Thursday, December 31, 2015

The News Stories of the Year, 2015 Edition!

Happy New Year everyone!!!  I hope 2016 is wonderful for you.

It's time for our annual countdown of the news stories from the year that was 2015!  These are what I consider to be the biggest news stories of the year!  I know there are going to be stories not on this list which some will insist are the biggest stories of the year.  This is just my opinion.  A story might be here for good or bad reasons, and it might be a local story, a Minnesota story or a national story.  Some adult themes ahead.

Before we get to the countdown, three honorable mentions:


HM#1 - The rise and fall of little Scotty Walker - mainly May thru September.  This was amazing to witness.  The guy was pegged to be the nominee after he won his recall, and after he cemented his position as front runner by winning a second term in Wisconsin, so to watch Walker flame out so quickly was stunning.  The minute the intense national spotlight got on him, he was exposed for what he really was, a county clerk who was placed on a national stage he really couldn't handle.  All the Koch money in the world couldn't save him.  http://fox6now.com/2015/12/14/i-do-not-regret-anything-but-after-campaign-for-president-gov-walker-in-debt-and-he-needs-help/

HM#2 - A total of six people show up in Minnesota to rally in support of the Confederate Flag -September.  After the Dylann Roof shooting in South Carolina, the Confederate Flag, and what it represents, came under scrutiny.  Supporters of the flag stood by their argument that it stood for tradition, but the rest of us weren't buying it anymore.  It's the symbol of an enemy of the United States of America; the flag of the pro-slavery south.  In an attempt to show southern pride, a rally was attempted in Minnesota.  A total of 6 people showed up.  Six(!) in a state of 5.5 million.  Good riddance.  http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/2015/09/05/rally-at-minnesota-capitol-for-confederate-flag-fizzles/71782522/

HM#3 - In what was an epic display of horrible coaching and bad sportsmanship, the Faribault Dance Line team was chased off the floor, and out of Target Center, in a coordinated attack by the five losing team's coaches, after Faribault won the State Dance Line Championship, fair and square - February.  Once again, the other schools who were competing against Faribault felt they should be disqualified.  The Minnesota State High School League disagreed.  The five other schools made the worst decision they could, tried to win public sympathy afterwards and eventually were exposed in shame.  This was ugly.  http://www.startribune.com/high-school-league-suspends-dance-team-coaches-at-four-schools-for-one-year/305706351/


Now, on with the countdown!

#12 - Rep. Jim Newberger makes racist comments on the floor of the Minnesota House - April.  This was a dumb, arrogant white guy who doesn't know when to turn off the racism.  He's an idiot for saying what he said.  The House GOP and their leaderships failure to properly address this issue was equally disturbing.  Watching this is SO horrible.  Wait for the even more tone deaf 'black hole' remark at the end.  https://www.minnpost.com/minnclips/2015/04/video-rep-newberger-booed-house-floor-north-minneapolis-comment   http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2015/04/mention-st-cloud-visions-of-prison-north-minneapolis-pop-into-jim-newbergers-head.html

#11 - Walter the dentist kills Cecil the lion - July.  The point which infuriates me about this story was how we're all supposed to ignore one major fact: they HAD to cut the tracking collar off Cecil to remove his head.  They knew he was a protected animal.  They didn't care.  The worldwide condemnation still is palatable.  http://cecilthelion.org

#10 - Due to his horrible management of the abuse scandal, Archbishop John Nienstedt resigns - June. As a Catholic, it was hard to watch from the inside as Nienstedt's personal crusade against gay marriage tore apart the church.  Beloved priests left the state to avoid preaching his screeds.  But it was the Diocese 's horrible management, and criminal acts, in regards to dealing with abusive priests which was his eventual downfall.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/15/us/archbishop-nienstedt-and-aide-resign-in-minnesota-over-sex-abuse-scandal.html

#9 - The 2015 Legislative Session and the unrelenting GOP pettiness - January through June.  You knew there was going to be friction when the Speaker of the House didn't even show up for the Governor's inauguration, because of a "fundraiser," in January, on a Monday, at noon.  The fight to get Legislation finished was always permeated with the GOP agenda.  They legalized gun silencers for no reason outside of appealing to the NRA, they went after the Auditor's office for making sure tax payer money was not being abused, they got rid of campaign finance rules, created the environmental 'Oopsie' law to allow corporations to pollute legally, and did everything they could to vilify the Twin Cities metro area in an effort to appeal to rural Minnesota, a rural Minnesota they also ignored when it came to the final bills.  Meanwhile, the GOP kept insisting there was no money to do anything, even though there was a huge pile of surplus cash available.  SHHH, they want to give that away to the wealthiest Minnesotans in 2016.  Sad, but let's face it, predictable.  https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2015/06/legislature-passes-budget-bills-after-dramatic-special-session

#8 - The disturbing epidemic of gun violence in America, and our national shame at doing nothing to stop it - all year.  'Thoughts and Prayers' were all the bought and paid for NRA politicians were allowed to offer up in response to a gun violence epidemic so severe, over 30,000 Americans die each year from it.  If this was terrorism, would we spare any expense to address it?   http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting

#7 - The Grazzini-Rucki Saga -  May through December.  First off, kudos to Michael Brodkorb for some fine and outstanding investigative journalism this year.  If not for him, these girls would still be missing.  (Allegedly) Sandra gets divorced and proceeds to attempt to brainwash two of her kids into thinking their father was abusive.  When the court determines the kids are being brainwashed, she, out of spite, kidnaps the girls and ushers them into an underground system meant to keep them away from the parent who has custodial rights.  She then insist she knows nothing of the girls whereabouts, proceeds to ignore her other children, goes on exotic vacations with her new boyfriend, and probably laughs at the revenge she got on her ex.  Meanwhile, it's still uncertain what her lawyer, Michelle MacDonald, knew about the abduction, as, while this was going on, MacDonald was running as the GOP candidate for the MN Supreme Court (!).  An associate of MacDonald's was the lynchpin to busting open the case, after police raided her house in St. Cloud.  Sandra was caught in October, and the kids were finally found in November, having been kept in an environment where there father had been painted in the worst possible light.  These kids will never be the same, the dad will never be the same.  Shame on all of you for doing this to them.  http://www.startribune.com/charge-mother-of-runaway-girls-left-them-at-ranch/353027841/

#6 - The attack on Paris - November.  This was a brutal terrorist strike, scarring a nation, and the world.  We all wept for the French, and prayed for peace.  Meanwhile, political opportunists manipulated the natural fear which arose after the attack to vilify innocent refugees and an entire religion.  The repercussions of this attack will affect us for years to come.  http://www.nytimes.com/news-event/attacks-in-paris

#5 - Gay marriage is now the law of the land - June.  The same religious zealots who claimed the Supreme Court was a divine entity just a year before, when they handed down their Hobby Lobby ruling, now turned on the Supreme Court, calling them an activist body and demons (!) after their ruling which defined marriage is indeed a right for all, gay and straight.  Amen and thank you.  Love wins, but the end of this fight is nowhere near, as the GOP is trying desperately to overturn the ruling.  This will be a major issue in 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/26/supreme-court-gay-marriage_n_7470036.html

#4 - The killing of Jamar Clark, the occupation of the 4th precinct and white supremacists shoot five protesters - November.  This sad tragedy played out over a few weeks.  Why is Jamar Clark dead?  Were his hands in cuffs when he was shot?  Is there any video?  Would the police stonewall the public's right to know?  The protest outside of the 4th Precinct was organic, rising up out of the frustration of yet another young African American life lost.  It was about to wind down on it's own, when racists, who had been trying to start a confrontation with protesters, opened fire on them, shooting five.  The protest came back strong through Thanksgiving.  Finally, in early December, they were forcibly removed.  Still a lot of unanswered questions, including were the shooters carrying 'Carry and Conceal' weapons? https://ellison.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-keith-ellison-statement-on-shooting-at-fourth-precinct-protest

#3 - Republican Representatives Tara Mack and Tim Kelly, both married (but not to each other), both on the House Ethics Committee, and both part of the political party which is supposedly embodies traditional family values, are caught in a compromising sexual situation in Lebanon Hills Park - September.  When the Japanese news animators are making a cartoon video of your escapade, you know you screwed up.  I could care less if they find each other attractive, it happens.  No, the reason this is up so high on this year's list is the hypocrisy of the whole thing, the fact they tried to throw a police officer under the bus to protect themselves, the fact that they tried to play it off as a 'document exchange,' and how Rep. Kelly tried to dismiss this as gotcha politics.  I love the soundtrack to this video!


#2 - Senate Majority Leader Bakk betrays the DFL - May/June.  We all knew that Senator Tom Bakk and Governor Mark Dayton didn't like each other personally, but what happened in 2015 goes beyond personal feelings.  You can give Speaker Kurt Daudt some credit for driving a wedge between the two, but in reality, Tom Bakk had to WANT to do what he did.  He avoided his best option (working with the Governor to get a strong compromise bill), undermined his DFL Senate majority (by negotiating with Kurt Daudt independently, whether by ignorance or by design), walked away from the Governor's negotiating table when the regular session ended (handing Daudt all the Legislative Branch power during the negotiations), and in the end conspired against the DFL by recruiting a handful of Democratic Senators to jump ship and side with the minority Republicans in the Senate (traitors!).  This was a complete betrayal.  I'll never trust Senator Bakk again, and considering the rumors he's been hanging out with Daudt and other GOP'ers, hunting and fishing while out of session, I expect we will see another attempt to betray the DFL in 2016.  https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2015/06/dfl-senators-divided-over-bakks-leadership-wake-special-session

And...

#1 -The Rise of Black Live Matters - all year long.  When we began 2015, Black Lives Matter was in trouble.  After their 2014 MOA protest, they were dealing with a lot of rhetoric from the Mall of America's lawyers and the Bloomington City Attorney, and there was a full court press to paint them in a negative light.  Then things started to change.  Rumors of the MOA security infiltrating the BLM protesters arose.  Vows to fight the charges rang out.  Protests on MKL Day and in Spring showed the public they were not going away.  Although there was a minor stumble with a handful of protesters and an unfortunate chant at the State Fair rally, Black Lives Matter was able to use the State Fair, and the Twin Cities Marathon, to further their cause.  In November of this year, charges against them from last years MOA protest were dropped.  They became a focal point of the communities outrage when the Jamar Clark shooting happened.  Regardless of whether you agree with their tactics, you can't deny they've gotten what they were looking for: Attention.  I understand some people get frustrated when they close off a street or a highway, or when they march on a shopping mall or airport, but in their defense, if we allowed people to protest in public, visible spaces, where our political leaders can hear and see them, maybe they wouldn't have to resort to getting our attention the hard way. http://www.startribune.com/dayton-met-with-black-lives-matter-reps-stressed-danger-of-airport-protest/363842121/



That's it!  Have a great New Year's everyone, and here's to 2016!!!









Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Lost Tribe

One of the things which makes the current GOP a scary group is their willingness to crash the system itself, gleefully trying to crack the government they so eagerly represent.  Whether it's some sort of intentional, Ayn Rand inspired scheme to break the US Government, so they can rewrite the Constitution in their image, getting rid of freedoms like speech and voting rights, making it a Christian first country, and ensuring wealthy people never pay a tax again, or if it's just a bunch of dim bulb idiots who believe their own press about how great they are (I'm looking square at you Ted Cruz), it doesn't matter.  This demented effort to bring the government down is scary since it became clear they were actually serious.

The Republicans have adopted a new strategy since 1994.  They're no longer content on having a chance every four years as one of the two legitimate candidates for President, win or lose.  For them, campaigning is a 365 day a year experience.  If they win, they carry themselves as if they've won by 90% of the vote, insisting everything the Democrats suggest, or have ever done, needs to be talked down, like it's a mess made by a 4 year old.  If they lose, they adopt a scorched earth policy; the bitter ex-boyfriend who insists if he can't be President, no one can be President, intentionally hurting the country which rejected them.  Yes, I mean to imply the GOP has become the aggressor in an abusive relationship against the Untied States.  "The country will be sorry if they don't accept the Republican candidates and ideas completely, with no questions asked...REALLY sorry!"

There are about 100 GOP Representatives and 7 or so GOP Senators whose PUBLIC policy is to never work with the Democrats, EVER!  This means unless the Democrats accept their terms 100% of the time, with no deviations, they'll attempt to crash the system by not passing a budget to keep the government open and functioning, and will default on the debts we owe other countries.  They know this will make our government abruptly stop, make basic need services millions depend on everyday cease, will irreparably harm the day to day existence of the entire country and dramatically weaken our defenses.  They know defaulting on our debt will lead to loss of federal assets.  They know both of these will cost TRILLIONS of tax-payer dollars, and might lead us to lose some of our US territories.  They don't care.  They think its fair game.  It's the idiot who comes over to your house to play poker, and on the first hand, with a pair of sixes, they throw the keys to their house into the pot.  They're morons who think they're intelligent.

Where calmer minds have prevailed when it comes to the federal budget and debt ceiling, with establishment Republicans working with Democrats to keep the governmental doors open, and foreclosed signs off of Guam, the GOP has successfully stymied a functioning diplomatic core and judicial branch.  Vice President Walter Mondale wrote an nice opinion piece in the NY Times about how even no brainer approval of ambassadorships to our closest allies, like Norway, Sweden and Mexico, are being held up over petty politics and a desire to harm Obama's legacy.  The judicial branch is woefully behind in appointments to Federal benches, an attempt by the GOP to overrule election results, making it where only Republican judges are approved.  They don't care about the day to day functioning of these elements, only that these elements function how they want them to, regardless whom won the elections.

With this being the new Republican Party, and with Donald Trump being the front runner for the GOP nomination for 2016, I noticed a new sentiment from my conservative friends and family members this holiday season.  After years of trash talking and obscene allegations about President Obama, all of the sudden they didn't want to talk politics this year.  The same people, who at past get-togethers had screamed about Obama being a Nazi/Marxist/Muslim, were now insisting everyone else has crossed a line.  "Hey, this year, let's not talk about politics.  Let's just focus on positive things, okay?"  It's the same mentality you get from the Packers fan who always trash talks you when their team is winning, but when their team is having a down year, they can't understand why everyone only wants to talk about football.

These pleas to avoid talking politics is a road sign on the trail of the Lost Tribe.  Once they used to roam this country in the millions, a cornerstone of all political initiatives and legislation.  They were the standard bearers for the right, and gave this country some of its greatest politicians.  The Lost Tribe are the displaced moderate Republicans, and right now, unless they can get their feet back underneath them, their party, and this country, could be forever broken.

I'm not endorsing the moderate Republicans, but I do remember a time when I agreed with some of their policies.  Back in the 80's, before they became drunk on Reagan Kool-aid, they used to make some sense with their fiscal conservative/social liberal stances, but as a handful of political opportunists started to drive the Republican Party further and further to the right for personal gain, they were slowly driven out of the party, relegated to pasture where the extremists bank on their blind voting habits.

Jim Ramstad was one of the last remaining Republicans I could agree with, and he saw the writing on the wall when he walked away from his House seat in 2008, a seat he could have won for life.  He knew the Republican Party was readying a blood oath of hatred and spite he didn't want any part of.  He knew there was no place left in the GOP for a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Republican, so he left, handing the MN-03 over to a far more conservative Erik Paulsen, who, in 2008, darkened Ashwin Madia's skin color on billboards and campaign literature to scare white people away from him.  THAT was where the GOP was heading.

What happened to the rest of the Moderate Republicans?  Since 1998, they've slowly left or been pushed out of the GOP, usually with screams of "RINO" in the background.  In Minnesota, many went to the Independence Party, a sort of recovery group for disenfranchised moderate Republicans, but when the IP had their convention overrun by far right extremists in 2014, they either went back to the GOP, or they just stayed home.

Moderate Republicans, I know this is hard for you.  The modern Republican Party really has nothing for you anymore, so why do you keep voting for whichever zealot has the 'R' next to their name?  They need YOU far more than you need them, but they need to learn this lesson the hard way.  In 2016, don't vote for them.  I know many of you are still hypnotized by Reagan's 11th Commandment, but if you blindly award them your vote, YOU are being the enabler.  The only way the GOP is ever going to return to normalcy is if the far right extremists realize they can't even muster 20% of the vote without the Lost Tribe's backing.  This will lead them to start welcoming back more moderate ideals, or it might make them break off and start a new party based on Fascism and pseudo-Libertarianism.  Regardless, they'll be gone and then you can start rebuilding the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

The sad thing, I know many of the Lost Tribe have become so accepting and numb at being lost, they won't hear this.  Instead, slumped over and beaten down, they'll meekly stumble into the voting booth in November and vote for whichever nut-bag the tea party has ordered them to vote for.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Not So Golden

On the eve of the University of Minnesota football team's undeserving bowl appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl, I think it's time someone said it; the Golden Gopher men's athletic program is in absolute chaos.

Before I bash on the Gopher's men's programs, let me start by complementing the quality and success of the U of M's women's athletics.  So far, it's been a great year for them.  Women's cross country and soccer both had nice runs in the playoffs, volleyball finished third in the nation and women's hockey and basketball both have had promising starts to their seasons.  Women's athletics at the U is the gold standard for college athletics in Minnesota.

The men's programs are floundering, but considering the desirability of the metro area the University is located (Twin Cities), why any program at the U has issues has always made zero sense to me.  Have you spent anytime in the glorified rest stops that masquerade as Division I college hometowns?  This program should NEVER have problems recruiting the better players and coaches.   Does it get cold?  Sure, but the weather never seems to be a problem at other cold weather universities.  Nor is it a problem at rainy, earthquake prone or ungodly hot ones either.

Locale aside, I think there's a lack of seriousness with the men's most popular division I sports programs at Minnesota.  It manifests itself in different ways, but the lack of results are the same.

Let's start with the most prestigious of all of the Golden Gopher men's programs.  No, not football; ice hockey.  The ice hockey program in Minnesota is as serious as football at Ohio State or basketball at Duke.  A few years back the program moved from the consistently competitive WCHA conference to the new Big 10 conference, and the end result is a weaker program.  The program is vanilla this year.  They are 7-8 so far, and are playing down to the substandard programs which inhabit the Big 10, but this was expected.  When you play the best teams in hockey, it keeps your program sharp.  When you play subpar competition consistently, you start playing down to them.  When the ice hockey team moved to the Big 10 conference, they needed to be proactive to prevent the programs predictable fall.  I'm not too concerned, as men's ice hockey can easily recover from this with the right attitude, but the other major men's programs are a mess.

The biggest mess at the University of Minnesota is the mens basketball team.  The season started on shaky ground with loses to Temple and Texas Tech in a Thanksgiving tourney, but the wheels came off the program when they lost to South Dakota (!), South Dakota State (!!) and UW-Milwaukee (!!!).  We haven't even started the incredibly brutal Big 10 schedule.  When you look at the roster, there's a lot of talent on the team, so you need to look at the coach.  Richard Pitino, son of coaching legend Rick Pitino, proves a name is only a name.  He has yet to show any of the early career ability of his father.  Even worse, it feels like he's always looked at Minnesota as a stepping stone job to a more prestigious college.  With the program currently a dumpster fire, and a lack of coaching intensity and interest (my guess is dad will always have an assistant position for the boy if he needs a safe place), the program is years away from turning it around.

The saddest downfall at the U is the program which will likely get annihilated by Central Michigan tomorrow, the football program.  I'm not going to get into the health issues surrounding the former head coach Jerry Kill, but his unexpected resignation earlier this year particularly stung because he was the coach who wanted to be here.  I really liked him.  I don't know how Tracy Claeys will do as the head coach, but I think they rushed his long term signing.  I also think the programs commitment to the Division III level quarterback Mitch Leidner has been a blow to their season, but when you talk about lack of seriousness, it's the fact they are playing in a bowl game at all which highlights the lackluster mentality.  I get that the NCAA has moved WAY past tradition when they allowed teams with less that 8 wins into bowl games, and when they allowed bowl games to be known more by the ludicrous sponsors who buy them like trading cards, but to allow a 5-7 program anywhere near a bowl game, and for said program to accept the invite like it was some sort of win, points to the sad state of the Minnesota football team.  They're so desperate to put any polish on this crap-fest of a season, they've become Charlie Brown gladly accepting a used Valentine's Day card just to feel something.  It's really sad.

My prediction on tomorrow's University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Football bowl game...who cares! They'll have a losing record if they win, and they'll have a losing record if they lose.  I'll pay attention to the women's athletic programs if I want to see winners.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Saturday Link for 12/26/15

I stand by not doing the Friday link yesterday.  It's Christmas!

My suggestion for you.  I know no one likes fighting their way through a crowded movie theater to see a film, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a special film, and that's not just my nerd talking.  It's a very good film, and while I don't think it's better than any of the offerings in the original trilogy, it far exceeds any of the second trilogy sequels.  It achieves a lot.

Still, it's not my movie of the year choice.  That's Mad Max: Fury Road, followed by Inside Out, Carol, Spotlight, Star Wars, and It Follows.  There are some good movies out there, so please go and enjoy.

Since I wanted to do one last hurrah for the holidays, here's one of the WKRP in Cincinnati Christmas episodes.  Not sure why part of the following year's holiday episode is attached, but it's funny too.  "Non-Stop to Dayton!"  My first line in this post is a reference to a Johnny Fever line from the episode, when Herb shows up to Jennifer's place without a tree.  Like I said, everything that went on the air for that TV show has actually happened in a radio station.

One final Merry Christmas everyone!  Live shows again on the 30th!


Friday, December 25, 2015

An Obvious Update

There will be no Friday Link today.  I'm playing with my kids.  Maybe tomorrow.

Thanks for understanding, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Not Seeing the Forest for the Christmas Trees

Here's a picture of a house in Hopkins:


As you can see, quite festive!  We all have a neighbor like this, where their Christmas light display is crazy.  As long as they aren't blaring their choreographed light tribute, with accompanying Trans Siberian Orchestra soundtrack, into their neighbor's houses at 10:30 at night, more power to them.  As a private citizen, you're entitled to celebrate your religious festivities as you wish.

Christmas is everywhere.  Not just the overeager neighbor with a light fetish, but pretty much most communities are drenched with Christmas displays, some more Christian-y than others.  When someone tries to make the argument there is a 'War on Christmas,' I laugh.  There's no war.  The battle is long over and Christian Christmas was triumphant.  What we have now is, more or less, an occupation by Christmas, with constant reminders of the Christmas season everywhere you look, but because some people want to force their religion on others, they refuse to see the symbols of Christmas that are everywhere.

Freedom of religion means that everyone has a right to practice the religion of their choosing, whilst not being subjected to the constant, nonstop barrage of another religion being forced onto them.  As Americans, we're not supposed to have public high school choirs sing Christmas carols or public high school football coaches leading teams in mandatory prayers before and after a game, especially when the kids aren't Christian.  We're not supposed to force people into courtrooms where the 10 Commandments are posted, leading to questions of how the defendants religious beliefs factored into the rulings.  We're not supposed to discriminate against a minority population because of their religious beliefs, even going to the point of a religious litmus tests to determine whether citizenship should be granted.  We're not supposed to have over the top displays of one religion ├╝ber alles in our public parks, installed by the supposed neutral city government which exists to represent ALL of the community.

When I hear a person scream about the 'War On Christmas,' how their religious freedom is being persecuted when someone dares complain about unwanted, unrelenting Christian screeching, I shake my head.  They usually have become blinded by the Christmas lights.  It's an interesting paradox; instead of the usual demure Christmas lights in a downtown community, an individual tries to push it to the next level by displaying an undisguised Christian religious scene (like a manger scene), a display which some religious, and non-religious people, are NOT okay with.  They then act like they're being persecuted when the overtly religious display is taken down, insisting all Christianity is being driven away, when in reality it's just being toned down, slightly.  It's the same delusional irrationality which drove people to actually protest a private company because their coffee cups only featured Christmas themed imagery, not definitive religious motifs.  They act as if anything short of screaming "Jesus is your savior" into people's faces, mandatory Christmas trees in everyone's houses, and forced singing of Christmas psalms, is religious persecution.  Trust me, Christmas is still the reigning champ, even without the over the top Christianity

Let's take a tour of my town, Hopkins.  I love it here.  For the record, I'm Catholic.  There are no manger scenes on Hopkins city property, and the outside of City Hall is Christmas decoration free.  Inside, you get this:


I think it's quite nice, but legal label to prevent lawsuits aside, it's a Christmas tree.  You can insist it's not, that it's a 'Holiday Tree,' but it's a Christmas tree.  City Hall also had a wreath on display.  Wreaths were not started as a Christian symbol, but at this time of year, the wreath is displayed as a symbol of Christian Christmas, like an advent wreath (there's a great one over at the Basilica!)


Here is a look down Main Street in Hopkins.  Every streetlight has a Christmas wreath on it, with colorful lights, another symbol of Christmas, and candles in the middle of each one.  Pretty, and very Christian.  I know over sensitive Christian readers will insist the candle is not necessarily Christian, and I agree, but I know many Christians, from many different ethnic denominations, whom decorate with candles for Christmas.  And let's be honest, those displays in Hopkins don't look like any menorah I've ever seen.

Here are some more images of the Christmas lights on the streets.




Here is a picture of the Hopkins Fire Department:


Notice the Christmas tree and the Christmas lights there.  And finally, Bandshell Park in downtown Hopkins:


That would be a Christmas tree.  I should mention, as I was taking these photos, the church bells in the downtown Hopkins chimed 6 PM, and then played a melodic bell rendition of classic Christmas music (Silent Night, Hark the Harold Angels Sing), the sounds of which permeated the entire downtown.  I thought it was nice, but I'm not going to deny it was very Christmas, and very Christian.

By the way, visit Hopkins!  It's a cute town.  You'll like it.

Fervent religious zealots are furious at me right now.  For them to make the argument there needs to be a baby Jesus on display in every town, people need to be blind to the insane amount of Christmas and Christian symbols already around them.  I think Hopkins, and most other cities, don't need to add anything else to their holiday displays, let alone something so bluntly Christian as a manger scene.  If you want your Christmas to be real Christian-y, then get to church, like my family does.  We have two nativity displays in our house.  I don't need the post office, the police department, or my city's water management center to have one to validate my religious beliefs.

For those who just want to force everyone in Minnesota and the United States to be Christian, stop it.  It's un-American.  Let people make their own decisions.  That's what a good Christian would do.

I'm not pointing this out in an effort to remove the Christmas decorations in Hopkins.  Quite the contrary; I want to thank the individuals from different religions who don't celebrate Christmas for not feeling threatened or pressured by the simplistic Christmas displays Hopkins, and many other cities, exhibit.  Thank you!  To all those who aren't Christian, Happy Holidays to you, and your family.  To all those who are either Catholic like me, or of a different Christian denomination, a wonderful Merry Christmas to you!




Friday, December 18, 2015

The Friday Link for 12/18/15

Official notice, most of my Christmas cards have not gone out yet, nor have the photos and gifts to my brothers and sisters, or the gifts for my parents, nor have I purchased the final gifts for my family.   Yikes...one bright spot, I do have the meat ready to go for my Christmas dinner.  A fine looking prime rib, indeed!

For some holiday fun on a Friday, I turn to Rowan Atkinson and the genius that is his Mr. Bean.  I think Mr. Bean was one of the more unlikely success stories in comedy.  I don't think anyone else could've made Mr. Bean funny, but Atkinson made him brilliant.  There were times I'd watch either the television show or the movies, and even though the comedy is simple, Atkinson's nebbish, weird, dolt of a man would have me laughing hysterically.

The first Mr. Bean skit I ever saw was the receiving line for the Queen.  Dear Lord is it funny!



This next skit proves why simple is sometimes the best comedy.  It's a holiday skit with Mr. Bean and a nativity scene, but he relates to the audience by doing what everyone else did as a kid (and occasionally still does), turn the nativity skit into an action figure play set.  I love the Dalek.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Driving Their Own Agenda

If you believe the national media in this country, Ted Cruz is now completely and firmly in charge of the GOP Presidential race.  Why?  One poll in Iowa.  That's it.  That's all they needed to jump on the Cruz bandwagon.  Never mind the latest aggregate poll results from Pollster, of the GOP presidential nomination field, updated at 3 PM, 12/15/16, shows Trump with a commanding 38.1% lead, to Cruz' 14.2%, up since yesterday.  Nope, the media has their marching orders from the people who pull their strings, and whom financially back the Republican party; hurt Trump's chances at all costs before Iowa.

This corrupt and bias journalism is nothing new.  Browse the blog to find numerous posts about the failure of our media in this country to do their job.  The national media, for the most part, are either incompetent boobs more concerned about style than substance, or flatly prejudicial to the political right and their backers.

The new standard for the national media in the United States is to paint the Democrats in a bad light.  When they can't find Democrat dirt to fuel their gossip news, they'll criticize the left for things they might do, or even better, drum up a false fear inducer to prevent from having to talk about them at all.  "I'm sorry, we can't talk about the issues right now with the Democrats because...EBOLA!!!"  For the rest of my life, I'll point to the medias insane Ebola coverage, and their choreographed muting of their self created Ebola crisis the day after the election in 2014, as the most definitive proof to date that the vast majority of our media, local and national, has been corrupted to the core.

But sometimes, what's more jarring are the stories the media's not covering.  Most of the time, the media in this country ignores positive news from the White House on the economy and jobs.  They rarely talk anymore about the deficit, and Obama's somewhat successful management of the nation's debt.  They don't talk about the resuscitated housing market, or the way the President has single handily helped improve education.  They'll NEVER report on the real impact of Obamacare, the millions of people who were uninsured, but now are, at a massive savings to the American people.  Ignoring positive stories from the left is commonplace in today's news, and unlikely to change.

The media's ignoring of glaring problems from the right is comical.  Can you imagine what the media coverage in this country would be like if the Democrats had a comparable, far left extremist leading in the polls, or if the Democratic party leadership was having emergency dinners to negotiate overthrowing the voters's choice for President on the Democratic convention floor, or leading Democratic candidates were threatening to leave the party if the party tried to pull the convention floor stunt?  In case you were unaware, all of those things are currently going on within the Republican Party.

To see how much of a pass the GOP gets on their failures, let's take this comparison to the next level.

Trump is a demagogue, near fascist.  This is the extreme far right on the political spectrum.  The only place further on the right you can go is to welcome in a dictator.  Cruz is only a few steps behind him, so he's way off the Republican map too.  Cruz is off wandering around the pseudo-Libertarians, with a mixture of Christian extremists, racism, wealth worshipping and bone stupid economics thrown in for good measure.  Their comparable candidate is not Hillary Clinton a moderate Democrat, or even Bernie Sanders, a Wellstonian Democrat with some minor Socialist leanings, the most left candidate we've seen in this country in years.  Bernie is milling around in the left side of the political spectrum in the vicinity of the Green Party.  He's nowhere close to being a pure Socialist.  He stops well before that.  After Socialism, next to the left is Communism.  The only thing further to the left than Communism is a pure Marxism, which can only be theorized.  This Communism/Marxism border would be the comparable location on the left, to where Trump and Cruz are on the right.  Can you imagine an actual Communist even being on the Democratic ticket, let alone leading by 24 points?!?

Then there was last weeks emergency dinner held by RNC Chairman Reince Preisbus to figure out a Hail Mary attempt to knock Trump off the top of the Republican pedestal at the GOP Convention later next summer.  The GOP has sent up the red fag.  They know if Trump is the nominee, not only is the White House unattainable, they could potentially end up losing the Senate AND the US House, a political body so gerry-madered, the thought of such a thing being possible is astounding.  And if such a scenario did take place, and you ended up with fillibuster proof majorities in both houses, the real nightmare begins for the GOP; after six years of doing everything possible to make the government not work, the real possibility of an effective working government with the Democrats getting all of the credit.  This election is not just about 2016.  For the Republicans, they are trying to avoid becoming irrelevant for the next generation.

Then there is the threat by Ben Carson and Donald Trump to walk away from the GOP entirely if a brokered convention takes place.  The GOP would have a huge mutiny on their hands if they try to serve up Rubio or Jeb as a compromise candidate, especially if neither of them garners more than 15% of the vote in any given state contest.  Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders aren't threatening to leave the Democrats if they don't get their way, and the Democratic Party is not talking about convention hi-jinks and shenanigans needing to take place to save the party

The media in this country SHOULD be talking about all three of these issues, but then again, they should be talking about how effective Obamacare has been, and how good the President has done with the economy.  They won't.  The only thing left is for me to keep pounding away, like a person hammering on the bottom of an overturned boat from the inside, just hoping someone comes by and hears my banging.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Friday Link for 12/11/15

It's becoming a very busy day.  I have a really sick dog I have to tend to and I also have to make my mom a birthday cake.  Ups and downs indeed!

Okay, Donald Trump does scare the crud out of me.  As my aforementioned mom said, "where did these jerks from the 60's come from?"  That doesn't mean we can't laugh at his insane craziness.  Thanks Auralnauts!  This mash up of Trumps insane comments with Darth Vader scenes is a gut-buster.

I know the blog was light this week but man I am busy with the holidays!  Thanks for understanding!




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Republicans, What are you Doing???

It's time for the fun and games to end.  Yes, Donald Trump was a laughing stock of a candidate, who was more mockery than magnificent, but now that his act is morphing into open discrimination of the Muslim faith, I think it's time we wrap up this party, and everyone starts to head home, or at least to a different, less than stellar Republican candidate.

I've learned something today.  Trump knows the GOP voting base far better than I ever dreamed. I knew there was a racist element to a lot of Republicans, but when, according to a new poll, 65% of all likely GOP voters insist his anti-Muslim policies are the right path for America, a number I never dreamed would support such open racism and bigotry, the question becomes 'were they always like this and hid it, or did they become this way?'  Regardless, Trump is playing them like a fiddle.

Two things about this scare the crap out of me.  The first is one I mentioned this morning:  this IS how fascist dictators begin.  Trump is doing something I never dreamed possible.  He's taking what I thought was a safe, secure Democratic governmental system, and pushing it shockingly close to the edge of ruin.  If he does become the nominee for the GOP, he's only going to double down on the anti-Muslim policies, and probably throw in some anti-African American, anti-gay, anti-Latino and anti-women platforms to round out his manifesto of hate, gleefully marching towards election day.

With Trump comes a toxic wave.  Have you seen the clowns who claim to be his biggest supporters?  These people are straight from the 'evil henchmen' section of central casting.  What will happen if we get towards October of next year and Trump is woefully behind the Democrat?  I wouldn't put it past his stooges to make it their mission to take out their hero's main competition.  Either get rid of all of the competition before the election, like most dictators would, or create a chaotic scenario where The House of Representatives gets to weigh in on the decision, like they did with John Quincy Adams.  As much as I'd like to think calmer heads would prevail in the House, there are too many Republicans who would support an incredibly flawed Republican candidate over the betterment of their country.

The other thing that scares me is the emboldened nature of the racists in this country today.  With the encouragement of the Republican Party, they're openly accosting anyone they deem to be a threat; at parks, football games, mosques, everywhere.  They're verbally screaming at them, threatening them, defacing their places of worship and businesses, hitting them, shooting them, and even killing them.  They're doing this because they're being told to let their racism and bigotry out.  They're coming out of the white closet, embracing their darkside.  The racists are no longer content on hiding their evil demagoguery within the dark, twisted caverns of their own mind.

Where ARE all of the moderate Republicans?  No seriously, WHERE ARE YOU?!?  As Rome is burning, you seem to be grabbing marshmallows.  There was a time, not that long ago, where this type of behavior would've never been tolerated, EVER!  Now, mainstream rightos are welcoming the insanity with flippant lines of, "well, they're just Muslims..."  If you're waiting to see where this ride ends, it's not going to be anywhere good.  Unless this Trump madness gets bridled and muzzled immediately, I think we might be heading to some sort of countrywide violence, possibly armed conflict, especially if Trump looks like he's about to get laughed off the electoral college stage.

In the past, I've insisted the hatred wing of the GOP was only a small portion of the whole party, 10-15% of all Republicans.  I now realize it's much larger, at least 60-70%, maybe even higher.  Unless Republicans do something to stem this avalanche of hatred, it's only a matter of time before the prerequisites to becoming a member of the GOP will be racism, hatred, violence, bigotry and Islamophobia.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Friday Link for 12/4/15

Terribly busy tonight!  I have been running all day.

You know why?  For some reason, my kids were off school today.  I love teachers, they're a blessing, but I have to admit I'm scratching my head with this being an off day.  They just had three days last week, and whereas I understand they shouldn't be working on Thanksgiving or the day after, having another off day the following week, after Thursday being a late start, and when they're taking two weeks off at the end of the month, seems...odd.

Anyway, comedy is needed in this day and age, and John Oliver delivers.  He just wrapped up his second season of Last Week Tonight, and it was brilliant.  He is one of the only media people at all doing investigative journalism anymore.  His main segments are hard hitting, and relevant.  He asks questions we all should be asking.

One of my favorites from last season was the stadium one.  This was of particular interest for me with the new Vikings monstrosity on the east side of the downtown.  A reminder, the new stadium will end up costing us around 2 Billion!  Enjoy, if you can.  I have to go.





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Trump is Going to Win

Here's a link to the latest GOP poll numbers, for Republican Presidential Nominee:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-gop-primary#!mindate=2015-07-01&estimate=custom

If you look at those numbers, something should strike you.  It's December 2015, and the first primaries/caucuses are just around the corner.  Donald Trump is likely going to be the nominee.

Donald's polling AVERAGE is 34.4%.  That means he's only 15.6% away from 50%, which makes the rest of the discussion moot.  A fan of one of the other candidates might take umbrage with that, insisting he hasn't won anything yet.  I agree, but since this guy only seems to get stronger with the crazier messaging, I have no idea how he's going to stumble at this point.  He did flub on the abortion question a little today, so I think it's still possible he'll implode, but highly unlikely.

The question then becomes where do the voters who support the other candidates go after their preferred candidate inevitably leaves the race.  Let's start with the bottom 10.  Candidates like Gilmore, Pataki, Graham, and Kasich have supporters who will not support Trump, but two things.  First, their combined number is 3.8%, with most behind Kasich, and secondly, if Trump pulls any of them, it's gravy.

There are the traditional Republican candidates, Bush, Christie and Fiorina, whose supporters will likely shy away from Trump.  Will the 11.4% of GOP voters who support those three solidify behind only one of the other top candidates?  Unlikely.  And if Trump picks up say 2% of those Republican voters, that hurts anyone else left in the field.

Rounding out the bottom 10 are Santorum, Huckabee and Paul.  I have a hard time thinking their 4.6% of the vote would go anywhere else but either Trump or Carson (more on him in a second).  If Trump picks up half of those voters, and 2% from the traditional bottom candidates, he'll be at 38.7%, 11.3% away from the mid point.

So let's look at the top of the field.  After Trump is Rubio with 14.6%, Carson with 13.9%, and Cruz with 13.4%, all of them WAY behind Trump by 20+ points.  Most of the moderate and traditional GOP voters will coalesce behind Rubio, but that's not a lot of extra umph.  Ben Carson is heading south in the polls.  He's the biggest challenger to Trump's base, but when he does leave, I expect most of his supporters to rally around Trump.  Being generous to the other candidates, let's say Trump only gets 10 of his 13.9%.  That puts Trump at 48.7%.

Cruz has been trying to sound more like Trump lately, but I think the voters would rather take a egotistical, self serving, wealthy businessman than a slack jawed, brick dumb Texas Senator.  Trump has far more glitz and style.  When Cruz leaves the race, all Trump will need is 1.3% of his followers to put him over the top.  That makes Rubio's voters irrelevant.

My guess is you are about to see an incredible amount of money flow into the GOP race to back Rubio and Cruz, in a desperate attempt to kill off Trump's numbers by Iowa.  I don't see it.  This means, Donald Trump will likely be the Republican nominee for President.

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I think you get my point...