Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday Musings: Trayvon Martin Edition

Regarding the Tawana Brawley O.J. Simpson Jena Six Duke Lacrosse Team Beer Summit Trayvon Martin killing, I'm about to apply some cold water. A few points concerning the racially-tinged outrage du jour, in no particular order:

First, this almost certainly has nothing to do with the Stand Your Ground law. The provisions of that law differ from standard self-defense laws only in that a person lawfully present in a public place or private residence is not compelled to flee an assailant. If George Zimmerman is to be believed, he was attacked while trying to retreat. This is a straightforward self-defense case. Either he is telling the truth, and it was self-defense, or he isn't.

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Insofar as the justice department is pretending to consider a hate crimes prosecution, it is doing so for the sole purpose of driving black turnout in Florida. The entire case would hinge on Zimmerman's being white (not a crime) and having uttered a racial epithet under his breath. The latter point is highly debatable (it sounds like Zimmerman says "punks", not "coons", an antiquated epithet that would be somewhat absurd in this context). It isn't going to stick.

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The line I keep hearing is that, if Zimmerman were black and Trayvon white, Zimmerman would be in jail. I'm not convinced this is so, and this is essentially non-falsifiable. What is certain is that, if the roles were reversed, nobody would refer to the clearly Hispanic Zimmerman as white.

To which, apparently, per hate crimes laws, a white Hispanic would be considered Hispanic if the victim of a hate crime, and white if the perpetrator of same. Process that. What a country.

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Is Zimmerman guilty? I don't know, and I haven't seen any compelling argument from those who seem to. The material question in this case is whether Zimmerman accosted Martin, or vice versa. To that end, what we know:

George Zimmerman is white (Hispanic): Irrelevant
Trayvon Martin was in possession of Skittles and Iced Tea: Apropos of nothing.
George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin for a spell: Certainly ill-advised, but not illegal. * 
George Zimmerman called 911 a lot: Essentially irrelevant, and certain to be thrown out in trial.
George Zimmerman wanted to be a cop: Irrelevant.
Trayvon Martin was photogenic: Entirely irrelevant.
Zimmerman had a broken nose and a cut on the back of his head: Really, really, like stratospherically relevant... Usually buried at the bottom of stories, and utterly ignored by the folks keen to politicize this issue.

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* - Quick note on the following business. If you don't recognize someone in your neighborhood, and suspect they are up to no good, I think it's irresponsible not to follow them if you have the ability. When you call 911 to report a possibly drunk driver, the dispatcher will ask you to follow that person. When burglars were robbing houses in my neighborhood, my neighbors got suspicious and followed them.

If, as Zimmerman claims, he followed Martin , then decided to meet up with police, and was attacked, he had the right to defend himself. If Martin was irate at being profiled, or worried he was being hunted, that's certainly understandable, but did not give him the right to break someone's nose.

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We will learn more facts as they present themselves. In the interim, those calling for the government to arrest Zimmerman first and ask questions later should really consider whether they approve of the unilateral use of that approach. Going to jail means suspending your life for months, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and watching your family tear apart. Anyone have their hands raised to volunteer for all that? I think the cops made the right call here.

Even if you don't care about Zimmerman's rights (that would put you in the majority), if he is arrested, and the facts do not materialize for the prosecution, what you will have is a very high-profile acquittal. That will mean riots. Is that what you want?  

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If I had to guess, this will be more of a Jena Six debacle than a Duke Lacrosse debacle. Evidence will come to light that conflicts with the grievance-industry/media narrative. It will become increasingly clear Zimmerman is no hero, but the facts will remain sufficiently murky such that prosecution will be impossible.

Barack Obama will overplay whatever hand he is given. Lawyers will get rich. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the other race hustlers will get richer. Two years later, everyone will be similarly outraged over some other perceived injustice about which they know next to nothing. 

There is nothing new under the sun.

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My guess could be wrong, of course... Except for Obama overplaying his hand. I can guarantee you he will do that. 

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And if anyone wants to juke me with the "can't we just be sad a teenager is dead?" line, once anyone utters the phrase "this is about the soul of our nation", that ship has sailed. Many teenagers died last week. 







Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday musings - hot, hot March edition

(Insert inane global warming joke here) Let's muse.

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An article on the proposal moving through the state legislature to allow Broadway Liquor Outlet to bypass zoning regulations in North Minneapolis (damaged by the tornado last year) to move across the street yield some interesting quotes.  Among them, this from councilman Don Samuels:

"Rather than going through a lengthy process, which someone from outer space would look at and say, 'These humans are ridiculous, why don't they just move the business across the street?"

Unless they were fleeing their home planet to escape onerous regulations, in which case they would studiously avoid Minneapolis.

And councilman Gary Schiff:

"why don't we just do away with the [zoning requirement] so we're not just doing this for one person?"

Hey Gary, next city council meeting, look around at the faces staring back at you. You'll have your answer. No go back to writing more frivolous regulations for the bemusement of the space aliens. 

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Some ideas? No gazebos within 50 ft. of multi-stall garages. The scourge of gazeboshame has plagued our city long enough. Get Meg Tuthill to propose it and ram it through. Also, a two week moratorium on ice cream sales by grocery stores, because that's probably important to somebody.

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So yeah, I've never been a fan of Yelp. In theory, the democratization of the review process can yield valuable results, in the aggregate. One million people can't be wrong collectively, even if 600,000 of them are, individually. I get it, and I'll even tolerate it.

But what essentially amounts to extorting local businesses (albeit not necessarily in the legal sense... That's for you, Yelp legal team) is not tolerable. Read this here, and do encourage your friends not to visit that site anymore.
 
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An interesting analysis of the new Obama fundraising hagiography documentary by The New Republic. This is especially salient

"The film essentially argues that the economic circumstances forced the president’s hand on health care reform. Hanks explains how health care was “a crisis that others wanted to avoid” and that it was “crushing family budgets, choking business.” “He knew he couldn’t fix economy if he didn’t fix health care,” Hanks instructs us.

Not only is this not true as a substantive proposition—the lack of affordable health coverage simply had nothing to do with the spiraling unemployment rate and shrinking economy."
Correct, and here are a couple of observations about that. Clearly, the focus on health care didn't win Obama any support among voters, but HOW he sold the health care bill has as much to do with why it failed.

First of all, the administration went to great lengths to pretend Obamacare would save us money. Not only did this not pass the smell test, but it opened him up to some of the more damning charges against the plan itself.

Simply put, a small percentage of people, most of them close to dying, consume the lion's share of health care. This inconvenient fact forced Obama to back off his claim to cost savings, and instead jujitsu the numbers such that CBO would declare the bill to be deficit neutral (which his legions of fans ignorantly took to mean it wouldn't cost anything). In order to make this work, the administration punted the most expensive components of Obamacare into 2014.

As a result, in addition to there being no positive economic impact from Obamacare (obviously), there is no health care impact. Worse, as companies prepare for the onslaught of ensuing federal regulations, and as health care costs continue to rise, most people are seeing reduced benefits.

That's quite the pickle, but one of his own brining. 

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I do find adorable the fact folks on the left think normal people will want to watch a 17 minute campaign ad for Barack Obama.

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Molly Ball of The Atlantic asks: "Has Mitt Romney run a lousy campaign?"

No, he has not. He is winning the nomination handily, and polls even with the sitting president. He'd have the thing de jure were it not for state GOPs tumbling over themselves to stagger their primaries in a vain attempt to play a more important role in selecting the nominee.

The article cites a former strategist for McCain and Huntsman as a source, which is adorable.

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Had a date night at Saffron. Opted to split small plates, which choice the waiter affirmed by declaring we were going tapas-style. Smart move. Tell a foodie they're splitting appetizers and you'll deflate their pride. Tell them it's a tapas-style experience, and they'll feel edgy, because 'tapas' is not an American word.

As always, the brains were a highlight, but so was the baba ghanoush (part of the traditional spreads plate) and there are no misses at this restaurant. Service knocked it out as always. Place was depressingly under-patronized as always. Get there.





Friday, March 16, 2012

Unintended consequences: Compostable Bags edition

Because our city leaders are ever preoccupied with the frivolous, Minneapolis homeowners are continually subject to their vagaries, fetishes and whims. Yesterday, a poorly-designed, sloppily written mailer informed us we must now use compostable bags for yard waste.

Compostable bags:

A) Cost three times as much as regular lawn and leaf bags

B) Suck rabbit scrota

In North Minneapolis, here is what will not happen:

A) Residents diligently working to ensure their leaves are disposed of in an appropriate fashion, in accordance with the new standard.

Here is what will happen:

A) Residents simply throwing their leaves in the trash.

B) Alleys full of torn, wet, non-compliant lawn and leaf bags.

C) Leaves ****ing everywhere.

So everything will work out. Off topic, but our city has like no crime and a major budget surplus, right? No? Because I thought...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tuesday Night Musings

It's Wednesday by the time you are reading this, but let's do this nonetheless.

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It was beautiful outside today. I chased puppies through the meadow. They didn't appreciate it at all. They just wanted to go home. But hell, with this weather, I say let the puppies suffer, am I right?

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Obamacare is going to cost twice as much as initially projected, which was obvious, based on math. This reminds me of a conversation I had in elementary school.

Me and Girl: *swinging*

Idiot Kid: *send third swing hurling perpendicular to our descent*

Us: *in pain*

Me: Why the hell did you do that, moron?

Idiot Kid: I thought it would be cool. I didn't know it would hit you.

So yeah, liberals are pretty much the idiot kids hurling swings at people for no particular reason, with results that are predictable to everyone but them.

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I am not watching tonight's NCAA pre-tournament warmup intramurals, but I can already tell you Iona is destroying BYU. I think they beat Marquette.

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Lost in the Sandra Fluke kerfuffle is the essence of what is really so galling about her little song and dance. Here is a middle-aged woman receiving a world class education, begging the government to pay for her birth control.

Here's the deal. More and more, adults are delaying the foray into real life. It is becoming almost unheard of to have a real career before the age of 30. Bopping around from program to program, school to school, adults are behaving like kids for decades after they leave their parents.

Of course, all of this self-enrichment costs money. Absent the means to make any (also increasingly unheard of? Earning profitable degrees), the only option is to plead for more handouts.

This isn't sustainable (hence the deficit) and it sucks for those of us who have to cut the checks. And its only going to get worse. Do you think the Neverland class is keen to work until they are 70? Of course not, and when they hit their early 50s (after all of 14 years of work) they will come begging for enhanced retirement.

We should sell these people into slavery while we have the chance.

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We hit up Alda in Richfield this weekend. The changes from the old Taco Bell space are largely cosmetic, but so what? The falafel and baba ganoush were quite good, the lamb particularly tender (if underseasoned) and the portions are generous, which should go over well with Richfield residents.

Doesn't replace Emily's in my book, but if you are on the south side, well worth a visit.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The consistent ethic that isn't

Those who read my blog know my position is that the abortion issue is pretty straightforward. Either you believe an unborn baby is a human being afforded liberties under the U.S. Constitution, or you don't. Those who don't, and it's a slim minority of Americans, have yet to make the philosophical case for their position in any coherent way.

The rest is really just fluff, an attempt to assail elegantly simple logic without substantively addressing it. So we get nonsense about ensoulment, the very, very personal and private choice between a woman and her doctor, "what if men got pregnant?" and other assorted drivel. All, of course, spouted sanctimoniously.

Of course, for Christians, none of the secular talking points hold water. To that end, Jim Wallis coined the phrase "consistent ethic of life", which has been parroted by countless other Christian progressives. Christians, Wallis asserts, should not be pro-life in the sense they oppose legal abortion, but by opposing the death penalty, wars, starvation in Africa etc...

This has always stuck in my craw. If you oppose the death penalty on the basis of preserving life, how is it in any way a "consistent ethic" to also support legal abortion? Over at Rachel Held Evans' blog, I had the opportunity to ask Tim King, Communications Director for Sojourners about this:

Me: The head of your organization coined the phrase "consistent ethic of life" to describe his position on abortion and other issues, such as the death penalty. However, your organization, and most Christian progressives, oppose the death penalty, but support legal abortion. How is that a consistent ethic? Isn't it just a different, equally inconsistent ethic?

Tim King: First, I don’t think the analogy comparing the death penalty to legal abortion access works. The death penalty question is concerned with what actions we should allow the state to perform while abortion is a question of what actions of individuals we allow the state to restrict. The better comparison would be the death penalty and a state mandated abortion policy like in China. That, I would oppose.

Second, my approach to the issue of armed conflict is a better, while still imperfect analogy. I’m not against all use of force but I do believe we should work to prevent the circumstances that give rise to wars and conflict. It’s that line of thinking that I see as consistent with my views on abortion.

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Setting aside the fact Wallis explicitly and emphatically draws a connection between abortion and the death penalty (which hold enormous appeal for pro-life Catholics), Tim King's answer has little to do with ethics. His point about wanting a consistent approach to government power is well taken, I want the same, but this isn't really an ethical consideration.

I would also agree with Tim that the analogy to military action is imperfect. Military action is a government action as much as the death penalty is.

But, to Tim's preferred analogy, and on his terms, I still think his position fails the test of consistency. He believes we should do everything we can to "prevent the circumstances that give rise to wars and conflict," just as we do everything we can to prevent the circumstances that give rise to abortion.

Fair enough, but conservatives also believe we should do everything we can to prevent the circumstances that lead to war. Regardless of what you believe about the efficacy and morality of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody favored the circumstances (9/11, Saddam Hussein in general) that got us to the point where war was on the table.

The question is whether we should have allowed our government to go to war. As it pertains to abortion, the question is whether we allow a woman to end a human life. If conservatives are inconsistent in supporting the former but not the latter, then so are liberals, and Joe Lieberman is an absolute scoundrel.

So Wallis' "consistent ethic of life" has, by his groups tacit admission, nothing to do with ethics. It also fails any sensible test of consistency.

Christians of all stripes should retire this fluffy talking point and move toward a more authentic dialogue about abortion law.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Monday Musings

It is Monday. The new dawn is upon us, probably. Let's muse.

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Re: Rushslut

I've been mildly tolerating Rush Limbaugh for quite some time now. I don't think his schtick is all that interesting anymore (it was interesting in the 1990s, as a counterweight what was then an emphatically leftist pop culture) and I don't see why we need men sitting in front of microphones for three hours a day just talking. You could argue persuasively its inevitable.

So yes, unequivocally, it is unacceptable to say something like that on the air. He apologized, and people can decide whether they want to keep listening to him. It ends there, in any rational sense.

In the political sense, we've moved on to the feigned outrage portion of the whole spectacle. The game now will be to endeavor to tar every Republican (especially those named Mitt, Rick and Newt) with Rushslut. It's about the latent misogyny that oozes from the conservative movement you see, its penumbras and emanations finding their voice in Rush's vile words. Rewind to the Gabby Giffords playbook (tea party -> incivility -> tone -> atmosphere -> SHOOTING) for details.

And you know what? I get it. If you're one of the people paid to prop up this circus of a presidency, what else are you going to do? It's your job. Do it well. Serve your employer and feed your family (and, if you're in D.C., your mistress) and we'll all have a good laugh.

But if you have no skin in the game, and you're inclined to regurgitate this narrative anyway, permit me to discourage you thusly. When people get mad, they use bad words. Bill Maher, David Letterman, Ed Schultz et al... hate Sarah Palin. They say bad words about her and her family. That's what happens.

When you put someone in front of a microphone and leave them there, they will get mad and say bad things. If that's not your bag, don't boycott Rush; boycott the medium. But don't go on Twitter and prattle about how the conservative mind compels us to call women whores.

Or, if you do, know that you are one yourself.

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By the way, let's also disavow ourselves of the notion a D.C. Lawyer is going to testify to the fact she needs $3,000 worth of birth control without somebody cracking a joke. This isn't East Germany, people.

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Oh, and spare me the "Bill Maher is on pay TV, so that's way different" BS. Don't even... I said... NO!

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Speaking of East Germany, the FDA is cracking down on Amish farms in Pennsylvania for selling raw milk. Raw milk, also known as milk, has been linked to outbreaks resulting in no deaths, which explains the dawn raids.

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I have food advice. If you are on a budget, head to Sonora Grill at Midtown Global. They are doing the best tacos in the cities right now, I think. The tongue taco is one of my favorite foods, period.

Feel free to avoid Wok in the Park. Worst Thai Soup of any sort I have had. Bummer since the west suburbs lost the good stuff when Bahn Thai closed.