Just Childish

It’s hard to believe that a grown-up wrote this column with Bill McClellan’s byline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A young woman left a message on my voice mail. She said she was driving on Highway 40 when she noticed an SUV practically on her bumper. The driver flashed his lights at her and then pulled up next to her. He was a middle-aged man, and he snarled and yelled something she couldn’t make out. When he finally pulled ahead, she realized what the incident had been about. She has an anti-Bush bumper sticker, and the SUV had one of those “W-04” stickers.

“I have a question,” the young woman said. “The conservatives won. Why are they still so angry?”

If only he had left it alone with the mindreading, wherein he could tell from his desk at the Post Dispatch downtown that the other driver was not, in fact, upset because the woman who called Bill McClellan obeying the unwritten Missouri traffic standards and driving in the passing lane while doing about or below the speed limit.

No, then McClellan has to explain how conservatives are the dweebs, geeks, and nerds from high school while liberals were the cool kids, the cheerleaders, and the athletes.

The man’s next step is fingerpainting his columns, folks, I kid you not.

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Verb Abuse

CNN Headline: Explosion targets Spanish hotel.

I’m not a physicist, so take what I am about to say with a grain of sodium chloride, but

Explosions don’t target things; people do

Headline writers use this cheap personification when they want to hide appropriate subject of the sentence, the actor who made the typically bad thing happen. To say “Basque Terrorists Target Hotel” makes the Spanish separatists sound just a little mean, doesn’t it? Better the explosion itself –an act of nature that just happens under just the right circumstances, such a combination of Semtex and detonator– take the rap than to single out the people who actually performed the deed.

Headline writers also use this when they want to emphasize an inanimate object’s role in the event, especially when the prevailing windsom indicates that the object itself is bad. That’s why you get SUVs running down grandmothers and guns killing innocent bystanders.

Personification is a nice device in fiction or creative non-fiction. Journalists should probably avoid it, except when their journalism is fiction or creative non-fiction. Come to think of it, perhaps journalists are already adhering to this maxim.

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Another War Criminal Heard From

In the weekly antiques column from the Saturday St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we find this war criminal:

On or about June 3, 1945, I was one of three men in the 101st Airborne Division who explored Hitler’s hideout on a mountain near Berchtesgaden, Germany. The 101st was the occupying force in that part of Germany. We climbed through an open window into the living room. Nearby was a small dining room with cupboards full of china. I took two dinner plates and mailed them home. I had the plates framed when I got home, and they have been hanging in my house ever since. The plates are white with a scalloped, gold-painted edge. The border of each is decorated with two red dragons and an abstract floral design. In the center there are two stylized red birds posed in a fighting stance. The only mark is a set of two crossed swords. Can you tell me how old the plates are and identify the maker? The design looks Chinese to me.

There are photographs showing Hitler and his cohorts using these dishes in the Eagle’s Nest hideout. The dishes were manufactured at the Meissen factory in Saxony, Germany. The pattern, known as Meissen Red Dragon, has been made since the early 1700s and was used not only by the German High Command, but also by several European royal families. Write down the story about how you came to own the plates, and be sure your family has a copy. Although no one is likely to consider your plates anything other than wartime souvenirs, you should be aware that ownership of items removed from Germany and other European countries during World War II can be legally challenged. Your plates could be worth $1,000 or more with proper documentation.

Geez, Luis, why don’t you just spare yourself the trouble and mail those plates to the German consulate? Because we all know, history will prove that Hitler was only almost as bad as George W. Bush, and that taking a couple of plates which can still be recovered and their $1000 of worth go to a good German rates more outrage than direct or indirect participation in the deaths of millions of people and burning much of Europe to the ground, because, you know, that took place a long time ago.

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Government Wealth Redistribution

Story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Critics say that Jim Brown isn’t worth millions:

The city of St. Louis, the St. Louis Airport Authority and the transit agency Metro have paid more than $3 million over the past five years to a Washington lobbyist to be their chief advocate with Congress and federal agencies and to steer federal money back home.

The lead to this story highlights the fundamental inefficiency in the current system of government funding and its built-in waste.

The Federal government makes its sweeping national mandates that it wants states and communities to implement. To help the smaller government units handle the demands from above, the federal government passes on grants and whatnot.

So the Federal government collects the taxes, takes its percentage from the top, and hands the money to lower governments. The lower governments spend money from their general funds to employ grant writers and lobbyists to get the diminished revenue pool passed on by the Federal government. Meanwhile, government departments, advisors, and lobbyists get their points from the money passing through their hands from the citizen to the highest level of organization and then back down to the local governments who actually do the work.

So does the Post-Dispatch point out the inherent inefficiencies of the system and argue that the Federal government could scale back its centralization and allow local communities to use local tax revenue for local projects directly and that local communities wouldn’t have to waste existing tax revenue pursuing other tax revenue?

Of course not. They’re upset that the lobbyist isn’t efficient bringing the slop from the Federal trough:

But the lobbyist, Jim Brown, has a mixed record at best, according to interviews with two dozen members of Congress, aides and local officials.

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Book Report: Savage Love by Dan Savage (1998)

I bought this knob-licker‘s book from the three-for-a-dollar rack outside the Hooked on Books in Springfield. The book’s cover and pages are kinda wavy and the book has a sort of sweet odor to it. I don’t know if some Southwest Missouri State student, steeped in openmindedness and something sweet and smoky, dumped the book before moving from the stifling confines of the Bible Belt for a big city or if someone received the book as a gift and ran it through the dishwasher because it’s dirty. I can only speculate, but I didn’t practice safe reading and read this book without protective latex.

I’ve read Dan Savage in the local tabloid and on Salon in the middle-to-late 1990s. His columns tend to have the message that if it doesn’t hurt anyone (unless they want it), sexual practices are okay. He’s right, of course, but focus on the physical pleasure disservices participants who don’t know or expect anything more thank a hook-up.

Savage writes as a know-it-all, slightly an ass, and it’s hard for me to take any more than a couple of pages or letters in any one sitting. Because it will undoubtedly offend Mr. Savage, I’d like to point out that his voice reminds me a little of Rush Limbaugh. There’s a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek in the voice, as though Savage is playing the part of being more ass than he really is. It’s that quality that makes Rush Limbaugh amusing, but Savage is more, well, savage in his assishness. He calls names, casts aspersions, and belittles those whose sexual aesthetics differ from his rather expansive set. So he’s like Rush Limbaugh, but not as good or humorous. Maybe Dan’s more like Michael Savage, who an Internet rumor I’m starting right here indicates is Dan Savage’s estranged older brother.

So I’d recommend sticking to the columns and not investing any more than thirty-three cents on the book, and I don’t imagine I’ll buy any of Savage’s other books of commentary.

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Remaining Anonymous

From the LA Times story about a man in last week’s train crash in LA who

As he lay wedged under a train seat and metal debris, with whatever energy he could summon and a heartbreaking economy of words, he scrawled a farewell in blood on the seat. “I {heart} my kids. I {heart} Leslie,” he printed.

Some people are inspired by the story and want to find him, but he wants to remain anonymous:

“I’m a private person,” he said in a statement the hospital released for him, “and the message that I wrote was a private message to my wife and my kids because I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Ann Althouse comments:

The extraordinary thing is that this man with an opportunity to be paraded about in the public eye has chosen to remain private.

Perhaps his wife’s name isn’t Leslie. That would explain it, ainna?

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The Myth of Conservative America ca. 1949

Okay, so some twenty-five or more years after I spent Sunday mornings watching the Lone Ranger scattered among old episodes of Sgt. Preston and his dog King of the Yukon, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Bowery Boys, I bought a DVD containing the “pilot” episode of the Lone Ranger from 1949. To you damn kids who attend public schools, I will helpfully calculate that it was 55 years before the cheap DVD was released and by now about 56 years ago that network television presented a hero that:

  • Was rescued by a minority person of color whom the hero had helped previously, in a time when helping minority persons of color was not respected
  • Rescued a quadraped and nursed it back from the brink of death and managed not to eat it
  • Offered the wealth of his and his brother’s share of a silver mine to a poor substinence farmer but for some small stipend
  • Vowed to shoot to wound, not to kill
  • Lived as a symbol of the rule of law, not the rule of self-defense or revenge

Cheese, Louise, had the Lone Ranger lived to vote in 2004, he might have voted for John Kerry.

This is the shared herotage that some people would deny America. I’d like to think that perhaps we could share these ideals, but then some schmuck starts thinking that perhaps since my house is so nice I should give more than what I can spare beyond it that I start casting my own bullets out of whatever the heck they make nickels out of these days.

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Book Review: Voodoo River by Robert Crais (1995)

This book features Elvis Cole working for an adopted starlet who’s interested in finding her natural parents in Louisiana. When Cole travels to Louisiana, he discovers that her past is shrouded in mystery, mayhem, and the secrets of a small town.

Enough of the back of the book stuff. Another good Elvis Cole book, but one that again makes me think of the work of Robert B. Parker–the end reminds me a lot of Early Autumn, but with a twist. Of course, these novels make me feel like pre-Spenser:For Hire Spenser novels, when I could wonder what was going to happen before I was caught up in the dialog-driven post-Spenser: For Hire Parker novels, when the dialog just carries you from page 1 to page 300 without allowing the reader to wonder what’s going to happen.

On the other hand, this novel represents the first time Crais deploys the old “first person narrator discloses to other characters, but not to the readers, the plans” trick, which is second in cheap tricks only to the “first person narrator dies at the freaking end” device in absolute author naughtiness. Poor form, Peter, especially when you’re just throwing it in on page 200 to create suspense. Stephen King would thrash you, and rightfully so. That doesn’t count as proper foreshadowing.

Still, I recommend the book, particularly if you can, as I did, get it as a Christmas gift from a beautiful wife who gives up her collection because she knows I won’t read books that are not on my To-Read Shelves unless they’re my books. Otherwise, they’re worth your paperback or second-hand dollar.

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Sharon Stone Puts Down Payment on Land Rover

Story: Sharon Stone steals charity limelight at poverty debate:

Hollywood siren Sharon Stone, more used to the film studio than the business stage, stole the limelight with an impromptu fundraiser at the World Economic Forum that secured one million dollars in aid to Africa.

Seizing her chance during a heavyweight debate on how to tackle poverty in Africa, Stone stood up in the middle of the crowded hall to offer an immediate personal pledge of 10,000 dollars — then challenged others to follow suit.

It rather undercut the big-name panelists, who included Britain’s finance minister Gordon Brown, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the billionaire Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

That won’t even buy a whole Land Rover for the do-spenders who distribute aid in Africa.

It’s also disingenuous of this journalist to say Sharon Stone upstaged Bill Gates. Let’s write it out with zeros:


Bill Gates donation to Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation

Bill Gates donation to UN for polio vaccines

Bill Gates donation to tsunami relief

Sharon Stone’s donation to poverty relief in Africa

But Bill Gates is an evil capitalist, and Sharon Stone is a feeling artist out of Hollywood with a good pair of legs and, as some lizards would atest, tasty feet, so of course she upstaged Bill Gates by promising an amount equal to 1% of what Sandra Bullock gave to tsunami relief.

But at least Sharon Stone was dressed appropriately, eh, Robin Givhen?

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Dress for the Occasion

Virginia Postrel, who lives in Texas, concurs with a Washington Post fashionista who dings Vice President Cheney for dressing warmly for an outdoor ceremony in January:

You don’t dress for a solemn state ceremony as though you were going for a hike.

You know, Postrel and Robin Givhen might have approved of William Henry Harrison’s attire for his first inauguration speech. The sartorial splendor killed him.

Listen to this Wisconsin boy: if you’re going to be outside for a long period of time, you dress warmly and let the other people keep themselves warm giggling at your attire or expressing their outrage. That way everyone is comfortable.

Update: James Joyner agrees.

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Argument for Term Limits

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the best argument I can think of for term limits:

Kennedy Calls for Troop Withdrawal in Iraq:

The American military’s continued presence in Iraq is fanning the flames of conflict, and signals the need for a new detailed timeline to bring the troops home, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Thursday.

Just three days before the Iraqi people go to the polls to elect a new government, the Massachusetts Democrat said America must give Iraq back to its people rather than continue an occupation that parallels the failed politics of the Vietnam war.

If we limited our senators to two terms, like we do our presidents, they would only have 12 years to turn into bloviating goofballs, would only have one re-election for which they needed to raise funds, and would not accrue valuable soft power that leads them right into lobbying.

Also, Teddy Kennedy would have just been another quiet lush in an expansive family compound after losing a presidential election in 1976.

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Moving in the Right Direction

Developers scale back plans for PabstCity complex: New proposal for entertainment center seeks smaller city subsidy:

Plans for converting the former Pabst Brewery into an entertainment, shopping, office and housing complex have been scaled back, and developers will cut by almost one half the amount of funding sought from Milwaukee taxpayers.

The proposed downtown development, known as PabstCity, is now expected to cost $317 million, with $39 million sought from the city, the project’s developers said Wednesday. Their estimate last summer of a $395 million development included $75 million in financial assistance from City Hall. Mayor Tom Barrett and other city officials said that earlier request was too high.

Good on Barrett and the other city officials. If only they had said that any welfare benefits to wealthy developers and corporations were too much.

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Richard Roeper Embraces Slavery (for Others)

Roeper weighs in on the Maggie Galagher microbrouhaha:

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post reports that syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher pushed the Bush administration’s “marriage initiative” without disclosing that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services.

That’s the second time in recent weeks that we’ve heard about a columnist taking money to push a political agenda. When radio disc jockeys took money to play certain records, the name for it was “payola.” Isn’t this the same thing?

Kurtz also reported that Gallagher received $20,000 from the Bush administration to write a report titled “Can Government Strengthen Marriage?” I wonder what conclusions she drew.

Yet Gallagher told Kurtz: “Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? You tell me.”

Well. YES.

You also violated journalistic ethics by taking the money in the first place, dear.

Message: When the government wants you to do work for it, you do that work for free, citizen.

Perhaps the government needs someone to comment on its training films….I nominate Roeper. For free!

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I took Pell Grant money from the Federal Government as part of my college financing package.

You, gentle reader, should then assume that all words on this blog and all independent thoughts and ideas I have are duly vetted and approved by the administration of President George H.W. Bush, by whose largesse I could afford a private university.

Update: Read my longer take on the Maggie Gallagher artifiscandal here.

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I have, from time to time, also received a FEDERAL INCOME TAX REFUND, which is a greyer area. Depending upon your point of view, it’s either my money or money from the government, either an increase or decrease or I have somehow precipitated a cut in federal revenue.

Regardless, you should assume then, gentle reader, that I am withholding too much from my paychecks every week, and I think you would be right.

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Challenge for Pro-Business Governor

Some people have called Missouri’s new governor Matt Blunt “pro-business.” At least one legislator is ready to test that: Senator wants to show exit to Missouri’s adult businesses:

A Show-Me State lawmaker wants a sin tax — on those who show too much.

First, Missouri banished sexy billboards and young strip dancers. Now, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Kansas City, wants to force adult entertainment businesses out of the state by stripping them of their profits.

Legislation pending in the Senate would impose a 20 percent tax on revenue of all “sexually oriented businesses,” charge a $5 fee for each person entering their doors and prohibit them from staying open late at night.

“The goal of the bill is to make Missouri inhospitable for these businesses,” said Bartle.

If this sort of idiocy passes the legislature, which it might since Republicans frequently feel that some businesses are more equal than others, Governor Blunt should veto it. He probably wouldn’t, since he may be pro-business, but he’s more pro-politics (demonstrated by his career choice).

Bartle would like to drive this sort of business out of Missouri so that people who like to see boobies can do it untaxed on the Internet or in Illinois. Once the thousand or so adult entertainment businesses are closed, he can then cover the budgetary shortfall by taxing other sins–such as eating, drinking, driving, reading, ad absurdum.

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A Mountain Out of a No Hill

Subtitle this piece "Is Maggie Gallagher the Devil?" because that’s how she’ll be played by people who want to discredit the ideas she has expressed in her writing. So is she the devil? No, she’s a writer, but let’s get into the case as presented by the Washington Post‘s Howie Kurtz:

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush’s push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

“The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples” and “educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage,” she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could “carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children.”

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president’s proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

“Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?” Gallagher said yesterday. “I don’t know. You tell me.” She said she would have “been happy to tell anyone who called me” about the contract but that “frankly, it never occurred to me” to disclose it.

So her crimes against the prevailing and convenient ethos of those who are now hunting for conservative writers who write for a living include:

  • Drafting a magazine article under contract for a customer
  • Writing brochures under contract for the customer
  • Conducting a briefing for the customer
  • Writing a column about the same topic covered by the work for hire

If Maggie Gallagher is the devil for making a living at writing, then most working writers are.

I’ve worked as a technical writer, during which time I have:

  • Written technical manuals covering a specific technology for my employer
  • Written press releases and marketing material for my employer covering the specific technology
  • Written a white paper for a customer (my former employer) about the technology
  • Written articles about the technology for publication

We’re both guilty of:

  • Learning about a particular subject
  • Writing about a particular subject
  • Writing about the same subject for publications and for business customers

Unfortunately, the slippery slope of evil means that once you become knowledgeable on a subject, more different clients will pay you to write about it. As a writer, your powers and your inner darkness grow hand in hand!

So am I the devil, too? Guilty of payola, plugola, writola, or whateverola? A tool of the vast technology-embracing conspiracy, working at the beck and call of shadowy figures with their own agendum to sell the technology? No, I am a writer, maximizing my knowledge of a particular technology in as many formats and for as many markets as I can. The only difference between Maggie Gallagher and me is that I’ve done my work for technology companies, talking about technology, instead of writing about public policy for magazines and syndicates and for the big customer, The Federal Government.

Her contract price wasn’t out of line for what she did for the government, and I assume that her syndicate and the National Review pays her a salary upon which she and they have agreed for her work. So all sides in this transaction are happy, and the consumers can read what she wrote and evaluate the information the same as anyone who’s read one of my white papers can. Take the contents of the article or leave it.

But because she’s written materials regarding public policy, the rules are different. Instead of making a case for an opposing policy, some people attack the person. Current writer ethics, used as a cudgel, demand a monastic existence from Writers in Papers or Magazines, where the writer cannot work outside the realm of the Reader’s Interest or some other inchoate abstraction. Startled editors and other townspeople with pitchforks and torches want full disclosure, but any writer with any success or with any experience in contract business writing should overwhelm lists of customers, clients, and publications. Sometimes the details of the contracts aren’t the writer’s to disclose.

As I said, I’m fortunate to not have any technical writing contracts in public policy. The rules in technology are different. The technologies and their marketing fluff, white papers, and ideas contend in a marketplace, where the competition doesn’t stoop to knocking the individual authors who write about technology. Instead, the competition develops their own technologies and hires people like me to write marketing fluff, white papers, and other materials for trade shows and for inclusion in trade magazines.

Maggie Gallagher is guilty of being an efficient and a smart writer who has successfully marketed her insight, gathered knowledge, and writing talent to a variety of customers. As a writer, I applaud her success and wish her continued success. I also wish her character assassins would fight ideas with ideas, but recognize that’s unlikely.

(Rant inspired by this post on Outside the Beltway.)

Full disclosure: I have taken sums of money and favors for writing things, but neither from Maggie Gallagher.

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Tripp Hardin Responds, Lauds Favre

Perhaps I was disingenuous (which depends on what that word means) when I posted this bit about an ill child who met Brett Favre. I explained who I thought was the real hero of the piece:

This John Q [Tripp Hardin] gave up his own tickets and sprung for the flight for the kid and his mother from Texas to Green Bay. Favre? He just showed up and patted the kid on the head.

Tripp Hardin commented in e-mail:

I am the person that you were referring to in your story about Christopher and Brett Favre. I first want to thank you for your kind words regarding me. Second, I would like to correct you in regards to Brett Favre. Brett went beyond the call of duty as did the entire Packer organization. Brett could have just showed up and patted Chris on the head but he did much more. First, he approved the entire visit. It was his decision. Second, He spent an hour with us when he could have gone home to spend time with his wife who in his words “was having a very bad week with her Chemo” (she is suffering from breast cancer). This was on Saturday around noon when the team had from noon to 7pm free time before they needed to be sequestered in the hotel the night before a play-off game. He also spent a few moments taking pictures on the field before warm-ups. Neither actions are something that he had to do. It was simply out of the kindness of his heart. You are correct in that there was wrong focus that weekend. It was mostly focused on the childish antics of a Minnesota Player instead of what really counts, helping people.

I riposted:

I also think you’re being modest. Favre did what gracious athletes do. I’m not knocking Favre, he’s a gracious athlete by all accounts, but you did something even better.

According to the account I read and remarked on, you took the initative and made it happen.

Since it’s my blog, I get the last word, and I stand by my earlier assertion and its reprise. But I posted the exchange so you could see what sort of fellow this Hardin is and so you, gentle reader, would know that someone besides you reads this blog.

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