Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lots on my mind, no time to write.
Here's a boy in antlers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Treat

Interestingly, there are reasons beyond simple constitutional rights to put an end to the policy called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The policy has individual and public health ramifications, in the opinion of Dr. Kenneth Katz, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Recognizing that 'don't ask, don't tell' compromises the medical care of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members by stymieing normal lines of questioning in clinical encounters, the American Medical Association rightly came out against the policy in 2009."

 Full Perspective is here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Facts About Voter Fraud and Ineligible Voting: A Report

As a follow-up to my voter ID post, I wanted to point out that this report has been issued by the Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance/Association of Universalist Women.

Here's a story on it from MPR that summarizes the findings.

I'll be reading the 44-page report as soon as I can.

(MUUSJA website here.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Story for Ann

I wrote this story years ago... it could be twenty by now. Six years ago today, my aunt Ann died unexpectedly, and this is one of my best memories of her. And one of my best memories ever. I wish she were here today. She'd get a kick out of my little family.


My aunt Ann was coming out to visit. She had always been my favorite aunt. Her imagination was vivid, and she really knew how to play, even though she was fifteen years older than I. As if summer wasn’t already enough of a pre-school overload for me, there would now be an overabundance of girl things to do. This was going to be an extra special treat.

Summer for me was a wild romp through the mountains of south-western Montana. Almost every year contained those six weeks of passionate playtime, surrounded by endless cow pastures and college students who thought I was a cute kid. It was also six weeks without T.V., but I never noticed. The reason for this unadulterated and often unsupervised experiment in childhood was that my dad taught at a field station in the Tobacco Root mountains, and the family came along. I really didn’t know what he did exactly. I just knew that he was a teacher, the students called him the Limestone Cowboy, he tromped around outside all day, and sometimes graded papers. Us kids could, in turn, sell rocks we found on the hill behind the lab, and peddle Kool-Aid to the students after a hard day in the field.

The nearest town was listed as having 32 people, but these citizens didn’t actually live in the town proper. They were ranchers who were scattered about the out-laying areas and up into the mountains themselves. The town was called Cardwell, and the post office, general store, and gas station were conveniently close - in the same building. Maxine the postmaster sat on her stool behind the counter, and gave my brother the stamp collector illegal postmarks from the town.

I usually passed my time running around in those endless cow pastures, out behind our trailers, negotiating sage brush and cow pies, or playing with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. My brother went around making the sort of trouble that boys make, such as pushing little sisters into creeks and general teasing and badgering. Mom spent her time doing crafts and relaxing. She also had the fun job of keeping Jim and I from severely hurting each other. Ann’s visit was a very exciting addition to an already pleasant routine.

I loved Ann. I was five years old, and she seemed to be perfect. She drew pictures that really looked like what they were supposed to be, loved horses and pretty things, and liked to do my hair with colorful yarn ribbons. She would pick flowers with me, and admire my Barbies. She was almost a better kid than I was.

The morning she was supposed to get in, we drove the one and one half hours to Bozeman, and picked her up at the two-terminal airport. One and a half hours is an eternity in the life of an antsy five year old, and I’m sure that my excitement and anticipation contributed to making me one of the most charming little chatterboxes around. I would imagine that I annoyed my parents with all sorts of trivia, perhaps adding in a song or two as I gazed out the window at the scenery speeding by, wondering if we would ever get there.

The plane landed, Ann walked into the airport, and everyone had their chance to say “hi.” The whole ride home consisted of boring grown-up questions such as “How was your flight?,” and “How is college?” By the time another agonizing ninety minute ride was over, and we were back at the camp.

I wanted Ann to dive immediately into playland. But it wasn’t to be. She had to rest Maybe she was an adult after all; they sleep all the time.

The next morning, I woke earlier as usual, as kids often do when they are overly excited about something. It was better than Christmas. Well, almost better than Christmas. I went out into the small living room as quietly as possible, because that was where Ann was sleeping, and made as much noise as possible. I ate the cookies that dad always left for me, dragged the chairs over the cheap linoleum floor, and banged the cabinet doors. Ann, to my horror, woke up. Mom woke up also, and I found out that Dad was actually in camp grading. Wonderful. Everyone would be home to show me a good time. All I had to do was sit back, be cute, and let them do their best to make me happy.

The day was mine. My father arrived and he, Ann, my brother and I planned to trek all the way across the river to Rattlesnake Butte. A hike! Off we went, I in my embroidered Toughskins, striped knit shirt, and blue children’s hiking boots, was ready to go. We left the trailer and headed down the newly-tarred dirt road, over the South Boulder River, and back up the other side to the mountain, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Rattlesnake Butte was really not a mountain, it was only a small foothill of a foothill in the Tobacco Roots, covered with brush and outcrops of jagged rock. It was tiny.

It was surrounded by the beginnings of the actual mountain range, which made it look even smaller. The only thing which made it remarkable and lent it its exotic movie-western name was that one of the teacher’s dogs was bitten by a rattlesnake on top of it.

But I was five. Almost everything was bigger than me. A whole hill was huge. And the distance traveled was practically an odyssey, complete with obstacles meant to trip up the unsuspecting wanderer. A system of metal bars two inches wide and four inches apart familiar to anyone in the west blocked our passage to the promised land of adventure: a cattle guard. My father’s Super 8 movie camera caught, in visual proof, my brother actually being nice to me. We were attempting to cross this cattle guard when I hesitated. A better name for these contraptions would be “childrenguards.” Jim went ahead and showed me how easy it was, and returned to take my hand to guide me over the treacherous thing. Once I was safely on the other side, he went across and back just one more time to prove to me that he needed no help. Rattlesnake Butte now loomed over us. We went through the gate into the empty cow pasture over to the slope and began our hike.


It was all easy at first. We went slowly, Ann and I picking flowers as we went, Dad following with the camera, and Jim, once again, running ahead to show us how easy it all was. Then Dad dropped a bombshell. He had to go back to the camp to grade more papers. I suddenly had the choice to stay and go on with Ann and Jim, or to go back with my Dad. It might seem like this would have been an easy choice to make, but I loved my daddy, and if he was leaving, I felt I should, too. After standing on the hill with my dad below me and Ann above me, looking back and forth at both of them, and jumping up and down while shaking my hands, I decided to stay and continue the trip.

We reached the top of Rattlesnake Butte and began to explore. I had been up there many times before, but Ann made it seem like a completely different place. The small pine trees, large rocks, and sagebrush became a hideout for the good guys.

We were being chased by a group of nasty robbers. They were after us because we knew too much. We had witnessed their last heist, and were determined to turn them in. We perched ourselves behind some rocks near the edge of the hill, and looked down upon the dirt road. We were worried-it seemed like we couldn’t be missed, and these guys were ruthless. They would show no mercy, so what if we were kids.

A lone car appeared. It came around the corner on our left, around the hill, a cloud of dust following it. They were driving fast. Was it the robbers? I felt my heart speed up, and a lump grew in my throat. The car passed without incident. Ann held her breath through it all, trying to be brave. I couldn’t handle it. I could never handle fear. I had to go to the bathroom. I retired to the bushes for a short amount of time while Jim and Ann held down the fort. As I returned, another car approached. I was advised to duck, which I did. The car went by. Ann was sure it was the bad guys, she remembered the car. It passed out of sight up the valley.

“Listen,” she said, “They didn’t see us.” She was whispering, even though the only thing there was to hear in this wilderness was a bird, maybe a cow. Her ponytails were almost quivering with fear, “It will be a while before they realize that we aren’t up there. The road ends five miles up. If we make a run for it now, we should be able to make it home before they come back.” Admiration almost poured out of my eyes. She was fearless. She was pretty. She was smart. She didn’t condescend. Ann knew everything. We took one last peek at the road, looked at each other for reassurance - Jim informing us that there was really nothing to worry about, , and made a break for it. We tore down the side of the hill, through a herd of wandering cattle who didn’t even realize what peril we were in, and took off down the road.

We didn’t stop until we reaches our trailer.

“I think we made it,” Ann said, “Let’s eat lunch.”

We went inside. The robbers never found us. Ann was so smart, and she had her priorities straight. Food before fear.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earmarks built my...

earmark: a provision in Congressional legislation that allocates a specified amount of money for a specific project, program, or organization.

National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental Program, Center for Civic Education Programs, MN National Guard Counter-Drug Support program, Central Corridor Light Rail Program, Camp Riley Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, Upper Mississippi River System Program, National Rural Water Association, Northstar Commuter Rail Line, breast cancer research program, Lewis and Clark Rural Water System, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, Ultra Light Utility Vehicles for the National Guard, MN National Guard Reintegration Program, Highway 14 construction projects, Hastings Bridge over the Mississippi, Aircraft deicing apron, Wind energy, waste water treatment, City of St. Paul to provide tutoring, mentoring and other educational programs and resources for after-school programs, Minnesota Humanities Center, St. Paul, MN for teacher professional development, which may include honoraria, Sheriffs Youth Programs of Minnesota to expand SYP's program for at-risk youth, Metropolitan State University, St Paul, MN, to expand nursing education, Olmsted County Community Services, to implement and sustain a performance based child protection system preventing child abuse and neglect, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Credit Counseling Capacity Building, St. Paul, MN, fire trucks in Eagan, Children's Hospitals & Clinics, for equipment, City of St. Paul to replace the warning siren system that is used to warn the public about tornadoes, terrorism, and hazardous material emergencies...

To name just a few things, in the state of Minnesota, in the past three years. Every state has them; every state gets them; they are sponsored by republicans and democrats, and they are often how we pay for things as a government and a people. Are there bad earmarks? Probably. Just like how the majority of people are good, with a few bad ones. Stuff that's bad stands out. Good stuff doesn't. Good stuff just is, and we rely on it. It does not make news when a bridge doesn't fall down, every day, all over the country.

Mostly, earmarks are only bad when the other guy gets them or when they don't make sense to us, on the surface. That fruit fly research sounded ridiculous, until we found out that it could lead to new understanding in the root of autism spectrum disorders.

This seems like another non-issue, like voter fraud. It certainly is not going to make or break the budget or the deficit. After all, earmarks don't change the amount of money spent or appropriated, they direct it to certain projects, institutions, or organizations. But like every other non-issue, it will get people whipped up into a frenzy, even as they cut themselves off at the ankles.

Famously, the republicans in the Minnesota Congressional Delegation undertook a moratorium on earmarks last year, leaving the democrats to request funds for the republican districts, as was the case when Congresswoman McCollum submitted requests for Congressman John Kline's district. Did you know that, 2nd District?

This is what people don't get: earmarks do things. They build things. They put people to work. They retrain people. They help soldiers re-enter society. They support our teachers, our firemen and women, our police. When a representative declines an earmark or does not request one, in the name of political grandstanding, that individual is doing no harm to him or herself, but does harm constituents. The brilliant thing in the rhetoric is that the constituents don't even have to know.

Now, Congresswoman Bachmann wants to redefine earmarks to not include transportation projects, so she can ask for funding for her district, and not be asking for earmarks.

I see.

Now that you have the ball, the goalposts are over there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Charity 3.0

Long before Target Corporation donated money to an outside group supporting Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, I often found myself pondering their charitable giving programs, like the money they give to schools. I thought, "Well, wouldn't it be nice if they didn't have to do that, perhaps by advocating for better public policy that would benefit schools over the long term?" This random thought came into higher relief when the "Minnesota Forward" news broke, and I severed my ties to the retail chain.

People kept saying things like, "But they do so many good things," and I kept coming back to, "Sure, but they are supporting political candidates who, in my mind, are not crafting policy that could make substantive, long term, positive impact on public problems. So, they must be doing it only for the tax breaks and good public relations, and are possibly perpetuating the necessity for their charitable intervention, for the foreseeable future, as schools come to rely on this sort of intervention to make ends meet.

I want substantive change.

This keeps coming up. Recently, I read an article in which the world's richest man said that the only thing that will help people is employment. Charity begets charity. And while I don't agree with many of his sentiments (the World's Richest Man can say just about anything because, well, he has a crap load of money to back him up), it's an interesting proposition. This was brought into further relief when a colleague forwarded me this video:

First as Charity, Then as Farce



Aside from being a really nifty piece of work from a creative and technological standpoint, Slavoj Zizek raises some interesting issues about charity, bringing in a critique of "cultural capitalism," in which "doing good" becomes a part of the transaction. In this model of capitalism, "through the consumerist act, you buy your redemption from being only a consumerist," he says.

It's what I do all the time. I have to buy stuff to live, so I might as well buy stuff and make myself feel good at the same time. But if  "the proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that [insert social ill here] will be impossible," how do we do that? Can we do both? Where do companies like Target fit into that mix? Does capitalism necessitate and perpetuate charity, and is it possible to use to tools of capitalism to change social ills, or is capitalism antithetical to positive social change?

Friday, November 5, 2010

ID Me

I served as an election judge again this past Tuesday for the general election. It was only my second time doing so, the first being at the primary in August. I enjoy being involved in our political process, and this seemed like a logical extension of that. It's a long day (14 and a half hours, at the least), but it goes by surprisingly fast, even when turn-out in your precinct is only 22%, as it was for the primary (this was unfortunately rather high, in reality). I knitted six washcloths that day.

On November 2, I did not expect to get that much knitting done (only four much smaller dishcloths) because turn-out would be higher. Indeed, we had 59% in our precinct, which is also, unfortunately, considered high.

We were warned by our head judge that there may be issues with voters wearing "ID Me" buttons or insisting that we check their ID. Just a few days before the election, the Supreme Court had denied a case brought by "Tea Partiers", in which they wanted the right to wear these materials. It was deemed to be covered by the "no campaign or political materials in the polling place" law, and we were to ask people to cover any such items. This includes sample ballots from specific parties and tee shirts that say "Wellstone!", even though he was clearly not running for election.

I did not see any buttons that said "ID Me," but I did have some rather forceful or snide individuals, muttering comments or stating outright nonsense regarding voter identification. I was only on the roster table for a few hours, so I am not sure what other judges may have heard, but I had three notable people offer their opinions. One woman was rather incensed, having "just found out today that Minnesota does not require ID to vote."

"I mean, that's ridiculous."

"It's the law, " I replied.

"Well, it's a stupid law," she said.

Another muttered, when I said that it was the law, "No wonder this state is so screwed up."

The final major comment was from a gentleman who proffered his ID in my face. When I said that we do not require ID, he said he knew, but wanted me to check his ID. I said it was the law that Minnesota does not require ID to vote, and I asked his last name. He remained silent and held the ID in my face. Once I had given him his ballot receipt, he said "It's the government's law that you have to have ID on you at all times. It's the law."

I closed my lips together firmly to keep from answering. He moved on.

Now, I have to say, "Really?" Where does he live, and where is he getting this information, and moreover, why does he believe it?

Voter fraud is a current specter striking fear into the hearts of white people across America. As this issue does divide mostly along partisan lines, with republicans favoring more Voter ID requirements and Democrats being against them, I have to ask the question, "Why?"

Is voter fraud a big problem? If so, would identification laws solve it? What's the big deal about requiring ID? You need ID for a lot of things, and voting is pretty important, so requiring ID to do so seems innocuous. Why does it divide along party lines? Who benefits and who loses? Why do some people assume that everyone else is lying, even when they themselves never would? Why didn't these people get upset in 2000 or 2004 when there were massive voting irregularities? Do they believe that liberals are stealing elections through voter fraud, and ID laws will fix that? Do they think that Minnesota is the only state that does not require ID?

In reality, 24 states do not require ID, and the other 26 have varying degrees of requirements. (National Conference of State Legislatures) Furthermore, from what I could gather, voter fraud of the type that would be caught by requiring ID is so rare as to be statistically uncountable, leading Project Vote to say:

"Voter identification requirements, while increasingly popular in state legislatures around the country, are a solution without a problem."

So, if voter fraud via voter impersonation is not a real problem (Again, the kind that would be caught by requiring Voter ID), then what is this really all about?

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as much as 12% of the eligible voting population does not have a government-issued photo ID. The majority of these people are seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, students, and women. It seems to me that Voter ID hoopla is meant to instill fear in a certain sector of the population, that certain other sectors of the population are voting illegally, so that ID laws can be passed, making it harder for those certain other sectors of the voting population to vote.

If we are truly concerned about fairness in elections, then we need well-funded, well-trained election oversight departments and officials, who can track down irregularities when they occur. We need to pursue cases of voter intimidation, which, unlike voter impersonation, actually do happen. We need to make information about voting and voting rights as well as election and polling information easily available to the voters.

The "Voter ID" issue is a low-hanging fear-fruit. It "sounds good" when you hear it, and people will shrug, thinking it's no big deal. That's often because they have not thought any deeper about the issue, such as barriers to obtaining government-issued ID, how those barriers affect different groups of people, and who it is that these laws would keep from voting.

It only "sounds good" when you don't have to think about it, and it doesn't affect you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good job, America

Citizens United (for Undisclosed Donors) has helped to make sure that we have no idea who is behind the funding of  42% of outside dollars, and this was the most expensive midterm election in American history.

It's nice to know that in these trying times of 9.6% unemployment and general economic hardship, America can still scrape together 4 billion dollars to elect new officials.

Every big election season, it bugs me. I get those nice, ideal, frolicking-in-the-meadows visions of what other things that kind of money could do, and think things like, "We can spend 4 billion dollars buying an election, and that doesn't seem to bother us, while people are out of work, can't feed their families, and are losing their homes?" In fairness, of course, 4 billion dollars would not buy much on a national scale for large groups of people... but still... I see that number, and I think, "The money is out there... we have a big distribution problem..."

Real, substantive (there's that word again) campaign reform needs to happen to level the playing field for all, and give us a break from the noise, which is becoming unceasing, and is certainly not making the American voter any smarter or nuanced, but the likelihood that we will see that anytime soon has dwindled to pretty much nothing.

Congratulations, Minnesota 8th CD!

And a very warm thank you from the rest of the state.

By voting out Congressman Jim Oberstar, you have tossed out 36 years of leadership, pretty much marking an end to Minnesota's vast national influence in transportation issues, while making sure that funding for major infrastructure projects is greatly reduced.

This is one of those examples where one can say, "Well, you get the government you deserve up there," but this has implications for the entire state as well as the region. So, they get their government, and I get it, too.

It kind of goes for the whole state, with the new republican-led legislature. Everyone who voted for it will get what they deserve, but so will I. If you work for a public or quasi-public institution, as both the wage-earners in my family do, your job will be hanging in the balance. This is not alarmist, it's a real possibility. And if we lose our jobs, it's not like the private sector is poised to take us on with its booming job market. (And don't tell me that a new, republican legislature is going to create a booming job market.)

So maybe we take on jobs that don't quite pay the bills. In any case, our child would have to come out of day care, which could affect their enrollment to such an extent that they have to let people go, who are then also on the job market.

I won't be stocking up on water, tinned food, and ammunition in the next few months, but I will be cutting back on expenses and paying down our recent home improvements as quickly as I can, just in case.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote, America.

"...because he won't raise my taxes..."

It's time to Vote, America. And you may be hearing a lot of people making the above statement, as in, "I am voting for [fill in the blank] because he/she won't raise my taxes."

This has never occurred to me as I make my choices at the polling place. I don't get all worked up about my taxes or about my having to pay taxes (though I may get worked up about fairness). In my mind, they are the price we pay for living in a civilized society, with a stable government, a cared-for population, and a working, solid infrastructure. Now, we may not always be getting what we pay for, and we can't all have our way. We don't get to send in our tax forms with a check box, stating that we want our share of the federal pot to pay for schools, health care, public transit, and aid to families. Nope, us bleeding hearts get to pay for wars and pricey government contracts to Halliburton, plus tax breaks for wealthier citizens and corporations as well as our little pet projects.

So what do I vote for, and why do I vote as I do?

First and foremost, I am looking for a person who is reasonable and rational, and who seems to have the capacity for thoughtful consideration of not only solutions, but of the problems and their causes. This is not always easy to discern in our heated political climate of overblown rhetoric, grandstanding, and fear-mongering, but I can look for certain things, such as whether or not a candidate "believes in" anthropogenic global warming and/or evolution. If he or she does not, I am going to hold all their opinions suspect. If he or she is not behaving in a fact-based manner about these issues, then he or she is either ignorant of or anti- science or is pandering to a segment of the population that is fundamentalist and denialist. How can I trust that person's ideas on how to tackle public problems, if they lack the cognitive sophistication to understand scientific evidence at its most basic? Are they intelligent enough to tackle complicated economic issues?

In Minnesota, our departing governor (who is coming for the GOP nomination in 2012; indeed, we rarely see him here. If you find him, you can keep him.), refused to "raise taxes" even as the economy tanked. He denied a tool in the public policy box, unable or unwilling to recognize that we needed revenue, using accounting shifts and cuts to human services to "balance" the budget, and we are now facing a 5.8 billion dollar deficit. His refusal to raise taxes resulted in some higher fees as well as higher property taxes and various referenda and assessments levied by counties and cities to raise necessary revenue.

It is ridiculous to remove a tool from your policy toolbox. No family, sitting around the kitchen table, would say, "Well, we won't look for ways to increase our revenue. We can only look for ways to reduce our expenses."

If you are running for governor in this state, and you are saying that you will not only not raise taxes, but will lower them in some instances, and you will balance the budget, then you are, quite frankly, either lying or you are deluded. The idea here is that you keep the revenue the same (or you even cut it somewhat), and all the difference is made up in cuts to government. Then businesses and rich people will create jobs and buy more stuff. It makes some average voters scream and cheer, but the reality is that cutting government is cutting people. Cutting jobs, cutting income, cutting into purchasing power of not only individuals but government itself, which pays many private industries through contracts ranging from construction to professional development to consulting.

Everything is connected, and someone always has to pay. Cut over here, and you will lose over there.

And people who lose their jobs often wind up on public assistance of some sort, be it unemployment or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Because what often happens is that the people who can least afford to lose their jobs are the people who are cut first, straight from the bottom. With fewer resources to begin with and less of a voice in the public sphere, they disappear into statistics, but they show up in the budget.

It is not reasonable or rational to look at any problem and put away some of your tools without even considering them and their relevance to the job at hand. What I am looking for is evidence of thoughtful consideration and the ability to apply that consideration to a variety of problems, using a variety of tools. I am looking for someone who can recognize facts, process them, and disseminate them to the general public without obfuscation.

Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, that person does not usually get elected in America.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mr. President

This past weekend, I volunteered at a rally that featured President Obama. I was working in the Accessibility area, right next to the stage. When the President went down to the crowd to shake hands, the people who could walk (including other volunteers) rushed to the front. I stood about a third of the way back, near an older gentleman who sat in a wheelchair, wearing his veteran's hat and jacket.

I thought "If anyone should be shaking the President's hand today, it's this man." So I asked him if he would like to try, and he said yes, after only a little equivocating. I asked his wife if I should lend my arm, and she said, "Yes." He stood with some help from me and from his cane, and we moved a few inches forward and waited. I said I would get the President's attention when he came along. I asked him where he served, and he said "Korea, for 19 months." He said he would like to say "Hello" to his commander, and did I think his commander would like to say hello to him. I said that I thought he would. We talked about how exciting it all was. Senator Dayton shook his hand when he came along, and when President Obama came by, amid the screams and outstretched hands, I shouted "Mr. President!" and pointed to the gentleman next to me when I caught his eye. The President shook his hand and said thank you. The Veteran greeted his commander.

The President moved on, and I helped the Veteran regain his seat.

"You made his day," said his wife. "Thank you."

I am not sure whose day was made more, really.


It's hard to tell here, but there are two senators, a vice president, and a mayor in this picture.
(Sens. Franken and Klobuchar, Vice President Mondale, and Mayor Coleman of Saint Paul).


Eight Years Ago Today, We All Lost Something

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So much for that better standing...

Thanks to moronic displays from people like Christine O'Donnell, we are becoming the laughing stock of the entire world.

"Fortunately senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution."-Christine O'Donnell

Is it better to be hated or pitied?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

"No single group should ever presume to claim special ownership of the founding fathers or the Constitution they wrought with such skill and ingenuity. Those lofty figures, along with the seminal document they brought forth, form a sacred part of our common heritage as Americans. They should be used for the richness and diversity of their arguments, not tampered with for partisan purposes"

-Ron Chernow "The Founding Fathers Versus the Tea Party"
NYTimes, September 27, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Mississippi River You May Never See

I live near the Mississippi River. I work 500 yards from the Mississippi River. I grew up in a town on the river southeast of here. When I moved to this state at the age of ten, I was in awe of the fact that I was living on the western side of a geographical celebrity, lauded by Mark Twain and other artists; a waterway of continental historical proportions. I came to take it for granted, but every once in a while, it hits me again: that's the Mississippi River. This happened just a few days ago when babywhumpus pointed to the river and said "lake." I told him it was a river, the Mississippi River, and he repeated "Mississippi" perfectly. I again felt the pleasant weight of history, and felt fortunate to live here.

For the last four years, the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum of Natural History has been working on a film about the river entitled "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," and it was due to premiere on October 3.

Not anymore.

(Pay special note to the update in the grey box, because it could be that something fishy is going on at the University, and that's quite simply the last thing we need.)

From an administrative and budgetary perspective, pulling a premier this late means that money has been lost in labor and materials, simply related to the event. That's not even addressing the costs associate with the film itself. Something like this will continue to feed into a public mistrust of government and the University that has been planted and tended by our current governor (himself a graduate of the University). We have enough people taking aim at us without shooting ourselves in the foot.

All this to say: make some calls; send some emails. Might as well flood the president's office and copy URelations. Tell your friends. I don't know about you, but as a citizen of Minnesota, an alum of the U, and a current employee, I'd like to see this movie.

Via e-mail: upres@umn.edu
Via U.S. mail:
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Via phone: 612-626-1616
Via fax: 612-625-3875

URelations
e-mail: urelate@umn.edu
Office of University Relations
3 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: 612-624-6868
Fax: 612-624-6369



Link: Professor P.Z. Myers' post on this issue.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Resigned to New

(Cross-posted with babywhumpus)

I love my International Harvester refrigerator. They only made them for seven years, and mine is a 1952, I think. It came with the house, and I made sure to write it and the 1951 Tappan range into the purchase agreement.


They both still work, and they have been our fridge and stove for the past nine years, rumbling along like the beautiful workhorses they are. This summer, however, the thermostat on the oven went, so I can't bake anymore. (It shoots from off to 500 in a matter of minutes, rendering all cookies dark puddles of carbon.) And I grew tired of emptying out the freezer every two weeks to defrost it. It would be caked with ice to the point of barely opening, and the food in it would be buried like a baby mammoth in a glacier. It sucked the cold out of the fridge leaving bottles sweaty and cool and vegetables flaccid as a... well, let's just say limp and lifeless. With the two-year-old running at peak intensity, there's little extra time for such things as defrosting, and I could no longer remember what I had hauled down to the chest freezer in the basement, causing me to repeat food purchases, laying in a stockpile against some near-future armageddon, perhaps sometime soon after the Minnesota governor's race is decided.

I came to a decision: the stove would have to be fixed. After perusing the new choices, I felt only despair that we seem to have lost all sense of how to make something utilitarian have real style. Plus, nothing had the same usefulness of my Tappan. Coincidentally, an almost exact model showed up at the ReUse Store, so we bought it for parts. It's in the garage. I still have to get the thermostat out and swap, and here's hoping that it works. It's on the list.


The refrigerator would have to be replaced. Almost all the new ones are ugly (I don't like stainless steel, and the white ones are lifeless hulks), and the 1950's-styled models are just a bit out of my rational price range. We settled on one that, while not terribly attractive, has made our lives better in an ineffable and completely materialistic way. It keeps food cold, it has a bottle rack for beers (though no bottle opener on the inside handle latch, like the IH). It's not "femineered" like the International, but what is, really? I put an old metal bottle opener on a strong magnet on the outside of the new fridge, and the old one is, you guessed it, in the garage. It still works, it just needs to be restored a little bit, and I want to find someone who will do so or who will at least use it and take care of it.


Another thing on the list.

But I got to take "defrost" off the list, so it all works out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This pretty much sums up my mood right now.

Oh, Please

I've been really busy lately; I am tired, and I have almost no patience left for idiocy. Something is again making the rounds out there in the "news" world, which exhausts me to the point of exasperated, glassy-eyed rage. I don't have time for this. Collectively, as a country, we don't have time for this.

President Obama, our duly-elected, American-born President of the United States, does not have to tell us what religion he is. Indeed, it's one of the many things that make this country great. So it does not matter if he's Christian, Muslim, or, indeed, if he is neither of those things and doesn't believe in a higher power. It's unfortunate that the political landscape in America makes it practically impossible to get elected unless you are a Christian, and that those who are most concerned with this are also often the ones waving the flag and bleating about "freedom," but it's not a real requirement. I think that Colin Powell summed this up best during the campaign:


"I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said, such things as, 'Well, you that know Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

So people, please. I know it won't happen, but President Obama could be a circle-dancing pagan, and it would not make a difference. He's the president. I am sorry that it freaks some of you out, but there it is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Target & Best Buy: Make it Right?

A lot of people and organizations are calling on Target to "make it right" by giving an equal amount to an off-setting recipient.

Sorry. There's no way to off-set this. Giving money to an LGBTA cause won't take back the publicity and air-time that Tom Emmer is getting from Minnesota Forward. It also won't help out science education, immigrants, choice, the environment, or facts. The opposite recipient would be a PAC that is running ads for Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, who is the Democratic Farmer-Laborer (DFL) endorsed candidate for Minnesota governor, and clearly, that would be a ridiculous thing to do.

This is still a hot topic here in Minnesota, and it's getting national play, too, from the Human Rights Campaign and Moveon.org.

Something that's missing from the debate, as I have been hearing it, is that it's not just about gay marriage and equal rights for LGBT individuals. It's much broader, and it concerns other issues that are equally important. Tom Emmer does not believe in evolution or anthropogenic global warming. Tom Emmer is anti-choice. Tom Emmer wants to continue the same economic policies of Tim Pawlenty, who is leaving us with a 5-6 billion dollar budget deficit problem.

Not to mention the insinuation that the other candidates for governor are pro-business, the false dichotomy that one cannot be pro-labor and pro-business, which is tied to the mistaken idea that jobs do not, somehow, equal people.

My boycott of Target continues, and it took me to Goodwill on Friday, where I got some cute clothes, including a shirt that originally came from Target. It's reminding me that when I go to Target, so do millions of other people, and we wind up with the same stuff. Also, when I only go to Target, I keep seeing the same brands, over and over again. It's nice to branch out. I am feeling liberated because I am not stopping at one place; I think it will re-open my city, at least in the material sense.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Other Parents

One would think that other parents would be your most forgiving allies in the parenting journey, and sometimes they are.

Other times, not so much.

Those other times are when your neighbors, who are also parents of a two-year-old, have friends over for a backyard fire and stay up making loads of noise until 1:00 in the morning, making it impossible for you to go to sleep at ten when your own two-year-old has gone to sleep. And you know full well that the most sleep you can possibly get, if the boy sleeps, is five hours. If you are very, very lucky. But you know that the odds of this are small, as he has only slept through the night once in the past three weeks.

You go to bed at 1:00, when it is finally relatively quiet, and you can't get comfortable so you lie awake. At 1:45 when you are just about to maybe be able to relax enough so you might fall asleep, the boy wakes up. So you manage to get to sleep at around 2:15 or so. And then your uterus wakes you up at 5:15 with screaming cramps, so you get up and take some ibuprofen. But before you can get back to sleep, the boy wakes up and wants pillow. By the time he goes back to sleep, you are awake. Miserable, but awake.

So, no. I am not the best ally my neighbor parents could have today.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Target's Form Letter Response

It's nothing I didn't already know and address in my letter to them. They support both sides, candidates who they think will help their retail business, blah blah blah. It's not going to change my mind, and I still don't believe that "republican economic policies" are really better for the economy as a whole, including businesses. It seems that, after eight years of  "no new taxes" and cutting spending under a republican governor here in Minnesota, we have a 5 billion dollar deficit. Sure, it's part of a broader nation-wide recession, which seems to have been brought about by the same economic policies, deregulation, spurious mortgage practices, and interesting securities trading.

Target has its say (bold-faced choices are mine):

guest.relations@target.com
Fri, Jul 30, 2010
at 8:35 AM

Dear Karen McCauley,

Target has long believed that engaging in civic activities is an important and necessary element of operating a national retail business. What's more important than any one candidate's stance on a particular issue is how we nurture thoughtful, long-term growth in the state of Minnesota.

Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives.* To continue to grow and create jobs and opportunity in our home state, we believe it is imperative to be engaged in public policy and the political process. That is why we are members of organizations like the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and many others. And that is why we decided to contribute to MN Forward.

MN Forward's objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority. We operate best when working collaboratively with legislators on both sides of the aisle.  In fact, if you look at our Federal PAC contributions year to date, you will see that they are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats.** For more information please visit www.target.com/company, and view the Civic Activity page.

Target has a large stake in Minnesota's future, which is why it is so important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders.*** As an international business that is proud to call Minnesota home, it is critical that we have a business environment that allows us to be competitive. Our guests, team members, communities and shareholders depend on Target to remain competitive.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Hanson
Target Executive Offices
[THREAD ID:1-7HS3H5]


*That's nice. As I have said, you can't just elect the business policies, and I continue to questions whether those business policies are really better for the economy and for business.


**Thanks for playing. I said you would say that, and that's why I included it in my letter to you.

***You are not delivering on all those commitments by supporting a candidate like Tom Emmer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Waste of Fossil Fuel

Let's say I want to base my arguments against cloning using "Jurassic Park" as a source. This is clearly a cautionary tale, that shows us how we should not mess with Mother Nature because Mother Nature will inject a sedative saliva into our muscles, paralyzing us so we can be consumed at leisure by procompsognathus.

Hence, no cloning.

That's pretty much what I hear when someone says that what the Bible supposedly has to say about gay marriage is clear, important, and a basis for lawmaking.

Says one J.P Auer of Albany, Minnesota:

"I think (gay marriage) is certainly a tipping point for Christians who care about this issue... For Christians to ignore this issue is absurd."


Absurd. An interesting choice of words for someone citing a bunch of hand-me-down scrolls and parchments from the 3rd century BCE as evidence for how we should live our lives in 21st century United States of America.

Oh, by the way, That NOM rally happened yesterday in Saint Paul. Here's another quote:

"The family is a profound, beautiful thing and deserves to be protected with all our strength,"--Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage

Applause! I agree with that statement! Families should be supported and encouraged, whatever demographics they represent.

I think it might be that last part where Mr. Brown and I disagree.

There was a peaceful counter-protest by LGBT people and allies, and Mr. Brown went so far as to praise their civility. (Minnesotans are so nice.) Apparently, someone on the LGBT-A side had a sign that read "God Made Rainbows So I Could Catwalk Into Heaven," which pleases me to no end.


For some people, the issue is clear because the Bible is against it. It's an argument that should hold no water with anyone, let alone lawmakers (that whole pesky anti-establishment thing) because the Bible is for a heck of a lot of things that are considered bad ideas. Not to mention that the Bible is a book written centuries ago by random people with their own points of view and agendas. If we get to bring really old books to the law-making discussion, how about Beowulf?


I bet Grendel could teach politicians a thing or two.


P.S. Roseville, Minnesota Senator John Marty (DFL) has a bill in favor of gay marriage, and I say we all give him our support. Even in times of severe budget crisis, our government can find the time to address human rights issues. Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is, of course, against it, so our upcoming governor's election is incredibly important.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Town Hall

Great Thundering Thor, does everyone need a Dear John Letter from me this week? I work near this place, and am scheduled for a business lunch there tomorrow! Town Hall, why? What are your reasons for canceling this show? Thanks to Professor Myers for pointing this out.



Town Hall Brewery.

Best Buy, Too

Electronics retailer Best Buy can be expecting a similar break-up letter from me, as soon as I have a moment to do some research.

Life Without Target, Part One

I needed a blender and a new food processor, one that would allow me to process things all at once instead of in small batches. I'm keeping the little red one, or Kevin, as he is fondly known, but something larger had to be acquired. My old blender is not very good at blending, which makes it not terribly useful. Plus, last time I used it, aside from not blending, there was that lovely smokey aroma electrical appliances get when their belts are fried (hence the not-blending).

Normally, this is a Target trip. As it happens, I had checked Target previous to my embargo, and knew that they did not have what I wanted. I stopped at the local foodie store, and they didn't have what I wanted, either. What was I to do?

Neighborhood hardware store!*

They have everything, in a smaller space, with more variety. It got my food processer and my blender. I am trying out one of those immersion/stick thingies that I had assumed were a fad, but several sources seem to swear by them. I admit, I don't totally understand them, but I have not tried it out yet. They did cost more, I am sure, but the experience was much more enjoyable and easier. I didn't have to deal with a parking lot or a hike to the door; no lines or shopping carts; fewer distractions; different brands. While I was there, I noted that they also have a kitchen trash can I want and had not been able to find previously.

So far, the only thing I am really wondering about is underwear. That's not really a consignment store/Goodwill sort of purchase...

*Ace-franchise, locally-owned. I don't see any information on opensecrets.org for the owners of this franchise, and Ace Hardware comes up with mainly individual donations in small amounts.

Pope Writes Children's Book

Really?

No, really.

"It features a collection of the Pope’s descriptions of Jesus’ relationship with his “first companions,” including the original 12 apostles, Matthias, and St. Paul."

I can't. I really, just, can't. It's too easy, or it's too much. Either way, I can't comment any further right now.

Willkommen bei Lino Lakes!

Yesterday, a local city council passed a courageous measure, wholly in keeping with the spirit that both founded the United States of America and continues to keep it strong: an "English Only" ordinance.

They say it's a "budget measure" meant to save city funds, which will no longer be spent to translate city documents into any language.

Plus, it's great PR!

Ah, you have to love a nation of immigrants that seeks to actively exclude immigrants (not to mention others). A diverse country that attempts to squash diversity. To be fair, it's not a new thing. It seems not a congressional year goes by when a bill to make English the official language of the United States is not introduced. Other municipalities have similar ordinances. Some states have English as the official language.

It just seems silly to me, and yet another waste of time and resources. It's estimated that 19.6% of Americans speak a language other than English at home. Here in Minnesota, it's 9.6% of the population. They work, they go to school, they participate. They speak Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and Mandarin. They speak French and German. They are neighbors and friends. That was my grandmother, when she was a child, speaking Pennsylvania German at home.

I think it's pretty cool. I love seeing multiple languages in the instructions at a hospital. I like hearing conversations in other languages on the bus and trying to figure out which language it is. It's the shaping of American culture that started centuries ago, and continues to this day. We can think wistfully about days gone by, but the people living in those days were also thinking wistfully of days gone by. And in days gone by, in places like Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, a whole heck of a lot of people were speaking German. Or Dutch. Or Swedish. Not to mention Mohegan, Anishinabe, and Tsalagi. Or Wolof, Mandink'a, and Yorùbá.

The United States of America would not be The United States of America without the contributions of all these people, and more. The English we speak here would not be the same. All languages absorb and trade from other languages. They change and grow as they are influenced by populations and cultural changes. What is English now was not English even decades ago. Come to think of it, Lino Lakes may have quite a job on their hands. Are they English-only as it exists today? As it was 10 years ago?

This may be a whole new budgetary issue.

2000 Census Brief: Language Use and English-Speaking Ability

Monday, July 26, 2010

NOM... Utterly un-nommable

The "National Organization for Marriage" or NOM is coming to a city near me! Actually, to my city.

They are rallying to promote marriage between a man and a woman, and they are "bring[ing] their summer tour to Minnesota and Wisconsin this week... The group plans to stop in 23 cities in 19 states before wrapping up with a rally in Washington on Aug. 15"

I bet they have great tee shirts.

Conservative. Nothing too fancy. You know, the kind of thing you can safely wear to any hate-based event you may be attending this season.

These kinds of organizations make me ill. While clearly not a waste of brain cells, they are a waste of time and resources. I am thinking that straight marriage doesn't need any promotion, though with divorced people making up 10.7 percent of the population over 15, it might need some counseling.

Why can't these people redirect their energies into, oh, I don't know, working against economic inequality, fostering unwanted pets, or hosing off oily pelicans? Probably because that wouldn't get as much press. Real, difficult problems don't make headlines, and it's hard to work yourself up into a good, frothy, fear-filled lather over a homeless veteran.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear Target,

What's $2183.70 to a big company like you, beloved by millions of shoppers throughout the land, with sales of $63.4 billion during 2009? Not much, but it's what my little family of three spent at your stores in 2009 and 2010, up to now. I know you don't need me anymore. After all, your 2009 results "reflect the strongest retail segment profit in [your] history".

It's been grand, or, dare I say "Super", but I think it's time we see other people. You see, we don't agree about a few fundamental things, and it's standing in the way of this relationship going any further.

You think it's OK to deny women the right to choose their reproductive and sexual destiny, even as you partner with the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

You think it's just dandy to keep certain people from marrying the ones they love, even though you say you are trying to "foster an inclusive culture."

You believe it's a good idea to fund private schools at the expense of public schools, and furthermore, that the federal government should have no say in public education, even as you work to improve school libraries.

You think it should be harder for Americans to vote, even as you advocate voter education, and you believe Arizona's new immigration law is a good idea, even though you say "diversity is a core value throughout every area of [your] company."

You are proud of your NRA endorsement, even as you work with police officers "as trusted partners... to strengthen public safety."

You don't believe in global warming, even though though you say you "know what's good for the environment is good for everyone."

You don't believe in evolution, even though you "play an active role in supporting education."

Or, at least, that's what you are saying to me when you give $150,000 to an organization that is supporting Tom Emmer in the race for Minnesota governor. The above are deeply contradictory statements, and I can't reconcile the politician's beliefs with your company's stated goals, activities, and policies.

Clearly, these are things we can't overcome, "dealbreakers", I think they call them, so I'll be taking my money elsewhere from now on.

I know what you'll say. You'll say that you are non-partisan, you are just looking out for number one, and you will support anyone who you think supports you. You will say that you have given $80,000 to Democrats and $103,500 to Republicans in 2010, so it's pretty much equal.

You say you want to support Minnesotans, and that you love being here. You say you do a lot of good for the country in communities & schools.

But you never loved me. You never cared. And without me and countless other lefties, liberals, and progressives who support you, you are nothing. You can go ahead and support candidates who you say support business, but when those candidates are supporting business over supporting people, those people have less disposable income to spend in your stores.

When those candidates have beliefs that fly in the face of human rights, science, facts, and the common good, I have to draw the line.

Your 2007 Marketing Plan says that 93% of your shoppers are women, their median age is 41, their median household income is $63 thousand, 45% have children at home, and 48% have completed college. In that plan, it was advised that you branch out and find new markets, so I release you. May you be happy in the life that you have chosen.

I can get my tee shirts and baby bubble bath elsewhere.

Love,

kitty

p.s. Best Buy, you can be expecting a similar notice.

Note: Target CEO tries to explain. Oh, ok, then...

Open Secrets: Target Corp PAC expenditures
Open Secrets: Target Corp PAC Summary
Open Secrets: Center for Responsive Politics
American Public Media PAC*Men
Target: Our Company

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Accidental, you say?


As I have mentioned in the past, Minnesota has a grand tradition of thoughtful and effective politicians.

Our current governor and our former senator are not two of them.

Mr. Pawlenty can't let it go. Al Franken was declared the winner, and he's our senator. From all reports, I think he's doing a great job, though I already expected a good performance. He's a smart individual and a good thinker, like a lot of writers.

The thing that really gets me about the above screen grab is not Mr. Pawlenty's grasping at straws, it's Mr. Coleman's comment about Mr. Franken being an "accidental senator."

Excuse me, Mr. Coleman. Have you forgotten that your opponent, one of the most thoughtful politicians in my lifetime thus far, died in a plane crash just ten days before the election? That's about as accidental as it gets.

Friday, July 2, 2010

ARRA

In my zip code, there are 27 grants, loans, and contracts totaling $11,200,898 that have come from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). They have gone to small businesses, really small businesses, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, and advocacy groups. I just think that's pretty cool.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oil, 2

daddywhumpus is mad, like a lot of people. Mad about the environmental and economic devastation in the Gulf caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Mad about what seems to be an entirely bungled effort at stopping and containing the spill. Mad about the political response. Mad about what appears to be an example of gross corporate negligence on the part of British Petroleum. He, like many others, wants BP to be fined out of existence by the US government.

I agree with the sentiments, and the public has a right to be angry. BP has made this mess, and they are responsible for it. It's going to cost the global economy/US economy on many levels, and it's hard to assess what the long-term effects will be. It's frustrating that a corporation has to be strong-armed into taking responsibility, and it's even more frustrating for certain politicians and political movements to be barking at the federal government and not the corporation, when they espouse "personal responsibility" in other things--when it suits them.

If I made this kid of mess, you can be damn sure I would be expected to clean it up. You could also assume that the clean-up might break me financially, and I might then have to fall back on the government for help. It depends on my available resources. British Petroleum recorded profits in FY09 of 16 billion, 759 million, according to their annual report, and 21b 666m/21b 169m in the preceding two years. 20 billion in an escrow account is, in this sense, hardly a "shakedown" or a "fleecing" as Reps. Barton and Bachmann called it yesterday.

BP needs to pay for clean-up and fall out, and, of course, in the end, those expenses will be passed on to the consumer, if at all possible. 20 billion is not just absorbed by for-profit corporations. They might tighten their belt elsewhere in their ledgers, but, unlike private citizens, who usually have to find extra funds by cutting expenses or getting second jobs, corporations have the option to charge their customers more in order to raise revenue.

But remember, your local BP gas station owners didn't cause this spill, either. Boycotting them won't help your local economy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil

Roger Ebert doesn't need little ol' me to link to his blog, but just in case you don't already go there once in a while, this is a good one. It brings to the surface some of the things that have been troubling me about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. Some of the things. He scratches at the political surface of the issue. I have much more thinking to do about the political turmoil of the situation, and this blog has helped me on my way.

If you go there, and read it, come back here and comment. I am interested in what critically-thinking individuals have to say. By that, I mean, not a comment argument on Facebook, which thrown ridiculous rhetoric around like confetti at a prom.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vigil?

OK, I don't get it. I admit it. Various groups around the country are holding vigils... vigils for the oil spill and those affected by it. I think it's odd. Time, money, and organizational skills have gone into a visibility campaign that, at best, will probably be simply cloying and be looked at as a bunch of lefty tree huggers drumming up political publicity.

Wouldn't those resources be better spent looking at causes and advocating fixes, so that this has less of a chance of happening again? Or actual fundraisers for the individuals who are suffering because of it? Or donations to animal rescue organizations?

Candlelight vigils at this point seem rather trite.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Better Off

I was sick over my 40th birthday weekend; I am still sick now; I have a crap load of work to catch up on; it was 96 degrees yesterday.


But there's some good news.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WOO HOO! I'M FORTY!

That's all for now.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I get news searches

What with Justice Stevens' retirement and all the talk about the religious make-up of the Court, which, I might add, I don't believe was started by non-believers, many started suggesting that we could wind up without a Protestant for the first time in history. This led to speculation that President Obama should appoint another Protestant. This led to non-believers saying "Hey, what about us?"

It's an interesting proposition. Impossible, given our polling numbers. But it is interesting nonetheless. I would like to see a qualified liberal with a rational mind and sharp knowledge of Constitutional Law who knows how to keep his or her spiritual-or-other beliefs out of his or her job. He or she does not have to be an agnostic or atheist. Frankly, we shouldn't even know the religious persuasion (or other) of our judges and political officials, but Americans make that impossible. Which is why we have only one out major elected official who is a nonbeliever. There could be more, but they are in the closet. We know to keep our heads down most of the time.

One of my news searches this week brought up a link to a "moderate blog" which says it's "an Internet hub for moderates, centrists, and independents, with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, and right."

The title is "Anti-religion on the court?" and it got me thinking. It starts out with the Constitution's clause regarding no religious test being required for public office. Many states still have them, though they are not often enforced. That is, I think, where the word "required" comes in. It may not be required, but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't allowed. The blog is saying that atheists' "demands" that a nonbeliever be appointed amount to the imposition of a religious test and are therefore a violation of the Constitution.

First of all, I don't think this is a demand, and, as I said and as the links above bear out, I don't believe this was started by non-believers. It was all the questioning over whether or not Justice Stevens should be replaced by another Protestant that started many nonbelievers thinking. I guess it was fine to suggest a Protestant.

The blog then goes on to say "the insistence that a Supreme Court Justice adopt an attitude of open hatred and contempt towards religious believers is a dangerous indulgence."


Huh? Where did the open hatred and contempt come from? Advocating for a nonbeliever is not the same thing as advocating for an "attitude of open hatred and contempt towards religious believers." That's a nice load of prejudice and contempt toward nonbelievers, methinks. It goes on to intimate that advocating for the appointment of a nonbeliever on the Supreme Court bench would be tantamount to "the Supreme Court... openly act[ing] to force religious belief into a secretive and shameful underground practice."


Paranoid much?


For many Americans, merely talking about being a nonbeliever is enough to cause persecution of--and is an act of hatred and contempt for--religion. The author thinks that asking for religion to be kept private and away from public policy is forcing religion into a dark and secretive place "much in the same way as homosexuality was during the darkest times of the gay rights movement."

Oh, please.

Atheists are no longer remaining in our closet, so we must be forcing religion into its own. This author says he has no problem with atheists and agnostics, but "to demand 'representation' for an aggressively atheist and anti-religion Supreme Court Justice seems no different than demanding a Supreme Court Justice be openly racist." Again, oh please. Nowhere in the op-ed piece to which this author is responding does the author for someone who is "aggressively atheist" or "anti-religion." But, as we all know, any open atheist is an aggressive atheist.


The author has some advice: "...the sooner that more atheists get the distinction between non-religion and anti-religion, the sooner their movement will stop shooting itself in its political foot."


Pot, meet kettle.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I give you, our governor

Apparently, Governor Pawlenty's long-term solution for education funding involves the fact that public employees are over-benefited and over-paid. Got that, teachers? It's your salary and benefit packages that are to blame.

While I readily admit that our benefits at my public institution are excellent, it's also apparent that, were they not so excellent, the state would have wound up paying, one way or another, when our son was born extremely premature and the bills started to pour in. $385,000 would have had to come from somewhere. Medical assistance, bankruptcy, total ruin, take your pick. What kind of contributor to society would I be without those benefits? With those excellent benefits, I continue to work, pay my bills, and even do my patriotic duty by both saving and shopping.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Minnesota's Next Governor?


“You cannot be a Democrat and a Freedom loving American.”
-Rep. Tom Emmer, at a campaign event in Marshall, MN on September 25, 2009

Oh, hell no.

We thought Tim Pawlenty was bad, and then the Minnesota GOP coughs up this detritus from the depths of teabagger lunacy. Everyone needs to get over their fear of strong, intelligent women and get behind Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Whine

If it's a fact that Christians in America are persecuted, and it's a fact that the American media is liberal, thereby persecuting conservatives, then why do I have to listen to them all the time?

Monday, April 26, 2010

I know my birthday is coming up

but don't buy me this


It must be a comic book.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Iran

I can write more about this later when I have time, but here's a website:

Our Society Will be a Free Society

Sign the petition to help free journalists who are imprisoned in Iran.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Gotta Read This Article

The New York Times & CBS News have have conducted a poll of Tea Party Supporters, and the findings are interesting, if not very surprising.

"The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45."

What?! How SHOCKING!!

They have a  "fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular..rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich."

Yeah, it's really bad when government is not helping the rich.


"The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public. They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people."

Just so you know now, for certain, that this it not about race. Not at all. Nothing to do with it, in fact.

"Tea Party supporters over all are more likely than the general public to say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good...But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress."

The words socialism, socialist, and Muslim also made an appearance.

This is just to say that privileged Americans will believe anything stupid, as long as there's a black man in the Oval Office.

"But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on 'waste.'"

Mine. I want mine. Just mine. Not yours.

And now I have read some articles

(This is the immediate follow-up from the previous post. Read that one first.)

From the Times article, I gather that Prof. Dawkins is, indeed, hoping to have the Pope arrested during his visit to the UK in September. He and Mr. Hitchens have retained lawyers, and they are building a case. If there is evidence that the Pope has participated in and sanctioned a cover-up of child rape cases, then it does seem that he is answerable to the law. My first reaction is tho think "Now that's going a little far, isn't it?" but really, that just my own latent thoughs, built-in-by-years-of-indocrtination, that the Pope and other such religious figures are untouchable. But that should not be so, should it, simply because they have their own supernatural belief system that says they are answerable to an imaginary higher calling? Why, when they commit a crime, should they not be subject to the same laws as the rest of us?

The New York Daily News article has this quote from Prof. Dawkins' blog: "I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope's visit, let alone pay for it."

He wants to create uproar and outrage which is, indeed, for publicity. Calling it a "stunt" is also true in some sense, except for the fact that the ethics behind it are sound, and the backing is not disingenuous.

BBC News has a couple of gems, gathered from elsewhere:

From The Guardian and columnist George Monbiot: "Picture the pope awaiting trial in British prison, and you begin to grasp the implications of the radical idea that has never been applied: equality before the law."

Robert Pigott, The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, said "The controversy over alleged Papal involvement in the cover-up of child sex abuse is providing atheists with a stick with which to beat religion."

Rather, I think, if a stick has been provided, it seems to me that religion itself has provided it. A stick that I think we all agree we would rather not have, and a stick that it seems Prof. Dawkins and Mr. Hitchens are trying to break.

Strip away the religion--the myths and trappings that go along with the idea of "The Pope"; remove the titles and monikers on which generations have conferred respect, and how would the case be judged?

If "it has been alleged that Mr. Smith covered up the systematic sexual abuse of children in his neighborhood organization," would that make people feel differently?




Where do all the sanctimonious "Think of the children!" pleaders go when something like this happens?

Arrest the Pope? A little extreme? Yeah, sure it is. But is it more extreme than the systematic child abuse perpetuated by the Roman Catholic church for decades?

I have only seen the headlines

Based on the headlines alone, I am going to form an opinion. Then I'll go read the articles and see if it changes.

Apparently, atheists have demanded that the Pope be arrested in connection with the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. I should say, the recent ones.

The headlines are as such:

"Atheists Demand Pope's Arrest in UK" (I think that means that some atheists in the UK have called for the Pope's arrest.)

"Atheist Richard Dawkins backs campaign to arrest Pope"

"Atheist writer Richard Dawkins wants criminal case vs. Pope Benedict XVI for sex abuse scandal"

"Richard Dawkins calls for arrest of Pope Benedict XVI"

What I am thinking is that Prof. Dawkins is trying to draw some public attention to this case from a perspective outside the protective shell of religion and the Vatican's own manner of handling "internal disciplinary issues." In a criminal justice sense, there must be some liability, somewhere, in this whole mess. I'm guessing he's thinking about this as a long-term, systematic abuse of human rights, and thinks that someone should be held accountable to some entity other than the Vatican.
Here's what the Vatican has to say:

"Vatican spokesman: Atheist campaign to arrest Pope is publicity stunt"

Well, duh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Black Hole of Stupid

Minnesota has a grand tradition of intelligent, thoughtful politicians. Eugene McCarthy, Elmer Anderson, Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone, and Walter Mondale leap to mind. We have a lot to be proud of.

It's something we have to remember on a day like today, when Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, two of our less-than-thoughtful politicians, gather with celebrity Sarah Palin and talking head Sean Hannity in downtown Minneapolis for a rally and fundraiser. I am uncertain if the time-space continuum can handle the weight of the white hot rhetoric that will erupt from the convention center. Certainly, the fabric of fact-based knowledge has already been fraying and is in danger of being reduced to dust by the claims of the Teabaggers and the far right, and an event such as this might just do us all in, leaving the entire populace of Minnesota as jibbering, paranoid idiots, convinced that census takers are going to show up at our homes, make us gay marry, go through our wallets, and tell our children to eat their vegetables or Czar Obama will put them into an interment camp where they will have to pray to Mecca five times a day.

Did I miss anything?

The woman who is running against Michele Bachmann, Tarryl Clark, has a site set up where you can make a photo of yourself with the Dynamic Duo. They call it the 10,000 dollar photo because that reputedly what it will cost to have yourself photographed with these two women, which is certainly money well spent.


 babywhumpus isn't too happy about it.

Later, if my stomach can handle it, I will try to write about the sad and sorry state of women in politics.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Repost: Jesus Had A Horcrux

Digging one up from 2006 for Easter.
It's alarming how much of it is still pertinent, 4 years later.

I am not going to get into my whole Joseph Campbell myth analogy between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and how I believe I can use the former to predict how the latter will turn out; because that sort of thing is really only interesting to, well, a whole bunch of people with whom I really don’t want to "hang". But as this country seems to be simply saturated in sticky Jesus stuff, that poor, young, misinterpreted lad is often on my mind. Kristians like to feel persecuted in America because I guess they are being mistreated and ignored, and there is a War on Christianity, though I did not know that America could sustain more than one War on a Noun. Even though Kristians seem to have infiltrated every aspect of public life, since you can’t say "Merry Christmas" in the office anymore if you work in the public sector, I guess they must be right. Modern persecution is really rough.

Then I read something like this:
"Pope's Top Exorcist Says Harry Potter Is 'King Of Darkness'"

This is yet another example of how the people in charge of the Roman Catholic Church really get it, you know?

Wow! First of all, "Pope’s Top Exorcist"? How do you get that job? And, What century is this? Secondly, "Harry Potter is ‘King of Darkness’"? Mr. Top Exorcist (or is that Rev. Top Exorcist? Fr. Top Exorcist?) is clearly confusing Voldemort with Harry, which I can totally understand because they are, indeed, so similar in so many ways. But if he really does mean Harry, himself, then I bet Harry, who already knows he is pretty important, really had no idea how important he is and how much power he truly wields. Book Seven is going to be GOOD.

The article goes on to quote Top Exorcist Man as saying "Magic is always a turn to the devil." (This guy is also the president of the International Association of Exorcists, which is definitely an annual meeting that I want to attend.) He says that "the series contains many positive references to ‘the satanic art’ of magic and makes no distinction between black and white magic." OK, so I get it, the "IAE" and The Vatican don’t have book clubs. Maybe they should start one! And it should include a dictionary. More on that later.

Seriously, I can’t get enough of this. I (almost)don’t even need to write commentary. It’s just too easy:

"[Exorcist Guy Who Is Anthony Hopkins In My Head] compared the Potter character to dictators Stalin and Hitler, saying they were possessed by the devil."

HEY, buddy! In America, we compare dictators like Stalin and Hitler to LIBERALS, not fictional literary characters initially meant for an adolescent audience. But this guy has exorcised over 30,000 demons—a regular Keanu Reeves—so who am I to argue with an expert, me with my lowly English degree?

But let’s talk about magic. According to the wildly inaccurate "Concise Oxford English Dictionary", magic is defined as follows:

magic
• noun 1 the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. 2 conjuring tricks performed to entertain. 3 mysterious and enchanting quality. 4 informal exceptional skill or talent.
• adjective 1 having or apparently having supernatural powers. 2 informal very exciting or good.

As for Jesus, I’m thinking “magic.” I’ll leave all the healing and reincarnating and walking on water and loaves and fishes incidents alone in favor of talking about Easter, the slam-bang finish in the Vegas Show of Religion that is the New Testament: Jesus dies; Jesus rises from the dead; Jesus ascends to heaven. That’s a sell out! SRO, people! (Dark on Mondays and Tuesdays). If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is. The reviews of this trick vary depending upon which gospel writer you ask; It’s like any sort of party game of “telephone”—the story changes as it is passed on, and even if the same two people witness the same event, they will often differ in their interpretation or in what they remember. Anyone who has ever argued with a spouse or partner will attest to that.

In Matthew’s account (27:50-53), Jesus dies and the rocks split, and "the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life." Then, like "Night of the Living Dead", these dead people roam into the holy city and freak people out.

As for Mark, it’s more of a romantic comedy/buddy picture. He starts Jesus out nice and early "on the first day of the week" and sends him to see Mary Magdalene "out of whom he had driven seven demons" (snicker). She in turn went to tell the others, who, sanely, did not believe the woman. So Jesus appeared to two other mourners, who were, in turn, also not believed. Finally, he went to the remaining 11 disciples, while they were eating, and finally got his point across, which seems like what he should have in the first place. He chastised them. It’s unclear whether or not he had any food, but he asked them to go out and preach the good news about baptism and salvation and going to hell and whatnot.

According to John, Jesus was "alive" for 40 days before he ascended, so he had time to do "many other things as well." Apparently, at least in John, Jesus was very efficient, if vague, for "If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." I guess we are just supposed to trust him.

It all sounds pretty magical to me. How does one rise from the dead without magic? How is having supernatural powers that supposedly come from God different from magic? It seems that he was resurrected in his bodily flesh, as well, which smacks of dark magic, if anything, and if he ascended into heaven like that, is he the only solid guy up there? Is he just walking around, bumping into things while everyone else just passes through them? Methinks Popey McDemonhunter doth protest too much. I think Jesus had a Horcrux.