from items published in the
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Newspaper items

index pages:

Susan Campbell

additional category: politics

“She’s our kind of woman”

Hartford Courant

published in the Star Tribune April 10, 2009

Say she lives outside of whatever you consider the sexual norm, and you can immediately bump her from the public arena.

But from all indications, the Obama marriage is strong, so we move to the second-best way to dismiss a woman: Call her angry.



Despite the gains of the last few decades, we still mostly like our women soft, sweet and not angry. Like my mother used to say, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. What on earth she wanted with all those flies, I have no idea.

Let a man exhibit anger, and he’s taking charge. Let a woman show anger, and she’s, well, scary. [...]

Why would a woman be angry, do you think? Just off the top of my head: The whole wage-disparity thing, the speaking up in meetings and being ignored thing, the lack of female clergy thing, the lack of female CEOs thing, the notion that you can and should have it all thing. You try bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan day in and day out, and suddenly that pan might start to look pretty good as a weapon [...]


Women and Men

text checked (see note) Apr 2009

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Stephen L. Carter
“Free speech is worth the pain”

Bloomberg News;
published by the Star Tribune September 25, 2012

The best statement of our constitutional rule remains the one announced by the U.S. Supreme Court 40 years ago in Police Department of the City of Chicago vs. Mosley: “To permit the continued building of our politics and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship.” The government, said the court, “has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

I have said before that I am a near-absolutionist on the subject of free speech. I defend the right of imbeciles to express themselves in ways that are offensive and wounding to people who have done nothing to deserve it. Naturally one would prefer to defend free speech in the name of such once-banned classics as “Ulysses” and “1984.” One would prefer to defend a free press that is ferreting out the Pentagon Papers.

Those opportunities rarely arise. If our culture instead produces offensive junk, then that is where the ramparts must be built – not because offensive junk is a positive good, but because the power to censor is far too dangerous to be placed in the hands of government.



text checked (see note) Sep 2012

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Steve Chapman
“Court decision on gay marriage was counterproductive”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune May 22, 2008

In the old story, a preacher gives an inspiring sermon, which he concludes by asking his congregants to stand up if they want to go to heaven. Everyone rises except one nervous-looking fellow. “Brother,” asks the incredulous pastor, “don’t you want to ascend to paradise when you die?” Says the holdout: “When I die? Sure! I thought you were getting up a group to go right now.”

That’s pretty much how I feel about the California Supreme Court’s decision granting the right of same-sex couples to marry.



Same-sex marriage

“We have a lot to learn about school reform”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune April 17, 2010

Coming up with solutions for public education, it turns out, is easy. Coming up with solutions that actually work is another story.



“Meanwhile, back in the modern day...”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune July 24, 2010

The number of violent extremists in the American Islamic community is microscopically small. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported that of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States between 1980 and 2005, only 6 percent were committed by radical Muslims.

A recent study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found one reason the number is so low is that “Muslim religious and community leaders ... consistently condemned political violence in public sermons and private conversations.”



“This won’t be change on a grand scale”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune November 1, 2010

According to my unscientific calculations, a congressman is more likely to be eaten by a polar bear while panning for gold in Key West than to be voted out of office.



The solution is obvious: Take the decisions away from those who have a powerful interest in the outcome, and give them to an independent commission. Californians voted in 2008 to do exactly that. But this year, opponents managed to get another ballot initiative to return control to the legislature.

[...] Because former elected officials, candidates and lobbyists are barred from serving, they say in the official voter guide, “those who have deep experience, knowledge or interest in government will be excluded.” Right. And burglary laws should be repealed because burglars were not invited to help draft them.

The theory is that when we elect legislators in rigged districts to create new rigged districts, democracy triumphs. But the point of the commission is to give voters a power they so obviously lack when politicians get to choose the people who are supposed to choose them.

One of the bedrock beliefs of our democracy is that here, the people rule. Gerrymandering is the legislators’ way of saying: Not if we can help it.

“Why do they hate freedom? Oh, they don’t.”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune March 8, 2013

Muslim terrorism, which was expected to explode after 9/11, is slightly less common on the continent than kangaroos. In 2010, Europe had 249 documented terrorist attacks or plots, of which only three involved Muslims. In 2011, there were 174 such episodes – with Muslims accounting for zero.

Same thing on this side of the pond. A new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and RTI International says, “For the second year in a row, there were no fatalities or injuries from Muslim-American terrorism.” Since 9/11, it said, such terrorists have killed 33 people in the United States – a poor showing compared with the 200-plus slain by right-wing extremists.

Note (Hal’s):
I’m transcribing this after the Boston Marathon bombings, which changes the numbers a bit. But at present, it appears to involve only two Muslims, who have been denounced by close family members.

— end note



Among Muslims in Germany, only 1 percent say “attacks on civilians are morally justified.” Same with those in France.

Some 8 percent of American Muslims approve of such attacks in some cases – which sounds high until you recall that 24 percent of all Americans say such attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”

If you hear someone in this country preaching violent resistance to the federal government or law enforcement, it’s more likely to be a Texas secessionist than a fanatical follower of Islam.

The assumption among Islamophobes is that there is something intrinsically alien and incompatible about the presence of Muslims in free countries. In truth, they are not visibly different from other groups that have arrived with the mind-set of the past and found themselves transformed into tolerant, loyal and law-abiding souls who value democracy and liberty.

Free societies have a way of doing that.



text checked (see note) May 2008; Apr, Jul, Nov 2010; Apr 2013

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Mona Charen
“Feminism: the wolf in sheep’s clothing”

Creators Syndicate;
published by the Star Tribune Jan. 18, 2006

It is peculiar, but it grew, like so many feminist fantasies, from one foundational error: the idea that men and women are in all important respects alike, and where they are different it is because society has trained them to be so. There are thousands of studies, examples and life experiences that put the lie to this notion, and O’Beirne quotes many. But one stands out particularly. In gauging the attitude of college students toward casual sex, a researcher recently asked college students to approach a member of the opposite sex and say, “I’ve been noticing you around campus. I find you very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?”

Seventy-five percent of men said they’d happily carry out the assignment.

None of the 48 young women assented.

Note (Hal’s):
This columnist and, according to her, Kate O’Beirne, author of Women Who Make the World Worse, both assert that this experiment measures innate differences between men and women, eliminating any effects of societal influences on the subjects, presumably including societally-determined differences in expected responses to the question. I won’t cite the unnamed researcher unless and until I can verify that the study’s conclusions were not grossly misinterpreted.

The thinking (to employ an overly courteous term) behind this galloping twaddlemongery would seem to have three possible causes: hallucinogenic pharmaceuticals, extensive cranial trauma, or the discovery that ideologically “correct” assertions win applause from the targeted audience regardless of the sheer asininity of their foundations.

— end note

text checked (see note) Jan 2006

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Craig Childs
“Hunting, gathering in the modern world”

written for the Los Angeles Times;
published in the Star Tribune, December 10, 2008

A small number of anthropologists studying early hominids have triumphed scavenging as an evolutionary vector that led us to modern intelligence. Meanwhile, anthropologists on the man-the-hunter side of the argument see scavenging as a more primitive function, dirty perchance. They see the more upstanding hominids hauling kills to butchering camps, while us grubby scavengers were defending found carcasses from hyenas and vultures. No doubt early hominids did a little of both, a flexibility that we share today. That’s got to do something for intelligence.



text checked (see note) Dec 2008

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Nick Coleman

additional category: Minnesota

“The gospel truth about some readers”

Star Tribune column, December 17, 2004

Many people say Christians are under siege this Christmas from godless types who want to give us a black eye. I don’t buy it for one simple reason: No one knows how to give us Christians a bigger black eye than the people who call themselves Christians.

This week, a number of my fellow Christians took time from worship to criticize a column I wrote about the homeless. They didn’t write to tell me about their concern for the 8,000 homeless in Minnesota or the fact that half of them are women and kids or that 100 of them died this year.

No, they wrote to say that even though we will always have the poor with us, as Jesus said, that doesn’t mean those poor buggers shouldn’t get out of the way of our SUVs.


Social Darwinism

“Let’s make a deal to survive politics’ slimy embrace”

Star Tribune column, August 18, 2006

Hoping to land a national political convention is like hoping we get an outbreak of cholera. It’ll be inconvenient, but think of the publicity we’ll get!

“Nature is out there, if you’ll just notice”

Star Tribune column, August 2, 2009

Nothing says you’re having fun in Minnesota better than a wet sleeping bag, three-day-old underwear and a four-day growth on your face. Unless it’s listening to the family in the next tent fight over whose turn it is to play on the computer, using the campground Wi-Fi.

I moved our tent to a different camp site after that fun-believable experience, but wound up next to another family who jabbered on cell phones while sitting around their campfire, shouting to make up for the poor cell signal so that their friends back in Burnsville could hear what a great time they were having except for the constant pounding of the Lake Superior surf on the cobblestone shore nearby.

Really, someone should figure out how to make those waves shut up.



text checked (see note) Apr 2005; Aug 2006; Aug 2009

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Gareth Cook
“How nations came to be the way they are”

from the Boston Globe
published in the Star Tribune May 31, 2011

But new research suggests that our essential differences are not economic, political or religious. They are historical, rooted in a people’s vulnerability to war, disease and other threats in the deep past. [...]

In this view, described in the new issue of Science, the world can be divided into cultures that are “tight” and “loose.”

Tight nations are places with strict social rules, less tolerance of deviance. Governments tend to be more authoritarian and intrusive. Protest is rare and frowned upon. Think South Korea.

Loose nations, by contrast, are places where laws are less draconian, conventions more flexible and people less judgmental of others. Think Australia.



When the citizens of a loose nation, such as America, regard life in a tight nation, they find the culture not just mysterious, but ethically wrong. Why should people be so oppressed? What justification could there possibly be for squashing the spirit of individual expression?

But this is what we do not understand: When the citizens of a tight culture view a nation like America, they can experience the same feeling of bewilderment. Who are these people that disregard the rules of civilization? What we see as an inspiring “freedom,” they may see as chaotic, dangerous, indulgent, even disgusting.



text checked (see note) May 2011

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen