Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twin Cities America's Safest Place

Yep, you read it right -- my humble little burg has been named the safest city in America. Given our somewhat recent troubles with violent crime, it's a welcome development.

Though we were helped out by having the nation's best workplace accident rate and apparently 7th best natural disaster resistance rate, Mpls actually rated 9th out of 40 in terms of violent crime. I haven't looked into the numbers to verify what they were using to measure the crime rate, but that looks pretty good for the little city that could.

What wasn't mentioned, but may possibly be a big factor, is the idea that no sports team in the area at any level will ever win a major championship of anything, thus ensuring we'll never have any Detroit-like celebration riots. And that's got to make you feel even safer...

Friday, October 23, 2009

How Do You Deal With Your Ancestor's Racist Legacy?

The American South has a tricky time dealing with its particular history. While it's true that every part of America has had its share of problems with racism and discrimination, the South will always stand out as the region that was willing to ignite one of the bloodiest civil wars in history to defend a racial form of slavery (granted, there was a lot more going on than just slavery that lead to the civil war, but it was obviously a big factor, etc.)

But it raises an interesting question -- how can you be proud of your heritage and those who came before you (as most people are) when your heritage is largely built on racist slavery?

For example, many argue the confederate flag has no place in American society outside of museums and history books, given its prominent role in the defense of said racist slavery, while others argue its a symbol of their ancestry and is just as valid as any other historical marker.

Once again, the debate is flaring up as Ole Miss has recently changed its fight song to remove a portion of the song where students chant "the South will rise again." And as usual, some have applauded the move, while others cry that the pc police are ruining their beloved tradition. Of course, little mention is made of the fact that Ole Miss' school nickname is the Rebels. You know, named in honor of the people who rebelled against the federal government to protect their right to enslave Africans.

While I know its easy for me as someone with no Southern connections to say the whole racist legacy should be chucked out the window, I think a more apt comparison is to contemporary Germany. Comparatively, it's likely many more people died in the middle passage from Africa to the U.S. alone than died in the holocaust, not to mention the raw brutality of slave existence in America.

Yet in Germany, no one proudly flies a swastika, claiming its not racist but just a symbol of their heritage. In fact, to this day, many outward symbols of Nazi affiliation are outright banned in public discourse or display. Yet here in America, many symbols of one of our own genocides are proudly emblazoned on pickup trucks and t-shirts, not to mention flown over state capitols.

Again, as an outsider I know it's easy for me to criticize, but I think the central question is still one tha always bears repeating -- how despicable does one's heritage have to be before you simply have to give it up?

Friday, October 16, 2009

There Were Rules on Traveling?

Apparently the NBA has decided to make it official and change the rules on traveling from allowing one to now allowing two steps after a player stops dribbling.

Of course, if you've watched a basketball game in the past 20 years, you know this was already clearly the informal rule, so the change makes little practical difference. Other than the fact that the NBA is now admitting its first step toward removing dribbling entirely from the game.

Next I want to see a rule clarification on how someone can make it from the three-point line to the rim without ever dribbling. I know that most of these guys are pretty tall and can cover a lot of ground in a step, but even with the new two steps rule, I'm pretty sure that's still traveling...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why You Might Defend Gang Rape (If You're A Republican)

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart discussed Al Franken's first piece of proposed legislation: a measure designed to change Pentagon policy to not hire contractors who include in their employee contracts that you can't sue the company if you're raped by your coworkers.

Who the fuck even puts that in a contract in the first place? Who at Halliburton is sitting there thinking of the likelihood of gang rape on the job site and making sure to cover themselves in the contract? And who could oppose such a piece of legislation?

Well, it turns out 30 Republicans opposed the amendment. Let me restate that: 30 Republicans voted against a bill to prevent gang rape.

Why did they oppose it? Because of course Franken isn't concerned about the victim of a brutal gang rape (who, when she tried to report the rape was locked in a crate so she couldn't report on her attackers), but instead it's a political attack on Haliburton, trying to take away their government contracts just because they explicitly endorse the gang rape of their female employees.

As Mr. Stewart pointed out in the clip linked to above (sorry, the embedded player is not working this morning), if to defend Halliburton you have to defend gang rape, you might want to find someone else to align yourself with.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Have I Found My Mayoral Candidate?

Here in Minneapolis there are 11 people running for Mayor in the upcoming election. Some are tired old-time party hacks, others the obvious fringe candidates with heart and no chance at victory. But one stands out -- 22 year old Joey Lombard, whose political philosophy is summed up as "Is Awesome".

Running a campaign which he has promised will not spend more than $100, Lombard is relying completely on word of mouth. As for qualifications, he lists having logged hundreds of hours playing Sim City as giving him practical experience in running a city.

After goading from his now ex-girlfriend that he wasn't doing anything for the world, Lombard not only entered the race, but quit his part time job at Macy's to make time to be mayor (a move he apparently regrets, in retrospect) so he really needs to income.

I'm not saying he's necessarily the best candidate, but now that we have instant run-off voting and the ability to choose more than one candidate on our ballot, surely you can find some place on your ranked ballot for the only candidate willing to stand up for awesomeness.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Idea of Obama

The above comic so well illustrates my problem with Obama getting the Nobel or any of the other accolades (or detractions, for that matter) that have been lumped on him since taking office.

From the left, people have had visions of him as some sort of progressive messiah who would end the wars, make everyone drive electric cars, grant full gay marriage rights, and make the sun shine brighter than it ever had. Of course, just because Obama had never said he was going to do any of this, and in many cases actually said the opposite of this (*ahem* put more troops in Afghanistan *ahem*), has not stopped the true believers from thinking all of the contradictory evidence is just...I don't know. A screen he was putting up to confuse his opponents?

From the right, of course, Obama is worse than Hitler. And again, he's never given any indication of doing all of the things the Right is so sure he'll do. Take socialized medicine -- in addition to explicitly saying he would not endorse socialized medicine multiple times, I think it's pretty obvious that a guy who bends over backwards to make sure the insurance giants don't feel the slightest threat of insult or competition isn't going to suddenly launch a public takeover of the healthcare industry.

But I suppose, like always, the actual truth of that matter is far less interesting than the idea of either a savior who will cure all world problems or a harbinger of the apocalypse. But then again, the Mayan calendar does say the world will end in 2012, which also happens to be the end of Obama's term: could this be the rapture? Maybe the crazy fanatics are right after all...

Monday, October 12, 2009

There's Always Next Year

As usual, the Twins gave us just enough to believe before they dashed our hopes and dreams. While I saw that coming, what I didn't see coming was that the dreams would be dashed by Nicki Punto, beloved fan-favorite and noted hustling-pixie, when he missed the stop sign at third and got thrown out, taking away what would have been the tying run at third with no outs in the 8th inning. But at least he, unlike the unrepentant steroid users who beat us, owned up to it and apologized for his mistake, not blaming anyone else or claiming the "pressure" got to him.

At least the Vikings are 5-0...

But in some at least hopeful sports news, multiple black players in the NFL have publicly announced they would refuse to play for the St. Louis Rams if a proposed deal to make Rush Limbaugh a minority owner of the team goes through. This is great because it not only shows at least a little burgeoning political consciousness amongst the usually apolitical NFL, but also makes Rush Limbaugh an oppressed minority, which I think he could use a healthy taste of.

So with the baseball season over (to me, at least), I'm pretty much done talking sports for the year. Tune back in tomorrow for the regularly scheduled political rantings.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Things That Just Won't Die (For Good or Bad)

Last night my beloved Twinkies pulled out some late-inning drama to finally win the game and division it seems nobody wanted to win. After a failed tag-up which would have won the game, Alexi Cassilla came through later on to get the winning RBI and send the building that was already supposed to be closed into a frenzy (and at least one more game).

So now the team that was counted out months ago and the building that was to be closed last weekend will keep on going, well past what anyone thought either would. It's a great example of the inspiring nature of sports, teaching us to never quit, always give 100%, etc., etc.

But in all actuality, sometimes it's not only ok to quit, it's by the best choice. As we come up on the 8th (yes, the 8th) anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, what have we accomplished? What are we accomplishing currently? Unlike a certain plucky, over-achieving local baseball team, there's not going to be a miracle comeback that suddenly makes us the victors in Afghanistan (or Iraq, for that same matter). Besides, what would victory actually look like? A 6-5 score at the end of the 12th inning? I only ask because I'm not sure anybody really has any idea what the victory we've spent 8 years working on would even entail.

On top of that, check out the chart below outlining the time it took to finish America's major conflicts. We've now spent more time in Afghanistan than it took us to win both World Wars. Let me repeat that to drive home the point: we have spent more time fighting in Afghanistan than the time it took us to win both World Wars combined. And it goes without saying, we're not even close to a victory in Afghanistan, whatever that would look like.

So while I enjoy a great game and a good effort, I think even Gardy would tell you good managers have to know when it's time to throw in the towel...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Never Count 'Em Out

As I so often do, please allow me to step on my small-market-sports soapbox for a second. The Twins are the archetypical example of a small-market team that gets no respect -- despite either going to the playoffs or being into contention well into September every year this decade, they're continually written of as non-contenders as early as possible.

Case in point: watching ESPN's resident baseball bloviator Tim Kurkjian predict the playoff races two weeks ago, he acknowledged that he's always wrong about predicting the Twins have no chance, yet went on to say they have no chance. I believe his exact words were "While history shows you can never count out the Minnesota Twins, I have to say they're not going to make the postseason."

Well, asshole, they just did. And they're playing in game 163 to determine if they get even more postseason, despite the fact that no team ever down 3 games in the standings with only 4 games left to play has reached the postseason. So while, yes, it did look rather improbable, once again they've come back to be in contention, as recent history suggested they would.

So once again I shirk my much more important life duties to go cheer on the hometown team this afternoon in what could once again be the final game in the Dome. And while I'm aware that winning this game means they would immediately get on a plane and face the heavily-favored Yankees, unlike Mr. Kurkjian and the rest of his East Coast-centric ilk, I've learned never to count out the Minnesota Twins...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

R.I.P. Peg Mullen

I'm a little bit late on this, but wanted to take a quick moment to remember Peg Mullen, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 92.

Peg was a long-time peace activist in Iowa, and a real fire brand right up until her last days. Her story is dynamic, though unfortunately none too unusual. Her son was killed in Vietnam by friendly fire (possibly the worst euphemism of all time) and that was all the explanation she was given. Not the type to give up, she started a tireless journey to find out what exactly happened to Michael, which included multiple trips to the Pentagon, Congressional hearings, and thousands of midnight phone calls from friends and enemies alike. Eventually, she chronicled her quest in the book "Unfriendly Fire," which Time magazine named the best nonfiction book of 1976 and was made into an Emmy-winning television movie.

I had the good fortune of meeting Peg several years ago when I was a young activist. And though she was well into her 80s at the time and couldn't really get around much, she was still full of piss and vinegar. Of all the many stories I had the fortune of hearing her tell, probably the most memorable is how, through repeated harassing phone calls, she was able to get Paul Harvey to finally give up on the war in Vietnam and apologize for his disparaging remarks about peace protestors. It may not be quite as big a moment as Cronkite giving up on the war, but it's none too shabby for a housewife on a small farm in Iowa.