Archive for the 'Minnesota' Category

Yes, you caught me… I admit that I was two-timing Broken Spines…

As Gen. David Petraeus has demonstrated for us this last week, even a rock of moral authority can fall from grace.  I know my various interests and activities have kept me from posting on Broken Spines in quite awhile but I felt I need to come back to defend my honor.  There are allegations out there that I have been two-timing by first blog… Broken Spines.  Well, I am here to set the record straight… those allegations are true.  In a moment of weakness, I built a WordPress blog (A Citizen’s Primer) more than five years ago with the intent of recruiting some of my fellow Pugilists to join me to:

“document our positions, ideas, and conclusion on today’s complex political topics.  Why us?  Why not… we feel that we a relatively informed individuals and that when we are able to break down complex topics that are swirling in the political ether we can come up with some plausible solutions that make sense.  We are not claiming to be experts but we do work hard to stay informed on political topics – reading books, magazines, & blogs – watching movies & documentaries – and discussing the issues with friends, family, & colleagues.”

Well, five long years has gone by without a single post until yesterday.  I decided to dust off the cover and share an editorial that I had originally submitted to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The post was based on my personal frustration with the Republican Party for sitting on their hands over the last two years without one iota of progress or one hint of compromise.  My article was titled “As Minnesota goes, so goes the nation? We need to move beyond a political zero sum game” and it includes ideas for both Minnesota and National Republicans and Democrats to move forward after the election.  Well, there I’ve said it.  Now let the accusations begin, or perhaps… thou who are amongst you who have not sinned shall cast the first stone?

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Are you kidding me?

Ok… I know it has been a long time since I last posted but I am making a conscious effort to start blogging again.  What has got me so fired up?  Idiotic driving!  A few days ago I was making my usual morning trek across the Twin Cities.  As I approached the 494 & 35W junction (one of the busiest in the area) I made the mistake of looking over at the traffic merging and what did I see?  A woman merging into my lane of traffic while she was looking in the mirror applying her hairspray!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Granted I have seen plenty of crazy things on my morning commute, including: drivers eating a bowl of cereal, applying make-up, and reading books and newspapers but this was by far the most reckless in my opinion.  What is this world coming to?  Are we so time starved the we would risk our lives (and the lives of others – me) so we can squeeze in an extra couple of minutes?  Am I crazy or is this just the new normal?

Liquid or Gas? Or, Just Damn Cold.

It has been -20 degrees Fahrenheit for a week here in Minneapolis.  And, to prove it, this lady instantly turns water into vapor:

Death Knell for Print News

There is a lot of hand wringing about the decline and fall of print newspapers.  I canceled my subscription to the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a year ago because good writers and local content were harder and harder to find (not to mention the dearth of international news).  But instead of giving up on print entirely, I subscribed to the NYTimes whose $660 annual subscription is feeling a bit too luxurious in these times.  

Meanwhile, I spend way too much time reading news online.  I love to get local news from MinnPost (where most of the good writers from the Strib went anyhow), the NYTimes online edition (nicely formatted on my iPhone for reading on the train), Slate, the Economist, Time, and myriad other blogs whose RSS feeds crowd my Google home page (not to mention podcasts).  Is $660 really worth the tactile joy of opening the paper over a cup of coffee, when I’m overwhelmed with up to the minute news at my desk?

It’s no wonder people are writing the obituary of print news (to read it you’ll have to go to www.legacy.com).  Craigslist and Monster took away the want ads, advertisers are less and less interested in the demographic that still subscribes to papers, and worst of all good writing is hard to find.

As Jack Shafer points out in Slate, they did see it coming but tried to create walled gardens of content which required subscriptions.  Alas, this too has failed.  The last bastion of hope is the sports section. Mark Cuban writes in his blog that pro sports teams should come to the rescue of local papers.  Even though the Internet has infinite shelf space, the quality of local sports coverage is poor.  Maybe the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press should ask the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Gophers for a little help. 

Potential Fight Club selection: Pablo J. Boczkowski’s 2004 book, Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers.  Also, check out this interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google “Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers“.

Jan 13 update: Interesting chart from eMarketer on where people get their news:

news-sources1

Truth, Lies, & Taboos… how dearly do they cost us?

I have been doing a lot of think lately about several of our societal taboos… specifically talking about religion, politics, and money.  I have always been a fan of the quote “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, which refers to the benefits of openness and transparency.  There was a further suggestion from Louis Grumet, Publisher of The CPA Journal, who offered “We should not only accept criticism and suggestions, we should embrace them.  If questions from constituents, the public, or the media make leaders or other responsible parties obfuscate, the questions are usually valid and the answers are not.  People who feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny and criticism often have something to hide.”

I am suggesting that this impartive not only holds true for politicians but for all of us and that by conforming to the norms and labeling subjects as taboo we are supporting prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability – we are letting these lies survive in the dark alleyway between Truth & Freedom.  When women like Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee suggested that she didn’t trust Senator Barack Obama and called him “an Arab” at a Lakeville, MN, McCain rally we all thought wow… did she just say that in public?  My next question was, where had Gayle been “hiding” this racism?  Hasn’t she talked with others about the candidates?  Doesn’t she know that Barack is actually a Christian?  If her friends, family members, or fellow parishioners had heard her mention this idea before did no one speak up?  Did no one correct her on the facts?  When we avoid discussing our religious and political beliefs with others who do not agree with us we are protecting ourselves from having difficult or uncomfortable questions that we may not wish to face.  The latest of these taboos is the belief that we should not talk about money with friends, neighbors, or family.  A couple of stories that I thought I would share… 1) two years ago in a local fast food establishment I overheard a couple talking about how their daughter and son-in-law planned to file for bankruptcy immediately after returning from the cruise trip that they were on, 2) a year and a half ago friends were trying to sell their condo and plan for a down payment on their house – they had almost no money in savings but drove new Cadillac and Audi vehicles and spent lavishly on expensive clothes and purses, and finally 3) this weekend I overheard a few patrons talking in a restaurant about how one of them had four different vehicles in four years but had no money.  Where was the sense of responsibility from these people?  Did no one question their actions?  Did no one question their sense of accountability?  We need to again talk about our beliefs and actions… we need to expose them to the light of day… and we need to be more accepting of those who might question us or our motives… or we will continue to provide safehavens for prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability.

Jesse to decide about running for MN Sentate seat…

Jesse Ventura, Minnesota’s 38th governor from January 4, 1999 – January 6, 2003, is back at it again… he is going to announce on Monday night on CNN’s Larry King if he will run as an independent in Minnesota’s US Senate race.  Anyone want to place a bet on how this one will turn out?  If he does jump in, this should one wild ride for Norm Coleman’s US Senate seat.

Update 7/14: Whew… dodged a bullet… Jesse has announced that he will not run for the US Senate.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Alas, after 122 years, the South St. Paul stockyards have closed.  The story made it onto the front page of the NYT on Monday (check out the audio slide show).  Can’t say I’ll miss the smell.

On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, there was a story about the rising cost of food worldwide (deadly rioting in Haiti and Egypt – take a listen here). 

All this reminded me of two great essays by Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry about eating as an agricultural act.  Here’s an excerpt from Berry’s essay:

Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as “consumers.” If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want — or what they have been persuaded to want — within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or “processed” or “precooked,” how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?

 


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