Friday, December 21, 2012


The NRA's response to the Sandy Hook tragedy is reprehensible beyond belief. No remorse, no outrage (except at the media who dares to bring up the issue of gun control), no respect for the dead or for how the nation is reacting to this tragedy. They had an opportunity to join an adult discussion of the various issues involved, and instead chose to double down on their goal of putting guns in the hands of every living American, no matter how (in)capable.

My thoughts:

1. If we say that schoolteachers need to be armed or have armed guards, aren't we essentially saying that our system of public laws and law enforcement isn't working? (Wonder how our police officers feel about that...)

2. Putting more guns in the hands of more citizens (whether schoolteacher or armed guards) simply puts more guns out there, and more guns equal more gun violence. (I'm a numbers guy; stats don't lie.) Worse, it puts more guns nearer the hands of school-aged children, and some will gain access to those guns, and more accidents or malice will result.

3. Speaking of guns in the hands of teachers, isn't this the same society that undervalues and underpays teachers? So let's go ahead and arm them and make them responsible for school security, too. Where's the logic in that?

4. Finally, I really don't want my grandkids going to a school that's essentially an armed camp. This isn't the wild west. I want better for my grandkids, and for all kids. It's a horrible message to send that they're in constant danger, and that only guns can protect them. Our country is better than that, or should be.

For anyone who says they really don't want to live in Australia or England or wherever that has stricter gun laws, I say, why not? Fewer guns mean fewer senseless deaths, period. Australia, England, et al have it right and we have it wrong. Second amendment be damned (and the intent of it is certainly open to interpretation), we have to reduce the number of unnecessary guns in this country, do something to tamp down our culture of violence, and ramp up and civilize our treatment of the mentally ill. Gun control isn't the only solution, but it's part of the solution. It's a tough situation, but that shouldn't stop us from attacking it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Control

I believe that guns are weapons of mass destruction, and we should be as dedicated to their removal from our society as we are the removal of WMDs from unworthy foreign countries. If it were in my hands, here is what I would do:

1. Immediately halt the sales of all gun ammunition. Institute a program where hunters and qualified/trained professionals can obtain the necessary ammunition for their needs, probably one years' worth at a time, but make it difficult/impossible for citizens to purchase ammunition for any non-hunting guns they might own. (No current ammunition or weapons would be confisticated, although a government "buyback" program should be instituted to remove as much existing ammunition from the streets as possible.)

2. Whenever a gun is used to commit a murder or violent crime, immediately halt sales of that model gun in the U.S., forever. Require the manufacturer of that gun to pay $5 million (per incident) into a special mental health fund.

3. As soon as possible, convene a panel of mental health experts to determine how the new mental health fund should be spent, with the goal of identifying and helping those in mental/emotional distress and protecting the general public from potential incidents.

This plan would have the effect of reducing the number of gun-related crimes (no ammo to shoot), removing the most dangerous guns from the streets (those used to commit crimes), and improving the state of mental health care for those who seriously need it.

Feel free to discuss.

Monday, November 26, 2012


The New York Times has an interesting article about how Costco pays employees (much) more and with better benefits than does competing Sams Club. What's especially interesting is how some Wall Street types are criticizing the company, saying it needs to cut salaries and benefits and raise prices. One analyst said: "He has been too benevolent. He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden."

But here's the deal. The whole thing is a non-issue. Costco is making money and growing, and seeing its stock price increase, too -- so, obviously, its own investors don't see a problem.

And this is what's wrong with stock market-based capitalism today. Even when a business is doing well (and treating both its employees and customers well), there is still the call to cut, cut, cut, cut (and raise, raise, raise prices) to make even more money, if only in the short term.

Here's my favorite quote from the article, talking about Costco's CEO Jim Sinegal:

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."

I like that. Doing the right thing for customers and employees IS good business. Fuck Wall Street. Customers and employees are who matter.

And here's another thing. Costco's CEO Sinegal takes a relatively low salary, compared to other big-company CEOs:

Despite Costco's impressive record, Mr. Sinegal's salary is just $350,000, although he also received a $200,000 bonus last year. That puts him at less than 10 percent of many other chief executives, though Costco ranks 29th in revenue among all American companies.

"I've been very well rewarded," said Mr. Sinegal, who is worth more than $150 million thanks to his Costco stock holdings. "I just think that if you're going to try to run an organization that's very cost-conscious, then you can't have those disparities. Having an individual who is making 100 or 200 or 300 times more than the average person working on the floor is wrong."

I like that. A CEO with a conscience who cares about his employees. He knows that when a CEO makes too much more than his employees it's just wrong. Sometimes, enough is enough.

So where do you want to shop today?

Sunday, November 04, 2012


The big election is this coming Tuesday, and for anyone who cares here are my recommendations.

The Presidential Election

President of the United States: Barack Obama. It's a reluctant recommendation, because I'm sorely disappointed by his lack of accomplishments in many fields, as well as his continuation of the (probably illegal) Bush administration policies regarding drone warfare and the imprisonment-without-trial that is Guantanamo Bay. Still, Obama is a far sight better than the competition, the lying, two-faced, corporatist, social neanderthal called Mitt Romney. I'd rather have a smart, socially conscious president than a dim (re: Bush) self-interested (re: Romney) one. So Obama it is.

Minnesota Local Races

In our local races, I make the following recommendations:
  • United States Senator: Amy Klobucher. Really, there's no competition here. Senator Klobuchar is smart and effective, and her opponent is -- wait a minute, what's his name again?
  • United States Representative, 2nd District: Mike Obermueller. I'm not sure Obermueller has a chance against the incumbent John Kline, but we deserve better than a lock-step Republican who is out of step with the progressive nature of our state. 
  • State Senator, District 56: Leon Thurman. Because we need to vote out the current obstructionist Republican legislature.
  • State Representative, District 56B: Will Morgan. Because he sent us the most campaign literature, several pieces per day over the past month or so. I feel like I know him personally. Plus I really dislike the positions of his opponent, Roz Peterson.
  • Dakota County Commissioner, District 5: Dave Giles. Because he isn't Liz Workman.
  • Burnsville Mayor: Jerry Willenburg. Another reluctant recommendation. I really don't think Jerry knows what he's doing, but Mayor Elizabeth Kautz has been in office too long and I'm tired of her personal projects and her reaping the rewards of office. While I wish there were other options, it's simply time for a change.
  • Burnsville City Council (vote for two): Steve Cherney and Mary Sherry. This is more a recommendation not to vote for right wing nutcase and closet Libertarian Bruce Johnson and the totally unqualified Suzanne Nguyen (who's actually a neighbor of mine). Cherney's been on the council before, so he should know what he's getting into; Sherry's an incumbent, pal of the mayor, and a bit ditzy, but she's better than the other alternatives. (Maybe I'll run for council myself, next time...)
  • Amendment 1 (Gay marriage): No. Why would we want to stop people who love each other from getting married? We don't have enough of that these days. Plus, even if you're not a fan of gay marriage, we don't need to amend the state constitution to take away people's rights; the constitution is about giving rights, not taking them away.
  • Amendment 2 (Voter ID): No. We don't need it. The verified incidence of voter fraud is nil. This is a solution (and an expensive one) in search of a problem, really just an attempt to disenfranchise the poor and elderly in the guise of civil service. We need more people voting, not less.

Other Races

I urge my friends and family back home in Indiana to vote for Joe Donnelly for the U.S. Senate over the neanderthal Richard Mourdock. (I used to vote for Dick Lugar, myself -- who the Tea Partying Mourdock ousted in the Republican primary.) And I urge any friends north of the Twin Cities to vote for Jim Graves in the Minnesota 6th District, so we can forever purge the odoriferous Michelle Bachman from our sacred land.

But these are just my opinions. Reasonable minds probably won't disagree.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


There's a great article on the CNN site that asks the question, "Is Obama the 'Wrong' Kind of Christian?" This is a very nuanced and well reported story, and well worth reading. A few thoughts:

  • What right does anyone have to question someone else's religious beliefs? If Obama says he's a Christian, we should respect his beliefs. Do you want someone else questioning whether you really believe what you believe?
  • This, unfortunately, shines a spotlight on many fundamentalist Christians who think it's their way or the highway, that anyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do are just wrong, wrong, wrong. (And probably going to hell.) This, dear readers, is why religion has a bad reputation among many.
  • The article does a great job, IMHO, of pointing out the difference between the contemporary Protestantism of the Social Gospel, prevalent in the first half of the 20th century, with the revived fundamentalist movement, which has been around since the early 20th century (remember the Scopes Monkey Trial?) but has come on strong in the past few decades.
  • Where mainstream Protestants tend to be a bit more inclusive and certainly more socially conscious, the fundamentalists seem to view everyone else as heretics and dismiss social responsibility. For example, Rev. Gary Cass, the conservative Christian president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, goes as far as to say that Christians who talk about “social justice” are often practicing “warmed-over Marxism." Really. That's what he thinks. (I guess this means Jesus was a Marxist. Who knew?)
  • Speaking of extreme viewpoints, Rev. Steven Andrew is quoted in the article as saying that President Obama is trying to change the national motto from “In God we Trust” to “Out of Many, One,” and that the president has ordered the Pentagon to remove biblical verses from its daily report. (Really? I hadn't heard that one.) The Reverend also says, and I quote, "I think he’s an anti-Christ." Of course he is.

So is the rise of the Christian fundamentalist movement the end of progressive Christianity as we know it? Or are these just a bunch of extremists who'll bark their way to oblivion soon enough?

I'd like to hope it's the latter, but the numbers say it could be the former. God help us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


There's a difference between aggressively defending your position (and calling out lies and half-truths) and bullying. In last night's second presidential debate, the president acted... well, Presidential, while his opponent acted like an entitled, boorish brat. Mitt Romney bullied the moderator, he bullied the president, his position seemed to be "Of course it'll work. I'm doing it." Plus he lied a lot, and got called on it. Romney is a man who will do and say anything to get what he wants, because he believes he's entitled to it.

To me, the most telling moment was when Obama addressed the killings in Libya, taking full responsibility and calling Romney's politicization of the affair "offensive." It was a very Presidential (with a large P) moment, and Romney should have stopped there. But instead, showing no respect whatsoever, Romney harped on a minor point about whether Obama had called it a terrorist attack. It wasn't so much that Romney was wrong (which the president and the moderator both pointed out, and which is getting the most press afterwards), but rather that he argued the point at all. A better man would have let it drop; only a self-important boor like Romney would try to have the last word on such a somber issue.

There's no way we should entrust our country to such an out-of-touch, blustering, entitled egotist. Not that Obama's perfect, but at least he thinks of others besides himself, and has some semblance of decency. Romney doesn't. He's a rich, self-centered bastard. We don't need more of them running things.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


What's wrong with capitalism? The same thing that led to the downfall of small-c communism: greed. In fact, greed is the downfall of just about every economic system so far envisioned. 

Greed is what makes communism fail; if just one person covets more than he needs, the entire system falls apart. Greed is also the corrosive exterior of capitalism, and why regulation is necessary; without adequate regulation, greedy capitalists do whatever they can to exploit the system to get more for themselves. 

Because of that very human failing, neither economic system is perfect, but at least regulated capitalism is known to work okay. Unregulated capitalism, however, is a bitch to deal with -- as we continue to recognize. (You'd think we'd remember and learn from our mistakes, wouldn't you?)

So I'm not a communist, in spite of what some of my friends on the right might think. I'm also not blindly capitalistic. To combat unmitigated greed and all the damage it can do, we need regulated capitalism. Proper regulations don't inhibit, they protect -- and everyone, at one time or another, needs that protection.

Friday, October 12, 2012


One of my friends suggested that I'm a bit frustrated by the political system today. Yeah, I am.

I'm frustrated by a group of politicians whose sole intent over the past four years was making the president seem like a failure by blocking every item proposed by the opposition.

I'm frustrated by a group of politicians, led by Misters R & R, who worship the Orwellian playbook by lying (excuse me: "misspeaking") about every point that can be lied about; if the sky were blue, they'd call it red today and orange tomorrow and then deny all of it.

I'm frustrated by a group of politicians who worship the rich and powerful and pay lip service to the hardworking men and women of this country, who are intent on enriching the already enriched and dismantling the middle class as we know it.

I'm frustrated by media, including the so-called mainstream media, who repeat the lies of the reactionary conservatives in the guise of presenting "both sides" of the story, and who fail in the most basic task of informing the populace.

I'm frustrated by a political system that is ruled by big-money donors and lobbyists, and by the aforementioned media that benefits from all that money, in the form of campaign advertising.

And ultimately I'm frustrated by a willfully ignorant populace that accepts these failures and refuses to even vote in its own self interest. So yeah, I'm frustrated. Sue me.

Old Joe Speaks

This was the telling point in last night's vice presidential debate, IMHO, by the one politician today who respects and cares for the working men and women of this country. Take it away, Joe Biden:

These people are my mom and dad — the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, “not paying any tax.”

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field; we’re going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.

I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

47 Percent

Mitt Romney's latest "47%" musings offer a fairly honest glimpse into how he sees the world -- which is straight line Ayn Rand social objectivism. That is, Romney believes in what Rand would have called "rational self-interest." In normal people terms, it's a winners vs. losers sort of thing; the people who are on top are on top because they're better than everybody else, and the losers deserve what they get for being lazy or not as smart or whatever.

Don't believe me? Note Mitt's focus on "moochers," which is the same term Rand used for what she deemed the non-productive classes, people who took forced handouts from the more productive members of society. Forget that some people actually need a helping hand; for die-hard Randians, there is no virtue in charity or community, especially that dictated by the government.

Now, I know a lot of folks agree with the whole Randian objectivist thing. I guess they believe that there are natural leaders who deserve the spoils, and everyone else are lesser beings who don't deserve as much. I see this view as naive, self-centered, and extraordinarily selfish. Yeah, it's good to be on top, but that doesn't always come from being smarter or working harder; there are a lot of other factors that determine where one ends up in life. (Not the least of which is where one starts out -- and Mitt started out pretty well off.) Romney and his pals believe they're better than everyone else; I don't necessarily agree.

I bring up the Randian connection only because I think it's informative as to how Romney thinks and how he has acted in the past and is likely to act in the future. I think he honestly believes what he said at that covertly recorded fundraiser -- that half of all Americans are unproductive moochers that unnecessarily take from the natural ruling class in our society, and to hell with them. I find that cold hearted and selfish, but obviously there are folks who agree with that sentiment. Nobody likes a moocher, after all.

So here's the thing. If you think that it's okay for the rich and the powerful to think only of themselves, and not to share their bounty with those less fortunate and more in need, then vote for Romney. If, on the other hand, you feel that all of us have an obligation to help each other and work for the good of the greater society, then vote for Obama.

Myself, I find no virtue in selfishness. I'm all for rewarding hard work, but also for sharing the bounty and helping those in need. I know how I'll be voting in November.