Sunday, October 22, 2006


We've all got something to say...

I read several different newspapers online when I have time. Two of my favorites are "The Scotsman" (which does come from Scotland) and "The New Mexican" out of Santa Fe.
Yeah, I also read The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. All of them are more world-weary and comprehensive than the Scotsman and New Mexican. But that's exactly the point.

I live in New Mexico - although not Santa Fe - so the state and regional issues in that paper are of interest to me. New Mexico has more in common with Scotland than anyone here might guess. Both are comparatively rural areas with histories and ethnicities markedly divergent from their countries' federal power centers. Their populations seem to be seen either romantically or dismissively by the majority in London, New York or Washington, and it seems to make them (us?) feel put upon. At the same time both regions benefit from tourism, so you could say they are able to capitalize on their foreignness.

Both newspapers are fairly small and focused on similar issues -- education, the decline and improvement of society's values, the silly or portentious utterances of local politicians -- and both are compact and easy to navigate. All of that helps me enjoy reading them, but none of it is the reason I am so loyal. The reason I look forward to these two publications, along with "Inside Higher Ed" and (until recently) "Jerusalem Online," is because of the reader comments. Unlike the "letters to the editor" that appear in print editions, online comments are subject to immediate response both from the reporter and - even more - from other readers. The monitoring on these two sites is minimal, just enough to avoid libel and profanity. They are so free-wheeling that recently the New Mexican had to suspend comments temporarily because of reader remarks that went too far too quickly.

The New Mexican has a web editor who occasionally edits a post or breaks in with a clarification. The Scotsman probably has something similar, but the volume of comments from time zones all over the globe must be hard to keep up with. A heavily remarked upon item in Santa Fe might have as many as 50 comments, many from repeat posters. Contrast this with a recent report on the Glasgow city council's attempt to ban sexist language: The last time I checked, there were more than 300 posts on the subject. At the bottom of each comment box is a line reading "Report as unsuitable." I know someone must be doing so because I've seen some of the more offensive arguments disappear from one refresh to the next. One of the more narrow minded regulars claims to be from Texas, USA, and I'm still trying to detect whether he is for real or just using a believeable source location for his comments.

Other good sites for reader comments are, the New Republic (but I think you have to be a paid subscriber there) and Chicago Tribune television critic Maureen Ryan's blog. used to have a good "talk-back" feature with people talking about events in Israel and the Islamic middle east, but it has always been visually hard to navigate and lately it has been completely taken over by millennial Christians quoting large blocks of scripture in anticipation of Armageddon.

I'll let Scotsman reader "Ailsa Craig - near Arran" sum it up.
I see "The Scotsman" web-site as being an enjoyable forum for intelligent debate - potentially. But many of the contributors today seem to be hiding behind their pseudonyms and venting their cowardly and pathetic dirty-mindedness. That is totally inappropriate here!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Who would you rather live near?

Read this story from the Chicago Tribune, and tell me who is the bigger menace to society. Is it the Mexican immigrants -- we don't know if they're "legal" or not -- innocently driving along the expressway? Or could it be the heedless, self-centered Anglo in the oversized vehicle?

Cell phone blamed in fatal Dan Ryan crash

By Jeremy Gorner
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 5, 2006, 9:51 AM CDT

A motorist talking on his cell phone was blamed by state police for a fatal crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway this morning that killed a 66-year-old man and injured five others, including an infant.

The driver, Joseph Burks, 30, of Chicago, lost control of his sport-utility vehicle and rolled it over another vehicle, Illinois State Police said. The crash shut down a portion of the southbound expressway (Interstate Highway 94) for nearly an hour.

The accident occurred around 1:30 a.m. near 63rd Street on Chicago's South Side.

Guadalupe Gonzalez, 66, as well as the infant and three other surviving victims, was riding in the vehicle hit by the SUV, state police said.

Gonzalez, whose address is listed in Mexico, was pronounced dead at 2:40 a.m. at St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

None of the other occuapants in Gonzalez's vehicle suffered life-threatening injuries, police said. Three of the injured remained hospitalized this morning at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, while the fourth was treated and released from St. Bernard.

Burks, who was lone occupant of the SUV, suffered minor injuries and refused medical attention, police said. He was issued several traffic citations. Drugs or alcohol do not appear to be a factor in the crash.

Tribune staff reporter Jason Meisner contributed.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Party Politics Make Me Sick

A pox on both their houses! I have my own version of Zalski's "I Hate Democrats" which is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
Please tell me that it is not anachronistic to be a John Stuart Mill liberal in the Republican Party.
Here I highlight one of the key paragraphs I stole from Dennis's column.
(The original will be available soon on -- I hope.)
They forced good candidates out of presidential primaries in favor of a rich kid who is inept at public speaking and a zero as a communicator, and they gave us a war that they never figured out how to win.


Should I Hate Republicans? (I am one)

I hate Republicans and neoconservatives. They seem to hate the American people, want to gleefully act as vilely as our enemies, crush the middle class with taxes, tell us what we can think and how we should live, mangle our free-speech rights, overwhelm the nation with illegal immigrants, make us distrust our own government, destroy small businesses in favor of their rich cronies, regulate our bedrooms and turn us into a bunch of Malthusian victims, human cows to be bred, held captive and milked solely for the benefit of big business.

And that’s why I now despise Democrats even more. Because of their incompetence, greed, corruption, arrogance, blind loyalty, their inability to defend themselves and communicate with the American people—because of their total bumbling—in the past several years, there is a chance that Democrats will blow the chance to take control of both houses of Congress in November.

If that happens, we’re screwed. You’ll see the greatest war against the American people—against our free-speech rights, against our financial freedom, against our freedom to eat what we want, against our security and military—there has ever been. A party that is controlled by extreme right-wingers and religious zealots will try to impose its version of a government-mandated utopia on us all, and it’ll be frightening.

And we’ll have the Democrats to blame for it.

Americans revolted in 1994 when they threw the Democrats out of Congress and gave Republicans control of both houses. They were disgusted with the corrupt, arrogant, The-Government-Knows-What-Is-Best-For-You Democrats.

They were convinced that the Democrats were the cause of ever-climbing taxes that punished ingenuity, ambition, talent and hard work. They blamed Democrats for speech codes that told us we could no longer speak our minds and that we no longer had freedom of speech. Gingrich and his friends portrayed a Democratic party that hated and waged war against the military and the young men and women to defend us and keep us free. Democrats, they decided, held America in contempt and blamed it for everything wrong in the world. The suspected a party that, in the waning years of the Cold War, seemed to prefer stability over freedom, to keep the people of Eastern Europe enslaved by the Soviets.

The American people felt abused and tormented, and they elected Republicans to rescue them from their perceived tormentors and enslavers.

With that election, with that electoral revolt, Republicans had one of the greatest opportunities to do good for a nation and its people that history has ever presented to a group of people in power. They had the opportunity to truly set people free. They had the chance to put government back into its cage and slam the door locked and shut for a long, long time. They had the chance to bring dignity, honor, honesty and a real concern for freedom, American and its people to Washington.

They had the opportunity, and they blew it.

Now it is the Democrats' turn, and they're blowing it their own way.

As a result, we stand to be returned to the control of our tormentors. And if we are, it’ll be awful.

Squandering a golden opportunity, destroying trust that people have put in you—stabbing their hope in the heart with elitist visions, greed, corruption, incompetence and the blind worship of ideological purity—is the worst crime of all.

Republicans slimed themselves up with tubby Newt Gingrich; puffy, money grubbing, Jack Abramoff; the crook, Duke Cunningham of California, slimy; plastic-haired Tom Delay; hypocrite Trent Lott; and now, I Want To Kiss Teenage Boys, Mark Foley of Florida.

They got in bed with power and greed.

Those term limit pledges in the Contract with America were deleted pretty quickly—probably after Republicans got wind of how many teenage pages there are in Washington.

They forced good candidates out of presidential primaries in favor of a rich kid who is inept at public speaking and a zero as a communicator, and they gave us a war that they never figured out how to win.

We asked for respect, decency, honor and competence in Washington, and we got arrogance, corruption, incompetence and contempt. We asked that they represent us, as freedom-loving, hard-working Americans who just wanted a chance to get ahead and keep more of the money we earn. Instead, they represented giant corporations.

We asked for true representation in Washington, and instead, we got professional politicians.

Democrats aren't Republicans. But at this point, what's the difference?

To see the original version of this column, go to

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