call-in shows (Democrat, Republican, Independent) because of accusations of a pro-conservative bias. It seems that whenever a new outlet for political expression starts up, conservatives jump at the chance. This is seen in talk radio, cable news, and the Internet. In the case of C-SPAN, I believe that the apparent lopsided telephone response was simply more conservatives watching and participating. Whether or not the mainstream media are liberal, it is undeniable that many conservatives believe in liberal media bias. If follows that these conservatives have more motivation to embrace new media outlets.

None of this explains the missing blogs from C-SPAN's website. Not the end of the world, but it is mildly interesting. Mildly interesting -- kind of like SwanBlog!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Home, Voyage, and Home

Happy Thanksgiving. I think Neil Diamond summed it up with these lines from his song, America:

Home, don't it seem so far away
Oh, we're traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Insane, Fascist, and Satanic

More from NedLudd, continuing the previous discussion:

I've spent most of my life time reading contracts and documents, you advocated torture by exclusion of a group, unilaterally decided by the Bush Adm. Torture any way you slice it Peter. You are not too old to sign up for the paramilitary companies and I too care about our military. You see I come from the camp that you adequately plan, staff and execute the plan. This war has seen none of that, just incompetence which reduces the effectiveness of our forces and depletes of our men and materials for an unthought, botched plan. How do we look to the rest of the world, Peter? I attended grad school at the London School of Economics and am fortunate to have very educated friends through-out the globe. Peter, they ask me two things, just two things, have you Americans gone insane or are the Republicans turned fascist/satanic? So are you going to call me a traitor now?

ME: You can tell that NedLudd has spent a lot of time reading contracts and documents. It explains his ability to focus on a single idea, without jumping from topic to topic.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tongue, Cheek, and E-mail

Here is an e-mail in response to the op/ed piece I co-wrote last week:

> > From: nedludd...@....
> To: kimberly crockett
> Subject: yoo presentation
> Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 15:39:23 +0000
>
> Thank you for bringing Mr. Yoo to St. Paul. It is
> good to see the face of
> the people who advocate repealing the Geneva
> Convention for certain
> unilaterally determined groups. Let's hope our next
> enemy doesn't remember
> the Bush circumvention of the articles of war, as
> infidels we can have our heads
> removed after capture. John McCain is someone you
> should listen to, not
> the chickenhawk brigade at the White House and on
> the Hill. Boy, our
> international image is just shining thanks to the
> Bush administration and
> patriots like Mr. Yoo. FYI the war in Iraq isn't
> going well so they need
> volunteers like you and Mr. Swanson to serve either
> the reserves or a private
> company providing services in Iraq. If you truly
believe......

And my response:

Dear Nedludd...@...

The bad news is that I am too old to enlist in the
Army Reserve, as you suggest. The good news is that I
did enlist back in 1988, and am currently a major in
the Individual Ready Reserve. I trust that I now have
your approval to express an opinion. If you have any
other requests of me, just ask.

On another note, since you care about the well-being
of our armed forces in some future conflict, I guess
that makes you a hawk. I trust that you are living up
to your own standard that anyone who espouses hawkish
views must serve in the military.

Finally, it is good to see that you carefully read our
op/ed piece and the White House memos in question. It
was a refreshing change from those who missed the
point on the difference between a legal opinion on the
provisions of the Geneva Conventions, on the one hand,
and advocacy of torture, on the other.

-Peter A. Swanson

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Signs, Jumpsuits and Disruptions

I attended the debate tonight with Professors John Yoo and John Radsen. The Left is not as organized as they were when they shouted down then-Vice President George H. Bush in 1987. But they still managed some creative theater. More on the debate here. The following are photos of the event:



They held up anti-war signs, wore orange jumpsuits and gags (similar to the red ones worn by detainees on air transit to Guantanamo Bay), and interrupted at planned intervals with scripted speeches. Clearly, the debate tired them out. The person with the shroud and the pretend electrodes (like the infamous Abu Ghraib photo) was worn out from standing with her arms spread eagle.
Tora, Tora, and Torture

I have been killing trees co-authoring a piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, so I have an excuse for spotty posting a the beginning of this week. The piece talks about the so-called "torture memo" of John Yoo and Robert Delahunty.

One correction to Powerline. The debates are today, Wednesday. Stop by the University of St. Thomas Law School in Downtown Minneapolis at 12:30pm or the University of Minnesota Law School at 7pm and decide for yourself.

I have no excuse for spotty posting at any other time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Majority, Maturity, and Homelessness

I was going to rip on this Minneapolis Star Tribune article, as it initially appeared to be another effort to redefine homelessness to make a Republican president look bad. The article is poorly-written, but it stumbles upon an important issue.

The age of legal majority, 18, usually falls during a student's senior year in high school. The individual can be a legal adult, but still lack a job, money, and the skills that adults are expected to have. One does not stop being a kid just because one reaches a milestone on the calendar.

There are some young people who are charged rent or kicked out of the house when they turn 18. The parents were probably not the most nurturing from ages zero to 17, but now they have no legal obligation to support their child.

I had a soldier in my Army Reserve unit who spent the last half of his senior year in housing for "vulnerable adults." His grandmother had kicked him out of the house after he reached chronological adulthood. He lived with his grandmother because his father was some sort of long-haul trucker, and his mother was, as he put it succinctly, "gone."

Acting as his squad leader two days per month, I am quite certain that I had more influence on him than his actual parents for approximately a year. Not that I had all (or even many) of the answers, but two days per month with a twenty-something sergeant was more adult leadership than he was getting elsewhere.

I don't know what to make of the Star Tribune story, but it did bring back this memory.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Boys, Men, and Champions

This is an excerpt from President Ronald Reagan’s speech at Pointe du Hoc on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the sixth of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer cliffs and take out the guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers—the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land on the top of the cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Happy Veterans' Day!

Marxism, Evolution, and Kansas

I have been asked to comment on the Kansas decision to question evolution as part of its science curriculum. This is yet another topic that I had put on hiatus.

There is value in learning about things that are wrong. There is a whole cable program devoted to "Military Blunders." That something is mistaken does not mean that it should not be discussed. For this reason, I think every student should learn about Marxism. Yes, it is a failed ideology that resulted (and continues to result) in incredible suffering. But we still need to learn about it.

Schoolchildren should not learn evolution; they should learn about evolution. If the alternatives are as crackpot as most scientists seem to think, the students will be able come to the correct conclusion.

More of my thoughts on the topic are posted here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Last, Final, and This Time I Mean It

OK. One more post on a certain topic. King Banaian has a post with comments on a topic I was going to lay off for awhile. No, not science fiction.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Smug, Smugger, and Smuggest

This Nick Coleman column is in the classic mold. He goofs on an important fact, even though getting it right would not necessarily have changed his conclusion. We saw this pattern previously when he “fudged” the difference between Park Police and regular Minneapolis Police Department officers to suggest that the latter were wasting their time ticketing skinny dippers at the beach.

In the current column, Coleman uses a single paragraph to correct the mistake and to blast his critics for being “smug” about the very same error. We barely had time to read the correction, and now we are being criticized for our reaction to it! He is good at focusing blame on others.

The main point of disagreement is the role of society and race in the death of Sidney Mahkuk. Nick was the first to inject the issue of race into the discussion. He then takes umbrage that many readers are understandably not willing to accept collective blame for this tragedy.

Another interesting point is that Coleman mentions Tyesha Edwards as another failure of society. Powerline has been all over this story. They correctly point out that Tyesha’s death by a stray bullet, while studying at her kitchen table, was a failure of police practices handed down by City Hall, and not a failure of society in general. One of those involved in Tyesha’s shooting was a confirmed gang member with an outstanding warrant for being a felon in possession of a gun.

Finally, between calling his critics “smug” and saying that they feel “superior,” he pulls out Bible verses about not being judgmental. No comment.

Monday, November 07, 2005

FEMA, Storms, and Shelter

Here is an update from my friend Dan on his mission to construct shelters for Gulf Coast residents. You can read more about it here, here, and here.

Hi all,

I've been back from my deployment in support of the World Shelters Katrina Aid mission for nearly four weeks, and this week the last of our volunteers returned home, a long 2600 mile drive back to Seattle from the Waveland/Biloxi area.

I've jotted down some notes on my experience; If you don't have time to read it all you might jump to the Live Journal link and you can peruse pictures posted by other team members and journal entries.

I only was down there for 11 days (9/19-9/29), but it seemed like a month. It was very intense, being thrown together with people I only vaguely knew in a hot, humid environment devastated by the power of Mother Nature weeks before.

We were there to help World Shelters, a somewhat new non-profit organization, build and deploy temporary shelters for emergency workers and Hurricane victims (www.worldshelters.org).

We were the first deployment - we had to figure out how do something that this group had never done. Luckily, through Hancock county/FEMA we were put up on Stennis Space Center (where the Space Shuttle engines and rocket boosters were made) along with the other aid workers. This
meant hot showers out of a truck, hot food (also out of a truck), ice, and water. And some grass to pitch our tents. We were camped next to the Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant, tormented with fire ants (little red welts on your legs etc) and swarming love bugs (they don't bite but land all over you, your food, everything else).

The World Shelters team had arrived earlier in the week and set up their production shelters with the materials to make over 60 of the 25' x 12' quonset style canopies. They had also erected a few of the canopies at the County Emergency Operation Center for use by firefighters.

Chris and Sam showed us the ropes and we were ready to go out and deploy some more shelters to firefighters that had lost their station - metal buildings blown/washed away by the 16'+ storm surged that devastated the Waveland/Bay St Louis/ East Biloxi coastline. This area is just over the border from Louisiana, 40 miles from New Orleans. Just when we were all getting the hang of setting up the shelters (3-4 people can put one up in less than an hour, depending on the wind), we learned that Rita had taken a turn in our direction and was heading our way with 50+ mph winds. The decision was made to get the heck out of Dodge, and the closet motel we could locate was nearly 4 hours Northeast in Grove Hill, Alabama. We hastily packed up camp, throwing it all under the two shelters that were up. We piled in three vehicles and drove through rain squalls to the middle of nowhere. Two nights in Grove Hill (in a *dry* county) left us itching to get back to the task we came all the way from Seattle to accomplish.

Our camp made it through Rita unscathed, but most of the shelters we had set up did not. Building on our mistakes, we improved the staking of the new ones we would set up as well as experiment with strengthening the PVC ribs of the structure.

The rest of the first deployment had clear, hot weather, allowing us to scout out sites for shelters and set them up. We built two long shade structures for a Red Cross aid distribution center, where people had been passing out from heat exhaustion the day before. They also got a canopy to store medical supplies under.

We build a canopy for medics to use at the "New Waveland Cafe", an point of distribution set up by the Rainbow Gathering folks. I also spend much of my final few days prepping more canopies at our base camp, so future deployments would have shelters ready to be set up when they arrived.

My final day I was able to tour the beachfront drive in Waveland - nothing but slabs and steps remained of historic old mansions. 300 year old oak trees uprooted, the remaining leafless trees sprinkled with debris - like a giant salt shaker had hit. Cars in swimming pools, people's lives scattered over blocks and blocks. As you went inland, houses appeared, without roofs, or moved off their foundation. Windows of all the big stores smashed by the waves, 16' of filthy mud coating the inside of the Wal-Mart.

Piles of debris were out in front of every standing structure, people had began the enormous task of gutting buildings down to the studs, removing all the ruined furniture, carpet, drywall, and insulation.

Ice, water, food and clothes were available everywhere, but not much else. Broken and uprooted trees where being sawn down and hauled out in a continue stream of trailers.

In view of this widespread destruction, I was amazed that less than 2000 people perished in the storm and it's aftermath. Despite the shortcomings of FEMA/the aid response, we live in a very rich country with many resources. That's not to say that we could have saved more lives with more timely aid, but compared to the earthquake that hit Pakistan (50,000+ dead) we were lucky.

I think it will be a long time until the Gulf coast returns to normal. There is so much clearing and rebuilding to do, as well as discussion and planning to take place so that this doesn't happen again.

Thank you all for your donations (I raised over $1500 + $1440 from a party we threw to raise money) that allowed myself and nearly 50 volunteers from all over America to help World Shelters provide over 60 shelters to Hurricane victims and Aid workers.

I encourage you to look at the photos and read more about the rest of our deployments via the web links below. I'd be glad to chat more about any of it if you are interested also.

Sincerely,

Dan


http://www.livejournal.com/community/givingshelter/2005/10/18/

email sent out by Jesse Robbins, Seattle Taskforce organizer:

"Team,

It's been 7 weeks since we began this mission. In that time we've recruited 50 volunteers, sent 26 people to the field, and done 290 *DAYS* worth of work giving shelter and whatever else we could where it was needed.

The aid we provided to the Red Cross, Hancock County, The New Waveland Cafe, The Temple, and others helped bring services to tens of thousands of people. The shelters we provided families will provide a stable base to reconstruct homes, lives, and hearts.

Our work provided the spark for a new collaboration of humanitarian organizations to fill the transitional housing gap left by FEMA.

Lastly, we proved that "Direct Aid" can be effective and easy, requiring only time, money, and heart. This is only the beginning."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Money, Scams, and Priorities

Did you see the story about the scam involving the special potion that supposedly turned blank sheets of paper into currency? Like most scams, the perpetrator relied on the greed and gullibility of his mark. They are able to get away with crimes like this repeatedly because the victims are often too embarrassed to report it.

There was a little nugget in the Star Tribune story that was slipped in nonchalantly:

Formelu, an illegal immigrant from Africa , had no prior felony convictions. He was released on personal recognizance. His public defender, Bryan Leary, said he needs to review the charges before commenting.

I can imagine how the bail hearing went: "Let's see ... prior record ... ties to the community ... seriousness of the offense .... Oh! You poor dear. You are an illegal alien. Run this way and I'll stall the Feds." I have a cartoon bubble image of the nuns in The Sound of Music allowing the Von Trapp family to escape from the Nazis (represented in this case by immigration officials).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Minneapolis

Kathy Kersten has a piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the organizers of the recent high school student rally against the Iraq War and military recruitment. I have my own take on the rally.

Like many anti-war activities, the rally seemed to be selective -- protesting military action in Iraq, but not Afghanistan. By itself, that is a perfectly reasonable position. And I am supportive of high school students making their voices heard. We had a sit-in at my high school during my senior year (more on that later).

When they combine the anti-Iraq War rhetoric with the anti-recruiter rhetoric, the message gets muddy. If the troops come home from Iraq next week, will the students stop protesting the recruiters? After all, the remaining combat will be that which they support or are ambivalent toward. If only a portion of our foreign and military policy is immoral, the protestors should embrace recruiters when we align the policy to their liking.

I wonder if the hasty return of veterans from Iraq should also result in them being immediately mustered out of the military ranks. That would seem to be the logical extension of the position that their recruitment was somehow illegitimate.

If you were expecting nuance in the protestor's positions, you walked away disappointed.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pancakes, Long-Grain Rice, and Hydrox

I have been asked my opinion about this. My first reaction is that it is so obviously offensive to people of common decency that the story should be given wider distribution.

My second reaction is to repeat my assertion that everyone wants to be Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson. There are some, however, who end up like Jesse Owens or Sammy Davis, Jr. -- controversial and mistrusted, with their accomplishments forever tainted.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Professor, Maryann, and Pilots

Last post for a while on the Wellstone memorial. I missed this story about the memorial and historic site that opened in Eveleth.

"A series of sculpted rocks lie in a 'commemorative circle.' There is one for Paul and Sheila, one for their daughter, Marcia, and others for campaign aides Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy and William McLaughlin."

Anyone missing? The names of the pilots were Richard Conry and Michael Guess. I can understand being angry with the pilot, whose error likely caused the crash, but what about the young co-pilot? And what if we apply the same standard to John F. Kennedy, Jr.?