Friday, May 29, 2015

The Friday Link for 5/29/15

This has been a light week on the blog.  The hectic, end of school year schedule I mentioned on-air is stretching my family thin.  We've been so busy, taking a break has been nice, but with it being Friday, duty calls!

Was there any doubt I would be featuring RiffTrax today?  If you didn't hear the excellent hour long visit we had with Bill Corbett on Thursday's show, here is the link:

One of the aspects of riffing I talked to Bill about was the writing challenge it presents.  Don't fool yourself, it's tough to write a comedic movie riff well.

I'm like everyone else, I occasionally will throw a line at the movie as I watch it.  My personal favorite is when you watch The Sound of Music, when Julie Andrews leaves the church to go get married, scream at the TV as they lock the nuns behind the gate, "Back you nuns!  Back!" and throw in a few cracking whip sounds.  Good Catholic morning show host fun!

There is a real art to be able to consistently write a joke script to go along with a movie.  You have to understand the complexities of making movies from every angle, you have to have near savant level knowledge of past and current popular culture, plus your timing has to be exceptional.

It does help to have a God awful movie to tear to shreds.  This movie is titled Wonder Women, no not Wonder Woman.  You'll want to see this film because it looks horrific, and it's available here: 

The below link is a ten minute car chase from the film, apparently staged in the Philippines.  The perfect specimen to be dissected!

Warning, it does have some brief sexuality and a bad word or two, but it's a fine piece of viewing.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's Up Bakk?

I have spent two days asking the question, 'what the heck is up with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk?'  Let me get this down in print.

Background information:  Tom Bakk is a Senator from the north, the arrowhead region and the very northern part of the state including Ely and International Falls.  He IS a Democrat, supposedly, and he is the current Majority Leader in a Senate with a firm Democratic majority.

He is also either incompetent, only in it for his own personal interests, a weak DFL'er who is afraid to be a proud Dem, or, bluntly, a Republican hiding as a Democrat.

Let me run through the reasons I have to question him:

  • He starts the legislative session by getting into a fight with Governor Dayton, from his own party, about pay raises for Dayton's administrators, raises his Senate approved the previous session, validating false outrage pushed forward by the GOP and informing everyone he doesn't like Governor Mark Dayton, whether he meant to or not.
  • He seems to go out of his way to not take advantage of the clear power the DFL has placed at his feet.  He is the majority leader in the MN Senate, one house in the Legislative Branch, with a DFL Governor in the Executive Branch acting as his backup.  He should have sat down with Governor Dayton and hashed out a wish list for himself, the Senate and the Governor, two weeks before the session ended.  Instead, it sounds like he went out of his way to ignore Governor Dayton's repeated requests for language that needed to be in the bills for his signature to be guaranteed.  
  • He has allowed a relative political rookie in Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican, to run circles around him in the later days of the session, getting played like a fiddle when it came to negotiations between the two houses.
  • He allowed extremely anti-Democratic language to be written in the House and Senate 'compromises,' gutting environmental regulations and enforcement, allowing for gun silencers to become legal, re-writing the campaign finance laws of the state, passing educational laws which don't go nearly far enough to meet the needs of the state, and then goes out of his way to shut down the State Auditors office, Rebecca Otto, another Democrat, for what seems like a personal vendetta/pro corruption platform.  
  • Let me repeat, there is no doubt the 'compromise' bills Senate Majority Leader Bakk passed favored the GOP, undermining his own party, and ignoring the Governor's wishes.
  • The 'compromise' bills, when reintroduced into the Senate, were riddled with language which few Democratic Senators seemed privy too.  Many of them were dumbfounded by the undermining of their work done by Bakk to reach an agreement with Daudt.
  • The Senate Democrats didn't support the 'compromise' bills, but the Senate Republicans LOVED them.  They were joined by a handful of Democrats, including Senator Bakk, in passing them.
  • This 'compromise' allowed the GOP to take the high road by insisting they were the ones who were bipartisan, putting Governor Dayton on the defensive when it came to vetoes.
  • In the negotiations for the special legislative session, Senator Bakk has decided to not be part of those negotiations, instead deferring to Daudt to be the sole negotiator for the Legislative branch, all while maintaining he will support the Governor at the end of the day.  This tactic has given Speaker Daudt FAR more power than he should have as leader of one house of the Legislative branch, and the minority party in state government, and has weakened the Governor's ability to get the Democratic platform passed.

Have I missed anything?  What the heck is Bakk doing?  Some of his actions seem to be directly linked to pro mining interests, and making sure the mine owners, most of them international mining conglomerates, are getting rewarded first and foremost.  The attack on the Auditors office, the removal of the citizens review board and the unbelievable give away to allow businesses that pollute to walk away without any penalties if they just say "oops" before anyone else does, boggles the mind.  And this guy says he's a Democrat???

When this is all over, Democrats of the Minnesota DFL need to think about making a leadership change in the Senate.  The best you can say is Bakk has horribly mismanaged the power he inherited coming into this session.  The worst...well, damage done.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Friday Link for 5/22/15

Matty tired...

After two weeks of great shows, insane politics, and running my kids around, I burnt myself out tonight getting helicopters out of my gardens.


Here is the funniest MST3K short.  It's the one filmed at Iowa State about going to college, 'The Home Economics Story'.  I'll leave you with "look, look, look at my crotch!"

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

On Camera

Last night, I went to the liberal news website Raw Story and discovered something which instantly got my finger a clicking!  "Video posted...Minnesota High School Student blaming minorities for violent crime..."

The story was of a video taken in a public high school classroom, where (what appears to be) a caucasian girl makes some ignorant and stupid arguments about government assistance, immigrants, and crime being committed by "Mexican, Somalia, black" people.  It's not intelligent thought's finest moment, but it is what it is.  The girl is challenged numerous times in the classroom, but seems committed to her ludicrous beliefs.

I'm not quite sure what to think about this video, but I don't like the video itself.  This wasn't some belligerent racist rant in a Target parking lot, the high school debate championship with a full auditorium, a high school jock bragging falsely about sexual exploits on social media or kids getting caught using a phone app to send racist tinged messages.  This is a group of kids in a closed classroom having a discussion about immigration policy.  Regardless of the girl's sincerest beliefs, there is a racist element to what she's saying, but she's also a high school kid, the textbook definition of foolish.  Isn't high school and college, supposedly, the years where you find out the stuff your parents have indoctrinated you with was really their opinion and not necessarily the real world?

I remember my youth in Edina being told by some that Uptown was the 'inner city,' with gangland shootouts, drugged out vagrants and rampant crime.  Then I went there with a church youth group to hand out literature, and realized how wrong they were.  Uptown in the 80's and 90's wasn't the glorified mall it's become today, but it wasn't nearly the dystopian hellscape I was lead to believe.  It was alive and vibrant, full of unique everything.  I loved it, realizing the stale malls and retail chains of my upbringing had little of the pure energy I never knew I craved.  I never looked back.

The Raw Story article makes a misguided attempt at laying the blame for this girls comments at the feet of an obscenely conservative news media.  I agree the media in this country is owned by conservative interests, but this girl learned this stuff form her life, whether it was mom and dad, grandpa, church, or cable news.  These are the beliefs she has been surrounded by, and she really does believe them.  Her willingness to share them so earnestly and freely is all the proof I need she's just repeating what she's been taught at home.

So, how do we look at this video?  Regardless of how much we disagree with some people, a person has a right to teach and educate their kids, in their private home, how they choose.  We should NEVER think we can regulate non-illegal, private residence behavior.  This girl is headed into a yard full of rakes placed there by the people who have filled her mind with such absurdities, but for her to grow, she needs to walk into a few of them, like the one in her classroom, and take the sting back home and ask whomever has lied to her, "why did you tell me that?"  It's called growing up.  Yes, she may refuse to educate herself on the realities she becomes jarringly aware of, but that's her right, as a private individual.  Doesn't mean we have to like it.  That's our right, too.

This was also in a classroom in a high school.  This reeks of private agenda to embarrass and humiliate this girl.  We should be able to educate people who are misinformed without a public shaming which could haunt this girl for years.  Maybe honesty, respecting each other, and what should or shouldn't be made public can be the next discussion that class has.

The one good aspect of the video is the kids themselves had the discussion.  A young man in the classroom challenges her silly arguments, and this leads to conversation.  Reality based human interaction is what this girl needs, and the bite of being rebuked by her peers might be enough for her to start asking the questions she needs to start asking.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank God For Governor Mark Dayton

Things have been coming at me so fast and furious the last 36 hours, with the close of the 2015 Legislative session, I have a headache.

It all boils down to this; the Minnesota House Republicans, led by Speaker Kurt Daudt, went into negotiations with the Democratic lead Minnesota Senate, led by Senate Majority Leader Bakk, with a few goals in mind.  They waited until the very end to make their 'compromises,' so bills would get rammed through without anyone really seeing what was in them.  They snuck Republican wish list items into the bills, like dismantling the power of the Auditors office, legalized gun silencers, and weakening clean up rules for polluters, but the end goal was simply to bide their time.  The MN GOP want the massive budget surplus the state has, 1.9 Billion, to go to the wealthiest 1000 in the state, for their 'implied quid pro quo dance.'  They never intended to use the surplus for the betterment of Minnesotans, but when they realized most Minnesotans weren't on board with their plan, they decided to wait it out.  Their hope is through the current tax system that created the surplus in the first place, and through cuts they are making in programs, just because they are mean spirited Republicans, the surplus will be a lot bigger next year, making their insistence of handing the surplus over to the wealthiest 1000 easier for their voting base to swallow.

I'm not quite sure what Senator Bakk was thinking.  It seems he was either incompetent and allowed this to happen, or, even worse, was opportunistic and got enough direct political hand outs for himself to make him forgo sanity.

Today, the GOP, and the state media which panders to them unabashedly, started to make it seem like the GOP was more than willing to work with the Governor, even though the bills the GOP passed tell a completely different story.

Then came Governor Dayton, who did the equivalent of putting Speaker Daudt over his knee and spanking him. He immediately vetoed the Education bill, releasing the very clear e-mails he had sent Speaker Daudt and Senator Bakk last week about what had to be in the bills for his signature.  He also laid out potentially more vetoes, something he knows has teeth because the House DFL, after being completely disrespected by Speaker Daudt, is not about to help him override the Governor's vetoes.

Governor Dayton knows the Executive branch of the state is the strongest elected position in Minnesota, he knows he has a mandate from the people with his large re-election margin, he's not afraid of the Republican party, especially not a jackass like Speaker Daudt and he has nothing to lose.  He will get his way on these bills and he'll make you cry if you try to stop him.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Friday Link for 5/15/15

I love baseball.  It's my favorite sport, hands down.  I love the complexity of it, how it's a team sport played by individuals, where every play is unique, but is viewed as part of the overall game, and you're only as good as your last pitch, throw or hit.

My son is a far better baseball player than I ever was.  He has tremendous power and has turned into a pure hitter.  He will hit a few home runs this year.  He plays outfield, 3rd, 2nd and 1st and he is a pretty good pitcher too.  Not tonight though.  He got shelled tonight, but most of the runs were unearned.  His team can take a few innings to get going.  Regardless, it's a tremendous way to spend two and a half hours on a warm day.

When I was a player, I was more concerned about the dandelions and bugs than the ball rolling past me in the outfield.  I was a human Ferdinand, more focused on the beauty around me than the sporting task at hand.

Since it is the baseball season, let me go to one of the all time great comedy bits, 'Who's on First!' Abbott and Costello are among the all time greats.  Listening to some of their radio shows on satellite radio is pure joy, and I'll always remember the Saturday afternoon movies of them as a kid.  They are clean, and hilarious.  Their comedic timing was the greatest of all time, and they were just tremendous partners, playing off each other to perfection.  They are also the consummate example of why you practice, as they could have never done most of their bits without hours of work to make them perfect.

This bit where they discuss the unusual names of the baseball players on their team is their most popular skit they ever did.  This is the extended version, which I feel is best, and it does lead to a great trivia question:  who's the only position player you don't find out the name of? (by the way, that is not a trick question).  Listen and you can find out.  Play ball!  It's your Friday Link.  

An Old Friend

In case it wasn't clear by my two week, fan boy, on-air crush, I'm a huge fan of Rush, the Canadian prog rock trio (not the other one).  They were just in town for their 40th Anniversary Tour, but in a bit of an odd twist, not the 40th anniversary of the band itself.  The 40th they're celebrating was the 40 years of the current line up, with Neil Peart, the second drummer of the band.  The original drummer left after Rush's first album and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson luckily happened to stumble upon a guy who would become one of the top three rock drummers of all time.  Add to that Geddy making a solid argument for greatest rock bass guitarist of all time, and Alex as top 20 rock guitarist of all time, and you begin to understand why the fans love of this band.

My first time being aware Rush existed was back in Rhode Island.  Jamie Radamcher was a kid ahead of his time.  In 1980, this kid was the first of my friends to get into the Lego building sets, making them according to instructions and then never playing with them, just staring at them.  He'd get so angry if we touched them.  He also was the first kid I knew who was into Dungeons and Dragons.  In the summer of 80, I was over at his house, not playing with the Legos, when the local rock radio station played Spirit of Radio.  Jamie went nuts.  He said, "it's so cool Rush is getting played on air."  I had no idea why this was cool.  I remember Spirit of Radio getting played, and when Tom Sawyer came out the next year, it was everywhere.  I then moved to Georgia for two years and heard nothing.

I had moved back to Minneapolis in 1983, and two of Rush's videos were in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV; Subdivisions (this band was WAY ahead of everyone else on their criticism of suburban culture, something apparent every time I drive past a strip mall full of chain restaurants and chain stores) and Distant Early Warning (one of the first songs to make fun of the constant 'be afraid of nukes' mantra which fueled Reagan era policies).

Steve Clay, a good friend of mine in high school and a HUGE Rush fan (he was at the concert on Tuesday too), convinced me to go to see the Power Windows Tour in March of 1986 at the old Civic Center.  I was sold as soon as the Three Stooges theme played.  Back then, Rush was big enough to have a good set of hits, which they played most of (except for Fly By Night), and they could still revisit favorites without feeling like they left anything out.  Last Tuesday, they skipped over five albums completely and still played for near 3 hours, omitting at least 10 of their most popular songs.  I'm not complaining, the R40 tour was amazing.

Tuesday was my 10th Rush concert.  I pray they keep playing together for as long as they can.  Every time I listen to an album or see them live, it's revisiting an old friend.  I have other artists I love, and I've been to fantastic non-Rush concerts, but Rush will always be my favorite.

Monday, May 11, 2015

No Good Answers

Corey Lee Claflin, when he was 24, sexually assaulted a 6 year old girl.  He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May of 2003.  After he served two-thirds of his term, he was put into a supervised program with strict rules.  He was labeled at that point a Level 1 predatory offender.  While in this supervised environment, he violated rules relating to having a device with internet access, having pornography, and, most disturbing, having contact with children in some form.  He was sent back to prison for the violations, but he did not receive any additional time to his original prison term.  He was re-assessed as a Level 3 predatory offender, the level with the highest likelihood of re-offending.  Next Monday, Corey Lee Claflin is scheduled to be released after serving his 12 year term.  He'll be free, and he'll be moving into my neighborhood, living a block away from my house.

There are no words to summarize my frustration.

How is this guy even getting released?  Aren't there supposed to be far harsher penalties in cases like this?  When he was sentenced to 12 years, it probably seemed like a long time.  If someone told you today you had to go away until 2027, it'd sound like an eternity, but in reality, it's not that long.  Politicians talk about getting tough on crime but imposing life sentences for sex crimes usually runs into three problems.

First, cookie cutter solutions rarely are effective.  If you create a life sentence for sex crimes, you're saying a 21 year old guy, who walks into a bar, has a few drinks with a woman, goes back to his place for consensual sex, only to find out she was 15 and using her sister's ID at the bar, that he should somehow serve the same amount of prison time as a serial rapist.  We need to have guidelines which allow our judiciary to sentence accordingly, but it's still a head scratcher how a guy who sexually assaulted a 6 year old only got 12 years.

Second, if you start making sex crimes life sentences, people are going to start asking why other crimes are not life sentences too.  Bankrupting thousands of people through a Ponzi scheme, beating your wife and kids, drunk driving for the 2nd time, cheating on your taxes.  I guarantee I can find someone who could make a decent argument why the people who perpetrate those crimes should get far harsher penalties too.  Do we really want 3-7% of the population serving life sentences behind bars?

Thirdly, AND the main reason we don't have far harsher mandatory penalties for sexual offenders, is because the harsher the mandatory penalty, the harder it is for wealthy people to buy their way out of it.  There are just as many sexual predators who live in wealthy white suburbs as there are in the inner city.  With a good lawyer and some big checks, wealthy people can make their cases disappear before a trial.  Even if they're convicted, they can use their money to argue their sentences should be served in a treatment/spa facility in Florida, not a prison.  And, with money, they can contest their predatory offender status, getting released as a Level 1, where few in a community are aware their neighbor is a predator (more on that later).

The Hopkins Police and the Minnesota Department of Corrections had a community meeting about Mr. Claflin, giving some basic background information and fielding questions from the masses.  The numbers are disturbing.  One in five girls are sexually assaulted, 1 in 7 boys.  One in six women, and 1 in 33 men.  This is an epidemic in this country and these crimes are not just being perpetrated by the same five or six people.  There are far more predatory offenders in the US than we realize, and, very likely, one within a few blocks of you right now.  Reminder, once these criminals are released, without any further supervision, there are limited restrictions to where they can go.

Are we going to tell criminals upon being released they're not allowed to go home, to live with their parents, their family, on their own property?  This is what is happening in our neighborhood.  Claflin has family who still lives here, in a house which is a cliche; dark brown, unwelcoming, not a lot of windows, unkept yard, creepy.  The corrections officers said the best chance for him to not re-offend is to be in a supportive environment with family.  I'm not going to argue that point, but I just wish his supportive environment wasn't so near my house.

Some aren't shy about threatening him.  I've heard people suggest they'll attack him, release their dogs on him, and one person sitting next to me at the meeting eluded to "whatever it would take" to get him out of the neighborhood.  The police took a beating in the meeting as well, with angry residents accusing them of somehow being complacent in Claflin's return home.  I imagine some people's ferver is being fueled by sexual assaults they'd endured themselves years ago, and they don't like the calmness of their lives being disrupted with a reminder of their own violation.  If twelve years is not long enough for them, why should it be long enough for Claflin?

I stood up at the meeting and saluted the police for letting us know about all of this, and reminded the audience we should be thankful they disseminated this information.  Law enforcement is promising to be diligent, insisting they will act immediately if Mr. Claflin steps a millimeter out of line.

The Department of Correction's spokeswoman pointed out the improvements they've made in regards to treating Level 3 offenders.  In the early 90's, the rates of recidivism were around 16% after three years.  Today, 98% of Level 3 predatory offenders have no relapses of behavior in the same three year stretch.  That's impressive, but it doesn't stop fear, something pointed out with scary glee by one woman at the meeting.  "This guy could come out of prison and rape someone within minutes of coming home.  What if Claflin is that guy???"  She had a little too much eagerness for her potentially being the person who gets to say "I told you so!"

I like to think of myself as rational and educated.  I strive to be logical and think things through, but in reality, I'm just a scared and freaked out by Mr. Claflin's violation potential as anyone else.  I've a 13 year old son, daughters 10 and 8, and a wife.  I don't want to see them attacked or violated.  It's easy to have a calm debate about something when you're standing a safe distance away.  It's far harder when it's a block away from you.

Let me get back to the comment I made about sexual predators being everywhere.  They are.  It's just a fact, but as I've told some west metro friends who don't live in my neighborhood about Mr. Claflin's return, the reaction has been jaw dropping.  "Oh, Hopkins is falling off the map, it's the ghetto, it's a slum, it's a shame at how bad things have gotten in that town."  These reactions are similar to the ones many of my neighbors have gotten too.

Let me explain something; Hopkins is not only middle class, it's an upper middle class community.  It really is.  Is it as gilded as the self inflated provenance and mansions of Edina, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie or Wayzata? No, but because it's surrounded by such wealth, the perspective is skewed.  It does have a slightly higher representation of lower income families and minorities, but it's still not even close to a fair representation of the race and class breakdown which is America.  As much as the more pricey zip codes and school districts look down upon Hopkins, there are far more communities looking up at the wealth Hopkins has.

Ghetto and slum?  When I hear people use such terms as ignorantly as they do, it tells me far more about them.  If you have zero experience with ghettos or slums, it's probably best to not loosely brandish the term, like you're an authority on the matter.  Frankly, you look like a stupid, racist jerk.

Sexual predators are everywhere, in every community.  The important thing is to be safe and use common sense.  Talk to your kids.  Have them use the buddy system when they are going somewhere.  And most important, give your kids the attention they deserve.  The predator's most effective weapon to lure victims, regardless of whether it's in the lowest income area or in most gold plated of opulent communities, is to give potential targets the attention they are starving for, the attention the potential victims are not getting in their lives.  Pay attention to your kids!

I love my neighborhood.  We have very good property values, near non-existent crime, some level of economic and social diversity, and it's welcoming, clean and beautiful.  Last night we had a block party and it was full of warmth and friendliness.  We're not going to allow one individual to define our neighborhood or who we are.  I'm proud of where I live.

But, I'm still extremely frustrated.  At the end of the day, there are no good answers.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Friday Link for 5/8/15

David Letterman is getting ready to leave the air, but he still keeps doing it better than pretty much anyone else.  Last night Tina Fey was his guest and proceeded to remover her dress and give it to him.  It was a bit, but it was a really good bit.

It's hard to relay how important David Letterman was.  When he started his Late Show on NBC (after someone thought him hosting a daytime TV show was a good idea.  It bombed, but did win two Emmy's), Carson was still king, but 'safe.'  Carson was brilliant, and beloved by the parents and grandparents who watched him religiously.  Letterman was for the college and high school kids.  His instant popularity with younger viewers brought so many people to late night viewing.  Today, it's hard to think about television mostly being just late news, movies and sign offs.

He was so good, leading a polished show which looked like it was done by the seat of their pants with a bone dry budget.  They had very intelligent writers who looked at comedy and the talk show format in a very different light.  Chris Elliot, man on the street interviews, throwing stuff off of buildings and just plain goofy stuff were common highlights.  Plus the music he would book was unheard of by most of America.

I remember my friends setting their VCR's to tape him, getting up the next morning and watching, talking about all the bits and jokes.  It was a generational thing, as my parents hated him back then.  They could not figure out why anyone watched him.  I know they wouldn't remember their dislike of him from back then, as he has become the old guard of late night today.

This is why many people, including myself, feel as if Letterman was betrayed by NBC, when they handed the Tonight Show to Jay Leno.  I understand they wanted a 'safe' host that would keep the moms and grandmas watching, but they brutally stabbed him in the back and lost their cool edge.  I mentioned in a past Friday link the Conan situation, yet another betrayal by Leno.  When it came to Fallon, there was no way they were going to let Jay come back a third time.  Fallon is quite good, but he is 'safe' too.  His real talent is taking relatively safe activities and making them seem edgy.

Going back to those first years, it's hard to remember what it was that first got us all talking about Letterman, but you couldn't miss the buzz the day after he debuted the velcro suit.  Here is that classic bit, still as funny as ever.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Scariest Weather Video Ever

In conjunction with the blog post, The New Not-Normal, I wanted to put up what I consider to be the scariest weather video I have ever seen.  It may not look like much, but it's terrifying to me.

This time lapse video was taken by a camera aimed toward the east in Madison, Wisconsin.  What you see is Hurricane Sandy coming ashore.  As this cloud bank moves over Wisconsin, the hurricane eye itself is slamming into New Jersey.  This could be the largest storm I have ever seen.

The time lapse gives this storm the anger you'd expect.  As Wisconsin sees the edge of this, remember that Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are all covered by this monster, and that's only half of the storm!

Tornados don't scare me too much.  You really have to be unlucky to get tagged by one of them.  Lightning?  I wear rubber soled shoes.  Blizzards, heatwaves, flash floods?  I am cautious, but nothing scares me like hurricanes.  I live in Minnesota to make sure I don't experience another one in my life.  Minnesota is also good for avoiding earthquakes too.

Nature always wins.

The New Not-Normal

Last weekend was delightful.  It was warm and sunny.  My whole family spent the daylight hours outside gardening and playing, with a baseball game for my son taking place on Sunday in spectacular conditions.  There was only one slight problem; it was all wrong.  The temperature was more common for early June, not early May, and the plants and trees are all about two weeks ahead of their normal growth cycle.

This nicer weather is an ignored truth, the new not-normal.  People aren't alarmed when the temperature is supposed to be 60, but it's 75.  The temperature differential, along with extremes in precipitation and storms, are painting an undeniable picture of a changing world right before our eyes, but when the problems of climate change are separated from each other, the warming temperatures just become a pleasant respite most of the time.  Climate change isn't just warming, but the warming is the most obvious day to day symptom, and the easiest to dismiss.

Back in March of 2003, we had a two week span of very warm temperatures, with the high temps on two of those days being around 70.  That was 30 degrees warmer than it supposed to be.  No one really complained, as a matter of fact, most people reacted as though it was free sex and candy days, frantically grabbing scissors to make cut offs, as their shorts were still deeply buried in boxes, months away from being dusted off.  I myself went and walked Lake Calhoun numerous times over that stretch, watching the snow frantically melt with a smile on my face.  Every year since, we've had a stretch of late Winter/early Spring days where it is freakishly warmer than it should be.

Since April 1 of this year, most of the days have been above average temperature, and most of them were 6 or more degrees above normal.  Eleven days since April 1 have been 15 degrees or warmer than they should be.  On April 1, it was almost 40 degrees warmer than average, April 12, 23 degrees warmer, April 14, 19 degrees, May 3, 17.

On May 14th, 2013, we hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the metro area, another 30+ degree warmer than it's supposed to be day.  People hated it.  Most had just taken the winter covers off their air conditioners, not realizing they'd have to fire them up so early.  No one smiled that day.  If we had a two week stretch of 105 or higher temps in the Twin Cities in July and August, 30 degrees warmer than it should be, just like March of 03, people wouldn't be happy.  They would say, "this is wrong.  Why doesn't someone do something about it?"  But then comes 80 degrees in late September, and the stress and strain of the extreme summer heat disappears.

There's a financial impact which is ignored too.  The AC bills for a two week stretch I described would bring a level of concern to the kitchen table, but it's the larger weather related impacts we need to start seeing.  A few winters ago, we didn't have snow.  No snow in Minnesota should terrify people, but instead we went about giggling and playing, acting like it was a nice break from the normal.  Then came the consequences.  Businesses who depend on snow (ski resorts, snowmobile manufacturers, snow plows, snow blower makers) all had massive economic downturns, leading to layoffs and lost revenue.  It nearly broke some communities, AND it was due to climate change.  But wouldn't you know, a more normal snow the next year and the downturn becomes a distant memory, until the next Winter without snow.

When we have a year's worth of rain fall in a three week span, followed by extreme drought for the rest of the year, people look at the end of the year totals and shrug their shoulders saying, "it works out in the end."  Even hurricanes, one of the most destructive forces on the planet, after they scrub a large portion of a state clean, are only remembered for a limited time by the individuals it directly effects, and hardly at all by the parts of the country the storm missed.  Sandy really messed up New Jersey, but how many Republicans didn't care one iota about the massive devastation, instead only accusing Gov. Christie of being a traitor for needing Federal assistance.  Still today, there are portions of the East Coast which have not been repaired.  For a shocking amount of people, it's easy to overlook.

There's a definitive trend to the temperature fluctuations, but when you add in the bizarre precipitation variances, the super storms, the unusual weather patterns (both warmer and colder), and then factor in the financial impacts to our economy, we should all be very concerned.

Then again, maybe you should just go out and enjoy the nice weather while it lasts.  Considering Climate Change legislation has the same chances as a snowball in hell (insert Senator Inhofe joke here), it probably won't be too long before the new not-normal is impossible to enjoy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Fraud that is the Minnesota GOP

The Minnesota GOP, since winning the state House last November, has tried to portray their image as pro-Minnesota business, pro-worker, and pro-out state, rural communities.  They've insisted the small towns of the state have been ignored by the big, bad Twin Cities metro for too long, and they were going to make Minneapolis/St. Paul pay, but once again, the Republicans have shown their true colors.  The Minnesota GOP is only in politics for the wealthiest of the wealthy and for their own self promotion.

First, some background on a current issue which exposes the Right as the frauds they are.  Chinese steel has been flooding the world market, propped up unfairly by the Chinese government.  As the world prices have bottomed out, the Minnesota steel and taconite industry is feeling the pain, with layoffs announced across the Iron Range.  Minnesota Democrats came up with a good idea; they introduced a bill making American-made steel the only steel to be used in Minnesota public works projects.  Great idea, as it puts American products first, helps Minnesota's mining industry, and might prevent some of the layoffs.

The Republicans in the MN House voted the bill down.

It would be simple to call the GOP hacks, but lets break down their motives:

1) The GOP will do everything in their power to make sure any rural districts represented by the Democrats, including many of the districts on the Iron Range, get nothing which may be perceived as helping their constituents.  They had success in 2014 by playing the anti-metro card, and if they can make rural districts with DFL Reps. languish in an economic downturn, they might be able to win those seats in 2016.  You just have to convince the voters to forget the Republicans were the ones who voted to hurt them.

2)  If they can make them desperate enough, the miners of the northland might become a louder voice in support of the sulfide mining operation proposed for the Ely area.  This type of mining is an environmental disaster, and has never, NEVER, been done safe and clean.  The mine will poison the pristine northland, and as the environmental dangers become more widely known, public sentiment is turning against it.  Creating loyal foot soldiers, desperate for any job they can get, might help the Republicans pro-sulfide mining cause.

3)  A main reason the GOP voted down help for the Iron Range was because they didn't want their corporate executive puppet-masters to have to pay a slightly higher price for steel.  They contend they're pro-America, but 'America First' is only a campaign slogan for the right.  If profits are involved, the Republicans will always take the cheap side, even if it goes against the best interests of their own state.  Because of their blind allegiance to corporations, and Chinese steel, the MNGOP is anti-Minnesota worker and anti-Minnesota products.

What this latest example shows is the complete lack of interest MN House Speaker Kurt Daudt and the rest of his tea party underlings have for the citizens of Minnesota, regardless of where they live.  The Republicans don't care about rural Minnesota.  They were the ones who torpedoed major aide to the rural communities in last session's bonding bill, they're the ones who've failed to follow through on any of their campaign promises to the rural communities in the funding bills they just passed this session, and they're going to continue to go out of their way to make life as miserable as they can for rural Minnesota, hoping they'll blame the DFL, the one party who has delivered for all Minnesotans.

It should be noted the Republican bills passed by the state House this session show a clear hatred of the Twin Cities metro area too.  Why anyone not ultra wealthy in either city limits, or in the suburban communities, would vote for the GOP is a mystery.

Rural Minnesota, the Republicans aren't going to help you unless you're one of the wealthiest 1000 in the state.  If your bank account doesn't have more than six figures in it, you won't see any help from the GOP.  The Republicans need you to indiscriminately vote for them, and will keep feeding you lies so you stay obedient.  When you wake up to that fact, and stop buying the right's lies, then you'll see more positive change, just like you did under the Democrats the last two years.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Friday Link for 5/1/15

I've been in absolute heaven today as I embraced my inner geek.  The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was a very good movie.  Matt's review - different from the first, but it had to be.  Where the first movie established the Avengers, the second movie embraces the concept of an ever changing, ever morphing team.  They started by wrapping up a lot of story lines still open from the previous films, created a self contained plot of an sentient robot (Ultron) coming alive and deciding humanity needs to end, and finished with not only a sensational battle scene with Ultron and his robot army, but they nicely set up the next few movies, primarily Captain American Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor Ragnarok.  The battle scenes are pure summer blockbuster madness at it's best, and three in particular are unbelievable.  The plot is not the deepest, but I think it's best to save the deeper thinking for the individual character movies. Go see it, it's amazing.

I still want to bring a little humor to Friday, and it would seem only fitting to focus on the latest top notch correspondent from The Daily Show leaving.  I did think about posting the Judith Miller interview Jon Stewart did, but there was no humor in it, just the sad twisting in the wind of a fake journalist, too desperate to hide her own culpable behavior.

Samantha Bee was sensational.  Her segments were usually either silly or sarcastically serious.  Her bit, a one woman show ripping on Fox News' The Five, was sensational, and she was probably the best women's issue reporter on TV, fake or real.

Here are two of my favorite Samantha Bee moments.  The first is her pointing out a woman's right of Choice is not only about abortions and birth control, but also a woman choosing to have her child.  Her pointing that out to GOP convention goers in St. Paul in 2008, trying desperately to get the right to use the word "Choice," was epic.

The other bit is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, but not necessarily because of Samantha.  Her 'Long Island as the 51st State' story is littered with some of the dumbest human beings on the planet.  Even her double takes at the ever dumber responses from the meatballs she found to interview are priceless.

I am worried at whether The Daily Show will be half the shell of its former self.  Not only with Stewart's departure, but the additional losses are not easily replaceable either.  On that sad note, I hope you have a nice weekend.