Saturday, September 04, 2004
Those Who Forget History...
Write editorials for the Plain Dealer
The horrifying cascade of events Friday that ended a three-day hostage-taking drama at a Russian school had one cause, and one cause only: This was an act of terror without mercy, without wisdom, without justification.
No doubt, there were errors aplenty made by Russian forces in the confusion of fleeing children, rigged explosives going off, and hostage-takers shooting to kill. It's still not entirely clear what precipitated the violent end of the crisis. But the mistakes were of no moment compared with the devilish gamble of those who chose to victimize children in the supposed service of Islam.
It was no service to Islam. Even Palestinian terrorists who disserve Islam with their own murders of children expressed shock. The decision to take over a middle school crammed with young kids and their mothers is an indictment, not the hoped-for attention-getter.
Yes, because while Palestinian terrorists strive to blow up ice cream stores at a strip mall in Tel Aviv, they would never seek to take over a school where students were staying -- killing 22 children and 5 adults. No. Oh, but that was 30 years ago, it's not like the Palestinians still have the same leaders or -- oh, wait.
Self Criticism Only Goes So Far
It shouldn't surprise me, when I read something like this in a piece on the Arab media
's apparent awakening to the fact that oh, 98% of the terrorist activities taking place in the world is done in the name of Allah and the "religion of peace."
Ali Abdullah, a Bahraini scholar who follows the ultraconservative Salafi stream of Islam, condemned the school attack as "un-Islamic," but insisted Muslims weren't behind it.
"I have no doubt in my mind that this is the work of the Israelis who want to tarnish the image of Muslims and are working alongside Russians who have their own agenda against the Muslims in Chechnya," said Abdullah.
Not "merely" Muslims, but apparently 9-10 of the terrorists that were killed were Arabs fighting with the Chechen terrorists. Of course, you know the Mossad. They obviously defrosted some spare Arab bodies they had and planted them to make Arabs and Islam look bad.
<>I can't see too much actual self-criticism by the Arab media really in the piece. It is more about complaining how these acts are about how they harm the image of Islam and Arabs. They only cite one piece that may actually be admitting the problem:
<>"Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture," Abdulrahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya television wrote in his daily column published in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. It ran under the headline, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!"
Al-Rashed ran through a list of recent attacks by Islamic extremist groups ? in Russia, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen ? many of which are influenced by the ideology of Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of the al-Qaida terror network.
"Most perpetrators of suicide operations in buses, schools and residential buildings around the world for the past 10 years have been Muslims," he wrote. Muslims will be unable to cleanse their image unless "we admit the scandalous facts," rather than offer condemnations or justifications.
"The picture is humiliating, painful and harsh for all of us," al-Rashed wrote.
This weekend, when I'm having drinks, I will offer thanks for the separation of church and state.
Friday, September 03, 2004
No One Pays Attention
I don't suppose anyone in the Cleveland area still planning to push the idea of a new Convention Center (I don't suppose the mild heart attack
that expected point man Hagan had would make him consider reality) will want to pay attention to something like this (via Dave Copeland
, and yes, you too Fester
Cities embraced a version of Say’s Law—supply generates its own demand. They assumed that if they built the convention space the conventioneers would come. Well, the boom didn’t happen. In the late nineties, Indianapolis added a hundred thousand square feet of convention space and overhauled its domed stadium, but, between 1996 and 2002, the number of conventioneers in town fell by almost twenty-five per cent. The convention business is still big, but the exhibition-hall glut has made it harder for cities to make money, as they cut prices to tempt guests.
Every city likes to think that it’s special, and it’s true that Atlanta is distinct from St. Paul. But, as far as business travellers are concerned, most cities seem equally charming or dismal, which means, unfortunately, that those cities are selling basically the same product: a giant empty space in a pleasant American burg. The convention business now looks a bit like the old steel and aluminum industries: too many players offering too much of the same stuff. This is known as “commodity hell.” The logical solution is for the industry to shrink, but that’s difficult for cities to do. LTV and Republic Steel can merge; Indianapolis and Louisville cannot.
Instead, they'll advance the typical argument that oh, sure the convention center may lose money in a traditional accounting way, but you can't measure the full impact. Because those conventioners will be so impressed and have such a good time in Cleveland they will come back on their own as tourists. Yeah. Right.
Angie still likes the harness swings, but has become more adventurous and eager to try and do things herself.
Do you like the hair loose?
Or tied back?
She is still a typical 2 year old. Plenty of sudden emotional outbursts and frustrations at not getting instant gratification (okay, she comes by that honestly). Still she has learned to say please when she wants something. The problem is she doesn't always make it clear what she wants:
In a typical scene she will come and take my hand and lead me into the kitchen. Sometimes standing in the middle. Other times by the fridge or drawer where the pretzels and tortilla chips are kept. And then we play 20 questions.
Angie whispers what she wants for some reason rather than saying it clearly to me.
"What do you want?"
"Do you want a pretzel?"
"Scotch? Bourbon? Vodka?"
Pause. Quizzical look at me. Then,"no."
"Of course." (She doesn't say "yes," very often.)
"Can you say, 'Carrot, please.'?"
" 'Carrot, please.' "
More insistent, "Please."
"Carrot ... please."
Giving me the same look I get from her mother when I'm getting on her nerves, "Please."
Finally I give up and just give her the damn carrot.
"Your welcome, Angie."
We're still working on the full sentence thing, rather than single words.
This sort of thing repeats itself when she gets to watch a DVD or listen to music in her room.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Conventions, Commentary and Sports
Haven't watched the RNC, just like I avoided the DNC. Others who watch, especially filtered through a commercial network (unlike C-SPAN) seem to be upset with the non-stop talking
by the anchors, reporters and commentators (Via Instapundit
As President Bush's acceptance speech tonight closes the Republican convention and sends us full speed into the final electoral push, would it be too much to ask one tiny favor of TV's anchors, analysts and pundits?
In the name of all that's holy, shut up.
When exactly did the primary goal of journalists become not talking to news-makers, but talking over them?
You know what immediate thought to that was. I feel the same way when I watch a ball game
and Tim McCarver is doing the color. He just won't shut up. Until my daughter was born, I would regularly just shout out, "Shut the f**k up, McCarver!" Now it comes out like, "Shut the mmphhf-argh, McCarver!"
It isn't just McCarver or baseball. It's all sports. Watch a little ESPN Classic. Watch some of the old baseball or college football games -- even just 5-10 years back. The silence is almost shocking. They let the game speak for itself, giving the basic information and occasionally adding some information. Then watch a broadcast this weekend. Most of it is just junk and the guys in the booth -- or worse when they "toss" it down to the sideline reporter -- are talking over the game. Still discussing a something related to two batters or 5 plays prior.
In sports, it was a slow subtle thing, as the talking just got more and more constant. The convention coverage reads like it is at the same point, but when the events are every 4 years (plus the fact that C-SPAN presents an uncommented version at the same time) it becomes more noticeable.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
"evaluating the information we now have"
The story about the nurse serving in Iraq who was facing foreclosure on her house
, because of her husband leaving (and abandoning their kids) and not keeping up mortgage payments? Looks like the mortgage company
didn't like the negative publicity
now has enough facts to reconsider their position
Rich Geary, the ABN AMRO Mortgage Group's senior vice president for loan administration, said Monday that the company would waive all attorneys' and late fees if she makes up payments she missed while on active duty and stays current on the mortgage.
"In evaluating the information we now have, and especially considering her desire to stay in the house," the company made the decision to forgive the fees, said Geary, who is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"ABN AMRO is very supportive of people in the military, and we are ready, willing and able to help Sgt. Curry."
Until Monday, ABN AMRO was still asking for $3,256 in legal fees before stopping the foreclosure.
Noble of them. That was the problem. Apparently she could make up the missed payments and keep up with the current.
What Is Happening In Eastlake?
Eastlake City Council's Finance Committee released a 32 page plan
this week (of course it isn't on the web).
Proposed cuts totaling $550,000 include eliminating hospitalization for elected officials; laying off three police officers; closing the city's pools, recreation garage, police substation and community center; laying off Eastlake Police Activities League auxiliary police officers and school crossing guards; not replacing a secretary in the recreation department; and eliminating a Laketran subsidy.
The city laid off the school crossing guards last week.
The proposed plan also calls for reducing the city income tax credit from 2 percent to 1.5 percent until the city's fiscal emergency status is lifted or until other revenues are produced.
The recovery plan is being drafted assuming that no further state or federal money will be coming in to pay for the Eastlake Ballpark.
They are still optimistic that they will get around $4 million in State and Federal money that has been delayed for the last couple years. They also expect naming rights money -- someday.
The article indicates that bond payments on the stadium debt are expected to be around $875,000 per year. I'll get back to that in a moment.
The state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission has to approve the plan by the October 3 deadline, or they can reject it and impose their own plan. The plan also leaves the $12 per house garbage collection fee in place ($850,000) for 5 years.
The article said they expect the full City Council to agree to the plan and approve it by their September 22 meeting. Someone forgot to tell the other members
Councilman Ted Andrzejewski doubts that he and his colleagues will agree to some of the plan, including the reduction of the income tax credit, which would raise about $1.3 million a year.
He said Eastlake residents would have to agree to the reduction before he and his council colleagues would vote for it.
Acting Mayor George Spinner said that if council does not approve the income tax reduction, it will have to find $1.3 million somewhere.
Council President Chuck Hillier said he is unsure what council will do, but that it will have to make tough and unpopular decisions in the next few weeks.
The Plain Dealer
article also provides a lot more details on the Eastlake Stadium debt.
Despite the former mayor's vow that the project would pay for itself, the city's minor-league baseball park is likely to cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the next 20 years.
When the park opened in 2003, then-Mayor Dan DiLiberto said the city would bear none of the project's $22 million cost. DiLiberto resigned in April because of health reasons.
But Eastlake has borrowed nearly $27 million for the stadium and related costs.
Principal and interest payments could reach more than $2 million a year.
The city currently receives $700,000 a year in stadium-related revenue.
But don't worry, the business community will grow from development all around the stadium. That in turn will create jobs and more tax revenue. Just you wait and see. Right? Right?
The real translation, is that no matter how you slice it, the Eastlake general fund will have to be tapped to help pay for the stadium. So, the News-Herald Editorial Board (N-HEB), may have to admit the stadium is a major albatross of a financial disaster for Eastlake. Maybe. But not today. Their editorial manages to avoid just about any mention of the stadium and the clear debt burdens tightening around Eastlake. Still, they seemed to have partially gotten the message from the residents about people supposedly in charge the failed levy.
Eastlake voters sent a strong message to City Hall by thumping requests for operating funds - twice.
At the primary election in March and again at a special election in August, voters said by substantial numbers they were unwilling to raise their property taxes to help lift the city out of a $3.2 million financial hole.
Voters issued a mandate - two mandates, really - to find a better way to deal with the deficit than increasing property taxes.
They put the burden squarely on the backs of city officials to come up with a recovery plan that will meet with the approval of a state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission by Oct. 3.
No longer is it short-sighted and math-challenged voters who the N-HEB blame -- at least they are not writing it anymore. It is about solving the problem without just raising property taxes. Still, they can't help but take a backhand slap at the residents of Eastlake:
One other matter: The plan calls for reducing the city income tax credit for residents who work outside the city from 2 percent to 1.5 percent.
That means, for example, those who live in Eastlake and work in cities that collect a 2 percent income tax will no longer receive credit for having paid their full tax. They will owe an additional one-half of one percent to Eastlake. Taxes paid in other cities remain in those cities, they are not returned to Eastlake.
If voters think the cuts are overly severe, well, they are the ones who ordered them.
I think the 1/2 percent may go down to 1/4 before it is approved. Instead, there will be some more cuts. The city has already announced the cuts to the typical items local pols always do to show how severe a budget crisis and failure to approve new taxes -- close the pools, lay off crossing guards for the elementary school, announced the layoffs of 3 cops plus no OT for the present cops. Sorry if I shrug here. You knew they would make these cuts just to shock and get attention. The part time crossing guards saves the city maybe $30,000. Not sure how much the pools and parks stuff really saves -- but it gets attention and bothers people with kids who are desperate to get them out of the house.
Feel like I have been neglecting this site for the last couple of days. Especially concerning Eastlake. Posting a lot, but over at Pitt Sports Blather
. With college football season underway, my attention is definitely more to what is up with Pitt.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Strung Out Amongst the Mennonites
I know, Lebanon
and Lancaster Counties, PA are supposed to be Amish country, but in Lebanon County
(especially the City of Lebanon
) the Mennonites (or Amish-lite as we called them) had a larger footprint. Now seems the County of my youth and where my parents still live has a significant heroin problem
. Big enough that there is talk of building a Methadone clinic
. Apparently there are an estimated 865 heroin users in Lebanon County
, where it is going for $10 a packet. What's going on? This is still a rural area. Shouldn't crystal meth be the drug of choice?
Never had much interest in wanting to try heroin, myself. The idea of hanging around and injecting myself with something hardly seemed like much fun. Had enough of that growing up with allergy shots.
Hold Nose, Pull Lever
Seeing lots people posting about how conflicted they are about this election. Some articles are finally starting to trickle out there. Plenty of good reasons, rationalizations and justifications for going either way, but nobody really seems that enthused with Kerry or Bush. Neither one offers much to stir the heart and imagination as to the future and their leadership. It seems more like, "well this guy probably won't screw things up too badly as compared to the other guy."
I don't know what I'm doing. When Bush decided to push that BS marriage amendment, I knew I couldn't pull the lever for him. I can't vote for someone that seeks to abridge rights and hijack the constitution for their religious beliefs. That hasn't changed. Kerry, I just plain do not like, and have not been impressed with what little substantive proposals and ideas he has put forward -- his latest foreclosing of even discussing any changes to social security is just another example. So I can't hold my nose and pull the lever for him.
At this point I may abstain or throw my vote to a 3rd party. I don't think this is the most important election in my lifetime. Things won't change much one way or another in 4 years with either guy. Abortion will still be legal, guns won't be banned, gays will be further mainstreamed and accepted, the drug war will still be wasting money and lives, the Middle East will still be a mess, terrorism will still be an important issue, free trade will continue to expand, and so on.
Have I mentioned that it is Monday, raining and I'm a little down today?
Return to a Random Thought
Never got around to mentioning this, because I didn't think it that original. The wife watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I caught little snippets on my way back to the kitchen for another drink. I did see the torch lighting. As I watched it, I could only stare agape. Turned to the wife and asked, "does that look like a giant joint?"
She looked at it, and started laughing. I nearly ruined the whole opening ceremonies for her. This giant joint held by some tweezers. You expected some guy at the other end to start taking a puff as they lit it. Still, I didn't see anyone talking about it. But apparently lots were
As college football season has dawned and the time for my 2+ hour drives to Pittsburgh in the early morning hours of a Saturday is less than 2 weeks away, there is a piece on one the final stretch of highway before I hit downtown. I-279 has a single lane HOV (high occupancy vehicle) that was constructed in as part of a massive $550 million dollar project for the 12 mile length of I-279 in the late 80s. The HOV only covers a 4.1 mile area.
Now matter how it is spun and PennDOT tries, the HOV is a bust
. The original rule was that it required 3 or more passengers for use. Problem was there wasn't enough use as, "the average daily traffic count was 525 vehicles over 24 hours and as low as 54 an hour outbound in the afternoon rush." So they eventually dropped the number to 2 passengers which helped.
Even so, the traffic has dropped by 20% from when they originally dropped to 2 passengers in '92. The rest of I-279 has seen traffic increase by more than 20%. The amount of space taken up by the HOV and its barriers could have enabled an additional lane to be opened on both sides of the highway for that stretch. Not that they ever will,
Unlike most urban HOV lanes, designated with diamond symbols and signs restricting use to ride-sharing during rush hours, the I-279 lane is physically separated from the rest of the highway by concrete barriers and is equipped with its own traffic-control devices.
The I-279 lane has shoulders with storm drains that would have to be relocated. And the exit-entry points were never designed to handle large volumes of traffic.
PennDOT officials said it would cost millions to convert the HOV to regular traffic.
I drove the HOV once with a friend to see what it was like. It was not a rush hour, and the car in front of us was being driven by a blue hair. Making it a longer time spent than if we had just gotten on the regular portion of I-279. Complete waste.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Living in Downtown Cleveland
Article/puff piece on residential living in downtown Cleveland
. The great piece was in the "Forum" section, by PD
technology writer and blogger Chris Seper
. This piece
has some great recommendations for encouraging people to live downtown -- well it would if the whole damn piece was on the site. For some reason -- presumably a technical glitch -- most of the article is not online. I disagree with some of the larger recommendations (foreclosing the East Bank of the Flats for condos), but the smaller livability issues are more doable and practical (cheap parking permits for residents). There are plenty of other things that could be done, but this is a good starting point for ideas. Sadly, I doubt the city will actually try them.
UPDATE: The article is now online in its complete form.
Here's a summary of what happened in the year I was born (via Damian Penny
In 1969 (the year you were born)
Richard Nixon becomes president of the US
Senator Edward Kennedy escapes injury when the car he is driving veers off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island
US astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to set foot on the moon while commanding the Apollo 11 mission
Breathtaking pictures of Mars are transmitted to earth from NASA's Mariner 7 as it passes within 2,200 miles of the Red Planet
Woodstock music festival begins in upstate NY, featuring performances by Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and many more artists
250,000 Vietnam War protestors gather in Washington for the largest anti-war rally in US history
The first draft lottery since WWII is held in New York City
The Beatles' performance in public for the last time, on the roof of Apple Records
The Stonewall riots mark the start of the modern gay rights movement in the US
Marilyn Manson, Jennifer Aniston, Renée Zellweger, Edward Norton, Christian Slater, and Linus Torvalds are born
New York Mets win the World Series
New York Jets win Superbowl III
Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup
Sesame Street premieres
Midnight Cowboy wins the Oscar for best picture
David Bowie's debut single, "Space Oddity", becomes a huge hit - in part to the US landing on the moon
Sharon Tate & the LaBiancas are found murdered by Charles Manson & "family"
No other way to put it. ABN AMRO
, especially their Mortgage division
fit the bill with this action
An Army reservist who tends to critically wounded soldiers in Iraq is desperately trying to keep a mortgage company from taking her house away while she's gone.
Sgt. Yyvette Nicole Curry was working with the 629th Forward Surgical Team last spring when she began receiving worrisome reports from friends.
When she returned home on 10-day emergency leave in May, she found a life in disarray — her husband had left her, family members were taking care of her four children, ages 10-16, and a mortgage company was foreclosing on her home.
During leave, Curry filed for divorce, called the mortgage company and made arrangements for her kids. Then she traveled back to her station 30 miles north of Baghdad, where her unit tries to keep wounded soldiers alive long enough to get them to a hospital.
But Curry is now back on another emergency leave, after the mortgage company, ABN Amro Mortgage Group, continued its foreclosure proceedings.
Naturally the company has no comment. Standard Federal Bank is their affiliate for Ohio. This is Standard's contact page. Here's ABN AMRO Mortgage's contact page. And the general contact page for ABN AMRO.
Maybe people should let them know what is thought of their actions, and how it will effect the willingness to do business with a company that treats people like this.