Thursday, May 23, 2019

Amy Rice at the Birchwood Cafe

It's finally flower season, and there are flowers on the walls at the Birchwood Cafe as well.


The artist, Amy Rice, works with stencils and enamel spray paint, among other media.


She has big gardens, but she dreams even bigger, according to her artist statement: of being a flower farmer.


"I'm not satisfied anymore with a big garden; I want acres of stripes of living colors. I want my fields to be my canvas and flowers to be my paint."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Animals in a Hallway

There's one upside to wasting time waiting in a school hallway: you get to look at the student artwork. These animal were painted by first or second graders.


The red panda is the one that got my attention first.


The fox peeks in from the edge of the frame.


This one was labeled "Glimmering Gorilla."


A jaguar's contemplates its existence.


I love the tone-on-tone of the whites and grays, not to mention the purple background, on this mountain goat artwork.


The snow leopard will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ways to Change the Senate

From Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift... I was drawn by this section of his weekly round-up post, which was titled Without Protest. The first part was about the recently passed anti-abortion laws, and within that he made these points:

The apparent purpose of Alabama’s monstrous law is to make this very conservative Supreme Court reconsider the legal status of abortion.

It’s worth remembering how we come to have a Supreme Court majority that is far more conservative than the American people: The Republican Senate (elected mainly by small states, and representing a minority of voters) denied President Obama (who won his elections by margins of 53%-46% and 51%-47%) his constitutional right to appoint a moderate justice (Merrick Garland) in his final year in office. Instead, the last two extremely conservative justices (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) have been appointed by a minority-elected president (Trump lost the popular vote 46%-48%, but won in the Electoral College) and approved by that same minority-elected Senate.

Republicans sometimes justify the power of the Senate and the Electoral College by saying it protects against the tyranny of the majority. But in this case it enables a tyranny of the minority, which is far worse. If our system respected the will of voters, the Court would have a solid center-left majority, and Roe would be safe.

A number of constitutional remedies have been proposed to make the Senate more democratic, but here’s a simpler approach: Outlaw gerrymandering (to make the House better reflect the voters) and then move the special powers of the Senate (approving nominees and treaties) to the more representative House. That also would require a constitutional amendment, but one that I believe would be easier to pass than a reapportionment of the Senate.

Disempowering the Senate would resemble the path taken in the United Kingdom: They’ve never eliminated their unrepresentative House of Lords, they’ve just taken away most of its powers.
I don't believe I've heard anyone advocate this idea of moving the special powers to the House before, so that caught my attention. Combined with National Popular Vote laws passed by enough states and getting rid of the filibuster... it would make a difference.

I believe in protection of minorities (in all senses of the word) but I don't believe in minority rule.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Corporate Funding of the State Abortion Bans

Like many, I have been quietly and loudly freaking out about the current rapid and radical shift in a few states on the right to abortion, which is the right of people with uteruses to control their bodies as human beings.

I don't understand how anyone thinks that's debatable, let alone legislatable, in a country with religious freedom. You can decide for yourself not to have one, assuredly; you can try to convince others not to have one; but you cannot compel the use of someone's body to incubate the life of another person — just as you cannot compel donation of a kidney or even blood to save the life of a person who is already born. We get to choose when to donate a kidney, when to donate blood, when to gestate a fetus.

If you wonder who's been funding the people behind these recent legislative changes, Judd Legum has some information for you, posted in summary to Twitter earlier today and in full form on his online newsletter, Popular Information. This is the Twitter summary:

I scoured the campaign finance databases for the six states that have banned abortion this year. I looked for corporate contributions to the politicians leading the charge to pass abortion bans. Six companies stood out.

Let's take them one at a time:
  1. ATT says the company makes "sure women at AT&T feel supported in everything they do." ATT donated $196,600 to politicians pushing abortion bans in six states.
  2. Walmart says it's committed "to celebrating, developing and lifting up women around the world – both within the company and in the communities we serve." The company donated $57,700 to politicians pushing abortion bans across six states.
  3. Pfizer says "investments in women’s health and gender equality must be prioritized to help create healthier communities worldwide." The company donated $53,650 to politicians pushing abortion bans in six states.
  4. Eli Lilly says it is working to remove "any hidden barriers for women ...to pave the way for a more open, engaging and inclusive culture for everyone." The company donated $66,250 to politicians pushing abortion bans in five states.
  5. CocaCola says there "is overwhelming evidence that achieving equality and empowerment for women...benefits them directly and [has] broader ripple effects that are good for society." The company donated $40,800 to politicians pushing abortion bans.
  6. Aetna says women "are the largest consumer and workforce group. Women’s views on health care and health care services are critical to our success." The company donated $26,600 to politicians pushing abortion bans
NOTE: Info about corporate political donations SHOULD be very easy to get. But it's not. Much of the info is tucked away in arcane state databases. If you value accountability journalism, you can support it by subscribing to my newsletter.
I'll be notifying the couple of corporations on that list that I happen to patronize that I am unhappy about this. If you are also, I hope you will too.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Magic Logo

This weekend I learned the school mascot for Minot High School is a Magician. And this is what their diploma covers looked like in the late 1960s:


What a charming little guy, peering into his crystal ball.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Crystallofolia

I just caught up on some bloggers I read who post infrequently, and hope you find this post from crystallofolia as soothing as I do. The writer/photographer is a local naturalist who usually turns her lens on her own yard. This is a sample:


She describes these poke milkweed flowers as "claw-like blooms."

There's more where that came from.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Right Limbs Not Working

I woke up at 1 a.m. this morning with pain in the front of my right lower leg, which I assumed was shin splints because I had run for a block or two on concrete earlier in the day wearing flat shoes. But then the pain got worse until I was almost gasping and I thought, Could it be something else, like a deep vein thrombosis? Or even if it was shin splints, should I put ice or heat on it? So out came the phone and Google. I read an article on shin splints for a few minutes and suddenly the pain disappeared.

That's when I realized it must have been a charley horse, only in an unusual spot (I have them in the backs of my calfs, never the front). Despite the location, the sudden disappearance seems definitive, since shin splints don't go away suddenly.

Then later in the day I had the second injection of the new shingles vaccine, and now my right shoulder is feeling about halfway to the charley horse feeling. At least, it doesn't want me to move it.

So that's all I've got for today. The right is no longer working.

(See what I did there?)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

In Sync with Happify

My new favorite person on Twitter, @happifydesign, has been thinking challenging thoughts lately (and maybe has all along... I'm only a recent follower). Here's a short thread:

I watched Bill Nye and felt his frustration viscerally. For those actually and honestly and openly engaging with climate breakdown (or anything, really), I have infinite patience. For those who are playing the white man game of trying to trap me in some internal argument failure? I'm done playing.
The evidence is beyond what we need to act and my personal current point of interest is rapid culture/societal shift to protect all life on earth and reduce the magnitude of human suffering.

I don't want to argue minutiae -- I want to be an agent of change.

If you want to "be right" inasmuch as I'm not a walking encyclopedia of citations of the past two decades of research leading me to this point? I get that. It's f***ing hard to face this reality and somehow you feel safe if you can "prove" the messengers wrong on a technicality.

It's a bizarre literalism, like some sort of biblical fundamentalist game.
In case you missed it, here's the Bill Nye video Happify referred to.

Here's one thing to remember for those moments when someone tries to trap you, as Happify describes, in your inability to produce two decades of research on climate change. From Tom Randall of Bloomberg News:
This ExxonMobile chart from 1982 predicted that in 2019 our atmospheric CO2 level would reach about 415 parts per million, raising the global temperature roughly 0.9 degrees C.  The world crossed the 415 ppm threshold this week and broke 0.9 degrees C in 207.

I'd say that's a pretty accurate prediction for a hypothesis that's not based on anything.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Night on Bald Trash Can

It's a bit of a stretch, maybe, but when I saw this stack of booster seats at a restaurant recently...


...they seemed vaguely familiar....


That may not quite be it. But there's some evil character somewhere whose head is sitting on the trash container in that restaurant.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ban Conversion "Therapy" in Minnesota

Irony is long dead in our current age, but if it lived, it would croak over the way Minnesota Senate Republicans are fretting about restricting the free speech of therapists whose juvenile clients "want" to change their same-sex attractions or reverse their "gender confusion." These are the same Minnesota Republicans who see no problem voting for bills that compel medical doctors to lie to patients seeking an abortion. That's where the irony comes in.

The context: The Minnesota House has passed a bill banning so-called conversion therapy for minors. The practice is already banned in 14 states. Senator Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, is the sponsor in the upper house, and he thought he had a deal to get it passed in the Senate as well, until it fell apart because of the actions of Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

Just after that happened, the Star Tribune ran this story about Gazelka's adult child, Genna, who is now 30 years old and identifies as bi-gender, having come out as a lesbian at age 15.

Read the whole story on the Strib site, but the short version is that as a teenager Genna was sent to Christian psychologist Marcus Bachmann for conversion (yes, the same Marcus Bachmann who's married to the infamous Michele Bachmann [you can find all of my past posts about her here]). If you google his name and the word "conversion," you'll find a bunch of articles, such as this one from the Nation.

In my opinion, Genna's parents should have been investigated for child abuse for subjecting their child to that trauma, but instead Paul Gazelka is now majority leader of our state senate.

All of this makes me think of the words of the poet Khalil Gibran, as filtered through the musical version by Sweet Honey in the Rock:

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and the daughters
Of life's longing for itself

They come through you but they are not from you
And though they are with you
They belong not to you

You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
They have their own thoughts

You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in the place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit
Not even in your dreams.

You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you.
Strive to be like them,
But you cannot make them just like you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

One More Photo

And not only a photo, but another shadow photo:


It's spring... you can see it in the buds.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Keep It to Yourselves

A while ago, I saw that a long-adult, former fraternity brother named Jeremiah Crespo posted this to Twitter:

Fraternity Men account for 2% of the American population. Since 1825, that 2% has accounted for:
- 80% of Fortune 500 executives
- 76% of U.S. senators/congressmen
- 85% of Supreme Court justices
[Capitalization in the original.]

Crespo vaguely cited Cornell (University?) as the source. I'm not sure if he meant these results are from research done at Cornell or were compiled from the fraternities at Cornell. He concluded the tweet with this statement, as if it were a fact: "Greek life teaches, builds, and prepares its members to succeed."

Imagine posting that as a conclusion, rather than acknowledging that fraternities build lifelong networks of men (by definition) who know each other and hoard opportunities for each other and their descendants, who are often in the same fraternities. How unconscious do you have to be of your structural advantages to post something like this?

Pretty unconscious.