Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Not to Flush, Part 2

Long-time readers may remember my fascination with the graphics that label diaper-changing stations in public restrooms (some of them can be found here).

But I'm also interested in the messages sent to women in public restrooms about what and what not to flush down the toilets. I wrote about it once before, and bemoaned the fact that I only had two examples to share. Well, now I have a few more.

First, there's just the classic hand-written message:

Then there's this much fancier and funnier variety:

And finally, there is the unintentionally funny:

There's nothing wrong with the words — the humor comes from the four symbols above, which are actually the logo of the restaurant in question. But in the context of this sign above the toilet, they seem to be an illustration of the feminine products we are not supposed to flush, you know... coffee cups, plates and flatware, muffins, and wine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Don't Cross the Line!

It's that time of year when I buy books for my youngest relatives. I guess I'm known for this by now within the family. So while checking out titles the other day, I came across this book and immediately was drawn in by its cover:

The artwork appears to have been done with something like the water-based Crayola Markers children use. The cover is thick, white paperboard with rounded corners, like a board book you'd buy for babies or toddlers, though the pages inside are regular paper.

The book has end papers that name all the crazily drawn characters in the story. Here's a close up of a few:

The drawings of each character are different on the front and back endpapers; another detail that will delight children (and keep parents awake during repeated rereadings).

What I didn't quite realize until I got the book home and looked at it thoroughly is that it's a radical little story for our present day. It starts out almost empty, with just one uniform-wearing guard (armed with an automatic rifle) standing on the left-hand page near the center gutter. The right page is empty.

Soon, another character and a dog wander onto the page, heading for the other side, only to be told...

"Stop! I'm very sorry, but no one's allowed onto the right hand page." The pedestrian asks why and is told the page is reserved by a general, so that he can join the story whenever he feels like it.

Soon the left-hand page is full of other people, wanting to move through and asking the guard why they can't:

Until a kid's bouncy ball violates the boundary and the guard gives them permission to retrieve it:

Soon everyone else has followed them, with the guard's tacit permission. Everyone is happy — until the general shows up, of course:

The general orders the guard's arrest, but the people cry out, "The guard is our hero!" and a host of other complaints.

Soon the general's horse bucks him off and the people hoist the guard onto their shoulders in a victory parade off the page, leaving the general alone with their forgotten toys, musical instruments, and articles of clothing:

And even he doesn't want to be there at that point.

I hope the parents of the child I plan to give this book to appreciate it!

Don't Cross the Line! is written by Isabel Minhos Martins and illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho. It was published by Gecko Press, originally in Portuguese, with English translation by Daniel Hahn. In the U.S., it's published by Lerner Publishing Group.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Just What You Need at a Time Like This

Imagine you're a woman in a public restroom because you just found out you got your period at an unexpected time. You're unprepared.

You're relieved to see that familiar metal box mounted on the wall, but what's that beside the knobs for tampons and pads?

I have no idea what that could be or why anyone would put half a dollar into a machine in a public bathroom with no idea what the return will be.

What a strange country we live in.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Richard Florida on Devolution

The 2016 election results—not just the presidential result as sieved through the rural-state-biased Electoral College, but also the close margin in Minnesota and the fact that both our state house and senate are now Republican-controlled—have been on my mind.

Today’s Star Tribune op-ed section included an interview with Doug Peterson, one of the last farmer-legislators in our Democratic Farmer Labor party, about how Democrats can better connect with rural people. The front section also included a long piece on Becky Rom, a woman from Ely, Minnesota, who has fought the battle to keep our Boundary Waters Canoe Area free of mining, logging, and motors, generally, a stance opposed by as many as 99 percent of her rural and small-city neighbors, but approved by majorities in the Twin Cities.

This divide between urban and rural (discussed with different emphases by Arlie Hochschild and Catherine Kramer) was the subject of a 30-message tweetstorm by geographer Richard Florida today. Florida, at least since the election, has been calling for what he calls “devolution”—transforming the American way of government into more state and city control and less federal control.

Here are Florida’s thoughts; I’ve removed most of the breaks between tweets and combined his words into fewer paragraphs.

We are undergoing several nested transformations at once that are causing incredible disruptions of the economic social and political order.

The first is the shift from natural resources and physical power/labor to knowledge—where the mind has become the means of production. This shift advantaged roughly a third of the workforce/population while 66% falls further behind.

The second shift is toward clustering as the source of innovation and economic advantage. This massively concentrates talent and economic assets in a handful of super-star cities and knowledge-tech hubs. The world becomes spikier and spikier, across nations, across regions, and within cities.

This clustering of talent and economic assets also makes the city/metro the new economic and social organizing unit, undermining two core institutions of the old order: the large vertical corporation and the nation state.

I would suggest this transformation is perhaps the most disruptive in human history—the clustering of knowledge > physical labor. But in contrast with claims of American "decline," the U.S. is perhaps best positioned of any place to succeed/compete in this new age. The U.S. has the research universities, the startups, the clusters, the open immigration...I could go on.

But many Americans look at this transformation and perceive that their old world is being torn apart and they are being left behind. The right has played this exactly as should be expected, promising to bring back a bygone era of American Greatness. And of course preying upon national, racial, ethnic, gender divisions...exactly as would be expected.

The great failure of our time is the failure of the left to outline an inclusive future in this new age of urbanized knowledge capitalism. That does not mean reaching backward to placate the forces of reaction, but creating a vision of a diverse, inclusive and prosperous society.

At the very top of the list that means a vision of how the 70 million members of the low-wage, multi-racial service class can prosper. It means a new social compact for the urbanized knowledge economy. It also means taking on the out-sized power of the nation-state and the imperial presidency and devolving power to the local level. The devolution of power and empowering of cities and local areas may be something that can be organized around in the short-term.

It is now clear that our economy and politics are completely out of sync. Like it or not, blue states and blue metros power the economy. They are very expensive to operate—research universities, public transit, affordable housing, addressing inequality. There is now ZERO change of national investment.

Red state economies and outlying areas require different strategies. Devolution and local empowerment would enable blue state/metro economies to invest their own resources and others to do the same. It would respect local differences, local desires and local needs. Importantly, it could enable blue and red America to mutually co-exist. We cannot go through this every four years.

More importantly, it would start to shift power away from the dangerous anachronism of the nation state (and the imperial presidency).
Florida has long called for much better pay for service workers, so that much is consistent in his thinking. But I think this turn toward devolution is recent. I don't know how he envisions this happening, since much federal influence (sometimes control) on states and cities comes in the form of federalized money returned to states and cities, from highway and street construction dollars to Medicaid and SNAP dollars. Does Florida mean the feds should block-grant those latter programs? Does he want to get rid of federal road money altogether, or somehow turning those dollars back into local taxes?

As everyone knows, most of the red states (of recent elections, if not 2016) are "taker" states, so how does devolution help those states, other than to make them face the fact that they are takers?

Map from Talking Points Memo, 2012.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Finish Line Express Rips Off Workers

I opened today's Star Tribune to this story in the business section: Trucking firm abruptly locks doors. It's not the kind of headline that would usually catch my attention, but the secondary headline did: "Lakeville Motor Express's 95 stranded workers are owed thousands in unpaid salary."

The basics of the story are that LME padlocked its doors on Wednesday (nice guys: that was the day before Thanksgiving), laying off its employees and absconding with their final paychecks, some of which were as much as $3,000. Let's see, 95 x $3,000 = about $300,000.

The workers, who are members of the Teamsters Union, say the company has popped up with another name in a different northern suburb. It's now called Finish Line Express, located in Maple Grove:

Terminated workers said they have seen Lakeville Motor’s former supervisors and terminal managers working in the truck yard at the new Maple Grove location. They also said they saw Lakeville’s trucks and freight at the new site....

Lakeville Motor “didn’t close. The freight is still there. The trucks are still there. And the customers are still there. All they did was change the logo on the trucks” and terminate its unionized drivers and dock workers without notice, said Virgil Christoffersen, the Teamsters business agent who represents the 95 employees who worked for Lakeville Motor Express....

Monte Hanson, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), said any employer laying off 100 workers must notify the state and give its workers 60 days’ notice. Employers with fewer than 100 workers “are encouraged to comply with the spirit of the law,” Hanson said.
LME had, of course 95 employees. What a coincidence. Miraculously, FLE was incorporated in May 2016 and has the same managers as LME.

This vileness is part of the wage theft travesty that happens in the U.S. all the time. Remember, as the Economic Policy Institute found two years ago, the total amount of money stolen from workers through wage theft is three times as much as the amount taken in every robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft in the U.S. each year.

Think of the impact of all the robberies, burglaries, and thefts in this country. We all know someone who has been robbed, burgled, or had something otherwise stolen. Most of us have had it happen ourselves. It's a huge problem and everyone knows it.

Wage theft is three times as big of a problem!

It's bad enough that wages are not as high as they should be relative to productivity gains over the past 30 years, but this is out-and-out theft of money from people who have put in time working.

And it's what we get as unions are undermined and all of the things we thought were settled are eroded by corporate greed and me-firstism.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Not My “My”

Protests against the election of Donald Trump (and everything that represents) are often linked to the words “not my president.”

I don’t used that phrase. I never have called Barack Obama “my president,” either.

It seems like a strange way to think about the presidency. The president is elected by (one hopes) a majority or at least a plurality of the voters, or even just 270 members of the unnecessary Electoral College.

That result doesn’t mean the president is “mine” or yours, or not yours, not mine, depending on which way we voted. Or that we should all buy in to backing the president because it’s “our” country.

I may have used the words “my country” at some point in my life, but if I did, it wasn’t in the sense that I would say “my sweater” or “my house.” A country is not something I feel I can possess or really even identify with. It’s too big, too multifarious, with too much history I regret or despise.

So you won’t find me saying Donald* “is not my president” any more than I have said Barack Obama “is my president.”


* I have decided to use Donald as the second reference for Donald Trump from now on. Since he insists on being called Mr. Trump by everyone who works with him, while not respecting anything about the norms of our civil society, the least I can do is deny him that courtesy.


Associated Press photo by Ted S. Warren

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving: Water Is Life

I haven't much mentioned the ongoing encampment to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (just here and here). Depending on your media sources, you may not know much about it. But the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation have been camping out for something like half a year, and they've faced attack dogs, clubs, mace, and water cannons in freezing weather.

They call themselves water protectors, rather than protestors. The Lakota words they use are mni wiconi (pronounced m'nee wichoni): water is life. The hash tag #nodapl (no Dakota Access Pipeline) is also commonly used.

For Thanksgiving, a holiday that supposedly celebrates thankfulness and connection between people across difference, here are some photos I took at a protest in front of the St. Paul office of the Army Corps of Engineers last week.

There were many children at the march and rally. This girl later participated in a circle dance around a group of men drumming on the street in front of the Corps building.

This sign was waiting to be picked up before the march.

Sometimes words were attached to backpacks.

There were six or eight people dressed as almost full-sized buffalo. They also joined the circle dance on the street.

This woman's sign will probably get a lot of use in the coming months and years.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Was Really at Stake in the Election

While cleaning out my many election-related tabs, I came across one from the Guardian on November 5 called The Big Con: what is really at stake in the election. I already mentioned it generally in my recent round-up of too many tabs, but I wanted to call attention to one particular bit of history it taught me.

(Note that the text between the dashes is all from the Guardian story, but since it contains other long quotes from another source, I am not treating my overall quotation in the usual long-quote format.)

Life was harder [in the early years of the Depression], and in places like the Texas hinterland – which today forms the big beating heart of the state’s Republican base – it was a close approximation of 14th-century European peasant hell. The vast majority of rural Texans lived without electric power, which meant no refrigeration, no water pumps, no indoor plumbing, no furnaces, no electric stoves, no incandescent lights, no motors to power machines for milking or shearing.

Even for those of us only one or two generations removed from the farm, it’s almost impossible to conceive just how different life was, although the phrase “nasty, brutish, and short” comes to mind. Among the best guides to that time is “The Sad Irons” chapter of The Path to Power, the first volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, which delivers a harrowing portrait of life as a medieval slog plunked down in the middle of 20th-century America. To take just one aspect of the slog: water. “Packing water” from the source – a stream or a well – to the house was a daily beatdown that often fell to the farm wife. As Caro writes:

A federal study of nearly half a million farm families … would show that, on the average, a person living on a farm used 40 gallons of water every day. Since the average farm family was five persons, the family used 200 gallons, or four-fifths of a ton, of water each day – 73,000 gallons, or almost 300 tons, in a year. The study showed that, on the average, the well was located 253 feet from the house – and that to pump by hand and carry to the house 73,000 gallons of water a year would require someone to put in during that year 63 eight-hour days, and walk 1,750 miles.
Laundry was done outside, an all-day, muscle-intensive process that began with a huge vat of boiling water suspended over a roaring fire – imagine that on a July day in Texas – next to which someone – almost always the farm wife – would stand “punching” clothes with a paddle or broomstick, the human equivalent of an automatic washing machine. Cooking was done with wood stoves, which were kept burning most of the day – summer and winter – for meals and baking, which in turn required constant tending – firewood in, ashes out. Because of the lack of refrigeration, most meals had to be prepared from scratch. In order not to starve in winter, a family had to can fruit and vegetables in summer, a hellishly hot process that went on for days and required the utmost precision. The wood stoves were also used to heat irons for pressing clothes, actual six- or seven-pound slabs of iron that had to be scrubbed, sanded, and scraped every few minutes to remove the soot. Farm wives dreaded the tedium of ironing day; hence, “the sad irons.” Caro goes on:
A Hill Country farm wife had to do her chores even if she was ill – no matter how ill. Because Hill Country women were too poor to afford proper medical care they often suffered perineal tears in childbirth. During the 1930s, the federal government sent physicians to examine a sampling of Hill Country women. The doctors found that, out of 275 women, 158 had perineal tears. Many of them, the team of gynecologists reported, were third-degree tears, “tears so bad that it is difficult to see how they stand on their feet.” But they were standing on their feet, and doing all the chores that Hill Country wives had always done – hauling the water, hauling the wood, canning, washing, ironing, helping with the shearing, the plowing and the picking.
Because there was no electricity. 

I have been known to cry when hearing about the heroic work that went into rural electrification in these United States (co-ops!), but this story. This story. Those poor, poor women, working like that despite perineal tears and god knows what other afflictions.

It makes me think of all the women in history working just like this, enslaved women especially, and I just can't. I can't go backward toward that. We can't. So many battles we thought were won. Having to refight them now or in four years, wasting effort. Losing infrastructure and knowledge already accumulated.

I am so angry. 


Coincidentally, I recently posted an image of a "sad iron," as in the title of Robert Caro's chapter about Lyndon Johnson's Texas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tabs of Election Mourning

For the first time, my browser tabs have overflowed and back-washed into my email. Many of the originally tabs are links from Twitter, and I often email them to myself if I'm away from my desk. But lately there are so many tabs open already that I haven't been opening the new ones in my mail, going back to November 12.

So first I have to clear out the tabs that already exist in the browser, then we'll see if I can deal with the dozens in my mail.

First there's lots of stuff about why Clinton lost, why Trump carried parts of the country Obama won, and so on:

On rural America: understanding isn't the problem. This essay links support for Trump to Christian fundamentalism as a world view that makes people, essentially, stupid. It's harsh, but one of the best first-person perspectives I've read on this (ignoring a few grammatical and usage errors near the beginning). If you want to know who the guy is who wrote it, you can find that here. My only argument with him is that his paragraphs are way too long.

Even though this one is from a couple of weeks before the election, everyone keeps pointing to it: How Democrats lost their populist soul. In short form, they lost the "farmer" in Democratic Farmer Labor party, as it were. And killing Glass-Steagall was part of it.

An interview with Noam Chomsky from February 2016 on Huffington Post, headlined Trump is winning because white America is dying. Coupled with this post-election interview with Chomsky, which almost did me in when I read it on Monday.

How half of America lost its fucking mind, by David Wong for Cracked. Published about a month before the election.

A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry that makes sense. An interview with University of Wisconsin professor Kathy Cramer, who spent years talking to people in rural and small-city Wisconsin. From the Washington Post. (And here's an article written by Cramer herself from Vox.)

How Trump won an election helped by America's anti-tech Luddites. Yes, the geographic digital divide is doing us all in. From Mashable.

Media critic Jennifer Pozner on how reality television helped bring us a Donald Trump presidency. Including this great statement by the interviewer: "Watching the campaign, it’s almost like many people believe there’s something about straight-shooting that’s supposed to be racist and sexist. As in, if you’re an honest person — or so the perception goes — you are a person who says racist and sexist things." From MTV news, ironically.

Finally, this piece by Josh Barro at Business Insider was published the day of the election, so he looks all the more prescient, including these bon mots:

  • " shouldn't assume Trump's voters are experiencing false consciousness; in many cases, they just want bad things."
  • "Opposition to immigration does not necessarily have to be rooted in bigotry, but when encountered in practice among voters it almost always is."
  • "Most voters, I think, have correctly diagnosed the Trump campaign as a primal scream of white resentment. The alarming thing is that so many are in favor of the scream."
Barro's last two paragraphs (again, published on election day) are making me lay my head on the desk as I write this:
Fortunately, it looks as if just enough voters don't want a nastier, more bigoted, stupider country, and we will be spared a Trump presidency by an uncomfortably close margin. And Trump's voters are right about one important thing: The rising ethnic diversity of the country will make it even harder for a candidate like Trump to be elected in future years.

We have probably dodged a bullet. But we have learned some very ugly things about many of our fellow Americans in the process.
In the aftermath of Trump's election, there are also lots of thoughts about what we (sometimes defined as everyone opposed to Trump and sometimes as white people opposed to Trump) must do.

From Masha Gessen, a compelling Russian expatriate journalist who knows whereof she speaks, we have Autocracy: rules for survival, published in the New York Review of Books. Her rules:
  1. Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.
  2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
  3. Institutions will not save you.
  4. Be outraged.
  5. Don't make compromises.
  6. Remember the future.
The media is completely unprepared to cover a Trump presidency. Well, since they were completely unprepared for a Trump candidacy, how can we really be surprised by that statement. By Adam Serwer for the Atlantic.

We have 100 days to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions. By Matt Yglesias from Vox.

Then there's Hey white people, you have to start doing the ugly work that isn't safe for us to do. From Feministing.

Donald Trump will be president: this is what we must do. Some good advice in this one. From the Intercept.

Empathy isn't a favor I owe white Trump voters. It has to go both ways. By Baratunde Thurston, writing for Vox.

Some of it's just plain old mourning and history, as in this piece from The Atlantic by Adam Serwer: Is this the second Redemption? (The Redemption is what the post-Reconstruction period was called.)

On your way to the camps, I just want you to know... This satirical essay was posted on September 18 when most of us assumed Trump wouldn't/couldn't win. Like the Daily Show's Halloween episode, it's written with the premise that Trump won the election, but this time it's from the point of view of a non-Clinton-voting apologist.

The big con: what is really at stake in this U.S. election. Big government helped make America great but it was so successful its effect has become invisible. Anti-Washington hatred helps only the super-rich and puts progress at risk for millions living with wage stagnation and rising inequality. From the Guardian.

Finally, there were a few articles on other topics that got lost among all of the election stuff:

The Second Amendment: Original Intent. From the New Yorker, February 2016. A series of imagined letters between Jefferson and Madison.

From July 2016, an interview with Jimmy Carter called The U.S. is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery. Well, Trump is about to make sure we ain't seen nothing yet on that front.

Recalculating the climate math: the numbers are even scarier than we thought. By Bill McKibben, writing for the New Republic. "If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production." It was hard reading that a month ago, and reading it now is just mind-numbing.

Pair that one, if you can handle it, with this from Elizabeth Kolbert writing for the New Yorker: Donald Trump and the climate change count down. Or this from David Roberts at Vox: "No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously. If we mean what we say, no more new fossil fuels, anywhere." And this one by Roberts from late October, further making clear what we're about to lose with the change to Trump: Obama administration outlines path for climate change resiliency. Oh, and just to make you weep with hindsight even more, this final one from Roberts, writing back in July 2016: Hillary Clintons climate and energy policies, explained.

Get angry about Brock Turner’s crime. But don’t use it as a reason to pass bad laws. By public defender Rachel Marshall writing for Vox.

How decades of divorce helped to erode religion. From the Washington Post.

What's behind the myth of Native American alcoholism? From Pacific Standard, written by the co-authors of the great book "All the Real Indians Died Off" and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans.

The real origins of the religious Right. They tell you it was abortion, but the record is clear: it was segregation. From Politico.

How politics killed universal child care in the early 1970s. You can bet Richard Nixon was involved in it. Audio from WNYC (only eight minutes).

Historian Dorian Warren on BBC radio discussing the Black Panthers on the 50th anniversary of their founding.

And finally, another pre-election story that can make you tear out your hair for the opportunity we've lost: Mass incarceration after the 'New Jim Crow.' A conversation with the civil rights law scholar Michelle Alexander on how to dismantle the mass incarceration crisis in the U.S.

Monday, November 21, 2016

On the Electoral College and the National Popular Vote

You may have heard there’s a movement to urge the Electoral College to vote for anyone but Trump on December 19. I can't help but doubt its success, though of course I wish it could happen. It seems unlikely in a number of ways:

  1. Electors are loyalists, chosen to match the party of the candidate that won the state’s popular vote. If Trump won a state, there will be no Democratic electors present for that vote. How likely is it that any useful number of loyal Republicans would vote for Hillary because they fear Trump or believe that the popular vote winner should be chosen?
  2. It can only have the outcome I would want if the electors outright vote for Hillary instead of Trump. Voting for someone else (John Kasich or Mitt Romney, as has been suggested in some cases) might deny Trump the 270 votes he needs, but all that does is put the decision into the House of Representatives.
  3. Which is famously controlled by Republicans, with Paul Ryan as speaker. Under the Constitution, they have to choose between Trump, Clinton, and the third-highest electoral vote-getter. Each state gets just one vote, so that’s weighted even more toward the Republicans than the Electoral College is. Which candidate do you think they will choose? 
  4. If, somehow, neither candidate gets 26 votes from among the 50 states, then the vice president (who is elected by the Senate if there are not enough votes in the Electoral College, an outcome even more unlikely than Trump not getting enough votes) becomes the president. Voila, Mike Pence.
Despite my lack of faith that anything can be done in the Electoral College this year, the unfairness of our current system must be changed. As Sean McElwee of Demos tweeted last night, “i’ve been thinking about this a lot” and then followed with a graphic that said this:
Imagine how we would discuss the politics of another country where a party with an almost entirely white voting base and white elected representatives that campaigned on racially charged rhetoric regularly lost the popular vote but controlled all branches of government due to

1) archaic electoral systems designed to protect the institution of slavery
2) ginning up false claims of fraud to implement voter suppression targeted at voters of color
3) constructing districts designed to dilute the voting power of people of color.

Because that’s what’s happening here.
And all of that is completely true.

Everyone in this country — unless they literally align themselves with movements of white supremacy like the KKK and the “alt-right” — should be so troubled by this that they work to make sure it is no longer true by 2020 or even 2018.

The best way to do that is by supporting the National Popular Vote effort, which I wrote about four years ago and restoring the Voting Rights Act, extending it to all the states and territories.

Passing the National Popular Vote bill in your state is the best way to start. It has already been passed in 11 states that total 165 electoral votes (California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington). It has passed one house in states with 96 electoral votes (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon) — which would yield 261 total votes if their other houses pass it.

You’ll notice that Minnesota (10 electoral votes) is on neither of those lists, though it has been introduced, and last time I checked had sponsors from both parties.

This is something real that those of us in 40 states need to work on as soon as possible, urging our legislators to pass the NPV bill so our country's elections are no longer run in a way that is the shame of the world.

There is a wealth of information on the National Popular Vote website. Worth a read.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mug Shot

First it was an over-full truck at the compost site, now it's mugs for sale at a book store:

It's the season of the Grinch, and this year I don't think Cindy Lou Who or his little dog Max are going to make him grow a conscience or a bigger heart.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

No Friendship Classes

I was recently doing some proof reading of a book of student writing that will be published by COMPAS, a Minnesota arts organization, early this winter. The contents of the book were written as part of COMPAS's writers-in-the-schools program, and include fiction and poetry by kids K–12.

When I read the beginning of this poem by a middle-schooler, I took a photo of it so I could transcribe it and share it here because it's so poignant and true:

There Are No Friendship Classes

There are no friendship classes.
There are no classes on how to build an organization.
There are no classes on how to raise money.
Buy a house.
Love a child.
Spot a scam.
Talk someone out of suicide.
Or figure out what’s important to you.

—William Musolf, grade 8
There was more that William had to say, but to read it you will have to wait until COMPAS posts the finished book to their website.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Paying the Tab in Trump's America

This one from F-Minus hits a little too close to reality these days:

Leaders set examples, but who said they have to be good examples?

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Scottish artist Charles Young makes a paper building every day. Sometimes he takes a photo to upload to his site, sometimes he shoots a stop-frame animation of it. It's called Paperholm.

The buildings are all made from heavy watercolor paper and PVA glue.

Young made 365 of them for the first island starting in August 2014. He took a break from August 2015 to November 2015, then started again. All of the "pieces together as a constructed archipelago" are on exhibit for the first time at the NEoN Digital Arts festival in Dundee, Scotland, this month.

Some of the buildings are for sale on Etsy

Found on Thank you, Jason, for this mental break.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pet Relief

No funny drawing of a dog tinkling... just bureaucratic and euphemistic language that makes me want to throw paint on this sign:

And I'm not even a dog-lover.

"Designated"? "Relief"? Oh, and the sign gives you no idea where the "pet relief area" is, either.


As seen outside St. Paul's Union Depot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Full Up

I saw the Grinch dropping off something at the compost site the other day:

Just in time for the holidays.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Get Out Your Envelope

Some good advice for us all today from Star Tribune letter-writer Robert Edwards of Ramsey, Minnesota:

Make a list for comparison

I invite anyone who believes that he or she will be better off under Donald Trump’s presidency than they are now to sit down and make a list of objective things about where they stand right now. Do you have a job? Are you covered by health insurance? Do you have a home? Do you have any savings? How old is the vehicle you drive? How much debt do you have? Those sorts of things. Then take that list, seal it in an envelope, and don’t open it again until November 2019, one year before the next presidential election. But before you open it, sit down and make another list just like the first one so that you can objectively compare the two.

Then you can decide if you really are better off.
The precipitous slide away from a fact-based worldview we have experienced would be the worst part of this whole debacle, if it weren't for people threatened with deportation, harassment, or worse, and for the planet being cooked in its own trapped gasses.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

People with Words I Don't Have

Fantasy writer Saladin Ahmed, a Muslim American married to an African American and parent to six-year-old twins, hasn't written a poem in 10 years, but he has returned to it with this:

It was published on BuzzFeedNews yesterday, along with thoughts from several other parents of color on how they are talking to their kids about Trump's election.

Pair that with Joy Reid's opening thoughts yesterday on what Trump voters have gained and lost.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Day Off with Old Books

I spent most of the afternoon at Terrace Horticultural Books' anniversary open house, which continues Monday through Friday (12:00 to 5:00) this week as well as next Saturday (9:00 to 5:00). Yes, I bought a couple of things, but I also took a few photos of beautiful lettering and illustration.

I like the way a lot of current book designs look, but on the whole, I think we've lost many of the most beautiful parts of book cover and spine design.

Sweet potato culture... if only there were books about that topic if it meant what it sounds like to the nonhorticultural ear.

Friday, November 11, 2016


I spent the morning feeling literally nauseated. I haven't been to any of the local protests. I don't think my feelings about Trump being president come out that way. Maybe when there's a specific action, but not yet.

For today, I have just a few images:

I got this button at the DFL booth during the State Fair on Labor Day. Never wore it. If I were superstitious, I might blame myself for the outcome.

I printed this poster during in a class back in 2007, and just found a copy while going through one of my piles of stuff. It seems extra appropriate now.

This poster is by Amos Paul Kennedy. I saw it last weekend, before the election, so I didn't realize quite how much its message would be needed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Zephyr Teachout, a Lesson for Bernie Bros

If you think Bernie would have won had he been the Democrats' candidate, I have a real counterfactual for you.

Zephyr Teachout was running for the House of Representatives in New York's 19th congressional district, which is a varied area south of Albany. It includes some Albany suburban areas, then stretches down the Hudson through and past Kingston and New Paltz to parts of the Poughkeepsie area, sprawling west to include most of the Catskill Mountains, including small cities like Oneonta and almost to Binghamton.

Parts of it are farm country, parts are suburban, while others are aging small to mid-size cities or rural tourism areas. Registered voters are one-third each Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated, so it should be a contestable seat.

Teachout is the best example of a Bernie Sanders candidate there is, except that she's youngish (44) and female, and not a socialist to my knowledge. But she is a known campaigner against corruption and Citizens United and the Washington "swamp," from the Left. She directly addressed the need for jobs and economic development in the region, as well as hot issues like use of the Hudson River and poisoned water in a town called Hoosick Falls. And she worked her heart out campaigning everywhere in the hard-to-traverse district, with a volunteer base to match. So if people were in the mood for throwing the bums out, she should have been elected.

But instead of winning, she lost by 10 points to an Albany pol and lobbyist in what is the saddest news I got on election night, after Trump's victory. $18 million was spent on the race, with $7 million of it coming from pro-Faso superPACs funded by Wall Street titans. Teachout raised all of her money from small donors.

So if someone argues that Bernie would have beaten Trump, tell them about Zephyr. Tell them about the money that would have been spent against him, the swift-boating he would have experienced, and just the very real resistance to change that would actually do some good because it threatens corporate interests.

Zephyr's great concession speech can be seen here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Metaphors from an Election

I've never been in an earthquake, but when a big one hits, you ride it out, hoping you're dreaming but knowing you're not. It ends and you start to assess the damage.

And then there's an aftershock. A while later, another. And so on.

Donald Trump’s election to be president of the United States is like that. At about midnight last night, as I watched in growing disbelief, I had a flash that I was asleep, having a nightmare. That it couldn't be real.

But now that it is, the aftershocks of meaning keep coming:

  • Climate, climate, climate, from the U.S. signature on COP21 to vehicle fuel standards and the Clean Power Plan and much more Clinton would have done (or not done, such as "bringing back" coal).
  • Undocumented kids and families being deported.
  • Refugees being harassed or kept out of what should be a safe place.
  • Expansion of stop-and-frisk and generally backing law enforcement as they expand the police state and racist policing.
  • No criminal justice reform in any way I would like.
  • Using nuclear weapons, for god’s sake.
  • Losing the Supreme Court for a generation, including women’s right to control their bodies, marriage equality. And those are just some of the negative things: so many positive changes were possible.
  • Getting rid of Dodd-Frank, as imperfect as it is, and especially the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Attacks on First Amendment and newsrooms, as he has threatened and exemplified by his billionaire supporter Peter Thiel.
  • The EPA's very existence.
  • The health of NATO and the safety of the Baltic nations.
  • Health care… though I find it hard to believe they can — politically — leave millions of people who now have health insurance in worse shape than they are now.
  • Any possibility of gun control or gun safety.
  • The Iran nuclear deal.
  • Biff Tannen and the kleptocracy that will come with a proven lawbreaker like Trump.
And, finally, there’s just the fact that we will all have to constantly hear about Trump and what he represents for at least the next four years.

I have no idea where we can go from here. It has to be through organizing from the bottom up, and I think people of color are the main ones who see that now because they've always known it wasn't a one-election struggle, but right now I can't see how.

Bayard Rustin's vision of nonviolence was that you have to put your body into the gears of the machine to stop it from working. That's what it will take, while at the same time showing what society can be instead.


If you've ever had a family member who was emotionally or physically abusive, you'll recognize what I call walking on eggshells.

You modulate everything you say out loud or even what you show on your face so that you don't set off the abuser.

That's what life in Trump's White House is going to be like, and for any other people who have to work with him, and by extension, the nation.

It will be all about how to survive him and maybe get him to do what you want through twisted manipulation instead of honesty.


Remember how insane Michele Bachmann sounded when she talked about Obama or the Left having indoctrination camps where they would round up people from the Right?

Are we insane to fear Trump on that level? Because I know there are people who do. He has said he will deport undocumented people and they will be in camps or prisons on the way — some of them already are, but would be more so under Trump, if he follows through on his promises.

Trump said he would ban Muslims from coming into the country, whether as residents or visitors, but he also implied he may do something to Muslims who are already here (tattoos, anyone?), and his statements about Somalis the other day when he spoke at our local airport illustrate that fear.

Do we need to fear surveillance of our activity and communications more than we do already? Are we safe to speak out against him?

Do we need to set up sanctuaries in our houses and churches for the undocumented or other people threatened by him and his policies?

That's all for now. I'm overwhelmed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How We Vote

There's an amnesia that afflicts most of us as soon as Election Day ends. We not only want to forget all the ads and vitriol, we block out the many problems people have with voting. Remember when President Obama said in his 2012 victory speech, "We have to do something about that"? I do, but I didn't do anything to change it, either.

The fact that our system is decentralized, based not just on state rules but even county procedures, makes it hard to misuse on a national level, and that's good. But some centralized rules are needed to make sure everyone has equal access. As it is, there's way too much room for biased implementation.

I've written a bit before on my ideal voting system, but here it is again, with some revisions and additions:

  • Standardize the following election methods across the country. 
  • Make voter registration easy: at the DMV, online, and as preregistration at school a year or two before voting age. Or, better yet, make it automatic. (That's if we can't somehow move to mandatory voting.)
  • No ID required to vote or register. People affirm they are citizens and have the right to vote at the address they supply under penalty of a hefty fine and prison sentence.
  • Allow same-day registration when voting, whether on election day or at early voting. Require either an ID with address, utility bill with the person's name and address, or a registered voter from that precinct who can vouch for the person's identity and address. (This is how it's done in Minnesota.)
  • Allow early in-person voting for several weeks, including Sundays, with enough locations to make it accessible. Most likely, base the number of locations on a percentage of Election Day locations. Distribute the early voting locations spatially in parallel to Election Day locations (i.e., not all downtown). Include curbside drop-off of ballots for people with handicapped parking tags.
  • Standardize the number of registered voters per Election Day precinct so that wait times are as close to equal as possible. Determine a fair ratio of poll workers and booths/stations to number of registered voters per polling place and make it consistent across the country.
  • Maintain bipartisan representation among the poll workers.
  • Increase the security of mail-in ballots so they cannot be as easily manipulated as they are now.
  • Require all balloting systems to include a paper trail (nothing all-electronic).
  • Don’t move polling places without good reason between elections. Only change them if the location is no longer available or is found to be not accessible.
  • Make sure all polling places are physically accessible, including resting spots along the entrance and exit paths. (The idea that people with disabilities are all in wheelchairs needs is wrong. )
  • Accept ballots cast outside of precinct if the voter has waited at an incorrect precinct.
  • Allow felons to vote as soon as they are released from prison, even if they're still on probation or parole (or, ideally, allow them to vote while incarcerated, as is done in Maine and Vermont).
  • Count incarcerated people at their last address, rather than their prison address, for legislative apportionment.
I would also be in favor of ranked choice voting.

For the presidential election, I would decrease the length of the process to under a year. Even January is too early to start, but I could live with that.

And all of these ideas don't even mention campaign finance reform. I would ban private money in elections (whether from the candidates' own funds directly or third parties) and move to completely public financing.

What are you thoughts on voting?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Heater of Rump, 2016

We have this cool improv group here in the Twin Cities called the Theater of Public Policy. They've been doing lots of appearances lately (I wonder why?), including right now at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis:

This isn't their usual logo, but gosh, they were clever to notice their name works perfectly with the rejected Trump-Pence logo that was so ridiculed back in July:

Trump and Pence never used the T/P monogram alongside their last names without their first letters, as T2P2 does in the photo above, and is an all-too-common mistake in bad logos.

In T2P2's case, it's bad enough having the word "HEATER" spring out at the reader. For Trump, of course, that type of design would have turned him into RUMP:

Which would remind viewers all the more of the unfortunate visual symbolism built into the interlocking T and P, which was pointed out by many people before the logo was withdrawn.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Wisconsin Bumper

Based on signage, I'd say central Wisconsin will be voting for Trump, though I didn't see nearly as many signs as I expected on my recent trip there. Signs for their senate, congressional, and legislative races were a bit more common.

I did see this one carefully curated bumper, however:

If you click to zoom in, you'll see that RUSS is Russ Feingold (U.S. Senate), that Ruth Is the Truth, and that someone has designed a subtle anti-Trump sticker that never mentions his name.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


This isn't about the election, though I suppose it could be read that way:

Or, more likely, as a wish for the aftermath of the election.

Poster by Amos Paul Kennedy.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Philando Castile, Four Months Later

It's been four months since Philando Castile was shot a mile or so from my house. The cop who shot him came back to work from suspension briefly, but was soon resuspended after public outcry. He hasn't been charged; the Ramsey County attorney is still thinking about that.

The protests at the governor's mansion finally died down, partly because the police moved on them aggressively without provocation.

People from the town of Falcon Heights, where the shooting occurred, and St. Anthony, whose police department employs the shooter, are still hearing about it a lot from their citizens and other people in the area. Falcon Heights may yet cancel its contract with the St. Anthony police, and St. Anthony is (supposedly) working on training and bias issues.

Here's what the memorials to Philando — immediately adjacent to the spot in the road where he was killed — look like today:

The flowers line the street where his car was stopped:

Over time, these memorials have been put up:

The blue apron is from the St. Paul school cafeteria where he was a supervisor:

Some of the pieces are clearly thoughtful sculptures:

While others look more like the kind of thing you'd see at a spot in the road where someone died in a car crash:

There are signs of the protest:

And messages written:

Meanwhile, the trial of the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back in South Carolina is underway. I'm hoping for something like justice in that case. If it can't happen there, I don't know what hope there is for any other case, including Philando's.