28 October 2011

Let Zygi Pay

The hayseeds here in Minnesota are poised to give up the farm to New Jersey shopping mall mogul and real estate baron Zygi Wilf.

Wilf, who owns the Minnesota Vikings, is holding Minnesota hostage for a new football stadium. Zygi's apologists in Minnesota's sports press warn failure to build a new stadium will force to Zygi moving the team to Los Angeles.

I reject the notion of some shyster, his minions, and his apologists, taking Minnesotans for a bunch of hayseeds.

Some state leaders are open to using the state's Legacy funds to finance a new football stadium. One source would be Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund which is generated by a sales tax that voters approved in 2008. The program will distribute some $6.75 million in 2010 and 2011 to presumably culturally significant causes. Minnesota legislation directed that grants were to be given statewide:
to programs and projects conducted by local, county, or state historical organizations or activities that preserve significant historic and cultural resources
Minnesota’s professional sports teams do indeed become part Minnesota’s cultural heritage and do unquestionably comprise a portion of Minnesota’s cultural identity to the rest of the world. When outsiders mention Minnesota, they typically enumerate over our lakes, our winters, and The Vikings.

However there are many more culturally meaningful ways to use the resources of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund than to dole out corporate welfare to some wheeler-dealer with a grip full of his own cheddar.

It would be a mistake. It is not in Minnesota's best interest to set the culturally degrading precedent of dipping into that fund to help finance a new Vikings stadium.
Americans build stadia as a monument to sloth-like desire for entertainment at the expense of essential institutions like public schools.
Professional sports teams have made an unseemly practice of holding communities hostage to curry favors, and to extract hand-outs and tax incentives. As long as jobs and living wages are under siege by our do-nothing US Congress, we must focus on essentials.

Minnesotans must evaluate priorities, then try to distinguish wants from needs.

26 October 2011

Antidote to Despair

Perhaps in waning daylight of October we find ourselves approaching the nadir of darkness. And so it is on the political landscape too. We are witnessing a burgeoning Global Corporatocracy.

But the pendulum swings. There is reason hope.

Discovering this picture of crocuses stored on my phone since last spring reminds me that following 3-4 snow-covered months in Minnesota, there are few spectacles more hope-filled than the fiercely blue petals and gold stamen of crocuses piercing the furry gray snow-fungus in the yard.

A few rays of sunlight on the political landscape are:
  1. Decades of corporate profit-wringing and corporate outsourcing to the cheapest bidder has made it impossible for young people to get an economic foothold. From that springs the Occupy Wall Street movement which is the new, vigorous left-of-center demonstrating for economic fairness and accountability.
  2. Decades of assault on standards in journalism have made it difficult for citizens to find non-didactic news sources. From that springs WikiLeaks shedding light on state secrets.
  3. Decades of autocratic rule, marked by dictatorship, human rights violations, and government corruption, stripped millions of people of their hope for the future. From that came a wave of revolutionary demonstrations and protests known as the Arab Spring.
Spring is a yearly revolution in many parts of the world.
Action is the antidote to despair
~Joan Baez
Political and social activist Abbie Hoffman said,
Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.

23 October 2011

I Believe - October

This is the first of a series of I Believe posts. Each month I will post five things I have come to believe.
  1. I believe public policy should, as a matter of fairness, smooth the jagged edges of fate. 
  2. I believe a top-down hierarchy is inherently unstable - it assumes the ethical & operational infallibility of those at the top.
  3. I believe the myth of individual exceptionalism undermines our society. American exceptionalism romanticizes the notion that we are a nation of individuals.
  4. I believe when journalism is weakened, democracy is threatened. WikiLeaks just might counter the trend toward lapdog journalism.
  5. I believe the roots of comedy are centered about human-kind’s collective fallibility (which explains why the best comics are not politically conservative).

21 October 2011

What Have We Learned?

Qaddafi is toast. bin Laden is toast. Saddam is toast. What have we learned?

The editors of Today's Question on the Minnesota Public Radio News website point out
Some critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq are pointing out that regime change in Libya was accomplished at lower cost and with no loss of American lives.
Then they ask us
Does a comparison of Iraq and Libya offer any valid lessons for U.S. policy?
There are valid lessons aplenty! But I am doubtful we learned them.

As of 5 minutes ago, US elective wars have cost US taxpayers $1,266,570,700,000 over the past decade. Killing bad guys serves to feed the insatiable beast that Gen. Colin Powell fittingly dubbed The Terror Industrial Complex, but provides dubious value to US taxpayers.

It is near impossible to assess how much the US has spent in Libya because of black ops and other unreported covert forays and NATO sorties.

Two questions voters should be asking:
  1. Is the US commitment to Libya over after removing Qaddafi? (By comparison, removing Saddam did little to slow budget-busting nation-building in Iraq); and
  2. Should the US be involved in elective, extra-curricular regime changing and nation building in the first place?
Here's a quote from Abbie Hoffman to consider:
I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.

18 October 2011

Transient Pictographs

Is it a sail boat? Is it snow man?

I didn't see anyone executing this road-grime graffiti on my car, but I suspect my son drew these images before he left home for his last semester as an Architecture student.

When my children were young, one of their bedtime rituals was for me to draw on their backs with the tip of my index finger, then have them guess what object I had drawn. I often drew sailboats. And I often drew snowmen. Sometimes to spark a giggle fit, I would have the snowman captain the sailboat.

I first noticed these pictographs a few weeks ago. Yesterday I remembered to record them before the car was washed or a driving rain washed them away.

Love is transient and often reveals itself in unexpected places.

02 October 2011

Observations of Truth, Love and Memory

Truth is a potent but licit drug that none of us seem likely to imbibe.

Some "find" truth, but closer examination reveals - through dogma or faith - these folks have a death-grip on a chunk of fool's gold.

For the rest of us, the game is to walk toward truth. To walk toward truth even though the destination is just beyond our stride. Walking toward truth is a labor of love. It's a slog requiring discipline. And except in our progeny, the journey vanishes when we die. The walk ends as innocently as it began in our earliest winks of consciousness.

Seeking big truths differs from discovering little truths (e.g., What goes up, must come down). There are countless observable phenomena that, to the best of our knowledge, hold true. There is truth that science overwhelmingly agrees on. One is free to disagree with scientific truth, but be forewarned it carries the risk of navigating one's ship off the edge of a flat earth.

Absolutes, like truth, are like gossamer in straight-line winds. There is conventional wisdom which is about as good as it gets. Conventional wisdom is stable but mutable. Except for the incontrovertible part, Churchill had it right
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
~Winston Churchill
Love is the most splendid phenomenon life has to offer. Love is irresistibly irrational. In The Female Brain, brain doc Louann Brizendine says
...falling in love is one of the most irrational behaviors or brain states imaginable for both men and women. The brain becomes illogical in the throes of new romance...
On infatuation she points out,
It shares brain circuits with states of obsession, mania, intoxication, thirst, and hunger.
I love all stages, facets and phases of love.

Truth be told, I wouldn't give up love for truth, but I'm a sucker for altered states.

Memory is perhaps the most perplexing. In an ode to senility poem called Compos Mentis I wrote,
The mind is a big-hearted tyrant
To get incrementally closer to truth, it's inefficient folly to rely exclusively on memory.

I once believed I had accurate if not vivid memory of the people and places I cared about. Admittedly I am stuck on a Big Sky college town where I first set eyes my spouse in the late 70s. My mind is full of technicolor clips of that expansive time (cf. my short story Recollections of Edible Gingerbread).

When I first returned to the magical Big Sky down after a 15-year absence, I was amused at how my accurate memory played tricks. Things had changed. But it was the things that hadn't changed that surprised me. Things that hadn't changed were sometimes subtly but stunningly different than I had remembered.

I've since learned something about how our brains work. Our brains are not serving up digitally true film clips from a file server. Rather each time we remember an event, our nerve pathways are firing anew to reconstruct the memory. In short,
We have revisionist memories.
Memory is useful when it leads to level-headed analysis. Left to its own devices, memory is a self-serving dictator. Nothing is as good or as bad as we remember it -- maybe it's better or worse than we remember it.

We are continually scripting and revising our narratives to buttress brittle egos.