A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Muslim Voices of Reason and Insanity

In regards to the discussion in the comments thread regarding the possibility of reforming Islam, go here and play the video to find some hope. Go here, and play any of the videos to see what it is that needs transforming-- or eliminating.


Al-Jazeera's Credibility

They are styling themselves as a legitimate worldwide news agency. Based on this, I think they've made it.

The article is biased, incomplete, and is credited to wikipedia-- an "encyclopedia" created and maintained by anybody and everybody. In other words, of questionable quality at best.

Biased, incomplete and not edited worth a damn.

Yup, they are definitely part of the MSM.


Could Be Plus or Minus Three Percentage Points

That's the disclaimer on that CBS News poll that has Bush's approval rating down to 34%. It's at the bottom of page nine of the raw poll data. What that disclaimer-- and the extensive article on the poll-- does not mention, is that of the 1018 randomly sampled respondents, 409 identified themselves as Democrats, while only 279 identified themselves as Republicans. Nearly 50% more Democrats than Republicans.

That little tidbit is to be found on the very last page of the 18 page report. WAAAAAY at the bottom.

Anybody think that the fact that less than 30% of the sample were Republicans, while over 40% were Democrats, could bias the results at all? Especially given that at the top of the poll, it acknowledges that a large percentage (72%) of Republicans still approve of the President, while very few (9%) of Democrats approve of the President's performance.

+/- 3% my left butt cheek.


An Opportunity for Bush?

His approval rating is under 40, and his grand vision for the Middle East seems to be stalling at best. Meanwhile, his vice-president is cranky, close-minded and has a propensity for generating bad press-- I mean, shooting someone is never really going to reflect well on you, even if the victim apologizes for slowing down the buckshot.

But. What if the rumors that Cheney might not be back after the mid-terms in November are true?

Suddenly the political landscape has radically changed-- right now, the VP is not a potential torch bearer for the GOP in '08. Instead, McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Allen and others are all in a big lump of inconsequentialness. If Cheney resigns, whomever Bush appoints as his replacement is suddenly and significantly the front-runner for the GOP nomination in '08.

So, why not Condoleezza Rice? She's brilliant, telegenic, reasonably conservative and, oh yeah, a woman and black. What fun if the '08 matchup was Hillary vs. Condi. That would totally rock. And you'd have to think that Lincoln would be smiling down if his party was the one that had the country's first woman and first black person to hold the vice-presidency and maybe the presidency.


Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, I started this modest little blog, and lo and behold! I'm still here. Rock on me, and rock on you-- all three of you-- my intrepid readers. Traffic has slowly and steadily been increasing, from only about 500 in March of 2005, to nearly 2500 in February, 2006. Strangely enough, I have noticed a correlation between the amount of posting I do and the amount of hits I receive. Who knew?

Over the past year I've posted 439 entries-- though the number of entries has increased while the size of each entry has decreased over time.

I think, overall, the number of consistent readers is up, but 2006 may be a year in which I reach out to new readers. So, stick with me if you've made it this far, and we'll see where 2006 takes us.

Champagne for everyone!


Monday, February 27, 2006

Still More Port Stuff

Dennis the Peasant is on a serious rant about this. Seriously serious. Now, personally, I am happy the whole mess happened, because now maybe we'll actually take a long, hard look at port security irregardless of P&O and Dubai Ports World. I do hang my head with chagrin over taking media reports at face value-- I really ought to know better by now. And yes, I did jump to conclusions over who oversaw what at the six ports without really knowing what I was talking about. My bad-- I will strive to do better in the future.

So, what now? Well, DPW has agreed to extend the contract until a further review can be done, which is excellent-- because I still don't trust that everything is kosher. And that's more a function of my general distrust of the Bush administration's oversight, or lack thereof, than of a distrust of the DPW in particular or the UAE in general. If all is well and good, sign the deal and then lets begin looking at the haphazard and ineffectual security... mishmash that characterizes homeland security at our ports.

Oh, and while we're at it, could we lose the term "homeland"? I hate that. Sounds like a term Kruzhchev or Castro would use.


Friday, February 24, 2006

The Port Issue

Dennis the Peasant makes an interesting and persuasive-- and detailed-- case for backing off on the Dubai/UAE Port purchase issue. I remain of the opinion that more scrutiny of the deal is not bad, but I do think that if the situation is reviewed and found acceptable, then by all means lets do it. President Bush makes a valid point when he says that fostering cooperation with Arab nations is exactly what we need in the long run-- unfortunately, his basic response to the kerfuffle has been "trust me." Thing is, I don't any more.

But, yes, if the deal is solid, and security is not compromised, then by all means lets do it-- but just having underlings in an administration that has already proven to be riddled by cronyism and nepotism look it over seems far from adequate.

For the original, less filtered and consequently longer, posts that DtP wrote on his blog before distilling it down to the piece on Reason, start reading here.


Some Thoughts on Islam and the West

As Iraq, one of the more secular Islamic states believe it or not, teeters on the edge of civil war, riots continue over something as minor as "blasphemous cartoons" and the Port security/UAE issue continues to be debated, it is interesting to take a look at Islam, Muslims, and our own perspectives. Given the horrendous behavior of many Muslims in recent weeks, it would be easy, and appealing, to lump all Muslims together and castigate the entire lot.

But that would be much like a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Buddhist looking at the atrocities of the KKK and saying all Christians are racist arsonists and killers. Now, the analogy is far from perfect as significant differences exists in things like the fact that members of the KKK have been marginalized by the mainstream of Christianity in a way that Wahabbist and other fundamentalist Islam traditions have not been marginalized in the Muslim world, but if the internal strife in Iraq is good for anything, it is to illustrate that Muslims are not one homogenous group of 1 billion believers. To expect that they would be is ludicrous and self-defeating.

So, do we dismiss all Muslims as intolerant, reactionary, xenophobic religious fanatics and make the struggle of the 21st century Our God vs. Their God, or do we attempt to work with the secular forces and the moderate Islamic forces to bring Islam through the sort of transformative process Christianity went through over the last few centuries? A third option, I suppose, is to just hole up in our little USA stronghold, close the borders as best we can, and hope for the best. 'Course, that didn't work so well back in September of 2001.

No easy answers, then, but for a way of looking at things that I think is probably both proactive and effective, read this post. The guy likes Monty Python, so he's already got cred in my book, and he makes a very good case for avoiding knee-jerk hatred of Muslims. I don't agree with everything he says, but I agree with most of it, and I definitely agree that folks like Ann C., Roger Simon and LGF/Charles Johnson have become far too strident of late-- becoming a right-wing version of Howard Dean. Which helps the situation not at all.

The bottom line-- we are all people. We naturally coalesce into various groups because of our ancestry, our environment, and our reactions to the world around us, but we are all people. It is important, I think, to remember that groups are made up of other people who share similar ideas or interests, but who are still distinct.

I have a feeling history may look back at the first ten years of the 21st century and judge that decade to be an incredibly impactful and transformative period in human history. The jury is still out on whether the impact and transformation will be good or bad. To help it be good, thoughtful, perspective and influential people need to be thoughtful, persceptive and influential. Knee-jerk reactionism is none of those things.

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OTIT: Summers' Resignation

So, Larry Summers has decided to resign as Chancellor of Harvard. This is a pity and a deep injustice. I'd like to think the fact that the students appreciated Summers' candor and efforts to bring the school into the 21st century is a hopeful harbinger for the future... but as long as the faculty remains hidebound and insulated, I'm not sure how much difference it will make.

I find it deeply depressing that so many teachers at institutions of higher learning seem to value tolerance and being inoffensive over open and frank discussion and a willingness to seek the root causes of problems. Far, far too many of our nation's faculty have lost their desire to sift and winnow for the truth as expressed way back in 1894 by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents:
Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state university of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.
Could Summers have been more diplomatic and politically astute? Probably, and maybe he would have accomplished what he wanted, though the process would undoubtedly have taken much longer. But I guess the big question is, why. Why should Summers have had to be more circumspect and deferential when all he was doing was challenging accepted thinking and pre-conceived notions?


Here's Hoping

That Andrew Sullivan isn't being Pollyanish and that Iraq will indeed pull back from the edge. If the Iraqis-- particularly the Shia-- can restore calm and redirect their outrage from Sunnis in general to al-Qaeda in particular.... Well, then we might just have something. Should things not disintegrate and the average Iraqi comes to realize that the original mosque bombing was done by the insurgents, perhaps Iraq will turn on the insurgents with a vengeance.

Here's hoping.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

A moment of Truth for Iraq?

Could be. The likelihood of things degenerating into all-out sectarian violence is, unfortunately, not all that unlikely.

Cross your fingers, your toes and any other appendages you might have-- other countries, including the U.S., have suffered through similar setbacks in their effort to transform a country rife with religious, geographic and political differences into a unified entity.

Whether Iraq can pull off the same feat remains to be seen.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blogs Rock!

The Racine Journal Times has started blogs related to local elections-- great idea! At the blog I was able to get more detail about the six folks still in the running for my local school board in 15 minutes than I am likely to get from the newspaper itself over the next two months.

The only annoying thing about the blog is that the community can not post there directly. I suspose that is a lot to ask-- lord knows I wouldn't let any of my two readers post directly to my blog!-- but it would be nice. It seems that the candidates can post there, yet only one has-- and he didn't make it through the primary! Hopefully the remaining six candidates will take fuller advantage of the blog as the general election nears.

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But It's Not About Race

In the second paragraph of a recent column, the Jourtinel's Eugene Kane paraphrases Bryant Gumbel as follows:
The Winter Olympics? Nah, it's too boring. Besides, where are all the brothers at?
and follows it up two paragraphs later with:
So I knew full well the Winter Games are decidedly short on melanin.
All of which is true enough. Black people are underrepresented at the Winter Olympics. So, why-- and I ask why about a lot of Kane's stuff, I know-- does he conclude his column which has solely and entirely been devoted to talking about the anamoly of a black speedskater and how he's going to watch Shani Davis because he's black, with this:
Given all the talk of a less-than-exciting Winter Games, maybe this grudge match [between Davis and Chad Hedrick] will provide some needed sizzle for reasons that have nothing to do with race.
Key words, "nothing to do with race." Eugene, you just spent your entire column talking about how it had everything to do with race! Aye carumba. Well, inherent contradiction aside, the column is interesting-- even if Shani Davis is still a jerk. Pity the first black man to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics had to be a Grade A Jag. Of course, so is Chad Hedrick. Which is naturally why they are both receiving much more media attention than Joey Cheek, a quiet, respectful, honorable champion in the way neither Shani or Chad have been.

Final note, I do agree with Kane's recent blog post saying that folks objecting to his "where the brothers at" line need to get a sense of humor.


Lee Holloway: Total Schmuck

UPDATE: Holloway is apparently also a slumlord. Funny how the big hole got fixed the day after a photographer was out there, huh? What a guy-- and he's one of the most powerful men in Milwaukee politics. The question is, why are people defending this guy? The analogy, on the national stage, would be if President Bush threatened to zero out Dept. of Justice funding for the special counsel that was investigating his role for the Plame affair-- would these folks be okay with that? Somehow, I doubt it.

Lee Holloway is currently the Chairman of the Milwaukee County Board and is a weasel and a bully. Oh, and a thief. Give him credit for one thing though-- he's got kahonies the size of coconuts.

Here's the story. Between 1994 and 1998 a Milwaukee public service agency, Opportunities Industrialization Center, paid rent and/or purchase payments to a real estate firm owned by Holloway. Grand total of payments: $165,000. Only problem-- OIC never actually used the building and Holloway still owns it.

In 2004, some of the agency heads of OIC were convicted of participation in a kick-back scheme with then-state senator, Gary George. Some of Holloway's fellow county board supervisors had the audacity to suggest that maybe Holloway should step down as Chairman until an ethics probe into his actions was completed. Holloway responded by taking those supervisors out of positions on various committees, including the Ethics Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the Ethics case against Holloway.

Nice. Despite these bullying tactics, the ethics probe has proceeded apace, but now Holloway wants to deny them funding-- and as the County Board Chairman, he may be in a position to do just that. Got that? Holloway, as Chairman, needs only six other of the Board's twenty members to vote with him and *POOF* he can deny the Ethics Board the funding they need to investigate... Holloway.

And, of course, Holloway's defenders have played the race card, with the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP comparing efforts to even investigate Holloway to a political lynching.

But apparently the ability of the guy under investigation to deny money to the organization investigating him is okey-dokie.

Good grief.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

When Chuck Schumer and Bill Frist agree on something, some would likely take it as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Get your affairs in order folks-- armageddon might be on its way. Frist has agreed with Schumer that the deal which sells the British company currently running six of the U.S.'s biggest ports to a company in the United Arab Emirates needs further review.

Good for them, I say. I understand Bush's stance that we have to be seen as treating companies fairly. Indeed we do, but personally I would want extensive-- and open-- reviews of any transaction that affects ports, airports, nuclear power plants, etc. Nobody's saying, "We can't do business with them-- they're arabs." We're saying, "Let's review this very carefully since it could significantly change things in an area of high risk, an area that has been identified as a likely target for terrorism." The fact that the 9/11 terrorists and al-Qaeda have ties to the UAE is also a matter of concern-- not sufficient to say no, in and of itself, but sufficient to raise a red flag or two. Or three.

Truly it would be pathetic if Bush chose this issue-- of all the bad bills, policies, budgets and just plain stupid issues he has signed off on-- to exercise veto power for the very first time in his presidency.


President's Day

No doubt somebody else has mentioned this, but it puzzles me why Martin Luther King, Jr. Day receives far more publicity, far more respect, and far more time off than President's Day-- an amalgamation of Lincoln's Feb. 12th birthday, and Washington's Feb. 22nd birthday. Both of those days used to have their own recognition, yet now they must share. Okay, but why does it seem that no one cares?

Let's be clear-- in no way am I suggesting that MLK does not deserve a federal holiday. He does, period, end of story. What he accomplished was remarkable, the vision he brought to the country was transcendent, and his memory should live on as both a testament to what he accomplished and a measuring stick for how far our country and our world still has to go to reach his dream.

But the same exact words can be equally well applied to both Lincoln and Washington. There wouldn't be a country striving for MLK's dream without those two other gentlemen. We almost certainly would've lost the Revolutionary War without Washington, and the United States of America might now consist of 20 or 30 states north of the Mason-Dixon line were it not for Lincoln's resolve. Washington dreamed of a meritocracy and in Jefferson's beautiful summation-- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Lincoln dreamed of a country where all men were equal and where the rule of law, the hope and promise of America, applied to everyone.

What they accomplished was remarkable, the vision they brought to the country was transcendent, and their memories should live on as both a testament to what they accomplished and as measuring sticks for how far our country and our world still has to go to reach those dreams.

So why is President's Day a mere blip on our calendars? A bank holiday and an annoying day when the mail doesn't run? There are MLK events at local schools and libraries, and the President and Congress take time out to remember the great man's legacy. Well and good. But for President's Day there is next to nothing. Business as usual-- why should we care about those old dead white guys?

Except that we should. We really, really should.


Monday, February 20, 2006

The Joint IED Neutralizer

Or JIN (big hat tip to Mojo for sending me the link below), is a new piece of military equipment whose sole purpose is to find, and destroy, improvised explosive devices, or IED's. IED's are easily the single greatest cause of injuries and fatalities amongst our armed servicemen and women in Iraq, accounting for roughly 2/3rds of all injuries and deaths.

So, you'd figure that a piece of equipment designed to eliminate IED's would be on the fast-track to use in Iraq, right? Not so much. In preliminary tests, the prototype JIN destroyed 90% of all IED's, yet despite this there are no JINs being rushed to Iraq as the cumbersome military bureaucracy grinds through its paces. The company that builds them says they could easily produce 50 of the little remote-controlled vehicles a month, and at ~$200,000 they are cheap-- at least by military standards.

I hope they ratchet these bad boys up, and do so quickly-- one of my nephew Nick's main jobs in Iraq is finding and eliminating IEDs. My question is this: why has there been little to no coverage of this on the nightly news or in the NY Times? You know, the places that went on and on and on about the horror of insufficient body armor in Iraq-- despite the fact that a goodly portion of the troops don't want 70 pounds of body armor as it tends to make them sitting ducks.

It would make Rumsfield and Bush look bad-- how have the MSM missed this? At any rate, if you aren't too tired of emailing or calling your elected representatives about UAE security for our ports, do take the time to drop them a note asking them to start pushing to get JINs over to Iraq asap.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Ya Der Hey!

For those of you who aren't from 'round these parts: a yooper (phoenetic pronunciation of U.P.er) is a resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Many are of Norwegian descent and hence there is a tendency in that region to talk a bit like the characters in Fargo, donchaknow der hey. What you may also not have heard if you are not from 'round these parts is that the U.P. is starting it's own charter airline out of Escananba, Michigan.

Here's their news release:



If you are travelin soon, consider U.P. Air, da no-frills airline. You're all in da same boat on U.P. Air, where flyin is a upliftin experience. Dere is no first class on any U.P. Air flight. Meals are potluck. Rows1-6, bring rolls; 7-15, bring a salad; 16-21, a main dish, and 22-30, a dessert. Basses and tenors, please sit in da rear of da aircraft. Everyone is responsible for his or her own baggage. All fares are by freewill offering and da plane will not land 'til da budget is met.

Pay attention to your flight attendant, who will acquaint you wit dasafety system aboard our U.P. Air 599: "Okay den, listen up. I'm only gonnasay dis vonce. In da event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, I am frankly going to be real surprised and so vill Captain Elmer Aho, because no maater what FAA wants, we fly all our ruutes right around four tousand feet, so loss of cabin pressure would probably mean da Second Coming or someting of dat nature, and I wouldn't bodar with doze liddle masks on da rubber tubes. You're gonna have bigger tings to worry about den dat. Just stuff doze back up in dair little holes. Probably da masks fell out because of turbulence which, to be honest wit you, we're going to have quite a bit of at four tousand feet, sort a like driving across a plowed field, but after a while you get used to it. In da event of a water landing, I'd say forget it. Start saying da Lord'sPrayer and just hope you get to da part about forgive us our sins as we forgive doze who sin against us, which some Catolicks people say "trespass against us," which isn't right, but what can you do?"

Da use of cell phones on da plane is strictly forbidden, not because day may confuse da plane's navigation system, which is seat of da pants all daway. No, it's because cell phones are a pain in da wazoo, and if God meant you to use a cell phone, He would have put your mout on da side of your head.

We start lunch right about noon and it's buffet style with da coffee pot up front. Den we'll have da hymn sing; hymnals are in da seat pocket in front of you. Don't take yours wit you when you go or we are going to be real upset and we're not kiddin! After hymns ve vill play a medly on de airplane's ovverhed speakers of champaane musik by Lawerence Velk.
Sounds good to me.


Thanks Chuck Shumer

Hah-- bet you never figured to see that title on any of my posts. Chuck Shumer is, after all, a seriously liberal Democrat and a guy I have previously ridiculed for his support of the Nanny State.

But he's also raising a bit of a hue and cry about this proposition. Maybe the deal to have a United Arab Emirates company take care of security at some of our busiest ports is fine-- but I'd really like to be certain of that before we make a $6.8 BILLION deal with a country that also had ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

Perhaps he's doing it simply as a knee-jerk opposition to Bush, but no matter the reason, I think it's important that this deal is intensively reviewed before we sign on the dotted line. So, thanks Chuck.


Do We Need A Vote...

to know that Ted Stevens is the biggest porker in Congress? After all, this is the guy that threw a hissy-fit "I'm taking my ball and going home" tirade when a few of colleagues had the termitity to suggest that over $200 million was a tad much to spend on a bridge that, technically speaking, was about as useful as a parka in Belize.

But should you wish to vote for Ted "A porkchop in every pot" Stevens or any other free-spending member of Congress, you can go here and do so.

Vote early, vote often-- even if you don't live in Milwaukee.


NASCAR's "Superbowl"

Yeah, I mean, why wouldn't you have your biggest race of the year first thing? Get rid of that whole anticipation/build-up thing. Despite this odd scheduling tradition, NASCAR continues to blossom-- say what you will, the NASCAR folks know how to sell their product. I am a casual NASCAR fan, though my interest has ticked up several notches in the past two years as I hang around with my brother-in-laws and friends who are really into it.

But, should you care to find out much more about this really fast sport, do check out my brother-in-laws blog at: http://thehittman.blogspot.com/. Take his quiz! For the record I knew, err, none of the answers.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

ESL: Newspaper edition

Some actual headlines and text from newspapers (as found here, at the American Journalism Review):

Not to worry... we're all professionals here.


What Happened to Steve Martin?

He used to be a gifted and funny comedian and actor. He used to make good movies with depth and character and truly hilarious moments. He used to use his comedy to skewer the absurdities of life, and often the absurdities of people.

Today, he makes stupid movies like Cheaper By the Dozen and The Pink Panther, which pretty much rely on Martin doing pratfalls and slapstick without worrying about actually being funny, and pens sarcastic-- and surprisingly unfunny-- posts for Arianna Huffington. I fear he may be yet another victim of BHS (Bush Hatred Syndrome). I mean, I never figured he was a conservative, but I also never figured he'd be a rabid Deaniac. Maybe he's not, I hope he's not, but the two Huffington posts do seem to indicate otherwise.

And as to Cheney's accident-- yes, accident-- he should be punished appropriate to the circumstances. In this case, an accidental shooting. Cheney was stupid and irresponsible-- and not revealing the circumstances for half a day was churlish and stupid-- and should face the same charge anyone else would be facing in Texas. I don't know what that is, since such things tend to be quite idiosyncratic between states, but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere between the $7 fine he paid for not having a license and being strung up by his thumbs. If was actually drinking during, or shortly before, hunting he should also be charged for that, but to date there is no reason to doubt the one beer at lunch explanation given by Cheney.

Apologizing would also be good-- Cheney finally did take responsibility for the incident last night, and said it was the worst day of his life, but I don't think he's ever actually said he was sorry. When you shoot somebody-- and that person wasn't attacking you or endangering you in some way-- you should apologize. That's really not a lot to ask.


An Addition

To my June list of excellent songwriters. Recently added The Kinks Ultimate Collection to my computer play list. Ray Davies has an amazing ability to combine catching, happy tunes with sardonic, thoughtful and, often, humorous lyrics. I knew that already from Lola, the entire Misfits album, Celluloid Heroes and Come Dancing, but a lot of the songs on the double disc set I had never heard before-- most excellent.

Death of a Clown, Don't Forget to Dance, Shangri-La, Dedicated Follower of Fashion-- plus Celluloid Heroes, one of the most hauntingly beautiful rock songs of all time, plus You Really Got Me, which has been covered by, well, everybody, I think. A highly recommended "best of" compilation, spoiled only by the lack of "Rock and Roll Fantasy."


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Great-- So Much For My Golden Years

Well, okay, maybe a 1 in 5,500 chance isn't SO bad. But it's still kinda scary to think about.



That was my basic reaction to this column by Milwaukee Jourtinal writer, Eugene Kane. For the life of me I have no idea what the heck he was trying to accomplish with this little bit of... whatever. My best guess is that he was trying for some sort of sardonic spearing of the silliness that is Valentine's Day and he just couldn't stop himself from inserting a really stupid "Bush is an idiot" commentary.

Beyond that... I dunno. Any ideas?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

OTIT: The Regents' Disconnect

Wisconsin's economy isn't doing all that great, and while there are radically different intrepretations of why that is so, the upshot is that there is less state money to go around than there has been previously. Most state agencies, and state-supported agencies, have seen little or no increase in their budgets over the last few budgets, and some have seen significant cuts (actual cuts-- not decreases in the annual increase). So there's that.

Now, of the state's funds, a large percentage (approximately 8.5%, or roughly $1 billion of the state's projected $12 billion in tax and fee revenues in 2006) goes to the UW-System. Because of fiscal constraints-- related to enrollment issues as well as state funding-- all UW schools have had to make cuts in the last four years. My raises in the past three years have been 3%, 2% and 2%-- regardless of the fact that my evaluation was excellent. Everybody's raises were minimal. Such is life.

And I was okay with that. Not thrilled, no, but okay-- times are tough, so we all have to suck it up a little. Would I have preferred a 7% raise? Sure, but I'd also prefer we didn't have to fire anybody (particularly me), and not filling open positions only goes so far.

Thing is, I REALLY would've liked a 22% raise! Wow, who wouldn't? Except that making chancellor salaries "competitive" does not suddenly increase tuition or state funding-- so the lovely raises the chancellors will be getting have to come from cuts somewhere else. Like the job of somebody who isn't a chancellor.

Having "competitive" salaries is great-- if you can afford it. If not, you find other ways to entice good individuals to take the positions. Of course, at this time, none of the chancellor positions are open! Presumably all thirteen of the current chancellors knew what the pay was going to be when they signed on-- so why are we giving them all raises, regardless of performance, at a time when a lot of positions have been eliminated (most empty, thankfully)?

It is absolutely ludicrous, and it comes at a time when the UW-System is already being held in low esteem by the state legislature (and much of the public) for what are seen as profligate and irresponsible spending habits. I'm pretty sure this won't help.

Well, maybe it's just a matter of time. Maybe those 22% raises are coming my way next year.

Yeah, that's it.

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One Other Olympics Thought

Can we please stop hearing about, and from, Bode Miller, now? The man-child is annoying, idiotic, and tiresome.

Oh, and Michelle Kwan, too? She is the polar opposite of Miller, gracious, intelligent and appealing, but she shouldn't have been at the Olympics in the first place, so her retirement from the events shouldn't really be an issue.

Instead, can we hear about athletes that are actually winning things and helping others?

Just a thought.


The Gold Medal for Guts

Watched a bit of the Olympics last night, and I was impressed with the women's half-pipe snowboarding thing. Fun to watch, and good for Hannah Teter (Gold), Gretchen Bleiler (Silver) and Kelly Clark (4th after just missing the landing on a monster jump that likely would've garnered her the gold).

But after that came the pairs figure skating coverage, an event I normally have little to no interest in, and I started channel surfing. Not much on, so I wind up back on figure skating and right after I start watching, Zhang Dan (she's the female half of China's Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao pair) took one of the worst falls I've ever seen-- in any sport. She dropped from a good four feet in the air-- after being tossed sideways by her partner a good eight feet-- and landed on ice (not a forgiving surface) with one leg going one way while the other was kinda tucked behind her going the other way. You can watch the whole thing here. Click on "Zhang's brutal fall" over on the right and then sit through the stupid commercial. The fall is about 30 seconds into the video.
My first thought was, "Oh man, I wonder how many ligaments she just tore?" I was impressed that she was able to skate over to her coach and trainers on the side of the rink, although she did have to keep her left leg off the ice the whole way (they edited that part out of the video). One of the announcers asks the expert commentator what would happen if they wanted to try to complete the routine. I thought, "What an idiot-- there is no way somebody takes that bad of a fall and then goes back to skate around the rink, much less complete an Olympic caliber performance."

A minute or two later, Zhang Dan did precisely that. Not only did the pair pick up where they left off, but Zhang landed the triple throw she had fallen on, as well as two other throws. I had chills just watching her deliver an olympic caliber performance after suffering a fall that would have sent a lesser athlete to the hospital and probably have crippled a normal person.

I kept thinking, "She can't keep this up-- there's no way." But after a little while, it started to become clear that maybe she could-- though one triple became a double-- and I started to wonder how the judges were going to grade this. How much do you take off for the fall and a few other technical bits that she couldn't do? How much do you put back on for the sheer guts displayed and for the fact that every single person in the arena, and watching on tv, was rooting for them to finish the routine?

The fall and other missteps seemed to preclude medaling, given the requisite reductions in technical merit they entailed,... but the "presentation" portion of the routine could hardly have been more dramatic or impressive.

They wound up second, which is where they were before they took the ice yesterday, and I think that was probably appropriate. But for sheer determination, you'd have to give the gold to Zhang Dan.


Monday, February 13, 2006

"They Are Provoking Us!"

This post (hat tip, Mojo-- thanks man!) is a must read, and the video link is well worth viewing. Above and beyond having to admire the size of the kahohnies on those two gentlemen, it is instructive how quickly those who protest in the name of non-violent Islam have picked up the lingo to justify their own intolerance and violent outbursts. Key passage:
"I will show you my ID 10 meters from here" says the plainclothes cop. "They are going to lynch you!" she adds, as she leads us into another street (in the movie taken by our valiant camera team, you can briefly see her wearing a brown coat, right after a bearded guy in white cap and tan jacket says "They are provoking us" and the camera turns).

Ding, ding, ding! Ring the bell, win a prize! The Muslim protesters have picked up on "the Danish cartoons are provocation-- they must be punished" meme. Provocation is a one-way street for these folks-- they can protest, they can loot, they can blow things up, they can even kill. Because they've been provoked, donchaknow-- strictly justified, old bean, those bad old Danish cartoonist started this, after all. But should anyone else protest in favor of free speech, or claim to have been provoked by the Muslim interpretations of events, they will certainly be decried as intolerant, and may well wind up being physically accosted-- maybe dead.

They want the best of both worlds-- freedom for them to say and do whatever they want, but should we in the West take exception to, oh, the occassional kidnapping, beheading, burned body strung up from a bridge or embassy fire bombed... well, we're being intolerant and judging an entire religion by a few extremists. It shouldn't work that way-- but as long as the media, moderate Muslims and many world cultures allow, even encourage, the double standard to exist, it will continue to happen.

On the plus side, some Muslim intellectuals and some media outlets ARE decrying that double-standard, and more and more European governments seem to be waking up to the potentially deadly serpent they have nurtured for years.


Friday, February 10, 2006


The Olympics start tonight and one of Wisconsin's own will be carrying the U.S. flag in the Opening Cermony. Congratulations Chris Witty!


Still More Cartoon Thoughts

Who would've figured that the deep, possibly irreconcilable, differences between Muslim perceptions of the world and "Western" perceptions of the world would be brought into such stark contrast by a small batch of cartoons penned for an obscure Danish newspaper? Truly remarkable, and quite likely a bellweather for where our world is headed in the next ten to twenty years.

As he quite often does, Charles Krauthammer pretty well nails it. The key passages for me:
There is a "sensitivity" argument for not having published the cartoons in the first place, back in September when they first appeared in that Danish newspaper. But it is not September. It is February. The cartoons have been published, and the newspaper, the publishers and Denmark itself have come under savage attack. After multiple arsons, devastating boycotts, and threats to cut off hands and heads, the issue is no longer news value, i.e., whether a newspaper needs to publish them to inform the audience about what is going on. The issue now is solidarity.

The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature. The cartoons do not begin to approach the artistic level of Salman Rushdie's prose, but that's not the point. The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy -- to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.

Think he's overstating things? Maybe. Then again-- maybe not. And on the left we have... err... anybody? Kos, Eschaton, Wolcott... our own TC? Nothing (based on the current page of posts on 2/10/06-- I did not do an archive search)? Huh. Imagine that. Well, okay, there's this guy again, but he tries to make a joke out of everything, even when the subject isn't funny-- and even when he isn't funny,-- so I don't know if that counts. Though apparently most of his readers find the whole thing to be just a hoot. Including this genius.

The whole thing started with cartoons... but it isn't even remotely funny.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Glad I didn't Reup

Reup with the American Library Association, that is-- I have never been a member of the U.S. military, though I salute all those who have served. The ALA is supposed to be the voice of librarians here in the U.S., and as such it is supposed to be a proponent for free access to information and an opponent to censorship.

While it is still both of those things, increasingly the ALA seems to be drifting further and further into partisanship and just outright obtuseness. Recent annual meetings have featured screenings of Farenheit 9/11 and speakers who are rabid opponents of the Bush administration. As to obtuseness... well, they endorse this. I personally, don't. Why anybody using a public computer purchased with public funds, stationed in a public area and used by many different members of the public would enjoy any sort of privacy protection is somewhat beyond me.

I'm ambivalent about keeping check out records confidential-- but at least those are specific to one particular individual and the books they like to read. I am inclined to believe that in that case probable cause should be required.

But a public computer is... well, public. And the crime was in progress-- time was a pressing issue. Fortunately, the threat was a hoax, and the delay caused no harm. This time. Next time...? Well, this editorial from The Boston Globe-- hardly a rightwing extremist publication-- pretty well nails why librarians' overzealous protection of perceived privacy guarentees could be utterly disastrous for the very patrons we hope to "protect."


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Virus Warning!

I got the following in my email today-- thank goodness someone gave me a heads up! Okay, here's the deal:

If you receive an email entitled "Bedtimes" delete it IMMEDIATELY. Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer. It demagnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR, and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD's you attempt to play. It will program your phone auto dial to call only 0898 numbers. This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank.

IT WILL CAUSE YOUR TOILET TO FLUSH WHILE YOU ARE SHOWERING. It will drink ALL your beer. FOR GOD'S SAKE, ARE YOU LISTENING?? It will leave dirty underwear on the coffee table when you are expecting company. It will replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine. If the "Bedtimes" message is opened in a Windows 95/98 environment, it will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, it will also refill your skim milk with whole milk.


And...if you don't send this to 5000 people in 20 seconds, you'll fart so hard that your right leg will spasm and shoot straight out in front of you, sending sparks that will ignite the person nearest you.

Send this warning to absolutely everyone!!!

THERE'S A LOT OF SADNESS IN THE WORLD! Right now, as you read this, 17 Million people are having SEX!!! ...And look at you - you're on the computer!!!! Sad...very sad.

Okay, my conscience is clear-- you've been warned. If you fail to heed the warning, it's your own dang fault.


Still More Danish Cartoon Stuff

UPDATE: This post is also quite dead-on-balls-accurate TM. Thought it has a different take on the situation than the link below.

This post is fairly dead-on-balls-accurate TM . It's also kinda spooky just how big a nutjob Sinead O'Connor is these days. I couldn't watch the whole video-- too creepy-- but don't skip the last 30 seconds or so.


Ewww... Icky!

I personally don't care much that Monday Night Football is moving to ESPN. Being poor, I don't get ESPN anyway, so instead of not seeing the Sunday night game, I won't see the Monday night game. Jenn and I briefly tossed around the idea of getting expanded cable just for the NFL season, but decided we really don't need it-- which is true.

Now comes word that the ESPN crew will consist of Mike Tirico (who is very good-- an improvement over Al Michaels who was decent), Joe Thiesman (who is dreadful) and Tony Kornheiser (who's principle claim to being qualified seems to be he likes to talk. This thoroughly sqaushes any desire I might have had to get ESPN, as I find Theisman to be an idiot-- but unafraid to consistently be an idiot week in and week out and perfectly willing to never learn from his mistakes-- Kornheiser annoying (though I haven't had a lot of exposure to him) and Tirico... well, I just feel sorry for him. He deserves better.


Email from Iraq

My nephew Nick sent out an email over the weekend-- I'll spare you the nittygritties of the family stuff and just pass along these two paragraphs:

I am taking a little break at Navistar now; I must file some paperwork and do various maintance jobs on my vehicle. When we were north of Baghdad, there was an IED buried in the middle of the road and just before we drove over it, the trigger man blew it up. It missed our engine block but shattered the windshield and took out our headlights. After we all got through the blast site, we got towed out to the closest military base- Camp Taji. We were lucky, even though it hit us, it could have been worse. I just count on my driver to be spontaneous and unpredictable behind the wheel, this way we keep the enemy guessing. This will be the second time that we've had a close call now. The first time was 3 weeks earlier when our convoy was ambushed and mortars rained down near our vehicle and machinegun fire peppered some trucks in the convoy, but missed our vehicle. Crazy stuff over here

A few nights ago we were on a highly traveled ASR in Iraq and we saw an IED blow up a fuel truck. The fireball was huge. The truck was part of another convoy ahead of us. One of the non military drivers in the convoy got scared as this happened and jumped out his truck and just started running around crazy while the tanker burned. While we were waiting to get passed this burning truck, we took sniper fire again. Despite what the media portrays, there are far many attacks on troops over here than reported. According to my intelligence brief, there are an average of 50 attacks on troops every day. Most of the attacks are IEDs.

So far, so good-- but keep Nick and the rest of our forces in your prayers.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Danish Cartoon Update

UPDATE II: Wow-- just discovered that the whole controversy is a result of Little Green Footballs and other right-wing blogs! Who knew? Seems everyone who thinks that a newspaper has a right to publish cartoons without having to worry about death threats is just trying to get the extremist Muslims to riot. All part of the upcoming invasion of Iran, natch. Truly a mind-bending experiment in how everything-- absolutely everything-- is the right's fault. Ride at your own risk.

UPDATE I: I have edited this piece a bit since I have had time to simmer down and to read around. I think the key piece that has somewhat changed my perspective is the knowledge that the newspaper tried to be provocative-- mission accomplished! They probably shouldn't have published the things in the first place. That said, the Muslim response has been absurd and totally out of proportion to the offense, and I do still hope you will all buy some Danish products should the opportunity present itself.

There is a nice summary of the current situation, plus a timeline of how it got to be an issue in the first place, over at gagwatch. In addition, Mojo points out that the State Department's response to the situation was not quite as lame as I initially thought-- my apologies for taking newspaper accounts at face value. I should know better by now.

Above and beyond, to date the "condemnation" of the riots, arson and death that have resulted from the ridiculous over-reaction of Muslims around the world has been pretty weak. Imagine what the world reaction would have been if Catholics and other Christians had responded by burning things down after Andres Serrano's exhibition of the ever charming Piss Christ.

Honestly, is there a thinner-skinned group of people who are more prone to express their anger in violent ways than Muslims? Yes, that's a sterotype and yes there are many, many Muslims who are perfectly nice people and don't respond to "blasphemy" by blowing things up, threatening murder, or huge, bloody riots. But at present, these voices seem to be a minority. Either that, or the extremist whackjobs get all the press. Either way, as Andrew Sullivan notes, it is time to stop enabling the jihadists.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Dark Days

Football is over (Pro Bowl doesn't count in my book), and March Madness is still three weeks away. Sigh. Mike Whatshisname and Ted "Doh!" Thompson have managed to put together one of the worst staffs I've ever seen-- I have no faith in their ability to have a successful draft in April. I hope I'm wrong.

For the record-- I would've been dead wrong about the Super Bowl. I really thought Seattle would win, though I expected a close game. Certainly Seattle's chances were not helped by what seemed to be blatant favoritism by the referees, but really Holmgren has no one to blame but himself and his staff. His team played sloppy, made stupid mistakes at critical times, and seemed totally unaware that Pittsburgh likes to run trick plays, particularly with Randle El.

That said, the offensive pass interference call on Daryll Jackson was absurd. OPI is called once a year as sort of an obligatory offering to the tenet that neither player should push off, but the offensive player has to almost kill the defensive player to draw a flag. Daryll Jackson did not kill the defensive player. He didn't even pick his pocket. He pretty much gave him a nudge-- a move that Michael Irvin caught 92.34534566% of his passes with. Horrible call. Ditto the "chop block" call on Matt Hasselbeck-- I mean, how hard is it to figure out that Hasselbeck was trying to tackle the guy with the ball (which he succeeded in doing, for Pete's sake) rather than block the guy in between? Really bad officiating-- all through the playoffs when the stakes are at their highest, culminating in some dreadful officiating in the Super Bowl. Note to Paul Tagliabue-- figure out a way to improve the officiating in general, and instant replay in particular, or there will be a negative impact on your game's popularity.

But Pittsburgh deserved to win. They didn't play great, as they had in the previous three games, but they played better than Seattle and earned their extra-large Super Bowl title. So, congratulations to Bill Cowher, to the Steelers' players, and to the ownership and management personnel. A heck of a close to the season, beating a #3, a #2, and two #1 seeds to win the Lombardi Trophy.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Something to Lighten the Mood

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet, and probably won't until it comes out on DVD as I see about two movies every year in an actual theater, but I have to say that the sequel looks brilliant!

Buy Danish: Update

Refreshing, though distressing, to hear a spokesperson for fundamentalist Islam speaking plainly. As Sullivan notes, the entire point of a free and independent press escapes them. Or perhaps it doesn't and they just don't care. Either way, it is important to recognize that many of the most culturally intolerant socities in the world today are headed by fundamentalist Muslims-- not by Bushitler McChimpskie as much of the far-left would like to believe. Tough place for the left-- do you support "multi-culturism" and Islam's "needs" or do you support freedom of expression-- the nearly sacred 1st amendment here in the U.S.? Can't really have it both ways, though I'm sure some will try. Certainly many Muslims enjoy being able to express themselves freely by advocating for the beheading of others expressing themselves-- pretty much pegs the irony meter, donchatink?

Tolerance can not be a one-way street. Or, rather, it cannot always be a one-way street. The Netherlands learned that the hard way when Theo van Gogh was murdered. France is learning it the hard way in at least two different social arenas. Now extremists from half a world away are testing Denmark to see if they've learned from that lesson or no-- to date, Denmark has stood firm, to which I can only say, Bravo!

So, continue to buy those Legos folks. Personally, I recommend the 500 brick packs where you get a mixed bag of various types of Legos rather than the kits that generally only make one thing, but whichever. Have a kringle this weekend. Buy direct from Denmark, and when you do, let the seller know that you're buying to express your support for Denmark and for freedom of expression.

UPDATE: Wow, am I bummed. The State Department is siding with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and against the newspapers and cartoonists. It is hard to express how disappointed I am in President Bush and the State Department. The simple fact that CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations-- a US PR arm of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations) endorses the U.S. position is reason enough to immediately repudiate it and strongly back Denmark. Good grief, this is pathetic. Tell you what, here's a quote from Bush's SotU speech THREE FRIGGIN' DAYS AGO:
In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life.
Dead on balls accurate (it's an industry term) George-- and you just started the year by opting for retreat and the hope of an easier life. This is how we're going to lead the world? By backing down to people that threaten to kill us if we don't appease them?

Ye gods. Spineless bastards. Just once, JUST ONCE, I was hoping that Bush wouldn't just talk the talk but would actually walk the damn walk. I mean, if Le Monde gets it, how in the world does the administration NOT get it?

What a depressing way to start the weekend.


TV's Bias

A post today from Dr. Helen's blog wonders if network TV isn't getting ever more PC and liberal in its perspective. Overall, I suspect it isn't, but I do think that as a show starts to show its age-- the initial shine is lost and their don't seem to be any really new ideas to explore any more-- that there is a strong tendency to fall back on the stock jokes. And given that the majority of writers, actors and directors in television are liberal, it is unsurprising that "venerable" shows like Will & Grace, Law and Order, ER, and the like trend toward the "easy" targets of conservatives, red-state knuckle draggers, and ridiculously simplistic stereotyping.

I've been rewatching Sportsnight, an Aaron Sorkin show from the late '90s about a Sportscenter type of show, wherein the producer of the sports show is Felicity Huffman and her boss is Robert Guillame. Great show, as most of Sorkin's stuff is-- especially early in their run. One show has a running gag about how Guillame's daughter is dating someone he d/n like. Cast asks why, is he a deadbeat? Abusive? Ugly? Guillame replies, no, he's a Republican. But he does at least admit that that shouldn't be a good reason not to like the daughter's boyfriend. There are also digs at the stupidity of our PC culture, and various other liberal things. So, while not balanced, it isn't heavy-handed. Cancelled after two seasons, the show never had a chance to wear its premise out.

Unlike Aaron's West Wing, which from its inception clearly had a bias in favor of liberals and Democrats, but always managed to leaven that with a recognition that "their" side does not have all the answers (as when Josh tells Donna she shouldn't have voted Democratic if she d/n want to pay more in taxes) and with believable (and likable) voices from the right-- as when they added Emily Proctor to their legal staff even though she's a Republican. But time rolls by, Sorkin leaves the show, and the writing gets stale and pretty soon the show becomes progressively less-balanced. Still good TV, but making less and less of an effort to be even-handed. You wind up with handsome, hispanic, fresh-idea spouting Jimmy Smits (Democrat, natch) vs. the old, cynical, white Alan Alda (Republican in a nutshell).

Same thing with pretty much any David E. Kelley show-- Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Public, Boston Legal-- they start off sharp, inciteful, quirky, and fun, and then slowly spin down into tired, repetitive, slightly strident and not all that much fun.

Oh-- and looking up Chicago Hope reminded me that Mandy Patinkin was in that show, and that he is now starring in Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds is a very good show, and if you have a chance to watch it, I recommend that you do so. Patinkin is good in virtually everything he's been in, from Inigo Montoya to Special Agent Jason Gideon, and... he can sing! The rest of the cast on Criminal Minds is excellent as well, and so far they have managed to keep the show interesting and non-polemical. Hopefully they'll be able to maintain that pace.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Pop Quiz

What's missing in this post from Omar regarding the structuring of the new government in Iraq?

Think about it for a minute before you read on...




Okay. Now, if you said anything along the lines of "Coverage by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, BBC or any other mainstream media outlet!" give yourself a pat on the back and a hearty Honorable Mention. True, this is missing in the mainstream media, but that was not the point I was looking for.

So, what was the point?

Well, if your answer in anyway resembled this:

Then you get a gold star! What's missing from all the intrigue, politicking, arm-twisting, secular vs. religious, tribal versus sect, etc. etc. of Omar's post? Riots in the streets. Cars burning. Disaffected parties blowing things up and shooting stuff. You know, all the things that marked the recent elections in Palestine.


Radio Streaming Weirdness

I listen to live audio streams at work. First thing in the morning I listen to Bob and Brian on one station, then around 10:15 switch over to the local classic rock station, wklh. In the past I always closed the first stream before opening the second-- but they are both powered by Liquid Compass, so I figured I'd save a step and just open wklh's stream assuming that wklh would simply replace whpg. Not so much. They both would up streaming at the same time. Yikes!

So I wound up with Nirvana streaming at the same time as Bruce Springsteen. Whoa. Most definitely bizarre.

Why should you care? Well, you shouldn't-- but if you've read this far, it's too late. You've already wasted 30 seconds of your life that you will never get back. Mwahahahahahaha!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Words Matter

It's something my mom taught me many years ago-- how you say something is important. In a civilized society it is important to express oneself as succinctly as possible, with as much clarity as possible, and without causing unnecessary offense.

That said, I find the ongoing rejection of over-the-top Political Correctness to be unsurprising and, frankly, quite welcome. There comes a point in the parsing and analyzing of words that you are no longer just alerting people to the offensive, you are actively hunting for things to be offended by-- things that 98.84352534% of the population would never even think of as even remotely controversial. For one such case, please go here (tc, you can skip this if reading Lileks actively makes your head explode).

As a counter-example, the Women's Center here at UW-Parkside offers a number of services and programs for women that are both helpful and effective-- but when I first arrived here 5+ years ago, it was called the Womyn's Center. Presumably because you don't want to have that nasty three letter combination m-e-n messing up such a fine female organization. Except that only 1.15647466% of the people on campus actually gave a crap about those three little letters strung together in that particular way. So, they changed it two years ago.

Bravo, I say. There are plenty of true cases of discrimination, abuse and injustice happening every day-- let's focus on those instead of wasting time and energy and money on stupid crap that the vast majority of people couldn't care less about.

In other words-- Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things.

Or something.

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