Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Donald Trump rolls out a new Line of Vodka

"For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags". (Proverbs 23:17-21)

Or, more like it ...

"Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more." (Proverbs 31:7)

If you haven't already heard by now, the man and
his hairmat have plans
to roll out a new
line of vodka, Trump Ice in the near future.

We now see Trump's evil genius.
It's a well-established fact (with
which we became
intimately aware of when working at Ramaley

Liquors on Grand Avenue) that vodka
is the fastest growing
distilled spirit in America,
supplanting gin in traditional
like tonics and martinis. It's relatively cheap, mostly

devoid of taste (save for the cruel, cruel burn) and easily
mixable. There ain't no such thing as overexposure, because he ain't got time to bleed. Yes, I'm having formatting problems. Shove it.

President Bush, spokesman for the terrorists

President Bush has been doing a lot of speaking for the terrorists these days, appealing to the inexhaustible supply of enemies who may be spoken for, and for whom Bush speaks. Most recently, Bush has determined that "The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists." Bush has made the terrorists talk, made the terrorists and their opinion, rather than the opinion of the American public to abandon this debacle, justify the continued occupation of Iraq. And to prove his power, his connection with the terrorists, Bush has to make the terrorists speak and show that they say the same thing as him:

"Among the terrorists," Bush says, "there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: 'This Third World War is raging' in Iraq. 'The whole world is watching this war.' He says it will end in 'victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.'"

Once stated, Bush can say that he is merely expressing the views of Osama bin Laden, who in turn has been made the (now rather silent and absent) spokesperson for Al Qaeda. Bush wants us to believe that he is deciphering what the terrorists are saying, that he has information that we do not have which makes him the expert on the strategy of terrorists, and thus what must be done to fight this war, and wars are fought to be won. The proof presented to the public consists in the mere presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, as well as the insurgency (which was once purportedly in its last throes) against which we are fighting.

The only way the U.S. will be compelled to withdraw toops from Iraq will be when Mr. Bush deciphers that the terrorists no longer regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity--but as long as our troops are there, facing foes, Iraq, as determined by Bush, will be the central front in the war on terror. Thus, we should not be surprised that neither Rumsfeld nor Bush can articulate a way out of Iraq because they would lose their power to speak for the terrorists, and thus their need to be in control of provisions for national security, if they were to say that victory has been won and now the U.S. can leave. For this is not what the terrorists will say, and Bush knows he does not have the power to make them say that, but he can make them continue to say that Iraq is crucial.

Indeed, if I could speak to the terrorists myself, what will they say to me Mr. Bush? Who speaks for the terrorists? Do we even know who they are anymore? Osama has been underground or dead for years...


Read this Strib article, then read this response.


[W]e acknowledge none of this, and insist that the rules that apply to all others do not apply to us, for some reason which is neither convincing nor, more importantly, true. Our self-imposed blindness may well destroy us, and we will not finally see the truth until it is too late.

If we should fade into dust much sooner than we might have, history will note that we could have chosen otherwise -- but that we resolutely refused to do so. History will judge us accordingly, as it judges all those who have gone before. But the shame will be ours, now and always.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5: 7

How can someone who professes a deep faith in Jesus Christ implicitly condone torture by allowing his Vice President to lobby Congress to oppose legislation outlawing torture?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Election 2006: Genesis 1:1

Ok, so the final embers of Election 2005 have fully combusted, and all the Rybak-crowd-diving has come and gone. What to do now? Well, look toward 2006...you know, the elections that really matter. Minnesota has some great races coming up, and it will be a crazy, no-holds-barred affair. While some candidates have been campaigning for a while, others are just throwing throwing their hats into the ring. So let's ring in 2006 more than a month prematurely with a look at some of the key races that will provide loads of hilarity and shame in the coming year:

  • US Senate: Mark Dayton, that lovable, tongue-tied, liberal bombthrower, has (thankfully) relinquished his seat, leaving what will no doubt be the most contentious race of 2006. On the Republican side, everyone is lining up behind Mark Kennedy, who narrowly beat Patty Wetterling for the 6th District House seat in 2004. The DFL - surprise, surprise - is split between Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar and Mother Minnesota Patty Wetterling. Both have large resources that will they will spend attacking each other while Kennedy waits in the wings to throw his GOP blood-money at one of them after the primary. The Klobuchar-Wetterling race certainly will be interesting for operatives I've talked to in both campaigns. I have a feeling it will be a disheartening urban (Klobuchar)-rural (Wetterling) divide. Luckily, much of Minnesota thinks Kennedy is an opportunistic straw man, but, then again, we did elect Norm Coleman.
  • Governor: Last year at this time one would have said there was no competition capable of dethroning Teflon Tim Pawlenty. Remember when his national aspirations (Vice President shortlist, anyone?) seemed a matter of fact, rather than a dim reminiscent chuckle? Well, a government shutdown, minced language over his no-tax "pledge," and continuing furor and frustration over under-funding successful programs (not to mention the question mark hanging over all the damn stadium proposals), has left some crud sticking to Pawlenty's normally non-stick exterior. Thus far, no fewer than four DFLers have stepped up to the Pawlenty challenge. Current AG Mike Hatch has been picking up endorsements left and right, but he'll face strong opposition from Becky Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), better known as Cindy Sheehan's mid-wife. The left-wingers will certainly come out for Lourey, as will the Iron Rangers. But will she be able to withstand the Hatch juggernaut? Stay tuned...
  • Attorney General: Probably one of the most overlooked races will be the position that Hatch currently holds: Attorney General. Think about it, outside of the Senate and the governor's, it's the only other statewide campaign. It's also a high-profile race, which will be even more high-profile with Matt Entenza (DFL-St. Paul), who was minority leader in the Minnesota House during the past session, and undoubtedly wants the position to diversify his resume. His competition will be a spry Jeff Johnson, who was a GOP representative out of Plymouth. Johnson has to be the underdog in this race, what with Entenza's name recognition, not to mention his vast superiority.
  • All US House seats: Of course, all the US House seats will be up for grabs. If the Democratic Party wants to accomplish its goal of retaking the House, they will have to win some tough races in traditionally Republican parts of the state. With Kennedy boosting out of his 6th District seat, there'll be an open contest up near St. Cloud, and if a strong (moderate) DFLer steps up to the plate, the Democrats could just take it. Most other seats seem a pretty safe bet for the incumbent, except for the 2nd District, which turned slightly bluer in 2004. John Kline, whose main credentials seem to be that he carried the nuclear trigger box for Ronald Reagan back in the day, may be vulnerable, but his main competition is Colleen Rowley, better known as the FBI 9/11 whistleblower and another Cindy Sheehan sister souljah. If the DFL wants it, they're going to have to go after it hardcore.
  • Minnesota Legislature: There are too many races to count for the Minnesota Legislature, but I will say this: the DFL stands to make some even bigger gains than they did in 2004 (they retook the Senate and reached near-parity in the House in 2004, if you'll recall). The hottest races will be in the inner-ring suburbs - think Edina, Eagan, Woodbury, etc. - where moderate Republicans have traditionally held sway. Many of those moderate voters feel uneasy with the arch-conservative vector of recent years, a la Michele Bachmann and her ilk, and may be looking to bat for the other side...so long as they feel comfortable with the candidate. In some of the races I've looked at so far, the DFL is putting up strong candidates who will give the GOP a run for their money in those districts. The North Metro continues to mystify and puzzle me.

So there you have it, PePpers. Be prepared. It could get ugly.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gay Equals Pedophile Says the Catholic Church, Round 3

The Washington Post has reported that a document will be released next week that the Vatican is ordering seminaries to bar candidates for the priesthood who "practice homosexuality," have "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" or support "gay culture,"

In my previous posts I have been criticized for calling certain Vatican doctrines hypocritical, but I don’t think that there is any debate about how hypocritical this upcoming document will be. Please correct me if I am wrong but I believe the official teaching of the Catholic Church is that if you are gay you are not supposed to act on your homosexual tendencies and live a celibate life. Yet with this new document they are saying that not acting on homosexual tendency is not good enough and even if you live a celibate life you are still not good enough to become a priest.

Remember that according to the Vatican homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered", but gay and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity. Compassion and dignity? BULLSHIT!!!

Related Links:
Gay Equals Pedophile…says the Catholic Church
Gay Equals Pedophile Says the Catholic Church, Round 2

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

War Crimes Are the Most Fun

It was recently reported by the BBC that the Pentagon has admitted to using white phosphorous as a weapon in their assault on Falluja back in November of 2004.

For those of you not familiar with white phosphorous it is used as an incendiary devise (the above picture shows what the body looks like after a white phosphorous burn). If particles of ignited white phosphorus land on a person's skin, they can continue to burn right through flesh to the bone. Toxic phosphoric acid can also be released into wounds, risking phosphorus poisoning. Skin burns must be immersed in water or covered with wet cloths to prevent re-combustion until the particles can be removed. If white phosphorus particles are not removed from the skin then the particles can reignite and continue to burn the skin, so simply putting it out with water is not enough. Sounds like pretty nasty stuff to me, especially when it was being used in areas with large densely populated civilian populations.

The interesting part of this is that such weapons are outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the United States is a party. The Pentagon maintains that white phosphorus is not a chemical weapon; even though a declassified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document reads "Iraqi forces loyal to president Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels."

I find it rather ironic that the premise for going into Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussain from acquiring and using chemical weapons, while at the same time the U.S. is using chemical weapons against Iraqis.

If this wasn’t enough it was also reported in the Daily Mirror that President Bush had told Tony Blair that he wanted to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters. Now keep in mind that al-Jazeera’s headquarters is located in the capital city of Doha’s downtown area and only 10 miles from the US's desert base in Qatar, which is one of the US’s most important allies in the war on Iraq. One should also note that protocol I, art. 79 of the Geneva Conventions states that:
  1. Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1.

This means that as civilians “violence to life and person including murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture are prohibited.”

I guess we can all be thankful that at least Tony Blair had some common sense and opposed the president’s idea of committing war crimes and infuriating the entire Arab world.

Yes folks war crimes are truly the most fun kind of crimes.

Things are not looking so good

Remember this post?

Now we get a seeming conformation by the Guardian that Iraqis feel that violence against coalition forces is okay. This coupled with the ridiculous resolution of "immediate withdrawal" by Duncan Hunter (intended to embarrass John Murtha, the Democrat who called for a timetable for a US exit) shows just how screwed up things have become.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Maureen Dowd, fabulous, phones it in

She has a new book out: Are Men Necessary?:When Sexes Collide. She's on a whirlwind book tour. I have not as yet read one favorable review, but the book is selling like m$&*a f---ing hot cakes. This morning, on MPR, Dowd, in Los Angeles, phoned in her interview. Mandingo--tell me that's not something important.

Does the book provide the opportunity for women to challenge dominant conceptions of femininity? Most assuredly not. Does it specify the relationship between males and females today? Yes, it would seem so. Now, most women consider themselves feminist, but reject the label, with its connotations of unshaved legs, pants, and anti-male sentiment. Times have changed. Today, many women strive to marry, stay home, be sexy, and exert power by virtue of sartorial elegance, like the femme fatale on the cover, who instantly reduces men to mush and clouds their thinking. And why not? And what do women look for in men? Well, that has never been very tangible. For men who are much poorer than women, sorry, but you still have no chance. For women not only do not mind being patronized, but rather like and want to be so, Dowd says. These days, not letting the woman pay for dinner, or attempt to, is the sine qua non of successful dating. Though it might be easier to buy women, as commodities, they are still quite expensive, the de luxe articles in the store of life, especially those untouchable New York City women, like Dowd herself.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: Jesus' hangout or hotbed of Satan?

This issue has been fermenting in the newsmedia for the last week, gradually turning from a sweet First Amendment gripe to a bitter BIBLE BAN.

It seems that UW-Eau Claire has decided that an RA cannot conduct his weekly Bible study in his dorm room because it may "alienate residents." The RA decided that the administration was impinging upon his religious freedom by saying this, so he called FIRE, the "Foundation for Individual Rights in Education". FIRE decided to alert every crazy person who thinks UW would somehow be able to steal Jesus and hold him hostage in their evil college lair.

On the one hand, I believe that schools should not be allowed to prohibit student participation in religious activities while on campus. I'm all for allowing high school football players to pray before a game. When I was in high school a teacher once told a student that she couldn't read the Bible during quiet study time in English, and I totally agreed with the student that it is none of the teacher's damn business. Furthermore, the religious freedom of students should never be encroached upon by the administration, as the first amendment gives us the right to free exercise of our religion.

However, the RA in question is not a mere student. As a resident assistant, he is an employee of the University and, thus, the state. His Bible studies are not student-led, but instead State-led. Eau Claire's policy states that "Resident assistants are considered to be on duty whenever they are in their room or residence hall. The room and residence halls where they live are considered their place of employment." It also states, however, that an RA can engage in activities, such as leading a Bible Study, at areas other than the residence hall.

After much careful consideration of the two issues, I've come to a conclusion: The RA in question is being a complete jackass. If he led the Bible study in an unused classroom, it would be fine. If he led it in a dining hall: legit. If he led it while eating an ice cream cone at the DQ--all the better. The only place he can't lead a Bible study is in his own residence hall. While I am sure his dorm is cozy, there are probably other places on campus that are just as cozy and don't cause such a ruckus. Instead of being a rational human being, he sics Fox News on UW in order to create controversy. If UW were forcing him to never hold Bible studies, I would be in complete agreement with his complaint. But that isn't the case, and as such he is just making a mess where there doesn't need to be one.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Week in Review: PeP at 10,000

Thursday, November 17, 2005

In the Heart of a Red State

An obvious question on the minds of PeP Nation must be: Where's PiedPiper? Well, have a seat kiddos, cause Papa Pied has a tale to weave.

I've been recovering from (and catching up after) a weekend in the Middle of Middle America, otherwise known as rural Missouri. That's right folks; I travelled to the heart of the beast, looked it in the eye, and proudly said, "Howdy, ya'll."

I was there for a friend's wedding. As many of you are aware, I spent some months teaching English in the Czech Republic a couple years ago, and it was one of my roommates getting married. In addition, I met up with a number of other friends from my Prague days.

We all flew into Kansas City (that's Missouri...not Kansas) where I actually ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes in a restaurant. Skeptical at first, I must admit, it was delicious. However, this lends well to my first lesson from Red State America...it's big. Obviously the geography is big, as evident on the Red State-Blue State map, with points of interest few and far between. More striking, though, is the size of the people, and I ain't talking about numbers of people. No, no, no, we're talking waistlines. Fast food on every corner, billboards that read "Beef: Why eat anything else?", and heavy use of varied condiments, particularly ketchup (or catsup...whatever), have a balloony breed of humankind.

The beauty of the bulge, however, is that Red Staters have adapted by building big. And that's where Wal-Mart comes in. On Saturday morning, I went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter - a mecca of consumption - where I walked around aimlessly for more than 45 minutes in search of a roll of Scotch tape. It's like a freakin' labyrinth with surprises around every corner. At one point, I turned a corner to find a fake mounted deer head trying to start a conversation with me.

And speaking of mounted deer heads, never have I ever been wished "Happy Huntin'" so many times in my life. We made the mistake - or perhaps had the fortune - of trolling through Missouri during the deer season opener. As usual, camoflauge was this season's in-style.

And, with no clever segue, that leaves only church. God is everywhere in Missouri. There are superchurches off the freeway, small chapels on nearly every corner, and my personal favorite, the First Baptist Church of Climax Spings, out in the country. The best stretch of highway we drove through had a church, a Budweiser distributor, and a bullet factory all within a half-mile of pristine blacktop.

Now, believe me, I don't wish to demean my Red State brethren. Without a doubt, any Missourian could spend a weekend in St. Paul and poke fun at the way I do things. But I think that's the point we're missing. Conservatives like to deride "multiculturalism" as this phony, lefty, PC conceptual nothingness. Yet, after spending a weekend in rural Missouri, I found my culture - if, as culture is traditionally defined, we're talking about basic mores and customs - dramatically different than that of my fellow countrymen and women. To deny that multiculturalism is a necessary part of our national framework is simply to deny our interwoven and opposing cultural reality. Maybe there's absolutely nothing to this argument, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

So cheers to the fat, preachy, consumerist hillbilly hunters out there! I hope to see ya'll again soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ideas and their shaping

In academia, the prevalent view of the state of democracy in America, of the actual arrangments currently supposed to embody that idea, is sobering and bleak. Consider the estate tax. How to explain the fact that neither political party ever proposes massive hikes in the estate tax, although this move would be in the interest of all but a tiny fraction of the electorate? The answer is not too hard to see. Those who have large sums of wealth have the ability to shape the terms of public debate. Did somebody say oligarchy?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Don't worry

Mike Tice tore his MCL, but he doesn't need surgery. How about those Vikings? Apparently, they were trying to show the world that they were better off without Daunte, but only if "better off" means *can't score more than 3 points on offense*.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

You Figure It Out

Advanced Global Personality Test Results

Romantic |||||||||||||| 56%
Avoidant |||||| 23%
Anti-authority |||||||||||| 50%
Wealth |||||| 23%
Dependency |||||||||| 36%
Change averse |||||||||| 36%
Cautiousness |||||| 30%
Individuality |||||||||||| 43%
Sexuality |||||||||||||||| 63%
Peter pan complex |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Physical fitness |||||||||||||||||| 77%
Histrionic |||| 16%
Paranoia |||||||||||| 43%
Vanity |||||||||| 36%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||||| 56%
Female cliche |||| 16%

Stability results were moderately low which suggests you are worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious.

Orderliness results were moderately low which suggests you are, at times, overly flexible, improvised, and fun seeking at the expense of reliability, work ethic, and long term accomplishment.

Extraversion results were high which suggests you are overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense too often of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.

Social Darwinist view of Christianity

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew V:5).

-- The meek shall have it? Nonesense, that is an old ecclesiastical prejudice in favor of the poor and against the rich. -- Yeah, if they want to inherit the earth, they better wait in line! -- Nietzsche was right, Christianity needs sickness.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Gay Equals Pedophile Says the Catholic Church, Round 2

As some of you may or may not remember I wrote a post back in September that was critical of the Catholic Church and the planned visits of Vatican officials to every seminary in the United States entitled Gay Equals Pedophile…says the Catholic Church. There was a rather heated response to this post so I decided to do a little follow up.

Recently it was announced that Vatican officials will be coming to the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul Seminary in February. It will be a four day visit where they will ask every seminary student 63 in-depth questions some of which will pertain to their sexual orientation as well as any homosexual activities within the seminary.

Today my letter to the editor of the Aquin (St. Thomas’ student run weekly newspaper) on this issue was published. I have posted the letter below and will post any repsonses to the letter that are published in the Aquin in the upcoming weeks.

Church contradicts school

Recently the Aquin has announced that Vatican officials will be visiting the St. Paul Seminary this coming February. These officials should not be allowed on campus unless any questions concerning sexual orientation are removed from the 63 planned in-depth questions they will be asking all seminary students.

According to the Aquin, the visits are in response to cases of sexual abuse by American clergy. However, the underlying problem with these visits is that the Catholic Church is equating homosexuality with pedophilia, even though experts almost unanimously agree that there is no connection. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, when talking about pedophilia, stated that "it's kind of a separate sexual orientation; often they have no attraction to adults whatsoever." By equating homosexuality and pedophilia, the Catholic Church is dangerously spreading false stereotypes concerning an entire social group.

More important than this is the fact that all seminarians are students at St. Thomas and an integral part of the St. Thomas community. Many of these seminary students go through the same admissions process as other St. Thomas students, and they all attend standard St. Thomas classes. According to the University of St. Thomas Student Policy Handbook, concerning offensive behavior: “Harassment of an individual or group of individuals based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, creed, religion, socio-economic status, physical or mental disability is an attack on the very fabric of the institution itself.”

The question that arises from all of this is what will St. Thomas officials do when the policies of the Catholic Church are in direct contradiction to the policies of the university and will the university allow Church policies to “attack the very fabric of the instiitution itself?”

I hope that St. Thomas adminstrators will not allow the Vatican officials on campus unless changes are made to the questions that the seminary students are going to be asked. The goal of the university should be to foster a feeling of community and accepatance for all studnets. If the university allows the harassment of this certain group of students then what will stop the university from also allowing the harassment of other groups of students on campus?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What Does It Mean to be Desperately Unemployed?

The young people behind the riots in France have been produced by "unemployment and racism," as one NYT op-ed put it. The consensus seems to be that their violence is an expression of their exclusion, economic and social, from French society. In many ways, the problem of unemployment is the problem of the late 20th century. It is still unresolved. Politicians never stop talking about it. Where it exists to a high degree, it is the problem from which almost all others stem. To solve the problem of unemployment is to solve many social ills everywhere.

What does it mean to be unemployed in today's world? Consider what Zygmunt Bauman writes in Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts (Polity Press, 2004):
The prefix 'un' suggests anomaly; 'unemployment' is a name for a manifestly temporary and abnormal condition and so the nature of the complaint is patently transient and curable. The notion of 'unemployment' inherits its semantic load from the self-awareness of a society which used to cast its members as producers first and last, and which also believed in full employment as not just a desireable and attainable social condition but also its own ultimate destination; a society which therefore cast employment as a key - the key - to the resolution of the issues of, simultaneously, socially acceptable personal identity, secure social position, individual and collective survival, social order and systemic reproduction.
Does anyone think that deporting the rioters, as the French now plan to do, will solve anything? It is a short-term solution for France, a long-term problem for humankind.

That's what we call a zinger!

zinger informal noun Yost got us with a few good zingers. Also known as a quip, joke, criticism, dig or poke, zinger (or Zing! for short) is a great word.

Here, for example, is a zinger. This is from a review by Charles McGrath of "My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student," by Rebekah Nathan:
For a layperson, it's hard to understand the fuss, because "My Freshman Year" is a surprisingly bland book, encumbered by a lot of handwringing over niceties of procedure. It says next to nothing, for example, about sex and drinking among college students, which is a little like writing about the Tongan Islanders (Ms. Small's academic specialty) and neglecting to mention that they hunt and gather. [Zing!]

pity this busy monster, manunkind, not.

As Piper noted yesterday, Kansas has officially disappeared from the ranks of the modern world. The school board, in deciding that evolution is too "controversial" to be taught without a supernatural backup plan, took approximately 150 years of hypotheses and experimentation and punched it in the face with 2000 years of Biblical teachings. Of course, the proponents of this "scientific" theory don't mention the Bible when they want to actually get their "controversial" view taught in the classroom. Instead, they call it "Intelligent Design," or ID for short.

I am probably the only person here at the PeP who has read the seminal work in ID dogma (I originally wrote "theory," but I don't think that something that cannot be tested or proven can be called a theory, at least not in the "synonym to hypothesis" sense of the word), Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box, a book that purports to explain how the world was created in six days designed by some higher intelligence. I read the book my junior year of college, the year that I quit being a Chemistry major and focused solely on English. I read it because I wanted to have some sort of scientific backup to my theological leanings, and the book provided me with more comfort than a room full of overstuffed pillows crammed with teddy bears ever could.

Yet, I was someone who wanted to look at both sides, to see if what I believed was an actual theory in the traditional sense or merely a matter of dogma. Darwin's Black Box presented me with an opportunity to have my faith confirmed by science--something I later realized was rather antithetical to the whole "faith" idea--and the science seemed ironclad. Behe analyzed various "irreducibly complex" (his words) biological mechanisms that he believed could have never been attained through some cascade of evolution without the guiding hand of an intelligent designer. These include: the Bombardier beetle, which creates Hydrogen Peroxide in a little compartment in its abdomen and then shoots said Hydrogen Peroxide at its enemies, much like the character "Reptile" from Mortal Kombat 2; the human/animal eye, since it is really, really difficult to figure out how all that crazy "sight" stuff came about; the flagellum of bacteria, which require a certain protein (I don't remember all the details, obviously) in order to create the motor necessary to move the bacteria. Behe's argument hinges on his underlying assumption that evolutionary theory cannot account for all the tiny steps necessary for such hugely complex systems. So, since the outcome of the Bombardier beetle's evolution should be a kickass defense mechanism, each interstitial step would be moving towards such a kickass defense system, and as such it wouldn't be giving the beetle a better chance of survival. In Behe's understanding of evolution, natural selection would never result in the Bombardier's defenses since each particular step is only moving towars its H2O2 defense, not toward getting a competitive advantage: all mutations that pushed it towards its H2O2 defense are only occuring because of the design, not because of the actual advantage that, however small, makes the beetle better able to mate and get food and protect itself. After I read all this, I thought, "Holy crap, this is going to revolutionize science[exclamation point]" Well, actually, I just thought it did a good job of confirming what I already believed.

Yet, being the good, liberal (not the political kind) college student that I was, I decided to check out the other book that was sharing shelf-space with Behe's tract, something called Finding Darwin's God, a book by Kenneth R. Miller. Within 10 minutes of picking it up, however, I had to put it down because he eviscerates Behe's argument with a rusty knife, Rambo-style. Miller notes that Behe's arguments echo an early 19th Century minister named William Paley, a man Behe quotes quite often, especially concerning the irreducible complexity of the eye. What Behe fails to note in his book is that Darwin had read Paley before he wrote The Origin of Species and that Darwin refuted Paley's arguments about the eye within that very book, noting (I'm quoting Miller quoting Darwin here, so try to keep up):

if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, through insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.

Darwin notes that the eye itself is not "irreducibly complex" as Behe would have it, but rather that each gradation of the eye made animals a little better at getting food, and as such they passed down their good genes to their progeny. With the Bombardier beetle, the same thing must have occurred, wherein each tiny, tiny mutation made food that much easier to get, and the beetle that much harder to kill.

Much of Behe's problem, and the ID movement's problem, is that they still live within a 6000 year timeframe, even though their brand of creationism has dropped the farce of the young earth model. It is strange that a group of people so focused upon the eternal would think in such short time periods, but their models of ID tend to forget that the earth is pretty darn old, and that life on earth has also been around for a while. At this point we're talking something like 3.5 billion years for us to evolve from not much to something a little more important.

Now, if that were ID's only sin, I suppose I could countenance it. Yet, it purports to be a scientific theory that "explains the gaps in evolution." Yes, evolution has gaps. Scientists don't dispute that; instead, they try to figure out why the gaps are there, and how to explain the gaps within the boundaries of natural science. ID instead says, "design" and like an incantation everything is explained. The reason the Bombardier beetle can kick ass and take names? Design. The reason deer stand transfixed by headlights? Design. The reason dogs eat cat crap out of litter boxes? Design. It can work for anything. Yet, it can never be proven. In fact, the Kansas board "redefined the word 'science,' no longer limiting it to natural explanations of phenomena" (first link). According to that reasoning, someone could teach students that the reason that plastic bowls float is because invisible ghosts are holding them above the surface of the water, and that the invisible ghosts are there to control everything that lives on top of the water. Nevermind that there is a huge body of evidence that the reason things float is because their density is less than that of the water on which they rest. Why should it matter, since there are ghosts holding up every floaty thing on the face of the planet.

My example is, of course, absurd. But that is the point. ID-ers are trying to make science a question of whether or not God created the earth. To me, that seems more like a question of faith than science. Science is about observable, repeatable results. The Scientific Method=Observation and Repeatability. Even if there is such a thing as intelligent design, it is impossible to observe. It follows, then, that it is impossible to repeat. Perhaps I could have saved a lot of keystrokes if I had written that in the first paragraph, but I am, as always, a self-important blowhard. Rejection of ID is not a rejection of God or the idea of God or of God having a hand in creation; instead, it is a rejection of a bunch of dogma masquerading as a scientific theory that is creating gaps in the education of our students.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Two Blogs of Interest

About a month ago, the University of Chicago Law School Faculty started a blog. They are big into blogging there, and, among other members, both Martha Nussbaum and Cass Sunstein post.

Leiter Reports is a long-established, law-centered blog worth reading, maintained by Brian Leiter, law professor and all around smart guy.

Post Election Hangover: Did you hear the one about the "SpongeBob bandit"?

Tropical Storm Bearded Matriarch howls through the corrugated tin of our Seward shanty while we slowly recover from a left-leaning sweep in the Twin Cities elections. The last week and a half has been crazy-sick around HQ so we thought we'd drop a little TC scuttlebutt to lighten the mood.
  • The "SpongeBob" bandit was arrested on Friday after an interesting life on the lam [strib]
  • His buddy, The "fishing hat bandit" has dropped more than a few bars of soap since being arrested earlier this year. [strib]
  • Our favorite midnight cowboy, gossip columnist C.J. (last name unknown), informs us the Purple-one has demolished his Chanhassen house. A clan of Whiteman's, somewhere, is in mourning. [strib]
  • Don't forget to pick up your this year's hottest Christmas present. The Viking Sex Boat t-shirt [strib]
  • And a link to Cousin It, err....Dara Moskowitz's take on Minneapolis sushi joints. [CP]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

...and the Ayes have it

Well, that's all she wrote, PePpers. The voters have made their mark, although in most cases, I don't believe the use of bodily fluids was involved. Chris Coleman schelacked Randy Kelly in what amounted to a 70-30 split, and the RT Rybak Referendum in Minneapolis scored about the same.

The closest races this evening happened in South Minneapolis, where Mandingo and Ilya are squirelling away ballots in hopes that Cam Gordon holds onto a 51-49 margin over Cara Letofsky. Also, Green Party mafioso and Ward 6 City Council incumbent Dean Zimmerman appears to be losing his seat, but maybe not his slush fund.

So party hardy, PePpers, and thank your lucky stars you don't live in Virginia...or Kansas.

Vote or...live?

I just returned from the West 7th Street Rec Center where I dutifully cast my ballot. According to the VoteTrackerMax 3000 that ate my ballot, I was the 424th such voter in my ward. After chatting up the election officials, I was told that the Rec Center had received a fairly steady stream of voters throughout the day. (When I voted in the primary, around the same time of day, I was only the 162nd.) Overall, the turnout has been steady in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, but its only expected to reach 25 percent.

Coleman and Kelly were still out pressing the flesh today (not to mention lawn sign bearers on just about every intersection with a stoplight), but it appears to be all for naught. The latest Minnesota Poll has Coleman opening his margin even wider, 66-22 percent.

The sad thing about all this is that the St. Paul mayoral campaign was reported to be the most expensive city election in Minnesota history. Part of the reason for that is because of Kelly's endorsement of Bush in the 2004 election, and some (who may be a little cracked) are saying Coleman's wide margin of victory reflects more on extreme dissatisfaction with Bush, rather than extreme dissatisfaction of Kelly. In fact, the City Hall Scoop is reporting the race for St. Paul City Hall is getting some national attention from WashPo, Fox News, and National Public Radio. Something tells me that's a bit of a stretch, but oh well.

Oh, and be prepared. Tomorrow...temperatures will be falling throughout the day.

Random Thoughts and Election Handicapping, or Handicapped Elections

Today is the Gubernatorial election in Virginia. Tomorrow the fair-minded residents of Virginia can be assured of one thing regardless of the outcome, they will have a stupid governor. People often say that it is an abrogation of your civic duties, the neclecting of a civic sacrament, when you fail to vote. I generally agree with this line of thought. Though, this election, I am terribly tempted to sit out. Polls have shown the Democratic candidate Tim Kaine holding a modest lead over the Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore (1-4 points). Both are tremendously stupid. Kilgore holds the edge on this one though, he is slimey and stupid. While recent polls give Kaine the edge I suspect Kilgore will win out, Virginia is a red-state (though it is more purple than red) and the Republican ground game is stronger throughout the State than the Democrats'.

There is an independent (a republican) running, Potts is his name, I can't be bothered to remember his full name. However, he has made a grievous political error. He fancies the notion that it is important to articulate a plan on how to actually pay for your campaign promises. Thus, as a Republican, he hasn't made many, further, he has promised to, gasp, cut some programs to offset some of his proposed spending. He has been blunt about this fiscal fact but obviously to his disadvantage. He will get my vote for his audacity. But nonetheless, tomorrow I will have a an idiot for governor. Frankly, this is unfortunate. Virginia is a well run state, perhaps the best run in the union. Our current Governor Mark Warner is being considered amongst Democratic power players as an alternative to Hillary, Note to Liberal PePers, you could do a whole lot worse than this guy. The US could do a whole lot worse than Mark Warner.

Windfall profits: It seems like drugs and gas inspire absolute economic idiocy and ignorance from both sides of the aisle. I have a question, Senators are proposing that we tax these "windfall profits" from the oil companies, what if the price of gas goes down to $20 a barrel, do we give them a rebate? What about when it was $20 a barrel, should we offer a rebate retroactively? Some people are making a killing on their houses, maybe we should tax their profits after a certain point. If your house has appreciated thrice above inflation we could claw back the difference between the actual price of the house sale and the price of the house when purchased adjusted for inflation times years of occupancy.

New Jersey is another state that has two awful choices for Governor. New Jersey is a cess pool for politics. Sen. Corzine and Doug Forrester are running surprisingly close given that New Jersey is such a blue state. Recently Forrester put up attack ads featuring Corzine's ex wife warning voters that Corzine failed his family and will fail the state. I appreciate this ad, although it is vile and underhanded, at least Forrester was willing to attach his name to it. If he wants to conduct himself like utter trash, let him, and let the voters decide if they want such trash in their statehouse. Corzine is no gem either, he recently floated the head of one of the service unions a no interest loan of a half mill, and surprisingly he got the endorsement. We call that a bribe, but, whatever. Oh, he is also sleeping with this same person which has gotten him in some trouble too. My handicapping on this race, Corzine wins 52-47.

My proposal to the Ken Mehlman and Howard Dean: guys, you know it is hard to be a politician and to keep it in your pants. Let's recognize this, this is the one thing that is truly bipartisan. Let's reach across the aisle and set up an endowment if you will. This endowment will be funded through mandatory contributions of statewide and nationwide elected officials in each respective party. The raised funds will be used to keep some high class call girls (or he-whores) on retainer. No more embarassing leaks about infidelity or wild rompous sex parties or forays on a boat named risky business. No allegations about womanizing, etc. This can be a progressive thing too, there can be transgender stuff going on to appease some of the real lefties. Whatever, but we gotta get in front of this.

Last and in this case least, there is the the Governator. The Govenator has submitted four propositions: budget reform, paycheck protection, redistricting reform, and educational reform. Maybe pension reform is in there somewhere. Hell if I care. Apparently, taking on every single special interest group with political clout (from nurses to teachers to firemen to elected politicians themeselves) at the same time appears to be a failing strategy. Surprise.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Endorsement Mania: For What it's Worth

Today, on the hallowed eve of our local elections, The Minnesota Daily implored uninterested college students to vote for Cam Gordon in Ward 2, Aaron Neumann in Ward 3, The Teal Machine for Minneapolis mayor, and Chris Coleman for St. Paul mayor. As stated earlier, we aren't into endorsements but we'll offer predictions.
  • In Ward 2, Letofsky, with endorsements from almost every group under the DFL umbrella, seems like the tentative favorite. Her husband, Jim Davnie, represents district 62A in the Minnesota House and our first-hand observation of his political clout leads us to believe he might be the X factor in this tilt. Either way, Letofsky or Gordon should prove to be a welcomed departure from the acrimonious relationship between U of MN students and the apathetic Zerby.
  • Ward 3 is a lock for Diane Hofstede. She counts an omnibus of union support and the DFL on her side. Neumann on the other hand is a less than serious contender from the Green Party. Avalanche warning.
  • The Teal Machine takes this election to the hizzouse by a ten point margin.
  • We fully expect Chris Coleman to string Kelly up by his own urine drenched jockstrap.

Pie-Eyed Poetry: Election Eve

The Lament of Randy and Peter
'Twas the night before elections, and all through blog,
not a creature was stirring,
not even Mandingo's dense fog.

The lawn signs were hung in the window with care,
in hopes that Chris Coleman would win the affair.

RT Rybak was nestled all snug in his bed,
while visions of a taxpayer-financed Twins stadium danced in his head.

With Rybak was in his PJs, and Coleman in his cap,
the two laid down their heads for an election eve nap.

They had just settled down when there arose such a clatter,
they both sprung into action to see what was the matter.

Away to the windows they flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash

When what to their consituent-filled eyes should appear
But a diminutive Randy Kelly and a McLaughlin named Peter.

Holding election results and a few bottle of brew,
They shouted, "We don't give up; look at our crew!"

More rapid than eagles their campaigners they came,
And they whistled and shouted, and they called them by name:

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

To East St. Paul and North Minneapolis the campaigners did scatter
In hopes that with stickers and buttons the voters they'd flatter.

But Kelly looked haggard, and McLaughlin quite dim,
For they've been 'round long enough to know their chances are slim.

But fight on they will, and stay happy they must,
And for Kelly at least future GOP endorsements he'll trust.

Contorting their faces at Coleman and Rybak as if they were smelly,
They screamed and shook their fingers like bowlfuls of jelly.

Yelling with voices that sounded so hoarse and so weary,
They proclaimed, "Happy Election Eve to all...'cause tomorrow we'll be teary.

Not Keeping Up With The Franklins

From the NYT, on residents of California moving to the Midwest, where their money can buy much much more:

In Kansas City, where Mr. Franklin, 22, grew up, the couple, who have a seven-month-old daughter, bought a house for $134,000. Ms. Franklin, 24, who was raised in San Diego, never imagined she would leave California. Since moving to Kansas City, she has had to get used to tornado warnings and the concept of wind chill.

"But we are always told how lucky we are to be so young and already have what we have," she said, referring to their three-bedroom home. "We realized we had to sacrifice living in California to get that."

A house, space, and a kid at 22 and 24 yrs -- how do you people live like that? Ask yourself: What for? On second thought, for your own sanity, you might not want to ask yourself that question, you might feel a little empty inside if you do -- just continue keeping up with the Joneses.

Endorsement Mania! (cont.)

This showed up on my doorstep yesterday:The fact that our Republican governor endorses the only Republican (well...besides Randy Kelly) running for office in St. Paul (School Board candidate Lori Windels) is not disturbing. Upon closer inspection, however...

...his signature really is disturbing. I mean, what the ---? How can we trust a person, if we can't trust his penmanship?

Endorsement Mania!

So we have the League of Pissed-Off Voters' endorsements, and now we have the Staid-Old-Media endorsements. The Strib published their full list of endorsements for all the enthralling races that will soon climax tomorrow. Uncompromised, the Stribsters bestowed their mayoral endorsements (which are practically like gold these days) and beknighted Coleman and Rybak counties of the St. Paul and Minneapolis fiefdoms.

I have to say, though, it has been a difficult few days on the St. Paul side of the river watching Randy Kelly go down in flames and try to put on his happy face. It's like his hair is on fire, his scalp is getting charred, and he's chomping on his tongue to divert the pain. It's ok, Randy. Just let it out. There's no shame in tears. But why - oh why? - are you still shoveling money out the window on such a losing cause? I mean, at this point, you're the defacto Republican nominee. Good night and good luck, sweet prince.

And speaking of St. Paul, can anyone find me the PiPress endorsements? Perhaps its my illiteracy, but I can't seem to locate them (if they exist) anywhere.

Hey, Mandingo, who's it going to be in Seward? Cam Gordon or Cara Letofsky? Oh, and I think I saw Dan Miller panhandling on the Cedar-Riverside exit off I-94. Great campaign. Really.

Also, you may be wondering where the PeP endorsements are. Well, I think you know where I stand on the St. Paul mayor's race. But other than that, we don't give endorsements without a little consideration on the side. (And if you've taken a Contracts class, you know what I mean.) Seriously, though, we all have our own ideologies - some similar, some different - and so we won't be making blanket endorsements...this time. Of course, the PeP contributors are free to make their own personal endorsements, which I can assure you are highly sought after.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why Vote?

As if you need one more reason to abstain from Tuesday's elections, we've been informed by our favorite freakalicious economists Leavitt and Dubner that voting is economically irrational. Well, shit. Anyway, we say opportunity costs be damned.
  • Leavitt and Dubner believe the answer to higher voter turnout is Switzerland. Of course it is. [NYT]
  • More from the authors at their website. Their website, by the way, strikes us as a bizarre example of meta-marketing and self-aggrandizement. [freakonomics]
  • The EconEdLink provides an excellent overview and speaks of incentives. [EconEdLink]
  • Gary North spills his heart on why he votes (occasionally) and provides a link to his book Mises on Money. [lewrockwell]
  • P.S. Babcock writes about it in his blog, along with a short exposition on Iraq. [askedgeworth]
  • And then someone named Professor Bainbridge implores us to stop the obstruction, support Alito, and go vote. [probra]

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bill Clinton at the U of MN

“I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

That Clinton has been active in the world, and has learned much from it, was plain to hear. Clinton now moralist, now anthropologist, now politician, now political scientist, now economist, now historian, now preacher, held forth to a capacity crowd in the Northrop Memorial Auditorium.

If you couldn’t get tickets, you will be able to hear his speech on MPR. In lieu of a transcript, here are my notes, for the Pie-Eyed record. Everything italicized, in “()”, “<>” or "[]" are my comments. Everything is roughly paraphrased; nothing is a direct quotation except where indicated by quotation marks.

Introduction by Walter Fritz Mondale

Clinton…actually listens, he can think, he can write, he can speak …he is just what we need!

Enter William Jefferson Clinton stage left

The headlines tomorrow should read: ‘Mondale’s Still Got It!’ (Clinton thanks the hosts and gives a shout out to, among other people, Garrison Keillor and Wellstone)

(Referring to his over the top introduction by Mondale) Clinton’s third law of politics: always have yourself introduced by someone you appointed who will lie about you.

(Clinton gets down to the night’s business) …talk about the fundamental realities of the 21st century and what citizens can do about it to make it better. We live in an age of globalization, but I like to call it the age of interdependence. This can be good or bad. For most of us it is good. We want to know how to build up its positive forces and reduce its negative forces.

We need more integrated communities at every level—shared responsibilities, shared benefits, shared values. Many doubt that we can have shared values today. Can there be basic shared values? Yes. Though are differences should be celebrated and make life more interesting, our common humanity matters more than our differences.

Faith should not be turned into a political program.

Now, you don’t have to agree with my characterization, but you should ask yourself, what is the dominant characteristic of our age, and how can you make it better?

3 ways to make our world better:

1. We need a security strategy to combat terrorism and WMD. Since, in an interdependent world, we cannot track down and jail all our enemies, we need to build more partnerships and produce fewer enemies.

2. Millions needlessly die everywhere from preventable diseases. We know how to reduce poverty and attack these problems. The more America helps the rest of the world, the less anti-American sentiment abroad. "We related to them not in geopolitical terms but in human ones."

3. International institutions and reform of the UN. Why does anyone join any organization? Because you think you will be better off inside than outside. There would be no organizations, including marriages , if you had to agree on everything in advance. All organizations fetter the actions of their members. It is foolish for America to think that it will be the biggest dog on the block forever and that organizations get in the way of its dominance. Yes, organizations are slower to make changes, but they prevent a lot of stupid decisions from being made. America should be a part of more international organizations. China and India will be more powerful than America in the future.

Improvements that need to be made within our own country: 1. Health insurance. 2. Environment and energy policy. It is imperative that we adopt a clean energy policy to compete with China and India. 3. Balance the budget, reduce the deficit, don’t cut taxes for the rich, help the middle and lower classes achieve economic security.

"Don't use your disappointment [over election results] as an excuse to believe you are disempowered." Private citizens now have more power to contribute to the public good than ever before. “And it is important for you to know why.”

1. More than half the people in the world live in a democracy.

2. The Internet has become a powerful instrument of political action. Examples: number of small donations to political parties; amount of aid donated to tsunami and hurricane relief efforts. “It’s going to change everything.”

3. Rise of NGOs.

You are not disempowered for these three reasons: democracy, Internet, NGOs.

Global Warming is serious.

The Library Board: Great for you, so long as you don't work at or go to a library.

I suppose the title is a little misleading. The problem, according to this article in One Nation News, is that the Library board has been responsible for operating budget cuts this year that reduced hours by 35 percent and cut 25 percent of the staff. Of course, it was not purely out of sadism on the library board's part that such things happened, but because the state cut funding by 3 million dollars. Couple that with the library's 160 million dollar upgrade and we've got some major problems in budgetary matters.

As we learned yesterday, the budget is initially doled out by the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and that the Library Board must figure out its operating budget for the year based on the BOET's budget. Because of a shortfall from expected state monies, the Board had to engage in massive cuts. This shortfall also brought about a great desire in the common Minneapolitan to run for library board in order to show everyone on the block that he/she can screw things up just as much as the next person.

Since I've lost this post twice now, I'm not going to do a rundown of the candidates. I'll just direct you to the Strib's site, which gives a pretty good idea of what's going down. Please don't vote for Laurie Savran, because according to her essay she is apparently a 14 year old.

Quick update: I didn't notice, but in her background she notes that she is a poet. So please forgive my 14 year old comment, since she was just showing a representation of her craft. I think, next time I'm asked my background, I'll say I'm a pundit.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Week in Review: of Epidemic Proportions

Wasn't there anything else going on this week? Nah...just an indictment, another pasty, white dude appointed to SCOTUS, and informative information on Minnesota's preparations for the bird flu.

Be hearty; be humble, PePpers!

Pie-Eyed Points: Reforming Corporate Culture

DISCLAIMER: In the vein of the Strib redesign, I'm going to take this opportunity to introduce a new section for the Pie-Eyed Picayune: Pie-Eyed Points. To provide some coherence and order in the blog, the purpose of Pie-Eyed Points is to create dialogue between the Pie-Eyed contributors surrounding a specific topic. Each of us will aim to write one blog entry covering the topic, in addition to our regularly-scheduled wit, charm, and hilarious musings. Feel free to let us know if you have any topics you'd like us to discuss. For our inaugural edition of Pie-Eyed Points, this entry is a response to Ilya's screed about the Fed Reserve.

Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general running for governor there, received way more press in Minnesota than the Minnesota attorney general running for governor here. In filing a suit against Guidant - a company that employs about 3,000 workers in Arden Hills - along with a Q&A in last Sunday's Strib, and a speech at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Spitzer fulfilled a trifecta of media coverage in the metro area that our own AG/governor-hopeful Mike Hatch must envy.

Spitzer, obviously, has a bit more prestige than Hatch, and over the past few years has had a remarkable influence nationally. He does, however, cut quite the controversial figure. Reviled by many in the business community, Spitzer has been on a crusade against corporate malfeasance, and his pulpit of choice has been his AG position. Most notably, Spitzer has taken on the mutual fund industry, the New York Stock Exchange, and insurance executives. Although I'm pretty sure Spitzer would reject the comparison, he has, in many ways, struck a pose (vogue!) as the Ralph Nader of the 21st century: A consumer advocate using his position to fight battles the government is either too weak or too disinterested in fighting.

In our capitalist system, the corporate culture essentially competes in two races: a race to the bottom and a race to the top. The race to the bottom boils down to offering the lowest price a company can afford while still turning a profit. The race to the top is a manifestation of the supreme value of material success. In these frantic races to the bottom and to the top, corporate culture often steps into that gray area between the legal and the illegal, and many times plant both feet firmly in the illegal realm. Problems arise when the people in the middle of that race to the top and race to the bottom fall victim to the illegalities of corporate culture malfeasance.

Ideally, government regulation provides a buffer and a hindrance against such actions. Spitzer argues, however:
Ever since Ronald Reagan first ran for president, he articulated a theory that government is the enemy. Since then, we've been in an intellectual environment where the role of these agencies is openly and publicly derided. So it should be no surprise that 30 years later we look back and see that every one of these agencies has failed to do its job.
Regulatory agencies and government enforcement has been weakened to such a point where, in some cases like, say, Enron, corporations feel no fear of reproachment. Therefore, when the federal government fails to protect its citizens, it is the duty of people like Spitzer to use their power in filling the vacuum.

Essentially, Spitzer's argument rests on the fact that the free market - the race to the top and the bottom - will not always take the best interests of people - of citizens - into account. Rather, a company, by its very definition, takes only its own interests into account, even when it does social good within communities. Laws and regulations for child-worker protection, minimum wages, the 40-hour work week, and other vital workplace policies can only be instituted and enforced by government.

These types of government protections have only become more vital as our economy has shifted from a manufacturing base to an information and service base. There are just as many needs for protection and regulation now as there ever has been; however, finding those needs have become more complex. They are not necessarily visible to the public, who in many ways have merely become apathetic to the fact of unscrupulous and unethical corporate practices. Keep in mind, I do not advocate for unfair, intrusive, and obsessive government regulations. There are creative solutions out there, as well as self-regulation and self-enforcement. Both the current political climate and the current corporate cultural climate, however, do not appear to favor such remedies.

A company that merely steps its pinky toe into the an illegal practice is just as guilty as a company that swan dives into illegality, and both should be held accountable. Corporations need to learn they have power over not only their own interests, but the interests of millions of shareholders, consumers, and participants in the national economy. In order to administer a fair economy, corporations need to realize this fact, reform the corporate culture, and find some corporate responsibility.

Absent that...I say prosecute 'em.

PeP Points (Ilya): The Federal Reserve System may not be your friend
Strib: Tough love toward Wall Street
Strib: New York's top lawyer champions enforcement
PiPress: New York attorney general suing Guidant over handling of device flaw
NYT: Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Neglected Few: Board of Estimate and Taxation

With a little help from the good folks at BoB I have become intimately aware of what the Board of Estimate and Taxation is, does, and doesn't do.

The BO EAT, which sounds much like a Hillbilly's dinner call, is responsible for setting the maximum property tax, and then using that money to control about 95% of the budget for the whole city. By setting it up this way, Minneapolis has pushed the envelope of representative democracy: instead of initiating referendums for every city budget, Minneapolitans elect a bunch of people to oversee the budget and trust them to make good decisions. Really, it's Extreme(in the Mountain Dew sense) Governance

The problem is, according to candidate Carol Becker, that Minneapolis property's taxable value has more than doubled in the last five years. This means, of course, that you ought to sell your house if you live in Minneapolis, since the pressure that high in the stratosphere is quite low, and even the most elastic of balloons will explode if it grows too large. Metaphorically, of course.

The candidates for the board are Carol Becker, Dave Berger, Gordon Nelson, Jill Schwimmer. Sadly, we can only elect two of these illustrious candidates. Luckily, you all have the PeP to provide you with the best in election coverage.

Gordon Nelson is the incumbent, his aged body decaying daily into a tortured, Cryptkeeper-like corpse. At 69, he is both the oldest candidate and the most experienced. He holds approximately 150 degrees from 2000 different institutions ranging from Luther Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He can strike fear into evildoers with his menacing stare, however he really mailed in his Strib profile essay. C'mon Gordy, two sentences is hardly an essay.

Dave Berger is the Green candidate, though Carol Becker's website's emerald theme is much more representative of the true greenliness of the green party. Dave Berger's website has had 613 hits since he put it up. I have visited it at least five times in order to write this post. Sad, sad Dave. He decided to use the "center" button in Word in order to write his biography. In doing so, he evokes the visual nature of the poems of George Herbert, specifically "The Swan" and "The Guy Who, as an infant, Was a Union Member so that He could Eventually Write a biography where He refers To himself as A Lifelong Union Member." Dave Berger leaps small anthills in a single bound. He carries old ladies across busy intersections for exercise. He, like I, cannot spell the word epistemilogicial.

Carol Becker is a Geek, apparently. Proudly, she proclaims her geekitude. I am not sure that this is something one ought to be proud of. The long history of geeks began Anglia, with the wicked Anglo-Saxons biting the heads off of Roman chickens during the reign of Hadrian. Do we really need to call attention to our bitter English rivals, Carol? She has also failed to update her website since early September. This is an election year, Ms. Becker. We need daily updates.

Jill Schwimmer is not related to David Schwimmer, as far as I can tell.

After all this, who will the PeP endorse?

Gordy, on account of his heat vision, mysterious past, and the fact that he has seniority over every elected Minneapolis official, and he can hold it over their heads. Feel the power of the Cryptkeeper.
Carol Becker, on account of her ability to devour renegade bands of chickens, her friendly relationship with members of ABBA, and because she's 42 and still working on her PhD.

Tomorrow: Library Board. How exiting. Yes, exiting.

God, forgive us.

It's been an incredibly long day. A strenuous lecture with a blind woman this morning, afternoon class about Western European immigration policy (who knew they had such a thing?!) and then to cap it off with a few drinks at Sgt. Preston's circa November, 3005. We don't have a clue what's going on at this point but we might as well pack it in and head to this weekend's wedding in Cedar Rapids, IA. Do you still have high school friends? What is it like to spend the next 48 hours with people you remember sledding down a cold forest runway in the white pile of Winter? Those who made up 100% of the first 18 years of your life. Can you smell rubber melting on the linoleum?

Ames High School lost last night in the first round of the 4A playoffs to Dowling Catholic 31-24. Goddamn, if we don't return to glory before the end of times.

The neglected few

Well, after the bluster of Anti(dash)'s League of Pissed Off Voters (Lop off..er Lop ov) tract, we have to really get down to brass tacks. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are some races in Minneapolis that have been neglected by the glitz and glamour/glamor of the independent voting movement.

For example, did you know that there are 3 (non-lop ov) endorsed candidates for the Parks and Rec board at large? That the Board of Estimate and Taxation has two at-large member seats up for grabs? That there are 12 (twelve/XII) candidates for Library Board of Trustees, but only 6 spots up for grabs? Can anyone truly comprehend the real drama of knowing whether or not Walt Dziedzic will continue his sweet, loving stranglehold on Nordeast politics (I'm sure the endorsement by my 96 year old great grandmother, Mary Marino, will hold some cachet in the eyes of the voting public) ?

It's go-time here at the PeP, where we get to yell loudly about things that matter very little in the grand scheme of things.

Here are a few of the races that aren't grabbing as many headlines*.

In the Park and Recreation Board, we have 3 at-large bids. The candidates include Rochelle Berry Graves, Meg Forney, Daniel Froehlich, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tom Nordyke, and Annie Young. Here comes the snark:

Since only three of these candidates have websites set up, I am only able to confirm a few things.

First, Meg Forney really loves herself. I'm talking oodles and oodles of sweet narcisstic glory. As narcissistic as someone who would write on a blog for the whole world to see but then end up writing to him/herself over and over again ad infinitum. That said, she's endorsed by the Strib, seems to have a good sense of humor, and has a history of working for the good of the community at large.

Next is Tom Nordyke. He is endorsed by the DFL, the Sierra Club, and the ghost of Snoopy. He also is a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in case you cared. Sadly, he uses the wrong "vein" in a sentence on his website, so I can no longer look at him with any bit of seriousness. And the html is all screwed up at the bottom of his template. If he cannot organize his website, how can he organize our city parks?

Finally, we have Annie Young. The pre-main page of her website is an explosion of red flowers tiled across our helpless browsers. Come on Annie, you're an incumbent. You're better than this. Annie is a "nationally recognized orator," much like Marcus Tullius Cicero. Sadly, she does not pass my arbitrary test for likability, as she espouses "The Three E's": Environment, Economics and...something that doesn't start with E. Give me a break, Annie. Of course, she doesn't need an endorsement from the PeP, as she won the primary and will be handily re-elected.

Arbitrary Endorsements: Meg Forney, because she has a cool hat.
Mary Merrill Anderson, because I like how "Mary Merrill" sounds.
Rochelle Berry Graves, because then we can perhaps fuse the three together to create a Voltron-style robot of electable proportions named Mary Berry Forney.

Tomorrow: Board of Estimate and Taxation.

*Minneapolis Election Wiki helped me/did the dirty work of compiling this list